Vecna has a long history in Dungeons and Dragons. As one of the game’s most iconic antagonists, he quickly inspired players and was featured in numerous official adventures, magazines, and even official stories.
Now, with the fourth season of Stranger Things releasing with an antagonist also called Vecna, many DnD players have grown curious about DnD’s most popular lich. So, here is our Vecna DnD Guide with everything that you need to know about Vecna in DnD.
Key Info Up Front
- Editions: 2, 3, 4, 5
- Setting: Greyhawk
- Status: Lesser Deity
- Titles: maimed Lord, The Whispered one, The Chained God, Lord of the Hand and the Eye
Vecna History in DnD
Vecna Through the Editions
Vecna was first referenced in the very first edition of DnD in the supplemental book Eldritch Wizardry. The reference was in the magical artifacts known as the Hand and Eye of Vecna, both designed by Brian Blume.
However, no information was given about Vecna other than that he was a mythical lich that the game designers did not fully realize at the time.
Then, the second edition rolled around ten years later, and Vecna took a more realized form. At first, his history was more fleshed out in the description of the same two artifacts.
Still, he was eventually featured as the primary antagonist of the official module titled Vecna Lives! that was released in 1990. The module’s story was then continued with the module Vecna Reborn before concluding in the final module for the second edition, Die Vecna Die! in 2000.
By the time the third edition of DnD came around, Vecna was a staple of the system, and the designers reflected this by making him an official lesser deity.
However, with his new role in the official pantheon of DnD, he was not nearly as present in the official adventure modules for the edition. He only appeared in supplemental books such as Libris Mortis, Complete Divine, and the 348th edition of the Dragon magazine.
In the fourth edition, Vecna was listed as the lesser deity of secrets in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and he was given an official stat block in the supplement Open Grave. However, that was where his inclusion ultimately ended.
Looking at the fifth edition, Vecna first appeared in the official deity list in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for the Dawn War Pantheon and as a deity of Greyhawk in the Player’s Handbook.
He was featured in the extremely popular web series Critical Role before appearing in books like Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount and Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Most recently, an official stat block for Vecna as an archlich was released on D&D Beyond for players to face him before his ascension to godhood.
The earliest parts of Vecna’s life are widely debated because they are subject to so many legends, myths, and folktales that it is difficult to distill the truth. However, the most common origins for Vecna do share some similarities.
For one, he is most widely believed to have been born in Oerth, with most agreeing that he was a human while some claim he was a half-elf. He then studied to become a wizard before becoming obsessed with his mortality after the untimely death of his mother.
This spurred him to become the first mortal to achieve undeath, and there are a few popular theories for how he did so. First, he became an apprentice to Orcus, the demonic lord of undeath. I think this theory seems very plausible as it explains how he was able to achieve undeath for the very first time and how he became so mighty.
The second theory is that he performed vile experiments on hundreds of prisoners. These experiments are said to have stolen the life essence from their subjects, allowing Vecna to channel power from the various planes of existence through a sinister ritual.
The final legend of Vecna’s lichdom says that he was approached by a powerful being known as The Serpent, which was a personification of the essence of magic.
Conquests as a Lich
Once Vecna became a lich, he started working to grow his power and influence worldwide by hoarding knowledge, collecting powerful artifacts, and making pacts with demons and other dark entities.
However, one of the most notable stories in his past was when he was ambushed and nearly destroyed by a group of clerics who worshipped the god Pelor. Vecna only managed to survive when the half-demon Acererak, his former apprentice, came to save him.
However, Vecna soon discovered that Acererak constructed the entire ambush so he could win his former master’s favor. This pushed the already secretive lich to treasure secrecy even more so. In response, Vecna began guarding his secrets with the utmost attention, allowing him to grow in power exponentially.
As he grew in power, Vecna became a legend that started gaining worshippers throughout the world. Of his worshippers, the most notable was a paladin named Kas. With Kas acting as his lieutenant and enforcer, Vecna was able to conquer a northern portion of land and form his very own kingdom known as the Occluded Empire.
