Friday 1 September 2023

On Evard the Black


“The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Evard the Black
Not all wizards are good. This will not come as a surprise to anyone. Some are selfish, others self-serving; some are downright vindictive, even malicious. Yup, some wizards are evil. Thank God for that! Where would we be if that were not the case? So many names come to mind: Vecna, Acererak, Galap-Dreidel, Keraptis… The list goes on.
There are those, however, are ambiguous in their evil: The Seer of Urnst, for instance; Rary of Ket; Drax. And Evard the Black.
Are you even aware of Evard? Perhaps you are. Perhaps not. If you aren’t, don’t be humbled by your ignorance: he’d be easy to miss, considering the shortage of lore concerning him. Perhaps he ought to be better known; he’s been around for quite a long time.
Evard [was an] NPC […] of the Greyhawk Campaign [.] [Dragon #68 – 24]
That would be Gary Gygax’s Greyhawk campaign.
Evard was once only known for his eponymous spell, Evard’s black tentacles, first introduced in Dragon #67, and included in Unearthed Arcana [1e]. Little more was ever written concerning him. Most of what has been saw the light of day in Dungeon #107; the rest is rather oblique – rather fitting, considering what was written.
I assume he was a villain in Gary’s game, because he’s been a villain ever since, however enigmatic or quixotic.
Evard, Male Human Conjurer 16th-level
S10, Int 23, Wis 8, Dex 13, Con 16, Cha 13
[Dungeon #107 – 37]

Was he always evil? I suppose so. He begins as merely curious and ambitious. Ambition does not always lead to wickedness, but actively pursuing “dangerous” knowledge does not bode benevolence.
From his youth as a minor noble in the March of Bissel, the wizard Evard dedicated himself to discovering [dangerous] secrets and bending them to his will. As his magical aptitude increased, he hoped that he might carve his name into history as so many had before him, meticulously planning each move to ensure that wizards and commoners alike might know the name Evard and whisper it for all time.
Evard’s deep ambition shines through in his willingness to betray even his closest allies, all in an effort to force his inferiors to rely upon and fear him. [Dungeon #107 – 36]
His willingness to betray does nail down his wickedness, doesn’t it?
Wicked or not, he’s charming.
He’s charming enough to defuse heated discussions, but often asks pressing questions of those who come to him for knowledge. [Dungeon #107 – 37]
And appears to peddle all manner of… knowledge. What sort of knowledge might that be? Secrets, perchance? Likely.
He has agents in most major cities of the western Flanaess, and is only too happy to sell out former allies if the price is right and if he feels doing so adds to his mystique and reputation for ruthless self-interest. [Dungeon #107 – 37]
Selling out allies presumes evil intent, doesn’t it?
He must sell out allies often; he appears to prepare for the worst for any encounter:
Contingency: If Evard is incapacitated […], a magic jar activates and allows him to attempt to possess nearby creatures.
Permanent Spells: […] arcane sight, darkvision, greater magic fang +5, resistance, and tongues
[Dungeon #107 – 37]

So, when exactly is Evard active? Good Question!
And what might his world have been like? That’s another good question. Born in Bissel, and to minor nobility, his world must have been turbulent, indeed.
499 CY
His family’s world was one of conflict.
The Siege of Thornward
Ket attacked Thornward and besieged it for a year (499 CY), then continued to raid into Bissel and Veluna off and on for the next eight decades. Bissel withstood the attacks and remained independent, with the considerable support of Keoland, Furyondy, and Veluna.
The lure of fighting, political instability, and wealthy merchant lords led to an influx in adventurers, spies and mercenaries. [LGG – 33]
I’m not saying that Evard experienced these events firsthand. He surely did not. 499 was 77 years before the Folio’s date. Even were he 30 or 40 years old in 576 he would not be born yet. His parents could not have been born yet. His grandparents, though…. With an abundance of spies and mercenaries, secrets and intel must have brought a high price. One wonders: were secrets the family business? That would definitely explain why Evard turned out as he did.

He must have been active pre-576 CY if he was an NPC in Gary’s game.
So, in that vein:
Let’s assume:
541 CY
Evard is born in 541 CY. That would make him 35 in 576 CY.

