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Wizards Goes Big with Vecna: Eve of Ruin

For its first book of D&D's 50th anniversary year, Wizards is going big with a multiverse-spanning, multiverse-threatening adventure where players will face off against one of the game’s most legendary villains.

For its first book of D&D's 50th anniversary year, Wizards is going big with a multiverse-spanning, multiverse-threatening adventure where players will face off against one of the game’s most legendary villains. Designed for characters level 10-20, Vecna: Eve of Ruin is a 256-page book that takes players from the Forgotten Realms, Spelljammer's Astral Sea, Eberron, Ravenloft, Krynn, Greyhawk, Avernus, Pandemonium, and Sigil for a grand adventure.

Vecna Alt Cover Front Back Hydro74 cropped.png

Very High Stakes​

While the Vecna from Stranger Things is firmly a villain in the horror mold, V:EoR is more a high stakes – very high stakes – adventure with horror elements. It's also a ticking time-clock adventure, so while players will visit many D&D realms, they won't have time for the scenic tour.

V:EoR is a little different than many 5E adventures, though. First, it doesn't have any new options for players. Because the adventure is so big and player characters can be from any setting, including homebrew, there already is a wealth of options.

Second, the entire book is under a spoiler warning, with this admonishment right at the beginning: “The information in this book is intended for the Dungeon Master only. If you’re planning to play through the adventure with someone else as your DM, stop reading now!”

As a result, I'm going to go lighter on describing the story than I usually would because putting this entire review under a spoiler mask seems a little excessive. But I will discuss things about the initial premise and a few major points that have already been revealed in the Wizards' own promotional videos.

Aside from the story, V:EoR has 43 monster stat blocks, some quite creepy like the mirror shade and the spiderdragon. It also has nine stat blocks for the 11 famous NPCs in the Character Dossier. Why only nine? D&D 5E does not stat out gods, though it makes an exception for Vecna, since he's the big bad.

Tasha gets a new stat block from the one she has in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight because she sends a younger version of herself from her timeline to help – more on that in a minute. So V:EoR features Tasha the Witch, with early versions of the spells she is so famous for with a lower CR stat block. Strahd also gets a new stat block.

The Character Dossier ensures that even newcomers to D&D or returning DMs, will have the information they need about iconic characters at their fingertips. It includes Miska the Wolf-Spider's first 5E stat block. I'm purposely not naming all of the characters in the dossier to avoid spoilers.

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A Vecna Refresher​

If you think Vecna is just the psychic bad guy from Stranger Things, you're missing out. The “real” Vecna is one of the most infamous villains in D&D.

Vecna began in the earliest days of the game as a brief comment about magical artifacts called the “Hand and Eye of Vecna” in 1976's Eldritch Wizardry by Brian Blume. Vecna was likely inspired by Michael Moorcock's first trilogy of short novels about the eternal hero Corum: The Knight of the Swords, The Queen of the Swords, and The King of the Swords. Corum is the last survivor of his race, a vaguely elf-like people hunted by humans. Corum himself is captured but escapes, but not before the humans torture him by gouging out his left eye and chopping off his left hand. As for Vecna's name, it's an anagram for Jack Vance, who was hugely influential on D&D's magic system.

Vecna started out in Greyhawk as a wizard so evil, Orcus, the demon prince of undeath, taught him the spell to become a lich. Later, however, Vecna gave Kas, the warrior at his right hand, an evil intelligent sword that helped to turn Kas against Vecna, or just accelerated his betrayal.

In an epic battle, depicted in art within V:EoR, Kas cut off Vecna's hand and eye, which became the infamous artifacts. But despite being gone for centuries, Vecna was not dead but gathering strength to re-emerge. The devotion of his cultists led to his ascension as god of secrets.

Wizards Three by Irina Nordsol.jpg

Starting a High-Level Adventure​

If your party is already at or near 10th level, your group can switch over to V:EoR fairly easily or with a precursor adventure to fill the gap between their current level and 10th. The current setting for your group doesn't matter due to how the adventure begins, and they'll be traveling between realms anyway.

If you're starting entirely fresh, pick an adventure to run first (assuming you don't want to just jump to 10th level), that will take the characters from 1st to 10th. Curse of Strahd is one option, since the players will end up at Death House and face off against Strahd. Having some history between them could be interesting, especially since Strahd doesn't necessarily have to be defeated for the V:EoR to succeed in their objective.

And, of course, another option would be a sort of mashup approach. Pick a combination of shorter adventures from anthologies like Candlekeep Mysteries, Keys from the Golden Vault, and Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel; any of these adventures can set the stage for V:EoR.

