Friday, 23 September 2022

On Tenser, Part 2


“And now you'll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won't be false, and they won't be true
but they'll be real”
― Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings: Poems


Tenser
Tenser. That name raises thoughts and presumptions, doesn't it? Was/is he the most powerful of the Flanaess’ magi? Mordenkainen might prove to possess that distinction; although I expect Tenser would be the 2nd most, and only by the narrowest of margins.
But even the most powerful wielders of the arcane are merely mortal. Each has his measure of time upon the Oerth, unless they pursue dark paths—and even then, those foul extensions of being are no guarantee of immortality. Each of us must face the end, sooner or later.
No one lives forever.

581 CY
An important though seldom noticed event took place in 581 CY, when an agent of Vecna, the Whispered One of ancient Flan legend, struck down the entire Circle of Eight […]. The Circle had acted subtly as a balancing agent for years, preventing any one power from dominating too much of the Flanaess. [LGG – 15]
The unthinkable had happened: Tenser was dead. Indeed, the whole of the Circle of Eight, except for Mordenkainen, was dead, laid low in their pursuit of Balance while investigating Vecna’s rumoured return.
Vecna
The recent deaths of the members of the Circle of Eight was the prelude to an attempt by the evil Vecna to overthrow the entire pantheon of Greyhawk’s deities and install himself as absolute ruler of the gods.
[WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk – 32]

582 CY
Vecna destroyed the entire Circle, save Mordenkainen, who had elected to remain in Greyhawk as a safeguard against just such an occurrence. When news reached the archmage, he mobilized the Circle's allies, and a small cadre of apprentice wizards, former companions, and long-time confidantes embarked on a nearly hopeless bid to thwart Vecna's apotheosis [.] [LGJ#0 – 6]
Only the bravery and fortitude of a brave handful of adventurers was able to thwart Vecna’s machinations and put an end to his plans. [WGR2 – 32]
Tenser’s henchman, Cymria of Celadon, was among those gathered.
Cymria of Celadon
Female Elf
12th-Level Fighter/ 11th-Level Mage Chaotic Good
Tall and thin, Cymria has a sharp, wolfish look that matches her hard-edged disposition. Although she acts in the cause of good, Cymria is noted for her lack of mercy and distrust of compromises. She prefers a quick and efficient solution to any problem. Befriended by the outgoing Tenser, Cymria has chosen to leave her family and fellow elves to join the Tenser, with his concern and curiosity for the woodland beings, Cymria has found someone she can respect.  [WGA4 Vecna Lives! – 90]

Cymria of Celadon

Did these gathered heroes thwart the dastardly demigod?
They did, but not as heroically as one might expect. They had decidedly surprising help.
Somehow (it is whispered that they employed the aid of luz, who stood to lose much under the deification of the Lich Lord), the intrepid adventurers managed to banish the Maimed God at the strange stone circles known as the Tovag Baragu, and Oerth returned to relative normalcy, save for the absence of the Circle of Eight. [LGJ#0 – 6]

The Circle was avenged. But Death is not always the end, is it? There is always hope. Especially where archmagi are concerned.
Mordenkainen addressed this absence by recovering what was left of his fallen comrades and cloning them. This endeavor consumed time that otherwise might have seen him addressing the reports of the Circle's allies in the North, who warned of alarming developments in Stonefist and the Barbarian Lands. When those events spiraled into the first conflicts of the Greyhawk Wars, the Circle's clones remained undeveloped and half-aware. By the time the clones reached full maturation, the Circle of Eight had been forced to take a reactive stance to the tumultuous events unfolding before them. [LGJ#0 – 6]
The entire Circle of Eight was slain by an agent of Vecna, and so would fear and hate this cult greatly. [TAB – 3]

Though the Circle's leader, Mordenkainen, returned his colleagues to life using powerful magic, the group was in disarray when war again erupted in the distant north in 582. [LGG – 14]
War had come to the Flanaess just when the Circle could not have acted to prevent its possibility.
Though the Circle’s leader, Mordenkainen, returned his colleagues to life, the Circle was weakened when the Greyhawk Wars finally erupted. [WGG 3e – 4]

Where was Tenser at the outbreak of the War? Tired, one would imagine. But not idle. He was following up on leads concerning his personal obsession, Iggwilv.
Iggwilv
[R]ecent rumors that Iggwilv has returned to Oerth have sparked public panic.
[LGG – 86]
Might he have been pitting his strength against the Witch-queen? I would not doubt that he did. Very likely to stalemate. Most assuredly, I would suggest. Neither could be easily defeated by the other, each being the power that they were. The pitting of those powers would have certainly unleashed chaos.
Iggwilv was not so easily put off [by Tenser’s meddling in her affairs and her subsequent loss of the Crook of Rao], and she renewed her practice of summoning fiends and binding them to her will. Why the Crook of Rao was not used to stop her (for such was the purpose for its recovery) is uncertain, though some whispers hint that whoever obtained the artifact from Tenser lost it thereafter (which would explain the recent tales that suggest the Crook of Rao is in the possession of Drax the Invulnerable, Lord Protector of Rel Astra). [Dragon # 225 – 52]
Their struggle would have left him spent and exhausted, even more so after his ordeal with Death, and unlikely to have been able to confront one such as Drax.

