22 Questions on Tharizdun answered by Gary Gygax

The following interview was not a part of Gygax’s Legendarium (a now-defunct website collecting various Gygax-written letters and articles for archival purposes), but seems an interesting addition to the historical record of Gary Gygax’s works as it provides some interesting Greyhawk lore.

The first archived version of the site appears on 1/31/2009; I’m unclear of when the interview itself took place or who originally ran the site. If anyone has further details, leave me a comment!

[EDITOR: Please note that all links to external sites and images on this page were added by me; there’s just too many good ones regarding Tharizdun, so I couldn’t pass up tossing them in!]

Tharizdun cover art

Tharizdun cover art

22 Questions on Tharizdun

as asked by Michael Kasparian

Gary Gygax wrote:

Greetz, Mike:) I’ll not skip 10 and 21, let you compare what I say now with “canon” from the past as it were, even though when I said I’d answer questions I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

There seems to be two images of Tharizdun. On the one hand, there’s the awesomely powerful deity from the Gord books who was imprisoned in seemingly primordial times. On the other hand, there’s the largely unknown deity of the pure canon sources such as WGR3, WG4, and the boxed set(s), and this deity “seems” to have been imprisoned more recently. In that case, perhaps the one captured later was really an avatar that had until that time escaped detection. We would like your ideas on resolving this, in answering the question:

Q1: When was Tharizdun originally imprisoned?

Certainly the deity could not logically have been imprisoned in primordial times, or how would Tharizdun then have a cult of followers. However, let us assume that something was done to diminish his power so as to prevent Tharizdun from wreaking havoc throughout the cosmos.

In mythological terms, think of it as akin to the banishment of Set to a distant star so that his evil would not have so great an impact on Egypt.

In Artifact of Evil (pg47), you wrote, “Aeons ago, he was trapped by those deities who understood that this greatest Evil must be fettered or all Goodness would perish from this world and possibly the entire multiverse.” This description above is broad enough to include Good and Neutral deities, and you mention this alliance as a reaction to the threat of the Theorparts uniting. So, we would like to know some details on:

Q2: Who specifically were these deities, and are they still involved in Greyhawk?

While I did not make a list of the deities opposing Tharizdun, I certainly assumed all of the major good and Neutral ones working in concert to so do. John Argenziano emailed me recently to suggest that possibly Pelor was the single deity that might arise to assume still greater stature so as to oppose the consummate threat of Tharizdun. In this regard, I would agree, for indeed I had Pelor in mind as the instigating force in the combination against Tharizdun.

Incidentally, the deities of Evil, and in my mind those include the major demons and greater devils, as is always the case in mythology, did not oppose those of Good and Neutral alignment in the assault on Tharizdun for obvious reasons. In their view, better even a petty but free and independent status than the chief servant of another having to do the bidding of that master.

Also in Artifact of Evil (pg47), you go on to describe how the prison was an enmeshment that used his own powers against him. “…he could still exist and wield a limited wickedness bound as he was.” ” No binding…could destroy him, but they enwrapped him in blackest realms, in a slumber so total only faint echoes of…vileness could exude from him.” This leads to a couple questions:

Q3: Is he trapped in the “Demiplane of Imprisonment” from the description in Manual of the Planes?

I don’t think that the work cited is well thought out in this regard. If there was such a plane, it would be too well-known, and far too simple a matter to visit and pull a jail break, so to speak. Instead, envision if you will an infinite cosmos, and the potential to create all manner of new dimensional sets so removed from probabilities that a search of the combinations would take an eternity to complete but a fraction of the possibilities.

In short, the combination imprisoning Big T created a special isolation cell, as it were, and contained the major portion of this entity therein.

Q4: Does the nature of his imprisonment allow for its cyclical weakening, allowing Him to exert His malign influence from time to time (create avatars, answer prayers, bestow spells) (Some of us speculate that he causes mass destruction every 1000 years or so, to elimate worshippers of the deities who imprisoned him (Twin Cataclisms affected many Suel and Bakluni ?

As was made clear, all of the power of Tharizdun could NOT be contained, and so he has always had minor avatars extant after the imprisonment. In my mind these avatars do not necessarily understand their own status, or even know of their source. they work in virtual blindness and ignorance struggling to accomplish what they know not, but their actions are so guided so as to eventually make the loosing of their progenitor possible. Indeed, each small success in this regard creates a minute fracture in the imprisoning substance, so that a bit more of the power of Tharizdun and be sent forth.

