D&D 5E Enworld Vecna Battles, Commentary

Stalker0

Legend
So this thread is dedicated to some commentaries about the Vecna monster and what we are seeing with the fights we are doing on Enworld.

In the latest fight, we are trying an "adventure" scenario where we entered Vecna's lair, guarded by various traps, and then took Vecna with lair actions.

A few notes:
  • In the "stock battle" fights with Vecna, it generally came down to the physical fighters with caster support. Casters can't really fight Vecna due to 5 legendary resistances + his amazing super counterspell, so its up to the fighters to lay down the pain. However, the adventure scenario really shows what that counterspell can do. In a normal scenario with things like minions and symbol traps and such, the casters can clean these up with area effects or dispel magics.... opening the way for the fighters to pound on the big bad. But with Vecna's counterspell, suddenly your normal magical counters are removed or heavily weakened, and now the fighters are also having to deal with those things, which dilutes their focus.

  • The "summon shadows" lair action is insanely powerful, and just showcases the powerful synergy. Because the shadows get to instantly summon next to the PCS and attack, their lack of defenses isn't as important, while their offense has infinite scaling due to strength damage always being a major threat, whether your 1st level or 20th. Further, because your caster area effect spells are neutered by vecna, you can't just clear them out with a single spell and move on. Now there are ways to counter them, spirit guardians or in our case the Devotion paladin's holy nimbus can just mop them up, but if you don't have those counters, you are in big trouble.

  • We have seen a lot of rules arguments around Vecna's abilities, a number of which are due to the fact that they are abilities and not spells. Over the course of 3 fights, I feel like ultimately this change has been for the worst. In theory giving Vecna just a few abilities should make things easier, but you lose all of the rules coverage that being a spell immediately gives you, and so things become a lot "vaguer" for many cases, such as anti-magic field, stealth, or subtle spell. Further, as this adventure fight has shown us, having just a few spells can give Vecna a wealth of interesting options and really craft a great battleground. A vecna without those things is a lot less scary and interesting. And while a DM could always craft a lair with those spells present....again it just showcases that a high level spellcaster....should have spells. Without them, things are just not as strong and interesting.

  • I think the key to Vecna is in giving him time to let his teleport heal go to work, and there are many ways to craft a lair to do that. For example, vecna could teleport himself behind a wall (with a small hole for sight) with some prisoners chained to the wall. You kill the prisoners and heal up, now behind almost complete cover. Suddenly Vecna becomes insanely scary, he can move to places in his lair that is hard for a party without a heavy amount of teleportation to get to, and with proper minions and prisoners around, can recover from anything short of a major party offensive nuke.

  • Vecna's ability to lay down a very high damage effect, and then follow it up with 2 melee crits with his dagger to instantly kill you, is a very nasty combo. He is a "wizard", but a wizard with a melee bazooka in his hands.

  • I also think knowledge is a big factor. Our group has had an advantage in that everyone got to see Vecna's statblock, and so has a general understanding of his tricks. But I could see a party with no knowledge of Vecna face him, and then their big spell gets neutered by a long range counterspell, they suddenly Vecna teleports to a place the PCs can't follow, and chaos ensues.

Ultimately my thoughts on Vecna is.... his "base" stats are pretty weak for his CR. However, he has a lot of tools in his belt that are incredibly effective when combined with smart DM play and a good lair. Aka a well crafted lair for Vecna gives him a much bigger CR increase than such a lair might be for another CR 26 creature. Vecna is meh, Venca + Lair is a worthy endgame boss for even a 20th level party.
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
Finally got some time to read your write up. Well done! :)

FWIW, after the current battle is done, I'll be posting the complete lair with all the relevant information. I'll be curious in anyone else nabs it and tries it with their own gaming group.
 

