Who is Vecna? Iconic D&D villain explained

Who is Vecna? Iconic D&D villain explained

One of the greatest Dungeons & Dragons villains is coming to 5e in a new adventure. Here’s what you should know about Vecna before Eve of Ruin.

Dungeons & Dragons is bringing one of its iconic villains to Fifth Edition with the release of Vecna: Eve of Ruin. This high-level adventure has players taking on one of the game’s oldest and best-known foes as they travel the multiverse to foil his evil plans.

Many will recognize the name “Vecna” from Stranger Things, as the show’s antagonist was named after the D&D villain. But while both may be powerful forces for evil, the Vecna players will face in Eve of Ruin is an entirely different beast.

Here’s what D&D players should know about Vecna ahead of Eve of Ruin.

Vecna has been around for almost as long as D&D

Who is Vecna? Iconic D&D villain explained

The first mention of Vecna comes from the 1976 D&D supplement Eldritch Wizardry. Brian Blume included two artifacts called the Hand of Vecna and Eye of Vecna, said to be the only remaining parts of an evil lich, though no other backstory was included.

Since then, Vecna has become a full-fledged villain in his own right. The Dungeon Master’s Guide for Second Edition finally developed his background, and the 1990 adventure Vecna Lives! allowed players to encounter him for the first time. D&D 2e established Vecna’s place as a major villain in the game’s lore, and 3e would solidify his position by making him a Lesser deity.

Vecna’s power and goals

As a neutral evil character, Vecna is a power-hungry villain who was born mortal but ascended to lichdom and, in some stories, godhood. Whether he started out as a human or half-elf differs between accounts, but Vecna’s fear of his own mortality and desire to achieve undeath remains consistent.

Vecna was initially trained in magic by his mother, Mazzel. However, her execution for practicing witchcraft led him on a path of revenge. How exactly he achieved lichdom is uncertain – some say the demon lord Orcus taught him, while others say he sacrificed hundreds of innocents to fuel a ritual. Regardless, Vecna became a powerful lich who has lived for over 1,000 years.

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As a wizard, Vecna’s powers are magic-based. In 5e, most abilities from his stat block in The Vecna Dossier deal necrotic damage. This includes his unholy dagger Afterthought, which appears in various incarnations. He also has various resistances and immunities – including immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from any non-magical attacks – which makes him incredibly difficult to fight.

Vecna is also heavily associated with secrets, being listed as the god of evil secrets in 5e’s Player’s Handbook. He believes secrets are the source of power, and everyone has a secret that could be manipulated or used to destroy them.

Vecna and Kas

Who is Vecna? Iconic D&D villain explained

Another important figure in Vecna’s lore is Kas the Bloody-Handed. Introduced as Vecna’s trusted bodyguard, Kas was granted a sentient longsword named Sword of Kas that was created by Vecna. However, the Sword convinced Kas to attempt to usurp his master, leading to an epic confrontation in which Vecna lost his left hand and eye.

The two essentially destroyed each other, with Kas being thrown into Ravenloft. He eventually became a vampire called Kas the Destroyer.

Vecna artifacts

As mentioned, some of Vecna’s artifacts predate the villain’s full introduction to D&D lore. The Eye and Hand of Vecna are evil artifacts that bestow great powers to anyone who dares attune to them and changes their alignment to neutral evil. Both require the user to remove their own hand and/or eye, replacing them with Vecnas; if the artifacts are ever removed, the user dies.

The Eye of Vecna grants truesight, allowing the user to see everything within range regardless of magical darkness, invisibility, illusions, and shapeshifting magic. It also allows you to cast a variety of spells using the Eye’s charges, though there’s always a 5% chance Vecna will devour your soul and take over your body.

The Hand of Vecna increases the user’s Strength stat to 20 and adds 2d8 cold damage to any hit by a melee weapon or spell attack made using the Hand. Similar to the Eye, the Hand also grants spellcasting ability with a caveat. Every time you use the Hand to cast a spell, it will cast Suggestion on the user; unless they make a DC 18 Wisdom check, the user will have to commit an evil act.

Those who attune to both the Eye and Hand of Vecna get additional benefits, most significant of which is the ability to cast the Wish spell once every 30 days.

While not used by him, the Sword of Kas is another artifact made by Vecna. As the story of Kas makes clear, this sword is cursed and bloodthirsty. It grants attuned wielders benefits like increased initiative and spellcasting, but it must be bloodied as much as possible. According to its 5e stat block, if the sword isn’t “bathed in blood” within the first minute after being drawn, the user must make a Charisma save. On a success, they take 3d6 psychic damage; on a failure, the wielder is dominated by the sword until “the sword’s demand is met.”

What to expect from Vecna in Eve of Ruin

Who is Vecna? Iconic D&D villain explained

In Vecna: Eve of Ruin, the classic D&D villain is a constant existential threat. This time, Vecna is building up his power to perform the Ritual of Remaking, an act that would allow him to recreate the entire multiverse in his image.

To stop Vecna, players will have to reassemble the Rod of Seven Parts, an iconic and powerful D&D item that makes its 5e debut in Eve of Ruin. With the pieces scattered across the planes, players will need to travel across worlds like Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Dragonlance to defeat Vecna and foil his evil multiversal plot.

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