The powerful Red Wizards of Thay have gotten some due attention thanks to the movie, D&D: Honor Among Thieves (now in theaters). But, although they totally dream at night of world domination using their undead minions, did you know that the vaunted council of Zulkirs had a backup plan for world domination? Why yes, they did and it was all centered on trade.
Thay, of course, was known for powerful magic. And, even more, they were known for the production of quality, potent magic items. The Thayan Guild of Foreign Trade was responsible for the export of said items and bringing vast profits back to the homeland. They did this through trade agreements with the most prosperous cities in Faerun. They, not only, became adept at shipping these wares to all corners of the Forgotten Realms, but they also solidified their near monopoly on the market by procuring agreements to set up what they called ENCLAVES.
A Thayan Enclave was an actual plot of land of which the Guild could build the various shops and venues to attract customers for these items. These ‘markets’ had three hard and fast rules that, not only, made their trade agreement vastly different than most others, but gave Thay a stronghold in what used to be enemy territory.
THE LAW OF SOVEREIGNTY – Any enclave positioned outside of the borders of Thay was still considered Thayan soil and under the sovereign laws of Thay.
THE LAW OF TRADE– Thay promised to sell their goods at a 10% discount of the standard rate of whatever item or service they provided. And, since it WAS That, they were permitted to take slaves as payment and actually sell slaves (although most of their slave trade wasn’t conducted out in the open, but in black market venues deep within whatever city they did trade).
THE LAW OF CRAFTING-stipulated what goods and services the Thayan Enclave could sell and which they could not. This list would vary from city to city and, of course, agreement to agreement.
A Red Wizard parading through the streets with two undead ‘porters’ (Art by Hector Rodgiguez Antunez)
On top of making a mint selling the desired Thayan magic items, they used the enclaves to gather intelligence. How better to infiltrate the enemy? Live and work right under their noses giving them ample ability to build a spy network. Without the cover of the enclave, it was near impossible for the Red Wizards to get close enough for intel. But doing business with them everyday, they had access to a myriad of craftsmen, adventurers and, even, diplomats which gave them opportunity to glean secrets and knowledge that could aid mother Thay.
In the 3rd Edition tome, LORDS OF DARKNESS, there is an extensive write-up for the Thayan Enclave found in Proskur. Along with a map, this is a perfect framework for either developing your own Enclave or just using it right out of the book! We are beginning an adventure there and will soon be developing a podcast from it. The setting is this exact enclave only decades later. Now, I could have just used all the names given, but I decided to develop their successors. But, if you are short on time, you can just yank this straight out of the book!
But all you need is the outline to put together your own unique setting. It’s a way to visit Thay without actually visiting Thay also. Adventurers can get a taste of the Red Wizards without having them risk life and limb invading the country. And the hierarchy is simple.
There are many Red Wizards of differing level residing in any enclave at any given time, but there are three powerful figures that rule the rest.
Just as in Thay proper, the Khazark is the highest ranking official. This Red Wizard is of the highest caliber and power and is to not be questioned. Their rule is absolute but only as long as they can keep the others in their place. But heavy hangs the head who wears the crown. They were placed in their position by even more powerful Khazarks from Thay. They answer to the homeland. And, if they fail to please the Guild with the proper leadership and profit margin, they can easily be replaced.
They must also be aware that taking a position as important as this brings with it many dangers and rivals. Every other powerful mage under them wants what they have and will get it by hook or crook. A Khazark must always watch his back and keep a keen eye on his associates which are also his most dangerous adversaries.
I mentioned earlier that the Thayan Enclaves were a hotbed of intelligence gathering and power brokering. The heavy responsibility falls to the second in command which they aptly call THE SPYMASTER.
This individual coordinates the various networks of spies inside the city and reaching out to the cities within its providence.
THE MASTER OF ARCANE TRADE
But the centerpiece of the Enclave are the many artisans and craftsmen and their trade of goods and services. You can gather all the intel you want, but if you don’t make a hefty profit, it’s all for nothing. The Master of Arcane Trade does just that. He coordinates the receiving, pricing, showcasing and quality of the goods and services they supply. This individual is also responsible for making sure the gold gets back to the Khazarks back home.
THE ARCANE ADMIN
Each of the three mentioned above have an administrative assistant to help them keep the files organized and their itinerary running smoothly. These individuals work closely with the Khazark, the Arcane Trade Master and the Spy Master. They are highly organized and expertly trained in the ways of the scribe. In fact, the Order of Scribes from TASHA’S CAULDRON OF EVERYTHING would make a perfect subclass for the support staff to the powerful leaders of the Enclave.
Now, from the sources I read, there can be as many as 50+ Red Wizards living in a given Enclave. But they vary in power from the Khazark to the level ones. So every school of magic should be covered by the staff of the Enclave.
