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D&D General Everything we Know about Vecna in Fifth Edition


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Everything we Know about Vecna in Fifth Edition
In the discussion of Vecna: Eve of Ruin in this thread there was some debate about how Vecna has been presented thus far in fifth edition. A review of Vecna lore reveals some inconsistencies as well as a few interesting nuggets. Note that none of the substantial body of pre-2014 Vecna lore is included. Here’s everything we know about Vecna in fifth edition so far…


Vecna comes from Oerth, the world of the Greyhawk setting. [DMG] He was born into a lowly caste and never knew his father. His mother was a hedge witch who was exiled into the wastes for practicing the forbidden arts of necromancy. The order of wizards responsible for her exile bound Vecna into servitude. He worked first as a bootblack and then as a scribe. He spent most of his childhood sneaking into the wizards’ library of magical treatises at night, to educate himself in the magical arts. [TVD]

The voice in Vecna’s head
Vecna first heard a voice from another world in his head during his late night study sessions. The soothing whisper promised him revenge if he yielded to the hatred festering within his heart. Having learned all he could from the wizards he served and their libraries, he massacred them. The voice in his head urged him to begin recording his foul thoughts and dreams from that moment, and he began to write what would eventually become the Book of Vile Darkness. [TVD] Vecna became one of the mightiest of all wizards of his time. [DMG]

Vecna on Oerth
At the urging of the voice in his head Vecna conquered vast realms and swept great cities beneath earth and rock. [TVD] Use of dark magic was key to his conquests. [DMG] Some sources say Vecna forged a terrible empire [DMG] on Oerth while others refer to a kingdom [TVD]. The latter is more consistent with his moniker as the Undying King. Vecna ruled for several centuries from an obsidian tower that rose from the bottom of the black waters of the Nyr Dyv to stretch far above its surface. [TVD]


Vecna becomes a lich
Sources vary on Vecna’s path to lichdom. One version is that despite his power as a wizard, Vecna could not escape his own mortality and began to fear death. Orcus taught Vecna a ritual that would transform him into a lich and he became the greatest of all liches. His body gradually withered and decayed but Vecna continued to expand his evil dominion. [DMG] Another version is that he survived for generations before his physical form began to succumb to the ravages of time. His festering hatred would not permit him to perish and he called upon the forbidden arts of necromancy to transform himself into a lich. [TVD]

Vecna leaves Oerth
Dominion over a part of a single world was not enough for Vecna, and he left Oerth and began to visit other worlds, still driven by the mysterious voice in his head, and an unquenchable hatred for anything true and pure. He took up residence in a palace known as the Citadel of Cavitius, located in a vast field of ash somewhere near the border between the Planes of Earth and Fire. [TVD]


Vecna and Kas
As Vecna grew in power he appointed Kas the Bloody-Handed, an evil and ruthless villain, to act as his bodyguard and right hand. [DMG] Kas was reportedly a fallen paladin who rose through the ranks of the archlich’s vile minions. [TVD] He served Vecna as his personal guard [TVD] as well as an advisor, warlord, and assassin [DMG]. There is some confusion as to when in his timeline Vecna met Kas. Earlier sources imply that Kas became Vecna’s lieutenant only after his ascension to lichdom and before he left Oerth, but the art for Vecna: Eve of Ruin shows Kas dining with a pre-lich Vecna [WWV] which seems to contradict this. Sources all agree that Kas earned Vecna’s admiration and was rewarded with a blade that would become known as the Sword of Kas. [DMG] Kas was regent over many of the kingdoms and cults Vecna established across the multiverse, and this blade was intended to be a symbol of Kas’s authority. [TVD]


Kas’s betrayal
Kas served Vecna faithfully for a long time, but eventually betrayed him. [DMG] The reasons for his betrayal are not clear. One source suggests that the Sword of Kas urged him to supplant Vecna so that Kas (and the sword) could rule in his stead. [DMG] Another source posits that the mysterious voice that had been in Vecna’s head for eons grew to fear the archlich and began to whisper to Kas instead. [TVD] Whatever the reason for his treachery, Kas turned on Vecna and used the sword to sever the archlich’s hand and put out his eye. [TVD] Vecna’s hand and eye remain in the world as artifacts that seek to work his will in the world. [DMG] The battle between Vecna and Kas is reported to have left the archlich’s tower a heap of ash [DMG], but it is not clear which tower this refers to: the obsidian tower in Nyr Dyv, the Citadel of Cavitius, or some other long-forgotten dwelling.


