Gaming News

Published: April 29, 2024

Jules-Pierre Malartre

Vecna – Eve of Ruin: Who is Vecna?

On May 21, Wizards of the Coast will release Vecna: Eve or Ruin, the latest Dungeons & Dragons adventure that heralds the return of one of the game’s most notorious villains.


Many old-school gamers are no doubt looking forward to the return of the infamous lich turned god. However, more recent D&D players may not be familiar with Vecna. So, we will go over a brief history of Vecna in Dungeons & Dragons over the years.


First Mention of Vecna


Vecna’s origins can be traced back to the origins of Dungeons & Dragons; Vecna was first mentioned in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement of Original Dungeons & Dragons. The supplement listed two artifacts: The Eye of Vecna and the Hand of Vecna. Brian Blume invented the two artifacts, describing the hand as “the sole remains of an ancient lich who was so powerful that he was able to imbue his hand with wondrous/horrible powers and to enable it toVecna: Eve of Ruin survive even after his long undead body had ceased to exist.”


Both items would become some of the most sought-after artifacts in any edition of D&D. One famous quest for the Hand of Vecna was that of Arkhan the Cruel, the dragonborn oathbreaker paladin created by actor Joe Manganiello. In one of the most shocking developments around a gaming table, Arkhan/Manganiello betrayed fellow Vox Machina party members and stole the Hand of Vecna for himself during episode 114 of the popular streaming D&D game, Critical Role. This event has now become canon with Arkhan the Cruel popping up in the Baldur’s Gate: Descent to Avernus official D&D adventure sporting the Hand of Vecna on his arm.


Vecna’s Evolution


Vecna would go on to become a staple of the game. His legend grew with every edition of D&D, from his origin as an evil archmage, to his evolution as a lich, then as a demigod and Lord of Ravenloft, and eventual full godhood status. The breath of the shadow he cast over the various worlds of D&D also grew over time. He originally hailed from Greyhawk, but by the time of the adventure Die Vecna Die!, he had become a threat to the entire multiverse.


Vecna—A Quick History


Vecna was born in Fleeth, a city of Flan on Oerth (the world of Greyhawk). His mother initially tutored him in magic, but she was executed for practicing witchcraft before she could complete his tutelage. Vecna continued his studies of magic until he achieved mastery of the art, becoming one of the greatest wizards in any D&D world.


Vecna, like many wizards, pursued lichdom in order to extend his life. By then, he was the ruler of his own empire, but he wanted more: He set his eyes on Fleeth, and his army laid siege to the city. Vecna was grievously wounded during the battle. He was saved by one of his generals, a wizard named Acererak (of Tomb of Horrors fame), who would also eventually attain lichdom and legendary status.


Vecna conquered Fleeth, slaughtering most of its citizens. He was eventually betrayed by one of his lieutenants, a vampire named Kas the Bloody-Handed. Vecna_Eve_of_Ruin___Bastien_Lecouffe_Deharme__x__copy.jpg (1400×1400)Using a magical sword that Vecna had crafted for him (the Sword of Kas, another powerful artifact), Kas fought Vecna, hewing off the lich’s left hand and gouging out his left eye—hence giving birth to the two legendary artifacts.


However, Vecna did not perish, and more than the lich’s eye and hand survived. Vecna became a demigod.


The next steps in Vecna’s history would unfold over a series of official adventures published by TSR.


Vecna in Official Adventures


Despite being mentioned in every edition of D&D, most players will tell you that Vecna is most readily known for three adventures that were published for 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons : Vecna Lives!, Vecna Reborn, and Die Vecna Die!


Vecna Lives!


The premise of this first adventure featuring Vecna published in 1990 is quite simple: The Hand and Eye of Vecna have been found, and Vecna wants them back! At this time in the world of Greyhawk, common folks think Vecna is but a legend.


The adventure opens with the great wizard Mordenkainen who, sensing the rise of a great danger, sends the Circle of Eight (a cabal of powerful and famous NPCs, including Otto, Bigby and Tenser) to investigate. The danger sensed by Mordenkainen turns out to be Halmadar The Cruel, a powerful fighter who has come into the possession of the Eye and the Hand of Vecna. Under the control of the powerful artifacts, Halmadar slays all the members of the Circle4TYujo67PQ3aqgXjUS35cn.png (1455×818) of Eight (except Mordenkainen). The player characters must carry on the torch for the Circle of Eight. They are “aided” by an NPC who is a secret avatar of Vecna intent on killing Halmadar and recovering the Hand and Eye of Vecna.


