Friday, 17 March 2023

Thoughts on D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa

“I was nearly unnerved at my proximity to a nameless thing at the bottom of a pit.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror

D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
What did we learn in D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth? That the caverns and crawlspaces under the spine of the world are not empty. And that they are vast, a veritable underdark world.
Using a map which depicts hundreds, of miles of passageways, the bold expedition delved into this underground labyrinth. Within a day‘s journey they had to fight first an outpost of the Dark Elves, then a pair of the dreaded “lllithids” of Drow speech – creatures called mind flayers, with a dozen wererat allies. Wending ever deeper into this weird underworld, the party overcame various and sundry obstacles only to enter a great cavern filled with hostile creatures. By clever tactics and hard fighting a conglomerate force of servants of the evil elves, bugbears, trogs, and trolls, along with various and sundry other monsters-were overcome. Valuable additional information and possibly useful items were also gained, and the expedition now presses on ever deeper, hot on the track of the Drow, bent on bringing a reckoning to these hateful foes. [D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa – 2]
We learned that bugbears abound beneath the surface, that troglodytes and trolls are as common as wererats, and that puddings and fungi of every colour under the sun slither and shriek in the dark. Mostly, we learned that the Drow are masters of their subterranean world. Although their mastery is not uncontested.
This fact will become even more apparent in D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa! Though liches treat with the dark elves, and Illithids plot against them, there are other races in the deep dark who neither bow nor kowtow to their supremacy; in fact, they thrive in spite of them; and in some cases, vie against them. You’d expect as much, wouldn’t you? No nation reigns supreme under the sun; why then would you expect otherwise in the depthless dark?

Who are these races? One such is hinted at in the title: The eponymous Kuo-Toa.
5e Kuo-Toa
The ancient Kuo-Toa People once inhabited the shores and islands of the upper world. As the race of mankind and its associate species grew more and more numerous and powerful, the men-fish were slowly driven to remote regions.
[D2 – 13]
Ancient, they are also evil.
ALIGNMENT: Neutral evil (chaotic tendencies) [D2 – 13]

Description: A Kuo-Toan presents a cold and horrid appearance. A typical specimen looks much as if a human body, albeit a paunchy one, had been covered with scales and topped with a fish's head squarely atop the shoulders. The huge fish eyes of the head tend to swivel in different directions when observing an area or creature. Hands and feet are very long, with three fingers and opposing digit, partially webbed. Legs and arms are short for the body size. Coloration is pale gray, with undertones of tan or yellow in males only, and the whole skin has a sheen from its slime covering. Color darkens when the individual is angry, or pales when the creature is badly frightened. [D2 – 15]

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s almost like I’ve read similar descriptions before.
The Deep Ones
I think their predominant color was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked ... They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design—living and horrible.
[The Shadow Over Innsmouth – H.P. Lovecraft]

I think that these things were supposed to depict men—at least, a certain sort of men; though the creatures were shewn disporting like fishes in the waters of some marine grotto, or paying homage at some monolithic shrine which appeared to be under the waves as well. Of their faces and forms I dare not speak in detail; for the mere remembrance makes me grow faint. Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer, they were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and feet, shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other features less pleasant to recall. Curiously enough, they seemed to have been chiselled badly out of proportion with their scenic background; for one of the creatures was shewn in the act of killing a whale represented as but little larger than himself. [Dagon – H.P. Lovecraft]

Gary Gygax’s Kuo-Toa are most assuredly an au mage to Lovecraft’s Deep Ones (even if he declared otherwise). Sinister, evil beings long ago defeated and displaced by the creatures of Good and Weal.
1e Fiend Folio Kuo-Toa
Continual warfare upon these evil, human-sacrificing creatures threatened to totally exterminate the species, for a number of powerful beings were aiding their sworn enemies, mankind. Some [Kuo]-Toans sought refuge in sea caverns and secret subterranean waters, and while their fellows above were being slaughtered, these few prospered and developed new characteristics to match their lightless habitats.
[D2 – 13]
None of this is known, of course; or ought not to be. The Kuo-Toa had long ago eschewed the bright world above, never to return, it is surmised. They’ve adapted to their subterranean world.
Now the Kuo-Toa People are haters of sunlight and are almost never encountered on the surface of the earth. [D2 – 13]
Why might they? To gather slaves, of course. Why else?
Kuo-toan War Party: These creatures will occasionally go forth to capture slaves or raid a group that is hostile to their kind or has given offense to Sea Mother. [D2 – 5]

It goes without saying that the heroes will come face to face with these ancient fish-men, but Gary would never be so cruel as to throw the PCs into the deep end, so to speak, without their having tested the waters first. As he did in G3 with the Drow. This is not to say that said encounter would be easy. “Not without peril” could easily be attributed to any of Gary’s adventure modules. This one is no different.
Introduction to that initial encounter is familiar enough: A deep, dark, dank tunnel, an obstacle that requires crossing.
The surface [of the Svartjet River,
ENCOUNTER AREA W27] is very smooth here, as the channel is over 80’ deep. On the far bank, in the cove shown, is moored an 8’x 14’ barge with a sculling oar. This barge is operated by a Kuo-Toon of great size and strength [.] [D2 – 6]
The noise of the river will mask normal sounds from the hearing of the Kuo-Toan, but bright light in the cavern will certainly attract his attention. He will come forth and offer in the common speech of the underworld to take the party across for the proper fee each. [D2 – 6]
The PCs encounter an unfamiliar creature. Will it be “friendly”? It might be.
The solitary Kuo-Toan does not care who or what he transports. [D2 – 6]
The creature is just going about its business, after all. Coin in coin. But communication with this hitherto unknown creature will be an obstacle, in its own right, without some sort of aid or intervention. Failure has its price, as they say.
Each time he repeats this offer (and it will not be understood by the party without magical aid or an interpreter), he has a 10% cumulative chance of going berserk and attacking. [D2 – 6]
Will this deranged Kuo-Toa fight fair? Not likely.
Thoopshib may be unbalanced, but he is very sly. [D2 – 6]
He will use terrain and the river to his advantage. And “allies.”
If the barge is threatened or attacked, he will leap into the Svartjet and summon his only companion, a giant gar over 30’ long with AC 2 and 65 hit points. [D2 – 6]
Our heroes will have to make up their minds concerning this new species based on their encounter with Thoopshib. I expect that first impression will not be good, regardless how communication went. Thoopshib will presumably give off a creepy negative vibe. Which will also colour their reaction later, while crossing the Kuo-Toan shrine, I imagine.