While I had not contemplated the scenario of a thousand year surge cycle, if you will, it IS a very interesting idea. Assuming that for one one-thousandth of each millenium of imprisonment Tharizdun “awakes” slightly and is able to directly influence things because no binding can ever be perfect in the magical formulation as postulated in all mythology, then such a cycle is reasonable. Indeed, it does explain not merely the Rain of Colorless Fire and the Invoked Devastation in the Suel-Baklunish Wars, but perhaps even the more recent cataclysm that overtook Oerth:)

Q5: If you answered yes to Q4, Is this cyclical nature tied to anything in particular? (Maybe the cycle of the solar system, for a regular cycle, or the discovery of some of the Theorparts, for irregular cycles)

If accepted as part and parcel of the binding of Tharizdun, then the cycle would be of exactly 1,000 years. However, the avatars of Tharizdun, as well as the Theorparts activation, would cause aberrations in the cycle, including adding lesser “windows” or increasing the effect of the periodic one in regards the amount of energy available to Big T.

Speaking of the Theorparts, from several chapters in your Gord the Rogue novels, the Greytalkers ask:

Q6: Who created the Theorparts? It seems unlikely that the same Deities who imprisoned Tharizdun would have created these Artifacts of Evil that control the denizens of the Lower Planes.

This seems to be a FYI sort of query with no real bearing on anything. However, I considered them as being made perforce as part and parcel of the Binding. In order to bind the great evil, one must by the operational laws of magic also create that which will undo it. So indeed I considered the Theorparts as having been forged by the Good and Neutral deities. While they control the lesser entities of the Lower Planes, these artifacts also enable the freeing of Tharizdun. They are thus not useful to any but the greatest Evil.

Q7: Who created the Relic (The Initiator?) that Gord and Curley found in the cairn of _Saga of Old City_? The Imprisoning deities, or others?

As above. The “key” to unlock Tharizdun’s prison would necessarily be most complex and arcane.

Q8: In “Sea of Death” we learn the shape of one Theorpart, an inky black cone with horns. How do the Theorparts fit together?

To be frank, I did not consider the shape of the others, save that each was different, but their fitting is another matter. When the three portions are brought together, they flow and merge into a single object without need for any interlocking as if a jigsaw puzzle, for example.

Q9: In Sea of Death, Eclavdra used a Theorpart to summon hordes of demonic creatures. Moments later Vuron used the same Theorpart to turn back time. What are each Theorparts individual powers? or are they the same?

Again, I did no extensive quantification of these items as I never intended them to be employed in the game. They are a literary device, and thus their capacities are kept as vaguely defined as possible. However (again:), I did consider one related directly to each of the Lower Plane groups–the Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic Evil. summonings would be linked to related planes. Other powers, all of deital sort, would be more general and loosely related to the innate capacity of the wielder.

Hope that helps.

Q10: What would happen if only TWO Theorparts were “assembled”? Are there different combinations?

There are not different combinations. Two can’t be merged. Each remains a separate, and malign quasi-entity perhaps, until all three are in conjunction. then they flow and meld into the key that unlocks the prison of Tharizdun.

Note: Only one of much more than normal human power and capacity can manage to utilize the energies of a Theorpart. Only one of deital sort can cause these potent artifacts to conjoin.

Let’s move to WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. This text is from the module itself: “The Temple was built in a previous age, a secret place of worship to Tharizdun, He of Eternal Darkness. It drew the most wicked persons to it, and the cult flourished for generations, sending out its minions from time to time to enact some horrible deed upon the lands around. However, a great battle eventually took place between Tharizdun and those opposed to his evil. Unable to destroy him, they were strong enough to overcome his power and imprison him”

Q11: From your text above, when would you say was the Temple in the Yatils Mountains was constructed?

I had in mind that it was built not long after the Suel-Bakluni Wars. While I hadn’t contemplated the cyclical energy release for T, this does indeed seem to mesh with such a notion.

Again, in the module, I considered the “Tharizdun” worshipped by the temple builders as an avatar of the true one imprisoned long before that time. What I was thinking of, though, is another, lesser “crusade” by the Good-aligned deities (sans Neutral) against a strong Avatar calling itself Tharizdun, the alliance of deities chaining and packing off that extension of the greater, so as to keep the prison from being rupture by the growing presence of the greatest evil one in the general cosmos (and its center, the world of man, of course:).