582 – 584 CY
Those of the Circle who could fight did what they could amidst the struggle.
Mordenkainen's view of "enforced neutrality" is not tit-for-tat equality, but rather a detailed theoretical philosophy derived from decades of arcane research. He has fought ardently for the forces of Good, most recently during the Greyhawk Wars, but just as often has worked on darker plots to achieve his ends. [LGG – 156]
By the time the clones reached full maturation, the Circle of Eight had been forced to take a reactive stance to the tumultuous events unfolding before them. Though the Circle never acted concertedly during the Greyhawk Wars, certain "hotspots" received a good deal of their attention. Mordenkainen, Bigby and Otto fought against the Old One's army at the infamous Battle of Critwall Bridge, and Drawmij was instrumental in organizing the flood of refugees from the Lost Lands to fastnesses in the Good Hills. Nystul worked primarily alone in besieged Tenh, while Otto and Bigby left Mordenkainen in the Vesve Forest to do what they could for the Iron League. Citing pressing personal needs, Rary retreated to his tower in Lopolla and refused to come to the aid of his companions. [LGJ#0 – 6]

No mention is made of Tenser. Should he not have fought alongside Mordenkainen at Critwall Bridge?
He might have if wasn’t already engaged in his unheralded struggle with Iggwilv.
By the time the Greyhawk Wars rolled around, Iggwilv had a sizeable force under her control, which she put at the disposal of Iuz. [Dragon # 225 – 52]
Where was Iggwilv, then, during the War? Curiously absent. But not unengaged.
Graz'zt and Iggwilv
Early in the Wars, she attempted to summon and bind Graz’zt once more, but Graz’zt, who had not forgotten Iggwilv’s previous transgression against him, was prepared. When he stepped through Iggwilv’s gate, he produced a unique magical device which sundered her protective circles and binding magic. It was here that Graz’zt captured and imprisoned his former consort, and despite the objections of Iuz, Graz’zt confined Iggwilv in the Abyss, where she remains to this very day.
[Dragon #225- 52]
Might Tenser have had a hand in this? Possibly. Tenser could have plotted to ensure that Graz’zt had that certain “unique magical device” in his possession when Iggwilv attempted to summon the demon lord. Do you doubt that LG Tenser would do such a thing?  I don’t. [Lawful Good (Neutral tendencies) COG:FFF - 22] What’s more, I suggest that this might not have been the only time the Circle could have played the “long game,” weaving complex, secretive, and sometimes somewhat dubious webs to stem the flow of Evil upon the Oerth… in the pursuit of Balance.
Tenser had been championing “The Balance” a long time, long enough to balance the longer Greater Good against the necessity of the moment. He would also be adept at subtlety, as well, in his pursuit of it, especially when it concerned Iggwilv and Iuz, seeing how Iuz was obsessed with his death after he had failed to kill him upon his release from Zagyg’s prison. Let Evil stamp out Evil, Tenser might opine; and let Good save Its strength for when it was truly needed. Tenser just might have concluded that the loss of the magical device (and Graz’z’t’s continued possession of it) outweighed Iggwilv’s and Iuz’s acting in concert upon the Flanaess once again. Time would tell, wouldn’t it? And he would cross those later bridges when faced with them.

584 CY
Meanwhile, back on Oerth….
Onnwal, unlike Irongate, failed to recognize the treachery that caused it to fall into the hands of the Scarlet Brotherhood during the Greyhawk Wars. The land had never been invaded and had previously been subjected only to periodic naval raids by South Province. The Scarlet Brotherhood assassinated Szek Ewerd Destron and took over the land almost overnight. Some anticipated the takeover just in time, particularly the thieves' guild in Scant, which absconded from the city to the countryside in 584 CY. [LGG – 80]
Rakehell Chert

Before the night of the Scarlet Knives, Chert was aware of the Brotherhood’s plans. Exactly how he became aware is a matter of speculation—some say that Tenser or Bigby alerted him, others say that Chert has the sight of one touched by the Goddess Johydee
. [Dragon #299 – 100]
It was most likely Bigby who alerted Rakehell Chert. He had recent roots there. Friends and allies, trade contacts and underworld connections—like any good “merchant.” But Tenser and Bigby were always tight, and one was always willing to aid the other in their endeavours.