The other race introduced in D2 is the Deep Gnomes, the Svirfnebli.
Far beneath the surface of the earth dwell the Svirfnebli, the Deep Gnomes, a race related to the gnomes of the bright world. [D2 – 16]
This first contact should be more benign.
ALIGNMENT Neutral (good tendencies) [D2 – 16]

If the party stops and searches the area – or calls out in friendly terms – the Svitfnebli leader will show himself and offer the peace sign, recognizing the party as creatures from the upper world. He will converse in sign language, or speak normally if some magical means of communication/understanding is available. If the adventurers offer fewer than 1 100 g.p. gem per Deep Gnome, and agree to going "halfies" on any others taken, the Svirfnebli will certainly agree to accompany the party to the shrine cavern. [D2 – 7]
This will be the best stroke of luck the PCs could hope for.
The Deep Gnomes hate the Kuo-Tuo People as much as they despise the Drow, and this group has spied upon the shrine, for they are prospecting in the area. [D2 – 7]
Unexpected Allies
If the party does not have some help, I expect crossing the Kuo-Toan shrine could turn into a bit of a battle-royale. Or not, depending on the players’ style of play. Bright players ought to have learned through hard experience that hack-and-slash was a fast track to rolling up a new character in 1st edition. They ought to have learned that stealth, guile, and negotiation was a quicker, and less painful path to success. One could find “common ground” with orcs and hobgobins if one played one’s cards right and spoke with the tribal leaders and greased a palm of two for safe passage through their demesne; or one could try to clear out their cavern complex and suffer the consequences of having to rest up for days recovering lost hitpoints, if their survived the ordeal. Their call, but one imagines that players learned through experience, much as their characters were supposed to.

Much like D1 before it, this is a short module. D2 consists of two short encounters and a main encounter area. And in that regard, it may well feel exactly like the prior, like a tournament module. It may not repeat, but it certainly does rhyme.
Indeed, the Wandering Monster table are identical, except for a few swap-outs: Illithids and bugbears and Jermaine for Kuo-Toa.
The Shrine of Blibdoolpoolp
Aside from that, despite their near identical natures, D1 and D2 could not be more different. The Deep Gnomes, although Neutral, tend towards good, and could offer succour to the party – something I doubt the Drow merchant of D1 is inclined to, regardless his life being spared by their intervention. And however nerve-wracking crossing the bugbear and troglodyte exclave might have felt in D1, I suspect that might feel like a walk in the park when compared with that of the Kuo-Toan shrine. There was likely little fidelity between the amassed bugbears and trogs, aside from the hegemony of the Drow; where here, the Kuo-Toa share common cause and religious fanaticism.
The party is met by a chilling scene when first they step far enough northwest to view the dimly lit space ahead. Greenish phosphorescence from lichens, coupled with a grayish luminosity from slug-like creatures as large as a man's fist which crawl everywhere (walls, ceilings, floors) give the area an undersea appearance, and a strange salt tang is in the air to enhance this impression. Directly to the north the adventurers will see a huge dark green creature, rather like a giant lobster-headed woman, with one pincer raised and the right extended ahead and open. […] The walls and pavement of this place are well-made, but very worn. Obviously, this area is old. It feels alien and foreboding. [D2 – 7]
I expect the description is meant to be as unnerving as was the Weird Abandoned Temple in G1, and it is, albeit in a different way: Where the former writhed with Elder Evil magnificence, here, the phosphorescence evokes a murky seabed. As is should, seeing that their goddess is a humanoid lobster woman.
IDOL OF BLIBDOOLPOOLP, SEA MOTHER: Upon the summit of the ziggurat stands a malachite statue 20' tall. It appears to be a nude human female body, with articulated shell covering the shoulders, and a lobster head and claws in place of the expected human head and arms. The right claw is open and raised, the left is open and held out about 8' above the floor of the tier. […] Blibdoolpoolp's name is carved into the base of the statue in Kuo-Toan characters. [D2 – 8]

On to the Vault of the Drow
The task at hand, if would seem, is simply to get through the shrine unscathed. That will be difficult without a guide who is already experienced with this bottleneck encounter area, but it is possible. That said, there a number of metaphorical “trip wires” in doing so, likely not avoided without said guide. I might mention that negotiating this bottleneck encounter area without their tripping a wire or two will be dull indeed. And what would be the fun in that? AD&D combat might have been perilous, but it was also a big part of what the game was designed around. I expect that the PCs will have to duke it out, though.
Can the party go around? They can, but it is a lengthy, and likely even more perilous, roundabout route. And that will probably expose them to as much combat as the shrine is sure to treat them to. Best not, knowing what they will soon be knee-deep in a den of decadence and evil intrigue!

“We shall dive down through black abysses...and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory forever.”
― H.P. Lovecraft

One must always give credit where credit is due. This post 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.

The Art:
D2 cover, by David C. Sutherland III, from D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, 1979
Kuo-Toa, from Monster Manual 5e, 2014
Kuo-Toa, by Alan Hunter, from Fiend Folio 1e, 1981
Thoopshib, from D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, 1979
Svirfneblin, by Russ Nicholson, from Fiend Folio 1e, 1981
Svirfneblin Meeting, by David C. Sutherland III, from D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, 1979
D1-2 cover, by Jim Roslov, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1980
Underdark, by Erol Otus, from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, 1980

9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2009 Monster Manual 1e, 1977, 1978
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9018 G3 Hall of the Fire Mountain King, 1978
9019 D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth, 1978
9058 G123 Against the Giants, 1978, 1981

Friday, 10 March 2023

Rary’s Spells

“Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Rary of Ket
When Rary of Ket comes to mind, the thought “traitor,” is likely soon to follow. Such was not always the case, though. Before being branded a traitor Rary was a respected sage, a patient peacekeeper and peacemaker. This is well captured in the following text:
Rary’s own personalized spells reflect his preference for “mental magic” over what he disparagingly refers to as “blood and thunder stuff.” He also prefers defensive magic for self-protection, and has been able to create a pair of bracers of defense unequaled in their protection. [CoG:FFF – 25]
This is held true by the lion-share of spells penned by the Circle of Eight’s former archmage of the west. His spells allow him insight into a person’s thoughts and emotions; indeed, in some cases, they allow Rary to tap into their very souls. Not all though: some spells increase the number of spells he can prepare, enhance those he casts, and prep one for an emergency. Only one is fierce in nature, his most recent and most powerful of his repertoire, his Vicious Missiles. Might its creation mirror his unfortunate fate in WGR3 Rary the Traitor? It might. If so, it really does tell a tale of what now goes on in that hitherto gentle sage’s deep, dark mind and soul.

Level One
Rary’s Empathic Perception
Level Two
Rary’s Aptitude Appropriater
Level Three
Rary’s Memory Alteration
Rary’s Mind Scan
Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer
Rary’s Spell Enhancer
Level Five
Rary’s Hesitation
Rary’s Mind Shield
Rary’s Replay of the Past
Rary’s Superior Spell Enhancer
Rary’s Telepathic Bond
Level Six
Rary’s Protection from Scrying
Rary’s Urgent Utterance
Level Seven
Rary’s Plane Truth
Level 8
Rary’s Vicious Missiles

Rary’s Empathic Perception (Divination)
Level: 1
Components: V, S, M
Range: 5 yds/level
Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: 3 rounds/level
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: One creature per probe
Explanation/description: This spell enables the caster to sense the basic emotions of a creature, person, or animal, such as fear, hunger, thirst, anger, pain, joy, or love. The spell will work on all creatures possessing a mind, but not automatons, golems, undead, or inhuman beings from other planes. Only one creature can be probed every five rounds, and the creature must be within the caster’s line of sight, not behind a door or wall. A shielded mind cannot be probed empathically. The material component for empathic perception is a copper piece.
[GA – 67]