Zio_the_dark

The dark one :)
The "summon shadows" lair action is insanely powerful, and just showcases the powerful synergy. Because the shadows get to instantly summon next to the PCS and attack, their lack of defenses isn't as important, while their offense has infinite scaling due to strength damage always being a major threat, whether your 1st level or 20th. Further, because your caster area effect spells are neutered by vecna, you can't just clear them out with a single spell and move on. Now there are ways to counter them, spirit guardians or in our case the Devotion paladin's holy nimbus can just mop them up, but if you don't have those counters, you are in big trouble.
I followed your battles since the first one and yes this lair action really turned the tides in the third one (especially with flanking optional rule applied).
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I followed your battles since the first one and yes this lair action really turned the tides in the third one (especially with flanking optional rule applied).
Actually, other than being minions the PCs have to deal with, once the sunblade disadvantage was applied, the shadows haven't had much impact. With the current Holy Nimbus in use, they are a non-issue for 10 rounds. That feature effectively shut down one of Vecna's lair actions.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Actually, other than being minions the PCs have to deal with, once the sunblade disadvantage was applied, the shadows haven't had much impact. With the current Holy Nimbus in use, they are a non-issue for 10 rounds. That feature effectively shut down one of Vecna's lair actions.
Agreed, but again I think this is factor of knowledge. Against a well prepared party that knows Vecna's lair actions, they could shut it down at the onset. But even one round of those shadows is a big deal, its a non-zero chance of just wiping out a party member, or the DM could just target the strength fighter and soften up their offense against Vecna.

Realistically though I would expect a 20th level party to shut down each trick that gets thrown at them one by one, it will get them for a 1 round or 2, but then they counter. But that is probably all a villain like vecna needs, I mean Vecna seems quite capable of killing 20th level PCs himself in 1-2 rounds. There were a few times when vecna used spells himself and I was like, "honestly I wonder if him just using the Rotten Fate + double afterlife combo wouldn't have been better, do to his saving throws being so high it is REALLY hard for certain PCs to resist Rotten Fate)
 

Stalker0

Legend
Another smart design about Vecna is the teleport at will + dimension door. Its easy to forget the d door because of the at-will teleport, but the at-will teleport does require sight. So smart parties could do like a force cage + fog cloud trick to actually prevent vecna's teleports. The D door gives him one more Ace in the hole to get out of such tricky situations.
 


Stalker0

Legend
Another way to play Vecna I think is the mass skeleton style. The normal vecna can cast animate dead at will, plus his rotten fate gives him a zombie under permanent command.

So vecna could easily have a large army of undead under his control. Now normally this wouldn't be a big deal, the spellcaster could just blast them all to smitherens, they become barely a footnote....except that darn counterspell again. And what's great about them is they become great blockers, you can use them to hold up forces and prevent them from moving forward. Obviously a party could have several ways to deal with them, like the nimbus, or a turn undead.... but if vecna smart and doesn't keep them clumped up, he could just send wave after wave. Sure offensively they aren't going to do crap, but even just blocking space is very frustrating, because you can't teleport around them (counterspell), and they just keep coming. Spirit Guardians is a good bet, but zombies have decent enough hitpoints they might tank it for a round, and a round is all you need. and of course if the fighters are spending their attacks killing zombies....your winning.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Another way to play Vecna I think is the mass skeleton style.
Yeah, he could easily do this.

Frankly, I didn't want to give him really any minions since I knew he could bring in the shadows--that seemed enough when I was revising him for this current scenario.

I think design-wise they did a great thing with his two reaction types: one help foil physical attack (fell rebuke) by getting him out of harms way after a hit, and the other helps foil magical threats (dread counterspell) with the bonus of no range limit and dealing some psychic damage.

His real downfall in my opinion is relies on necrotic damage too much.

His AoE feature (flight of the damned) is pretty weak. @MonsterEnvy used in the first scenario to limited effect and I've never bothered with it. It is great for dealing with a lot of peons, but against high level PCs it is sort of sad IMO.

Rotten Fate is almost too strong, really, it packs a HUGE wallop!

I think if we ran the original scenario again with some knowledge of good tactics for Vecna, it might go more in his favor. Still, I would expect him to lose because antimagic field remains his Achilles' Heel.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I think if we ran the original scenario again with some knowledge of good tactics for Vecna, it might go more in his favor. Still, I would expect him to lose because antimagic field remains his Achilles' Heel.
That or high physical damage. So far we haven't really been playing with a group of heavy physical optimizers on damage. I think if you have the ability to overwhelm vecna's teleport heal with damage, he just won't last very long, and that's not too hard to do. Though people have been trying to pick apart Treantmonk's analysis because of a few math errors, at the end of the day he showed its quite possible for just two fighters to deal enough damage to kill vecna in one round (even if it takes just slightly above average rolls).

But in theory one way Vecna counters is with his invisibility. Technically Vecna can cast rotten fate and his counterspell without breaking invisibility, and so your physical fighters are going to have to take disadvantage on him. Now his AC is not great to begin with, but that is still a big boost to AC that drops their average damage a good amount.

