Population: 4,924,800 (humans 62%, gnolls 10%, orcs 10%, dwarves 8%, goblins 5%, halflings 4%)
Religions: Bane, Gargauth, Kelemvor, Kossuth, Loviatar, Malar, Shar, Talona, Umberlee
Imports: Iron, magic items, monsters, slaves, spells
Exports: Artwork, fruit, grains, jewelry, magic items, sculpture timber
Alignment: LE, NE, N
Thay is a nation ruled by cruel wizards who rely on slavery to provide them with the wealth and luxury they need to support their magical research and dreams of conquest. The land is ruled by eight zulkirs, the most powerful wizards of the land. The zulkirs in turn choose the land’s tharchions, civil governors who manage the mundane affairs of the realm and serve at the pleasure of the Red Wizards.
The power of the Red Wizards extends far beyond Thay’s borders. Red Wizard enclaves exist in dozens of major cities throughout the Inner Sea lands, exchanging magic items for the goods, riches, and—in some cases—slaves of a dozen lands. The Thayans are widely disliked and distrusted, but their growing stranglehold on the trade in magic devices makes them virtually indispensable to many of their clients.
The zulkirs back in the homeland grow rich beyond belief with the spread of their sinister trade. They constantly scheme and plot against their neighbors. Thayan armies have marched on Aglarond and Rashemen many times, and folk think it is only a matter of time before the Thayans revert to their old habits of taking what they want through force of arms and deadly spells.
LIFE AND SOCIETY
To Faerunians, Thay is a dark and evil empire where cruel Red Wizards endlessly crack whips over screaming, groaning slaves who are spell-transformed into weird monsters as their “reward” for backbreaking service.
The truth is only a little different.
The Red Wizards form an elite class, the nobility of the land. Through the vast, regional bureaucracy administered by their handpicked tharchions, they govern Thay’s laws, commerce, and society. Free Thayans fall into one of six classes: Red Wizards, bureaucrats, priests, merchants, soldiers, and artisans or skilled workers—barely a step above slaves themselves. Neither priests nor merchants are especially common in Thay.
All Thayan children are examined for magical aptitude at an early age. Those who show signs of potential are removed from their parents and subjected to ever more rigorous schooling in the arcane arts, culminating in apprenticeships to the Red Wizards, who are notoriously careless of and abusive toward their apprentices. (Those whose talents run to sorcery channel their talents into wizardry, suppress them, or leave the country. The Red Wizards despise sorcerers, who don’t follow the carefully regimented system of magical schools.) The survivors become Red Wizards upon completion of their training, but the organization is far from democratic or benevolent—to hold real power, a young Red Wizard must master as much arcane might as she possibly can, and wield it ruthlessly and without hesitation against her fellows.
Thayan policy is decided in council by the zulkirs, wizards representing schools of magical specialization. Each zulkir is elected by Red Wizards prominent in that magical school, and then serves for as long as she can hold office—alive or in undeath. Although every zulkir has rivals seeking to destroy her, zulkirs tend to be shrewd, ruthless, and good administrators (or they don’t last long).
Thay is divided into “tharchs,” each ruled by a tharchion responsible for local roads and bridges, sanitation, military defense, irrigation or wateri transport and peacekeeping. The tharchions, or civil rulers, in turn appoint autharchs, or bureaucrats and underlings. Autharchs are generally chosen from.the most competent soldiers, well-off families with a tradition of civil service, or more rarely merchants or free Thayans who simply demonstrate unusual competence.
Red Wizards occasionally scheme for an appointment as a tharchion to increase their own personal power and wealth. All of the tharchions and zulkirs can muster their own armies, and many Red Wizards have multiple bodyguards, so Thay supports a haphazard array of fighting forces. These units range from nearly naked goblins fighting in mobs to plate-armored and highly trained cavairy riding flying steeds or magically augmented mounts of various sorts. These forces often skirmish unofficially when their rulers have a disagreement, or when one catches another doing something overly illicit.