Rary’s Aptitude Appropriater (Divination-Alteration)
Level: 2
Components: V, S
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 1 round
Duration: 1 turn/level
Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: Special
Explanation/Description: By using this spell, the mage can temporarily acquire the ability to use a nonweapon proficiency known to another creature. The caster must touch the creature already possessing the desired skill. If the creature is willing to transfer his knowledge of the proficiency, the transfer takes place without difficulty. If the creature is unwilling to transfer the proficiency, the creature is entitled to a saving throw versus spells to prevent the transfer from occurring. The creature touched does not lose his knowledge of the proficiency, but merely allows the caster to know the proficiency as well. Only nonweapon proficiencies can be transferred by the spell. Other skills, abilities, powers, or types of knowledge will not transfer. The mage’s level of ability with the proficiency is exactly that of the original owner, even if the appropriate ability for the proficiency differs between the caster and creature.
[GA – 67]

Rary’s Memory Alteration (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 4
Components: V, S
Range: 60 yds
Casting Time: 1 round
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: Negates
Area of Effect: One creature
Explanation/Description: This more powerful version of the forget spell allows the mage to actively alter a part of a creature’s memory. The portion of memory the caster can affect is limited to one specific event in the creature’s life. The memory of a real event can be altered as the caster wishes. The mage could replace real facts about the event with false ones, or even place a completely new memory into the creature’s mind, causing the creature to remember an event that never happened. The caster, however, is unable to remove a memory of an event in its entirety. There is no time limit on how far into the past an event can be altered. The creature is entitled to a save versus spells to avoid having his memory changed. A heal, restoration, or wish will correct any alterations made to a creature’s memory.
[GA – 67]

Rary’s Mind Scan
Rary’s Mind Scan (Divination)
Level: 4
Components: V, S
Range: 10 yds/level
Casting Time: 4 segments
Duration: 5 rounds/level
Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: One creature per probe
Explanation/Description: This spell allows for deeper study of an unshielded mind than ESP can accomplish. The caster can pick up the surface thoughts or emotions of a creature on the first round of the probe, read deeper thoughts or memories on the second through fourth rounds of study (allow save vs. spells), and all beginning with the fifth round. The caster may learn of a creature’s dreams, suppressed memories, or primal desires. One major fact or subject can be learned or studied per round of deep probing. The limits on which topics can be probed are the same as for the ESP spell.
[GA – 67]

Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer (Alteration)
Level: 4
Components: V, S, M
Range: 0
Casting Time: I turn
Duration: 1 day
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: The magic-user
Explanation/Description: By means of this spell the magic-user is able to memorize, or retain the memory of, three additional spell levels, i.e. three spells of the first level, or one first and one second, or one third level spell. The magic-user can elect to immediately memorize additional spells or he or she may opt to retain memory of a spell cast by means of the Enhancer. The material components of the spell are a piece of string, an ivory plaque of at least 100 g.p. value, and an ink composed of squid secretion and either black dragon's blood or giant slug digestive juice. All components disappear when the spell is cast.
[PHB – 78]

Rary’s Spell Enhancer (Alteration)
Level: 4
Components: V
Range: Special
Casting Time: Special
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Special
Explanation/Description: This one-word spell will focus and increase the effectiveness of a spell cast by the mage. The spell enhancer is cast first, followed immediately by the spell to be enhanced, during the same round. The enhanced spell will strike with greater power, resulting in a -2 penalty to all saving throws made against the spell.
[GA – 67]

Rary's Lost Spellbook
Rary’s Hesitation (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 5
Components: V, S
Range: 10 yds/level
Casting Time: 5 rounds
Duration: 1 turn
Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: 1 spellcaster
Explanation/Description: This spell affects the mind of a targeted spellcaster, causing an involuntary hesitation before beginning any spellcasting process, including the use of devices or innate spell-like abilities. The hesitation increases casting time by 3, so a first-level spell such as magic missile has a casting time of 4. Further, the spell remains subject to disruption for the entire extended period. Creatures four or more levels (or hit dice) lower than the caster receive no saving throw. Those three levels lower to three levels greater receive a saving throw vs. spell at a 4 penalty. Those four or more levels greater than the caster save vs. spell at a -2 penalty.
{Dragon #249 – 92]

Rary’s Mind Shield (Alteration)
Level: 5
Components: V, S
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 1 round
Duration: 1 hour + ½ hour/level
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Creature touched
Explanation/Description: This spell is used to protect a creature from intrusions into the mind. Spells or mental powers that can probe a mind have no effect on the creature. The creature makes its saving throw at +2 against all enchantment/charm magic that can affect thoughts, memories, or behavior—charm, suggestion, quiet, emotion, fascination, or others. The mind shield allows a saving throw at - 2 to avoid a geas spell.
[GA – 67]

Replaying the Past
Rary’s Replay of the Past (Divination)
Level: 5
Components: V, S
Range: 0
Casting Time: 1 turn
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Special
Explanation/Description: This spell enables the caster to read the residual psychic impressions in a room or area, replaying a past event as an illusion that everyone in the area can see clearly. When an especially unusual or violent event occurs, it leaves behind psychic vibrations that remain for years. The more important the event, the stronger the psychic residue and the longer the impressions last. When the mage casts the spell, the strongest impressions currently in the area enter the caster’s mind. The event that produced the psychic impressions is replayed in the caster’s mind in real time, so the replay takes as long to complete as the original event. The replay in the mind is crystal clear, so the caster can readily identify persons, creatures, or objects. If the spell is cast again in the same area, the event that created the second strongest psychic impressions will be replayed. The caster can continue replaying past events, reading weaker and weaker psychic impressions, until all psychic residue in the area has been reviewed.
[GA – 67,68]

Rary’s Superior Spell Enhancer (Alteration)
Level: 5
Components: V
Range: Special
Casting Time: 1/8 segment
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Special
Explanation/Description: This spell enhancer increases the amount of damage caused by a spell cast by the mage. The one-word spell enhancer is cast first, followed by the attack spell to be enhanced. When the attack spell is launched, all saving throws versus the spell are made at - 1. The spell inflicts an additional point of damage per die of damage of the spell, so a fireball inflicts 1d6 +1 point of damage per die. When a magic missile is cast after the spell enhancer, each missile does 1d4 + 2 points of damage.
[GA – 68]

Rary’s Telepathic Bond (Divination-Alteration)
Level: 5
Component: V, S
Range: 2"
Casting Time: 1 round
Duration: 2 turn/level
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Two or more creatures
Explanation/description: With this spell, the mage can forge a telepathic bond between two or more creatures with an intelligence of 6 or higher. The bond can only be established between willing creatures. The creatures involved need not all speak the same language to communicate via the bond. The telepathic bond can be placed upon one creature for every three levels of the caster, so a 16th level mage can forge a link among five creatures. Once the bond is formed, the creatures can stay in contact only if they remain on the same plane. No special power or influence is conferred through the bond. A permanency spell does not have the power to make a telepathic bond a life-long link, but a wish spell does, although no more than two creatures can be permanently bonded together in this way.
[GA – 68]

