The Circle of Nine
The Circle of Nine was a legendary order of Mages comprised of Grizwold, The Master of Many and the eight apprentices that he took over the course of his life. Grizwold and his apprentices were each legendary figures individually, but were even more so when they came together on issues that they deemed to be of great import.
The members of the Circle were each Archmagi in their field of focus, and each held equal rank in the the Circle. Their responsibilities were divided between the members, and group decisions were made democratically, each member voting in turn, with Grizwold always holding the tie-breaking vote. As the group grew, they designed official positions, which they rotated in and out of. Each position would be held for 2 years, at which point the member holding the position would declare whether they wished to keep the role for another term. If there were no objections to their keeping the role, that would be the end of it. If there were objections, a vote would be held to choose between the objector and the current holder of the position. If a holder did not wish to continue in the position, then other members could volunteer. If there were multiple volunteers, a vote would be held to decide between them. If there were none, then the members that did not hold a position would draw lots to decide, with the previous holder of the position being exempt.
TreasurerThe treasurer of the group was a position that came with benefits but also was the most highly scrutinized. The treasurer was in charge of organizing the defense of the Circle's amassed riches, and of approving requests by individual members for access to funds or magical items. The treasurer was of course able to approve his own expenditures, but this was a dangerous privilege to abuse, as they might not be allowed to have the position again.
LiaisonThe Liaison was often a position that had to be assigned by drawing of lots. In general, even the most personable of the members of the Circle did not particularly enjoy involving themselves in politics (with the notable exception of Prelore, the Wizard King) and the position of liaison was designed for this very purpose. Grizwold did not wish to allow his students to become too far separated from the world of mortals, as very powerful magi sometimes do. His philosophy was that magic should be used to improve life for those who did not have it at their disposal.
WatcherDue to the extremely arcane nature of the members of the Circle, one member was required to promise to keep his/her work contained to the Prime Material Plane for at least 16 of his 24 months in term, so that they could hear appeals to the Circle asking for aid with magical issues, or assess potential apprentice candidates for the other members if they were indisposed. This member was also charged with watching current apprentices when their master was doing work that they deemed to be a major threat to their student. This position was devised when the Circle was apparently pronounced dead while they were all away for some time. This was only an inconvenience in the sense that they had to deal with 'tomb' raiders for the next decade or so following the rumor's inception.
The members of the Circle of Nine each held their own beliefs, and in general they agreed not to exert the organization's power over one another oppressively. Their culture was one of independence and magical research, and they agreed that each of them should be allowed to research whatever they desired, so long as it did not bring harm to the other members of the Circle. The members had informal agreements to protect one another from persecution by mortal governments or jealous mages. Internally, the members of the Circle viewed one another as close family. This close bond is perhaps contributed to the collapse of the Circle when Don't read this if you play in my gameThe differing views of the Circle felt all the more like betrayal for how much they all trusted one another.
Hader came to consume the Prime Material Plane.
The public agenda of the Circle was the general furthering of magic. They often released manuscripts of their more benign discoveries, in particular advancements in magic which was useful in utility but not very powerful in terms of combat application. Detractors of the Circle often pointed out that their refusal to release these spells was a clear sign that their intent towards the world was not peaceful. The archmagi simple explained that they needed to maintain a hold on their offensive and defensive advancements to defend their caches of lore and livelyhoods.
Each of the members of the Circle maintained a fortress of their own, and Grizwold's fortress was the grandest of them all. Damn near impregnable by mundane means, this fortress served as a meeting place for the Circle and as a stronghold in which to store their vast collection of riches, as well as manuscripts and notes on their most impressive magical achievements. The fortress itself is manned by a golem army, and is said to be unreachable by those who do not already know of its location. Doubtless, the insides of the fortress are enchanted with a lifetime of one of the greatest magical minds in history's most devious traps and protective enchantments.
Seriously, major spoilers for the campaign!!
The Circle of Nine shattered into warring factions when the nine members could not decide on what to do about the invasion of Hadar shortly before the first year. The magi could not decide, like much of the world, if they should attempt to do battle with the forces of the invading dark god, or if they should invest all of their efforts into preserving the world through his attack. Grizwold, the leader of the Circle, refused to use his tie-breaking vote, believing that overruling half of the members would surely result in a battle between his students. When Hadar struck down Mayka'luna, the Great Hag from her position as the moon goddess, both factions became equally enflamed. The conflicts over the cache of the Circle's resources ended in a bloody battle, and Grizwold was severely injured in the crossfire as he attempted to calm his students. After that point, he retreated from the world, along with most of what was stored within his stronghold, and the Circle turned into nothing more than a few disparate powerful mages. Without their unity, they were individually able to accomplish much less in this critical time for the world.