The War wound down, the combatants exhausted, as one would expect after prolonged bloodshed. Troops were spent, munitions depleted, coffers empty. The victors would wish to consolidate their gains, the others had need to shore up their defenses and prepare for what they knew was sure to resume.
There was a rumour of peace. Before long, those rumours became fact.
9 Goodmonth
When the political rumblings that signaled the end to the conflict reached the Free City of Greyhawk, the entire Circle was on hand to ensure a favorable outcome to the peace process. Their network of agents researched the backgrounds of key diplomats and participants in the proceedings, and magical divinations were conducted to unmask any would-be saboteurs. Never did the view of those scrying crystals turn inward, however, toward the plans of the single individual who could do the most harm to the delegates' cause. [LGJ #0 – 6,7]
Betrayal
The treaty to end the war was to be ratified in the Grand Hall of Greyhawk, but brief moments before the signing ceremony, an explosion destroyed the area [.]
[Rot8 – 3]
A blazing explosion destroyed a good part of the Grand Hall only minutes before the ambassadors assembled for the day. A fierce magical battle immediately ensued, spreading havoc through much of the old city. [Wars – 24]
Instead of counter-attacking Otiluke directly. Rary set off several more traps, injuring Bigby, who had just joined the fight. […] As the smoke cleared, amid the crash of falling masonry and the tinkle of broken glass, Bigby, himself badly wounded. crawled over to see to his friends, only to find both of them slain beyond hope of resurrection, and Rary had vanished without a trace. [WGR3 – 7]
When the fire and dust cleared, constables discovered smoldering robes belonging to two powerful members of the mysterious Circle of Eight—Otiluke and Tenser. The murderer of these wizards, undeniably a powerful mage [.] [Wars – 24]
A badly wounded third, Bigby of Scant, claimed that their assailant had been their one-time ally, Rary, member of the Circle of Eight. [LGG – 38]
Nothing was left of their bodies to allow revival by clone, resurrection or any other spell. [Rot8 – 3]

Rary
Rary and his co-conspirator, the wily Lord Robilar, were nowhere to be found, and Rary's tower, in Lopolla, also vanished.
[LGG – 38]
Rary's treachery that day killed Tenser and Otiluke, and gained the Archmage of Ket everlasting infamy. Spurned from his family by his brother and banned from Greyhawk itself by Mordenkainen, Rary fled to the Bright Desert, to uncover its secrets and inaugurate an empire. [LGJ#0 – 7]
Using secrets gained in confidence, Rary not only vaporized his two fellows but also tracked down and destroyed every clone the pair held in preparation. [Wars – 24]
Simultaneously, Rary’s ally Robilar entered Tenser’s castle (four days’ travel away) and initiated an attack. When the battle ended, Tenser’s forces were slain, his castle was looted and all Tenser’s cloning materials were destroyed. [Rot8 – 3]
In the ensuing confusion and shock, Lord Robilar's own troops struck, destroying every one of the dead wizards' hidden clones, assuring the permanent death of both Tenser and Otiluke. [WGR3 – 7]
However, after the battle that killed Tenser and Otiluke, all discoverable clones of the two mages were destroyed by co-conspirators of the assassin, Rory of Ket. [PGtG – 23]
Robilar
When Robilar's troops sacked Otiluke's and Tenser's citadels, they carried off several of the dead mages' magical items [.]
[WGR3 – 11]
Quij was once a henchman of the notorious Lord Robilar[.] Quij took part in the sacking of the castle of the slain Archmage Tenser, but the orc became separated from his comrades after the raid. [TAB – 98]

Mordenkainen’s divination revealed that Tenser was truly dead and could not be resurrected by any means. […] [Rot8 – 3]
Tenser was dead! Truly dead! Again!