V:EoR
also provides instructions on how to run the first chapter for characters that are 7th, 8th, or 9th level, which is a bit of a preamble for the characters before they know Vecna's involvement. This way if you have established characters short of 10th level but want to dive straight into V:EoR, you can.

Eberron by Claudio Pozas.PNG

Vecna's Scheme​

Alustriel Silverhand, one of the Seven Sisters and daughter of Mystra, goddess of magic, makes her first appearance in 5E in V:EoR. Closely connected to the weave of magic, she has noticed something is very wrong and that Vecna is involved. She summons her allies Tasha and Mordenkainen to her sanctum in Sigil, the City of Doors.

Together, the three wizards discover that Vecna is trying to rewrite the entire multiverse to his will, so they cast a wish spell in the hopes of reversing his progress and revealing the location where he is performing the ritual. The trio is surprised when the player characters appear before them.

While the wizards have been working to uncover Vecna's plan, the player characters have been pursuing the culprit behind the kidnappings of notable people in town. This segment is set in Neverwinter, with some juicy political secrets, but it wouldn't take much effort to relocate to an equivalent city in another D&D realm or your own homebrew campaign. It's also fairly easy to keep the action in Neverwinter yet work out why characters from Eberron, Spelljammer, etc. are there, if you wish.

A “Purpose in Neverwinter” table provides ideas for why the characters are in the city. A “10th Level Backstory” table also provides inspiration if needed.

What the players discover is that Vecna's cultists are behind the kidnappings, magically pulling the secrets from their victim and transferring that power to their lich god. Vecna, in turn, plans to use the power of those secrets for his Ritual of Remaking to recreate the multiverse.

rod of 7 parts.PNG

Thwarting a God​

It is during their rescue attempt that the wizards' wish spell takes effect while the players are disrupting a ritual to send Eldon Keyward's secrets to Vecna. This creates a psychic link between Vecna and the player characters, which makes them the perfect heroes to thwart Vecna's plans.

Because of this Link, the party are literally the only people in the multiverse who can stop Vecna and save the multiverse. Even better, Vecna is unaware of the link. Since Vecna is the god of secrets, the players gain the Vecna's Link benefit. It allows them to collect and “spend” secrets to gain a boon. Any unspent secret at finale of the adventure can be used in the fight against Vecna.

Meanwhile, Mordenkainen has figured out where the first piece of a very powerful artifact is, one he says has defeated Vecna in the past. The Rod of 7 Parts is a legendary magic item, first appearing in a 2nd Edition module called The Rod of 7 Parts. The back of the alternate V:EoR cover by Hydro74 depicts symbols for each of the seven parts.

The rod was created by the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, a.k.a. the Vaati, beings of ultimate law, to fight a demon lord called Miska the Wolfspider. The Rod, then known as the Rod of Law, was used by the Wind Dukes used it to imprison Miska in a demiplane. But the Rod shattered into seven pieces and scattered throughout the multiverse.

Most of the adventure consists of traveling from realm to realm to collect the seven pieces, through combat or other means. The D&D team didn't skimp on imagination for these excursions. For example, the Eberron portion mostly takes place inside a gigantic, ancient, bipedal warmachine.

Recreation of Dragon Magazine 402 cropped.png

Art & Maps​

Wizards gave V:EoR a larger art budget than usual, and it shows. From magic item illustrations by Couple of Kooks that almost look like you could pick them up, to epic artwork of Kas and Vecna's legendary fight by Chris Rahn (or a perversely cheery piece of art of the then-living Vecna and Kas plotting to take over Oerth by Lily Abullina), and everything in between, the book looks great.

Monster art ranges from the appropriately creepy Miska the Wolf-Spider by David Auden Nash to the unnerving Mirror Shade by Zuzanna Wuzek. The portrait artwork of the NPCs, like one image of Tasha, Mordenkainen, and Alustriel by Irina Nordsol, presumably after they realize the scope of Vecna's plans, is just lovely.

Both versions of the cover are very effective for setting the mood. The regular/mass market cover by Kieran Yanner is Vecna in “rage-enta” tones, furious, vile, and intimidating. The metallic gold and silver inks on matte black of the limited release cover for game stores by Hydro74 is striking.

The maps by Francesca Baerald and Dyson Logos are detailed and complex without sacrificing clarity. Baerald made full-color maps that are eye catching, including one for a magical sailing ship from the Spelljammer section. Logos' work is just as impressive, though in different ways. For example, his map of the damaged Eberron warmachine features fluid dripping down through the structure, an imaginative and almost whimsical choice that adds flavor to the map. His redo of the CoS Death House maps are faithful yet fresh.

