AD&D 2e, Carl Sargent, Curious Evolution, Greyhawk

The Curious History of Philidor the Blue Wizard

A wizard casting spells from his magic circle by the light of his cauldron surrounded by creatures. by J. Wood 1763

Carl Sargent introduced a treasure trove of curiosities to the World of Greyhawk during the early 1990s as he helped reshape the setting, but perhaps none was more tantalizing than Philidor the Blue Wizard, Archmage of Oerth. Philidor made his first appearance in 1992’s From the Ashes boxed set where he was described as follows:

Philidor stands 6’4” tall, weights 210 lbs., and appears to be in his mid-thirties. His appearance is singular and unmistakable. His skin is light blue all over his body, his hair is azure, and his eyes are dark blue, save for the pale blue corneas. He appears to be a human male, but should he polymorph himself, his skin, hair, and yes will always be a mix of blue colors. Likewise, he always wears blue garments with a little white or cream edging or decoration.”

Ashes, pg 83

Everything about Philidor was designed to be a mystery. He never eats out, doesn’t attend places like the Royal Opera House, and doesn’t mix with the political powers of Greyhawk City. Even asking him a personal question required a check against the average of the Wisdom and Constitution scores of the person asking or the individual would become confused and unable to continue on that line of questioning.

To quote the text:

Philidor is a mystery and an enigma, and much about him is deliberately left unspecified for the DM’s freedom . . . Keep him a mystery. Maybe we’ll tell you more about him later. . .”

Ashes, pg 83-84

And they did tell us more.

Two important facts stick out at this point. First, it is recognized that Philidor is probably not native to Oerth, though even this is couched an language that could make it untrue. The second note is that the text mentions that Philidor appeared a year to the day before the Pact of Greyhawk was signed. This fact is so important that the text makes mention of it multiple times and draws a connection to Philidor’s appearance and Iuz’s rise to power in the world.

Elsewhere in From the Ashes we find out that Philidor has been having a major effect on the Wizards of Greyhawk. On page 9 of the Campaign Book it’s noted that Philidor has been causing problems with the Wizard Guild’s senior ranks. It appears that everyone recognizes him as a supremely skilled wizard, and while he is responsive to their invitations he never returns the favor. He’s a figure respected by his peers but mistrusted because he doesn’t open his inner life up to them as they have to him.

On pg. 83 it’s noted that Philidor is a 25th level Wizard – which marks him as more powerful than Mordenkainen and even Rary,[1] two of the most powerful magic users in the setting. He is also one of the most knowledgeable characters in the setting as he possesses sage abilities in the fields of astrology, astronomy, history of the central states of the Flanaess, mathematics, metaphysics, philosophy, sociology, theology, and he’s a polyglot. Yet he feigns ignorance in all these fields.

Philidor has strong ties to Highfolk and the elves who make it their home. And among the few people who have been inside his home are from Highfolk. It is even noted that he spends a lot of time in the Vesve forest polymorphed into a blue-skinned, elven mage.

The following year, 1993, saw Philidor appear in Iuz the Evil, Marklands, and in DRAGON Magazine #191. This would largely be the most active year in the character’s history, though it would only provide us with a few additional clues about who Philidor was and what the character’s goals would be going forward.

In DRAGON Magazine #191 we learn of Philidor’s Globes, a sort of magical warning device, that the wizard has set up in the Vesve to help defend the people there. He also appeared around the same time as Mayaheine, a demipower of Lawful Good.

In Iuz the Evil the Vesve and Iuz connections are reinforced in the text where it is noted that:

Philidor the Archmage, the Blue Wizard, looks calmy out over Iuz’s lands from the Vesve Forest, biding his time. Iuz is an emperor now, but he is not invulnerable . . .”

Iuz, pg 6

And that vulnerability comes in the form of the Soul Husks Caverns where Iuz was able fuel his ascension to demi-god status by extracting the life force from six powerful individuals. A strike against this place would weaken Iuz directly and irreversibly; and contextually, it’s hinted that Philidor is looking for this opportunity.[2]

It’s in The Marklands, though, where we’re provided the most context for Philidor’s actions and his character. Here we’re introduced to Philidor’s friends Cerenellyl (9th level elven fighter), Kashafen (12th level fighter / 13th level elven mage), Elrenn (16th level Human ranger), and Rafendyl (11th level half-elf bard) who are actively trying to help him in his mission to save the land from Iuz. To this end, Philidor has created his globes which provide the viewer with a true seeing device that will allow the defenders of the Vesve to see the goblinoids, humanoids, and demonic servants of Iuz early enough (hopefully) to turn them back before they overwhelm the lands.