Q12: In the novels, the Theorparts are seemingly hidden in regions of Suel occupation (Tilvanot Peninsula, the Suel City in the Suss Forest, the “Cone of the Magi” in the “Temple” of the Forgotten City (City Out of Mind) in the Sea of Dust). Did the Suel revere Tharizdun, or revile him? Did they build the Temple in the Yatils, or simply find it?

The Suel didn’t desire to revive Tharizdun, but they were darkly ambitious and wished to use the powers of Big T for their own aggrandizement. They played with fire and then got burned.

When thereafter the temple was built, it was by third or fourth generation Suloise who had confused the power of the Theorparts with that of Tharizdun. (Only the truly insane human would revere Tharizdun, seek his return, to my thinking.)

Continued from WG4, “After a time his servants returned again to the Temple, deserted as it was of any manifestation of their deity. Amongst these wicked folk were many powerful magic-users and clerics. All sought with utmost endeavor to discern what had happened to Tharizdun, so that he could be freed and returned to rule over them once again. All attempts were in vain, although the divinations and seekings did reveal to these servants of Eternal Darkness that a “Black Cyst” existed below the Temple. By physical work and magical means they delved downward to reach the Black Cyst. What they discovered there dismayed and disheartened them. In the hemisphere of black needlerock (floating as if by levitation) a huge form could be seen. Was this the physical manifestation of Tharizdun? None could tell. The misty form was black and indistinct and enclosed in vaporous purple energy as well. No ritual, no spell, no magic could pierce the enigma. As time passed, the seekers ritualized their attempts to determine if this was their imprisoned deity. ”

Q13: Are these mages and priests the Suel? Or some other human race?

Suloise, as well as those who were then associated with them, for there was a considerable mingling of “races” at this time. I envisaged the group to be mainly the power-hungry and self-seeking as the group assembled.

Q14: Just what IS in the Cyst, anyway?

As there are tendrils of energy emanating from that distant and virtually unlocatable place in which Tharizdun is imprisoned to the power center (Oerth), the cyst is one of them. It is the incalculably removed Tharizdun attempting to manifest himself so as to get free. I attempted to convey the eerie, unknown, and the even pathetic in the passage cited. Tharizdun wishes to raise both pathos and sympathy, as well as lust and greed in those humans he can influence.

S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

S4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

NOW we humbly ask you to clear up some points relevant to S4, _The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth_ (this one is nearest and dearest to my camapaign!). In an online chat, you were quoted as identifying Tsojcanth as the arch-mage who imprisoned Tharizdun.

Q15: Who exactly, was Tsojcanth? (Some speculations: a Suel Mage of Power, an Elven arch-mage, a Suel Mage of Power trained by the Elves, an evil/good Conjurer/Summoner).

Once more, I have no file of data dealing with Tsojcanth. I imagined him as one of the exceptionally potent magic-wielders who arise amongst humans every so often. I considered him the channel used by the Good deities for the further abridgement of the actual Tharizdun, as it were. Tsojcanth and a circle of other mages of good alignment, and certainly others of like persuasion and other capacities, assailed and defeated the followers of the avatar Tharizdun, and then by sympathetic means, and empowered by deital power, Tsojcanth (and his associated mages lending their power to him so as he could survive channeling of deital energies) forced the avatar Tharizdun to rejoin its parent entity.

I did not identify Tsojcanth as to race, but I think he was more likely Flan or Oeridian than a Suloise. He was certainly human and of Good alignment.

Perhaps to better convey the matter, there should be a distinction between the entital imprisoning and the chief avatar imprisoning–greater and lesser, if you will.

Q16: What are the approximate dates, or at least the rough period of time, during which Tsojcanth was active in the Flanaess?

I had a rough idea that the matter surrounding the Tharizdun-avatar imprisonment was about 750 years prior to the introduction of the module into the timeline. The imprisoning of Little T was dear to him and his associates, for with it they gave up their mortal beings, so from that time the locale was lost.

Q17: Did Tsojcanth actually imprison Tharizdun, or did he simply thwart the last attempt to free him? Did he scatter the Theorparts to the various Suel locals?

