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Volothamp Geddarm (pronounced: /ˈvlθɑːmp gɛˈdɑːrmVOH-loh-thamp geh-DARM[16][17] about this audio file listen), or more often Volo for short, was a widely traveled human wizard and sage of Faerûn in the mid-to-late 14th century DR. He was a legendary traveler, explorer, and rogueish mage, and was most famous, or infamous, for his guidebooks[3][4][15][11][8][12][18][5][9][19] including the controversial and notorious Volo's Guide to All Things Magical.[3]

This guidebook is the next in my ongoing tour of the Realms—I assure thee all, gentles, that you'll find no more diligent guide than your humble servant, Volothamp Geddarm. These last few seasons I've trudged, ridden, swum, sailed, and even flown from the icy wastes north of the Spine of the World to the hot, steaming jungles of the Shining South—and beyond—all in thy service, gentle traveler.
— Excerpt from Volo's introduction to Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast[20]

Personality[]

What is known of Volo comes via Elminster, who edited, annotated, provided prefaces for, and indeed criticized Volo's guides.[21][22][23][24] In these, he described Volo as "impetuous" but an "engaging rogue"[21] and "irrepressible, nay, pompous and pretentious".[22] Elminster claimed he was disgusted by Volo's "base flattery"[23] and said he was given to "exaggeration, misrepresentation, and flights of fancy."[24] Volo certainly had a reputation for embellishing the truth and for bragging[25] and he had an overly high opinion of himself and his place in the world.[9] He also tended to be ambitious, or more precisely, greedy.[19]

Volo was also known to have an acid tongue[4][11][8] and to be quite verbose,[26] even bombastic,[5][9] but overly honest[11][8][27] and mocking.[5] Elminster remarked he'd "never met anyone who can hang himself with his own tongue as effectively as old Volo."[27] Yet he nevertheless had some charms.[9]

Despite his flaws, however, Volo was soft at heart and he cared for his friends most of all, at least those friends he had.[25] He would do anything he could to aid them.[9]

Volo himself claimed to have restless feet and a love of travel, of seeing new things and living life to the full, though his may just have been an excuse for his forced journeys. He considered anything outside the towns and cities to be boring and hazardous.[27] He much preferred the setting of a pleasant tavern or festhall to trekking through a jungle, ruins, or dungeon, and he tended to indulge himself.[5]

Set your course by the truth and you shall never be lost, no matter how far you wander.
— An old adage created by Volo, from title page of Volo's Waterdeep Enchiridion[28]

Description[]

Volo FRCS 2e

Have you seen this wizard?

Volo was considered handsome[29] and in his own estimation even extraordinarily handsome.[30] He had a moustache[25] and a beard he kept neatly trimmed.[4][11][8] He habitually wore a floppy velvet beret that was considered stylish[4][11][8][25] but which had become tatty. It was sometimes adorned with a feather that would droop and look more sad than dashing. He also often wore a once-white loose shirt, leather vest, and breeches[29] and sometimes added a scarf.[25]

Skills & Abilities[]

As of the early 1360s DR, Volo was a wizard of only modest ability. He was knowledgeable in rare and unusual spells, but only of low to moderate power, which were the only ones he could cast. Nevertheless, he was thought to have invented several noteworthy minor spells focused on finding and documenting information[3] and for sundry other purposes. For example, Volo's snatch let him steal small tools and weapons, keys, or, more usually, tasty tarts.[31][32] Common spells he prepared in the mid-1360s DR included blur, cantrip, change self, clairvoyance, color spray, fool's gold, invisibility and invisibility, 10' radius, Nystul's magic aura, phantasmal force and improved phantasmal force, spectral force, and wraithform.[8] Beginning again as a wizard in the late 1480s DR and early 1490s DR, he prepared only comprehend languages,detect magic, disguise self, friends, mending, and prestidigitation.[5][9]

As a sage, he was primarily interested in the spells and activities of human wizards. His secondary area of expertise was the geography and lore of the Realms, specifically the lands known to be inhabited by humans,[3][4] as well as ancient history.[8] After the All Things Magical affair, this study took up more and more of his time and effort.[3][4] He knew a little something about everything, and was only too happy to share with anyone who would hear it.[4] He claimed to be an expert in all the Realms.[15]

Otherwise, he was skilled in artistry, namely his writing, as well as dancing and singing; in brewing and cooking; in etiquette and heraldry; and in horse-riding and tailoring.[8]

Less professionally, Volo could drink incredible quantities of alcohol without getting drunk. Instead, he would pretend to be inebriated so as to hide the ability and let rivals and foes underestimate him or act overconfident. This was thanks to a ritual of blood magic performed by Sa'Sani circa 1374 DR.[19]

N-no! Not replacing, good heavens no, just assisting! How could I turn down such an editor as Elminster? It would be an affront to Mystra—er—to all my fans!
— Volothamp Geddarm[10]