576 CY
Young Evard
As a 35 year old wizard, Evard was already a personage of interest in the setting’s first publications, regardless his not being mentioned therein.
Evard’s primary weapon is information. His knowledge of arcane and historical matters rivals that of most sages (many of whom send him reports in exchange for answers to vexing questions of their own), and he offers his services to good and evil patrons alike. If he doesn’t know something, someone in his network usually does. [Dungeon #107 – 36]

He must have already been a wizard of some repute, having already penned “his spell.”
“Legendry of Phantoms and Ghosts by Evard
(phantom armor¹, phantom steed¹, phantom wind¹, Evard’s black tentacle², wraithform¹)
1: Official illusionist spells from issue #66 [& Unearthed Arcana]
2: Official magic-user spells from issue #67 [& Unearthed Arcana]
[Dragon #82 – 57]
There being both illusionist and magic-user spells within is nothing if not perplexing.

That would become a moot point in later editions, though.
Legendary of Phantoms and Ghosts
This spellbook was written by Evard. It contains the following spells: phantom armor, phantom steed, phantom wind, Evard’s black tentacles, and wraithform.
[Encyclopedia Magica - Volume III – 1191]

Was Evard ever an adventurer? I would hazard the guess that he was not. He is/was a minor noble, and if his business (indeed, his family’s business) is unearthing and selling lore and secrets – esoteric, historic, dirty, what have you… – then risking life and limb would not be in his best interest. In fact, protecting life and limb – his own – would be nearer and dearer to his heart.
Although Evard isn’t completely helpless in melee combat, he does his best to avoid being caught in situations where he’s forced to use his unarmed attacks. He prefers using multiple castings of his signature spell, Evard’s black tentacles, to hold enemies in place, after which he sends in summoned monsters and uses ranged spells to finish off his victims. [Dungeon #107 – 36]

Evard’s Black Tentacles (Conjuration/Summoning)
Level: 4
Components: V, S, M
Range: 3”
Casting Time: 8 segments
Saving Throw: Neg.
Duration: 1 round/level
Area of Effect: 1 tentacle/level of the caster in a 10’ r.
Evard’s Black Tentacles
Explanation/Description: By means of this spell the caster creates many rubbery, black tentacles in the area of effect of the dweomer. These waving members seem to spring forth from the earth, floor, or whatever surface is underfoot — including water. Each tentacle is 10’ long, AC 4, and takes as many points of damage to destroy as the magic-user who cast the spell has levels of experience. Furthermore, there will be one such tentacle for each of the levels of experience of the spell caster. Any creature within range of the writhing tentacles is subject to attack. If more than one target is within range of a tentacle, the probability of attack on each is determined and the result found by die roll. A victim of a tentacle attack must make a saving throw versus magic. If this succeeds, the victim takes 1-4 hit points of damage from initial contact with the tentacle, and it then is destroyed. Failure to save indicates that the damage inflicted will be 2-8 points, the ebon member is wrapped around its victim, and damage will be 3-12 points on the second and succeeding rounds. As these tentacles have no intelligence to guide them, there is the possibility that they will entwine any object — a tree, post, pillar — or continue to squeeze a dead opponent. Once grasped, a tentacle remains wrapped around its chosen target until the thing is destroyed by some form of attack or it disappears due to the expiration of the dweomer’s duration. The component for this spell is apiece of tentacle from a giant octopus or giant squid. (The casting of the spell requires considerable time, but it is unlikely that this is linked to the meager components.)
[Dragon #67 – 56]

Other Evard spells seem to corroborate this opinion, in my opinion:
Evard's Menacing Tentacles (Transmutation)
Evard’s Menacing Tentacles
Level: Druid 3, sorcerer/wizard 3
Components: V, S, M
Range: Personal
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Duration: 1 round/level
Target: You
Explanation/Description: Two black tentacles sprout from your shoulder blades and arch over your shoulders. The tentacles have 10-foot reach and are animate. Each round as a free action, starting on the turn when you cast the spell, you can direct each tentacle to attack one opponent within reach. The tentacles use your base attack bonus and Strength score, and each deals bludgeoning damage equal to 1d8 points + your Str modifier. The tentacles threaten the area within their reach, and each can make one attack of opportunity per round. The tentacles also grant you a +4 bonus on Climb checks. Material Component: A piece of octopus, squid, or carrion crawler tentacle.
[Players Handbook II 3.5 – 113]

