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Game background
Title(s) The Mad Arch-Mage
Home plane Concordant Opposition
Power level Demigod
Alignment Chaotic Neutral
Portfolio Humor, eccentricity, occult lore, unpredictability
Domains Chaos, Knowledge, Magic, Rune, Spell
Superior Boccob
Design details

In the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, Zagyg (formerly known as "Zagig Yragerne") is the god of Humor, Eccentricity, Occult Lore, and Unpredictability. His symbol is the rune of insanity.

Creative origins[edit]

When Gary Gygax first created the dungeons underneath Castle Greyhawk in 1972, the complex labyrinth encompassed 13 levels filled with devious traps, secret passageways, hungry monsters and glittering treasure. For anyone who made it to the bottom level alive, the insane architect of the dungeons, Zagyg, awaited them. ("Zagyg" is a reverse homophone of "Gygax", and was Gygax's inside joke that the person who designed this crazy, purposeless place—himself—must be insane. In later material, Gygax expanded Zagyg's name to "Zagig Yragerne", a reverse homophone of his full name, Ernest Gary Gygax.)[1] Only three players ever made it to the bottom level and met Zagyg, all of them during solo adventures: Rob Kuntz (playing Robilar), Gygax's son Ernie (playing Tenser), and Rob's brother Terry (playing Terik).[2] Their reward was that Zagyg instantly transported them to the far side of the world on a giant slide,[3] where they each faced a long solo trek back to the city of Greyhawk.

Shortly afterwards, Gygax asked Rob Kuntz to become co-Dungeon Master of Castle Greyhawk, and erased Zagyg and the 13th level of his own dungeon to make way for Kuntz's material. (Eventually the dungeons co-created by Gygax and Kuntz would fill more than 50 levels.)

Ten years later, Gygax resurrected Zagyg as a demigod in his article "The Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk" that appeared in Issue #70 of Dragon.[4]

Subsequent material revealed that Zagyg had once been an archmage and mayor of the Free City of Greyhawk.

When Gygax was forced out of TSR in 1985, he lost the rights to most of the characters he has used in TSR material, except for characters whose names were based on anagrams or words plays of his own names, such as "Yrag" (Gary) and "Zagyg". TSR also continued to use the name in subsequent editions of D&D.

When Gygax republished some of the details of Castle Greyhawk in 2005, he changed the name of the castle to Castle Zagyg, since he no longer owned the rights to the name Greyhawk.

Publication history[edit]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)[edit]

Zagyg was first detailed for the Dungeons & Dragons game in "The Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk" by Gary Gygax in Dragon #70 (1983).[5] Zagyg was subsequently detailed in the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (1983),[6] and in Greyhawk Adventures (1988).[7]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)[edit]

Zagyg was one of the deities described in the From the Ashes set (1992), for the Greyhawk campaign,[8] and appeared again in Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (1998).[9]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)[edit]

Zagyg's role in the 3rd edition Greyhawk setting was defined in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000).[10]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)[edit]

Zagyg relationship to Boccob was expanded upon in Dragon #338 (2005), in the "Core Beliefs" column.[11]

Castles & Crusades (2005-2008)[edit]

Castle Zagyg: Volume 1 Yggsburgh by Gary Gygax was released in 2005.

The Dark Chateau by Robert J. Kuntz[12] is an adventurer module that takes place in the former residence of the Mad Arch-Mage Zagyg.

At GenCON 40 in 2007, where Gary Gygax was the Guest of Honor, the long awaited Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works[13] made its debut at the Troll Lord Games booth.


Zagyg's appearance varies, though he is usually garbed in blue and silver. As a mortal, Zagyg was a short, heavyset human with round, often flushed, face.

Clergy and temples[edit]

Zagyg has very few priests. They enjoy bringing humor and strangeness into the lives of others, and can often be found working as bards. They also seek to uncover lost magical knowledge.


Zagyg was born Zagig Yragerne in Hardby in 277 CY. The son of Despotrix Eileme Yragerne, Zagyg is a descendant of Ganz Yragerne, second Lord Mayor of the Free City of Greyhawk, and Maro Yragerne, a former Despotrix of Hardby. Sometime around 310 CY, Zagyg made his way to Greyhawk, where he bribed the members of the city's Directing Oligarchy for a seat on their board, then somehow convinced them to elect him Lord Mayor of the city.[14]

In 339 CY, Zagig's mother died. As her sole heir, Zagig became the first (and only) Despot of Hardby, as well as inheriting the title of Landgraf of the Selintan, an old Great Kingdom provincial title applied to the ruler of the area now known as the Domain of Greyhawk. In 351, Zagig renounced the title of Despot, leaving the Gynarchy of Hardby to choose another Despotrix to rule the city.