Rary’s Urgent Utterance (Alteration)
Level: 6
Components: V, S, M
Range: 0
Casting Time: 1 turn
Duration: Up to 24 hours
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: One spell
Preparing a Spell
Explanation/Description: This spell empowers the mage to specially prepare another spell for quick casting in an emergency. Urgent utterance is cast first, followed by the spell to be readied, except for the last word of the spell. When the mage needs to cast the readied spell, the caster need only utter the final word of the spell. The utterance of the final word only takes one segment, saving much time on most spells. The readied spell will stay in the caster’s mind for only one day before it atrophies and fades out of memory. No more than two readied spells can be in the caster’s mind at any time. Almost any spell of level 6 or less can be readied for quick casting, except the following: find familiar, magic mirror, conjure elemental, contingency, enchant an item, ensnarement, guards and wards, legend lore, Tenser’s transformation, limited wish, simulacrum, true name, binding, permanency, succor, and wish. The material component is a sapphire worth 1,000 gold pieces, which is crushed when the spell is cast.
[GA – 68]

Rary’s Protection from Scrying (Abjuration-Divination)
Level: 6
Components: V, S, M
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 1 turn
Duration: 1 hour + ½ hour/level
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: Creature touched
Rary the Sage
Explanation/Description: This spell will protect a creature from all scrying attempts or intrusive divination. Clairaudience, clairvoyance, ESE empathy, telepathy, crystal balls, or a magic mirror will not succeed in locating, detecting, or studying the protected creature. The creature will immediately become aware of the attempt, no matter how great the distance between the scryer and creature. If cast on himself, the mage has a 5% chance per level to divine the location of the scryer after one round of concentration. The scryer must save versus spells immediately or his identity will be revealed. Detect evil/good and know alignment will also not work on the affected creature. The material component is a star sapphire worth 5,000 g.p., which must be kept on the creature for the duration of the spell (and which vanishes after the spell).
[GA – 68]

Rary’s Plane Truth (Divination)
Level: 7
Components: V, S
Range: Special
Casting Time: 1 turn
Duration: 3 rounds + 1 round/level
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: One creature per 2 rounds
Explanation/Description: This spell is a more precise and exacting version of know alignment. A creature’s alignment will be revealed to the caster in the first round of study. With a second round of concentration, the creature’s home plane is revealed. The deity or deities worshipped by the creature also become known to the mage. One creature can be studied for every two rounds of the spell’s duration.
[GA – 68]

Rary’s Vicious Missiles
Rary’s Vicious Missiles (Evocation)
Level: 8
Components: V, S
Range: 60 yds. + 10 yds./level
Casting Time: 1 round
Duration: Special
Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Explanation/Description: A particularly nasty variant of magic missile, this spell is believed largely responsible for laying low Otiluke (if not also Tenser) in that fateful battle in the Great Hall. Rary jokes badly with Lord Robilar about renaming this spell Otilukes last tickle. Like magic missile, this spell creates missiles of magical energy that unerringly strike a chosen target. Unlike magic missile, however, only one target may be selected. One missile is created for every three levels of the caster (rounded down; no limit on the number of missiles) and each missile inflicts 1d4 + 2 hp damage. What makes this spell so deadly to spellcasters is that the release of the missiles is staggered over a number of combat rounds. Once the spell is cast, a single missile strikes the target immediately. Then each and every round thereafter on the casters modified initiative roll […], another missile strikes the target until all the missiles have been fired. After the target has been chosen, the caster need not worry about concentrating on the spell as all missiles will automatically strike the target unless the target moves out of range. Spells of lower than fifth level that protect against magic missile, such as shield, are not effective against the vicious missiles.
[Dragon #249 – 92,93]

“Your battles inspired me - not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”
― James Joyce

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History 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:
Rary's Lost Spellbook, by George Vrbanic, from Dragon #249, 1998
Preparing a Spell, from Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
Sage, from Dungeon Masters Guide 1e, 1979
Rary the Traitor, by Ben Wooten, 2011

1043 City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2017 Unearthed Arcana, 1985
2023 Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
Dragon Magazine #249

Friday, 3 March 2023

On Rary of Ket, Part 2


“…machinations, hollowness, treachery,
and all ruinous disorders,
follow us disquietly to our graves…”
― William Shakespeare, King Lear

Rary the Traitor
The Circle of Eight had been betrayed, by one of their own, no less. Rary of Ket, the once patient peacekeeper, had murdered Tenser and Otiluke. He and his co-conspirator, Lord Robilar, himself once a famed and celebrated member of Mordenkainen’s Citadel, had failed in their attempt to usurp the Circle and destabilise the Nations of Weal.
In the agonizing aftermath of the Greyhawk wars, when conflict touched virtually every corner of the continent, few gained more infamy than Rary of the Circle of Eight. Once considered a quiet, peaceful man with few ambitions, the great mage instead was corrupted to the ways of evil [.] [WGR3 Rary the Traitor – 4]
Inconceivable! But true!
[B]rooding upon his decades of ceaseless toil and frustration and his lack of success in the path of neutrality, Rary finally and irrevocably fell under evil's sway. Returning to Greyhawk, Rary enlisted the aid of Lord Robilar, a powerful if somewhat unstable nobleman with a substantial household guard, and together the two formulated a plan to put themselves into a position of power in the Flanaess. [WGR3 – 7]
To what end? There were more questions than answers.
Magical scrying and the strenuous efforts of sages have not availed to give the full story of what happened that day. [FtAA – 9]
Truly, all that can be said is that Rary's treachery that day […] gained the Archmage of Ket everlasting infamy. [LGJ#0 – 7]

584 CY
Rary's Betrayal
All that is known for sure is that, within the Grand Hall where the treaty was to be signed, a fierce magical battle erupted and spread havoc through the Old City.
[FtAA – 9]
Rary, turned traitor on the city, […] immolating several blocks of the city in magical fire. [LGJ#5 – 8]
Afterwards, two members of the famed Circle of Eight, the great mages of Greyhawk, lay dead; Otiluke and Tenser were no more. [FtAA – 9]
One would expect that they would have “survived” their ordeal, though. Right? Steps had been taken, in that regard. Right?
Following a near-tragedy at the hands of Vecna’s followers, all members of the Eight kept a number of active clones. [PGtG – 23]
But Rary’s treachery was deep, deeper than anyone could have imagined. It would seem that he had planned to murder them … for all time.
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]
Their magical clones likewise shrivelled and perished, and their own bodies could not be resurrected. It is also known that Rary of Ket, another Circle member, was last seen fleeing with Lord Robilar into the Bright Desert, and that Rary had turned traitor and had slain his old friends. [FtAA – 9]
The motive behind Rary’s treachery remains clouded. According to many who knew him, the wizard probably saw an opportunity to seize power and land in the confusion that would follow the assassinations. Others suggest Rary was a pawn of the Scarlet Brotherhood. [Wars – 24]
Many suspected that Rary wished to hold the ambassadors hostage, but instead, he fled to the Bright Desert to form his own kingdom. [WGG 3e – 4]

The Eight were now Five:
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]