Evard's All-seeing Worm (Conjuration {Evocation})
Level :Sor/Wiz 5
Components: V, S, M
Range: 0 ft
Casting Time: 1 minute
Duration : 1 day/level
Effect: One two-inch worm
Saving Throw: Negates
Spell Resistance: No
Explanation/Description: Evard researched this unusual spell to serve as a method to aid his allies or to “help” those who pay for his services, and to further his own ability to learn possible dangerous material without directly placing himself in harm’s way. When cast, this spell created a small writhing black worm in the caster’s hand. The worm can live for up to one round per caster level before it dies and the spell’s effects are wasted.
Evard’s All-seeing Worm
If the worm is placed in a creature’s mouth before the worm dies, it immediately burrows into the creature’s brain. The creature can […] resist (in which case the worm dies), otherwise the creature takes one point of damage and becomes nauseated for 1d6 rounds. After the nausea passes, the worm grants a […] bonus on Knowledge checks […] for the spell’s duration.
More importantly, the caster of the spell is constantly aware of that creature’s location and condition [.] The caster can sense the creature’s surroundings via its sensory organs by concentrating. […]
The spell […] can be ended early by reomve disease or heal, but creatures immune to diseases are not immune to this spell’s effect. The spell cannot be dispelled [.] If allowed to run its full duration […], the worm crawls out of the creature’s brain and its mouth, dealing a point of damage an[d] nauseating the victim for 1d6 rounds.
Material Component: A potion of fax’s cunning.
[Dungeon #107 – 37]

[N]ew spells for […] Evard appear on Canonfire! at:
Evards' Brightblight, Evard's Enforced Incorporation, and Evard's Decaying Darkness.

None of his spells appear particularly benign.
Nor was any artifact he artifaced.
Rod of Tentacles
This disturbing looking rod looks as though it is made out of a coiled mass of tentacles. It is warm and rubbery to the touch and wiggles slightly when held. If used in melee combat, the rod of tentacles acts as a +1 heavy mace. The rod of tentacles allows the wielder to cast Evard's Black Tentacles up to three times a day as if cast by a 15th- level wizard. Once per day, the rod can be turned into a bizarre creature that Follows the commands of the wielder. When hurled to the ground and a command word is spoken, the rod turns into a mass of writhing, slimy tentacles. […] It has the following statistics and abilities:
Constrict […]
Improved Grab […]
Immune to mind-influencing effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), and to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that require- - Fortitude save unless il also works un objects; cannot heal damage; not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, or energy drain; not at risk of death from massive damage, but destroyed when reduced to o hit points or less; cannot be raised or resurrected; darkvision 60 ft.
If the tentacle beast is killed, it immediately reverts back into the rod form and cannot be used for a full 24 hours. If the tentacle beast is destroyed through use of a disintegrate, limited wish, miracle, or wish spell, the rod is completely destroyed.
[Dragon #298 – 48,50]

Evard, like a great many wizards, had an apprentice. And possibly an accomplice.
Fastona once apprenticed under the infamous conjurer, Evard the black. [OJ#22 – 19]
Fastona Abreil
Male human wizard (conjurer) 11 [OJ#22 – 19]

Evard the Black
So, when exactly was Evard active? The earliest refence would be:
580 CY
Evard is disgraced.
An attempted insurrection by necromancers in 580 CY, possibly tied to the plight of a disgraced, evil wizard-lord known as Evard, led to harsh suppression of fringe groups and zealous punishment of treason and sedition. A general sense of distrust and self-defeatism emerged in Bissel, no doubt encouraged by certain powers that wished to see the nation fall. [LGG – 33]
[This is the first, and only, concrete date in which Evard is actually named that I am aware of.]
Was Evard involved in said insurrection? Evard is a Conjurer [3e, Dungeon #107 – 37] and not a Necromancer. That said, members of nobility are notorious social-climbers, noted throughout history for their plots and schemes and insurrections; so, Evard leading – or involved in (he is infamous for his “dangerous knowledge”) – is not without precedent, or possibility; besides, common folk could hardly be expected to recognise the difference between Conjurors and Necromancers when they might be in league with one another.
Evard is 39.

