Friday, 4 November 2022

On Bigby, Part 1

“Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I'd just stare out my window
Dreaming of what could be
And if I'd end up happy…”
― Breakaway
Matthew Gerrard, Avril Lavigne, Bridget Louise Benenate

“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.”
― Martin Luther

If I were to ask you to name three wizards in D&D, they would probably be Mordenkainen, Tenser, and Bigby. That might be because of their spells have graced each edition of D&D. But it could also be because their names are scattered throughout Greyhawk lore. Once, early on, they might pop up in modules, usually as the recruiters; but later, as the years progressed, as the movers and shakers of recent history, as noted in the sourcebooks that advanced the setting.
Mordenkainen is, and likely always will be, the poster-boy of the setting, but I would argue that Tenser and Bigby were just as important as he.
Still other mortal wizards, villains, thieves and heroes have had such an impact that in a hundred universes great spells and magical devices bear their names: Mordenkainen, Iuz, Bigby, Drawmij, Heward, Iggwilv, Tenser, Acererak, Nystul, Tuerny, Ehlisra, Otiluke, Serten, Bucknard, Sustarre. These people made the Flanaess the greatest of legendary lands. [PGtG – 18]
Indeed, Mordenkainen is almost always mentioned in tandem with Bigby.
Regardless of background, most wizards are identified by a single name: Mordenkainen or Bigby are examples. Generally, the higher a mage’s eminence, the more likely this is, though there are extremely powerful mages with multiple names, like Jallarzi Sallavarian and Warnes Starcoat. [PGtG – 48]

Whether a mage goes by their given or surname might seem unimportant, but I might point out that the most powerful magi ever known have invariably been known by only one name. Merlin and Gandalf, for instance. Apropos, Mordenkainen and Tenser. Leomund. And Bigby.
Wizards avoid long-winded names and are often known simply by one name (Mordenkainen, Bigby, etc.). Often, this occurs progressively as a mage becomes better known, and is a sign of eminence (no one says, "Mordenkainen who?" or, "which Mordenkainen?"). [FtAA – 15]
They have obviously become The Mordenkainen.
And The Bigby.

Picture [TAB – 71]

Aside from his spells, I expect Bigby’s biggest claim to fame is his membership in the Circle of Eight.
Bigby, Wiz19: HP 89, AL N.
Str 9, Int 21, Wis 15, Dex 17, Con 15, Cha 12.
The name Bigby is famous within sorcerous circles across the Flanaess—ironic, considering the shy, ascetic nature of the mage who bears it, whose penchant for manipulating the world around him from a distance is legend. Before the wars, Bigby had been the most reclusive member of the Circle of Eight, attending group meetings, but rarely accompanying the Circle on adventures or missions. [LGJ#0 – 8]
That doesn’t sound very Circle-like, does it? Shy, manipulative, reclusive. That said, Mordenkainen and Tenser might be described as such too, secretive in their towers, casting geas here and there to further their ends.
Bigby did not remain so reclusive, though.
The treachery of Rary, against which he was the only survivor, has changed all of that. Once timid and cautious, Bigby now acts as an ambassador for the Circle, traveling the Flanaess in search of new contacts or information. [LGJ#0 – 8]
Still the ever-thoughtful mage of years past, Bigby has seen that extreme amounts of caution often lead to inaction, which does little good for anyone. His recent travels have brought him into increased contact with the forces of the Scarlet Brotherhood and, though he now resides in Mitrik, his love for the Brotherhood-occupied town of Scant has never faltered. [LGJ#0 – 8]

A lean, severe-looking man
Bigby cuts quite the heroic figure in later years, doesn’t he? Does he look and act the part, though? Not terribly.
Bigby is a lean, severe-looking man with brown hair and eyes who prefers dark gray hooded robes. At [58] years of age, he is known for being cautious, quiet, nervous and puritanical. Though a fault-finder and nitpicker, he is steadfast and has a fine sense of humor. Bigby lived in Onnwal, but fled after the Scarlet Brotherhood conquered it. He now lives in the city of Mitrik in Veluna.
He adventures only infrequently, preferring to remain at home in one of his libraries or tinkering in his laboratory. Only when he gets wind of rare spell components or unusual magical items will he go adventuring, but he visits his wizard friends frequently. [PGtG – 22]
Bigby (Mitrik) [FtAR#13]

How did he get from there to here, one wonders. By leaps and bounds, it would seem.
Like all people, great and small, their history begins long before them, with their family.
75 CY
The ruling house of Aerdy became the Rax-Nyrond House after the death of Nasran's grandson, Tenmeris, in CY 75. [Ivid – 3]
When House Cranden fell from the malachite throne, the reaction of its nobles was polarized. The house was oppressed by other houses, not least because they feared revenge for Rax-Nyrond usurping the throne and acted to diminish Cranden's power. Cranden nobles tended to take one of three lines of reaction to this.
One path was to polarize toward true Neutrality, to withdraw from temporal affairs and follow the path of sage or wizard. […]
A second path, followed by many of the younger and lesser nobles at the time, was to turn to Chaotic Evil. […] House Cranden contains some of the most violently evil people in all of Aerdy.
The third path, very much a minority one, was to follow the ways of Lawful Good. [Ivid – 3]

