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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.

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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.

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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

The arc plot is probably the weakest part about it, but it’s firmly in a genre that is not supposed to be grounded or have complex plots. It does exactly what it sets out to do. If you don’t like over the top action blockbusters which wink at the audience you won’t like this, but that doesn’t make it bad.

The individual dungeon design is some of the best I’ve seen.
I'm going to go back through the dungeons with a close eye. I was focused on story ideas on my first read, hence my above review, but if the dungeons bang this may have been worth it after all!
 

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Remathilis

Legend
I have the adventure and I'm not really happy with how little of a role Vecna has in it, or his direct minions. Its really designed more like, say, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where you know Vecna's location and that he's the final boss but you have to go all over the world first. However, unlike BotW, you don't get to experience the legacy of Ganon/Vecna; instead, you experience things completely independent events. This, while cool, really makes this feel flat as "Vecna: Eve of Ruin" and reduces Vecna from a character to JUST a boss monster.

In other words, the book is written to be lore optional. I guess with all the videos and stuff you get a lore more lore you can add in if you want, but I wish the book just tied Vecna in a little more as a default. Likewise, Lolth isn't used as much as I'd like either, but she is used.

Ultimately, I grade adventures by a personal scale of "Did this adventure create stuff I wouldn't have created without it?" and the answer is no. The only truly unique thing in this adventure is the Wish opening (I know others have thought this up but I never had!). Compared to Tomb of Annihilation's Resurrection Curse (one of my favorite ideas for an adventure even if they underutilized it), Frostmaiden's Fallen-God Auroral Sun-Sinking Ritual & Frozen Alien City, and Avernus's Tale of Two Cities + Mad Max in Hell aesthetics, Vecna falls pitifully short of actually giving me something fresh. And while these adventures listed all have problems -- especially Avernus -- at least they inspire me to want to play with the core idea. Venca did too, until I read the book and just found very little that felt new.

TL;DR: Needs more Vecna, more Lolth, more Rod, more novelty.
To me, the core idea was a tour/look back at the settings and modules that were beloved. Vecna isn't the plot driver, he is merely the excuse to do the tour. It's truly a journey, not a destination driven module.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I am beginning to think that Wizards, should make more use of D&DBeyond tie ins with these adventures. additional lore, DM advice and a few extra Adeventures to cover the gaps. I have not gone through the locations with a fine look but on my first read through it need more Vecna. Some foreshadowing and more use made of the Wizards.

The twist in chapter 9 needs some foreshadowing and an alternate path if the characters figure out what is happening beforehand. The resolution of it is lame in my opinion. It is the weakest link in the whole thing.

I think if that chapter was better, I would be happy with the whole thing. As it is, I now want to improve it.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
It sounds like this adventure is a good example of why "I liked/didn't like it" style reviews aren't much help and more detailed explanations are needed. Some folks will be put off by its structures, while others will be excited. I think @Shardstone gave a nice summary in this way. Thanks.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Way to dodge the question! I wasn’t talking about Dragon Heist. I was referring to your more noticeably cynical / negative tone. Are you OK?
I think there maybe some selection bias in what you are reading that leads you to this view. I start lots of threads, and many of them are intended to talk about creative elements or design or just be fun. But if you only read the "controversial" topics and my responses to them, you may well think I am cynical about RPGs and D&D. I'm not. I am cynical about WotC.
 

Remathilis

Legend
It sounds like this adventure is a good example of why "I liked/didn't like it" style reviews aren't much help and more detailed explanations are needed. Some folks will be put off by its structures, while others will be excited. I think @Shardstone gave a nice summary in this way. Thanks.
I think it's a matter of expectations. An adventure that is essentially a series of dungeons crawls in a variety of settings for high level PCs with a universe ending plot was always going to be a heavy railroad. I expected nothing less. I applaud their audacity to even try to write a traditional module for PCs who start out with 5th level magic and gain wish 3/4ths of the way through. IMHO traditional module structure breaks down at this point and most adventures become vibes more than plans.

As for the plot, I actually like that Kas is the main antagonist rather than Vecna this time. While the twist is a little clunky, I appreciate it comes out of nowhere and makes Kas a legitimate threat rather than Venca's Starscream. I also like the fact you directly or indirectly interact with some of D&D's best villains: Strahd, Soth, Accerack, Lolth, the Lord of Blades, Tiamat, etc. Then again, I'm a former comic book reader and I can't help but be excited when a bunch of stories crossover into an event, no matter how overdone that is. This is the crossover event off D&D and like a comic event, it could never live up to what we feel it should be like, but it is fine when measured on its own merits.

It was never going to be for everyone. I still think the Avengers Endgame analogy is apt: it's a spectacle event owing more to oohs and aahs than tightly crafted narrative. It trips over its own plot of thought through for 10 minutes but the point isn't to CinemaSins Kas's plan, it's to enjoy the ride though a whole bunch of "remember this?" Until you get to a major villain fight. That's what I expected and I am not let down.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
But that is not what the vast majority of people do when they buy an adventure. If it was, WotC would just put out nothing but Books of Lairs.

But, hey, you're not going to believe me, so why am I even commenting?
But I mean, is it what most people do? WotC current style has been huge for a decade now, in terms of sales and play, and the D&D brand name did not have the same effect for 3E or 4E Adventures (or 2E, for that matter).

I would posit that it is quite logical that WotC is actually designing based around audience desires, and effectively. That perhaps when the lead Adventure designer says "this is how we build the big Adventure books to be used" (as LEGO sets) that maybe the unprecedented pile of user and market data he has access to may be informing that direction.
 
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