Unbeknownst to Volo, he was in fact a Weave anchor, being imbued by Mystra with her divine fire as a way to prevent the Weave from collapsing should anything happen to the goddess of magic, again. She chose him because no one would ever suspect him. For security, this was a secret known only to Mystra and Elminster, and kept secret from Volo himself, lest he boast and blab about it. This had no effect on his person, thoughts, habits, or any other aspect of his life.[33][34][35][19] The only upshot of this to Volo was that the power, the goddess, or Elminster kept him alive on more than a few occasions in which by all rights he ought to have died, as much as Elminster might want to disintegrate him himself sometimes.[33][19]

Relationships[]

Friendships[]

Volothamp Geddarm and Elminster Aumar became friends, eventually.[10]

Romances[]

From a tenday-long affair with Ravithara Silmerhelve, of the Silmerhelve noble family of Waterdeep, Volo had one son, Emmeros Silmerhelve. Volo and Ravithara were unmarried and Emmeros was still an infant in 1372 DR.[14][13] During the dalliance, Volo learned of the Silmerhelves' secret guardian, the bronze dragon Nymmurh, and his magic. Elminster would remark "If Lord Laerlos Silmerhelve ever reads this, there won't be a fortress strong enough or distant enough in all Toril to save the skin of Volothamp Geddarm from the vengeance of the Silmerhelves. I hear Ravithara wants the father of her baby to return to her side, too." He also observed that Emmeros was a strong boy who had inherited his father's "good looks".[13]

While researching the steel dragon Jalanvaloss for his Wyrms of the North, Volo went to Waterdeep and became infatuated with a "Dark-Eyed Lady", a woman of mystery who enticed with hints of her exotic spells. While he wrote much flowery fluff about her in his notes, it's unclear if this was mere flirting or progressed to something more. Volo knew she was a shapechanger, but not that she was Jalanvaloss herself.[6]

Volo became infatuated with the cold and beautiful merchant wizard Sa'Sani during the mid-1370s DR when he was involved with the merchant company operating out of Crossroad Keep near Neverwinter.[10] Although she did not encourage him in any way and remained cool and haughty, Sa'Sani was aware of his attraction and shared her dry wit with him occasionally. Her blood magic ritual also bound them together, putting a tiny piece of her inside him so that, if she died, she would slowly drain life from Volo and regenerate her own body and return to life. An unexpected side-effect was that she regularly received his thoughts, albeit in a jumbled, broken order. It helped her keep track of Volo and his activities. An even more unexpected side-effect was that Sa'Sani became infatuated with Volo too.[19]

After he inadvertently rescued one Nanthé Ryddorn, a War Wizard, while she was undercover among smugglers in a Suzailan club, the two became friends and occasional lovers. Nanthé liked Volo and was attracted to his scent, apparently, even though she called him a "loathsome worm". He visited her whenever he was in Suzail and focused on Suzailan real estate to make excuses to go there. (Sa'Sani thought Nanthé was useful, and was not jealous.)[19]

Professional[]

His books were published by Tym Waterdeep Limited,[36][28] a publishing company run by Justin Tym. Volo's work did much to build Tym's business, while Volo lived well off the advances he received and the free lunches. Initially, Tym edited Volo's books himself, before the business grew and the work was delegated to dedicated editors.[36]

Volo was an honorary member of the Brotherhood of the Cloak of Mulmaster. The membership was granted to him by the Senior Cloak Thurndan Tallwand personally, in exchange for Volo's silence on his sources used in writing the infamous and legendarily suppressed work, Volo's Guide to All Things Magical.[37]

He had also established an extensive network of contacts who actually would help him too.[8][38]

Although a notorious rogue in his own right, Volo's reputation and the rumors about him meant he was often blamed and scapegoated for many more scandals than he'd actually had a hand in.[19]

Activities[]

Volo itenerant scholar

Caught mid a giant interview.

Volo's research methods on All Things Magical were, according to Elminster, assorted notes, gossip, and stolen glances at other mages' spellbooks, with things hastily and secretly scribbled down when he had the chance or else hazily remembered when he did not.[39] In Elminster's eyes, Volo was indiscreet to the point of recklessness in his research, spying, and poking around and in documenting potentially dangerous knowledge: he described Volo's best skill as "spying and then reporting everything folk would fain keep secret for good reason."[23][24][19] Elminster had to heavily amend and expunge Volo's works to remove errors, distortions, and revelations that might endanger readers or even Faerûn.[39][23][24] This regularly led him to risk his life for a story.[19] Needless to say, he was considered an untrustworthy source.[15] By the time of Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast's publication, Elminster appeared to have developed a grudging, equivocal appreciation for Volo's scholarship, conceding, "He's getting, I suppose, better. You needn't tell him I said that." and didn't need to write such a big preface excusing it.[20]

He traveled far and wide and could be encountered anywhere in Faerûn[4][11][8] and he had even been to Kara-Tur more than once.[40] However, Volo rarely stayed in any one place for long, being always forced to move on by his fearless reporting and inevitable frictions with local mages, merchants, innkeepers, law enforcement,[4][11][8] doppelganger criminal organizations,[41] and jealous husbands.[31][32] At the very least, he was usually asked to leave shortly after publishing something.[15] Always moving on only advanced his knowledge of the Realms further, however.[4]