Need less to say, the surviving members of the Circle were shocked.
The treachery left the Eight (now Five: Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul and Otto) reeling. [Rot8 – 2]
Never did the view of those scrying crystals turn inward, however, toward the plans of the single individual who could do the most harm to the delegates' cause. [LGJ#0 – 7]
Their reactions were mixed, to say the least:
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]
Drawmij met the news of the treachery of Rary with classic dispassion. Indeed, the nascent archmage appears to have been the Circle member least affected by the events of the Greyhawk Wars and Reconstruction. [LGJ#0 – 8]
[Drawmij] is affable, and given his profession, little attention is paid to what Rary once termed "troubling inconsistencies." [LGJ#0 – 8]
Jallarzi Sallavarian] has sworn vengeance against Rary, though she has not taken any public action against her one-time comrade. [LGJ#0 – 8]
She wasn’t the only one filled with rage. Or in need for revenge. Tenser had many friends and allies. And a vast network of confidants and collaborators.
Schinus Balint, Commander of the Cairn Hills Force
Schinus has a secret ambition: he wants to hunt down Robilar and Rary and kill them. Schinus had his own life saved from a dragon turtle by Tenser, and has been an escort to Jallarzi Sallavarian, and he hopes to track down the renegades, revenge his old friend Tenser, and present himself covered in glory to Jallarzi, whom he admires and desires greatly. [FtAC – 30]
Otto’s views on the betrayal have never been made public.
Nor Mordenkainen’s. He appears to have paid far closer attention to “his work” than he had prior, though.
In the years since the close of the Greyhawk Wars, much has been done to restabalize the Flanaess' balance of power. Much work remains, however, and Mordenkainen and the Circle have resolved to ensure that it is completed. [LGJ#0 – 7]

Most curious is Nystul’s response:
It has been suggested that all is not as it seems here. Rary was renowned for his complex plotting in the Circle of Eight, and some of his former associates refuse to believe that he has turned to evil of his own accord. [LGG – 38]
Alone among the other members of the Circle of Eight, Nystul holds the belief that Rary's so-called traitorship is nothing but a ruse perpetrated either by the Archmage of Ket himself or some greater enemy of the Circle, with the archmage as a dupe. [LGJ#0 – 10]
Rary may have turned evil on his own, through tampering with an evil artifact, or he may be possessed by fiends, a clone of the original, charmed, and so on. He may wish to attack the Circle of Eight, the City of Greyhawk, the Duchy of Urnst, or some other state or power. [TAB – 38]
To this end, he has contacted Rary's old companion, Torik Redaxesson of Highfolk, who has been pushing for an investigation into the cause of the archmage's alleged corruption. [LGJ#0 – 10]
If there ever was a soul who could doubt that Rary could succumb to Evil it was Torik.
Torik Redaxesson
Torik Redaxesson of Highfolk
Torik [was] a companion to the venerable mage Rary. Rary often stopp[ed] by for news of the Vesve Forest or share[ed] what he [knew] of events in the Yatil Mountains or Ket. More than once Torik [had] gone adventuring on some special mission for the old mage. [WGA4 Vecna Lives! – 94]
Nystul and Torik were not alone in their incredulity.
Each year on the anniversary of the tower’s departure some flowers and simple gifts are left by citizens who refuse to believe that Rary is evil. Some think an external force must have taken control of him. Many of the generous souls hide their identities for fear of reprisal. [Living Greyhawk Ket Gazetteer – 25]
Torik’s investigations have raised curious questions, in that regard, concerning a curious tome penned by an even more curious and malevolent mage, the Murq’s Magica.
[W]hile the tome’s whereabouts remain unknown as of the past year, frightened whisperings have begun to surface, and they speak one infamous name: Rary the Traitor. [Dragon #269 – 65]

Since his brother betrayed the Circle of Eight and the City of Greyhawk and fled into the Bright Desert, Arkalan [Sammal of Ket] has fallen into despair. He publicly disowned his brother in 584 CY, but is still suspected of being in league with Rary by less informed and less forgiving persons in the city. [TAB – 97]
Poor Arkalan. This distrust would drive him to drink, eroding whatever confidence those who refused to believe he was in league with his treacherous brother might still have had in the hapless sibling.

So, what exactly did happen to Rary and Robilar in the wake of their failed bid for power?
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]
But not before engaging in what can only be described as a bit of petty thievery.
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]
Quij has deserted his master and Iuz cannot see him either. Perhaps he has become part of Turrosh Mak's Pomarj armies, or fled to the Bone March or even farther afield. [WGR5 Iuz the Evil – 5]

The search was on for the two turncoats even as the smoke was clearing and the dust yet to settle!
In the weeks that followed. as Greyhawk slowly recovered from its shock. Rary was condemned from every quarter. Expeditions scoured the vicinity of the city. searching for Rary and his co-conspirator. [WGR3 – 7]
Robilar’s manor was burned and his lands are becoming wilderness; few go here for any reason, though it is said the dungeons below the manor were sealed without being explored. [TAB – 76]
A diplomatic mission to Ket returned with the astonishing news that not only was Rary missing, but his entire tower, which had so long graced Lopolla's skyline, had abruptly and inexplicably vanished overnight. Rumors began to circulate that Rary had fled the Flanaess and possibly Oerth altogether. [WGR3 – 7]

Months later, the duo and the tower surfaced in the Bright Desert.
[LGG – 38]
The Abbor Alz barbarians, who sometimes traded with the desert nomads, reported that a mysterious tower had appeared in the Brass Hills in the heart of the desert, and that the master of this tower had proclaimed himself "Monarch of the Bright Lands." [WGR3 – 7]
Abbor-Alz: The rocky, granitic hills that ring the Bright Desert are known as the Abbor-Alz. In the west, the highlands are actually a small mountain range joining the Cairn Hills to their north. Enclaves of dwarves and gnomes remain in the west, many having shifted from a life of mining to the perfection of craftwork. The hills of southern Urnst are rich with gems and mineral wealth, as well as bandits, manticores, wyverns, and worse in abundance. The hillfolk of the region surrounding the Bright Desert repel all attempts to learn more about them; the rare giants and ogres here are barely more dangerous. It is known that the hillmen abhor Rary […] and actively hunt down and slay his agents. [LGG – 143]
And it would appear that Rary and Robilar were settling in for good.
Many nomads, it was reported, had fallen under his sway, and those who had not were swiftly persecuted and pressured to do so. The desert centaurs, previously known only by rumor and second-hand reports, were said to be resisting the new rulers, but their struggle seemed doomed. The new king was said to be a mage of unsurpassed skill, and had a host of strange (some said unearthly) warriors at his command. Clearly, Rary the traitor had at last appeared.
But finding Rary and bringing him to justice were two entirely different matters. Long unexplored and treated by many with suspicious dread, the Bright Desert, or the “Bright Lands” as Rary now called his new domain, was considered a place of savage tribesmen, harsh conditions, and dangerous creatures. Now it was home to Rary the Traitor, and neither Greyhawk nor any surrounding power had the strength or the inclination to venture into the desert and dig him out of his hiding place. Many favoured simply leaving him to rot in self-imposed exile. [WGR3 – 7]
Mordenkainen and Bigby, who had been wounded by the renegade, did not agree. [WGR3 – 8]
Rary and Robilar must pay for their crimes!
But Rary and Robilar remained impervious to scrying. And not just to Mordenkainen:
In the Bright Desert, Robilar is over a thousand miles from Iuz and cloaked by magic which prevents his scrying. Since Iuz has no spies there to report to him, information on Robilar is scant. [WGR5 – 5]

