Friday, 11 November 2022

On Bigby, Part 2


“Be with a leader when he is right,
stay with him when he is still right,
but, leave him when he is wrong.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Bigby the Archmage
What do I think of when Bigby comes to mind?
Bigby’s “Hands,” whether they are Interposing, Forceful, Grasping, Clenching, or Crushing. Those were/are powerful spells: 5th Level and up! They’re combative. They hold enemies at bay, sweep them aside, and do such damage as would kill. They called out to my early gaming heart. Having begun my gaming playing fighters (most people did, I suppose), I was naturally combat-minded when I rolled up my first magic-user, imagining what spells I would choose then, and which I would choose when my character reached those as yet unattained levels. Bigby’s spells jumped off the page. He was surely a mage after my own heart, the mage I wished to be.
Or was he? Was he ever really his own man?
I wonder now whether Gary Gygax played Bigby [see Rogues Gallery 1e – 40] as an extension of Mordenkainen, ostensibly to “double” the number of spells he could cast while down in the depths of Castle Greyhawk? If that were the case, then Bigby was just Mordenkainen2, the 2nd half of the first. Always an apprentice…, so to speak. That makes me sad. Maybe angry. If that were the case, Bigby was always merely an extension of Gary’s actual character and never one in his own right. Which he most certainly is, or became, considering Bigby’s compiled History thus far, seen in Part 1.
I doubt that much of that compiled history, if any, was actually pulled from Gary’s game. Most was likely embellished from what little could be gleaned from his spells and his sparce mentions in TSR’s earliest modules, most specifically from 1980s Rogues Gallery supplement. That said, the embellished Bigby has been epic up to now. He’s got personality: He’s shy, studious, learned. Very much an introvert. Yet he turned his back on the lure of what might have been his expected destiny, that of an alchemist or sage, and became an adventurer (credit is probably due Mordenkainen for that), and later the meddlesome mage that got himself in such deep trouble in his homeland that he had to hightail it out of the Great Kingdom, lest he lose his life. Might that be because he dared do what he did there alone? Maybe. Unlike Tenser and Mordenkainen, he had no vast network of informers and spies, and still doesn’t, just friends in high places. He may “go it alone,” but he is powerful enough to give his enemies pause and make them think twice about the wisdom of tackling him on his own turf.
I’m talking to you Iuz, and you Ivid.
With enemies like them he needs be careful. Cautious. Maybe a little paranoid. He travels disguised. Prudent. He even has an alter ego in Fraznier.
But Bigby being Bigby, he wouldn’t keep his head down and go to ground. That wouldn’t be Bigby, he who penned those Interposing, Forceful, Grasping, Clenching, and Crushing Hands.

The Grey Mage Bigby
18th-Level Mage
Hit Points: 46
Str9 Int 17 Dex17 Wis 15 Con15 Cha 12

Bigby’s Traveling Spell Book:
1st Level (5): Bigby‘s feeling fingers*, burning hands, charm person, dancing lights, feather fall, hold portal, light, protection from evil, read magic, spider climb, spook, taunt
2nd Level (5): Bigby’s silencing hand*, darkness 15’ r., detect invisibility, ESP, fog cloud, glitterdust, levitate, rope trick, shatter, Tasha’s uncontrollable hideous laughter
3rd Level (5): Bigby’s pugnacious pugilist*, blink, clairaudience. fireball, fly, hold undead, phantom steed, spectral force, wraithform
4th Level (5): Bigby’s battering gauntlet*, Bigby’s force sculpture*, fear, ice storm, Leomund’s secure shelter, minor globe of invulnerability, monster summoning II, polymorph self, solid fog, wall of fire
5th Level (5): Bigby’s fantastic fencers*, Bigby’s interposing hand, Bigby’s strangling grip. magic jar, stone shape, summon shadow, transmute rock to mud, wall of iron
6th Level (3): Bigby’s forceful hand, conjure animals, death spell, disintegrate, lower water, part water, Pnser’s transformation, true seeing
7th Level (3): Bigby’s grasping hand, control undead, delayed blast fireball, finger of death, limited wish, power word stun, reverse gravity, teleport without error
8th Level (2): Bigby’s clenched fist, Bigby’s most excellent force sculpture*, monster summoning VI
9th Level (1): Bigby’s crushing hand, imprisonment, weird

