Challenging the Ultimate Dungeons and Dragons Evil in Vecna: Eve of Ruin

Vecna: Eve of Ruin
Amanda Hamon And The Wizards Team

If you want a new Dungeons and Dragons challenge for characters that are tenth level or above, then “Vecna: Eve of Ruin” is the book for that. Most campaigns start at first level and the majority of Fifth Edition modules keep their range of levels between first and thirteenth for many good reasons: it’s hard for Dungeon Masters to play for a long time in the deep end of the dice pool without coming up with a ton of epic challenges. Characters with hit points approaching 100 who can cast spells where eight or more dice roll across the table need a steady march of magnificent foes to keep things interesting, and the classic Vecna as a final boss is the perfect casting for that role.

Physical copies are currently in stores, and “Vecna: Eve of Ruin” will be available to order online starting on May 21.

The team that made this book is strong. Amanda Hamon, who was the lead on the new campaign setting Strixhaven, is the lead here. She and the rest of the team take readers on a tour of the Dungeons and Dragons Multiverse starting in Neverwinter and moving to such varied places as Sigil, the Astral Plane, Ebberon, Borovia-with our vampiric friend Strahd, Dragonlance’s Krynn, the World of Greyhawk, Avernus and Pandemonium.

It is here where I give my shout out and hope for a fifth edition Free City of Greyhawk book. Why? So much of what we have of the lore of Dungeons and Dragons came from that city and the world around it, but I understand that there are new horizons to explore. It is just when you see great books like this that I can imagine what a team like this could do for the Gem of the Flanaess. Greyhawk is a city that’s not run by any nobles but instead guilds who elect a mayor and rely on its river trade and roads to thrive. Refugees, rogues and adventurers come to this city to find it a place of both dangerous rivalries and lucrative opportunities.

Do I sound like someone who doesn’t own a city map of Greyhawk and was recently outbid on Ebay for one?

Now back to our review.

If you are a player who wants to gift their Dungeon Master a campaign or even a resource with 30 new monsters that has great art depicting them and a trove of NPCs that range from first to twentieth level, then “Vecna: Eve of Ruin” would be a great place to start. While best used as a series of adventures, this new Dungeons and Dragons supplement gives advice on how to work the various chapters into a homebrewed campaign and how to expand on the different chapters when players decide to follow a minor NPC or explore something beyond the map.

That is great because it’s something most every adventuring party will do. And Dungeon Masters can use the adventures in Vecna to fill out that content – or to teach them that it’s not always safe to stray from the path.

Critical Role’s Matt Mercer chose Vecna for his players to end their first season of Actual Play. Vox Machina went up against a mostly bespoke Vecna with legendary resistances and legendary actions. Watching some of this Geek and Sundry episode can give the DM and players a taste of how to handle the logistics of marching through combat order, where each player gives their best attack on a supernaturally strong opponent and the opponent answers in kind. But be warned, it is over 5 hours long.

For me, watching some of this was instructive and entertaining. The character sheets are here for reference. I also noticed that Vox Machina fought what was called an avatar of Vecna. That is something that came from the 1990 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Module “Vecna Lives!” written by David “Zeb” Cook and set in the World of Greyhawk. Cook went on to work on video games like Fallout 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online.

Now, the answer to the questions of why Vecna and why now: Vecna is a classic villain from Dungeons and Dragons, perhaps one of the most recognizable, so it makes sense to bring him back now to help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. If you want a teaser of Vecna’s history in Dungeons and Dragons lore, Todd Kenreck does promotional interviews with three people (Chris Perkins, Amanda Hamon and Makenzie De Armas) who worked on the book that should not be missed.

There are also other videos linked with this one about why they decided to make the book the way they did, and they also give good advice on how they think the campaign could be run.

Game Industry News was given a review copy of this book. It is 256 pages with a poster sized map that you can tear out along a perforated edge and unfold. One side of the poster is of an important chapter encounter and is perfect for the use of miniatures, with an overlaid square grid. The other has eight different representational maps with artistic flair. Cartographers Francesca Baerald and Dyson Logos really hit that sweet spot between gameplay detail and fantastical flourishes.

There are two adventure mechanics that I feel really help both players and DMs alike. First, there is a Secrets Tracker in Appendix C so that the players are incentivized to investigate the lore surrounding Vecna because they can trade these secrets for actual rewards. Revealing secrets to the world comes at a cost but hoarding them all doesn’t help either. There is also a warning of what level the characters should be at the beginning of each chapter. Without this, a Total Party Kill is a definite possibility.

The bestiary at the end of the book is one of the best I’ve seen, in both writing, art pieces, art direction and the layout that gives each monster’s stats in a clear outline. The credits page of the book lists Kate Irwin as art director and Trystan Falcone as lead graphic designer. Some may remember Trystan Falcone as an alumnus of Acquisitions Incorporated. The disclaimer in this credits section is funny too and is something a DM could read to the players.

In 1976, the name of Vecna was introduced by way of three artifacts in a small paperbound book called “Eldritch Wizardry.” This book was labeled Supplement III and had more magic spells, monsters and a section of artifacts and relics for the game. Three of these artifacts were The Eye of Vecna, The Hand of Vecna and The Sword of Kas. The DM could even choose what powers these items possessed. The artifacts were only given a few paragraphs in the book and all of them tied into a story where the lich Vecna was betrayed by his bodyguard Kas and both met their doom in the following struggle. Vecna was not tied to a particular setting, and there was no timeline, just the words ancient lich and legend assigned to Vecna, while the phrase “greatest swordsman of his age” was given to Kas.

A player would have to affix Vecna’s hand to the stump of their character’s arm to utilize its powers, just like they would need to have an empty eye socket so as to use Vecna’s eye. The Sword of Kas is described as a “thin gray blade of some metallic substance” that is intelligent and will turn the possessor evil while also trying to dominate their mind.

Now, years later, the present generation of Dungeons and Dragons creators have brought Vecna and Kas back and added to both of their histories, plus added a lot more high-quality art to back that up. This latest incarnation is worth buying if you want your players to have quite an adventure jaunting through much of the multiverse, and the challenges associated with that both in terms of combat and roleplaying. It’s one of the most enjoyable supplements to come out in a while for using within a campaign or just for reading through and enjoying it.

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