House Cranden is important because of its history and tradition. Cranden sages have many of the finest collections of historical documents, tomes, and items in all the lands. If one should seek all that is known of such ancient luminaries as Lum the Mad, Johydee, the Wind Dukes of Aqaa, and the Sunken Isles below the Nyr Dyv, then Cranden sages are the best sources—and probably the most accessible. Indeed, the house itself has produced some of the greatest names in all Oerth's history; Johydee, Tuerny the Merciless, Schandor, and among more modern luminaries, both Bigby (which is generally known) and Mordenkainen himself (which is not known to more than a handful). [Ivid – 137]

203 CY
One scion of House Cranden’s path of Greater Good was hijacked.
Few events shook the order as greatly as the betrayal of the paladin Sir Kargoth, who made a pact with the forces of evil and unleashed a demonic terror upon the Great Kingdom in 203 CY. The abomination was destroyed at great cost, but the fallen knight seduced no fewer than thirteen members of the order to his dark banner. Kargoth's treachery cursed everything he touched, and sunlight turned all fourteen traitors into the first and most powerful of the so called death knights.
The order went into slow decline after this upheaval, as many loyal knights spent much time hunting down the renegades. [LGG – 158]
Not Kargoth; he was House Torquann. I speak of Oslan Knarren of Oldridge.

The Death Knights:
St. Kargoth the Betrayer, Lord Monduiz Dephaar, Lady Lorana Kath of Naelax, Prince Myrhal of Rax, Sir Maeril of Naelax, Sir Farian of Lirthan [destroyed by Benedor], Lord Andromansis of Garasteth, Sir Oslan Knarren, Sir Rezinar of Haxx, Lord Thyrian of Naelax, Sir Minar Syrric of Darmen, Duke Urkar Grasz of Torquann, Sir Luren the Boar of Torquann, and Lord Khayven of Rax.
[Dragon #290- 100-104/ Dragon # 291 – 90-98]

Oslan of Oldridge was a great paladin of Pholtus and an acclaimed Knight Protector who was duped by Lord Kargoth into being an accomplice to his fell plan. A Cramden noblemen, distantly related to St. Benedor and an ancestor of the mage Bigby, he has suffered greatly due to his horrific state. [Dragon #291 – 98]
Sir Knarren wanders the wilderness of the central Flanaess, avoiding most contact with humanity, seeking [an] honorable death which never comes to him. [Dragon #291 – 98]

533 CY
Bigby is born. In Oldridge. In the Western Lands of the Great Kingdom. In the shadow of the Adri Forest. A stone’s throw from Almor, a bastion of Good if there ever was one.
[T]hese lands are of greatest note because what is left of House Cranden is almost entirely concentrated here. [Ivid – 137]
Oldridge is set amid an array of warring petty princes; Darmen, Cranden (the CE line predominating), Naelax to the east, and even a couple of the last remnant of the Rax-Nyrond bloodlike, albeit rather diluted. Thus, the town is a nest of mercenaries and recruiters and disgruntled troops returning unpaid from the service of one or other prince whose name is now only part of history. [Ivid – 140]
That doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? In fact, it seems a den of scum and villainy. It couldn’t be all bad, though: Oslan hailed from there, after all, and he was a paladin.
[T]he lands of House Cranden still give refuge to a few powerful good-aligned exiles, fled from the evil eastern domains. Priests of Pholtus and Rao still exist here, though they conceal their true identities from any prying eyes for obvious reasons. [Ivid – 137]
What sets Oldridge apart […] is that the town is the birthplace of Bigby. [Ivid – 140]
Bigby hails from the Great Kingdom, where he was born in the town of Oldridge nearly 58 years ago. His features are Oeridian, with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. His skin is pale, and his exceedingly picky diet has resulted in an almost unhealthy gauntness. [LGJ#0 – 8]
[As the onset date of “The Adventure Begins, and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer is 591 CY, 58 years prior is 533 CY]

Mid-500s CY
Few would ever guess that Mordenkainen would become the man he would eventually become. He began, as many heroic figures do, as a common adventurer. A reaver. Might I suggest, that despite his wielding magic, that he was a common thief.
Robilar: "And what of the dream—the one you told me about? A city of gold and silver, Mordenkainen. Surely no one but the gods themselves could have built it."
Mordenkainen was fully awake now and staring at the fighter like a child mesmerized by some fairy tale. [OJ#6]
So was the company he kept over the years. They were not, as you might say, working for the greater good. They were motivated by adventure, treasure, and greed.
Mordenkainen (N), Bigby (N) [Rogues Gallery 1e – 44,40], Yrag (N) [WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure - 31]
here were one or two in his company that “kept the Balance.”
Robilar (LE), Serten (LG)
[Rogues Gallery 1e – 46]
Rary (NE) [WGR3 Rary the Traitor – 12]
Riggby (NG) [Rogues Gallery 1e - 46]/ (N) [WG5 – 32]
Robilar began his career as an adventurer, seeking his fortune in the company of such Greyhawk luminaries as Mordenkainen, Bigby, Serten, and from time to time, Rary the Mage. [WGR3 – 11]
He is Yrag […], a lord of Greyhawk and friend of Mordenkainen, Bigby, and other luminaries. It is not commonly known that Yrag is much older than he looks, much of his aging delayed by magical means. He is believed to be about 205 years old. [TAB – 114]