Thay used to fight Aglarond and Rashemen almost continuously, but tasted defeat far too often to continue such enthusiastic hostilities. In the increasingly uncommon “general war” situations, Thay can send at least two special units into battle: the vast Legion of Bone, a regimented unit of marching armored skeletons, and the fearsome Griffon Legion, four hundred battle-skilled Red Wizards hurling spells and dropping incendiaries from griffonback. Thay has a small but growing “middle class” of free folk who are either servant-staff to zulkirs or tharchions, or else merchants and traveling trade-agents. Free Thayans are perhaps the closest to what the folk of Thay would be like without magical oppression. They are careful folk who show their emotions as little as possible, affect a manner of smooth politeness, and take secret glee in watching dancing, revelry, foolishness, and amusements, but never dare to participate.
They tend to eat and drink prodigiously but have strong constitutions (and tolerances for poisons and bad food), and rarely show drunkenness or ill effects from what they consume.
In Thay, slaves are everywhere. Thriving slave markets hawk the living wares of slavers who bring “merchandise” from Amn, Calimshan, Chessenta, Mulhorand, Semphar, and Thesk. The majority of slaves are human, but orcs, goblins, gnolls, half-orcs, and halflings also appear for sale. Thayans still mount slaving raids on other lands, but most slaves are acquired in trade. Although slaves may be altered in any way by their owners at a whim, they are forbidden to cut their own hair or choose their own garb (most are kept near naked). Many slaves last only a few years before dying or being put to death.
Thayans frown on those who treat slaves with wanton cruelty (crippling or weakening punishments are bad for business, wasting valuable property). Nevertheless slaves are put to death for minor infractions, to guard against the greatest fear of all noble Thayans: a bloody and countrywide slave uprising.
The Red Wizards of Thay are infamous for their “immoral” magical experimentations—but they’d be far more of a danger to the rest of Faerun if the internal infighting among their ranks wasn’t so vicious and vigorous.
Red Wizards shave all the hair on their heads (including eyebrows and often eyelashes), and sometimes all over their bodies, and most tattoo themselves heavily. Such tattoos are often a means of magically storing spells for emergency use (the source of many “miraculous escapes” for Thayans imprisoned in other countries). In Thay, only Red Wizards are allowed to wear red robes. They learn iron selfcontrol as quiet, careful underlings to powerful senior mages, and only dare to scheme when they command a powerful roster of personal spells.
Thay is an ungainly, internally riven powerhouse of a nation — but also one that is feared, hated, and carefully watched by all its neighbors.
MAJOR GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
Thay is a hot, often dry, wind-scoured land where many thirst for freedom or greater power. A careful and constantly renewed webwork of spells keeps the weather good for crops with soaking rains on most nights and warm but not harsh heat during the day. The abundant slave power maintains high food production, allowing locally made beer and bread to sustain slaves along with the endlessly available boiled or pickled vegetables. Thay exports a lot of grain, but could sell a good deal more if its rulers weren’t so wary of attack and didn’t keep building (and filling to bursting) granary after granary.
Lake Thaylambar: This vast, deep lake provides rich fishing grounds despite its dragon turtles, which enjoy its icy depths and snack on fishing vessels. Thayan nobles occasionally go on hunting expeditions for the creatures, with about half coming home with a trophy and half never being seen again.
The Plateau of Thay: The heart of Thay is its central, heavily settled plateau. Here frequent human and gnoll patrols keep a vigilant watch for outlanders and escaped slaves, operating out of small fortresses known as tax stations. The tax stations are surrounded by villages where free Thayans dwell, providing "services and goods to the vast, fertile farms that sprawl across the plateau. Slaves labor over the crops, their lives spent swiftly and carelessly in the production of prodigious amounts of food. Every inch of the plateau is tamed. Where the land is not cleared and fenced for farms or villages, one finds the towers and demesnes of Red Wizards (who, rapt in their schemes and researches, do not welcome uninvited visitors). Inquisitive mages of other lands who dare to scry onto the plateau discover that overlapping wards—in many places now approaching the strength of the fabled mythals of old—overlie the land, effectively preventing spying from afar. Those who have reason to be wary of the Red Wizards greatly regret this divination “shield” and seek other ways to learn the Thayans’ schemes.