After the battle
Some legends say that the battle ended with Vecna and Kas’s mutual destruction, leaving only the lich’s hand and eye and Kas’s sword behind. [DMG] In truth, although both Kas and Vecna disappeared for ages, both survived. [TVD] Kas became a vampire and was claimed by the Mists of Ravenloft. He now rules over the wasteland domain of Tovag in the Shadowfell. Kas searches for his sword, which he believes will help him defeat his former master. [VRGtR] Vecna also escaped destruction, and spent several centuries hopping from world to world, questing for his severed hand and eye. [TVD] He grew in power over ages and across worlds. [VRGtR] The Hand of Vecna is currently in the possession of Arkhan the Cruel, who obtained it during a brief excursion to the world of Exandria. [BG: DiA]


Vecna as a god
Vecna eventually decamped to the Outer Planes. [TVD] Although Vecna is only one example of lich powerful enough to pursue godhood [ToA], he is a rare example of one who eventually grew so powerful that he attained this goal. [TVD] Curiously, despite his ascension, some planar sources still refer to him as an archlich rather than a deity. [P:AitM:ToFW] Sources agree on most of the game mechanics for Vecna as a deity: He is the god of evil secrets, his alignment is NE, and his clerics gain access to the domain of Knowledge. Other details vary slightly. When worshiped as a deity of Greyhawk, his symbol is a hand with an eye in the palm. [PH] When worshiped as a Dawn War deity his symbol is a partially shattered one-eyed skull, and his clerics also have access to the Death domain. [DMG]


Vecna in Exandria
As featured in Critical Role’s Exandria setting, Vecna’s backstory is a little different. His story begins in Exandria’s Age of Arcanum when he was a dangerously clever and powerful archmage-turned-lich. However, his obsession with conquest led to his own dissolution, leaving behind only his hand and eye. Although his physical form was destroyed, his spirit endured and reformed, and with the aid of his followers, Vecna managed to reconstruct the Raven Queen’s rites of ascension to become the newest member of the pantheon of Betrayer Gods. He loathes all other gods and wishes to destroy them to become the sole divine power in the planes. Fortunately, Vox Machina defeated Vecna and sealed him behind the Divine Gate. His followers now seek ways to restore Vecna to a position of absolute dominance over creation. In Exandria, Vecna is revered by villainous mages, conspiring politicians and others with an interest in necromancy, undeath and secrets. His clerics gain access to the domains of Arcana, Death, Grave or Knowledge. [EGtW] His symbol is either a severed hand with an eye in the palm [CR:CotN] or a desiccated hand with an eye in the palm. [EGtW]


Vecna’s foes
Kas remains Vecna’s greatest foe, whom Vecna wants to see destroyed over all other enemies. [MtoF] Some sources say he leads his armies into relentless battle against the vampire lord in the Shadowfell [MtoF] but if this is true, then Kas seems to be oblivious to Vecna’s aggression, since other sources report that Kas believes that Vecna’s realm lies just beyond his. The vampire lord marshalls troops and sends them into the Mists. They do not return, and Kas rages. [VRGtR]

Vecna covets the Raven Queen’s power and seeks to conquer the Shadowfell to turn it into his own kingdom of death. He desires access to all the lost knowledge stored within the souls she has trapped over the millennia. He leads his forces into battle against the Raven Queen and her shadar-kai fanatics, but his attempts to gain a foothold in the Shadowfell have thus far been thwarted. [MtoF]

There is presumably no love lost between Vecna and the archdevil Fierna, as she stole the secret of how to travel freely between the Nine Hells and the Material Plane from him. [MtoF]

In his Exandrian manifestation, Vecna has a particular hatred for Ioun, since she seeks to share with the world secrets that Vecna guards for himself. Vecna’s followers work to undermine Ioun and her followers. The Raven Queen sees Vecna’s existence as an affront to her purpose and despises him. [EGtW]


Vecna’s monstrous creations
At least two creatures owe their existence to Vecna. Nothics are wizards reduced to monsters by a dark curse left behind by Vecna. [MM] The first skull lord was created in the aftermath of Vecna’s bid to conquer the world of Greyhawk. After Kas’s betrayal, Vecna’s warlords turned against each other, dashing his plans. In rage, Vecna gathered up his generals and captains and fused groups of three into undead abominations cursed to fight among themselves for all time. [MtoF]


Vecna’s magical tomes
The most famous of Vecna’s writings is the Book of Vile Darkness. Vecna recorded every diseased idea and every unhinged thought he had in the book. The book is a gruesome catalog of mortal wrongs and blackest magic. [DMG] Vecna always carries the Book of Vile Darkness on his person. [TVD]

Less well known is the Tome of the Stilled Tongue, which has the desiccated tongue of one of Vecna’s former treacherous servants on the cover. There are four copies of this book, each of which has attached the tongue of a spellcaster who crossed Vecna. Vecna is able to watch any using the tome and can write cryptic messages in the book. [DMG]


Vecna’s followers
Vecna has many ardent worshipers, all hungry for a taste of his immense power. [TVD] This included Acererak, who studied spellcasting under Vecna in his youth, and pledged his own faith to Vecna at one point. [IMR] Vecna’s temper is so formidable that his subjects fear to speak his name, preferring to use one of his many aliases: the Whispered One, the Undying King, Master of the Spider Throne, or Lord of the Rotted Tower. [DMG]

On Oerth, Vecna might offer a pact to a warlock who contacts him, in the role of the Undying patron. [SCAG] He is also a potential god for Greyhawk’s yuan-ti to make pacts with. [VGtM]