Regarded by many as Greyhawk's greatest Lord Mayor and citizen, Zagig is in many ways responsible for making Greyhawk what it is today. He reformed Greyhawk's legal code, established a currency for the city, founded the Greyhawk Guild of Wizardry, brought scholars to the city to found colleges, oversaw the creation of the mining towns of Diamond Lake and Steaming Springs in the Cairn Hills, and organized the city's first Desportium of Magick. He also oversaw the construction of the city's sewers, the Free City Arena, and Castle Greyhawk. It was Zagig who named Greyhawk the "Gem of the Flanaess," in a speech voicing his wish that Greyhawk become the "keystone of civilization."

However, for all the good Zagig brought to the city, he also brought much peril. Always eccentric, Zagig's sanity began to gradually decline after 370 CY, and many of Greyhawk's citizens lived in fear of his outbursts of humor and rage. In 395, Zagig voiced his plans to enclose Greyhawk's New City in walls made of elemental forces, such as fire and water. Though most citizens felt this would endanger their lives, Zagig seemed not to care. In the minutes of a typical meeting of the city Directors in Growfest, 400 CY, it is noted that Zagig was attended by a black dragon he had brought from the Mistmarsh, several homonculi, and a flesh golem clothed as the Overking of the Great Kingdom.

Then on Coldeven 8, 421 CY, Zagig failed to show up for a meeting of the Directing Oligarchy. Though he had given no sign of his intentions, Zagig was not seen by mortals on Oerth again. Every year on this anniversary, the Lord Mayor and Directing Oligarchy share a meal of bread and water, in commemoration of the return to normalcy occasioned by Zagig's disappearance.

Sometime during his reign as mayor, Zagig is said to have used powerful magic to capture and imprison the demon prince Fraz-Urb'luu, who only recently escaped his confinement. Iggwilv would later on use what she had learned from his attempt to imprison her own demon lord, Graz'zt, and conquer Perrenland.

In 505 CY, Zagyg succeeded in capturing nine demigods of opposing alignments and imprisoning them beneath Castle Greyhawk. It was later learned that the capture of these deities was required as part of Zagyg's apotheosis. Those known to have been captured include Iuz (oddly enough, the son of Iggwilv and Graz'zt), Wastri, Merikka and Rudd. Olidammara attempted to free Rudd, but was himself captured and transformed for a time into a small, carapaced animal. Most of Zagyg's captives did manage to eventually escape (including Iuz, who was freed in 570 CY by Lord Robilar), although Zuoken is rumored to have been one of the original captives and may remain a prisoner.

By the time of Iuz's escape, it was revealed by Mordenkainen that Zagig Yragerne was alive and well, and in fact, had become a demigod in the service of Boccob, god of magic. Zagig is now known as "Zagyg", a variant spelling of his name which he sometimes used when signing documents as Lord Mayor. A number of members of the Circle of Eight began honoring Zagyg, most likely for his magical prowess (it is said that no greater mortal mage has ever lived, except perhaps Vecna). The Mad Arch-Mage's cult has since that time achieved a minor following, though it has yet to gain any strength in Greyhawk City.


  1. ^ Gygax: "Zagyg is based on a sort of joke--me as the mad designer of Greyhawk Castle and its dungeons. After all, how else could such a place exist? "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part I, Page 18)". EN World. 2002-09-20. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  2. ^ Gygax: "Rob, playing Robilar solo, delved into the dungeon, made it. Ernie, noting Rob's absence from adventuring with the party, sent Tenser on a solo quest to discover Robilar's whereabouts. He managed to follow a similar path, and made level 13. Then Terry Kuntz noted both of his usual companions were not available to play, went forth with Terik, and made the lowest level successfully... No other players in the group managed that.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part III, Page 11)". EN World. 2003-05-13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  3. ^ Gygax: "When a character got down to this level there was no going back. The one managing that was given an appropriate reward then sent on a giant, one-way slide clear through to the other side of the world." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part III, Page 11)". EN World. 2003-05-13. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary. "The Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk." Dragon #70 (TSR, 1983)
  5. ^ Gygax, Gary. "The Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk." Dragon #70 (TSR, 1983)
  6. ^ Gygax, Gary. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (TSR, 1983)
  7. ^ Ward, James M. Greyhawk Adventures (TSR, 1988)
  8. ^ Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes (TSR, 1992)
  9. ^ Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (TSR, 1998)
  10. ^ Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  11. ^ Reynolds, Sean K. "Core Beliefs: Boccob." Dragon #338 (Paizo Publishing, 2005)
  12. ^ Kuntz, Robert (November 2005). Dark Chateau. ISBN 1-931275-69-6. 
  13. ^ Gygax, Gary; Jeffery P. Talanian (August 2007). Castle Zagyg, The Upper Works. ISBN 978-1931275385. 
  14. ^

Additional reading[edit]