With his kingdom established, he made Kas a vampire, allowing him to extend his life and continue enforcing Vecna’s word for hundreds of years. To help him do so, Vecna also imbued Kas’ sword with magical power, creating the Sword of Kas.
When Vecna created the Sword of Kas, he accidentally put too much of his dark influence into it. This caused the sword to begin speaking to Kas, influencing him to attempt regicide and claim the Occluded Empire for himself. Kas’ moment to strike came when Vecna attempted a ritual to ascend to godhood.
The two battled one another in a ferocious battle at Vecna’s Rotted Tower, but Kas was ultimately defeated. However, before Vecna could strike the final blow, Kas cut off one of his hands and stabbed him in one eye.
The disruption of Vecna’s ritual and destruction of his body created a massive explosion, destroying the tower and sending Kas to the dimension of Cavitius. Despite his lack of a body, Vecna’s spirit lived on, imbued with his magical power.
During this time, he floated throughout the planes, exerting his influence on cult members to regrow his power. Meanwhile, his severed hand and eye were also found by power-hungry wizards and adventurers, corrupting them with the remaining aspects of Vecna’s personality within them.
Vecna continued to spread his influence throughout the planes through these means, garnering enough worshippers to become a demigod. He used this power to invade the plane of Sigil, becoming the first deity ever to do so. He merged with the plane, giving him brief control over the entire multiverse.
However, he was quickly defeated by a group of adventurers, separating him from the plane but giving him the power required to become the lesser deity of secrecy.
Artifacts of Vecna
Eye of Vecna
This magical artifact is Vecna’s eye, which was torn out by the Sword of Kas. It has been preserved through the eons by the fragment of Vecna’s magic that remains in it, which has also given it powers of its own. To use the Eye of Vecna, the wielder has to attune themselves to it by cutting out their eye and replacing it with the Eye of Vecna.
For doing so, they are given the power of Truesight as well as being able to see through solid objects around them. The Eye of Vecna also carries innate spellcasting abilities, allowing the wielder to cast the spells Clairvoyance, Crown fo Madness, Disintegrate, Dominate Monster, and Eyebite.
Gaining access to these spells is incredibly powerful, but it also comes with negative side effects that you’ll have to consider before attuning yourself to the Eye of Vecna.
The first impact is that it immediately makes your moral alignment Neutral Evil.
The most dangerous negative aspect, however, is that every time the player uses the Eye of Vecna to use one of its innate spells, there is a slight chance for the spirit of Vecna within the eye to attack the user’s soul, tearing it apart and allowing him to take full control of their body permanently.
Hand of Vecna
Much like the Eye of Vecna, the Hand of Vecna is the lich’s left hand cut off in the battle with Kas. It has also been preserved through Vecna’s magic, allowing people to attune themselves to its power by replacing one of their hands with it.
Among other benefits, this artifact gives you a boost of damage to attacks dealt with weapons held by the hand and adds extra cold damage to your spells.
Being attuned to the Hand of Vecna also allows you to cast spells like Finger of Death, Sleep, Slow, and Teleport, which regenerate every dawn. However, the Hand of Venca also makes your moral alignment Neutral Evil and every time you cast one of the spells, you have to commit an evil act because the hand forces you to.
If you get and attune yourself to both the Hand and Eye of Vecna, you also get extra benefits. These include immunity to disease and poison, visions of danger before it happens, regenerative healing powers, casting Wish once every 30 days, and the insane ability to turn a target’s skeleton to jelly by touching them.
These artifacts are my favorite part of including Vecna in a campaign. Having a player get both at once can be a great way to challenge your high-level players by making one player evil and conflicted by the prospect of incredible power at the cost of being evil.
For Vecna’s Stats, I’ll only go over the most recent iteration of Vecna in 5e. Because of how powerful Vecna is even before ascending to become a lesser deity, he has an intimidating Challenge Rating of 26.
He is a Lawful Evil Undead with a slightly low Armor Class of only 18 but a solid Hit Points pool of 272. He also has strong ability scores because of his strengthening over the centuries.