585 CY
Rary and Robilar were carving out their own little empire, it would seem.
WGR3 Rary the Traitor (TSR #9386, 1992). This presents the current status of the archmage Rary, his evil henchman Robilar, and their realm in the Bright Desert about 585 CY. [TAB – 4]
[F]leeing south with his co-conspirator and their loyal troops, he has carved out an empire in the wilderness, and threatens to inflict more harm and chaos on a world long grown weary of war and strife. [WGR3 – 4]
Robilar led his fanatically loyal men from desert village to desert village, systematically defeating the local warlords and incorporating their warriors into an ever-growing army. Rary, too, had transported several bands of Paynim horsemen from the west, who promised glorious death in service to the mage they called "The Rider." Early victories against nonhumans and the Tukim, the most powerful human tribe in the desert, bolstered the armies. Few openly defied this powerful force. [LGG – 38]
Next to nothing is known of his activities and domain, though some say he has a fortress in the Brass Hills in the desert’s center, where he and his treacherous partner, Lord Robilar, are forging an empire with aid from native folk. [TAB – 37]
Wherever the armies went, so too ventured immoral adventurers in Rary's employ. These humans, mostly sages and enchanters, scoured the desert, paying particular attention to local ancient ruins. Rary seldom left his tower, but all knew that he sought some object rumored to be terrible and powerful. [LGG – 38]

“The Empire of the Bright Lands” is Rary of Ket’s name for his new-found realm, hidden in the Brass Hills of the Bright Desert. After his betrayal of the Circle of Eight, his castle was magically moved from its location in Ket to its new position here. Now it serves as a local power base for evil. Officials of the City of Greyhawk are concerned that this new “empire” might choose to attack the Domain at some point. [PGtG – 51]
Bright Lands
Proper Name: Empire of the Bright Lands
Ruler: His Percipient Magnificence, the Archmage Rary, Monarch of the Bright Lands (NE male human Wiz20*)
Government: Dictatorship; realm functions as a minor city-state surrounded by barbaric nomad tribes
Capital: No capital; "empire" administered from Rary's tower in the Brass Hills and through military leaders at outposts throughout the Bright Desert [LGG – 37]
Brass Hills: Little is known of the massif at the center of the Bright Desert, for ages called the Brass Hills. The region's current inhabitant, Rary of Ket […], seems to have chosen the site for the excellent overview of the desert provided from its heights, rather than some inherent quality of the hills themselves. Rary has cleansed the hills of any dangers other than his own men and (if rumors are to be believed) fiendish servants. [LGG – 144]

Rary and Robilar were unsuccessful in their cleansing. They remained harried by centaur and nomad alike and would be for years to come. The rebels will never surrender; this is their land, and ever shall be.
Varthis (the Transfixed) hero god of Anguish, Lost Causes, and Revenge.
The Flan dervishes [of the Bright Desert] who worship Varthris are broken into two factions. […] The more militant dervishes, often warrior priests, venerate Varthis as the Great Talion who writes wrongs perpetrated upon the tribes by local monsters, northerners from Urnst, and (increasingly) the forces of Rary of Ket. [LGJ#3 – 15]

Mordenkainen did not tire in his pursuit of revenge, or “Balance” as he continued to call it. But he was rarely seen; and when he was, his motives were as shadowed as his eyes were, from that fateful day on, clouded by guarded intent.
In all things, Mordenkainen prefers to maneuver behind the scenes, subtly manipulating events to ensure that no side gains the upper hand. As a result, the archmage is trusted little, even among the likewise-neutral Hierophants of the Cabal, who find his vision of Balance wholly self-centered and somewhat arbitrary.
This philosophy has gained the archmage a virtual army of enemies, not a few of whom once considered him a good friend. Among these last can be counted Evard the Black, Terik and, of course, Rary. [LGJ#0 – 9]
There were enemies everywhere, Mordenkainen realised. Thus, the Circle must be whole again, he decreed.
3rd week of Goodmonth
Events of Return of the Eight
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]
“The Circle has long been weakened by Rary’s evil, at a time when we need all our powers to maintain balance in the Flanaess. And so I have rebuilt the Circle of Eight.” – Mordenkainen [Rot8 – 53]

[Tenser’s] next goal is the complete destruction of Rary and Robilar, if this has not already been accomplished [.] [Rot8 – 54]
Tenser will fight to the death without quarter against his most hated enemies: Iuz and his followers and Rary the Traitor. [Rot8 – 58]
Rary was no fool. He already knew he had powerful enemies, each as eager as the next to extract revenge on him, for whatever reasons. What was one more?

586 CY
Arkalan Sammal
Rary’s betrayal of the Circle and Free City took its toll, though. He lived in exile, cloaked, shielded, surrounded by his Paynims and nomads. But he was not the only one living under the shadow of reproach and recrimination.
The Directing Oligarchy believes Arkalan is trustworthy and has hired his services a number of times, but he lost his teaching position at Grey College and now works on commission for adventurers (a task he feels is as degrading as cleaning sewers or slavery). Arkalan is an alcoholic and is deteriorating physically, though bis mind is d shup. He knows he can do nothing abut his fate and that his brother is beyond redemption, and he knows Rary could turn against him in a vicious way. Still, he hopes to find someone who can restore his brother to his former self, as the two had been very close before Rary's treachery. [TAB – 97]

The Flanaess had suffered the presence of fiends for far too long, the Powers proclaimed. Iuz had armies of them. The Malachite Throne took council from them; indeed, devils walked Rauxes’ boulevards as honoured citizens. And Rary, too, it would seem, had gathered them to his bosom.
Still, rumors that the former Archmage of Ket now consorts with fiends have caused most of his family and friends to brand [Rary] a traitor forevermore. [LGG – 38]
We must be rid of this scourge, the Hazen declared.
In Coldeven 586, Canon Hazen of Veluna employed the Crook of Rao, a powerful artifact, in a special ceremony that purged the Flanaess of nearly all fiends inhabiting it. [LGG – 16]
Canon Hazen of Mitrik used the Crook to stunning effect, banishing thousands of demons, devils, yugoloths, and other outsiders from all parts of the Flanaess [.] The assistance of nearly every priest of Rao in Mitrik as wall as the aid (some say manipulation) of the archmage Bigby, certainly played an important role in the effort’s success. [Dragon #294 – 93,95]
Others aided: Tenser, the Despotrix of Hardby…
[Despotrix of Hardby] Ilena [Norbelos]’s illness began after the Striking of the Crook, and extensive ritual led by the priests of Rao in Mitrik which resulted in the Flight of Fiends. She had been persuaded by Tenser (despite warnings sent to her from the archmage Rary) to join in an arcane conjunction intended to augment the ritual. Unfortunately, many of the participants in Tenser’s rites have since suffered illness or other misfortune – with the notable exception of Tenser himself. [LGJ#1 – 27]
What warnings? Did Rary threaten “do this and die,” or did the once aged and wise sage try to tell her that use of the Crook might have some dire price that required payment? Or penance?

