DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES
Guide to Elminster & Mordenkainen
MAR 2, 2022
In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the adventuring party is made up of characters that are new to the lore of the Forgotten Realms. However, it’s known now that Simon the Sorcerer (played by Justice Smith) is a descendant of one of the most iconic characters of Faerûn: the great wizard Elminster Aumur. Talk about pressure to be good at magic. Add to that, Simon’s sorcerous origins are steeped in wild magic and it’s no wonder he’s a spellcaster with such intense feelings of imposter syndrome.
Unlike Elminster who literally studied every spell in the (core rules) books, Simon’s innate spellcasting ability comes from the forces of chaos. The results of his magic will be interesting to see on the big screen because in D&D terms rolling a 1 causes unknown results from an intended spell. Some are good like gaining resistance to all damage for a set period, while some are really bad news like casting 3rd-level fireball on yourself. Wild magic sorcerers eventually grow into their abilities and become capable of controlling chaos, so his story arc is likely to showcase this growth.
The question remains: will Elminster make an appearance in the movie? There’s a moment in one of the trailers where Simon is speaking to a wizard in a burgundy hat and robe on a different plane of reality. Speculation is that’s Elminster, also known as the old sage of Shadowdale, who can take on almost any appearance imaginable. Although he’s traditionally portrayed as a Gandalf-type wizard, pointy hat and all, he prefers to travel in less easily recognizable forms and often uses transmutation or illusion spells like shapechange or invisibility. There was even a period when he took on the form of a woman and was known by the name Elmara.
Elminster is a character developed by fantasy author Ed Greenwood who also created the Forgotten Realms setting. Though none of his spells exist in the current edition of D&D, Elminster is credited with inventing several. Will we see some variation of these in the movie? Only time will tell. If the wizard does make an appearance, it’s likely he’s speaking to Simon from another plane of existence and cannot intervene or assist in taking down the big bad of the movie. After all, what fun would that be for the heroes?
There is, of course, another famous spellcaster from the Realms who is also speculated to play a role in the plot: the legendary Mordenkainen of Oerth. Originally Gary Gygax’s personal character, the archmage is steeped in D&D lore and has invented many spells that are in the current rules. These include:
- Mordenkainen’s faithful hound: this invisible guard dog can only be seen by the caster who summoned it. Unless someone says the secret word assigned to it, the dog attacks anyone who approaches within 30 feet.
- Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion: fantasy AirBnb without the cleaning surcharge. This extradimensional manor allows the caster to choose the floorplan and décor. It’s also all-inclusive in terms of enough food to feed 100 guests and fully staffed.
- Mordenkainen’s private sanctum: when you’re out of 7th level spell slots and want a place to chill uninterrupted, this spell has you covered. It has everything you need to keep busybodies out of your space. Bonus: cast it on the same location every day for a year and all the effects of the spell become permanent.
- Mordenkainen’s sword: less of a sword than a sword-shaped menace, a caster doesn’t even need to wield this weapon. Instead, it attacks on command and causes a heck of a lot force damage.
Mordenkainen’s list of invented spells extends beyond the above in D&D history, and one in particular may have a movie tie-in. Although attributed with having a difficult personality, he is good friends with Elminster which allows for an interesting connection in the movie because it has been confirmed that the heist object is a creation of Mordenkainen’s. Perhaps Elminster knows about it and sends his ancestor on a quest to find it. Spoiler: the magical object in question is the Helmet of Mordenkainen's Disjunction which is said to have been lost in battle over a century ago.
The adventuring party is shown to be involved in a bit of grave digging. While Edgin the Bard (played by Chris Pine) stands in the open casket of a skeletal figure, Simon holds up a token to essentially cast speak with dead in the hopes of finding more clues to the whereabouts of the helmet. To be clear, no such helmet exists in D&D lore, however there was a spell called Mordenkainen's disjunction in previous editions that was like dispel magic on steroids. The spell causes a magic item to be broken down, or “disjoined”, into its basic components thus rendering them mundane. On top of that, any spells or magical effects from the magic item are also ended instantly. It can be extrapolated from the trailers that the adventuring party wants to get their hands on this item to end the effects of the horn they stole for the wrong person (aka The Red Wizards) to put an end to Szass Tam’s undead army.
If you’re a DM looking to add famous spellcasters into your campaign, Mordenkainen makes cameo appearances in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus, and Curse of Strahd. His notes can also be found throughout Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse. At one point, Elminster’s notes could be found in Volo’s Guide to Monsters which is no longer in print. The old sage of Shadowdale is otherwise only mentioned in passing, but there is plenty of lore surrounding both to draw from in previous editions as well as in novels, comics, and video games.