Was Bigby as inspired by adventure and greed?
That’s hard to say. He was a Cranden, and unlike so many of his kin who took the path of Evil, he was lured by magic, and he, unlike they, took the path of scholarly Neutrality. And the arcane Arts.
The [Greyhawk University of Magical Arts] is known for its harsh academic life and intense, focused studies; Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser of the Circle of Eight learned their craft here decades ago. [TAB – 6]
But boys will be boys:
As seen by a memento from his past: an old love letter from someone named Wanda [.] [WGR2 – 38]
Young Bigby, of Oldridge
Wanda must have made quite an impression on the impressionable young man. Had Wanda inspired him more, though, he might have chosen a different path.
But for whatever reason—an argument, perhaps she was wooed by another, mayhap she passed—Wanda was not Bigby’s destiny.
Early in life, Bigby’s travels found him in the Wild Coast, where he eventually gained the notice of Mordenkainen. Bigby is known to be a member of Aerdy's House Cranden, and rumors have long placed Mordenkainen as a distant scion of the same bloodline. For that reason, and because of their shared experiences and adventures, Bigby and Mordenkainen share a friendship unique among the members of the Circle.  [LGJ#0 – 8]
Bigby was the original apprentice of Mordenkainen [.] [Dragon #37 – 11]

Mordenkainen certainly educated the bookish boy in the ways of dungeon delving.
Castle Greyhawk
Soon thereafter, Mordenkainen took Bigby in tow and again ventured into the dungeons. The pair sent a fireball into the notorious pudding-guarded chamber, but heard nothing. Following quickly, the two saw a black pudding moving at best speed away from them, leaving the access to the lower regions of the dungeon open and uncontested. [Dragon #289 – 28]

When Mordenkainen had gathered his initial band of follows, henchman, and followers numbering a score or two, keeping them became a problem. It wasn’t a matter of loyalty or what to do with them. The sheer cost of paying upkeep and wages was quite staggering. The rewards for dungeon exploration were sufficient to maintain the group in modest fashion, but certainly a mage with vision needed more than such a small company to achieve his goals. […]
[Dragon #299 – 18]
In the years of their companionship, both Robilar and Yrag were ennobled by Greyhawk, and Riggby was promoted speedily within the church of Boccob in Verbobonc. Tenser, Bigby, and Mordenkainen likewise advanced in their own wizardly ways, gaining arcane knowledge and power. [LGJ#0 – 5]

For whatever reason, Bigby and Mordenkain’s fates had twined, and would be for decades to come.
In the mid-500s, a Wild Coast wizard named Mordenkainen quietly began to confer with several sorcerers in the Greyhawk area about the possibility of forming a group dedicated to the preservation of the Flanaess from external threats. This group became known as the Circle of Eight, an outgrowth of an earlier group of eight powerful individuals formed by Mordenkainen known as the Citadel of Eight, said to be headquartered in the Yatil Mountains at Mordenkainen’s retreat. [TAB – 60]
Mordenkainen lives in the Obsidian Citadel, a symmetrical complex of towers and walled defenses in the Yatil Mountains. [COG:FFF – 21]
The Citadel houses Mordenkainen’s unequaled library which is said to contain spellbooks of every known spell (except those designed by individual wizards), intelligence reports across the continent, and a detailed and continuously updated history of the Flanaess. Only Bigby and Tenser know of his home’s precise location. [PGtG – 22]
However entwined Bigby was with Mordenkainen, the latter was the formers mentor. It would be with Tenser that Bigby became the fastest of friends.
In his adventurous youth, [Tenser] traveled throughout the Flanaess and beyond and met Mordenkainen, Riggby, Merlynd (now the quasi-diety Murlynd), Robilar, Bigby and other now-famous personages.
[Rot8 – 58]
Tenser (LG) [Rogues Gallery – 47]
Bigby is never without a teleport without error spell which can take him to Mordenkainen or Tenser should he become trapped [.] [COG:FFF – 23]
A few of the members of the Circle of Eight have been publicly named, such as Bigby and Tenser. The latter was already a semi-resident of the Domain of Greyhawk, as he had taken control of an ancient castle on the southern shore of the Nyr Dyv near the city. [TAB – 60]

560 CY
Early on, adventurers do as adventurers do.
WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure
The adventure is assumed to take place before 570 CY, perhaps as early as 560 [.] [TAB – 3]
Bigby is 27.

Bigby the Magic-User
[Necromancer? This might come as a shock to anyone who’s played latter editions of D&D, but in the days before the Complete Book of Necromancers supplement, a Necromancer was a 10th level Magic-user. No other baggage is attached to the title.]
CLASS: Magic-User
DEITIES: Boccob & Zagyg

Bigby’s attire is unassuming: a simple hooded dark grey robe. When this hood is thrown back from the usual covering of his face (for Bigby is a somewhat retiring and secretive man), his lean but healthy features will be exposed: studious brown eyes, light brown hair, and a laugh that precedes jokes on almost a forced level. To those who do not know him well, he might be viewed as oddly nervous (or paranoid), but this is nowhere near true. The mark to which Bigby adheres is simply “Caution.” Bigby has brought along a few of his accumulated magic items.