Fiends or no fiends, Rary’s Bright Empire persisted. And flourished.
While few overt threats presented themselves in the aftermath of war, the emergence of Rary the Traitor, in the Bright Desert, is a cause of great concern. [LGG – 126]
Rary's forces have grown significantly since 584 CY. [LGG – 38]
In the Bright Desert, Rary the Traitor and Robilar are said to be subduing the savages and raising a force which might yet beset the Free City of Greyhawk. [FtAA – 10]
More than ninety percent of the desert nomads now swear fealty to the Monarch of the Bright Lands. [LGG – 38]
Warnes Starcoat
His neighbours were growing concerned.
Warnes Starcoat, Chief Mage to the Joint Courts of Urnst and a member of the Circle of Eight, warns that Rary's diabolical plans could soon lead him to covet the ancient knowledge of House Maure. Lord Robilar once spent his summers in Pontyrel, in Urnst's Maure Lands, and many suspect that it is only a matter of time before his soldiers cross the Knife's Edge Pass, making their way to Maure Castle. In anticipation of this event, the village of Kelefane, near the Knife's Edge, has become a prominent military outpost, and is personally administered by Karll's nephew, Ellis […], a bitter man who looks for enemies at every corner. [LGG – 126]
Sparse traffic from Urnst arrives through Knife's Edge Pass, though the duke has forbidden all trade with those who fly the banner of [Rary] the archmage. [LGG – 37]

The Despotrix did not share Warnes’ concern, it would seem.
Hardby, however, is not so moralistic. Despite strict instructions from Greyhawk, the despotrix of Hardby personally (though secretly) authorizes trade with Rary's go-betweens in the neutral village of Ul Bakak, on the eastern end of Hardby Pass. [LGG – 37]
Why might that be? Remembrance of his prior warning? Gratitude? Or might it be something as simple as the Bright Desert held sundries worth trading for, regardless the peril of the Free City’s and the Circle’s potential retaliation and ceinture?

589 CY
Rary and Robilar never tired in their desire to “cleanse” their desert.
Despite the centaur attacks and certain stubborn native tribes, Rary's searches continue, often with frustrating consequences. [LGG – 38]
{P]atrols of Rary’s soldiers [:]
Light horsemen (2d6): AC 7 (studded leather); MV 24; HD 1; hp 6; THACO 20; #AT 1; Dmg 1 d6 (light lance) or 1 d6 (short bow); SZ M (5‘6’ tall); ML 12; AL N(E); XP 15. [LT1 The Star Cairns – 38]

Sometimes they were “successful.”
In 589 CY, Chief Strongbow, an influential leader and strong proponent of balancing the nomads against Rary and staying out of the conflict, was found murdered in his quarters. Though there was very little proof, the young bucks among the centaurs called for a guerilla war against the westerners—a plan that has met with some success. [LGG – 38]
Sometimes not.
The native desert centaurs, who remained neutral immediately after Rary's arrival, now bitterly oppose Robilar's armies. [LGG – 38]

One wonders what lurks in their Bright Desert, doesn’t one? Besides centaurs and nomads and all manner of things adapted to its perplexing brightness…
Desert centaurs are a warlike but surprisingly civilized variant of the familiar sylvan centaur. They have inhabited  the Bright Desert of the Flanaess for centuries, and survive today as fiercely independent nation-tribes. [WGR3 – 63]
Manscorpions are a horrific race created by an ancient curse. The scourge of the Bright Desert, manscorpions possess a deep hatred of other living things, and attempt to slay anyone they encounter. They fight constantly with the human and centaur nomads of the desert, and are a major thorn in the side of Rary the Traitor’s soldiers. [WGR3 – 65]
A small group of doppelgangers, fleeing the so-called “Empire of the Bright Lands” of the archmage Rary, recently came across one of the legendary Star Cairns. [LT1 The Star Cairns – 5]

590 CY
Rary still covets “new” magic: I imagine he always will. He is always on the lookout for relics and artifacts, for books, rods, rings, and stones … the older the better.
Rary has become especially interested in the powerful magical energies found in ioun stones after he stole Otiluke’s pale green stone from the dead arch-mage’s smoking robes. [Dragon #249 – 93]
The Horned Lands are unique in having very rare deposits of a unique magical gem: dweornite. […] These are similar to the dweomer-stones of the Cairn Hills, and some sages suggest a common origin for both these and the reputed ioun stones Ray seeks in the Bright Desert. [WGR5 – 37]

This comes as no surprise, as [i]n all of Oerth, it may be that there has never been a wizard alive who could rival Rary’s passion and love for enchanted items. [Dragon #249 – 90]
But with the world in pursuit of justice, his prospects of requiring them had been somewhat curtailed. It should come to no surprise that Rary chose his new home where he did: There was a great deal to be discovered beneath the shifting sands of long-buried Sulm…
In late 590, an entire company of Robilar's best Paynim and nomad guards vanished while investigating an abandoned necropolis. Rary's response, ordering Lord Robilar's own personal guard after the lost soldiers, so enraged the warrior that he left his post for a week, not returning until he single-handedly slew an old blue dragon that had been considering an alliance with the archmage. The two have patched up their differences, but tensions between them remain strong. [LGG – 38]
But long-lost Sulm was only a taste of what was out there.
Having adventured across the Flanaess as a young mage, Rary knows the most fantastic of magic items are often found in the possession of seasoned adventurers. [Dragon #249 – 90]
To that end, Rary knew that if he could not go out often into the wide world, the world must then come to him.
Rary and his Spellbook
[Rary] created a powerful agent that would pass from adventurer to adventurer in the simple guise of a spellbook, plucking magical items from their current owners and teleporting them back to Rary in the Bright Desert.
[Dragon #249 – 90]
Every three or four months, the Lost Spellbook teleports itself back to Rary’s Tower. There it meets with its creator to pass along any pertinent information it has learned and to receive new instructions should the wizard have any. After these brief meetings, the Lost Spellbook leaves Rary’s Tower via vanish, appearing in another part of the Flanaess to continue its quest for magical items. [Dragon #249 – 93]
It was only a matter of time, though, that Mordenkainen and the Circle would become aware of Rary’s bid to acquire his greatest desire, and might take steps to use his little lure against him.
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]
Not all are as “high-minded” in their quest to get their hands on Rary’s little toy, though.
Ket leaders, Paynim raiders, and loyalists to Rary learning of the book’s existence might seek to return the Lost Spellbook to the archmage to curry favor with him. After all, they would believe that the book had been stolen from Rary. [Dragon #249 – 93]