Magical scrying and the strenuous efforts of sages have not availed to give the full story of what happened that day. All that is known for sure is that, within the Grand Hall where the treaty was to be signed, a fierce magical battle erupted and spread havoc through the Old City. Afterwards, two members of the famed Circle of Eight, the great mages of Greyhawk, lay dead; Otiluke and Tenser were no more. Their magical clones likewise shrivelled and perished, and their own bodies could not be resurrected. It is also known that Rary of Ket, another Circle member, was last seen fleeing with Lord Robilar into the Bright Desert, and that Rary had turned traitor and had slain his old friends. [FtAA – 9]

The treachery of Rary in 584 CY saw the destruction of Tenser and Otiluke, leaving the Circle at five. [LGG – 156]
The treachery left the Eight (now Five: Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul and Otto) reeling. [Rot8 – 2,3]

Others were left filled with rage. And in need for revenge. Tenser had many friends and allies. And a vast network of confidants and collaborators.
Schinus Balint, Commander of the Cairn Hills Force
Schinus has a secret ambition: he wants to hunt down Robilar and Rary and kill them. Schinus had his own life saved from a dragon turtle by Tenser, and has been an escort to Jallarzi Sallavarian, and he hopes to track down the renegades, revenge his old friend Tenser, and present himself covered in glory to Jallarzi, whom he admires and desires greatly. [FtAC – 30]

Tenser being Tenser, he had prepared for the very worst.
Following a near-tragedy at the hands of Vecna’s followers, all members of the Eight kept a number of active clones. [PGtG – 23]
Though Rary thought he destroyed every clone of Tenser, he missed one. After a close call some years before, Tenser set up a hidden laboratory. Manned by magical servants, the laboratory would be triggered only by Tenser’s death if no other cloning effects were begun within a set period of time. [Rot8 – 3]
Tenser is dead but his clone lives, activated in a secret laboratory a very long way from home. [Rot8 – 2,3]
He could not plan for every possibility, though.
Unfortunately, the clone has run into an old enemy [… Tuerny] …. [Rot8 – 2,3]
Tenser is still alive, but powerless and changed into a minor demon. [Rot8 – 2]

To the rest of the Flanaess, Tenser was dead, though.
Jallarzi Sallavarian
Since Tenser's death, the sirines, swanmays, selkie, nymphs, and halflings he befriended still visit [his tower], in the hope that their friend may yet return. None enters the castle, save for Jallarzi Sallavarian, the executrix of Tenser's will. She alone holds the keys to the castle, although she rarely visits now that Tenser's bequests have been fulfilled. Tenser did not leave possession of his home to anyone. Since his death, a preprogrammed sequence of events has begun in the castle with a momentum all its own. Golems rearrange furnishings and the mobile elements of extraordinary magical runes and spheres; castle walls shift themselves; automatons enact seemingly meaningless sequences of actions; and from the deepest dungeons of the castle, strange grinding and whirring sounds are dimly audible. What this all portends is probably unknown to anyone, even Mordenkainen himself. For anyone planning to loot the castle, the defenses are formidable—traps, golems, automatons, illusions, planar gates woven into descending nets, endlessly recursive catacombs, tesseract complexes, and much else besides
. [FtAC – 30]
Say what you will, old enemies are persistent, especially the Old One’s.
A few people have set off to visit the castle since Tenser’s demise, but none ever returned. [Rot8 – 19]
Next to the skeletal elf body lie a man in black priest’s robes, with a tiny grinning skull of Iuz on a chain around his neck; a decapitated orc in chain mail and another orc, who appears to have had his hands burned off with a metal staff several feet beyond him. [Rot8 – 39]

585 CY
Tenser might have been tight with Bigby, and fast friends with Otto; he might have trusted Drawmij and Nystul with his life; but he chose his prior pupil, Jallarzi, with the settling of his estate. Why? Because they shared a history. And maybe more. I've suggested that Tenser might have felt rather paternal to Jallarzi, and thus they would have shared a secret understanding that he lacked with his other colleagues, however fast and friendly. He deemed that she, of all of them, could piece the clues of the existence of his most secreted clone, and bring him back to life. A daughter would pick up what others would miss, obviously.
Tenser had left a will with the Guild of Lawyers and Scribes in Greyhawk naming Jallarzi Sallavarian executrix of his estate. [Rot8 – 3]
‘‘To Jallarzi Sallavarian, sole guardian of my abode – Tenser.” [Rot8 – 18]
Since Tenser's death, the sirines, swanmays, selkie, nymphs, and halflings he befriended still visit, in the hope that their friend may yet return. None enters the castle, save for Jallarzi Sallavarian, the executrix of Tenser's will. She alone holds the keys to the castle, although she rarely visits now that Tenser's bequests have been fulfilled. [FtAC – 85]
But others had waylaid Jallarzi before she could follow those clues.
Jallarzi had her own secrets, too, it would seem.
Hiding behind a stack of barrels is 9-year-old Skye (“the Lioness”), already a 2nd-level wizard [.] If rescued, Skye tells the PCs she is a special student of Jallarzi’s, coming to her house every few days for lessons that Jallarzi gives in her messy, brightly lit bedroom/study on the third floor. [Rot8 – 14]
Why might Jallarzi take on young Sky as an apprentice? Because she is Bucknard’s child? And perhaps Jallarzi’s?
Being who she is, and the dangers that might attract, Jallarzi hid the fact that Skye was hers and Bucknard’s child to protect her….
With good reason, as she too was missing.
It fell to others to follow the breadcrumbs to Tenser’s clone, to say nothing of where Jallarzi might be.