Armor: Nil/Normal Dress
Clothes: Ring of Protection +3
In Hand: Dagger +2, or Wand of Cold (12 charges)
Side Pouch: Potion of Animal Control, Vial of Sweetwater
Belt Pouch: Components for Spells Carried
Spells Known: All, of Levels 1-5 Known

Spells Carried:
Level 1: Affect Normal Fires, Hold Portal, Magic Missile, Shield
Level 2: Detect Evil, Mirror Image, Rope Trick, Stinking Cloud
Level 3: Fly, Lightning Bolt, Phantasma Force
Level 4: Charm Monster, Minor Globe of Invulnerability
Level 5: Conjure Elemental, Teleport
[WG5 – 31]

Mordenkainen the Mage and his boon companions, Yrag, Riggby, and Bigby […] have been tempted to explore Maure Castle because of the widespread rumors concerning the “unopenable” doors. Preferring not to attract attention, they have traveled from their abode, the Citadel of Eight, upon Mordenkainen’s carpet of flying. [WG5 – 4]
If direly pressed, Riggby can magically create food and water. Mordenkainen or Bigby can teleport out and return with ample provisions to sustain the whole party for 3 days’ time. [WG5 – 4]

Adventuresome Bigby
Adventuring, while well and good, was not enough for Mordenkainen anymore. He wished to affect the Flanaess at large—to keep it safe, as it were—and he needed others to help him.
At that table, nearly thirty years ago, Mordenkainen debated with his young apprentice, Bigby, the merits of taking an active hand in maintaining the celestial balance of power. Thereafter, the two struck upon a plan to gather a group of like-minded individuals that would act to hinder advances by those who would dominate the Flanaess. That their expected exploits would impart upon the mages no small amount of lost magical lore only served to hasten the alliance. [LGJ#0 – 4,5]
That group of like-minded individuals became the Citadel of Eight.
Within months, Mordenkainen had brought the renowned warrior Robilar to his cause, as well as the cleric Riggby, and his zealous assistant, Yrag. From the shores of the Nyr Dyv, Mordenkainen recruited the righteous Tenser, who in turn introduced the dim-witted though well-meaning Serten to the assembly. Finally, the young woodsman, Otis, rounded out the group. [LGJ#0 – 5]
[Otis is] a ranger knight (Level 10), an agent of the King of Furyondy, a Knight Bachelor of Veluna [.] [T1-4 – 34]

[T]he Citadel of Eight, was a known opponent of darkness in its many guises. Its members stood, and fell, protecting the balance and defending Oerth from the influence of malign beings and, rarely, benevolent interlopers, as well. [LGJ#0 – 4]
In the years of their companionship, both Robilar and Yrag were ennobled by Greyhawk, and Riggby was promoted speedily within the church of Boccob in Verbobonc. Tenser, Bigby, and Mordenkainen likewise advanced in their own wizardly ways, gaining arcane knowledge and power. [LGJ#0 – 5]

569 CY
Their aim was true. And noble.
But their Fellowship was not to last. Some of them were not as dedicated to their cause as others.
Hommlet, Nulb, the Temple—all are vital parts of Greyhawk. […] Many veterans […], as well as many newcomers, began adventuring in and around Hommlet about ten years ago. From these […] rose Burne and Rufus, Jaroo, Terjon, Otis, Y'dey, and the rest. After clearing out all of the Temple's agents in the Hommlet area, various characters banded together to assault the Temple itself.  [T1-4 – 28]
Robilar's ravages were followed by the army of enraged Good folk, led by Tenser and associates—including Otis, Burne, Rufus, et al. [T1-4 – 28]

Robilar never quite bought into Mordenkainen’s philosophy, and he and Tenser often bickered over matters of morality. Serten, though seen as useful, was never truly respected and Otis, tired of underground excursions and forays into urban territories, left the group, decrying his friends as cave-delvers and treasure seekers blind to the real problems of the world. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Alas, the Citadel was to have dissolved at just the time the Flanaess needed their vigilance the most.
Battle of Emridy Meadows
Nearly a decade after the Citadel's formation, Otis' critical words took on the air of prophecy. In 569 CY, when the first arrow flew at Emridy Meadows, the Citadel was noticeably absent. Whether investigating magical secrets far to the west or unearthing lost passages in Urnst's Maure Castle, these self-absorbed celebrities were too preoccupied to influence one of the century's most critical battles. All were absent save Serten, who fought valiantly at the side of Prince Thrommel against the hordes of Elemental Evil. When Serten fell, none of his friends stood at his side.
[LGJ#0 – 5]
Tenser blamed Mordenkainen for the death of his friend, and retired inward to his castle. Terik and Yrag vanished, some said to the anonymity of the Bandit Kingdoms. Even the loyal Bigby left the side of his one-time master and returned to Oldridge, where he adventured for a time with a band of boyhood friends. Mordenkainen, the man who had brought the Citadel together, simply shrugged and returned, with cold eyes, to his studies. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Bigby is 36.

570 CY
Robilar, it would seem, was still motivated by treasure and greed. Perhaps the pursuit of power, as well.
In 570 CY, Lord Robilar, his orc henchman Quij, and Riggby, Patriarch of Boccob, freed Iuz. The archmages Bigby and Tenser arrived, intending to kill him [Iuz], but during Iuz's incarceration the half-demon had transformed, and he emerged a demigod and escaped. He dreams of destroying the Free City of Greyhawk and those who nearly killed him when he was released. [PGtG – 24]

