Circle of Eight

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Circle of Eight (formed from the earlier Citadel of Eight) is a fictional group of wizards in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The Circle was originally created by Gary Gygax around 1975 as an alliance of most of his own personal Dungeons & Dragons characters. In 1988, the concept of the Circle was redeveloped by TSR as part of a new storyline for the World of Greyhawk campaign. This new Circle of Eight became a powerful cabal of wizards based in the Flanaess, the easternmost portion of Oerik. Its chief purpose seemed to be the preservation of the balance of power between the forces of Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos in the Flanaess.

Despite the organization's name, this new Circle of Eight actually has nine members, being composed of eight powerful wizards and their leader, Mordenkainen the archmage. For this reason, some sources call the group "Mordenkainen and the Circle of Eight."[1]


Gary Gygax, while helping to create the game of Dungeons & Dragons, developed a home campaign in and around the City of Greyhawk to playtest the new game. Not only was Gygax the "dungeon master" most of the time, but he also had an opportunity to be a player when his friend Rob Kuntz was the dungeon master. As a player, Gygax created many different characters for the Greyhawk world. At the point when eight of these characters — Mordenkainen (wizard), Yrag (fighter), Bigby (wizard), Rigby (cleric), Zigby (dwarf), Felnorith (elf), Vram (elf) & Vin (elf)[2] — had collectively accumulated both enough wealth that they couldn't easily spend it, as well as standing armies that rivalled most nations' forces, Gygax had the eight characters form an alliance that he called the Circle of Eight. Gygax had the Eight construct a stronghold in the middle of an evil land so they would not have to travel far to find adventure.[3] After three years of game time, the resulting structure was the Obsidian Citadel, a massive and impregnable octagonal castle[4] from which Gygax could direct any of the Eight to sally forth in search of adventure.

After Gygax was ousted from TSR in 1985, the company took over creative control of the published Greyhawk setting, including the names of any characters who had ever been named in TSR publications. In 1988, The City of Greyhawk boxed set by Carl Sargent and Rik Rose remolded Gygax's old "Circle of Eight" into a new plot device. Instead of a group of eight companions belonging to Gygax who sallied forth from an impregnable bastion to fight evil, the Circle became eight wizards brought together by Gygax's own creation now owned by TSR, Mordenkainen. For the other wizards, Sargent and Rose used the names of Greyhawk wizards, some of them created by other players, that Gygax had borrowed in order to name spells in the original Players Handbook.

A good example of this was Rary, a low-level wizard originally created by Brian Blume for Gygax's home campaign. Blume had only played Rary until he reached 3rd-level, at which point Blume retired him, having reached his objective, which was to be able to introduce his character as "Medium Rary".[5] Gygax borrowed the name "Rary" for two spells in the Player's Handbook, Rary's mnemonic enhancer and Rary's telepathic bond. Ironically, these were high-level spells, and the original Rary had never been never powerful enough to cast either of "his" spells. Now that TSR owned the rights to the name "Rary", Sargent and Rose transformed Rary into a powerful wizard and a member of this new Circle of Eight.

In addition to Mordenkainen and Rary, there were six other wizards associated with spells in the Player's Handbook that Sargent and Rose made members of their new Circle: Bigby, Otiluke, Drawmij, Tenser, Nystul, Otto. However, Sargent and Rose needed a total of nine wizards in order to have Mordenkainen and Circle of Eight, so they created a new wizard, Jallarzi Sallavarian. The mandate of this new Circle was to act as neutral referees between Good and Evil, never letting one side or the other gain the upper hand for long. In addition, Sargent & Rose took Gygax's original Obsidian Citadel, repurposed it as Mordenkainen's castle, and placed it in an unspecified location in the Yatil Mountains.[6] Game designer Ken Rolston described this new Circle of Eight as "a powerful and influential local organization of wizards".[7]

In 1990, ten years after Gygax had published the original Greyhawk setting, TSR decided that the decade-old world of Greyhawk needed to be refreshed, and moved the campaign timeline forward a decade, from 576 CY to 586 CY, in order to provide a new storyline as outlined in the new setting, Greyhawk Wars. This was a new and bleaker Greyhawk, shattered by a long war and an act of treachery that involved the Circle of Eight.

Greyhawk Wars Adventurer's Book, included with the boxed set, described this war in detail: In 582 CY (six years after Gygax's original setting of 576 CY), a regional conflict started by Iuz gradually widened until it was a continent-wide war that affected almost every nation in the Flanaess. A peace treaty was finally signed in the city of Greyhawk two years later, which is why the conflict became known as the Greyhawk Wars. On the day of the treaty-signing, Rary attacked his fellow Circle members, aided and abetted by Robilar (a fighter originally created by Ron Kuntz; however, Gygax had mentioned Robilar in several columns in TSR publications, meaning that TSR now owned the rights to the name). This treacherous attack killed Tenser and Otiluke, while Robilar and Rary fled to the deserts of the Bright Lands. With the loss of Tenser, Otiluke and Rary, the Circle of Eight now only had five members.

In a later development of the storyline in 1998 by Roger E. Moore, the adventure Return of the Eight published by Wizards of the Coast, the players meet the surviving members of the Circle of Eight (now called the "Circle of Five" because it was missing Tenser, Otiluke and Rary). If the players successfully finish the adventure, Tenser is rescued from death (although he refuses to rejoin the Circle), and the players convince three new wizards to fill the three empty spots in the Circle: Warnes Starcoat, Alhamazad the Wise, and Theodain Eriason.[8]

Fictional history[edit]

Using various TSR and Wizards of the Coast publications, a historical timeline of the post-Gygax Circle of Eight can be drawn:

The Citadel of Eight[edit]

The Citadel of Eight was formed at some point after 561 CY, and was dissolved in 569 CY. Its initial membership was Mordenkainen (its founder) and Bigby, his apprentice. The two decided to form a group to attempt to maintain the balance between the extremes of Oerth. They recruited Robilar, Riggby, Yrag, Tenser, Serten, and Otis. The name of the group was based on their number and Mordenkainen's Obsidian Citadel.

