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.

Mirrorshade from Pandamonium cropped.png

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

Dire Bare

Legend
An old interview had them explaining that the fewer monsters they put in their setting the less they would have to explain in the novels. Some of it was personal taste, they wanted a restricted game world instead of the kitchen sinks that had been produced at that point.
It's been a while since I've read any of that stuff, interviews about the creation of the setting from back in the day.

I have no problem with the OG Dragonlance Team deciding werewolves (and orcs, drow, etc) don't play a large role in the setting or story . . . . but that this has turned into THEY DON'T EXIST ON KRYNN and to introduce them is sacrilege . . . that gets me. There is a difference between a D&D creature not playing a prominent role and that creature not existing at all in the setting.

Werewolves did not play a role in the original saga trilogy or the initial campaign. But adding them in later is fine, it doesn't break anything.
 

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mamba

Legend
Werewolves did not play a role in the original saga trilogy or the initial campaign.
the original DL story did not simply ignore them, canonically they do not exist

But adding them in later is fine, it doesn't break anything.
whether adding them in is a problem for someone or not is purely a matter of preference, you can decide canon is not important and they do not break anything, or you can decide that an official adventure should respect canon and that WotC should have changed the plot to accommodate that. I see no problem with either decision, but I do believe that this could have easily been avoided by WotC. No idea how many people care however, I assume not all that many
 

Dire Bare

Legend
the original DL story did not simply ignore them, canonically they do not exist
Sure. Whatever. Not really. Don't care. That's my point.

What is canon? Showing up in an official Dragonlance product? I guess they are canon now! And this isn't the first time werewolves have appeared in an official Dragonlance book.

The intent of the original team? Not saying that it doesn't matter, but Dragonlance has had dozens of authors and designers adding to the setting over the decades. Including adding werewolves and drow. Weis & Hickman do not own the setting, it is a shared world owned by WotC.

The current D&D Team has been pretty open about being willing to change canon . . . especially inconsistent canon that matters to a small few hardcore fans. Doesn't mean they don't know or love the settings, or that they don't care about the fans. Just means they view canon differently than some hardcore fans do.

Most of the classic D&D settings have seen changes over the decades. Some large, some small. Some accidental, some very much on purpose. Some controversial, some barely noticed. What's canon? Who decides?

If you don't like werewolves in your Dragonlance, that's fine. But don't act like the holy books have been blasphemed. Modern Dragonlance canon now includes werewolves . . . and somehow, the game goes on.
 

JEB

Legend
What's canon? Who decides?
Per Wizards: D&D Canon | D&D Studio Blog | Dungeons & Dragons

The current edition of the D&D roleplaying game has its own canon, as does every other expression of D&D.
Every edition of the roleplaying game has its own canon as well.
Fifth edition’s canon includes every bit of lore that appears in the most up-to-date printings of the fifth edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide. Beyond these core rulebooks, we don’t have a public-facing account of what is canonical in fifth edition because we don’t want to overload our fellow creators and business partners.

So the canon for Eve of Ruin definitely includes itself and the latest version of the 2014 core rulebooks. (In several months it will include the 2024-2025 versions, and not the 2014 ones.) It might include Shadow of the Dragon Queen, or any other official 5e product... but folks should not assume this unless it's formally stated. It explicitly does not include anything from 4e or earlier, to include the original Dragonlance stories.

Folks who liked the old versions of Dragonlance, or any other setting, should not expect modern versions to match anything in the old. These are new products for a new audience using existing IP, and that's all. (This was abundantly clear with Van Richten's.) If anything does match, it's likely just to convince veteran fans to buy the product, not because the designers feel beholden to older canon.

Honestly, veteran fans are lucky Shadow of the Dragon Queen and Eve of Ruin match classic canon as well as they do.
 


Stormonu

Legend
I've been reading/playing Dragonlance since it came out and have either forgotten or don't remember it's not supposed to have lycanthropes. :unsure:

And in this case they're on the good guys side?
 