Or do what you did which was put Vecna behind heavy cover (tower with arrow slits as the example). Gives me a major boost to AC to survive that initial alpha strike and then he starts going to work.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
But in theory one way Vecna counters is with his invisibility.
Another is with a simple shield spell. Boosting his AC by 5 makes a HUGE difference in the potential damage output of those two fighters. Couple that with invisibility or better yet improved invisibility and they are in a world of hurt.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Another is with a simple shield spell. Boosting his AC by 5 makes a HUGE difference in the potential damage output of those two fighters. Couple that with invisibility or better yet improved invisibility and they are in a world of hurt.
sure but I was going back to the "standard vecna" just to discuss what he can do.
 

Sulicius

Explorer
Another is with a simple shield spell. Boosting his AC by 5 makes a HUGE difference in the potential damage output of those two fighters. Couple that with invisibility or better yet improved invisibility and they are in a world of hurt.
I really wished you could make a “squishy” boss like the published Vecna work without giving him spells that are obviously good on anything. I would rather give him some more HP and the Book of Vile Darkness (as a DM you can get up to +3 ac out of it, if you want).

I very much dislike the shield spell, and that it is the best spell in the game because it’s relevant from level 1 to level 20 in any game that involves getting hit with attack rolls. It is so centralizing to the game that every character picks it up, or even goes to great lengths to acquire it through multiclassing. I rather ban or nerf the spell that giving ALL monsters the shield spell because it is the only way to have spellcasters make sense.

For Vecna specifically, he already has a reaction that should work against martials, the teleport. Sadly the original adventure just tosses Vecna in a white room to get blasted down. Isn’t it more interesting to have Vecna do something different?
 

MarkB

Legend
  • I think the key to Vecna is in giving him time to let his teleport heal go to work, and there are many ways to craft a lair to do that. For example, vecna could teleport himself behind a wall (with a small hole for sight) with some prisoners chained to the wall. You kill the prisoners and heal up, now behind almost complete cover. Suddenly Vecna becomes insanely scary, he can move to places in his lair that is hard for a party without a heavy amount of teleportation to get to, and with proper minions and prisoners around, can recover from anything short of a major party offensive nuke.
It's worth noting that the healing teleport doesn't require a living target, so if you want to get really cheesy Vecna could target one of his own Shadows to trigger the healing effect.
 

Good write up. Other than the fact that they've pulled all the rules support out from under these stat blocks, my main criticism is that he plays more like Kas than Vecna, flitting around, denying magic-use, and stabbing people to death. The second fight was cooler because he got to use his one control spell.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Good write up. Other than the fact that they've pulled all the rules support out from under these stat blocks, my main criticism is that he plays more like Kas than Vecna, flitting around, denying magic-use, and stabbing people to death. The second fight was cooler because he got to use his one control spell.
Now that you mention it… change “Afterthought” to “Sword of Kas,” change the weapon damage to 1d8 slashing and the necrotic damage to 1d12 (same max, same average, 1 lower minimum, and slightly more weighted towards physical damage) and you’ve got a pretty solid Kas stat block.
 

Good write up. Other than the fact that they've pulled all the rules support out from under these stat blocks, my main criticism is that he plays more like Kas than Vecna, flitting around, denying magic-use, and stabbing people to death. The second fight was cooler because he got to use his one control spell.
Ehh Kas strikes me as more of an in your face warrior, no big blastly stuff like Vecna has.

And what do you mean pulled out rules support.
 

And what do you mean pulled out rules support.
Just what @Stalker0 said. D&D has special abilities with a whole body of rules about how they work. They're called spells. They've now discarded those rules by making these not-spells and the result is a lot of confusion about how they should work in play. I think they could rectify this in 5.5 or 6 by creating a new set of rules for them...but why? If the goal is to simplify and streamline, it ain't doing that IMO.
 

I really wished you could make a “squishy” boss like the published Vecna work without giving him spells that are obviously good on anything. I would rather give him some more HP and the Book of Vile Darkness (as a DM you can get up to +3 ac out of it, if you want).

I very much dislike the shield spell, and that it is the best spell in the game because it’s relevant from level 1 to level 20 in any game that involves getting hit with attack rolls. It is so centralizing to the game that every character picks it up, or even goes to great lengths to acquire it through multiclassing. I rather ban or nerf the spell that giving ALL monsters the shield spell because it is the only way to have spellcasters make sense.

For Vecna specifically, he already has a reaction that should work against martials, the teleport. Sadly the original adventure just tosses Vecna in a white room to get blasted down. Isn’t it more interesting to have Vecna do something different?
Vecna does work fine without Shield.
 

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