Tsojcanth and his allies did imprison the Tharizdun avatar, as noted. In my mind this was done BEFORE the Theorparts could be sussed out and gathered. however, as that is actually moot, one could devise an interesting adventure in the past on this basis:

1) The minions of Tharizdun are seeking to return to the past and alter the course of events.

2) Those opposed to Tharizdun are alerted to the attempt and send their own team back to prevent the tampering.

3) Tsojcanth and company have their hands full with what they must do, so they can’t help the team, but likewise the bad guys can get no aid from little T and his forces, they being busy contending with the assault of Tsojcanth.

4) The time-travelling Evil group is bent on locating and bringing to avatar Tharizdun the Theorparts, but they can’t use them themselves for any purpose, or else the potent Neutral forces will immediately intervene and send the time-travelers back.

5) The good team must prevent the theorparts from being brought to the vicinity of the avatar Tharizduns power base, but instead must get them and convey them to the locale of Tsojcanth.

Q18: From Q4, we asked if the prison was cyclical in nature. If this was so, was it during one of the periods when his prison was weakened that Tsojcanth was involved in his “imprisonment” or maybe “re-imprisonment”?

See above as to the cycles. Timelines might impose themselves on this otherwise interesting concept. However, if they can be made to fit it, I would suggest the idea works perfectly in regards the dire and continuing peril and threat of Big T.

Q19: What did Iggwilv find of Tsojcanth’s that made her so powerful? Was she the power behind the Demonomicon? Or did she develop Tsojcanth’s research?

I thought of it as a sort of “know thy enemy” matter. Tsojcanth complied and hid away all manner of information and things relating to Evil. Iggwilv, being of Chaotic bent and Evil disposition, discovered and read that which resonated with her perspective. She simply compiled material she discovered into the work cited, the DEMONOMICON, so she could employ the power thus contained for her own ends. Iggwilv was by no means interested in loosing Tharizdun, which should go without saying. However, like most Evil ones, greed and hubris often combine to cause some fatal overreaching.

Just three more from S4, slightly off topic, but several were repeatedly begging for resolution:

Q20: Iggwilv is Drelnza’s mother – who is Drelnza’s father?

I never actually set that forth anywhere. (Perhaps even Iggwilv isn’t certain:) Drelnza isn’t so potent as to be the offspring of a great demon, but more I can’t say with “authority”. As you (collectively) are the most actively interested, perhaps you can decide the matter of paternity here on the List. If it seems reasonable, I’ll certainly lend my agreement, and then it can be passed on to WotC/TSR for “Imprimatur”.

Q21: WHEN (in Common Years) did Iggwilv rule the Perrenland?

Let’s see how well this matches with what you have discovered.

As best I can recall, I thought that she was in power there for a relatively brief time some 500 years in the past.

Once more, I remind all that I did not pin down actual times save where absolutely necessary so as to not constrain any future creative developments. Keep that in mind as you seek to detail every moment of the past. Each time you do that you disallow anything not set forth then to ever be. Allow creators as much latitude as possible.

Q22: When was Grazzt imprisoned by her, and when did he battle free?

Timelines! Ah, well, I thought of it as about 200 years before the “present” as given in the ToEE.

So, having at last reached the last of the questions, but knowing that this by no means is likely to be the end of the matter, what with those who love to disagreeably disagree, I await your further advice and inquiry.

As a side note, I must say that I think that WotC/TSR is ignoring the potential of this List, and the WoGFC as well, in compiling, detailing, and CREATING material for the setting. Speaking from the heart, I can assure you that were I still in a position to do so, I would be seeking to utilize GreyTalk participants as both “play-testers” and for generation of useful resource material pertaining to the WoG, and along with that, likely adventure creators too.

Oh, wait! I need to qualify the above statement. Insert, “With a couple of notable exceptions” just before “I would be seeking” (^_^).

Ciao!
Gary Gygax


We here at neuronphaser.com make no claims to trademarks or copyrights in this interview. If anyone has additional information about this interview, please let us know in the comments.

And check out Mock Man’s walkthrough of Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth for some nostalgia and humor!

If you enjoyed this article, please comment, like, and share! You can support future reviews and articles at our Patreon. We publish supplements, campaign accessories, and adventures for Dungeons & Dragons at Dungeon Masters Guild as well as other OSR games and Cortex Plus at DriveThruRPG.

Send feedback and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, or email us via the About page.

neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He's been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

Posted in RPG Archive Tagged with: , ,

Leave a Reply