c. 582 CY
Evard's Manor
Evard would have found it necessary to find a quiet place to hold up after the insurrection.
Evard lived for a time near the village of Duponde, where he constructed a manor that existed both in the world and in the Shadowfell. [Dungeon #192 –22]
Where is Duponde? The adventure modules in which it’s featured never says; but given Evard’s connection to Bissel, placing it there is as good a locale as any other.
Duponde is a town of about 1,000 inhabitants on the banks of the White River. Many buildings within the town’s crumbling walls have been abandoned in the last hundred years, especially in the southern half of town. Heavy brush and trees grow in and among the dilapidated houses, including those that are in still-occupied areas. [Dungeon #219 – 32]

Duponde, the town featured in Dark Legacy of Evard, is the logical jumping-off point for any expedition to Evard’s manse. A small town of about 1,000, it is the settlement closest to the mansion and sits at the crossroads of several major thoroughfares. The townsfolk are pleasant, and the town’s general store sells mundane adventuring gear and common magic items.
The inhabitants know of the abandoned mansion and are willing to provide directions to it, but they make it clear that they believe the mansion is haunted and should be avoided. [Dungeon #192 – 22] [Why 582? Because the next mention of Evard also references the Greyhawk Wars.]

584 CY
Was the insurrection when Mordenkainen first clashed?
Mordenkainen's view of balance is no tit-for-tat equality, but a highly detailed and extremely 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 he has been known to work as a shadow player for malevolence. 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. luz and his underlings, particularly Kermin Mind-Bender, have hated Mordenkainen from their first meeting. [LGJ#0 – 9]

Kermin Mind-Bender
It's suggested that Evard and Mordenkainen were friends prior to their clash. They were not afterwards, obviously. Why so? Evard might have aided Ket and Iuz, hoping that by doing so he would rise above his earlier disgrace. Evard working with Iuz and Kermin would surely have turned Mordenkainen against him.
Mordenkainen has made many enemies over his lifetime, among them are Iggwilv, Tuerny the Merciless, Evard the Black, the demigod Iuz, Kermin Mind-Bender, Rary of Ket (aka the Traitor), Terik (Lord Robilar’s brother), and Bilarro (Lord Robilar from a mirror world). [OJ#25 – 15]

Evard’s apprentice was certainly stirring up the local giantkind.
The giants have held the lowlands and the income loss from the dormant mines is starting to take a toll on the ability of Keoland and Gran March to fund further action. During the most recent invasion, a group of two enterprising individuals traveled to the abode of the fire giants to instruct them on the fighting tactics of humans. Harriston crafted mighty composite bows for the giants. Fastonaa [sic] created magical armors to foil invisibility. [OJ#22 – 19]
[Placed to coincide with the giants invading Geoff and Sterich.]
This would suggest that Evard did indeed aid Iuz during the Greyhawk Wars.
[This is also the last somewhat concrete date concerning Evard that can be sourced. What follows is purely speculative.]

c. 585 CY
Every good Evil wizard must have a rival!
Vontarin, once Evard’s rival. [Dungeon #219 – 31]
Evard destroyed Vontarin in a duel almost fifty years ago. Seeing an opportunity to throw other enemies off his trail, Evard allowed the terrified townspeople to believe that he had died, not Vontarin. After arranging for the remains to be interred under a marker with his name on it, Evard wove wards of umbral magic over Vontarin’s resting place. The master of shadows then left Duponde. [Dungeon #219 – 31]
Evard is 44 years old.

The Dark Legacy of Evard
c. 590s CY
Over the years, the citizens came to believe that Vontarin left after defeating Evard, since neither wizard has since been seen in Duponde. [Dungeon #219 – 31]

During the many years since the wizard last visited the mansion, its decaying reflection has imprisoned his shadow, a dangerous creature given life during a failed experiment with the stuff of pure darkness. Long years of captivity with no company but a ragged band of Evard’s former servants, coupled with the fragmented memories inherited at its creation, have convinced the maddened shadow that it is Evard and have fostered within it an abiding hatred of those who remain free. It plans to gain its freedom and its revenge in a single grand gambit: By corrupting Evard’s neglected wards, it will force a shadowfall that will plunge the lands around the manor into the chill embrace of the Shadowfell. [Dungeon #195 – 84]

c. 625 CY
Evard, master of shadow magic, is dead—or is he?
Evard is a famous wizard who was active several decades ago. He is renowned for his mastery of shadow magic; his most famous spell is Evard’s Black Tentacles. He was ambitious and cunning, and although rumors of his death have circulated, none have ever been confirmed. He had many enemies, the most powerful of which was the wizard Mordenkainen. [Dungeon #219 – 35]
[Evard would be 84 years old.]