3rd week of Goodmonth
Jallarzi and Tenser, Transformed
Tenser’s last clone was discovered, but he was not himself:
One clone of Tenser was finally recovered from a secret location. [PGtG – 23]
Tuerny has tortured him by changing him to a dretch marked with an imitation of the sword from his coat of arms, Tenser retains his awareness, but he currently has no spell powers, armor, weapons or anything else. [Rot8 – 50]
Nor was Jallarzi:
Tuerny the Merciless has chosen to torture her, as well. After making a simulacrum, he changed he sex and cast potent spells to alter her alignment, just for the amusement of watching her turn into something she hates. [Rot8 – 50]

More than anything, Tenser wants to be human again, and he wants Jay revived if necessary and restored to her good-aligned female form. One wish can return Tenser to his human form. Two other wishes can change Jay to Jallarzi and restore her old alignment. [Rot8 – 52]
Tuerney might have been the means, but it was Iggwilv who hatched the plot.
Iggwilv
Of course it was Iggwilv. Did you even for one moment believe that Graz’zt could keep that cagey witch caged?
After a successful mission to rescue one of Tenser's clones from the clutches of the infamous necromancer-witch Iggwilv, the Circle added three new members, rounding out the membership. (Tenser, chafing at Mordenkainen's agenda, left the group in disgust after his rescue.) [LGG – 156]
The startling restoration of the archmage Tenser in mid-585 CY, followed by the announcement that the Circle of Eight was once again at full number, heartened many people in the difficult days after the end of the wars. [TAB – 19]

All’s well that ends well, you might say; but not all endings are entirely happy.
Tenser was returned to life in 585 CY […], but chose not to return to the Circle of Eight. [PGtG – 21]
Tenser, chafing at Mordenkainen's agenda, left the group in disgust after his rescue. [LGG – 156]
Otiluke is still dead. Three new members were appointed in 585 CY: Alhamazad the Wise, Theodain Eriason and Warnes Starcoat. […] [PGtG – 21]
It would seem that Tenser was not the only one disenchanted with Mordenkainan’s methods.
Since Tenser was probably her closest ally in the Circle, [Jallarzi] now spends less time with her companions than before the wars, preferring instead to conduct her research and Circle business alone. [LGJ#0 – 9]

Tenser had decided to go it alone. He would never again work to “Keep The Balance,” he would fight for the Greater Good. As he always had.
Tenser left the Eight and now follows his own course in protecting the Flanaess. [PGtG – 11]
Outgoing, generally polite and witty, Tenser is [a] passionate advocate of law and goodness, demanding that individual desires be abrogated to the greater common good of civilization in the Flanaess – even to the extent of occasionally infringing on individual rights. He may magically force others to do his bidding if he feels the cause is important. His passion can be seen as bullying and even dangerous by potential allies, but his devotion to lawful-good principles endears him to his followers. [Rot8 – 58]
When the cloned Tenser returned to his castle on the shore of the Nyr Dyv in 585 CY, he retired from the Circle of Eight and began a campaign to promote the forces of law and good in the Flanaess. [PGtG – 23]
The return of the archmage Tenser in 585 CY brought joy to the community [of Elmshire]. Along with a raft of whispers about his recent adventures, plans, and projects. It is often said that Tenser’s fortress, along the southern Nyr Dyv coast over 40 miles east of Elmshire, is home to monsters, artifacts, and wizardry unparalleled. The halflings love Tenser’s presence but fear him personally. [Dragon #262 – 43]

Tenser
Tenser the Archmage
Human male 21st-level mage
Former member of the Circle of Eight
Str 10, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 17, Wis 11, Cha 18

Spells (5/5/5/5/5/4/4/4/2): Fond of using charm-type spells like geas to force others to take quests, Tenser also likes divination and combative spells. He rarely uses necromancy. Tenser begins (and ends) this adventure knowing no spells at all; he will be obliged to relearn them. [Rot8 – 57]

Nonweapon Proficiencies: Ancient history (history and legends of the Nyr Dyv), astrology, etiquette, herbalism, information gathering […] local history (Wild Coast) […] [Rot8 – 57]