Volo also engaged in countless other money-making ventures. These included the buying and selling of urban real estate in cities along the Sword Coast,[19] owning properties such as Trollskull Manor , a former tavern and residence in the North Ward of Waterdeep.[19][42][43]

However, his most profitable venture throughout his life was in fact writing, printing, and selling erotic romance chapbooks, under the penname Valhalaeria the Vaunted (whom he would not admit to being one and the same as). These he would sell on the sly.[19]

Having earned the ire of various wizards following All Things Magical, Volo had to take efforts to hide his identity from them, lest he lose his head—or worse![3]

Possessions[]

Volo symbol

Volo's mage sigil.

In the mid-1360s DR, he wielded a rapier. Among his magical possessions were boots of elvenkind, a ring of resistance vs. necromancy, a wand of enemy detection, and a beast-speaker brooch (enabling him to talk with animals).[8]

Volo had a rejuvenating ring created for him by Elminster. By making him more resilient and healing even the most serious injuries, it would certainly help keep his friend alive.[10]

As of the late 1480s DR, Volo fought with a dagger.[5][9]

History[]

Volo's Early Life[]

According to Elminster, at least, Volo was born in a bog somewhere.[3] He was named for the city of Volothamp in Calimshan, apparently because he had been conceived there, and he spent some of his early childhood there.[19] From such an inauspicious start, he would travel far and wide.[3]

In his youth and obscurity, Volo once attended a Mage Fair. Here, he "overheard" something that, combined with what he learned from some Harpers, allowed him to realize the secret of the Dark Lady of Rundreth Manor.[44]

At some point in mid-1300s DR, Volo made a deal with Justin Tym, then just an entrepreneurial print shop owner and purveyor of pornography based in Waterdeep. Tym agreed to publish Volo's books[36] with an option clause for exclusive rights,[38] and each man thought he'd gotten the better of the other. Nevertheless, it would be a successful partnership,[36] albeit with one catastrophic beginning…[38]

Volo's Guide to Outraging Mages[]

What a pretentious title. Not even I would dare to pen something that purported to be a guide to all things magical. Volo did not even try. What he foisted upon Faerûnians hungry for enough secrets of magic to make them rulers of the Realms was a grab bag full of odds and ends about the Art…
— Excerpt from Elminster's introduction to Volo's Guide to All Things Magical[39]

Volothamp Geddarm first came to prominence when he published the infamous first version of Volo's Guide to All Things Magical early in the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, and in doing so angered many of Faerûn's mages.[45][46][10] While Volo purported to explain magic "for the common people"[4][8] and to be honest and straightforward,[27] it included a great many spells that had been thought long forgotten and so revealed these to folk across Faerûn. Several mighty mages, who would rather these spells had stayed forgotten, confronted Volo over this.[45][46] Worse still, it contained dangerous errors and exaggerations in magical knowledge that could lead to uncontrolled summoned outsiders and the destruction of Toril, among others, as well as completely true facts that only the magically educated should know, in the view of those mages and priests who were so educated.[39] The wizards who felt that Volo had exposed their secrets—favored spells, command words, and truenames, as well as their failings and misdeeds—via the book actively sought to punish the man, and some succeeded.[3][10][39][47]

One sorceress of Telflamm, Catanarla the Crimson Cloaked, threatened to transform Volo into some helpless form and magically subject him to unending torment and agony enough for him to wish for death but never find it.[47] Snilloc was more specific, saying, with a smile, that Volo would spend "most of eternity as a dung beetle crushed under a rock at the bottom of a cesspool" and only afterward lose his head.[3] Others threatened him with the old classic of turning him into a toad, or merely drove him out of town.[27]

Thankfully, Elminster Aumar, the Sage of Shadowdale, and Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun of Waterdeep rescued Volo from too terrible or permanent a fate, but still gave him up for their own entertainment to the Simbul, the Witch-Queen of Aglarond.[3] She was more amused by the commotion caused by the hapless writer, so she only transformed Volo into a bird and made him fly into a wall as a punishment. The Witch-Queen dispensed some other magical chastisement on the writer,[3][10] including burning all his hair off, and worse—only as an example of what would happen if he tried such unauthorized reporting again, of course.[3] Yet, in the end, she gifted him an enchanted etched stone with a sly smile. The Simbul told Volo in a soft voice that his survival might depend on the stone's magic. She also warned him that were he ever foolish enough to anger every spellcaster on Toril again, no trinket would be enough to save his hide.[10]

Volo in Waterdeep

A sighting of Volo in Waterdeep in the early 1360s DR.