The Cult of Vecna extends throughout the multiverse and consists of secretive groups who worship Vecna. They try to extract the power that secrets have over the people who hold them or who the secrets are about and funnel it to Vecna. [WWV]

One group of Vecna’s worshipers, in the distant past, operated out of the Chapel of Evil and were led by Phenex. Phenex was an incubus cleric of Vecna, who was so fanatically loyal to Vecna that he removed one of his eyes and his left hand. He directed a dark ceremony that transformed followers into chunks of black stone when they completed a ritual chant. [IMR]

More recently, a group of Vecna cultists in the city of Neverwinter were experimenting with ways to magically siphon secrets from an individual’s soul. They were led by Zalryr, a human cultist. Although early experiments reduced volunteers to piles of necrotic sludge, Zalryr managed to siphon the secrets from two cultists’ souls to create two shadow entities. The cult’s hall contained a sculpture of an emaciated hand with one eyeball in its palm and the members of the cult carried desiccated eyeballs that serve as both map and key to the cult’s hideout. [V:NotEE]

Vecna is known to bestow supernatural gifts on mortals who impress him, regardless of their affiliations. Two of these gifts are the Charm of the Creeping Hand which allows a character to do extra necrotic damage and the Charm of the Eldritch Eye which allows a character to cast clairvoyance. The possessor of either charm has the unshakeable feeling that they are being watched. [V:NotEE]


Vecna’s personality
Vecna is an enigma with aspects of secrecy and mystery. He was once a human wizard, which means he is educated in the ways of magic, and has spent years mastering his craft. He is articulate, thoughtful and patient. He operates primarily behind the scenes, sometimes appearing in visions or dreams. When encountered in the flesh, he delights in disintegrating adventurers who oppose him. Vecna seeks to remake the world because he wants to be in power. Vecna is wholeheartedly, unabashedly evil. He is a clever, thoughtful villain, moving chess pieces on the board. He has backup plans, and backup backup plans. [WWV]

Vecna’s current plans
Vecna has existed for more than a hundred thousand years. [TVD] In the recent past, Vecna stole one of several magical obelisks and used it to erase the obelisk’s creators (the Weavers) from existence. Vecna also stole the knowledge needed to create new ones. [ID:RotF, PaB:TSO] Vecna is said to have mastered magic allowing him to travel through time, so he can appear in his archlich form prior to Kas’s betrayal even on worlds where his severed hand and eye are already known artifacts. [TVD]

Vecna’s ambitions are limitless and he is never satisfied. At the start of Vecna: Eve of Ruin he is already a god, but that is not enough. Vecna started as a powerful wizard, then became a lich, then a god. Eve of Ruin deals with the next step in his ambition. Vecna is weaving a “bomb” in a specific place of power. When it detonates, it will remake the multiverse. In order to become something more than a god, Vecna has to give something up. This creates a window of opportunity for his defeat. [WWV]


BG: DiA: Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus (September 2019)
CR:CotN: Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep (March 2022)
DMG: Dungeons Master’s Guide (December 2014)
EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildermount (March 2020)
ID:RotF: Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden (September 2020)
IMR: Infernal Machine Rebuild (November 2019)
MM: Monster Manual (September 2014)
MP:MotM: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse (May 2022)
MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (May 2018)
PaB:TSO: Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk (September 2023)
P:AitM:ToFW: Planescape: Adventurers in the Multiverse: Turn of Fortune’s Wheel (October 2023)
PH: Player’s Handbook (August 2014)
SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (November 2015)
ToA: Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)
TVD: The Vecna Dossier (June 2022)
VGtM: Volo’s Guide to Monsters (November 2016)
V:NetEE: Vecna: Nest of the Eldritch Eye (April 2024)
VRGtR: Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (May 2021)
WWV: Who Was Vecna? (April 2024)​

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Nice write-up, much more coherent than the existing fan wiki articles that try to collate multiple editions worth of stuff.

I don't think theyvplanned him to bt the Ultimate Big Bad from the beginning of the Edition, but they clearly always meant him to be a good potential villain for DMs to us, and it seems they decided by about 2018 (Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes) to make him the BBEG of BBEG.


Wow, didn't know there had been that much development of Vecna for 5E. I'm only vaguely familiar with him from the handful of 2E adventures he appeared in - Vecna Lives! , Vecna Reborn and Die Vecna Die!

I remember him being mentioned as a Greyhawk god in 3E, but don't remember any other lore for him in 3E.

I wonder if any of the older lore will be pulled in, especially the shattering/reordering of the multiverse his actions caused back in Die Vecna Die!


As featured in Critical Role’s Exandria setting, Vecna’s backstory is a little different.
Just as a side point about this, the multiverse ideas of the First World and Echo variants of characters introduced and expanded in Fizban's Treasury of Dragons and Bigby's Giants probsvly applies to Vecna as well: just as the Great Wyrms are muktiverse aware beings that tie in variants of themselves, I would expect the same of Vecna and his echoes across the Multiverse.

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