Tenser is sixty years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 160 pounds. He is in good health but not muscular. His once dark-brown hair is streaked with gray; he has dark-brown eyes and a prominent aquiline nose. Tenser loves the color blue and always wears it. Even his possessions and his castle are blue. His robes always have the design of a thin scimitar, as this is part of his coat of arms. [Rot8 – 58]
Tenser uses destructive spells in combat, leaving hand-to-hand melee to his warrior henchmen and hirelings, but he will not shy away from physical fighting; he has sometimes been so overcome with rage that he stops spellcasting and charges into battle with his staff. Tenser developed many spells to improve warriors’ effectiveness in battle, and he is likely to outfit companions with combat-boosting item. [Rot8 – 58]
Tenser will fight to the death without quarter against his most hated enemies: Iuz and his followers and Rary the Traitor. [Rot8 – 58]
It would be remiss to exclude Iggwilv from Tenser’s shortlist. His whole history is replete with his jousting with the necromancer-witch.

Once restored to the Flanaess, Tenser will be on the move for many months, rebuilding his network of allies and spies, not to mention recovering his lost spellbooks, personal wealth and magical treasures. Tenser created many spells that bear his name; if rescued, he will be especially interested in regaining these for his use. If given the chance to study his old spellbooks or create new ones using other wizards’ spellbooks or scrolls, he recovers much of his lost knowledge in a year’s time. Once he regains his citadel and brings back most of his henchmen and hirelings, he can recover his monetary losses in about two years.
His next goal is the complete destruction of Rary and Robilar [….]
Warnes Starcoat
Tenser’s intense and aggressive promotion of the aims of law and good across the Flanaess will put him and his supporters at odds with the Circle of Eight in short order. Tenser did not support Warnes’ application to join the Circle, and Warnes’s inclusion in the restored Circle further alienates him from his old comrades. Instead Tenser aims to create an organization of powerful lawful-good heroes, paladins and clerics, mirroring the Circle of Eight, with the aim of destroying the armies of Iuz and driving Iuz from Oerth forever.
[Rot8 – 54]
Tenser may have left the Circle of Eight, but he was not a fool. They had their uses. More importantly, he had friends within its fold, and he would never abandon then, regardless his differences of opinion with their chair.
Tenser is on good terms with Mordenkainen and the Circle of Eight, though he often disagrees with them on matters of policy and he is frustrated with their caution when acting against evil. [Rot8 – 58]

Ever pragmatic, Tenser realized that the Circle’s network of informants would not necessarily be at his disposal, so he endeavoured to wax his own. One could never have enough eyes and ears out there. Some were more useful than others.
Javka is a friend and personal servant of the Despotrix [of Hardby], and she has travelled to cities as far away as Dyvers and Leukish, usually on errands of information gathering for the Gynarchy. […]
She entered the service of the Gynarchy in early 585 CY, and her resourcefulness and diligence quickly brought her to the attention of the Despotrix. […]
Javka personally favors Tenser, having worked with a few of his agents on her past missions. [LGJ#1 – 27]

586 CY
What became of the Crook of Rao?
After its rescue, the Crook somehow fell into the hands of Drax the Invulnerable, the calculating animus of Rel Astra. In the closing days of the Greyhawk Wars, Drax and [Canon] Hazen worked out a trade, and the Crook soon came to Mitrik, where it became the most influential item in the modern history of the Flanaess. [Dragon # 294 – 95]
After much ado it was finally but to use.
In Coldeven of 586 CY, […] Canon Hazen of Mitrik used the Crook to stunning effect, banishing thousands of demons, devils, yugoloths, and other outsiders from all parts of the Flanaess [.] The assistance of nearly every priest of Rao in Mitrik as wall as the aid (some say manipulation) of the archmage Bigby, certainly played an important role in the effort’s success. [Dragon #294 – 93,95]

587 CY
Tenser visited a great many sages and mystics while recovering his lost magic, some he had visited long ago when he was very young and hungry for the power.
In a hillside to the west is a single, shallow cave where the Hermit of Wavenair dwells.
The Hermit never gives his name, and speaks rarely.
Certainly, he is a powerful man. Hillsmen will tell those they trust that the Hermit was once seen to draw from his yarpick staff a bolt of lightning that shattered the ribcage of a hill giant attacking Wavenair (the Hermit owns a staff of thunder and lightning that can cast double-strength bolts). If the speaker really trusts an adventurer, he may describe a famous wizard who visited the Hermit two years ago [in 587 CY], and if that adventurer has seen (a portrait of) Tenser the Archmage, he would know that this was the wizard who came to call. Why? Only the Hermit knows—and possibly Mordenkainen, too. [FtAC – 28,29]

