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As a TTRPG author, game designer, and avid storyteller for many years, I have, on more than a few occasions, had the opportunity to unleash the twisted machinations of Vecna The Lich Lord, The Undying King, The Whispered One (For all you Critical Role fans) upon my players throughout the years.
As some of you may know Vecna was originally teased as nothing more than flavor text for two powerful artifacts in the original Dungeons and Dragons supplementary rulebook Eldritch Wizardry. These artifacts were known as The Hand and Eye of Vecna and were sought after by those of good and evil alignment. I recall firsthand watching from behind my Storytellers Screen at the lunch table while two of my friends got into a heated debate over which of their characters would be able to graft the horrific appendage to themselves.
In-game both characters chopped of their hand in preparation for the ritual of binding only to discover that while they were bickering a rat creature akin to H.P. Lovecraft‘s Brown Jenkin had snuck in and run off with the artifact of power. They were both rather upset with me, but the Cleric was amused and claimed to have even seen the little beast creep into the room choosing not to say anything to teach them a lesson about “Messing with evil magics” they did not understand.
Eventually, Vecna himself would arrive on the scene in the 1990 adventure module Vecna Lives! where the rest of his body would join his now-infamous hand and eye. We would learn of the cult of Vecna, his various associates, and designs to rise in power and from my side of the screen, I would watch a multitude of players class with his forces and on some occasions even the Lord of the Rotting Tower himself. Vecna to me has been as synonymous with Dungeons & Dragons as… well… Dungeons and Dragons. That is why the most recent pop culture events have caught my eye.
You see, through all of his time harrowing my players Vecna was (as far as we imagined and what we were shown in the illustrations and book covers we had access to) a horrific creature of bone and tattered cloth. He appeared on the cover of Die Vecna Die like a human-sized California Rasen with a Hordack-like head cowl.
He graced the interior of the 3rd edition of D&D’s Deities and Demigods handbook in the visage of a screaming crowned skeleton with tattered cloths swirling about him and a spellbook emblazed with his hand and eye on the cover.
On the cover of Dragon Magazine #348, he was drawn by the immensely talented Wayne Reynolds and again appeared as an ancient skeletal humanoid shrouded in ruined robes.
Even as recently as the second campaign of Critical Role Vecna The Whispered One is depicted as a skull with the Critical Role D20 logo in its mouth.
However, towards the end of 2021, a strange thing happened to our beloved Lich God. A Funko Pop exclusive was announced by GameStop that carried Vecna’s name but showed a vastly redesigned look. His flesh was grey and spotted with golden adornments. His chest has a strange little box inside of it and he was in possession of both eyes and hands. He was not a skeleton in tattered robes with a cursed looking crown but it also seemed that something deeper was going on
Recently there was also an announcement by WizKids that they are releasing a new statue of Venca with a less Funko slant on his redesign and my oh my has our boy seen a glow up!
He looks like his CHA has gone from 3 to 18 in this new 12″ iteration. The golden armor fits his form, and his gauntlet wraps around his famed left hand. Under his ribcage is a beautifully sculpted Book of Vile Darkness, a powerful magic artifact in its own right. Our once skeletal and gruesome villain seems to have benefited from a makeover that feels intentional and another cobblestone on the pop-culture path that is leading us to something big involving Master of the Spider Throne.
Now, could this glow-up be getting him screen ready for the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons feature film Honor among Thieves starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez? Could this new focus be due to the rumors that the major villain of the final season of Netflix Stranger Things is called Vecna aligning with the show’s habit of pulling from classic Dungeons & Dragons lore? Could there be something even bigger on the horizon with yet another set of Magic The Gathering cards coming out spotlighting Greyhawk’s Baldur’s Gate, home of The Circle of Eight, an organization of wizards to whom Vecna was directly in opposition of?
Whatever the new focus on The Chained God is I can assure you that I will gleefully roll to the keyboard and report on it as soon as we have more news. Until then, how have you used Vecna at your table? Have you ever encountered him alongside your other party members? Do you have any fun memories with this absolute legendary enemy of pen and paper? Leave a comment and let us know.
Until next time, may the rolls be in your favor.