Magical Items: Bracers of defense AC 5, ring of protection +3, boots of striding and springing, ring of mind shielding, wand of fire, wand of frost, scrolls of protection from acid, fire, werewolves, poison, and possession

Bigby is a lean, severe-looking man with brown hair and eyes. Bigby is known for being too nervous, too cautious, and too puritanical. He strongly favors defensive spells and items, believing in safety before attack. He is quick to find fault with little things and can be difficult to get along with. However, his close friends value him for his steadfastness and his sense of humor. [WGA4 Vecna Lives! – 84]

Sadly, as we’ve seen, Bigby came to an early end.
Or did he?
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: Bigby 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.
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]
Bigby was 48.

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]
Bigby’s friend, Ortux the Hand, was among those gathered.

Ortux the Hand
Ortux the Hand
Male Human 15th-Level Paladin Lawful Good
Tall, lean, and wiry, Ortux is not what most people expect of the heroic paladin. He’s good-looking, but not stunningly handsome: strong, but not muscular; and, while brave, Ortux is far from foolhardy. Still, he has a magnetic appeal that seems to flow from inside him. He acts and people believe. They know he can be trusted. Ortux finds it impossible to betray the trust of others. He has worked all his life in the cause of justice.
Ortux is careful in his own life, following his own code of puritanical laws. As a Knight of the Hart, he does not drink, eats not to excess, never swears, and avoids all temptations of the flesh. He was not always so careful. To his eternal shame, in his youth he sired a half-elven son, Only the severest of atonements proved him worthy of paladinhood. Since then, he has been aided by his old companion, Bigby, who, for a wizard, is not entirely bad. [WGA4 – 93]

The Circle of Eight was gone? Dead? Was that possible? Surely it was a lie!
But it wasn’t.
They were dead. Truly dead.
Bigby being Bigby, getting into Bigby’s home to expedite what wishes he might have was a problem.
Bigby's Home
Mordenkainen [...] asked [a group of seasoned adventurers] to travel to Scant, the coastal city in Onnwal where the wizard Bigby once resided. It seems that the security systems and magical defenses that the overly-cautious Bigby set up did not fade upon his demise, and officials have been unable to enter his home to take an accurate accounting of the valuables within. Mordenkainen is particularly interested in recovering the large number of magical items that Bigby is reputed to have kept, in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
[WGR2 – 32]
Long story short, the adventurers did indeed gain entry. And they discovered his will.
Bigby’s will is in an unmarked envelope under the pillow. His first request is that his friends in the Circle of Eight clone him from a flesh sample he has left for the purpose. If this is not possible, he will leave his magical items and all but three of his spell books to Mordenkainen. The other three spell books go to Andrui, with an apology for not being able to teach him more magic himself. [WGR2 – 38]

Andrui’s education had not progressed very far when suddenly Bigby disappeared without a word [.] WGR2 – 38]
[Bigby’s] money is to go first towards paying off Fraznier’s creditors, with 75% of the remainder going to his old friend, Ortux the Hand, and the rest to a charity of Ortux’s choosing. The will mentions a few items of sentimental value that Bigby wished to leave to Otto, Nystul, Drawmij, and the others. [WGR2 – 38]
They also discovered something far more important than his will.
Bigby had a secret room in his home where he kept a veritable horde of magical items. […]
The Greatest Treasure of Them All
Also kept in Bigby’s secret room is perhaps the greatest treasure of them all: a blue crystal roughly four inches in length and one inch in diameter. This crystal contains a carefully prepared living sample of Bigby’s flesh, which can conceivably be used to clone the wizard.
[WGR2 – 32]
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]

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]
Mordenkainen [recovered] what was left of his fallen comrades and [cloned] 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. [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]

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]
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.
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]

All except Rary, it would seem.
Citing pressing personal needs, Rary retreated to his tower in Lopolla and refused to come to the aid of his companions. [LGJ#0 – 6]
His companions were not pleased, to say the least. Some even felt betrayed by him.

