Mordenkainen, Tasha, and Fizban: the great wizards of D&D history

Evard’s Black Tentacles. Melf’s Acid Arrow. Leomund’s Tiny Hut. Have you ever looked at these spells and thought, man, who are these people? If so, this post is for you! I’ve gone on a little trawl through D&D history to find out more about these famous spell creators. As always with this sort of thing, please let me know in the comments if I have got anything wrong. Oh, and there may be spoilers.

I have sorted the spell creators by sourcebook. If they are featured in more than one sourcebook, I have listed the first sourcebook by order of publication. Beyond that, they are alphabetical, as normal.

Player’s Handbook

Bigby, Drawmij, and Evard

Bigby

Bigby’s Hand

Bigby was created by Gary Gygax’s friend Rob Kuntz as an evil NPC. The story goes that Kuntz was DMing, and Gygax managed to subdue Bigby with a charm spell, making him his servant. Overtime, Bigby left his evil ways behind and became a loyal henchman and a member of the Circle of Eight.

Drawmij

Drawmij’s Instant Summons

Another wizard from one of Gygax’s early games, this one created by Jim Ward – Drawmij backwards. Like Bigby, he was a member of the Circle of Eight.

Evard

Evard’s Black Tentacles

Also known as Evard the Black, Evard was an evil archmage and enemy of Mordenkainen. He was also known to have created Evard’s All-Seeing Worm and Evard’s Menacing Tentacles, but it’s Evard’s Black Tentacles he is most famous for.

Melf, Mordenkainen, and Otto

Leomund

Leomund’s Secret Chest, Leomund’s Tiny Hut

Another member of the Circle of Eight. He was created by artist Lenard Lakofka, a frequent playtester of the early rules. Other spells attributed to Leomund include Leomund’s Hidden Lodge, Leomund’s Secret Chest, and Leomund’s Secure Shelter.

Melf

Melf’s Acid Arrrow

Also known as Prince Brightflame, Melf was an elven wizard played by Luke Gygax, Gary Gygax’s son. Like Bigby and Drawmij, he was a member of Circle of Eight.

Mordenkainen

Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum, Mordenkainen’s Sword

Mordenkainen has a claim to being the oldest known D&D character in existence, since he was the favourite character of Gary Gygax, one of the game’s co-creators. He started life as a 1st-level wizard in 1973. Since then, he has become a prolific archmage who has left his home world of Oerth (Greyhawk) and travelled far across the multiverse. He appears in a 5th edition adventure, but it would be a massive spoiler to tell you which one.

Nystul

Nystul’s Magic Aura

Another member of the Circle of Eight, Nystul developed a significant number of spells such as Nystul’s Magic Aura and Nystul’s Undetectable Aura. He was extremely tall (6 ft 7) and was probably the most famous native of the Duchy of Tenh.

Otiluke

Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere, Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere

Another archmage from Greyhawk, and another member of the Circle of Eight. He was rather puny-looking and lacked common sense.  

Otto

Otto’s Irresistible Dance

You guessed it: another member of the Circle of Eight! A short, rotund man with curly hair, known to be a lover of fine foods and music.

Rary

Rary’s Telepathic Bond

Rary betrayed the Circle of Eight and was responsible for the deaths of Otiluke and Tenser. Consequently, he was also known as ‘Rary the Traitor’.

Tasha

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

This one has a cute story behind it: the original spell was named after a little girl who wrote a letter to Gygax in crayon, asking him to create a spell involving laughter. Tasha is also an alias for Iggwilv, one of the most famous villains in D&D lore who created the Demononicon and first appeared in the classic 1982 adventure The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Tenser

Tenser’s Floating Disk

Like Mordenkainen, Tenser is one of the oldest characters in the game. He was created in autumn 1972 by Gygax’s son Ernie to play through the first level of Castle Greyhawk; ‘Tenser’ is an angram of ‘Ernest’. There have been many other Tenser spells over the last 50 years, including Tenser’s Transformation in the 3rd-edition Player’s Handbook, but it is Tenser’s floating disk that he is most famous for.  

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Abi-Dalzim

Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting

I admit defeat on this one: I haven’t been able to track down who Abi-Dalzim was! Please let me know in the comments if you know.

Aganazzar

Aganazzar’s Scorcher

One of the first non-Greyhawk wizards on this list, Aganazzar founded Neverwinter’s School of Wizardry and died in a battle with the Red Wizards of Thay.

Maximilian

Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp

Here’s a fun one: no one knows the origins of this spell! It has existed since at least 2nd edition AD&D, where it appeared in Tome of Magic (1991), but no one seems to know who Maximilian was.

Snilloc

Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm

Dave Collins created a number of spells in Jeff Grubb’s original campaign setting and attributed them to ‘Snilloc’, which of course is Collins backwards.

Acquisitions Incorporated

Jim

Jim’s Glowing Coin, Jim’s Magic Missile

James Winifred ‘Jim’ Darkmagic III is a supremely arrogant and shamelessly self-promoting human wizard and the co-founder of Acquisitions Incorporated. In the D&D podcast of the same name, he is portrayed by American artist Michael Krahulik. You  can watch him in action at PAX Unplugged 2019 here:

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons

Ashardalon

Ashardalon’s Stride

If you’ve ever played the (fantastic) 3rd edition The Sunless Citadel, the name ‘Ashardalon’ might mean something to you. The Sunless Citadel was the first of eight adventures culminating in Bastion of Broken Souls, where the greatwyrm Ashardalon had built a lair in the Astral Plane and was feeding off the souls of the unborn.  

Fizban

Fizban’s Platinum Shield

In the Dragonlance setting, Fizban the Fabulous was a slightly doddery old wizard who turned out to be an avatar of the god Paladine (essentially Bahamut, the god of good dragons). His seven pet canaries were all gold dragons in disguise.

Nathair

Nathair’s Mischief

Nathair was a fairie dragon, possibly the god of the faerie dragons, and a member of the Seelie Court. He loved pranks – hence this spell!

Raulothim

Raulothim’s Psychic Lance

An emerald greatwyrm from the Moonshae Isles with a long D&D history. Known as ‘the Silent Shadow’, he was a powerful spellcaster and a master of psionics.

Rime

Rime’s Binding Ice

Another one I must admit defeat on. I assume this is an ancient white dragon, but Googling only throws up the 5th edition adventure Rime of the Frostmaiden. Help me out in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Mordenkainen, Tasha, and Fizban: the great wizards of D&D history

  1. I hate to be remiss, but what about the mention of Elminster? I believe he was a wizard of no small talent in a little land called the Forgotten Realms.

      1. Several Epic Level spells are named after their creators like Ioulaum, Lefeber, Mavin, Proctive, Tolodine, Valdick and Aumvor…if you wanted to include Netherese spells which can no longer be cast.

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