I've been reading/playing Dragonlance since it came out and have either forgotten or don't remember it's not supposed to have lycanthropes. :unsure:

And in this case they're on the good guys side?
We discussed this in an earlier thread. It was a retcon in the early 90s. Originally, Krynn had lycanthropes and pretty much everything else in the MM aside from orcs and hobbits.
 

SlyFlourish

SlyFlourish.com
Supporter
You don’t have to. You just feel you do to deliver the kind of Michelin star experience you believe DMing a campaign to be. You’re a highly experienced and knowledgeable long term DM of TTRPGs. So you have very specific ideas about what things should look like.

I dare say the majority of people don’t take it as seriously as you and @Reynard seem to do, and are just happy that there is a published guide to running a particular campaign full of fun interesting things. They don’t care about the odd obscure inconsistency or plot twists that involve classic characters because to them they either don’t know or don’t care.

The problem with the explosion of the professional DM, self publisher, pro/semi-pro commentator is that it’s possible to take the whole thing far far to seriously and assume everyone wants or needs that standard. Epicureans discussing the age and thickness of the prosciutto, when most people just like a ham sandwich.
Sure. I don’t have to. I could just run a multi-month campaign adventure that takes all agency away from the players, reveal that all the work they did was for a bad guy they couldn’t ever reveal themselves, and then blame the book when they’re pissed off at never having a chance to change the story by their actions.

I’m not arguing about the thinness of prosciutto. I would never recommend a GM put in a secret villain who leads the entire campaign with no chance they can be discovered. This is sort of the amateur mistake a completely new DM makes and realizes the second they look into the eyes of their players after the reveal. It’s also totally avoidable but WOtC wrote paragraphs of text trying to make this forced rug pull work.

If I’m dropping $60 on an adventure, I shouldn’t have to rebuild the whole plot of the adventure so I don’t have to betray my players’ trust.

This is also the third adventure in the past couple of years to do so. Planescape and Spelljammer have the same problem.

But I get it. Some people don’t care and think it’s fun anyway. Ok, cool. We each get to choose what we like and want to run at the table. It’s the awesome feature of our hobby that separates it from so many others. Go with the gods.

But I don’t think I’m being nitpicky here. The whole purpose of the adventure hinges on being bamboozled by a major NPC with no practical chance to discover the ruse because doing so shatters this brittle adventure structure.
 

mamba

Legend
Sure. Whatever. Not really. Don't care. That's my point.
you are free to not care, but there is a difference between just not bringing something up and explicitly stating that something does not exist

What is canon? Showing up in an official Dragonlance product?
basically, in this case the setting book or box I believe

I guess they are canon now! And this isn't the first time werewolves have appeared in an official Dragonlance book.
last time that was deemed a mistake rather than a change to canon

The intent of the original team?
they established that

Not saying that it doesn't matter
you pretty much do exactly that

Weis & Hickman do not own the setting, it is a shared world owned by WotC.
owned in a copyright sense, sure, but it is shared with the fans too, and they own it as much when it comes to deciding what canon is. TSR basically killed off DL as a setting with their changes to it over the book line, so them owning the copyright did not help them all that much when the fans disagreed with the changes

Most of the classic D&D settings have seen changes over the decades. Some large, some small. Some accidental, some very much on purpose. Some controversial, some barely noticed. What's canon? Who decides?
everyone for themselves, why would I care what WotC has to say on the matter?

If you don't like werewolves in your Dragonlance, that's fine. But don't act like the holy books have been blasphemed.
I don’t, I do not really care, I just understand why some people do

Modern Dragonlance canon now includes werewolves . . . and somehow, the game goes on.
whether that is canon remains to be seen, they did not become canon last time they were accidentally brought up, either way, the game goes on, agreed

There is no right or wrong way to react to this, it is a matter of preference. WotC could have easily avoided this however, regardless of how you personally feel about it
 
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mamba

Legend
Honestly, veteran fans are lucky Shadow of the Dragon Queen and Eve of Ruin match classic canon as well as they do.
not sure about that part, why revisit a setting if you want to change it ‘completely’, that kinda defeats the point of using an established setting
 

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