589 CY
Tenser
The famed Circle of Eight has many roots in the city and the nearby Wild Coast. This exceptionally powerful group is a political body of wizards who work to maintain a balance of power across the whole Flanaess, so that states can formulate heir own policies without interference or fear of invasion and conquest by outside Forces or empire-building neighbors. Two merit members of that body (Otto and Jallarzi Sallavarian) have homes in Greyhawk; all the others (Mordenkainen, Bigby, Drawmij, Alhamazad, Nystul, Warnes Starcoat, and Theodain Eriason) visit on an irregular basis. Tenser, a former member, lives near the city in a fortress on the south shore of the Nyr Dyv.
[TAB – 7]
What esoteric mysteries he returned with is anyone’s guess; but the halflings of Elmshire are quite sure that it will come to no good.
Tenser recently reactivated his keeps mining operations (which had been shut down after his death during the Greyhawk wars), and minor earthquakes and strange grinding vibrations occasionally rumble into the surrounding area from deep beneath the citadel, hinting at the immense golems currently at work harvesting the world’s magical substance. [Dragon #294 – 93]

The halflings should know better. Tenser has always been a good soul. He might be aggressive in combat, he might be a bit of an alarmist, and he might on occasion geas a soul or two in the pursuit of his ends, but he has always fought for the Greater Good.
As to what he might be up to in his keep on the Nyr Dyv, be assured it is well-thought out. Tenser is a genius, after all; his knowledge is as esoteric and deep and any other great archmage.
Do you doubt that? He is certainly the most prolific of any of the Circle of Eight, past and present.

“Theory of the Invisible Forces” by Tenser
(push, unseen servant, strength, Tenser’s floating disc) [Dragon #82 – 57]

“Evolution of the Arcane Will Power by Tenser
(polymorph self, polymorph other, polymorph any object, Tenser’s transformation) [Dragon #82 – 58]

The Magical Properties of Gemstones, by Mage Tenser
The Magical Properties of Herbs and Flowers, by Mage Tenser [U1 – 7]

The Occult Properties of Gemstones — Mage Tenser. [U2 – 20]

He may have penned more spells than the others:
Although individual wizards of the Circle have developed their own spells, which are predominantly of one type (e.g. Tenser and Drawmij have their own spells which are mostly of the alteration [transmutation] school), all of them are considered as general (non-specialist) wizards. [COG:FFF – 21]

Level One
Tenser’s Eye of the Tiger
Tenser's Floating Disc
Tenser’s Steady Aim

Level Two
Tenser’s Brawl
Tenser’s Hunting Hawk

Level Three
Tenser’s Deadly Strike
Tenser’s Eye of the Eagle

Level Four
Tenser’s Flaming Blade
Tenser’s Giant Strength
Tenser’s Master of Arms
Tenser’s Running Warrior
Tenser’s Staff of Smiting

Level Five
Tenser’s Destructive Resonance
Tenser’s Primal Fury

Level Six
Tenser’s Fortunes of War
Tenser’s Transformation

Level 7
Tenser's Floating Disc, Greater (Illusionist)

Level 8
Tenser's Lift (4e)

Level 9
Tenser's Binding (4e 10th level)

True Dweomer
Tenser’s Telling Blow
[PHB 1e – 126/GA – 128/ Dragon #366 – 32/ Wizard’s Spell Compendium IV/ Return of the 8 – 42]


And it may be that Tenser has likely created more magical items than the rest of them combined, as well:
Tenser’s Arrows of Hunting
Tenser’s Dagger of Frost and Flame
Tenser’s Belt of Brawling
Tenser’s Boots of the Running Warrior
Tenser’s Bow of Eagle Sight
Tenser’s Bow of Steadiness
Tenser’s Eyes of the Tiger
Tenser’s Fortunate Coin
Tenser’s Girdle of Giant Strength
Tenser’s Hunting Hawk
Tenser’s Iron Staff of Smiting
Tenser’s Potion of Primal Fury
Tenser’s Sword of Deadly Strikes
Tenser’s Telling Blow
[Rot8 – 28,31,42,52,63,64]

Tenser's Portmanteau of Frugality (W)
[Tome of Magic 2e – 145]

Tenser’s Shield
[White Dwarf #22 – 13]

Tenser's Tantalus
Tenser’s Tantalus (Wizard)
A tantalus is a nonmagical piece of furniture, a liquor-stand that uses wooden or metal rods to keep the bottles and glasses in the stand from moving about. Tenser’s tantalus is a mobile, magical version of the same sort of device, designed to transport magical potions or other fragile items, keeping them safe and within easy reach for the mage’s use. […]
Tenser’s tantalus is a flat metal disc, 3’ in diameter, which floats at a constant 3’ above the surface of the ground (under most circumstances) and at the same 3’ distance from its user unless specifically commanded otherwise. [Dragon #194 – 86]