Vecna’s highest ability score is his Wisdom of 24, closely followed by an Intelligence of 22. His Constitution is 18, his Charisma and Dexterity are both 16, and his Strength is the lowest at a respectable 14.
These come with impressive saving throw modifiers of +12 to Constitution, +14 to Intelligence, and +15 to Wisdom, so players must be incredibly strong if they hope Vecna will fail a spell-saving throw of theirs.
If you are a Dungeon Master running Vecna in your campaign, you should note his powerful skills of +22 to Arcana, +14 to History, +15 Insight, and +15 Perception. You’ll also have to track his various resistances and immunities.
He is resistant to Cold, Lightning, and Necrotic damage while being utterly immune to Poison and any nonmagical attacks. Regarding condition immunities, Vecna is immune to being Charmed, Poisoned, Exhausted, Paralyzed, Frightened, and Stunned.
Vecna Special Attributes
The first particular attribute that Vecna has is Legendary Resistance, which he can use five times a day. This is a very common one amongst legendary creatures and allows them to decide to succeed on any saving throw that they fail.
Vecna also comes with Special Equipment through his dagger, Afterthought, which acts as a +2 dagger if a player manages to get their hands on it.
Vecna also gets two unique attributes because he is a lich. The first is Unusual Nature, which makes it so that he doesn’t have to breathe, sleep, eat, or drink for any reason. The second is Undying.
This powerful attribute makes it so that his spirit can live on when he is killed, allowing it to fashion a new body for itself over the next 1d100 years. The new body can be rebuilt regardless of what happened to the old one and appears fully healed within 100 miles of where the old one was destroyed.
If you’re going to use Vecna in your campaign, you’ll also have to learn about his combat abilities, and there are a ton of them. The sheer number of options available to Vecna at any time can be a bit intimidating, but I’ve found that it works well to make him as frightening and imposing as his lore suggests that he should be.
This action allows Vecna to make two attacks with his dagger and perform either the Flight of the Damned, Rotten Fate or Spellcasting action listed below.
Afterthought is a magical dagger with a +13 hit modifier and deals 1d4+5 normal damage and 2d8 necrotic damage on a successful strike. If Afterthought is used to attack a creature, it also takes an additional 2d8 necrotic damage at the start of its following turns.
However, this effect can be ended by passing a DC 20 Constitution saving throw that can be attempted immediately after. If the creature fails this save, however, they cannot regain hit points.
Flight of the Damned
This ability recharges on a successful roll of 5 or 6 on recharge dice and is an excellent tool for dealing damage to groups. It sees Vecna summoning a horde of flying ghost-like creatures that whirl about, passing through anything in a 120-foot cone and dealing damage to creatures hit by it.
If an animal is in the area of effect, it immediately has to do a DC 22 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 8d8 necrotic damage and is afflicted with the Frightened status effect for one full minute, which can be ended early by a repeated saving throw at the end of their turns.
If a creature passes the saving throw, they only take half damage and avoid the Frightened status effect.
This ability is by far one of Vecna’s most intimidating. It allows him to surround a target character with necrotic magic, forcing them to make a DC 22 Constitution saving throw. Failing that save sees them take d8d + 60 damage with a successful save halving it.
This is an incredible amount of damage, and the danger of this ability goes up because it doesn’t need to recharge, and it has a special effect if it kills a target.
If Rotten Fate deals the killing blow to a humanoid, they immediately rise as a zombie controlled by Vecna and go directly after him in the initiative order. This allows Vecna to turn party members against their friends if they aren’t careful, making for exhilarating final boss fights.
This action allows Vecna to cast any of the following spells with a save DC of 22 without needing any components. At will, they can cast Animate Dead, Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Mage Hand, and Prestidigitation.
They can cast Dimension Door, Invisibility, and Scrying twice a day each. In contrast, only once per day each, he can cast Dominate Monster, Globe of Invulnerability, and Plane Shift on himself.
This is a pretty stacked spell list, and while most of its options aren’t very offensive, the utility it provides can help him avoid the party while his minions get their hands dirty.