583 CY
Bigby turned 50.
For some, this is an age of reflection and realisation. There’s less time ahead than that lived, they realise, and wonder if they’ve made their mark upon the Oerth.
I suspect that Bigby had precious little time for such frivolous self-indulgence.

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]
Bigby discovered that he had another enemy, as ruthless and tenacious as was Iuz.
Bigby by was driven from Scant by the fall of Onnwal, and now lives in Mitrik [, in Veluna]. […] Bigby's new home is common knowledge. [WGR5 – 5]
When Onnwal fell, the only effective resistance to the rule of [the Scarlet Brotherhood’s] Sister Kuranyie was the Wreckers (Scant’s Thieves guild) under the leadership of Rakehell Chert. [LG Onnwal Gaz – 14]
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]
Chert had somehow gained knowledge of the Brotherhood’s imminent attack on Scant and moved his headquarters to the countryside. [LG Onnwal Gaz – 14]
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.
Chert also managed to make contact with the archmage Bigby. An erstwhile companion of his, Bigby gave him aid and the names of several of his apprentices and associates that remain in Onnwal that could help Chert’s cause. [LG Onnwal Gaz – 14]

The rulers of the Iron League states created a shadowy organization called the Jade Mask, populating the group with some of the most skillful saboteurs, burglars, and professional liars in all the southeast Flanaess. [Dragon #302 – 98]
Rumors of tensions between the mask and the archmage Bigby abound, but the particulars of the situation remain unknown. [Dragon #302 – 99]

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
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]
Rary's Betrayal
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]
According to [rumour], Bigby the wizard is dead. He is not dead. (The reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.) [Dragon #191 – 67]
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 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. [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]
Lord Robilar
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]
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!

The treachery left the Eight (now Five: Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul and Otto) reeling. [Rot8 – 2,3]
The treachery of Rary in 584 CY saw the destruction of Tenser and Otiluke, leaving the Circle at five. [LGG – 156]
In the last two decades, the Circle has seen members come and go, but its dedication to Mordenkainen's goals and methods remains steadfast. Current members include Bigby of Mitrik (N male human Wiz19), once Mordenkainen's apprentice and now an archmage in his own right; the rotund and jovial Otto (N male human Wiz15/Clr3 of Boccob), who favors the kitchen over the laboratory; Jallarzi Sallavarian of Greyhawk (NG female human Wiz15), one of the most dynamic wizards in a city of mages; the reclusive Drawmij (N male human Wiz18), who oversees Keoland and the south from his undersea lair near Gradsul; and Nystul (N male human Wiz17), a Tenha expatriate who wishes to expand the Circle, beyond eight if need be, to combat the growing threats presented by Iuz, Turrosh Mak, and the consolidating factions of the former Great Kingdom. [LGG – 156]
Following a near-tragedy at the hands of Vecna’s followers, all members of the Eight kept a number of active clones. [PGtG – 23]

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]
Many favored simply leaving him to rot in self-imposed exile.
Mordenkainen and Bigby, who had been wounded by the renegade, did not agree. [WGR3 – 8]
But Rary was hidden from their scrying.
If they could not act directly against Rary in his Bright Desert fortress they could at least deny Rary of whatever magics he had left behind when he fled the scene of his crime.
A hero in possession of the Lost Spellbook of Rary might find herself in a dangerous situation politically. A wary hero having the tome might want to keep the knowledge of it to herself. The recently reformed Circle of Eight […] would be but one group among many on Greyhawk who would actively work to acquire one of Rary’s Spellbooks. Should the owner decide to keep the book for herself, she might soon expect a personal visit from Bigby, Otto, or one of the other members of the Circle. [Dragon #249 – 93]