“Forty, fifty years back, a wizard named Vontarin lived here in Duponde. A rival, Evard—a notorious fellow, as wizards go—came to Duponde to destroy him. They fought one night with black magic and left the old monastery in ruins with their spells. Vontarin was never seen again after that night, but the friars found Evard dead in the wreckage and buried him in the town graveyard.” [Dungeon #219 – 35]

Evard’s Tomb
Nathaire, an ambitious mage eager to master the powers of shadow [.] Nathaire, has followed rumors that Evard is buried in Duponde. He plans to perform a ritual to trap Evard’s soul in a magic orb, hoping to gain Evard’s mastery of shadow magic.
Unfortunately for Nathaire, Evard is not buried in Evard’s Tomb. [Dungeon #219 – 31]

Nathaire attempts a shadow-magic ritual at Evard’s Tomb in the middle of the night. The ritual goes wrong, and Vontarin—the wizard buried in Evard’s Tomb—possesses Nathaire. [Dungeon #219 – 36]

Evard’s Tomb has been opened, but the skeleton is still in its coffin, and no sign of Nathaire can be found. [Dungeon #219 – 31]

A sinister force has the citizens of Duponde in its clutches and threatens to drag the entire town into the Shadowfell. [Dungeon #219 – 2]

Are you Nathaire? Or Vontarin?
“This body is Nathaire’s, but I am its master now. I am Vontarin, sometimes called the Gray Hand. I am a student of the necromantic arts, which allowed me to preserve my existence—after a fashion—when Evard defeated me.”
You attacked Duponde!
“The Shadowfell is full of monsters. I have no doubt some of them wander into Duponde when the town transitions to the plane of shadow. That, of course, is Evard’s curse and is not my doing. If you’re referring to the good friars of Saint Avarthil’s, well, it seemed wise to make sure the folk of Duponde fear me enough not to interfere with my plans. Consider it a sharp warning to stay out of my path. I’ll be finished with this place soon enough.” [Dungeon #219 – 84]

Evard, A Veritable Moriarty
Evard actually leaves our presumed narrative in 585 CY. What became of him is anyone’s guess. It’s suggested that he left for the Shadowfell. He might have; there’s nothing to dispute that; but he might just as easily have disappeared into Iuz’s Empire. Or he might just as easily lost himself in any major city in the Flanaess. He knows a great many people, after all; he also has a great many enemies – he must after so many betrayals. He could just as easily be dead (see enemies, above). But what would be the fun in that? Dead, he’s gone; in the Shadowfell, he’s not a viable campaign “ally” or villain. As an underworld king, however, he’s a gold mine of deceit, deception, and intrigue, a veritable Moriarty pulling your players strings from the shadows.

“I could not rest, Watson, I could not sit quiet in my chair, if I thought that such a man as Professor Moriarty were walking the streets of London unchallenged.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Final Problem

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:
Evard the Black detail, by Udon Studios, from Dungeon Magazine #107, 2004
Bissel map detail, by Darlene, for World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
Evard (?), from Dark Legacy of Evard, in Dungeon Magazine #219, 2013
Shadewing Laureate, by Igor Kieryluk, from Magic the Gathering, 2021
Promising Duskmageby Johan Grenier, from Magic the Gathering, 2021
Evard the Black, by Udon Studios, from Dungeon Magazine #107, 2004
Evard's Manor, by Chris Johnson, from Dungeon Magazine #192, 2011
Mordenkainen, by James Zhang, from Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, 2007
Kermin Mind-Bender, by Sam Wood, from Dragon #290/LGJ#6, 2001
The Dark Legacy of Evardfrom Dark Legacy of Evard, in Dungeon Magazine #219, 2013
Evard’s Tomb, from Dark Legacy of Evard, in Dungeon Magazine #219, 2013

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2017 Unearthed Arcana, 1985
2159 Players Handbook Revised 2e, 1989
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Players Handbook II 3e, 2006
Dragon Magazine #66, 67, 68, 82, 107, 298
Dungeon #192 (Dark Legacy of Evard), 219 (Evard’s Shadow)
OJ #22, 25
LGJ #0
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

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