In the course of one of these adventures, [Bigby] earned Iuz’s enmity. [Rot8 – 58]
[Iuz] had been trapped for decades in a chamber beneath Greyhawk Castle by the mad archmage Zagyg. [WGA1 – 46]
Tenser arrived on the scene...
Originally, three set out to investigate the prison of Iuz below Castle Greyhawk. These were Lord Robilar, his orc henchman Quij, and Riggby, Patriarch of Boccob. Unfortunately, the investigation freed Iuz. Whether this was by error or perhaps design on the part of Robilar, who secretly carried a pair of highly unusual dispelling magics about himself on that fateful day, sages cannot say. What is known is that at the moment of Iuz's being freed, Archmage Tenser arrived on the scene together with Bigby the mage and a powerful fighter going by the unlikely name of Neb Retnar. Tenser had learned of Robilar's plan, feared that Riggby was being duped, and came post haste to prevent their action. Tenser and his cohort began battling the freed, enraged demigod. Riggby at once aided the assault. Robilar and Quij considered flight and felt their chances would be best if they made odds of four against one into six against one.
[WGR5 – 5]
...with Bigby the Mage.
The archmages Bigby and Tenser arrived, intending to kill [Iuz], but during Iuz's incarceration the half-demon had transformed, and he emerged a demigod and escaped.
[PGtG – 24]
That was fortuitous. Did Tenser distrust Robilar? Have him followed? Tenser had an extensive network of informants and spies. Did he scry his old ally? No matter the means, what is curious is that Tenser should have suspected Robilar’s plan at all; unless he was keeping watch on him.
One think is for certain: Tenser turned to his fast friend Bigby to help him. That they were too late to prevent Robilar was unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that Tenser and Bigby weren’t able to put an end to Iuz, once and for all.
Iuz, the Old One

Iuz was very nearly destroyed in that conflict, escaping to the Abyss just before Bigby would have destroyed him with his infamous crushing hand spell. He left behind him a backwash of chaotic evil magic which altered the alignment of Retnar, left Riggby catatonic for days, and caved in a large part of Castle Greyhawk's deepest dungeon complexes. Since that time, Iuz has always protected himself with a carefully secreted soul gem hidden on an unknown, unbelievably well-guarded Abyssal plane. He can be killed on the Prime Material, but unless the soul gem is destroyed beforehand, he cannot be destroyed forever.
Iuz's most burning desire is to have revenge on those who freed and tried to slay him. [WGR5 – 5]
luz has vowed to bring ruin upon Tenser the Archmage and Lord Robilar and the others who tried to slay him when his prison was sprung. [WoGA – 27]
Since that fateful brush with extinction, Iuz has schemed to destroy those six. [WGR5 – 5]
He dreams of destroying the Free City of Greyhawk and those who nearly killed him when he was released. [PGtG – 24]

Where was Mordenkainen when his fast friend Robilar was unleashing dire Iuz upon the Flanaess? Had Mordenkainen turned a blind eye…to preserve the Balance? Or was there a greater threat looming that required his attention? Mordenkainen is mum on the subject.
Wherever he might have been, Iuz’s release certainly drew his attention.
Had he been lax in his self-appointed purpose, he wondered? Need he be more attentive, more vigilant, as Tenser was becoming?
The chaos surrounding the return to power of the demigod, luz, in CY 570 prompted Mordenkainen to consider a new paradigm. [LGJ #0 – 6]
Mordenkainen the archmage […] formed the Circle of Eight as a tool to manipulate political factions of the Flanaess, preserving the delicate balance of power in hopes of maintaining stability and sanity in the region. 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. In all things, the Circle of Eight prefers to work behind the scenes, subtly manipulating events to ensure that no one faction gains the upper hand. [LGG – 156]
Mordenkainen invited some of the most prominent magi in the Flanaess to join him. [LGJ #0 – 6]
It took years to collect the mages he thought worthy. His first choice was Bigby. Of course it was.
Did he ask Tenser to join his new Circle? He did not. Was it because he thought Tenser would not accept his invitation; or might it be that he believed that Tenser would not labour towards Balance, but towards the Greater Good, and the Rule of Law?
The majority of the members of the Circle of Eight are of pure neutral alignment, and do not revere one diety to the exclusion of others. [CoG:GotF – 21]

571 CY
Indeed, a year on, Mordenkain had still not included Tenser in his gathering of magi.
By the first month of 571 CY, he had gathered eight mages to his cause, among them Bigby, Otto, Rary, Nystul, Drawmij, and the affable Bucknard. [LGJ #0 – 6]
Flippant and humorous, with a preference for puns and quips which displeases Mordenkainen and the sober Bigby and Drawmij, Nystul is nevertheless a profound thinker and a master of subtlety. [COG:FFF – 24]
Who were the other two? Who can say? Did they perish in Mordenkainen’s pursuit of Balance?

What were the Circle in those early days? I’m not sure.
Bigby the Mage
Human M-U 13th Lvl, AL N; S 11, I 17, W16, D18, C 15, Ch10
Reclusive, Bigby seldom adventures anymore unless it Is absolutely necessary. Instead he conforms to the traditional role of the wizard, pale and studious. Although smart and wise, Bigby is less of a leader of men and more a spectator. He is always willing to let others do his tasks for him. When adventuring, he prefers to travel in the company of friends, partaking of their adventures and fun, but seldom instigating any himself. He does enjoy the deception of posing as a withered trader; he finds that it often gives him the advantage of surprise he needs.
Bigby is quite willing to describe some of his greater exploits and is in general a talkative man. He is just slightly moody and when certain ill-fated expeditions are mentioned, his good humor becomes forced.
Bigby has acquired in his long career a + 2 dagger, a staff of power, a ring of x-ray vison, a ring of protection (+ 3), and a djinni bottle. He also has potions and scrolls that he has manufactured. [Rogue Gallery 1e – 40]
A “spectator”? He “lets others do his tasks for him”?
In that he prefers to travel in the company of friends, partaking of their adventures and fun, it appears that the Circle was very much like the Citadel of Eight at its onset.
Although posing as a withered trader does indicate that he was out and about on missions, from time to time.
Bigby is 38.