585 CY
Bigby spared no time of expense in setting up shop in Mitrik.
He had vowed he would not abandon Scant and Onnwal; and if he could not remain in his chosen city, he would do what he could to help them carry on their resistance against their conquorers.
Work has begun on a great stone tower in the inner walled city of Mitrik. Construction is amazingly fast, so much so that magic must be involved. It is said that one of the Circle of Five is making his abode there (Bigby). [FtAA – 79]
Mitrik of Veluna
Within Mitrik there is a hidden teleportation circle which allows the transfer of inanimate objects to and from Irongate, and this is used to transport ores and metals from that beleaguered city here for sale, with vital material needs (food, cloth, utensils, weapons, etc.) passing in the other direction. Only small quantities can be transported each day, but this trickle of exchange is vital in supporting Irongate. It is rumored that one of the Circle of Five is responsible for establishing this, probably Bigby, who fled from his home in Scant when the Scarlet Brotherhood struck. He was known to have links with the dwarves of Irongate.
[FtAA – 43]
Sunndi has almost no way of communicating with Nyrond, the encircled folk of Ironwall have turned now to Veluna, through Bigby's teleport link to Mitrik. [WGR4 – 59]

Bigby did not abandon those loyal to him when he fled Scant. He took all those he could with him to Mitrik.
Valash Kador
Bigby the Archmage has been a supporter of the Onnwal freedom fighters since the invasion by the Scalet Brotherhood.
To assess the current situation, Bigby has sent his representative Valash Kador to speak to the Onnwal Freedom fighters. [ONW1 – 05 – Last respects – 3]

Valash Kador
Valash is a […] mage […] who has been an apprentice to Bigby for many years. [ONW1 – 05 – Last respects – 4]

Why did Bigby work so tirelessly? Because he must. He was devastated by the loss of his friend, Tenser. But with such strife in the Flanaess, he had no time to mourn. And so he spent every waking hour in the pursuit of bringing Rary to justice—he might just kill Ray, he thought—and ridding Onnwal of its Scarlet infestation—he expected that he would have to kill a great number of them, too, to do so.

2nd week of Goodmonth
Bigby broached the subject of bringing the Circle back up from Five to Eight. He brought forth a candidate he thought worth of inclusion; but there was disagreement on whether he was suitable or not.
The Principal [of the University of Magical Arts in the Free City, Kieren Jalucian,] keeps personal rooms at the apex of the pyramid, where he can sometimes be found in the company of his paramour, Jallarzi Salavarian of the Circle of Eight. Rumors tell that Kieren was invited to join that august order after the destruction of Otiluke and Tenser, but that he refused due to his duties as master of the Guild of Wizardry (on top of his position with the university). Now that he has passed on his role in the guild to another, it may only be a matter of time before he opts to join Bigby, Otto, and the others. That is, if Mordenkainen, who has openly derided Jalucian as a "hopeless idealist," will have him. [LGJ#5 – 6]
Bibgy pointed out that Tenser was just such a “hopeless Idealist,” as well. That did not go over well.

3rd week of Goodmonth
Events of Return of the Eight
Jallarzi and Tenser, Transformed
If the loss of Tenser and Otiluke were not enough, Jallarzi Sallivarian had gone missing, too.
Bigby, still devastated by the loss of his best friend, demanded that he look for her; but Mordenkainen refused him. We are stretched to our very thinnest, he said. Adventurers were gathered and dispatched instead to discover what had happened to her, and return her if they could, or report her lost, if they discover her fate.
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.
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]

Tenser, Returned
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]

[In the] "Year of Peace" (585 CY) [t]he Circle of Eight was brought to full membership once more and began acting against every power its wizards perceived as tyrannical or dangerous to the common welfare. [LGG – 16]
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. [TAB – 7]
Alhamazad is an ally of Mordenkainen and knows Bigby, but is unfamiliar with the rest of the Circle. [Rot8 – 62]

