Bigby (Greyhawk)

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World of Greyhawk character
HomeVeluna (formerly Onnwal)

Bigby is an archmage in the fictional World of Greyhawk campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game. Before the Greyhawk Wars, Bigby made his home in Scant, capital of Onnwal. In the current setting, he can often be found in Mitrik, Veluna. His personal symbol is an open palm behind a large, stylized bumblebee.

Creative origins[edit]

Bigby was created by Rob Kuntz as a low-level non-player character evil wizard in the early dungeons of Greyhawk in 1973. Gary Gygax's character, the wizard Mordenkainen, encountered Bigby. The two wizards engaged in combat; Mordenkainen managed to subdue Bigby using a charm spell, and forced Bigby to become his servant. Kuntz ruled that Bigby would be Mordenkainen's servant as long as he remained under the charm spell, but until Gygax, through roleplaying, had won Bigby's loyalty, the evil wizard would remain a non-player character under Kuntz's control. After a long time and several adventures, Mordenkainen managed to convince Bigby to leave his evil ways behind, and Kuntz ruled that it was safe to remove the charm spell, since Bigby had changed from an enemy to a loyal henchman; therefore Gygax could use Bigby as a player character.[1][2] For a time after this, Kuntz ruled that all the names of Mordenkainen's future henchmen had to rhyme with Bigby. This resulted in Zigby the dwarf; Rigby the cleric; Sigby Griggbyson the fighter; Bigby's apprentice, Nigby; and Digby, who eventually replaced Bigby as Mordenkainen's new apprentice.[3]

Thereafter, Gygax developed Bigby into a powerful wizard second only to Mordenkainen, and eventually Bigby became one of the original members of Gygax's Circle of Eight, a group of adventurers made up of eight of Gygax's own characters.

When Gygax wrote TSR's AD&D Players Handbook, he borrowed Bigby's name to describe a series of "hand" spells (Bigby's crushing hand, Bigby's grasping hand, etc.). This custom continued on in later versions of D&D, with over two dozen "hand" spells eventually ascribed to Bigby.

When Gygax was forced out of TSR in 1985, he lost the rights to most of his characters, including Mordenkainen and Bigby.[4] Bigby is one of the famous mages of the Greyhawk setting whose spells were included in the 1988 Greyhawk Adventures hardbound.[5][6] Bigby was reintroduced as a member of a repurposed Circle of Eight in 1989 in The City of Greyhawk boxed set, where he appeared as part of a cabal of nine wizards who sought to balance the forces of Good and Evil in the world.[7] He also appeared in the adventure Vecna Lives!, where he was temporarily killed by an ancient warlord armed with the hand and eye of Vecna.[8] When TSR decided to reboot the World of Greyhawk campaign setting in 1991, Carl Sargent moved the storyline of the setting forward a decade to 585 CY, the year after the end of a continental war called the Greyhawk Wars. By this time, Bigby had returned to life via the agency of a clone spell, and was once again a member of the Circle, now known as the Circle of Five after the deaths of Tenser and Otiluke and the treason and departure of Rary.

Bigby remained a potent character in subsequent versions of the Greyhawk setting, which updated the storyline to 591 CY.


Material developed by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) describes Bigby in the year 591 CY: the character is nearly 58 years old, stands 5'11" tall, being extremely gaunt weighs only 149 pounds, and bears light brown hair, brown eyes, and Oeridian facial features despite his pale skin. He is described as quiet, introverted, and soft-spoken, and appears perpetually nervous and overcautious about everything; "I think we should be very careful about what we're about to do" is his pet phrase. His characterization also focuses on the puritanical and ascetic, making him one to eschew pleasures of the flesh.


The Greyhawk materials list Bigby as a scion of the Aerdi House Cranden with Sir Oslan Knarren as one ancestor.

The former apprentice of Mordenkainen, Bigby is counted among the Circle of Eight and as a former member of the Citadel of Eight[citation needed]. Per the narrative, he helped found both groups.

Bigby's allies include the characters Cobb Darg and Elayne Mystica of Irongate; his enemies are the Scarlet Brotherhood (which occupies his adopted home of Scant), the lich Xaene, and the traitorous former Circle of Eight member Rary.


The following information is outlined in material developed for the Greyhawk campaign world by TSR and Wizards of the Coast (WotC):


Bigby was born in the town of Oldridge in approximately 534 CY. He traveled to the Wild Coast early in life and became an apprentice of Mordenkainen. Together, the two founded the Citadel of Eight in 561 CY.

Quest against Iuz[edit]

In 570 CY, Bigby ventured beneath Castle Greyhawk with Tenser and Neb Retnar in an attempt to stop Robilar's scheme to release the demigod Iuz from Zagyg's Godtrap. They arrived too late to prevent the release, but acted to help Robilar finish the weakened cambion off. Although Bigby nearly succeeded in destroying Iuz's physical body with his Crushing Hand spell, Iuz managed to teleport away at the last minute.