573 CY
Many of those missions must have been in the Great Kingdom.
And he must have stepped on a few toes there, and irritated the powers-that-be, meddling in affairs those powers-that-be preferred he not to. They took extreme umbrage with his meddling, so much so that they would ensure he never did again.
Indeed, he left his now deserted tower outside the town only some 12 years ago. And there are many rumors about what he might have left behind, for black-robed visitors flanked by fiends arrived in hot pursuit of him only days later. [Ivid – 140]
When intrigue with Ivid's Court Wizard, Xaene, forced Bigby from his tower in Oldridge in 573 CY, it was to Onnwal's port of Scant that he turned his attention. There, he posed as a merchant specializing in rare commodities, all the while building important alliances within the Iron League. These connections are especially strong in Irongate, where he has the friendship of Cobb Darg and the counsel of the city's artificers, the crafty Elayne Mystica chief among them. [LGJ#0 – 8]
Bigby is an exile from the Great Kingdom, having long ago fled that corrupt and vile nation and taken up residence in Scant, at the western edge of Onnwal. He “fronts” as a merchant there, living in a well-to-do but austere town house, below which is a very extensive warren of chambers and passages which Bigby has disintegrated out and filled with guards, wards, alarms, and magical traps of all sorts. Bigby is never without a teleport without error spell which can take him to Mordenkainen or Tenser should  he become trapped in these tunnels. [COG:FFF – 22-23]
Bigby/Fraznier of Halmarn
It was at this time, then, that Fraznier of Halmarn surfaced. And to the public eye, Fraznier became Bigby’s public façade.
It would seem that he believed that this façade would not fool the powers-that-be forever, if he should need that extreme an exit plan at the ready at all times.
Until then, he laid low. Or as low as he was ought to.
[Bigby’s house] is located on the outskirts of Scant, at 68 Green Leaf Avenue, and is surrounded on either side by similar houses belonging to certain very wealthy merchants of the town. None of his neighbors will be able to tell [any who might enquire] any useful information about the house, as they all believed that Bigby was a merchant like themselves. In this area, Bigby went by the name of Fraznier. It has been rumored that there is a labyrinth of caverns under Bigby’s house where he hid all his treasures, but once these rumors got back to Bigby himself, he sealed up the tunnels and devised a new place to keep for his treasure. [WGR2 – 32]
Bigby’s windows are shatterproof and do not open, as Bigby controlled the climate inside by magic. [WGR2 – 35]
The porch is made of wood and is enclosed on its outward facing sides by metal mesh screens. At the east end of the porch, there is a seldom-used fire pit and a pile of wood that Bigby sometimes employed while entertaining guests. [WGR2 – 35]
Guest Room B
The most frequent users of this room were fellow members of the Circle of Eight, although Bigby would usually give his own quarters to Mordenkainen and sleep here himself when the great mage came to visit. [WGR2 – 39]

Within, he did not lay as low as he ought to, despite his lean towards austerity. Austerity? His house is not without its comforts. Or mementos.
Next to the chair stands a bust of a young Bigby from a fine sculptor he helped many years ago. [WGR2 – 38]
A number of paintings of Bigby standing with some local celebrities decorate the walls of the hall. [WGR2 – 36]
The closet across the hall from the storage room is Bigby’s modest wine cellar. It houses nearly fifty bottles of wine of various vintages, from as recent as three years ago to one bottle that is fifty years old. [WGR2 – 40]
The chest next to the fireplace is loaded with souvenirs of Bigby’s long career: a medal of honor from the lord mayor of the City of Greyhawk; a wooden wand with a miniature clenched fist carved on one end (a gag gift from Otto); an old love letter from someone named Wanda; a gold-plated fountain pen that does not work: a wooden chess set with several piece. [WGR2 – 38]
Wanda. Once mentioned, never repeated. Never disclosed by Bigby, as far as we know, either.
One wonders about Wanda, then. I most certainly do.

Bigby being Bigby, he could not just lay low. He was a member of the Circle of Eight.
Unlike Tenser and Mordenkainen, he had no vast network of spies and allies to keep him informed; but he did have Fraznier; and Fraznier was very useful in gathering information. Just for trade, though, don’t you know.
The north wall of this office is lined with bookshelves. These are filled to overflowing with books of all sizes. Closer examination of the books shows that they are all histories of Oerth, books of merchant law, travelers’ journals, and so on. There are no spell books or any other volumes that are even remotely related to magic. The table in the center of the room is covered with maps of the countries of Oerth, showing the locations of mercantile centers, safe overland trade routes, and frequently-used sea lanes. On the desk are several neat piles of papers. Most of these are sales contracts, trade agreements, and general business correspondence directed to “Fraznier of Scant”. The drawers of the desk are full of files containing more of the same. This room is where Bigby conducted business in his cover as a merchant. [WGR2 – 37]