586 CY
The War had not gone well for the Circle. Its aftermath was as taxing.
The famed mage Nystul, of the Circle of Five, was caught up in the exodus from Almor when Szeffrin was cementing his hold on the land. This normally humorous and flippant man was almost speechless when he fled to Mordenkainen and Bigby, and he shook with rage recounting what he had seen here. He has vowed to destroy Szeffrin, and, while the Circle's current ethos is strongly against direct action and for careful watching and learning, it may be hard even for Mordenkainen and the ever-cautious Bigby to prevent him from trying. [Ivid – 146]

Crook of Rao
But in their darkest hours, a ray of hope broke through the clouds. It was as though it were a sign from Rao.
Of late, Veluna has become a beacon of hope, a center of stability in an unstable land. After the tumult of the Greyhawk Wars, a group of adventurers in the employ of Canon Hazen recovered the long lost Crook of Rao. [LGG – 130]
[W]ord was soon received from priests of Rao, contacted by their superiors in Mitrik, that the artifact known as the Crook of Rao had been recovered, and it had been used by His Venerable Reverence, Canon Hazen, aided by many lesser priests and the archmage Bigby, to rid the Flanaess of [the pestilence of fiends it had endured.] [TAB – 19]

What had become of the Crook of Rao that it had gone missing?
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 a stirring private ceremony attended by the entire College of Bishops, Canon Hazen (along, it is said, with help from the archmage Bigby of Mitrik) employed the fabulous artifact to trigger the Flight of Fiends, a wholesale purge of demons throughout the Flanaess. [LGG – 130]
In Coldeven of 586 CY, His Venerable Reverence, The Savior of Our Lands, 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, and possibly from throughout the lands of all Oerth. Though few sages suspected the item’s potential for awesome power, none would have predicted such pervasive effectiveness. The assistance of nearly every priest of Rao in Mitrik as well as the aid (some say manipulation) of the archmage Bigby, certainly played an important role in the effort’s success. [Dragon #294 – 95]
Iuz, the Old One
This decimated the armies of Iuz, which relied heavily on demons, and gave beleaguered Furyondy the chance for a counteroffensive. A few highly protected fiends resisted the banishment and remain in the Flanaess.
[PGtG – 11]
Bigby, it would seem, had risen up to the challenge of Iuz. Iuz had vowed to kill Bigby long years ago; but he had failed in his attempts, thus far.
Bigby reciprocated, and he too had vowed to put an end to the Old One. And so now, while Iuz was perceived to be at his weakest, Bigby put a bug in the Hazen’s ear. We can kill him, Bibgy reasoned to His Venerable Reverence, now that he’s without his wall of infernal fiends to protect him.
It would seem that the Hazen was convinced.
On the first day of Planting, 586 CY, King Belvor IV and representatives of Canon Hazen, in a unique joint ceremony, proclaimed the start of the Great Northern Crusade. […] Along a broad front, Furyondian and Velunese forces, under the command of Grand Marshal Jemian and backed by the Knights of the Hart and great amounts of magic from priests and wizards (including, it is said, Bigby of the Circle of Eight), slammed into the humanoid armies and drove them back. [TAB – 20]

Furyondy's armies smashed northward in early Planting, bulwarked by the Knights of the Hart and the archmage Bigby. [LGG – 47]
An alliance with Veluna, always a strong ally and moral compass for Furyondy, resulted in the recovery of the Crook of Rao and the Flight of Fiends in Coldeven 586 CY. [LGG – 47]

