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Greyhawk Character
Mordenkainen, as depicted on the cover of Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (2007).
Homeland Yatil Mountains
Gender Male
Race Human
Age 85+ (born 509 CY)
Class Wizard
Alignment Neutral

Mordenkainen is one of the most powerful archmagi of the Flanaess. In the World of Greyhawk he has played diverse roles throughout many stories and adventures, but is most notable for being the shadow-leader of the Circle of Eight, a cabal of eight magi.

Resources about Mordenkainen sometimes disagree with each other, since even the official publications for the World of Greyhawk sometimes contradict each other. It is clear, however, that he is one of the greater heroes (or antiheroes) of the Flanaess.


Mordenkainen appears much younger than his years, perhaps in his mid-forties. He is tall, of medium build and often depicted wearing black, blue, or grey. He wears a Van Dyck beard (a mustache with a goatee) with two prominent grey streaks. Its shape has changed over the years, and in recent art is narrow and pointed, but was originally broad, covering the whole chin. He once wore his greying black hair at medium length, but since 591 CY has been shaving his pate bald, as well as trimming his goatee to a fine point. He speaks with a deep, melodic voice.

When traveling, Mordenkainen often disguises himself as a poor, elderly merchant.

Mordenkainen can be stubborn and difficult, and does not tolerate fools. He normally spends much more time listening than talking, but when he does speak, his pronouncements are authoritative and rarely questioned.


Mordenkainen has made many enemies over his lifetime, among them Evard, Iuz, Kermin Mind-Bender, Rary, Terik, and Sir Robilar. He also has many allies, including the lesser deity Dalt. He can sometimes be spotted visiting with his distant kinsman Heward, or traveling with Keoghtom and Murlynd, with Zagyg and Keoghtom, or with Keoghtom and Heward. Of course, he has access to the full resources of the Circle of Eight.

Yrag, Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Riggby, as depicted in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984).

He is distantly related to Heward, Zagyg, and Bigby. Bigby was at one point his apprentice. A current apprentice of Mordenkainen's appearing in the "The Wizards Three" articles by Ed Greenwood is Rautheene.

The "Wizards Three" articles also state that Mordenkainen is an associate of Elminster of the Forgotten Realms setting and Dalamar of the Dragonlance setting, occasionally meeting with them on the world of Earth to swap news and magic.

Mordenkainen's citadel is defended by the 12th level lawful neutral fighters Eraj and Felnorith, who ride trained griffons. His elite troops include dwarves, gnomes, and humans. Mordenkainen is also allied with a tribe of stone giants, who helped build his citadel, and a tribe of cloud giants, who offer him assistance in remembrance of his aid in defeating a flight of evil dragons who were wreaking havoc on them in 575 CY.

Mordenkainen has many friends and aides in the City of Greyhawk, but his most important are Jallarzi Sallavarian, Otto, and Ravel Dasinder.


Mordenkainen's fortress, the Obsidian Citadel, is a symmetrical castle in the Yatil Mountains. Of past and current members of the Circle of Eight, only his former adventuring companions Tenser and Bigby know its exact location. It is defended by its location in the harsh windy mountains, by illusions and other disorienting magic effects that extend into the Ethereal Plane, by wards against teleport, plane shift, and similar spells, and by the soldiers in Mordenkainen's employ.


Mordenkainen, as depicted in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984).

Greyhawk authors Carl Sargent, Erik Mona, and Gary Holian imply that Mordenkainen was born 509 CY. His birthplace is unknown, but before coming to prominence in the early 560s, he is thought to have resided on the Wild Coast. He also resided for a time in the City of Greyhawk, as well as Highfolk. He is rumored to be of Oeridian blood, possibly Aerdi. Some claim that he is a descendant of Ganz Yragerne, first Landgraf of the Selintan, which would mean he's also related to Zagig and Heward. According to some sources, he is distantly related to House Cranden, one of the royal houses of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.

About 561 CY, with his young apprentice Bigby, the warriors Robilar and Yrag, the clerics Riggby and Serten, the ranger Otis, and fellow mage Tenser, Mordenkainen formed the Citadel of Eight. The group was named for the Obsidian Citadel, Mordenkainen's stronghold in the Yatil Mountains. The Citadel disbanded after the Battle of Emridy Meadows in 569 CY, which is regarded by many as one of the most important events of the sixth century. Only Serten was present at Emridy Meadows, and he paid with his life.

Two years later, Mordenkainen formed the Circle of Eight, a cabal of eight wizards with himself acting as the ninth "shadow member" and leader. Mordenkainen felt that the failure of the Citadel was due to its composition. He felt that such a group as he envisioned could only succeed if its members were "men of intellect and sorcerous skill, whose primary interests were more than material."

