The Red Wizards of Thay in D&D 5e

Learn all about the Red Wizards

Who are the Red Wizards?

The Red Wizards of Thay are a group of elite wizards that hail from the nation of Thay in Eastern Faerun. The Red Wizards are so tightly wound in Thay’s government that they effectively rule the nation themselves with the Red Wizards occupying most positions of importance.

The Red Wizards pride themselves on the advancement of magical means through often immoral experimentation with only the most capable wizards rising into the ranks of the Red Wizards. It’s this lust for power at any cost that forms much of their outlook on life and government. The Red Wizards take what they want with little care for others, this includes invading nearby lands, taking slaves and obtaining subjects for their experiments. Broadly, throughout the Forgotten Realms, the Red Wizards are regarded as pretty terrible people.

The Red Wizard Organisation

Red Wizards of Thay Symbol
Symbol of the Red Wizards of Thay

With a rigid government order, an entire nation to run and military operations to oversee, the Red Wizards adhere to a strict hierarchy:

  • Supreme Zulkir – At the head of the organisation and the entire nation of Thay is the Supreme Zulkir who rules a council of 7 other Zulkirs. The current Supreme Zulkir is the undead lich, Szass Tam who is also the Zulkir of necormancy.
  • Zulkirs – The Zulkirs form a governing council with each of the 8 Zulkirs being an expert over one of the 8 schools of magic. In the past, the Zulkirs have typically been a fairly ineffective council of rulers as they were always competing with one another. While this does still happen, with Szass Tam occupying the position of Supreme Zulkir, at least it’s now easier for decisions to be made.
  • Red Wizards – Beneath the Zulkirs are the rank and file Red Wizards, but even an ordinary Red Wizard is someone of high station in Thayan society. Such wizards have overcome rigorous tests and demonstrations to prove themselves as the elite among magic users. These wizards typically hold positions of importance within the government and military, similar to how nobles of other nations might attain positions through their lineage.
  • Citizens – Outside the structure of the Red Wizards, they rule over the citizens of Thay. Thay has absorbed other nations into themselves through military operations such as the Mulani and the Rashemi. While the Mulani embrace their masters and often encourage children to study with the Red Wizards to hopefully be accepted into their order, the Rashemi tend to stick to their own traditions, rarely taking up positions of power within Thay.
  • SlavesThay and the Red Wizards have been built on the backs of a prolific slave trade with networks of slavers bolstering the slave force regularly, often from military operations.

The Zulkirs

Szass Tam

The position of Zulkir only changes rarely as it is a permanent position until you die and your position is taken by a Red Wizard who is the next greatest within the same school of magic. This does mean that assassinations are often the method for deposing a Zulkir (how else are you going to get that promotion?) though some do die of natural causes.

Below are all the Zulkirs that have ruled over Thay and the years they were active:

NameSchool of MagicYears Active
Lallar MediocrosAbjurationcirca 1375 DR
Ethra DralasAbjurationLate 15th century DR
SabassConjuration? – 1368 DR
nevronConjuration1368 DR – 1478 DR
Saj AmogConjurationCirca 1479 DR
Akhara NihilConjurationCirca 1489 DR
ElzarrDivinationEarly 12th century
NyborEnchantment13th century DR
LauzorilEnchantment? – 1478 DR
Dar’lon MaEnchantmentCirca 1490 DR
Narvonna KrenEvocation1201 DR – 1347 DR
Aznar ThrulEvocation? – 1375 DR
Kumed HahpretEvocation1375 DR – 1385 DR
Vallrath SakarEvocationCirca 1489
Nymor ThrulIllusion? – 1201 DR
MythrellanIllusion? – 1375 DR
Dmitra FlassIllusion1375 DR – 1385 DR
Hlarkus BaltreyoIllusionCirca 1479 DR
Nyressa FlassNecromancy?
Szass TamNecromancyCirca 1159 DR – 1375 DR and 1385 DR – 1489 DR
Zola SethraktNecromancy1375 DR – 1385 DR
MaligorTransmutation? – 1362 DR
Druxus RhymTransmutation1362 DR – 1375 DR
Samas KulTransmutation1375 DR – 1385 DR

Red Wizard Appearance

Szass Tam

Red Wizards do not try to hide themselves; instead they glory in the respect and power that comes from their status. Red Wizards are easy to spot as they will typically wear red wizard robes, have shaved heads, may also shave their eyebrows and have tattoos imprinted on their shaved heads.

Many Red Wizards, especially since the rise of Szass Tam, have opted to take upon themselves undeath and will become creatures like liches and vampires. This is in part for the greater power that undeath brings but also because Szass Tam favours those that are undead above those that are mortal.