Volo was also subjected to quite a number of curses that would be triggered if he ever looked too deeply into ways of exposing the secrets of magic ever again. He would not speak of these, but vowed he would be "a very good boy where dealings with wizards are concerned for a long time to come."[3] Nevertheless, the whole affair left him forced to be always on the move to avoid his foes.[27] He could also never again go to another Mage Fair, either.[44]

Meanwhile, the book was suppressed by all powerful wizards,[11][8] including Khelben.[38] Although Elminster claimed to have nothing to do this, he supported it wholeheartedly.[27] Yet Elminster himself undertook to lead a thorough hunt for every single copy of Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, with the aid of many of the mages who'd happened to see it. All the copies were duly burned, though false rumors persisted of one or two remaining and Elminster retained one himself.[39] Reputedly, every copy disappeared, without even a word of refund for production costs or lost revenue, and it nearly ended Tym Waterdeep Limited as a company.[38]

Finally, Elminster prevailed on Volo to see the error of his ways. Elminster later described the book as "misguided' and said that Volo "should leave dabbling in Art to those who know better."[21] Nevertheless, the revealed spells remained known to the magical community, and even entered common use.[45][46]

Volo's Guides to the Realms, Allegedly[]

This guidebook is the result of extensive, often hazardous explorations of the City of Splendors, most colorful city of the Sword Coast. It is the dream of many folk across Faerûn to someday visit this fabled, bustling marketplace and grandest of abodes. This tome attempts to steer visitors to sights and folk they want to see—or avoid.
— Excerpt from Volo's introduction to Volo's Guide to Waterdeep[48]

In response to all this, Volo naturally switched his focus to his secondary interest—writing travel guides documenting Faerûn.[45][46][note 1] But once again, he would not enjoy immediate success. The earliest known, Volo's Guide to the Moonsea, written over 1357 and 1358 DR, was similarly suppressed, now by the Zhentarim.[49][50] His next works, Volo's Guide to the Vast, written from 1358 to 1360 DR,[49][50] and Volo's Guide to the Bloodstone Lands, written from 1360 to 1362 DR, also went unreleased.[49] Meanwhile, Volo's Guide to Westgate and the Dragon Coast was written some time in the early 1360s DR on commission by a noble of Yhaunn, Sembia, so it remained in private ownership.[49][50] Continuing a theme, Volo's Guide to Calimport was written over 1364 and 1365 DR but all final drafts were destroyed by Calishite pashas and Rundeen agents and only notes and an old draft remained.[49]

One of his first travel guides to see publication was Volo's Guide to the Frozenfar, published in 1364 DR.[51] Next was Volo's Guide to Waterdeep detailing the City of Splendors, written over 1363 DR to 1365 DR.[21][49] After checking and editing it carefully, Elminster conceded that Volo had "done a better job" on it, compared to All Things Magical, but that he had missed much and got a few things very wrong too.[21] Volo himself admitted it was limited, as he could not go everywhere, nor reveal everything.[48] Nevertheless, it notably exposed the Hanging Lantern festhall as a front for a kidnapping operation by the Unseen when Volo casually mentioned that all the courtesans were in fact doppelgangers. Although a significant setback for the Unseen and putting Volo on the doppelgangers' hit list should he ever wander into Waterdeep again, it only increased interest in the establishment.[52][41][53]

This unwilling yet fruitful writing partnership continued with Volo's next few works, with Volo's Guide to the North written over 1365 to 1366 DR,[49] Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast written over 1366 and 1367 DR,[49] Volo's Guide to Cormyr written over 1367 to 1368 DR,[49][50] Volo's Guide to the Dalelands written over 1368 to 1369 DR,[49][50] and Volo's Guide to the Lands of Intrigue, written over 1369 to 1370 DR. These would all made it to publication.[49]

At some point, Volo helped foil a conspiracy by the Unseen and their leader the doppelganger Hlaavin that apparently threatened all Faerûn. He thought that Khelben Arunsun would owe him one after that.[38][54]

Volo's Guide to Trying Again[]

In the late 1360s DR,[note 2] Volo returned to Waterdeep, where he had a meeting with Justin Tym to discuss business and future plans. Justin pressed Volo for forthcoming works. Volo promised he was working on Volo's Guide to the Moonsea and would soon journey to Mulmaster for research.[note 3] Instead, he offered up his magnum opus once again: Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, the Revised, Authorized, & Expanded Edition. This time, he claimed to use only secondhand sources: interviews, legends, and stories, all documented, verifiable, and publicly available, with no stolen secrets (not that he admitted to having used any the first time around)[38] and the people involved granting signed permission. After renegotiating his advances, Volo left the manuscript with "Tym"—in fact the doppelganger Hlaavin, who burned it all in the fireplace and had Volo banned from the publishing house, as only the beginnings of its revenge against him.[55]

In any case, after "due passage of time" (a decade), Elminster had now agreed that a new Volo's Guide to All Things Magical should be published, if only to prevent people searching in vain for the original version. From his own last-remaining copy, Elminster corrected, edited, and censored the work and released a new version in 1367 DR. Then he destroyed his own last copy of the original.[39]

Later, Volo visited the War Wizard club in Cormyr, braving the price on his head in that kingdom at the time to handle some business before he departed again for the Dalelands. While there, Elminster arrived and introduced Volo to his would-be apprentice Presto to give him a potted geography lesson. After they left, Ed Greenwood and Julia Martin arrived and pressured Volo to give up the manuscript of the new All Things Magical for publication on Earth, despite his fears of being turned into a toad, insisting they would clear it with Elminster later. Left alone, poor Volo contemplated life as a toad.[27]

Volo's Guide to Identity Theft[]

Ironically, the next great scandal in Volo's life was one he was entirely innocent of, apparently. In the Year of the Shield, 1367 DR, a Waterdhavian thief named Marcus Wands, a.k.a. Marco Volo (a pseudonym he adopted to sound more appealing to women), stole from the mad wizard Sabbas a powerful artifact called the Dragonking's Eye and framed Volo for the crime, by simply sending to Sabbas an anonymous note blaming Volothamp Geddarm. After the All Things Magical affair, it seemed plausible and the wizard fell for it completely, but the plan backfired—Sabbas decided local thief Marco Volo was the real Volothamp Geddarm in disguise! He announced a 10,000 gold piece (layer 20,000) reward for Volo's capture or death, and hired mage-assassin Felibarr Blacklance to hunt him down, setting him on the trail of Volothamp, that is, "Marco Volo", that is, Marcus Wands.[11][56][57][58][8]

At first, Volo remained entirely unwitting of all this. With several bounties on his head, this was just one more. But after escaping assassination attempts, he couldn't help but take notice. When he realized the description did not fit him and he was not the real target, this time, he began to look into it,[11][58] With his own well-honed investigative skills, he realized who "Marco Volo" really was—Marcus Wands, of the Wands noble family of Waterdeep—and spoke with the family patriarch Maskar Wands. As much as Maskar disliked Volothamp and his work, he agreed to help for the sake of his nephew. Volo used his contacts to track down Marcus and the adventurers, mainly following the chaos in their wake.[8] He also spoke to Elminster and learned of the Dragonking's Eye.[29]

He caught up with them in the Spiderhaunt Woods in Shadowdale[8] and at the crystalline fortress created by the Dragonking's Eye finally confronted Marcus Wands. Understandably angry at having yet another wizard after him, he demanded explanations and threatened a beating, before agreeing to share what he knew of the Eye[29] and even help Marcus and the adventurers shut it down. He would even get a chance to try to interview the deities Tyr, Sune, and Corellon Larethian when they showed up to recapture the released Dragonking.[29][note 4]

Volo's Guide to Getting Lucky[]

In the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR, Volo was visiting the city of Elturel where he engaged in a table dice game with a severe-looking northern barbarian. Coincidentally, exactly at that time, the goddess of luck Tymora was affected by Iyachtu Xvim's plot to steal the powers of both her and her sister Beshaba. The luck powers of the goddess began running rampant through Faerûn. Volo's game was affected and he rolled doubles eight times, driving his opponent into a blind rage, who angrily ordered him to continue. With tears of terror in his eyes, Volo couldn't help but keep rolling doubles but finally escaped the livid barbarian by flinging the dice cup into his face and running for his life through the streets of Elturel. He prayed to Tymora, wondering why she'd wasted so much good luck on him.[59] By now, Volo and his guides were well known, enough for Joel to joke, on encountering a barghest, "I seem to have misplaced my Volo's guide to Gehenna."[60] Volothamp Geddarm himself was a famous, much-talked-about figure all around Faerûn by 1369 DR.[61]

After this, Volo dared to return to writing about magic, with Volo's Guide to Rhyming Incantations published in 1371 DR.[62] Volo's Guide to Magic also appeared—or at least its Appendix III did, being found ripped out of the larger work as of 1374 DR.[12][note 5]

Volo's Guide to Snakes & Shipwrecks[]

Volo Samarach

Volo, during his misadventures in Samarach. He even seems to have lost his beret.

The Year of Lightning Storms, 1374 DR was marked with a voyage for the now legendary (and infamous) Volothamp Geddarm. He boarded the Vigilant, traveling from Crossroad Keep on the Sword Coast North to the hidden nation of Samarach on the Chultan Peninsula. However, multiple strange occurrences took place during the voyage. At one point, Volo was sitting to dine on a bowl of ship's soup but became distracted by a pod of dolphins. When he returned to his meal, the bowl was snatched by one of the Vigilant's crew members. The soup had apparently gone bad, and the poisoning killed the sailor instead, saving Volo's life.[10]

The streak of bad luck culminated in a fierce storm that shipwrecked the Vigilant on the Samarach shore. Luckily, Volo survived, along with a handful of passengers. Soon after reaching land, the survivors were accosted by bands of local ravenous Batiri goblins. Confident in his diplomacy and knowledge of the Goblin language, Volo attempted a negotiation. Needless to say, a bloody battle followed, with the survivors emerging victorious.[10]

Subsequently, the survivors were escorted to the city of Samargol by a patrol Samarach's Elite Guards. Despite the city being closed to most foreigners, Volo's business partner, local merchant Sa'Sani, vouched for the writer and promptly hired other survivors as members of her business, allowing them entrance to the City of Veils. While in Samargol, Volo collected lore on the exotic jungle nation that later was collected and printed as Volo's Guide to the Serpent Kingdoms. Along with adventurers, Volo became entangled in a clandestine plot of the yuan-ti House Se'Sehen to take over Faerûn through infiltration of merchant companies. When one of Sa'Sani's aides was exposed as a yuan-ti pureblood, the group, along with Volo, was forced to flee Samarach through the hidden Lantan-Samarach portal back to the Sword Coast. As a gesture of a personal gratitude, Volo gifted the adventurers his rejuvenating ring.[10]

Afterward, Volo joined Sa'Sani and the adventurers in Crossroad Keep, from where he continued work on his guides and conducted research into cult and bandit activities. Volo remained in Crossroad Keep until the snake cultists of Zehir were stopped, their plans of domination thwarted.[10]

During this time, Sa'Sani performed a blood ritual magic on Volo, ostensibly to mitigate the effects of intoxication and "save him from himself" but secretly also to magically bind the two of them together.[19]

Later, Volo diversified his interests further, publishing Volo's Guide to Good Rulership in 1377 DR.[63]

Volo's Guide to Skipping Ahead[]

Whilst working on his guide to Cormyr circa 1367 DR, Volo had speculated so rampantly about the mysterious mages known as the Sword Heralds that Elminster declared "We fix that, or this book gets renamed forthwith: Volo's Guide to the Effects of an Imprisonment Spell on the Victim, Written from Personal Experience."[64] For whatever reason, Elminster eventually made good on this threat and trapped Volo in an imprisonment spell, in a state of stasis, as punishment for whatever he'd done this time.[33][65] He spent some time as a frog, a stone ornament, or a stone ornament of a frog in Elminster's pond for some misdeed or another, for somewhere between 18 years and half a century. Elminster was controlling himself admirably, apparently, having chosen not to blast him outright.[19]

Conveniently, Volo was still caught like this when the Spellplague struck in the Year of Blue Fire, 1385 DR. With him being one of Mystra's Weave anchors, the magic fortunately did not go awry, injure him, or end prematurely. Unfortunately, he remained trapped in this state for decades, unageing[33] and unaware of the world that moved far beyond what he'd written of in his guides.[65]

Following his release, he was later informed by Elminster about the events of the Spellplague and the transference of parts of Abeir and Toril, though Volo scarcely understood the explanations.[65]

Volo's Guide to Being a Successful Author at Last[]

After his return, Volo was hired by his rival Randilus Qelver to explore the valley of Barovia for a commission of 99 golden dragons. He escaped imprisonment in the demiplane by using a charm given to him by Elminster.[66]

At some point, he wrote the chapbook Volo's Waterdeep Enchiridion, a short visitor's guide to the City of Splendors intended to cover a gap in the market until a new and updated edition of Volo's Guide to Waterdeep could be released. It was again published by Tym Waterdeep Limited, with the aid of the Fellowship of Innkeepers and the Fellowship of Carters and Coachmen, and had the approval of Open Lord Laeral Silverhand. At this time, Volo enjoyed the patronage of the Melshimber noble family and had procured the services of a solicitor, Abricade Fellswop.[28] He charged 7 copper nibs for an autograph.[30] Volo's Guide to Waterdeep was eventually reprinted, and Volo was selling them, and loaning them, to visitors on the streets of Waterdeep as of around 1486 DR.[67]

Sometime in the late 1480s or early 1490s DR, Volo journeyed to Port Nyanzaru in Chult in order to promote his new book, Volo's Guide to Monsters. He arranged audiences with the seven merchant princes of the city to deliver autographed hardcover copies to them, and of course visited inns and taverns to share stories and sell books for 50 gp each.[5] He gladly shared the latest rumors, advice, and information he'd overheard since arriving in town to any travelers and adventurers he met, and some of it was even true.[5][68]

Volobar

Volo welcoming adventurers at the Yawning Portal.

Following his successful promotional tour, he returned to Waterdeep to take a break[25][9] and to start working on his next book, Volo's Guide to Spirits and Specters, while he waited for royalty payments for his previous book, Volo's Guide to Monsters, which left him short on coin. However, he struggled on Spirits and Specters, not least because his knowledge of the ghostly variety of spirit was far surpassed by his knowledge of the alcoholic.[25] While pondering it, he passed many of his free hours in the taproom of the Yawning Portal and catching up with friends and old friends.[9]

Soon after his return, in the Year of Three Ships Sailing, 1492 DR,[note 6] an acquaintance of his named Floon Blagmaar went missing, possibly kidnapped, following a night of carousing with Volo at the Skewered Dragon tavern. To find him, Volo would hire adventurers at the Yawning Portal, choosing a group that just survived a tavern brawl.[42][25] They rescued both Floon and Renaer Neverember and, in lieu of the promised payment he could not actually provide, Volo offered the deed to Trollskull Manor. Reputed to be haunted, Volo had purchased the property for research material.[42][43] Much later, Volo may have come cap in hand to the successful adventurers to ask for funding for his next expedition.[69]

Subsequently, while relaxing at the Yawning Portal, Volo would buy drinks for other adventurers who planned to venture into Undermountain and related tales of the great dungeon. These included the legend of the lost throne of Coronal Syglaeth Audark, last ruler of Illefarn; if rediscovered, he would tell elven friends about it.[70] He could also introduce adventurers to Captain Jalester Silvermane of the City Watch.[71]

Sometime in the 1490s DR, still in Waterdeep, Volo frequented the Halfway Inn. There, he encountered a halfling rogue recruited by Open Lord Laeral Silverhand herself into the rescue mission for her pet baby griffin kidnapped by the Xanathar's Thieves' Guild. Volo aided the little thief by pointing him towards Skullport where the guild operated from and gave some advice on how to safely get there.[72] Sometime before that, he has authored a book about adventuring and dungeon delving, Dungeonology.[73]

Volo

Volo while a "guest" of the goblins.

In the Year of Three Ships Sailing, 1492 DR, Volo traveled to the Emerald Grove in the Western Heartlands in order to study the unique behavior of a certain group of goblins. He was subsequently captured by these goblins, who were members of the Cult of the Absolute, and taken to their headquarters at a nearby temple of Selûne, which at least gave him a closer look at his subjects. He even worked on his new book, On Goblins: My Life Among the Conquering Host, with his hastily scribbled notes seized by Booyagh Piddle, who wondered what Volo's description of them as "obstreperous" and "malodorous" meant. Volo's fate is as yet unconfirmed; he may have been rescued by adventurers, or else left in the goblins' clutches.[2]

In the late 1490s DR,[note 7] a portrait of Volothamp Geddarm was instrumental in an attempted robbery of the Castle Never vaults in Neverwinter by thieves Edgin Darvis, Holga Kilgor, Simon, and Doric.[74]

Six months after the end of the Absolute crisis in Baldur's Gate, Volo actively sought contributors for the newest edition of Volo's Guide to Baldur's Gate.[2]

Volo's Undated Misadventures[]

Volo had at different points apprenticed under various mages, including Elminster.[19]

In one instance, he used his Volo's snatch spell to hurriedly dress himself, albeit in lingerie, while escaping a paramour's husband through a shop.[31][32][19]

In another, Volo had a run-in with some smugglers hailing from Sembia and Westgate engaged in underhanded dealings in an upper-room club in Suzail, Cormyr. In his frantic escape, he happened, quite by accident, to save the life of one Nanthé Ryddorn, undercover War Wizard.[19]

One particularly terrible tavern brawl saw a mind flayer strangle Volo with three tentacles and burrow a fourth into his brain. Fortunately, Volo was not especially hampered by this, for the mind flayer didn't suck out his brain but rather implanted an enchanted gem known as a stone of thoughts. This transmitted random thoughts from Volo to the mind flayer, Ixruu Thalarkul, who used it for information gathering purposes.[19]

Notable Works[]

Bibliography[]

See also: Works by Volothamp Geddarm
Volo's Guide to Chult

The 15th century Volo's Guide to Chult pullout map.

Owing to their infamy, it's assumed that all of Volo's manuscripts and other works of similar repute, whether copies or originals, were held in Candlekeep or, if not, the Avowed would have records of their existence.[49]

Spells[]

See also: Volothamp Geddarm's spells

Other Creations[]

For his guidebooks, Volo developed his own ratings system, which assessed a locale's quality (ranked by number of pipes for an inn or tankards for a tavern), price (by number of coins), and even safety (by number of daggers).[21][22][20][24]

Appendix[]

See Also[]

Background[]

Volothamp "Volo" Geddarm was first mentioned in Forgotten Realms Adventures by Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood in 1990, where "Volo's Guide to All Things Magical" was used as an in-universe device for introducing an array of new spells. Volo's shift to writing travel guides seems to be a subtle joke about him having to go on the run. Volo was invented by Jeff Grubb.[81][19] Far from Volothamp in Calimshan, he was named after Volo Bog in Illinois, USA, not far south of TSR's Lake Geneva headquarters. So, he was born in a bog after all.[19]

Volo might have remained a one-off, throwaway reference, but Greenwood adopted him as a narrator and title character for a planned series of travel guides. He wanted an unreliable narrator for several reasons, including to avoid giving too much "true" information, and a character who could be unlikeable and powerless enough to be banned from large cities and other areas that couldn't be included in the guides for reasons of space or licensing. Greenwood expanded "Volo" to "Volothamp Geddarm" and developed his voice and character. Meanwhile, his appearance was created by TSR artist Robh Ruppel as a portrait of fellow artist Clyde Caldwell.[19] Thus, Volo's Guide to Waterdeep was published in 1993 and employed the conceit of Volo as an unreliable narrator and writer of an in-universe guidebook, with existing Realms character Elminster as editor providing corrections, commentary, further information, and D&D rules where necessary, via the many, many snarky footnotes.