The avatar eventually kills Halmadar. He then teleports to Tovag Baragu (a stone circle à la Stonehenge filled with portals to parts unknown). The player characters pursue the avatar only to find Vecna trying to open a portal to the past. Vecna uses another portal to send the player characters to Cavitius, Vecna’s own demiplane. They run into Kas who uses the Sword of Kas to teleport everyone back to Tovag Baragu. The heroes summon Iuz (another Greyhawk demigod) to fight Vecna. During the epic battle, the player characters manage to shove the two godly beings into a random portal.


Vecna did not reappear until the publication of the Domains of Dread boxed set in 1997, which confirmed his new location in the demirealm of Ravenloft.


Vecna Reborn


Players who were looking for more Vecna after playing the first adventure would have to wait eight years before Vecna Reborn would be published in 1998.


Vecna is pretty much described as a god in this adventure, but despite his considerable power, he is still trapped by the Mists of Ravenloft. From his dark domain that is a mocking copy of his original home of Cavitius, Vecna plans his escape and his revenge against Kas.


The Mists transport the player characters to Ravenloft, where they are caught between two adversarial autocracies: the first controlled by Kas, and the second ruled by Vecna. (The player characters land in Kas’s domain.) They soon find out that the cult of Vecna is intent on performing a ritual that involves a pregnant woman. The adventurers must journey to Vecna’s domain to find out about the ritual. They discover that the unborn child is to be used to free Vecna from Ravenloft. If the heroes succeed, the ritual is averted and Vecna remains in Ravenloft.


Die Vecna Die!


D&D players would not have to wait another eight years for the next Vecna adventure. Published in 2000, Die Vecna Die! picks up after the events in Vecna Rebord.


At the onset of this adventure set in Greyhawk, Iuz finds out that Vecna’s cult is opening portals in Tovag Baragu once again. The demigod attacks the cultists’ temple and manages to win the Eye of Vecna. He then uses one of the portals to enter Vecna’s realm in Ravenloft. The heroes, armed with the Hand of Vecna, follow Iuz to Ravenloft. They arrive just in time to see the two godlike creatures fight it out. Vecna beats Iuz and absorbs his power. The whole thing was a trap! Vecna had come upon a ritual that could empower him with full godhood power—all he needed was a piece of another demigod, and Iuz was a perfect match.


Vecna teleports himself and the adventurers to Sigil, the City of Doors. The heroes must stop Vecna before he reshapes the multiverse. Armed with the Hand of Vecna that protects them from Vecna’s wards, the player characters defeat Vecna.


Die Vecna Die! takes player characters from the world of Greyhawk to the Ravenloft demiplane, and then to the city of Sigil (i.e., Planescape), making it a true multiverse adventure.


Vecna in 5e D&D


There are mentions of Vecna in various 5e D&D books, including the Dungeon Master Guide and the Player’s Handbook. The epic fight between Vox Machina and Vecna was detailed in the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount published in 2020.


Vecna: Eve of Ruin


Vecna makes his return May 21 in Vecna: Eve of Ruin.


Wizards of the Coast released several videos on social media providing some details about the upcoming adventure. Senior designer Amanda Harmon, 4TYujo67PQ3aqgXjUS35cn.png (1455×818)game design architect Chris Perkins and host Todd Kenreck talk at some length about the coming adventure. “There is a lot going on. It’s not that Vecna wants to subjugate any one world in the multiverse; Vecna wants to become the supreme being of the multiverse. He wants to make all of the multiverse in his own image,” Harmon says in one video. So, in the same vein as Die Vecna Die!, Vecna is up to his old tricks.


The videos preview some of the locals, new monsters and NPCs that await adventurers in Vecna: Eve of Ruin. We get to see a meeting of The Wizards Three: Mordenkainen, Tasha and Alustrial, who appear to be working together to thwart Vecna. Those legendary wizards are not the only famous NPCs to make an appearance in this adventure. Favorite D&D villains Strahd von Zarovich from Ravenloft and Lord Soth from Dragonlance are also involved. Some of the new creatures previewed appear truly terrifying. The adventure also promises to be a high-level adventure for characters levels 10 through 20.


The description accompanying the preview states that the adventurers will get to journey to several iconic D&D locations across the Forgotten Realms, Planescape, Spelljammer, Eberron, Ravenloft, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk. The adventurers must reassemble the Rod of Seven Parts, and the parts appear to be scattered across the multiverse. This adventure looks to be a true caper across the various world settings of D&D.


A prequel adventure, Vecna: Nest of the Eldritch Eye, is also available exclusively through D&D Beyond with digital preorder of Vecna: Eve of Ruin. The single-session adventure is said to prepare the adventurers for the final confrontation in Vecna: Eve of Ruin.


Vecna: Eve of Ruin very much feels like a love letter to D&D fans. As Wizards of the Coast is set to release the next edition of the venerable game, it also allows 5e D&D to go out with a bang while also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the game.