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Red Wizards of Thay

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The Red Wizards, formerly known as the Red Wizards of Thay before a coup led by Szass Tam, are an organization of wizards in Faerûn. During their height of power, the Red Wizards were the notorious and nefarious spellcasting ruling class of the inhospitable but well-inhabited country of Thay. Slavers, demonologists, and magical experimenters, the Red Wizards were much feared by most of Faerûn. They constantly schemed to bring down their neighboring nations of Rashemen, where they were thwarted by the equally famed magicians the Witches of Rashemen; Aglarond, where they were turned back by the Simbul of the Seven Sisters; and Mulhorand, where the people of Thay first emigrated from.

The leaders of the Red Wizards, and of Thay, were the eight zulkirs, each for a different school of magic. Chief amongst these, and, indeed, among all Red Wizards was Szass Tam, a powerful archmage and feared lich and now the ruler of Thay and sworn enemy of the Red Wizards who escaped him. Since Szass Tam's takeover, the Red Wizards have transformed enormously, becoming a loosely organized chain of merchant enclaves who specialized in procuring magical items.[3]


The Red Wizards at their height were the enemies of many forces in Toril and received support from demons, devils, and drow. Amongst those who opposed them were the Witches of Rashemen, the Seven Sisters and their allies, the goodly Harpers, and even the Zhentarim, who disliked the Wizards encroaching on their territory.

After another failed attempt at securing Rashemen in 1357 DR, the Red Wizards planned to infiltrate the nations of Faerûn legitimately — in Thayan enclaves which would publicly sell magic items and quietly also traffic drugs, wicked spells, and slaves. Using these they hoped to eventually have strongholds and resulting political infiltration that would make them indispensable and powerful, and eventually get them something along the lines of world domination.

Despite the general distrust and dislike that most felt towards the Red Wizards, the mages were still able to extend their power to almost every corner of the Realms, running their enclaves as planned in towns where slaving was otherwise banned. From here they ran a lucrative business in the trade of magical items, spells and artifacts, making them virtually indispensable to many of their clients, and as such the wizards expanded their sphere of influence ever further.

4e red wizards

Red Wizards of Rose Keep, circa 1479 DR.

The coup in Thay changed all this however. Szass Tam's rise to power as the regent of Thay resulted in civil war between himself and the other zulkirs for control. To defeat the zulkirs Szass Tam used the Spellplague to devastate the land, ending the civil war through an even greater disaster. The rebel zulkirs were driven from Thay, as were their followers but the Red Wizards' dark plots came back to haunt them and many of the order's enemies took the opportunity caused by the upheaval to assault the many enclaves the Red Wizards had spread throughout the world.[4]

The final blow to the Red Wizards as they once stood came when the last remaining zulkirs, decades later, interrupted Szass Tam's plot to become a being of godlike power, preventing his ritual from reaching completion.[4] Their efforts cost them their lives but likely saved Faerûn from one of the greatest threats it might have ever faced and prevented Szass Tam from ever attempting the ritual again - at least so long as it was conducted on Thayan soil.[5] For the Red Wizards however, the death of the zulkirs ended what the Red Wizards once had been and gave way for the new order.

The Red Wizards in the end transformed their old enclaves into their homes. What had once been a facade of a purpose, the accumulation of profit through selling magical items, became fact as the Red Wizards' goals transformed entirely.[3] By 1479 DR few individuals associated the name "Red Wizard" with Thay but instead with a loose confederacy of merchant arcanists and those who believed otherwise were, in fact, mistaken.[3]

Many traditions of the old Red Wizards were lost in the transformation and modern Red Wizards don't maintain the same Mulani traditions of shaved heads and tattoos that the old organization did. Most of the Red Wizards are actual wizards, but not all are, and the title of Red Wizard is generally inherited from parent to child, with exceptions in the case of adoption or marriage whereas in the past the Red Wizards were recruited from talented wizards. Red Wizard enclaves are essentially self-run, some by a single individual, others by a small council of wizards. Most of these enclaves are found within the lands bordering the Sea of Fallen Stars and those nations where Red Wizards are found almost certainly have an enclave within their capital city.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 60. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
  2. Sean K. Reynolds, Jason Carl (November 2001). Lords of Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 60. ISBN 0-7869-1989-2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bruce R. Cordell “Rose Keep: A Red Wizard Enclave”. Dragon #366 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 42.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 180. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  5. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.

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