Travels and Alliances[edit]

In 571 CY, Mordenkainen and Bigby founded the Circle of Eight. Bigby was forced to leave his tower in Oldridge in 573 thanks to intrigue with Xaene, then court wizard to Ivid V, causing him to relocate to Scant. There, he posed as a merchant of rare goods and built an alliance within the Iron League.

At some point, a large statue of Bigby was constructed in the otherworldly city of Sigil, although it is far from clear how this came to be.

Quest against Halmadar[edit]

In 581 CY, Tenser accompanied Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, and Rary to the tomb of Halmadar the Cruel. Every member of the party died that day, though they were brought back to life later through the agency of clone spells.

Betrayal by Rary[edit]

The Circle was betrayed in 584 CY, when Tenser, Bigby, and Otiluke discovered a plan by the Circle's own Rary to slay a number of diplomats assembled in Greyhawk to sign the treaty ending the Greyhawk Wars. Unfortunately, Rary witnessed their discovery, and a great magical battle ensued, resulting in the deaths of Otiluke and Tenser, and severely wounding Bigby, who was unable to pursue Rary as he escaped.

Recent events[edit]

Of late, Bigby has abandoned some of his earlier caution, although he is still thoughtful and conservative in temperament.


When Gary Gygax developed new spells for Dungeons & Dragons, he often borrowed wizards' names to give the spell names more verisimilitude.[citation needed] He borrowed the name of Bigby for various "hand" spells, which appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook:

  • Bigby's Clenched Fist
  • Bigby's Crushing Hand
  • Bigby's Forceful Hand
  • Bigby's Grasping Hand
  • Bigby's Interposing Hand

The above appear in all three editions of the Player's Handbook, while the following are in Player's Handbook II:

  • Bigby's Disrupting Hand
  • Bigby's Helpful Hand
  • Bigby's Striking Fist
  • Bigby's Tripping Hand
  • Bigby's Warding Hand

Bigby's name has also been associated with the following additional spells:[citation needed]

  • Bigby's Battering Gauntlet
  • Bigby's Besieging Bolt
  • Bigby's Bookworm Bane
  • Bigby's Construction Crew
  • Bigby's Dextrous Digits
  • Bigby's Fantastic Fencers
  • Bigby's Feeling Fingers
  • Bigby's Force Sculpture
  • Bigby's Grasping Hands
  • Bigby's Most Excellent Force Sculpture
  • Bigby's Pugnacious Pugilist
  • Bigby's Silencing Hand
  • Bigby's Slapping Hand
  • Bigby's Strangling Grip
  • Bigby's Superior Force Sculpture

In the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there exists only the one Bigby's Hand spell, though it has combined four effects from previous "hand" spells into one, which can be chosen while casting and after casting the spell:

  • Clenched Fist
  • Forceful Hand
  • Grasping Hand
  • Interposing Hand


In keeping with the hand theme, Bigby is also given as the in-game author of Manual Powers Beyond Life.


  1. ^ Gygax: "Mordenkainen was adventuring in Rob's dungeon when he surprised a 3rd level magic-user of Evil persuasion. Mordie's charm spell worked on that worthy, whose name turned out to be Bigby. By dint of fellowship, lecturing, mentoring, and sharing with Bigby, he was not only turned from [Evil] to Neutral, but from there to a leaning towards [Good] as he considered his past actions." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IX, Page 24)". EN World. 2006-08-08. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  2. ^ Q: "I heard a story which made it sound like Bigy was an NPC that you charmed and [who] later became your PC." Gygax: "Mordenkainen did indeed manage to get the drop on Bigby, [and] charm him. At the time Bigby was a 3rd-level [Evil] dungeon dweller. By word and deen Mordie brought him around from [Evil] to [Neutral], and thus Bigby became his apprentice. I got to roll the stats for that character after Rob [Kuntz] determined he was a loyal henchman of Mordenkainen." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VIII, Page 3)". EN World. 2005-02-19. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  3. ^ "What's in a Name? Call it Whatever, But it Still Smells Sweet". Dragon. Bellevue WA: Paizo (318). April 2004.
  4. ^ Gygax: "Anagrams of my name are exclusively my property according to my settlement agreement with TSR, so that is how I can use Zagyg, or Zagig, as well as Yrag.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IX, Page 91)". EN World. 2005-10-20. Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  5. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 101. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  6. ^ Bambra, Jim (March 1989). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#143): 71–72.
  7. ^ Niles, Douglas, and Carl Sargent. The City of Greyhawk (TSR, 1989)
  8. ^ Cook, David. Vecna Lives! (TSR, 1990)

Further reading[edit]