To impersonate a Red Wizard is a high crime akin to treason, but is especially problematic for slaves who are not allowed to dress like Red Wizards and must even keep their hair uncut to give as distinct an appearance as possible from the Red Wizards.

History of the Red Wizards


The Red Wizards of Thay began centuries ago in 922 dr when a sect calling themselves the Red Wizards broke away from the god-Kings of Mulhorand, declaring their independence. This group was led by the archmage Thayd. It wasn’t until Ythazz Buvaar took over leadership of the Red Wizards that they became their own nation having destroyed the city of Delhumide.

Thay grew quickly as the militaristic nation took lands for itself which also allowed it to prosper. During their first century of existence, they settled on their abiding form of rule; a council of 8 Zulkirs, each an expert in the 8 fields of magic.


As a militaristic nation, Thay set out to conquor other nations to subjugate them to their machinations. Ultimately, they were able to expand through such efforts, though were not always successful. Their first attack was on Rasheman in 934 DR but the Thayan forces were repelled by the witches of Rasheman in the Gorge of Gauros.

About a century later, the rulers of Thay decided upon a method of ruling and government that would persist to current times forming the council of 8 Zulkirs, each one a master of the 8 schools of magic. Not everyone was happy with this decision and a rebellion of dissidents was formed who attempted to take control of the government though this rebellion was quickly quelled.

The Salamander Wars

Perhaps the most ambitious conflict waged by Thay was the Salamander Wars. In 1357 DR, the tharchion Lapendrar Hargrid Tenslayer along with the Zulkirs of evocation and conjuration summoned Fyzzar, the Lord of Salamanders and Grand Sultan Marrake of the efreeti. The armies of these extra-planar beings were to help Thay take the coastal cities of the Alambar sea and the sea of fallen stars. In return, the Zulkirs were to maintain a portal to the prime material plane from the elemental plane of fire.

Upon completion of the conquest, the Red Wizards intended to banish the 2 armies back to the elemental plane of fire but only succeeded in banishing the army of the efreeti. Having failed to banish the army of salamanders, the salamanders ran rampant across Priador, a coastal portion of Thay. Having failed to stop the army of salamanders, the 3 Zulkirs appealed to the rest of the council of Zulkirs who raised an army of goblinoids, gnolls, Szass Tam’s undead forces and many other monstrous humanoids. However, the salamanders weren’t repelled fully until Aznar Thrul appealed to Kossuth, the Lord of Flame to bring his forces to repel the salamander army. This led to greater worship of Kossuth throughout Thay.

Civil War

Szass Tam

By 1375 DR, a rift had formed between the council of Zulkirs with factions forming in favour of Aznar Thrull and Szass Tam. To turn the council and other nobility in his favour, Szass Tam fabricated various threats. First, he had his strongest ally (Druxus Rhym) killed with Aznar Thrul implicated as the murderer instead, removing the Zulkir from the council. Then he orchestrated a Rashemi attack, rescuing the Thayan armies at just the right time to demonstrate himself as their Saviour. He then secretly created an army of undead leading the people to believe they were under a dire threat.

These events gave Szass Tam the pretext to appeal to the council that he be named regent in an emergency role. However, Tam’s machinations had been discovered by the lich Dmitra Flass and had warned the council of Szass Tam’s plans. The council voted against Tam’s proposals and riots broke out throughout the capital of Eltabbar demanding Tam’s ascension as supreme leader. Tam withdrew from the council and worked to take Thay by force.

This led to decades of civil war with Tam taking the northern portion of the nation and the Zulkirs occupying the south. That is until the 2 factions fought at the Keep of Sorrows. The tide of the battle was swinging in Szass Tam’s favour when Mystra (the goddess of magic) was killed and the Spellplague began with magic turning to chaos and the land reshaping itself. Chaos ensued on the battlefield. Both armies withdrew and a new stalemate arose until Tam invoked the powers of Bane to understand the nature of the Spellplague and to offer up his soul in return for the ability to rule Thay for 1,000 years. Thay became dedicated to the worship of Bane from that time forth and Szass Tam was able to take leadership of the nation of Thay.

Following these wars, Tam began work on great fortresses known as the Dread Rings that could perform the Ritual of the Unmaking. Completing such a ritual had the potential to even destroy all of reality as it is now known.

Tam also demonstrated favourability towards the undead of his kingdom during the period following the civil war. Seats in government were taken up by vampires, liches and other people that had embraced undeath while mortal people of Thay found their station and progress diminished.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.