Bigby was not only making headway against is old enemy, the Old One; he was making inroads into the Scarlet Brotherhood’s occupation of Scant and Onnwal.
The Resistance
Onnwal continued to struggle against the Scarlet Brotherhood. The core of the rebelling force consisted of the entire [thieves’] guild of Scant, led by a notorious master thief, Rakehell Chert.
[TAB – 25]
Chert organized a resistance movement, aided by dwarven clans of the Headlands, the archmage Bigby and the archmage’s associates in Scant. [SB – 6]
[Chert’s’ thieves had worked hand-in-hand with the dwarven clans of the Headlands and with Irongate [….] Chert also received considerable help from the famed archmage Bigby, once a resident of Onnwal, and a group of Bigby’s former associates and apprentices in Scant. The rebellion began on the first day of Brewfest, 586 CY, and lasted through Patchwall. [TAB – 25]
The barbaric treatment of the populace by the Scarlet Brotherhood whet the cry for revenge, and a general revolt was launched in late 586 CY before the Brotherhood could crack down on the rebels. The countryside became a battleground during a brief, bitter struggle in which the freedom fighters drove the Scarlet Brotherhood back to the city of Scant. [LGG – 80]

589 CY
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]

590 CY
All he did was get Bigby angry.
Iuz knew who was behind
Belvor’s and the Hazen’s Great Northern Crusade. He decided to lop off the head, expecting that with Bigby’s demise, the Crusade would crumble.
[Bigby] nearly killed Iuz once and is greatly hated by the demigod: in 590 CY, he survived an assassination attempt by Iuz's agents. [PGtG – 22]
Iuz failed.
All he did was get Bigby angry. As if Bigby wasn’t angry enough already.

591 CY
The present. Bigby is 58.
The Circle of Eight strives to set the Flanaess right again. But it’s a long, hard, thankless task. Indeed, few would know who to thank. Because very few even know that the Circle exists. There are those who believe they’re a myth: heroes who tirelessly wage a war against the evils of the Oerth. Most scoff that such a group could, or would, exist. There are even those who think them the boogeyman, perhaps even the cause of all their woes.
If they only knew the truth.
The Circle of Eight
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 their own policies without interference or Fear of invasion and conquest by outside Forces or empire-building neighbors.
[TAB – 7]
The mysterious assembly of wizards known as the through his powerful network of agents and servitors. Circle of Eight has long benefited from a past obscured by misinformation and enigma. The group's influence reaches from the Baklunish west to the Solnor Ocean, though its secretive methods ensure that few know the extent of its ministrations. [LGG – 156]
Theodain pushes for the Circle of Eight and their allies to take a more active role in managing conflicts in the Flanaess, particularly in the Sheldomar where he supports action in Geoff and Sterich, as well as intervention in the Scarlet Brotherhood-created chaos enveloping the region of the Hool Marshes. Bigby has often joked that in taking in Theodain they have replaced one Tenser with another. [LGJ#0 – 11]
Certain members of the Circle are well known and liked, their talents appreciated throughout the Flanaess. The mages Bigby, Jallarzi, and Otto, for instance, are welcome in courts far from cosmopolitan Greyhawk. Others, such as Drawmij, Nystul, and Theodain, prefer to operate away from the public gaze.
[LGG – 156]
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]
Rumors tell that Kieren [Jalucian] was invited to join that august order after the destruction of Otiluke and Tenser, but that he refused due to his duties as master of the Guild of Wizardry (on top of his position with the university). Now that he has passed on his role in the guild to another, it may only be a matter of time before he opts to join Bigby, Otto, and the others. That is, if Mordenkainen, who has openly derided Jalucian as a "hopeless idealist," will have him. [LGJ#5 – 6]

One wonders if Tenser has rubbed off on Bigby, and that Bigby too has become the same hopeless idealist that Tenser, too, had been accused of.
Perhaps he is. Because Bigby appears to have aligned himself with those other do-gooders of the Flanaess.
Jerome Kasinskaia, Patriarch of Rao [Greyhawk City]
Says little in meetings but is extremely well informed on many political and religious matters of the Flanaess: superb judgment and always truthful; a masterful speaker, diplomat, and project leader, though he usually keeps to himself; close ally of Bigby of the Circle of Eight, knows everyone in the government of Veluna; considering retirement soon and may move to Mitrik in Veluna. [TAB – 63]
One of the highest-ranking priests of Rao alive, he has excellent contacts with the leadership and ambassadors from Veluna and knows Bigby of the Circle of Eight. [TAB – 110]