This bonus action allows Vecna to teleport up to 30 feet to a space he can see. When he arrives, he can make chosen creatures within 15 feet of his destination take 3d6 psychic damage without any chance to avoid it. Doing this also regains 80 hit points, making it a fantastic healing option that your players will quickly hate.
Vecna also has two powerful reaction abilities that can be used up to three times in each round of combat. However, only one can be used during each turn, keeping him from spamming one character too heavily.
This reaction allows Vecna to disrupt a spellcaster’s casting by muttering a sinister word of dread. This will enable him to cancel the casting of any spell that is 4th level or lower, while for spells that are 5th level or higher, Vecna has to make an Intelligence check with a DC of 10 + the spell’s level canceling the spell on a success.
If Vecna successfully cancels a spell, its original caster also takes 3d6 psychic damage from the reaction.
This reaction can be used when Vecna takes damage, allowing him to deal 3d6 damage to the attacker, followed by instantaneously teleporting up to 30 feet away to an occupied spot he can see.
If you feature Vecna in your game, you must roleplay him well so that he leaves a maximum impact on your players. Since he is such a legendary character in the mythos of DnD, both in and outside the game, there can be some pressure on this.
However, Vecna’s role as a power-hungry lich makes him relatively easy to roleplay quickly. This is because you can exaggerate and focus on a few aspects of his personality to make him as believable and entertaining as possible.
The central part of his personality that I recommend focusing on is his love of secrets and knowledge. He should seemingly know everything and hunt for the rare bits of information and lore he doesn’t have.
You can impact your players by having them reveal their secrets from their backstories or have Vecna pull off a massive scheme that comes to a head just before the final fight.
The second part of his easily exaggerated personality is his hunger for power and innate evil nature. He should care very little about life or any obstacles that stand in his way.
You can also play into this by keeping Vecna extremely cocky since he has such power; he would likely doubt anybody could get in his way, especially just a meager group of lowly adventurers.
If you have Vecna in your campaign, I also recommend giving him more magical items than his official stat block gives him. This aligns very well with his background as a powerful wizard that sought power through artifacts.
You can then use these to power up your players throughout the campaign. It also will help explain his power and influence throughout the campaign. However, I recommend not giving him anything too powerful in combat to prevent him from getting even more difficult than he already is.
Vecna in Combat
Once your party enters combat with Vecna, you’ll want to make him approach the situation as intelligently as possible. You can do this by taking full advantage of his reactions and actions.
You should use Flight of the Damned to attack the party when they are in a group and maybe even use Rotten Fate to attack any NPCs with the party and turn them into zombies. This will make the fight more dynamic and create a lot of drama as the party has to face some of their dear friends from along the way.
During combat, you should also use his reactions all three times every round to try and restrict the party’s efforts. Once Vecna starts taking some damage, you should also use Vile Teleport to heal and keep him out of dangerous situations.
If your party is particularly powerful, you can also use his Vile Teleport to help him focus on the weaker party members to try and take them out as early as possible.
You should also use his spells to help keep him out of danger or get in the way of the party. This can make the fight frustrating for your party if Vecna foils their efforts too much, but it should also help push them to think creatively to counteract his efforts.
I recommend having Vecna flee from battle when he takes too much damage unless he is making a last stand at his tower or base. With his Intelligence, it makes sense that he would flee to fight another day after recovering and gathering more power.
He also tends to be very spiteful, so if your party does end up killing him, it can be a great arc to have him reform and hunt them down afterward.
Question: Is Vecna Male or Female?
Answer: Vecna is a male in the official lore of DnD, but if you want the character to be a woman in your campaign, you can adapt the character accordingly.
Question: What has Vecna Done in DnD?
Answer: Vecna has had numerous plots at the center of many DnD stories. His stories tend to center around an infinite hunger for more power. He has stolen power from various planes of existence, has tried to kill all major deities to steal their domains, and has gone on numerous adventures over his dozens of lifetimes.
Question: Are the Hand of Vecna and Eye of Vecna Strong in DnD?
Answer: Yes, the Hand of Vecna and Eye of Vecna are potent magic items that should only be given to players at high levels. Their adverse effects counteract them, so you should only give them to your players if you are prepared to have one player become evil by using them.