The following year, in August 1994, we’re told in DRAGON Magazine #208 that Philidor is one of a select few to know the truth of Darnakurian’s Doom. This reinforces his position as one of the preeminent sages in the land.

The Circle of Eight, artist unknown

1995 saw Philidor once more appear in Ivid the Undying,[3] and it’s here the character of Philidor is further expanded upon. We are treated to the follow passage:

The Circle of Eight have heard the bard’s recitations; even the introverted, conservative, and repressed Bigby was shaking when the bard fell silent, and Mordenkainen himself was stirred enough not to repeat the experiment.l Gwydiesin’s power is unsettling to those who are used to power of their own combined with a firm sense of control. Philidor has been seen laughing with the old man and, incredibly enough, light-heatedly skipping along paving stones of Greyhawk City with the bard keeping pace

Ivid, 116

We learn from this passage that Philidor has been exposed to powers of a greater magnitude than Gwydiesin’s and that it doesn’t intimidate him as it does the Circle of Eight – arguably the most powerful individuals on Oerth. He is later seen openly consulting the prophetic and demagogic book The Lays of Bar Strannach which confounds all but the wisest who read it.[4]

Philidor is also known to the Specter of Shroudgate. This being, who seemingly keeps the hour-glasses of entire civilizations in his home and watches their histories unfold, will animatedly inquire after Philidor and exclaim, “So he’s come at last!” to news of him.

It would be another three years before we would find any new information about Philidor, and then it would be only a passing paragraph in the Player’s Guide to Greyhawk. Here we would find out that Philidor has been seen in many places across the Flanaess, particularly in the Vesve Forest and the City of Greyhawk, but not in recent years.

Darkwell by Jeff Easly

In 2000, we were given our last official information about Philidor when he appeared in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Here he was only a single line when it came to the Valley of the Mage.

The last claimed sighting of the archmage Philidor placed him near the entrance to the [Valley of the Mage] . . .”

Holland, 128

And with that line Philidor disappeared.

Notes:

[1] Mordenkainen has a write up in The City of Greyhawk boxed set, booklet 2, Greyhawk Adventures Fantasy World Supplement: Folk, Feuds, and Factions on pg 21. Mordenkainen is noted as being a level 20 Mage. Similarly, Rary’s write up appears on pg 25 of the same booklet and has him as a level 23 Mage.

[2] Following the quote on pg 6 it’s noted on pg 22 of Iuz the Evil that “. . .Very, very few sages on Oerth even know that such a place exists, let alone where it is. Mordenkainen and Philidor are among that handful of informed people. Obviously, a strike against this place would weaken Iuz very directly and possibly irreversibly . . .”

[3] Ivid the Undying was an unpublished source book that would eventually be released online by TSR in 1995. It was written by Carl Sargent around 1993, during the same period that saw the publication of Iuz the Evil and The Marklands.

[4] pg 123 Ivid the Undying.

Works Cited:

Brown, Anne. Greyhawk Accessory: Player’s Guide to Greyhawk. Wizards of the Coast, 1998 pgs 25-26

Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Wizards of the Coast, 2000. pgs. 61, 128

Sargent, Carl. Iuz the Evil. TSR, Inc. 1993 pgs 6, 22, 89

Sargent, Carl. “Campaign Journal: Risen from the Ashes”. DRAGON Magazine, March 1993, pgs 66,68

Sargent, Carl. “Campaign Journal: GREYHAWK.” DRAGON Magazine, August 1994, pgs 54

Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes, Atlas of the Flanaess. TSR, 1992. pg 54

Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes, Campaign Book. TSR, 1992. Pgs 9, 83, 84, 87

Sargent, Carl. Greyhawk Adventures: Ivid the Undying. TSR, 1995. pgs. 74, 116, 123, 150, 157

Sargent, Carl. Greyhawk Adventures: The Marklands. TSR, Inc, 1993. pgs 38-39, 41, 54, 55

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5 thoughts on “The Curious History of Philidor the Blue Wizard”

  1. I vaguely remember reading in one of the supplements—The Marklands, perhaps?—that some speculated that Philidor was an automaton or simulacrum. But it’s been so long since I read it. I’ve always figured he was a quasi-diety or close to it: like Murlynd, Howard, and the others.

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