Role and philosophy

Mordenkainen's role in the Flanaess is quite an unusual one - he has been described as a form of one-man peacekeeping force. Trying to prevent wars and conflicts, he operates according to some bizarre theory based on power balance and Neutrality, trying to keep neither Good nor Evil from getting the upper hand. Exactly how this is done is not entirely clear, but he is very manipulative and operates very much from the shadows.

The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000) says the following about Mordenkainen:

"Mordenkainen the Archmage formed the Circle of Eight as a tool to manipulate political factions of the Flanaess, preserving the delicate balance of power in hopes of maintaining stability and sanity in the region. Mordenkainen's view of 'enforced neutrality' is not a tit-for-tat equality but rather a detailed 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 has worked on darker plots to achieve his ends."


Mordenkainen, as depicted on the cover of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984).

Mordenkainen is responsible for developing such commonly known spells as:

  • Mordenkainen's Disjunction
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound
  • Mordenkainen's Lucubration
  • Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion
  • Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum
  • Mordenkainen's Sword

Mordenkainen has also developed the following additional spells:

  • Mordenkainen's Buzzing Bee
  • Mordenkainen's Capable Caravel
  • Mordenkainen's Celerity
  • Mordenkainen's Defense Against Lycanthropes
  • Mordenkainen's Defense Against Nonmagical Reptiles and Amphibians
  • Mordenkainen's Electric Arc
  • Mordenkainen's Encompassing Vision
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Defenders
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Guardian
  • Mordenkainen's Faithful Phantom Shield-Maidens
  • Mordenkainen's Force Missiles
  • Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry
  • Mordenkainen's Penultimate Cogitation
  • Mordenkainen's Protection From Avians
  • Mordenkainen's Protection From Insects and Arachnids
  • Mordenkainen's Protection From Slime
  • Mordenkainen's Trusted Bloodhound



Mordenkainen is known to have authored or co-authored the following works:

  • Architecture (with Leomund)
  • The Codex of Mordenkainen
  • Cosmogony of Magnetic Fluids
  • Dark Sides of the Memory
  • Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers
  • Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium (co-written with his apprentices)
  • On The Rise of Magecraft and Modernity
  • Weapons of the Ether (with Melf)

Creative origins

Originally a player character invented by Gary Gygax, Mordenkainen's name is derived from the names Mordecai and Lemminkainen.

Publishing history

Mordenkainen's AD&D statistics were first published in The Rogues Gallery (1980). His statistics were updated in Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984), The City of Greyhawk (1989), and Epic Level Handbook (2002).

Mordenkainen also figured prominently in the parody adventure Castle Greyhawk (1988), where he is running a film studio from the eleventh dungeon level, selling low-budget fantasy movies to Hollywood. His game statistics in that module are different from those in canonical presentations (he is 29th level compared to his 20th level in The City of Greyhawk, with mostly higher ability scores), and he is given apprentices mentioned nowhere else: Cort, Gort, Mort, Port, Qort, Vort, Xort, and Yort (perhaps this is a reference to Gary Gygax's habit of naming his player characters and henchmen with names that rhyme with "Bigby"). All of Mordenkainen's apprentices have identical statistics. This adventure, written by Ray Winninger, differs from canon in other respects: Tenser appears as a floating head in a jar, and Mordenkainen's stronghold is in the Great Kingdom rather than the Yatils. This parody Mordenkainen also has a female companion (a "very special friend"), Fiona. The whole adventure is evidently inspired by the fact that Mordenkainen's player Gary Gygax acted as TSR's liason to Hollywood during his later years at the company, helping to develop the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon along with other projects.

Mordenkainen also played a significant role in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (2007).

Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium (2011) is presented in-character as a catalog of magical items written by Mordenkainen's apprentices, their notes magically appearing in Mordenkainen's "master copy." The excerpts from Mordenkainen's copy of the Magnificent Emporium that appear throughout the text were gleaned by his apprentice Qort (originally mentioned in the parody module Castle Greyhawk) before Mordenkainen burnt the pages of his original and disintegrated the ash.


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  • Bailey, Robin Wayne. Night Watch. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
  • Blume, Brian, David Cook, and Jean Wells. The Rogues Gallery. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1980.
  • Collins, Andy, Bruce R. Cordell, and Thomas M. Reid. Epic Level Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
  • Heard, Bruce. "Spells Between the Covers." Dragon #82. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1984.
  • Williams, Skip, Penny Williams, Ari Marmell, and Kolja Raven Liquette. Complete Mage. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2006.

External link