592 CY
Rary in His Tower
One imagines that the Bright Desert is a very small space, indeed, for two such titanic personages as Rary and Robilar. One expects that they would have parted ways, soon afterwards, if not for the Circle’s pursuit and vigilance; one even expects they might have parted ways, despite the Circle’s desire for vengence – the Circle are but eight, a paltry number to surveil the entire length and breadth of the Flaneass, let alone the whole of Oerik, endlessly. Alas, [Robilar] still serves Rary, using a wide variety of magical weapons and devices such as an artificial silver horse. [PGtG – 26]
Rary's armies are commanded by the doughty Lord Robilar (NE male human Ftr20). They range far and wide, seeking out enemies of the state, protecting emissaries to enclaves in the Abbor-Alz, or causing trouble for local tribes and desert centaurs, who resent claims of empire upon their sovereign homelands. The independent and reclusive dwarves of the Abbor-Alz have not yet been troubled by Rary or Robilar's forces. [LGG – 37]
While Robilar fights all comers, Rary appears content to sift the sands of the desert and explore the nearby caves of Abbor-Alz, though he will never divulge to what end.
To this day, the archmage eagerly acquires and examines all manner of scrolls, rings, amulets, bracers, and blades hoping to unlock a forgotten piece of arcane lore or to discover a long-lost artifact. His army scours the Brass Hills and surrounding Bright Desert for magical items for their lord. [Dragon #249 – 90]
Thousands of desert folk have suffered under Rary's armies. Many fear that he is close to achieving or finding that for which he searches; few believe the result will benefit anyone but him. Robilar, though a villain, has a soft spot for adventurers, and he is tired of playing catch-up with Rary's schemes. [LGG – 38]

Regardless their presumed lack of love for one another, they remain steadfast, keeping one and all from their shores of their tiny patch of the Flanaess.
Within the past month, no fewer than five ships have come to grief on the notoriously treacherous southern coast of the Bright Desert. […] The attacks have led many to fear that Rary the Traitor has allied himself with a powerful druid using weather magic to accumulate wealth and life energy from these grim harvests. [LGJ#3 – 26]

But every now and again, the inexplicable happens on and off their bright and decidedly inhospitable shores.
Jian Destron was the only son and heir of Szek Ewerd Destron. […] He was raised a professional sailor, and from a young age served in Onnwal’s navy. [Dragon #299 – 98]
On the Night of Scarlet Knives, when Onnwal fell to the Brotherhood [,] [Dragon #299 – 98] the Brotherhood closed in on young Jian’s ship.
Few can explain the strange mist that hid Jian’s vessel from its pursuers and enabled the loyal Onnwalons to subdue the traitors and reach the relative safety of Nyrond.
The credit for Jian's escape was claimed by a mysterious visitor of Baklunish extraction, who appeared during a court at Sornhill in early 592 CY. This man was a representative of the Empire of the Bright Desert who said that his unnamed master (doubtless Rary the Traitor) would someday require a favor in return. [Dragon #299 – 99]
Ought Jian Destron to worry? Or might this be a clue to Rary’s true self?
One wonders. Nystul does. So too Torik Redaxesson of Highfolk.
And I wonder if I do not, as well.

One would never wonder whether Rary was prolific. Or esoteric. He was. And most certainly is, still.
Arcane Puissance of the Memory” by Rary [BK]
(Rary’s mnemonic enhancer, forget, mind blank, hypnotic pattern)
[Dragon #82 – 58]

We can only wonder, though, what else he might have written while in exile, besides his most infamous and perfidious spellbook, that is.
Lost Spellbook of Rary the Traitor [BK]
The Lost Spellbook of Rary contains the following spells: Rary’s empathic perception*, unseen servant, invisibility, Rary’s mind scan*, Rary’s mnemonic enhancer, wizard eye, Rary’s hesitation*, telekinesis, Rary’s protection from scrying*, Rary’s urgent utterance*, true seeing, vanish, Rary’s vicious missiles*.
[Dragon #249 - 90,91,93,94,95,96]

He has, like most of the Circle, penned a spell or two in his time:
Level One
Rary’s Empathic Perception
Level Two
Rary’s Aptitude Appropriater
Level Three
Level Four
Rary’s Memory Alteration
Rary’s Mind Scan
Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer
Rary’s Spell Enhancer
Level Five
Rary’s Hesitation
Rary’s Mind Shield
Rary’s Replay of the Past
Rary’s Superior Spell Enhancer
Rary’s Telepathic Bond
Level Six
Rary’s Protection From Scrying
Rary’s Urgent Utterance
Level Seven
Rary’s Plane Truth
Level Eight
Rary’s Viscous Missiles
[PHB 1e – 78/ GA – 128/ Dragon # 249 –  92,93]

A great many of Rary’s spells relate to the mind, it would seem.
One can only wonder, then, if Rary had had this trinket on him on that fateful day, whether he would have had need to flee into the Desert on that fateful day.
Ray's Ring of Memories:
This tarnished silver ring was enchanted by the archmage Rary, but lost when his tower was sacked after he attacked the Circle of Eight. The ring gives the wearer the ability to cast Ray's memory alteration three times per day. It also grants a +4 bonus to saving throws vs effects that target memories (such as a forget spell) and a +1 bonus to saving throws against any Enchantment/ Charm spells. (Ray’s memory alteration can be found in TSR2175, Wizard’s Spell Compendium Volume 3.)
[Slavers – 127]

What have we learned?
We’ve, or I’ve, learned that Rary, as written, is a Traitor. He killed Otiluke and Tenser. And he most certainly intended to kill a great many of the leaders and delegates of the world at the Greyhawk Peace Conference that ended the Great War, thereafter referred to as the Greyhawk Wars.
But we also learned that Rary was, is, curious, perhaps to a fault. And it may be that his insatiable curiosity was his downfall.
Moreover, we learned that Rary was kind, and patient, a peacekeeper and peacemaker, respected by all, prior to his fall. He may have been the most independent of the original Circle of Eight; that stands to reason, as he was the only archmage not entirely of the Flanaess: He was, is, Kettite, a Westerner, not an Easterner. Indeed, his only real connection to the East and the Free City was, and is, his brother, poor besotted Arkalan, who bears the mantle of guilt for his elder brother’s murderous betrayal.
Rary of Ket
So, is Rary a traitor? Is Rary evil? He is as written. But is he irredeemable? Perhaps not. Perhaps Rary is only a victim of his own arrogance, and should he be rid of Murq’s mysteriously malicious tome, Rary would be cured of his evil ways and brought back to “balance.”
Should he be rid if it, could, should, justice be meted out upon “The Traitor,” if he were not responsible for his forced conversion? Early D&D was replete with such legerdemain, so such things must have occurred from time to time. Who, then, would be his judge? His executioner? Mordenkainen? Bigby? Tenser? Could they be unbiased? Prejudice is unreasoning, hatred blind, vengeance deaf. I might ask: Are their hands so clean? Are they without sin, they who’ve tasked others to do their bidding in pursuit of undisclosed ends, sometimes unto death, without their ever having divulged the reason why?

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword”
― Oscar Wilde, The Ballad of Reading Gaol

“Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.”
― Arthur Miller

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargent, 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:
Rary the Traitor, by Ben Wooten, 2011
Bright Desert map, by Steve Beck, from WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
Mordenkainen, by Michael Komarck, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Warnes Starcoat, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
Manscorpion, by Ken Frank, from WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
Rary and his Spellbook, from Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
Sage, from Dungeon Masters Guide 1e, 1979

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2023 Greyhawk Adventures, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
9309 WGA4 Vecna Lives! 1990
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
9576 Return of the Eight, 1998
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
9579 LT1 The Star Cairns, 1998
11621 Slavers, 2000
11742 World of Greyhawk Gazetteer 3e, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Living Onnwal Gazetteer
Dragon Magazine #82, 249, 269, 294, 299
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ #1,1,3
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda