Dragon #219 says "He is also the only person to have an AD&D spell named after him, not the character" (which isn't exactly true, since Tasha is named after a real person, and Otiluke and Drawmij weren't the names of the PCs those people played) but I'm not even sure how the chronology of that would work. In that article (published in 1995) he says he was first introduced to RPGs "over a decade ago," but Nystul's Magic Aura
appeared in the Player's Handbook
way back in 1978. Nystul didn't start working for TSR until 1995. He was scheduled to write a "major Planescape boxed set" with Colin McComb, but that never seems to have happened. It doesn't look like anything he might have written for TSR was ever published at all, if this product page
is comprehensive (the company was unable to afford to pay their printer after 1996 and not everything originally planned ended up happening; also, Colin McComb left the company in 1996). Nystul designed a lot of demon-related sourcebooks for Mayfair's RoleAids line, and a sourcebook on "archmagic," which sounds roughly like what in 3rd edition would be called epic magic. He seems to be best known for the Whispering Vault
horror-themed RPG that he originally self-published. The background of that game seems very complex and interesting, and I can think of a number of ways that could add depth to Nystul of Tenh in the Greyhawk setting; perhaps the order of Pholtan monks who raised him were exorcists founded by otherworldly spirit-binders. Perhaps Nystul utilizes some of the techniques of a Whispering Vault character in battling the forces of Iuz.
Mike Nystul also designed some spells and magic for the FANTASY HERO game, so someone wanting to flesh out a wizard character might go to those products as well.
Random fact: the Sorcerous Union in Radigast City, where the wizard Nystul was trained in magic, is known as perhaps the most prestigious school of illusion magic on Oerth according to Oerth Journal #3.
According to Grodog's Greyhawk puns and homages page
, Gary Gygax wrote on Dragonsfoot that "Nystul is the surname of a stage magician, Brad Nystul, who suggested the magical aura spell to me," which suggests that it isn't named after Mike Nystul at all (I found the original quote here
). Grodog's page also claims (quoting someone else on Dragonsfoot) that Mike and his brother Bryan Nystul (who was also a game designer, primarily for FASA) played in Len Lakofka's Lendore Isle campaign, though, and it's possible the idea for the spell got to Gygax that way and EGG simply misremembered the spell's origin in later years (and Google found me that thread
). It's possible that Brad Nystul was a relative of Mike Nystul's (he said in Dragon #219 that he was introduced into gaming by his father, a former theatrical lighting salesman who had been to a Gen Con; he could
have been a stage magician as well, since stage magicians could certainly make use of theatrical lighting - and anyway, the idea that Mike Nystul's father sold lighting seems possibly connected to the wizard Nystul being raised by a monk obsessed with the powers of light and darkness).
Oh, okay! The second Dragonsfoot link led me over to Footprints
magazine #5, in which Len Lakofka discusses his "Nystul campaign," which included "Brad, Genny, Mike and Brian [sic] Nystul and Mark whose last name I don't remember." Mike and Bryan Nystul were brothers and later game designers, so Brad Nystul must have been their father. Mystery solved, I guess: it was actually probably Mike Nystul's father
who the spell was named after (although Mike might have suggested the spell to his father, who suggested it to Gygax - who knows?). Genny Nystul was probably their mother, or conceivably their sister. Lakofka said the "Nystul campaign" ended in 1985, which fits the "over a decade ago" reference in Dragon
. I'm not sure how old the Nystul brothers were at the time, or how long they'd been playing, but it does seem clear that they'd known Gary Gygax as early as 1978.
#5, Len Lakofka goes into more detail on Mike Nystul's D&D character: "Mike was more aggressive and impetuous while Brian was more conservative. Mike did many brash things that got him killed more than once. One of them was using his magic user as a flying spell launch pad during a major melee. As he rose above the clatter and begin casting a Fire Ball someone yelled “There’s a target!” and many orc archers found something to shoot at! Oops!" Okay, that's some detail that could go into Nystul the Wizard. Oh, look at that: the issue also has the character sheets of all the characters played during that campaign. The only magic-users were:
Arthur, NG human mage/cleric of Wee Jas (player: Bob, whoever that is)
Bond, CN half-elven fighter/mage of Wee Jas (player: Mike Nystul). Said to be a native of Nyrond, which borders Tenh. This must be the impetuous one mentioned above. Note the official wizard Nystul is said to disguise himself as a "demure half-elven maiden." Bond's gender isn't noted on the character sheet.
Zeelon, N elven mage/thief worshiper of Norebo. (player: Genny Nystul)