Tenser is a truly complex fellow. He’s a Good man amongst Neutrals. They all fight for the same ends, or so they say; but he is the only one to admit that he fights for the forces of Good, and in that we have to assume that he would never purposely support Evil—unless he could turn it against them.
What do I think about Tenser? I think he’s been pushed around a little. Don’t you? Like, come on; he’s been killed twice, and even turned into a dretch! No other Circle member has been so used and abused. You have to wonder why such a beloved and honoured character from the dawn of the game was treated that way. He deserved more respect. He's an archmage, for gods sake; one of the most powerful of the whole of the Flanaess!
Tenser
He comes out alright, though. He’s his own man, in the end—although he was always that, wasn't he, never 2nd fiddle to Mordenkainen, not ever—more so than the others, I’d say.
He’s probably one of the easiest of the Circle to DM, I believe. Bigby might claim that distinction, too, as well, although Tenser is way more intimidating than Bigby, I think. Personally, I think that Tenser is a better poster-boy for Greyhawk than Mordenkainen, what with his dedication to the cause of Good, but that’s me.
All that said, there is a notable absence in Tenser’s long life. There is nary a mention of any romantic attachment in the whole of his history. Bigby had Wanda, once, long ago. But Tenser? No one. Did he harbour an unrequited love for Jallarzi, the only woman ever mentioned in his intimate “circle,”—the only other woman that continually crosses Tenser’s life with any regularity would be Iggwilv, and that’s an entanglement of a whole different type—or did he have another unrequited, even more secret, love? Let's address the elephant in the room: might Tenser carry a torch for Bigby, perchance? Is Tenser gay? One could present a case for it; but I expect the omission of any romantic attachment is one that's common to many a campaign: the subject was irrelevant in a game of swords and spells. Not that it matters. I doubt that Tenser's sexuality would ever come up in anyone's game. Or should. He wouldn't be bosom buddies with the PCs. Likely a patron, and thus his personal life would never come under scrutiny, ever. So, maybe let's let sleeping dogs lie, so as not to incite argument.
A more important question is, do I like Tenser? I do. He’s tough and tenacious. He's from the Wild Coast, so he's not afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s a bulldog, so to speak, as close to a Fighter as a mage can be, and thus a "little" reckless at times. He wades in, and once he gets his jaws on something he doesn’t let go. In that regard, Ernie Gygax was probably a young fellow when he played Tenser [Rogues Gallery — 46]: He wanted to have his cake and eat it too, in that he wanted to swing a sword and fling fireballs, both. I was like that when I played my first magic-user. Reckless. Physical, more likely to brandish a dagger than to cower or to run away when I ran out of spells. It wasn't until I realised that supportive magic punched heavier than actual combat magic when the shit hit the fan.
I digress....
Tenser was certainly an adventurer. And an evocative one. He explored the depths of Castle Greyhawk with others destined to become quasi-deities; even so, he's the central character and hero of Mike Bridges’ and Scott Casper’s graphic novel, Castle Greyhawk, not them, not Mordenkainen.





One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.


The Art:
Graz'zt and Iggwilv, by Wayne Reynolds, from Dungeon #121, 2005
Rakehell Chert, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1986
Rary, by Andrew Hue and Arnold Tsang, from Dungeon #103/LGJ#21, 2003
Robilar, from Epic Level Handbook, 2002
Jallarzi Sallavarian, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Jallarzi and Tenser, Transformed, by M.E. Kedzierski, from Return of the Eight, 1998
Iggwilv, by Robson Michel. from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, 2020
Tenser, by Ted Naifehfrom Return of the Eight, 1998
Warnes Starcoat, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Tenser (Manzorian) detail, by Steve Prescott, from Dungeon #130, 2006
Tenser's Tantalus, by LA Williams, from Dragon #194, 1993

Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2010 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2023 Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
2121 Tome of Magic 2e, 1991
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9031 The Rogues Gallery, 1980
9062 U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, 1981
9064 U2 Danger at Dunwater, 1982
9112 WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, 1984
9153 WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
9309 WGA4 Vecna Lives! 1990
9360 WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk, 1992
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
9576 Return of the Eight, 1998
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11742 World of Greyhawk Gazetteer 3e, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #82, 194, 225, 262, 294, 299, 366
White Dwarf Magazine #22
Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 1
Wizard’s Spell Compendium IV, 1996
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda

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