Using the same model, this was followed by Volo's Guide to the North, Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast, Volo's Guide to Cormyr, and Volo's Guide to the Dalelands over the next few years. A real Volo's Guide to All Things Magical was published in 1996. After a delay, Volo's Guide to Baldur's Gate II was released in 2000 as a tie-in to the game Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (ironically, not covering Baldur's Gate itself, which was covered in Sword Coast). Volo's Guide to Monsters revived the concept in 2016 and served as the model for subsequent 5th-edition sourcebooks, from Xanathar's Guide to Everything onwards.

Greenwood also used Volo and Elminster again for several series of articles in Dragon magazine, including Wyrms of the North, The New Adventures of Volo, and Volo's Guide. Volo would get to provide footnotes of his own in the promotional Forgotten Realms Conspectus, commenting on Elminster, Drizzt Do'Urden, Khelben Arunsun, and the Simbul.

As well as being a narrator, Volo became a character in his own right, appearing as a main character in the novels Once Around the Realms and The Mage in the Iron Mask and having cameos in many other adventures, novels, comics, and video games.

Notes[]

  1. Although not stated explicitly, Volo's switch to writing travelogues seems to be a subtle joke about him having to go on the run from the many mages out to get him.
  2. Although the "Presenting...Seven Millennia of Realms Fiction" timeline places the Realms of Magic framing stories "Prologue" and "Epilogue" in 1366 DR, they expressly follow Once Around the Realms, which "Presenting..." places in 1367 DR. Moreover, Once Around the Realms has its own significant dating discrepancy. In addition, "Prologue" implies the in-universe Volo's Guide to the Dalelands is forthcoming, but "The Candlekeep Collection" article says it was written over 1368–1369 DR. However, both characters in this framing story could be mistaken or lying, with Justin Tym being a doppelganger and Volo being Volo.
  3. "The Candlekeep Collection" article compiled later has Volo's Guide to the Moonsea written 10 years earlier and suppressed. Perhaps Volo means to write a new version; if so, none is known to have seen print.
  4. While Volo's continued participation in the final parts of Marco Volo: Arrival are optional, and indeed unlikely given his character, Volo's claim to have met gods in Volo's Guide to Monsters, p. 164, implies he was present. Unless he had any other opportunities for meeting deities, of course.
  5. Given the curses and severe threats should he ever return to authoring books about magic, it is unclear why Volo should then publish these two. Their close dates, even if from unrelated sources, suggest a connection. It may be that their contents skirted the restrictions on him or they were thoroughly vetted and approved by the likes of Elminster. If so, the appearance of only Volo's Guide to Magic, Appendix III, and not the rest of the book, suggests it did not escape the editor's axe unscathed.
  6. Canon material does not provide a year for the events described in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, but Christopher Perkins answered a question via Twitter and stated the year was 1492 DR. Corroborating this, Dragon Heist page 20 refers to events of Death Masks (set in 1491 DR) as being "last year". Unless a canon source contradicts this assertion, this wiki will use 1492 DR for events related to this sourcebook and Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (which is referenced on pages 5 and 98 of Dragon Heist).
  7. The Honor Among Thieves movie and its tie-ins are as yet undated. As discussed here, from the condition of Castle Never and Dagult Neverember's reign, this wiki estimates a date of the late 1490s DR for the main events of the movie. Prequels and flashback scenes are set up to 11 years before this.

Appearances[]

Adventures

Novels & Short Stories

Realms of Magic ("Prologue" • "Epilogue") • Realms of the Underdark ("At the Publishing House" • "Volo Does Menzo" • "Back at the Publishing House") • Once Around the Realms • The Mage in the Iron Mask • Tymora's Luck • "Only a Woman Can Take This Sort of Abuse" • "The Night Tymora Sneezed" • "Volo Breaks a Hot Tale" • Death Masks • "Volo's Visit to Barovia"

Film & Television

Referenced only
Honor Among Thieves

Comics

Gamebooks

Video Games

Board Games

Card Games

Organized Play & Licensed Adventures

Peril at the Port • Drums of the Dead: Book 1 • Drums of the Dead: Book 2 • Drums of the Dead: Book 3 • The Skull Square Murders • Xanathar's Wrath

Gallery[]

External Links[]

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the following links do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of this wiki, nor does any lore presented necessarily adhere to established canon.

References[]

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Connections[]

Companions and Followers in Baldur's Gate III
Companions
AstarionGaleHalsinJaheiraKarlachLae'zelMinscMintharaShadowheartWyll
Followers
FlorrickGlutHalsinHopeLosiirOmeluumSazzaUlder RavengardUsZanner Toobin
Camp Followers
AlfiraArabellaAylinBarcus WrootElminsterThe EmperorGrubIsobel ThormMizoraOathbreaker Knightowlbear cubQuil GrootslangRaphaelSceleritas FelScratchTaraThanielUlder RavengardVolothamp GeddarmWithersYenna
Hirelings
Eldra LuthrinnBrinna BrightsongZenith Feur'selDantonVaranna SunblossomSina'zithKerzVer'yll WenkiirMaddala DeadeyeJacelynKree DerryckFuzzalump
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