The group eventually dissolved for ideological reasons (in the case of Robilar and Otis), because of grudges between members (such as Tenser who blamed Mordenkainen for the death of Serten), or because of outright death in the case of Serten who fell in 569 CY fighting against the hordes of evil.[1]

The Circle of Eight[edit]

The Circle was founded in 571 CY by Mordenkainen, from the remnants of the Citadel.[1]

Among the group's original members were former Citadel member Bigby, as well as the wizards Bucknard, Drawmij, Leomund, Nystul, Otto, and Rary. In 574 CY, Leomund left to explore other planes of existence, and was replaced by former Citadel member Tenser.

In 576 CY, Otiluke, president of Greyhawk's Society of Magi and member of the city's Directing Oligarchy, joined the Circle. In 579 CY, Bucknard mysteriously disappeared, and was not replaced until 581 CY, when Jallarzi Sallivarian became the first woman to join the Circle of Eight.

Later in 581 CY, nearly six months after Jallarzi joined, the group met with tragedy when all its members, save Mordenkainen, were slain by Halmadar the Cruel, a former Shield Lands tyrant under the control of the fabled lich Vecna, who had somehow achieved godhood. Mordenkainen responded by assembling a group of adventurers to thwart Vecna's plans, and was able to recover the remains of his allies and clone them. The cloning took some time, which could otherwise have been used to prevent the Greyhawk Wars.[9]

By 584 CY, the Circle was fully restored and working toward an end to the Greyhawk Wars. On the eve of the day when all parties involved were to sign the treaty bringing the wars to an end, Otiluke, Tenser, and Bigby discovered a plan by the Circle's own Rary to slay all the assembled diplomats via a great magical trap. Unfortunately, Rary witnessed their discovery, and a great magical battle ensued, killing Otiluke and Tenser, and severely wounding Bigby, who was unable to pursue Rary as he escaped. Word later came that Rary's allies, among them former Citadel member Lord Robilar, had ensured Tenser's and Otiluke's deaths by destroying every clone they had prepared for such an incident. Rary and Robilar fled to the Bright Desert, southeast of Greyhawk, where they established the Empire of the Bright Lands.[10]

By 586 CY, the Circle had returned to its full membership of eight plus one. Though Tenser had been returned to life, via a clone he had hidden on one of Oerth's two moons, he had no desire to rejoin the Circle. Eventually Warnes Starcoat, Alhamazad the Wise, and the high elf Theodain Eriason, the Circle's first non-human member, replaced the three missing members.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Mona, Erik, and Gary Holian (2000). "Wheels within Wheels: Greyhawk's Circle of Eight". Living Greyhawk Journal. Paizo Publishing (#0). 
  2. ^ Gygax: "The Obsidian Citadel and its Circle of Eight was original to my own campaign. When Mordenkainen was at a level I considered too high for normal adventuring, I used the money he and his associates had amassed to construct the said fortress. The members of the 'Circle were Mordenkainen and...others of my PCs: Bigby, Yrag the fighter, Rigby the cleric, Zigby the Dwarf, the Elves Vram and Vin, and Felnorith as principles. A number of lesser PCs were [also] associated.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part III, Page 17)". EN World. 2003-07-08. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  3. ^ Gygax: "The original [Circle of Eight] was composed of my PCs--Mordenkainen, Bigby, Yrag, Rigby, Felnorith, Zigby, Vram & Vin. In the novel version the Circle was expanded to encompass other PCs in my campaign such as Tenser. It came into being because Mordenkainen and Associates had a lot of wealth stored up from successful adventuring, located a place for a stronghold deep in enemy territory to assure plenty of action, and then went to work building the citadel. As there was a small army of dwarves associated with the larger, mounted field army, the building project went relatively quickly, about three game years to complete. While it was in progress, the 'boys' were active in raiding the lands around to keep the enemy forces back on their heels." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. 2003-11-01. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  4. ^ Gygax: "The Obsidian Citadel was indeed my personal creation as a player.... It was an octagonal castle with eight wall towers and a central keep with much space between the outer wall and the inner works because of the number of troops housed in this fortress."Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VI, Page 9)". EN World. 2004-03-26. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  5. ^ Gygax: "[Rary] was one that Brian Blume created early in the D&D cycle, a magic-user that Brian wanted to work up to 3rd level so as to introduce him as 'Medium Rary.' When he gained that level Brian quit playing that PC, pretty much dropped out of regularly playing D&D in fact.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part X, Page 7)". EN World. 2006-05-29. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  6. ^ Sargent, Carl; Rose, Rik (1989). "3". The City of Greyhawk: Folks, Feuds and Factions. Lake Geneva WI: TSR Inc. pp. 20–27. ISBN 0-88038-731-9. 
  7. ^ Rolston, Ken (April 1990). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#156): 84–85. 
  8. ^ Moore, Roger E. Return of the Eight (TSR, 1998)
  9. ^ Cook, David (1990). Vecna Lives!. TSR, Inc. 
  10. ^ Cook, David (1991). Wars: History of the Greyhawk Wars. TSR, Inc.