Surmarsh: Tribes of lizardfolk inhabit this dreary, fever-ridden swamp. Some of these tribes serve as occasional troops in the armies of Thay, which is considered a great honor to the scaly people. Nobles enter the swamp to hunt the monsters that flourish here.
Thaymount: At the center of the Plateau of Thay loom the rugged volcanic peaks known collectively as Thaymount. Earthquakes and ash eruptions indicate that local volcanism is increasing, but the Red Wizards haven’t abandoned their fortresses on the mountain flanks. Instead, they seem to be rushing to and from them more often, called to secret councils and engaged in building new and ever larger fortifications.
Thay’s military reserve (thousands of gnolls, darkenbeasts, and other fell creatures) is quartered in Thaymount, and the mountains are also known to contain both the rich gold mines that have funded the Red Wizards for years and worked-out mines that descend into the Underdark. Thaymount is home to the ancient Citadel, where it’s whispered that runaway spells still rage uncontrolled. Secret forces of magically twisted folk and monsters have emerged from the grim fortresses of Thaymount and gone out into Faerun on sinister missions. Thay’s magical workshops and armories lie in this region, too, worked by hundreds and hundreds of the younger Red Wizards at the command of their superiors.
The Red Wizards have divided Thay into eleven tharchs, each ruled by a tharchion.
Alaor: This tharch consists of the pair of islands off the southern coast of Thay and houses the nation’s largest naval base (large city, 20,520). Heavily damaged in the salamander war (see Regional History, below), it was rebuilt with modern facilities.
Delhumide: This tharch held the capital of the Thayan province when Mulhorand still controlled this area. The capital and other signs of civilization were destroyed in the independence war. The tharch now consists of ruins and slave farms. Its tharchion is a proponent of the magic trade, hoping to increase the prosperity of his poor territory.
Eltabbar: This tharch is of tremendous political importance. Its tharchion Dmitra Flass strives to discourage feuds and intrigues among the zulkirs and advocates expanding the trade in magic items even further. She is married to the High Blade of Mulmaster, a political union that has brought Thay greater access to the Moonsea through its Mulmaster enclave. The tharch contains the Thayan capital, also called Eltabbar (metropolis, 129,120). The city is huge, packed with slaves, and home to numerous slave auctions. The canals flowing through the city once helped to empower a spell that kept a great demon imprisoned under it, although that demon has since escaped due to weakening of the spell by an earthquake.
Gauros: This tharch on the northeastern end of Thay often skirmishes with Rashemen over its mineral-rich hills. The tharchion of Gauros hates Rashemen and constantly schemes to destroy that land, despite mandates from the zulkirs for a temporary peace.
Lapendrar: A cleric of Kossuth rules the southwestern tharch of Lapendrar. Though theoretically independent, the city of Amruthar (metropolis, 41,040) pays tribute to Thay to keep from being annexed. There is a minimal Thayan presence, and while no Red Wizards live here, some do visit. The wealthy rulers live decadently and luxuriously. Some Amrutharans want to sever all ties with Thay, making them fully independent, and some want to join Aglarond, which realistically is too far away to provide any aid. Escalant (metropolis, 28,728) has a history of alternating between independence from Thay and occupation by the Red Wizards. Currently Thay is in charge, although the locals are left to go their own way. The sprawling city is garrisoned with gnolls from the Thayan army.