Greyhawk NPC by Nikki Dawes.PNG

Is It Worth It?​

Overall, I like V:EoR. It has a grand sweep appropriate for the 50th anniversary of the game and the 10th anniversary of 5E. As a high-level adventure for an edition that rarely went above 10th level, it works well, with some epic fights at the end. Yet the book doesn't rely only on combat. It has a nice mix of moral dilemmas and juicy role-playing opportunities. And while the initial setup seems straightforward, there's enough mystery and betrayal to keep players guessing.

I really like that lead designer Amanda Hamon and the team thought about little details that make the adventure more playable. The Character Dossier provides much-needed background material instead of having to root through D&D wikis or older books. A Secret Tracker helps manage that mechanic. The tables to help explain why the characters are in Neverwinter and possible backstories are also helpful.

But I hate the ticking clock aspect of the adventure. I understand the game design purpose for it, and I think it works much better here than it did in Tomb of Annihilation, but I still find "progress clock" scenarios annoying. I'm also not fond of Vecna as a villain or a plot device.

And yet Vecna: Eve of Ruin is a really well-crafted adventure. I rate Vecna: Eve of Ruin as an A-. If you're a fan of Vecna and don't mind progress clock mechanics, it might be an A.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Thanks for the review. I applaud wizards for releasing something that goes to level 20. Based on everything I have read it's a massive railroad, but that's to be expected from what they are trying to achiev with there whirlwind tour.

I wonder how well encounters will stand up to actual play in the wild? The higher level the PCs the more likley they are to be either over or under powered in combat based on how much the player went for min maxing the build.
 

SlyFlourish

SlyFlourish.com
Supporter
I know the review purposefully avoids spoilers but there’s a central plot twist in Vecna Eve of Ruin I found clumsy enough that I cancelled my preorder when I found out about it.

I’m sure some GMs don’t mind but I’d want to know about it before I drop my $60 on it or even more importantly, spend hours of our time around the table with our friends playing it.

If you’re a GM considering it, I’d go ask around about the whole plot of the adventure before investing either the money or time. If it’s not a problem for you, that’s totally cool. We each get to decide what we want to run at our tables.
 
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(warning: this is also spoilery!)

It might seem like a nitpick, but I think it's indicative of the adventure's guiding philosophy that it uses Vecna's new & controversial statblock (which greatly reduces his spellcasting in favor of simple, spammable damage and recovery abilities). If you like nu-Vecna, you'll probably like the adventure; if you don't, you probably won't.
 
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TheGlen

Explorer
Most reviews I've seen have criticized it for just recycling plots from previous 5th edition modules and not expanding into other parts of the settings.

You fight drow in the underdark. AGAIN

Go to Death House to face Strahd. AGAIN

Acerack has a new tomb. AGAIN.

There's a fiendish casino. AGAIN.

Then there was a lack of attention paid to source material like werewolves in Krynn. It doesn't feel like an epic adventure once again it feels like a bunch of one shots welded together with a flimsy plot line. This is where you showcased your heavy hitters and the wilder aspects of the various settings. But they decided to play it safe and safe is boring
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Supporter
I know the review purposefully avoids spoilers but there’s a central plot twist in Vecna Eve of Ruin I found clumsy enough that I cancelled my preorder when I found out about it.

I’m sure some GMs don’t mind but I’d want to know about it before I drop my $60 on it or even more importantly, spend hours of our time around the table with our friends playing it.

If you’re a GM considering it, I’d go ask around about the whole plot of the adventure before investing either the money or time. If it’s not a problem for you, that’s totally cool. We each get to decide what we want to run at our tables.
I found that it didn't make any sense- I couldn't get over the fact that
either the Crown of Lies is powerful enough that it's basically a no-save mind-control helmet, and Kas could get anyone to do whatever he wanted and there should be zero chance for the PCs to discover that he's Mordenkainen and confront him (since he could just lie his way out of it, and through lies upend someone's concept of reality saying that giving him the rod, power, be his vampire spawn etc was the only was to stop Vecna and that he was really a good guy and wouldn't keep power etc).

OR Alustriel and Tasha could tell that he couldn't cast Wish. Or other powerful spells. "Hey Mordy Tasha and I are casting Wish right now... Why aren't you?" The fact that the adventure lets the PCs, on hunches and circumstantial evidence, see through Kas' Crown of Lies suggests that simple visual evidence is enough to see through a lie.
 

As near as I can tell, Vecna adventures are written assuming the party and world have a combined Intelligence and Wisdom of 8. Vecna Lives was particularly egregious, with the opening having the party temporarily play the Circle of Eight blundering around a tomb with no recon like a bunch of first level puds in order to get them killed off by a boxed text ambush.
 

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