Indeed, Bigby, despite his tireless war against Iuz and the Scarlet Brotherhood, appears to have become a bit of a softy in the eyes of his compatriots.
The Circle of Eight have heard the bard [Gywdiesin]'s recitations; even the introverted, conservative, and repressed Bigby was shaking when the bard fell silent, and Mordenkainen himself was stirred enough not to repeat the experiment. [Ivid – 116]
Perhaps it’s the stress catching up to him.
I’ve my doubts about that. Bigby has hardened in his maturity. He may be soft-spoken, he may be supposedly sullen and repressed, but the wheels ever turn in Bigby’s mind. He is always looking for new—if ancient—magics to wield against his foes.
The Khul-Ak Tableaux
A recent discovery by dwarven explorer/miners plumbing the depths of Irongate’s immense undercity has both the magical and mining communities talking. The discovery, two six-foot high stone tablets now referred to as the Khul-Ak tableaux (after the ancient clan which the discoverers belong) is thought to reveal something of significance about the lands surrounding the free city that has yet defied identification. Divination revealed both tablets as incalculably ancient, as well as highly magical. Current rumor suggests the bizarre writings to be the religion of some forgotten sect of subterranean Ur-Flan, though a figure no less prestigious than the visiting Bigby himself was overheard to describe the writing as “unfathomably alien.”
[LGJ#1 – 29]
Perhaps these will rid Onnwal of the Scarlet Brotherhood’s yoke.
Or better yet, perhaps this will be just the thing he needs to kill Iuz, once and for all.
Everyone dies, after all. Very few are lucky enough to return from the void.
Bigby has.
He knows that makes him lucky.

Picture [Dragon #290 – 108]

Librarian, Alchemist, Sage...
Bigby was always studious. He had thoughts once of pursuing a life of research, after all. Librarian, alchemist, sage; he would have been happy being any of those. It comes as no surprise that he would take to writing.
Given his experiences, the subject matter does not surprise, either.
Manual Powers Beyond Life, By Bigby
(burning hands, Bigby’s interposing hand, Bigby’s forceful hand, Bigby’s grasping hand, Bigbys crushing hand, Bigbys clenched fist)
[Dragon #82 – 57]

We are all rather familiar with the type of spell Bigby produced.
Level One
Bigby’s Bookworm Bane
Bigby’s Feeling Fingers
Level Two
Bigby’s Dextrous Digits
Bigby’s Dextrous Digits
Bigby’s Silencing Hand
Level Three
Bigby’s Pugnacious Pugilist
Level Four
Bigby’s Battering Gauntlet
Bigby’s Construction Crew
Bigby’s Force Sculpture
Level Five
Bigby’s Fantastic Fencers
Bigby's Icy Grasp (4e)
Bigby's Interposing Hand
Bigby’s Superior Force Sculpture
Bigby’s Strangling Grip
Level Six
Bigby’s Besieging Bolt
Bigby’s Forceful Hand
Level Seven
Bigby's Grasping Hand
Level Eight
Bigby’s Most Excellent Force Sculpture
Level 9
Bigby's Crushing Hand
[GA – 127, PHB 1e – 41,42, Dragon #401 – 58]

Given the spells he researched, the item he created are not unexpected either.
s demanding ram
A singular item manufactured by a master mage of the City of Greyhawk, this ram is a 10’ brass-sheathed battering ram, forged by dwarves from the farthest mountains. It was bathed in the boiling blood of a dozen yeti to give it strength, rune-etched with the acid of a black drag on, then tempered in a living volcano. Its head was forged from a single wedge of bronze brought from the elemental plane of Earth and carved in the shape of a clenched fist by six bound efreet. Finally, it was invested with Bigby’s clenched fist, Bigby’s forceful hand, and wall of iron. The result is a battering ram that takes 10 men of strength 13+ or the equivalent to use. On impact, it delivers a blow equivalent to triple the usual structural damage inflicted by a ram. (XP value 2,500)
[Dragon #178 – 17]