Bigby being Bigby, his presence could not remain a secret, not entirely.
Bigby has not agreed to any meeting at his place. Although the location of his shop is known, he is pathologically secretive and has arranged to meet in a tower overlooking the cliffs outside the town of Scant. This tower is used as a workplace by junior mages and an alchemist, but they are loosely affiliated with Bigby. [COG:C#13]
574 CY
It was three years before Tenser’s inclusion in the Circle came to fruition.
And it was by Tenser’s initiation. Not Mordenkainen’s.
Tenser: “As my power grew, so did my determination to aid those seeking to maintain equilibrium. In due course I sought the Circle of Eight, and in time I was accepted in their ranks. Now I sit as one of the Eight Magi and am charged with overseeing the whole of the territory roundabout. [WG6 – 6]
I expect Bigby was pleased with Tenser’s inclusion.
The membership of the Circle changed little in the years between its inception and 574 CY, when Tenser, still bitter over the dissolution of the Citadel, sought membership. After one of the founding mages of the group abandoned Oerth to explore other planes of existence, the petition was granted, and Tenser brought his unique, if less-than-subtle, ambition to the ideology of the group. [LGJ#0 – 6]
Expect that Tenser’s return had something to do with Bigby.
C14. Hall of the Great. This hallway’s blue walls are hung with portraits of adventurers Tenser knew in the past. […] A life-sized bronze statue in the hall’s center is of Bigby as a young, clean-shaven man. [Rot8 – 32]

576 CY
Tenser is 51.
Bigby is 43.
Jallarzi Sallavarian moves to the Free City of Greyhawk in 576 CY at 27 years of age. [Conjecture]
Later travels brought her to Greyhawk. There, under the tutelage of Tenser, she became the youngest mage ever inducted into the Society of Magi. [LGJ #0 – 8]

577 CY
[P]referring to remain at home in one of his libraries or tinkering in his laboratory [, o]nly when [Bigby] gets wind of rare spell components or unusual magical items will he go adventuring [.] [PGtG – 22]
What greater lure than the spellbooks and artifacts of ancient archmagi of yore.
Slerotin’s Manifesto
For several decades thereafter, rumors maintained that the book never left the Wild Coast region, though there is evidence that it was in Highport for a time. Despite all this, its next confirmed appearance was not in the Wild Coast at all, but in the city of Scant in Onnwai. Confirmation came in CY 577 via Archmage Bigby, a longtime resident of Scant. In a report to the Circle of Eight, Bigby stated: Slerotin’s Manifesto does indeed exist and is held in the temple of Wee Jas here in Scant. I was given leave to confirm the tome’s authenticity, but nothing more. If the situation changes, you will be informed.” [Dragon #241 – 80]
Bigby could have other than purely academic reasons for looking into this matter. He might have realised that he ought to keep tabs on such a tome. And to take possession of it, if necessary.

578 CY
Rakehell Chert
WG6 Isle of the Ape
This quest is assumed to occur years before the Greyhawk Wars. [TAB – 3]
[Years = 4?]
Warnes went on many adventures across the Flanaess and elsewhere on Oerth, and he came to know such future powers as Mordenkainen, Bigby, Nystul and Robilar. [Rot8 – 59]
Rakehell Chert: Gravitating to Onwal, Scant became home, and ambition and natural abilities soon made you the leader of all thieves there. […] When you chanced to be asked to participate in a daring, dangerous undertaking, you hastened to the rendezvous to be certain that no other of your profession arrived before you, as the challenge and the promise of real treasure is one which you will not miss! [WG6 – 27]

579 CY
Bucknard disappeared, not that any of the Circle were concerned about his absence, at first. They, each of them were known to “travel” from time to time. But as the weeks and months marched on, without word from their colleague, the members of the Circle became concerned. His continued absence left the Circle depleted.
In 581 CY Jalarzi Sallavarian replaced the powerful wizard Bucknard, who vanished in 579 CY while exploring an unknown demiplane. His fate is not known. Bucknard was fairly young when he disappeared but he was rumored to have become an archmage and was well-known in royal courts from Keoland to Nyrond. [PGtG – 23]

580s CY
In the early 580s, the Circle of Eight included Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, Rary of Ket and the archmage Tenser. [PGtG – 21]

[W]hen [Mordenkainen] opted to explore the West, Bigby remained behind to uphold and protect their territorial rights. [Dragon #37 – 11]
Mordenkainen might very well have been exploring the West; then again, he might have been exploring environs further afield. Much further afield.

580 CY
Mordenkainen & Elminster
Speaking of such...
The Mage of Greyhawk looked thoughtful. “I’ve news of more import—to me, at least—but less specifics. Someone, it is certain, is trying to slay those of the Circle.”
Elminster’s brows knitted suddenly. “The Circle of Eight? Thy own Circle?
Mordenkainen nodded soberly. “Tenser and Bigby have both been attacked—by magic, worked by someone strong enough to conceal his, her, or its identity; someone of Oerth, or who has studied our ways.
Elminster spread his hands. His pipe waggled expressively, from side to side. “That could be any astute mage who sailed in on the Flow or who walked the planes and laid low to look about.
“Dalamar again?” Mordenkainen’s voice was quiet.
“Tenser, at least, is shrewd enough in the ways of adventurers to smell out any ruse. If one such was trying to make his attacks look like those of a mage of Oerth, he would see through it.
[Dragon #185 – 58]
[Readers familiar with events on Oerth will note that this meeting of archmages took place before the events of module WGA4 Vecna Lives or the GREYHAWK® Wars boxed set.] [Dragon #185 – 62]

Who might have made an attempt on Tenser's and Bigby’s lives? He and Tenser had made a lot of enemies over the years; but they had one in common who wished them dead: Iuz.

