Vecna Lives! - your experiences?

Mark Hope

Fifteenth thread of a series on the younger classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules. It is interesting to see how everyone's experiences compared and differed.

Vecna Lives!

Synopsis: Featuring one of D&D's most iconic bad guys and several famous artifacts, Vecna Lives! is a high level romp set in the World of Greyhawk. A number of set-pieces and plenty of travel to exotic locations on Oerth and the planes lead to a confrontation with the lich who would be a god.

Did you play or DM this adventure (or both, as some did)? What were your experiences? Did you complete it? What were the highlights for your group?

(With thanks and a tip of the hat to Quasqueton for his ground-breaking series of classic adventure discussions.)

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Mark Hope

Well, I guess I'll jump start this since it has been a couple of days - apologies if it's poor form to reply to yourself ;)

I bought this when it came out but couldn't find a spot to run it for a couple of years. It looked like a great idea but seemed to have a few structural flaws. The beginning
where the players play the Circle of Eight and the DM unavoidably kills them all
seemed interesting but heavy handed, and the ending
where the PCs get to stand around and watch Iuz fight Vecna
was lame in the extreme.

I eventually found an opportunity to use it in a homebrew a few years later and modded it heavily. For the beginning
I used high level NPCs from my own game, hyping it over the preceding weeks that the players would get to play the movers and shakers for a one-off, then when they all died, pretended that it wasn't supposed to happen and that now the players would need to break out their regular characters - was very effective, with the players being rather freaked out from the start
. For the ending
the PCs allowed one of their number to be possessed by Tyranthraxus, a daemon they had imprisoned from Curse of the Azure Bonds, thus gaining the power to fight Vecna themselves - it made for a cool scene rather than a bit of dumb spectating
. Other parts played far better than they read (the gnomish sweat-lodge was excellent, surprisingly) while some parts played worse than expected (Citadel Cavitius wasn't as cool as I'd hoped.)

The players seemed to love it though. I planned to run it in two sessions, but after 16 hours of one session, they refused to go home (!) and demanded to see it through in one sitting. Took 24 hours :D. Great stuff - particularly heading out for breakfast mid-game, with all the players unconciously shuffling about so that they were in proper marching order, heh heh...

Like several of these 2e mega-adventures, it doesn't run out of the box (book) very well at all. (Dragon Mountain was the same, imho) but there was enough solid material here if adapted thoroughly enough.
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This one didn't work too well for me, either. My players didn't care about the Circle of Eight, so
killing them all off in the railroady intro
didn't really have any impact. The rest of the module was pretty lame too, all-in-all.

I later used some of the source material on Vecna, which was fine, but the adventures were never run again.

If I was going to run this adventure again, I'd want to do so using different NPCs, probably: perhaps PCs who'd played through Age of Worms as substitutes for the Co8; I'd also want to play up the Rhenne (via Lance Hawvermale's excellent article from LGJ#2, reprinted on the WotC site at some point); and I'd want to be sure that Vecna wasn't a part of the campaign outset at all, other than the lore and fragments from the 1e DMG (so he's not been outed as a god of secrets, etc. per latter-era 2e). That might help set the stage a bit better, but even then I'd trash most of the rest of the plot as outlined in the module ;)


Community Supporter
I DMed this nearly two decades ago (aah, I'm getting old!). I replaced all the circle of eight with high-level NPCs from my own setting (but kept Tenser, because he WAS in my setting for some reason) and then killed them off. This had a bit more of an impact on the PCs, but not all of them remembered the high-level NPCs' names from the past -- a humbling moment for a DM.

From there it gets hazy. I switched Iuz out with an ancient wyrm and my resident uber villain. As others have mentioned, the PCs pretty much sit around and watch the supervillain wrestling match.

By far the most memorable moment was the giant hand and the giant eyeball bad guys. One of our PCs was a paladin/monk (don't ask) and was something of a holy martial artist. He had all kinds of throws from Oriental Adventures and when the big hand guy attacked him with his...hand attack, I guess, the monk used Great Throw on the hand bad guy with a powerful shove, doing enough damage to kill it in one shot.

And what famous words the paladin/monk utter that to this day I still remember more than any other part of the scenario, that cracked us up for a good ten minutes laughing hysterically?




First Post
I switched Iuz out with an ancient wyrm and my resident uber villain. As others have mentioned, the PCs pretty much sit around and watch the supervillain wrestling match.

I think that's the biggest failing in Vecna Lives! The adventure spends a long time leading the PCs around, facing cults, agents, and the mysterious Hand and Eye to the ultimate showdown with Vecna himself. But, Vecna turns out to be so far out of the PCs league that there is nothing to do but call in another Oerth-bound Demigod and either run or hide as Iuz and Vecna slug it out. It was very anticlmactic, and a complete let-down for my players and myself.


Community Supporter
Well not only that, it reduces the machinations of Iuz and Vecna to a King Kong vs. Godzilla fight. Both characters were considerably more fleshed out and intelligent than superbaddies duking it out with their magical powers, but Vecna reduced them to it.

The only way to really have that kind of payoff is to have 1) those bad guys repeatedly introduced as way beyond the PCs' level of power on a frequent basis, and 2) the PCs should really want revenge but realistically understand they can't do it themselves.

You can do this with villains you've been hyping in your own campaign. I don't think Iuz or Vecna made many published appearances to qualify as a recurring villain. The short-cut was the "OMG, he killed ALL DA WIZARDS!" scene, but that only works if you actually give two figs about the wizards who die in that first scene.

It was a bit more effective in my campaign because I used known quantities. But mostly it was a way for me to remove two big bad guys temporarily from the campaign so that the adventurers weren't constantly questing to kill him (and I could make them focus on other stuff). Since the two baddies fall through a portal, it was just a matter of bringing one of them back.

Sort of like when King Kong is off swimming in the ocean and you may or may not hear the roar of Godzilla.

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