If you’ve ever played a spellcaster in Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve probably noticed a few recurring names. Mordenkainen’s Arcane Seal, Leomund’s Tiny Hut, Otto’s Irresistible Dance, Bigby’s Hand - all of these spells are titled with the names of their creators, indicating just who created them. Some, namely Mordenkainen and Bigby, have even graced the titles of official sourcebooks, which expand upon the worldbuilding of the Forgotten Realms.
All are members of the Circle of Eight – some of the most influential wizards to ever grace the lore of Dungeons and Dragons. And if you’re mostly familiar with Faerun and the Forgotten Realms (understandably, since that has been the standard DnD setting for the past 20 years) you might be surprised to learn that none of them actually live there. Instead, these powerful wizards have made their mark across settings, proving their narrative usefulness to campaigns in any number of worlds.
Just Who are the Circle of Eight?
The Circle of Eight is a group of 8 spellcasters from Oerth, the world better known as Grayhawk. It was founded by the wizard Mordenkainen and his apprentice Bigby, after the dissolution of their previous coalition, the Citadel of Eight.
These mages work to maintain the balance between different alignments across Grayhawk. This meant that they aren’t a strictly benevolent group. If the forces of good become too overwhelming, they’re just as willing to (subtly) support the forces of evil and chaos until things balance out again.
The Members and History of the Circle of Eight
When it was first founded, the group consisted of eight powerful adventurers and spellcasters: Mordenkainen, Bigby, Nystul, Otto, Leomund, Bucknard, Drawmij, Rary, and an unnamed mage. (And, yes, you counted right. That makes 9 members of the Circle of Eight.) Over time, however, the unnamed mage, Leomund, and Bucknard were replaced by Tenser, Otiluke, and Jallarzi Sallavarian.
Then, 10 years after the founding of the Circle, the lich Vecna sent a follower to slay the circle. Mordenkainen survived, and cloned his friends’ remains, only to face betrayal. Circle member Rary (later known as Rary the traitor) set a trap to slay all other members of the group. His plans were discovered, but the ensuing fight killed both Tenser and Otiluke.
It took a few years, but eventually the Circle of Eight did fill all 9 of its seats.
Current Members of the Circle of Eight
The final (that is to say, current canon) lineup of the group is thus: Mordenkainen, Bigby, Nystul, Otto, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallevarian, Warnes Starcoat, Alhamazad the Wise, and Theodain Eriason.
Mordenkainen, Lord Mage of Grayhawk
A serious, powerful wizard known for his stubbornness and unwillingness to suffer fools. He is cynical, fond of politics and debates, and sometimes borders of paranoia. His alignment is True Neutral.
He sometimes appears in Forgotten Realms adventures, most notably Curse of Strahd (as the Mad Mage of Mount Baratok), and Descent into Avernus. He is known to have created a huge number of spells, including Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound, Mordenkainen’s Penultimate Cogitation, and Mordenkainen’s Sword.
Bigby, the Great
A shy and cautious wizard who was originally a human and reincarnated as a gnome. He was once an apprentice of Mordenkainen, but has since become a fully fledged wizard in his own right. His alignment is True Neutral.
He does not appear commonly in Forgotten Realms adventures, although the book Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants is written from his perspective. It is also the first time that he is depicted as a gnome, having apparently been resurrected into a different form. In 5e, his large number of ‘hand’ spells were condensed into Bigby’s Hand.
A lanky and awkward wizard who prefers to spend his time disguised as an elven maiden. He is known for his flippant sense of humor and love of puns, as well as his keen intelligence. His alignment is True Neutral.
Nystul is best known for creating the spells Nystul’s Magic Aura and Nystul’s Undetectable Aura.
Otto, the Great
A well-dressed and well-fed gentleman wizard who also has some ability as a cleric of Boccob (the Grayhawk god of magic and learning). He is a devout patron of art, music, and fine dining. His alignment is True Neutral.
Otto himself does not appear in any Forgotten Realm’s adventures. He did, however, act briefly as a henchman for the evil adventurer Sir Robilar. In Faerun he is best known for his musical and compulsory spells, such as Otto’s Irresistible Dance, Otto’s Silver Tongue, and Otto’s Imperative Ambulation.
A powerful but unsettling wizard whose features seem to change slightly each time someone looks at him. He has many contacts among bards, minstrels, and druids, and focuses much of his research on chronomancy. His alignment is True Neutral.
Drawmij’s best known spell is Drawmij’s Instant Summons, and he is known to have a boat that he can pilot underwater. There is also a somewhat comedic spell floating around called Drawmij’s Instant Death – this spell supposedly kills Drawmij, and no one else, whenever it is cast.
An attractive wizardess, always accompanied by her pseudodragon familiar Edwina. She is good-natured, but not naïve, and has many friends and family among the noblewomen of Grayhawk. Her alignment is Lawful Good.
Jallarzi has never been to Faerun, and has no well-known spells there. However, the witch Iggwilv (better known in the Forgotten Realms as Tasha) did once kidnap her and trap her on one of Grayhawk’s moons.
A tall, refined gentleman wizard who can always be identified by the magical coat he wears. He serves Zagyg (the Grayhawk god of humor, occult lore, and unpredictability), but nevertheless has a relatively stern and serious personality. His alignment is True Neutral.
Warnes has never been to Faerun, and has no known spells there. However, he did once thwart the schemes of Iggwilv.
Alhamazad, the Wise
An elderly, seemingly frail wizard who often appears more as a beggar than a powerful mage. He was impetuous in his youth, but is now known to be unfailingly polite. He worships Istus (the Grayhawk goddess of fate) His alignment is Lawful Neutral.
Alhamazad has never been known to visit Faerun, and has no known spells there.
A tall, pale elf wizard with an arrogant and sarcastic personality. He can sometimes seem cold or cruel, but does genuinely believe that the Circle of Eight ought to help more in Grayhawk. His alignment is Chaotic Neutral.
Theodain has never been known to visit Faerun, and has no known spells there.
Have you ever used any of the Circle of Eight in your campaigns? Which members did you use, or meet? How did the campaign go? Did we miss any interesting information about the Circle of Eight? Let us know in the comments below!