M 18 AL N
Str 9, Int 17, Wis 15, Dex 17, Con 15, Cha 12
Spells: 5-1st, 5-2nd, 5-3rd, 5-4th, 5-5th, 3-6th, 3-7th, 2-8th, 1-9th
Magic Items: bracers of defence AC 5, ring of protection +3, staff of power, boots of striding and springing, chrystal ball, djinni bottle, ring of mind shielding, wand of fire, wand of frost, wand of negation, winged boots.
Bigby also possesses at least one of all known protection scroll types.

Bigby is 48, 5’11” tall, 149 lbs., with light brown hair and dark eyes. He is pale and very lean, and dresses very simply in a hooded dark gray robe. He is quiet and soft spoken, and appears anxious and nervous. “I think we should be very careful about what we’re going to do” is Bigby’s pet phrase. He is overly cautious, and adding this to his natural desire to think out tactics of any plans in depth makes him a worrier and fretter. Bigby’s main influence within the Circle of Eight is to slow down their plans—but they end up all the better for it. Bigby is rather puritanical, eschewing all pleasures of the flesh, and can appear carping and nitpicking. Only those who know him well get the benefit of his wry sense of humor and relaxed smile when he feels secure in good company. It is his usual insecurity which drives him to covet defensive magical items of which he possesses many.
Bigby rarely adventures now, and is almost a “sleeping” member of the Circle, coming out of his lairs only when something major in the affairs of Oerth is afoot. He has few spies or agents, but the reclusive archmage seems always to know should a defensive magical item appear on the market. [COG:FFF – 22-23]

North of the Nyr Dyv
It behooved Bigby to have more than one fortress, one where he could keep tabs on his old enemy.
Bigby (MU of 18th level):
Fortress location unknown but rumored to be somewhere north of the Nyr Dyv, possibly between the Shield Lands and the Bandit Kingdoms. (Bigby has been seen in the City of Greyhawk).

Forces are:

  • Heavy Cavalry: 50 (Elite)
  • Medium Cavalry: 100 (Regulars)
  • Light Cavalry: 100 (Regulars)
  • Light Horse Archers: 100 (Levied)
  • Armored Infantry: 50 (Elite)
  • Heavy Infantry: 180 (Regulars)
  • Light Crossbowmen: 100 (Regulars)
  • Heavy Crossbowmen: 50 (Regulars)
  • Pikemen: 100 (Elite)

This force is officered by several: higher-level fighters. It is supported by clerics and lower-level magic-users as well. About 200 eleven warriors have been known to be with the band when it fought, and at another time about 150 dwarves from the Kron Hills were serving with Bigby; but additional information cannot be gained. […]
Alignment of this force is Neutral, with some good deeds rumored.
[Dragon #37 – 11]

He did not abandon Scant, though. Scant was his home, and he would never forsake it.
But he had to be careful. He was not as inconspicuous there as he once was.
Bigby’s apprentice [M5]
Andrui knows that Bigby had a secret room in the house where he stored many of his most powerful magical items, but he does not know where it is. [WGR2 – 37]
Andrui is 19 years old, 5’ 11” tall, and 200 lbs. He has an odd personality quirk, having convinced himself long ago that his peculiar tastes are the epitome of taste and style. He does have a sharp and creative mind. Andrui wears his thin black hair long and is usually clean-shaven [.] [WGR – 38]
Slumming around the docks […], Andrui happened to see the merchant Fraznier conducting some business and immediately recognized him as the famous magician Bigby. The eager youth followed Bigby home and begged to become the wizard’s apprentice. Bigby was reluctant at first, but when Andrui demonstrated his potential, he agreed to take Andrui in on a trial basis. [WGR2 – 38]

581 CY
The Circle of Eight sensed a great danger afoot, but somehow their divinations were blocked. All evidence pointed to the Cult of Vecna, whatever their intent. Mordenkainen sent the others of the Circle to investigate. Tenser and Bigby was included.
Their quest did not turn out as planned.
Alerted to a rising evil in the Flanaess, the Circle hastily gathered for a nearly unprecedented field operation in 581 CY. A new power sought to join Oerth’s vast pantheon, and its efforts threatened to corrupt the magical order of the known world.
The Circle traveled to the hills south of Verbobonc, where they investigated the tomb of a long-dead Oeridian tyrant who was thought to have possessed the awesome artifacts known as the Hand and Eye of Vecna. Finding the tyrant alive, after a fashion, and completely controlled by the Whispered One, the ill-prepared Circle of Eight panicked, and was defeated. [LGJ#0 – 6]
Bigby was dead. Tenser, too! Indeed, the whole of the Circle, with the exception of Mordenkainen, were dead!
Bigby was 48 years old when he died.

“Nobody is exempt from the surprises of life!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

“I always think loyalty's such a tiresome virtue.”
― Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

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:
Bigby, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Cover art, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Robilar, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Yrag, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Riggby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Bigby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Serten, from Finger of the Wind, GenCon 2000
Iuz the Old One, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Bigby, Greyhawk Trading Card #166, 1992
Biby and Otto, by David A Roach, from The Adventure Begins, 1998
Rakehell Chert, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1986
Mordenkainen & Elminster, by Dan Burr, from Dragon #185, 1992
Circle of Eight, by Ken Frank, from From the Ashes, Ref Card #13, 1992

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
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9031 The Rogues Gallery, 1980
9112 WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, 1984
9147 T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
9153 WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
9279 WGA2 Falcon’s Revenge, 1990
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
WGR Ivid the Undying, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #37, 185, 241, 289, 290, 291, 299
LGJ #0
OJ Oerth Journal #6
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

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