Priador: The people of the Priador tharch have been terrified into submission by their tharchion, who rules with an iron fist. Currently the region prospers, but the zulkirs plan to intervene if trade falls off. Bezantur (metropolis, 136,800), Thay’s largest city, is vital to the country’s prosperity due to its sea trade. The city is plagued by powerful thieves’ guilds. It is a major religious center, with temples to almost every deity but Azuth and Mystra,
Pyarados: The mountains of this tharch contain rich minerals. The walled city of the same name (metropolis, 54,720) is open to adventurers, even foreign ones, as long as these visitors don’t threaten Thayan interests. The city’s foreign quarter lies outside the city walls. The authorities turn a blind eye to crime, leaving street justice to settle matters. The city is often a launching point for adventurers delving into the Sunrise Mountains.
Surthay: This small tharch is mainly used as a staging ground for attacks against Rashemen, The locals survive through subsistence farming and trade with Theskian merchants. The city of Surthay (large city, 17,784) was originally built as a stronghold against attacks by the Rashemi, but now serves as a base for troops ready to attack that nation. Its proximity to the swamps means it often suffers strange plagues.
Thaymount: This tharch has a large military fortress and gold mines among its central mountains. Because Thaymount is used as the headquarters for the zulkirs, activities here are kept secret from all but the most privileged Red Wizards.
Thazalhar: This tharch controls trade routes to Mulhorand. Its tharchion is a retired general who extracts high tolls for caravans and travelers. The place is mostly a graveyard, since the wars with Mulhorand caused the area much damage. At night some portions are haunted by undead and the spirits of slain warriors.
Tyraturos: This well-patrolled tharch controls the two main highways through the country. The city of Tyraturos (metropolis, 68,400) is large and sprawling, with a huge slave marketplace where almost any creature can be had for a price, including exotic ones such as lamia, centaurs, and drow. Visitors must be careful to avoid being captured and sold into slavery only a few blocks from their inn.
For centuries, the region of Thay was under the rule of the powerful Mulhorandi Empire. Its native people, a Rashemi race, were subject to the rule of a noble class, the Mulan of Mulhorand. The great mage Ythazz Buvarr, a member of a Mulhorandi secret society called the Red Wizards, sought to create a separate realm where wizards would rule instead of the god-kings. Ythazz and his followers raised an army and sacked the capital of the Thayan province. The Red Wizards succeeded in destroying all opposition from their former masters and established the land of Thay in 922 DR. In the years since then, Thay has tried many times to annex portions of Aglarond and Rashemen, sometimes with the assistance of drow, demons, assassination, or even artificially created natural disasters. Each attempt failed, mainly because the Red Wizards could never successfully cooperate with each other. The most recent attempt involved bargaining with the leaders of the efreet and salamanders from the Elemental Plane of Fire. When their allies turned on them, the clerics of Kossuth, lord of the fire elementals, were able to persuade their deity to intervene and rout the other outsiders, greatly elevating Kossuth’s church in the eyes of the Thayans.
With outright conquest denied them, the zulkirs discovered that a great demand for Thayan goods—specifically magic items—exists in the cities of the Inner Sea. Given the number of Red Wizards and the traditions of years of servitude as apprentices and low ranking members of the organization, the Red Wizards found that they could easily mobilize a large number of mages to manufacture potent magic items for sale and undercut other wizards with commercial aspirations.
Over the last several years, this trade has grown from a convenient way to fill the zulkirs’ coffers and extract useful value from apprentices into an extremely rewarding enterprise. At the direction of one zulkir or another, mid-ranking Red Wizards have established enclaves— walled compounds or fortresslike footholds—in Faerunian cities to purvey their magical goods in exchange for the wealth of a dozen lands. Given the success of the mercantile efforts and the traditional failures of overt conquest, a new faction has arisen within the Red Wizards, supporting mercantile rather than military expansion. Grudgingly, the zulkirs (led by the lich Szass Tam, the zulkir of Necromancy and arguably the most powerful Red Wizard in Thay) have agreed to cease direct and overt hostilities against other nations for a time to see whether trade alone can accomplish their objectives. In the meantime, tenuous truces hold along the Aglarondan and Rashemi borders.
- There is one huge change in Thay: They are at war with demons that have invaded the country.