I would never have expected that he would enchant a sword, but he was always open to suggestions from a friend.
The sword is of exquisite craftsmanship. Its inscription, written in elvish runes, explains that it was originally enchanted by the wizard Bigby for an elvish prince named Elibriel. [WGR1 – 84]

His most curious creation is the non-stick floor.
The floor of the kitchen is wood, covered with a special non-stick coating of Bigby’s creation. [WGR2 – 37]
I suppose a wizard bent on freeing the Flanaess from tyranny has little time for household chores.

Bigby might have begun life as someone’s No.2, but I believe that he became his own man in the end. Maybe more.
Indeed, I doubt that Mordenkainen holds much sway over the Bigby that emerged after he, the Big M, left to explore the West and Bigby remained behind to hold the fort. In fact, unless I’m projecting my own wish for independence for the eternal apprentice onto him, I detect a certain rebellion in his history after his mentor went truant.
I like that. No, I love that. Every student must emerge his own master in the end. I believe that Bigby does indeed become his own master, too. You may point out that Bigby is an archmage and very much a master in his own right because of it; but I would argue that a student forever remains in the shadow of the master, no matter how learned he might become, no matter how high he may rise, if he doesn’t break free.
Bigby does just that. I see no mention of Mordenkainen in Bigby’s war in Onnwal, or Mordenkainen’s inclusion in Bigby’s endeavours in Mitrik against the Old One.
Long Lost Wanda
Does Bigby surpass Mordenkainen and Tenser in power? No. He’s forever relegated No.3, in that regard. But Bigby’s accomplishments equal Tenser’s, I would argue. Do they equal Mordenkainen’s? Mordenkainen’s accomplishments appear to dwindle upon the Oerth over time, more inclined to flit about across the multiverse than he is to be involved in maintaining “The Balance” on Oerth as he once was. He has people for that, you might say. In that regard, I would say that Bigby does indeed surpass Mordenkainen as one of the preeminent protectors of the Flanaess.
I believe, though, in my heart, that Bigby would have been happier as a Dean of The Free City of Greyhawk’s University of Magical Arts, with long lost Wanda by his side.
But the realms of the Flanaess would most certainly not be.
Such is the sacrifice of heroes.

“I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes 'til I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway…”
― Breakaway
Matthew Gerrard, Avril Lavigne, Bridget Louise Benenate

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:
Mordenkainen, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Rakehell Chert, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1986
Robilar, from Epic Level Handbook, 2002
Jallarzi and Tenser, Transformedby M.E. Kedzierskifrom Return of the Eight, 1998
Crook of Rao, by Richard Pace, from Dragon #294, 2002
Iuz, the Old One, by Sam Wood, from Dragon #290, 2000 (1998)
The Circle of Eight, by Sam Wood, from Dragon #290, 2000 (1998)
Bigby, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Bigby’s Dextrous Digits, by Dave Sutherland (?), from Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
Bigby's Demanding Ram, by Gerald P Sawyer, from Dragon #178, 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
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
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
9292 WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, 1990
9309 WGA4 Vecna Lives! 1990
9360 WGR2 Treasures of Greyhawk, 1992
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
9399 WGR5 Iuz the Evil, 1993
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 Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #82, 178, 294, 302, 401
LGJ #0, 1, 5
LG Onnwal Gazetteer
LG ONW1 – 05 – Last respects
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

1 comment:

  1. Excellent summation on what is a HUGE backstory for this iconic wizard. I agree, he will always be in M & T's shadow when it comes to fame, but like you said he very well could be the unsung archmage of Oerth that it deserves. Thank you for compiling this extensive history!