Just because the Red Wizards are an evil lot doesn’t mean they are a godless sort. In fact, they are a very religious group. But the gods they serve may not be most acceptable in the Realms.
The largest temples in most Enclaves are dedicated to Kossuth, the Lord of Flames. In fact, the Flaming Brazier of Eltabbar, former capital and second largest city in Thay, was considered the largest temple to The Firelord in the Realms. The Red Wizards have a long history with Kossuth. During the Year of the Prince (1357 DR), it is said that the Salamander War would have been a total loss without the Lord of Flames help.
In charge of the security of the temple at any given Enclave is a Knight of the Fire Drake. They also were the keepers of the Eternal Flame, the High Priest of the temple.
Included in the temple district were also shrines and temples to dark gods like Bane, Loviatar and Shar. Since it was technically Thayan soil, the city it rested in dared not complain. It was, after all, part of the contract.
THE LOYAL GUARD OF THAY
You will also find at the head of the security in the enclave a powerful group of soldiers seasoned in battle and unfailingly loyal to Thay and the Red Wizards. The Khazark has a personal THAYAN KNIGHT as his guard; as does the Spy Master and the Master of Arcane Trade. There is usually a hidden cadre of Knights hidden below the Enclave in charge of the slave pits which means that the force the Red Wizards here can muster is much larger than it looks. AKA don’t underestimate Thay, ever!
But the centerpiece of any Thayan Enclave is, obviously, the marketplace. Here, if the Red Wizards are to be believed, reside the greatest artisans and craftsmen in all of the Realms. In fact, the Enclave guarantees it. Besides that, they sell at 10% less the going rate. Thus, allowing the Thayans to set up shop in any given town creates animosity between the leadership that signed the deal and their own resident businessmen. Although having an Enclave draws visitors from all over the area, they are not usually keen on buying from anyone else.
In Proskur, there’s plenty of trade to go around. In fact, if not for the caravan route that runs from Iriaebor and Suzail, Proskur would be a virtually unknown ghost town. It still becomes quite a tightrope walk keeping enough trade coming through to keep the resident merchants happy. In our game, it is 1507 DR (Year of the Glowing Onyx); a few years in the future compared to the adventures of 5E. In that time, Proskur has expanded the city adding a ‘CARAVAN TOWN’ that stands alone on the west part of town. This action may irritate the Red Wizards a bit, but they still make plenty on reputation alone.
The Enclave brings all the exotic items from Thay that the caravans do not. Wine, spice, jewels, art and, of course, magic items are shipped in on a regular basis. This keeps things in stock that the area they have set up shop in can not offer. You would think that this separates their trade, but, at times, it becomes an either/or situation. The lavish shops and extravagant entertainment draws more crowds in to see something new. Once in, the discounts seal the deal.
THE THAYAN ENCLAVE HAS EVERYTHING AN ADVENTURE NEEDS!
For the DM looking for something new to drop into their campaign, the Thayan Enclave is just the ticket. Not only do you get to introduce the Red Wizards to your party without endangering them to combat or stealthing around Thay Proper, but there are so many opportunities for useful NPCs and a plethora of McGuffins. This, of course, also goes for the player looking for that weird character background.
- It’s a great place to train or originate from as a fighter or monk since there are schools within some Enclaves that teach the Thayan style of fighting.
- As a wizard, sorcerer or any magic user really, you can be a failed Red Wizard Acolyte or one running from their teachers. Or possibly, one of their former slaves that either found they had a sorcerous background or called out to a Patron for a little help in escaping.
- Artificers could have been a part of the marketplace of the Enclave, sometimes, without even being from Thay. Some artisans pay for the privilege of selling their wares there.
- As a cleric, you may be on a pilgrimage for your god albeit a dark god; one of which they worship in the Enclave. Or maybe you’re having a break in your faith; questioning what it is you believe.
- A paladin could be a part of a team within the party or the NPC group; protecting a valuable asset to Thay proper.
- Maybe you were a hapless bard that took work entertaining the Enclave and overstepped their bounds sending you on the run from the Khazarks or the Thayan Knights.
In our upcoming adventure, JEWELS OF THE NINE SECRETS, I, as DM, am using the Enclave as a base of operations for the first arc. It’s a combination of prophecy and murder mystery. Stay tuned for more info.
Once again, if you want some details (although steeped in 3rd Edition stats) on the staff and organization of the Thayan Enclaves, pick up a copy of the book LORDS OF DARKNESS. Inside the covers of this delicious tome, you will also find lore and stats covering lots of darkness like The Shades, The Cult of Dragon, The Drow, The Nightmasks and the Zhentarium. So, it’s well worth the buy.
And, if you want to know more about Thay Proper, Ed Greenwood and company have developed a neat looking tome called THAY: LAND OF THE RED WIZARDS