Especially since Stranger Things came out, most people know the name Vecna as some sort of evil being. This character also plays an important role in the first season of Critical Role. But who actually is Vecna in Dungeons and Dragons?
„Evil is not an absence of good. […] It is not a choice. […] Evil is one of two forces in the cosmos, an agency locked in eternal struggle against its antithesis. […] Only good and evil exist. And not even a hair’s width of space separates them.“Vecna
Vecna in Dungeons and Dragons books
The first time Vecna is mentioned in Dungeons and Dragons books is in Eldritch Wizardry from 1976. The name is an alliteration of the name Vance, based on the author Jack Vance, who inspired the D&D magic system. this first mention only introduced items that refer to Vecna were, but not the character itself. These items are the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna. In addition, a protector named Kas, who will play an important role later, is mentioned here for the first time.
Then in 1989, Vecna became a character in his own right for the first time in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition. “Vecna Lives!” made Vecna the central villain of a campaign. Over the following years and editions, Vecna then became a regular character in Dungeons and Dragons, appearing again and again in various roles.
The history of Vecna in Dungeons and Dragons
The story of Vecna begins as a normal mage in Oerth, the world of Greyhawk settings. This mage was already very strong in his lifetime, but strived to escape death. There are several theories on how he could have achived that incredible feat. Some stories mention that Vecna made a pact with Orcus, god of the undead. Others claim that he found a spell which allowed him to imprison his own death. Still others claim that he simply angered so many gods that they forbade him his eternal rest.
In any case, Vecna managed to escape death and become a so-called lich (perhaps the first), an undead mage. He used this power to build an empire and rule it cruelly. During this time, Vecna took in a student named Acererak, who would later become a Demilich as well. Acererak is also featured on the cover of the Dungeons Master’s Guide.
Furthermore, the previously mentioned Kas came to Vecna as a lieutenant and loyal protector. He carried a magical sword that Vecna himself had created from raw stars. This sword was so evil that it eventually led Kas to try to overthrow Vecna. The two fought and destroyed each other in an epic clash. After the battle, only the Eye of Vecna, the Hand of Vecna, and the Sword of Kas were found in the rubble.
These artifacts continued to harbor great evil powers within them. After some time, a cult formed around the parts of Vecna and quickly grew in numbers. This allowed Vecna to re-form as a demigod and return to the world of Greyhawk. He also was temporarily trapped in the demiplane of Ravenloft, but managed to escape.
So now in Dungeons and Dragons, Vecna is an immortal, incredibly evil lesser god who aspires to become a greater god.
Items associated with Vecna
Eye and Hand of Vecna
Found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 224.
The left eye and hand of Vecna. They can be found either together or separately. In order to use them, these magic items must replace with your own body parts. They cannot be removed without killing the character wearing them.
Alone, the eye and hand are powerful items that allow the wearing character to cast spells and have many other positive effects. Together, however, they are nearly unstoppable. They allow the skeleton of a living creature to be turned into jelly and can grant wishes.
They can only be destroyed by killing the person carrying them with the Sword of Kas. Otherwise, they appear in one of Vecna’s many hiding places, waiting to be found again.
The Sword of Kas
Found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 226.
This sword is a magical item that speaks to the person carrying it, enticing them to spill blood. If the blade does not shed blood within a short time after it is drawn, it magically controls the character carrying it to commit violent acts.
The Sword of Kas gives a creature carrying it the power to cast spells, be faster than others in combat, and be hit less. However, it has its own goal of fighting Vecna and his followers and will influence its carrier to do so.
The sword can only be destroyed by a wish, which is cast through the eye and hand of Vecna.
The Book of Vile Darkness
Found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 222.
Written by Vecna, this book contains the darkest and most dangerous secrets of Dungeons and Dragons magic. Creatures who read the book will be tempted to become evil, if they were not already. If they do not perform evil deeds or even do good, the book disappears.
In addition to random bonuses, the book allows the person carrying it to control monsters and gives them almost infinite knowledge of all evil.
The Book of Vile Darkness cannot be permanently destroyed while evil itself still exists. It can, however, be destroyed for 100 years by a Solar, an angelic being of good, tearing it apart.
Besides Vecna, there are many other exciting villains in Dungeons and Dragons. One of them is the vampire Strahd, about whom you can learn more here!
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