Category Archives: Archives of Candlekeep

Thessalar is a minor figure in the grand scheme of things, but his popularity got a slight boost a few years ago, albeit indirectly. A huge, amorphous monster appeared toward the end of Stranger Things season 1 and in the trailers for Stranger Things season 2. Given how much Stranger Things leaned on D&D for story elements and naming conventions, fans of the series and D&D immediately began to guess what the monster was or would be called. With no clues from the cast or writers, the internet as a whole eventually went with “thessalhydra.” And then a lot of people only familiar with 4th and 5th edition D&D went, “a what”? By the way, the creature from stranger things was eventually dubbed a mind flayer, but that’s not important right now. The thessalhyrda is a monster out of 1st edition. It originally appeared in the second monster manual. Like…

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Like so many things, Graz’zt is fine as long as you’re a man. Graz’zt is a figure that can be very problematic in D&D. Certainly using him in a campaign in any way that’s true to lore and doesn’t just have him as an adversary to fight can raise some eyebrows or cause a lot of uncomfortable squirming in players. The demon lord is not new, but he wasn’t there from the very beginning like Orcus or Demogorgon. Graz’zt was, however, a Gary Gygax original for better or worse. Gygax also said in an interview that “Graz-it” was the pronunciation, so sorry to everyone who liked the “grazt” version.  The demon lord first appeared in a module for first edition D&D called “The lost Caverns of Tsojconth [SOJ-kanth]”. It was labeled as adventure “S4” and published in 1982, though the published version was a clean up and rewrite of Gygax’s…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Nine on 16th November 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. People always point out that generalizing the behavior of a species based on the most frequently encountered groups or even the majority isn’t fair. Drizzt proved that not all Drow are Lolth-worshiping, murderously conniving slavers, Orc society is much more complex than them just being aggressive raiders that want to kill all the other races and conquer the world, and not all Kobolds are mindless dragon sycophants. On the other hand, there are some species where trying to find the diamond in the rough is a very long, fruitless dig. Locating a sympathetic vegetarian Mind Flayer is going to be a really difficult scavenger hunt; benevolent…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Seven on 19th October 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Drizzt Do’Urden is one of the most famous fictional characters to come out of D&D. Some people say he is the 100% most famous character, Stranger Things notwithstanding. He’s the rebel drow that forsook his heritage, made his way on the surface, and established a long-running legacy with his swords, panther, and companions. There is debate about some things, but a lot of people consider him to be the main reason the Forgotten Realms rose to as much prominence as it did. Some say he is also the reason Rangers, drow playable races, and animal companions are always the focus of a lot of fan attention in…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Six on 5th October 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Lord Soth, in Dragonlance, fills in much the same niche as Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings or The Mountain from Game of Thrones; he is a secondary antagonist in most of his appearances, almost always working at the behest of someone else, and their backstory is…fraught. Soth’s first appearance in real life chronology was in the War of the Lance trilogy (The original three). He lived through that conflict (sort of…we’ll get to that in a bit), and became another significant pain for the heroes in the so-called “twins trilogy” that focuses on Raistlin and Caramon…and the short one whose name starts with a “T”.…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Three on 31st August 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Genasi are one of the more esoteric playable races in D&D, which is saying something given that giant frog and tortoise people are options. Like a number of the more unusual racial options in D&D, the genasi came about once planar travel, and Planescape in particular, became a major fixture of D&D. Possibly due to the gender makeup of TSR in the late 80s and early 90s, it was apparently assumed that if people were able to find exotic beings from other planes, one of the first orders of business would be to…how shall I put this…test biological compatibility. In 2nd edition, if a human got…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty One on 10th August 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Demogorgon has gotten a lot of press lately and regularly promotes himself as the Prince of Demons and the strongest, baddest demon in the Abyss. But if you ask the being on the street it’s actually much more likely they’ll have heard of one of his main rivals. Orcus is opposite to Demogorgon in a lot of ways, both in the real world and in lore. He’s also a fascinating character to track through the history of the game because his star, or at least his skull-topped wand, has waxed and waned in popularity a lot through the years. Like Demogorgon, Orcus has the distinction of…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Nineteen on 27th July 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Where the Nine Hells have the archdukes of The Hells, if you sail down the River Styx you’ll find a similar but different situation at the other end. That’s assuming you make it, of course; the River Styx is terrible and there are murderous demons on every side and sometimes floating by on other boats. Have we mentioned going to the underworld is a bad idea? Anyway, when you get to the Abyss you will find a much looser hierarchy, but there are several beings that fill much the same role as the archdukes. Those are the demon lords. Now practically speaking there is no demon lord…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Sixteen on 29th June 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. As we’ve mentioned before, giants have been around in D&D since the very beginning. The original premise of D&D was to do tabletop wargaming but add basic fantasy elements. Since no one was coming up with beholders and mindflayers yet, Gary Gygax and others had to work with what was available in mainstream myth and fantasy. Anyone alive at the time or who’s looked into the publications of the sixties and seventies can tell you that fantasy had a few basic things without fail. On one side you had wizards, guys with swords, and very, *very* problematically depicted women. On the other side you had dragons, small…

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This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Fourteen on 15th June 2022. Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast. Vecna is one of the big names in D&D, along with Mordenkainen, Ellminster, and Strahd von Zarovich. However, the actual history of the legend is not what most people would think if they only have a passing knowledge of D&D. How long Vecna has been part of D&D lore is a matter of perspective. The history and definition of Vecna as an individual was actually very sparse until 2nd edition. That said, the very prominent Hand and Eye of Vecna artifacts have been present since original D&D. The artifacts first appeared in the third supplement for original D&D, entitled “Eldritch Wizardry”. However, the only lore around them…

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