Vecna

Vecna was born as a human, centuries ago as a member of the untouchable caste in the Flan city of Fleeth on Oerth. He was initially trained by his mother, Mazell, in the arts of magic, before she was executed by the government of Fleeth for practicing witchcraft. Vowing revenge, Vecna eventually assumed a mastery of the dark arts achieved by no mortal before or since. Some say this achievement was due to direct tutelage by Mok’slyk the Serpent, believed to be the personification of arcane magic itself.

At some point during his long life and unlife, Vecna undertook arduous researches into the nature of life itself in a hidden temple buried in the mines near what is now Diamond Lake; the site of this laboratory is now known as the Dark Cathedral.

Some nine hundred years after his birth, Vecna, now a lich and ruler of the Occluded Empire of Vecna, a great and terrible empire (in the Sheldomar Valley, centered near the modern-day Rushmoors) of the Flanaess, laid siege to the city of Fleeth with an army of arcane spellcasters and undead (VHotR). Legend has it that Vecna was nearly slain in this battle by clerics channeling the power of Pholtus, the god of light. The clerics unleashed a great burst of light, which hit Vecna primarily on his left side. Vecna was rescued and brought to safety by one of his wizard generals, a cambion named Acererak (who would one day himself become a mighty demilich).

Vecna eventually recovered. On the verge of conquering Fleeth, certain citizens of the city came before him to beg for mercy. They offered up the entire city and her wealth if only Vecna would spare the lives of her citizens. When Vecna was not satisfied, the officials offered their own lives. Vecna gave one of their number, Artau, and his family, over to his lieutenant, Kas, who spent the entire day torturing and murdering them before the other officials. Still unsatisfied, Vecna slaughtered all within the city, and had their heads stacked before the officials, with those of their family members prominent. Vecna then granted his mercy, granting the officials leave to depart, and promising them his protection for the rest of their lives.

At his empire’s height, Vecna was betrayed and destroyed by his most trusted lieutenant, a human vampire called Kas the Bloody-Handed, using a magical sword that Vecna himself had crafted for him, now known as the Sword of Kas. Only his left hand and his eye survived the battle, perhaps because of the previous events in Fleeth.

Vecna did not stay gone forever, and returned to Oerth as a demigod of magic and secrets. In 581 CY, his cult helped set events in motion that would have granted him the power of a greater god, but the plan was ultimately foiled. In 586 CY, Vecna ended up imprisoned in the demiplane of Ravenloft, but broke free in 591, emerging with the power of a greater god after absorbing the power of Dukagsh, demigod of the Scro in Wildspace. Vecna then entered the city of Sigil, where he came perilously close to rearranging all existence to his whims. When Vecna was ejected from Sigil by a party of adventurers, Iuz was freed and Vecna returned to Oerth greatly reduced in power, though still a lesser god.

Writings
At some point in his history, Vecna penned a tome known as Ordinary Necromancy, as well as another work named Vecna’s Ineffable Variorum. He is also rumored to have made significant additions to the Book of Vile Darkness. The Nethertome of Trask is ascribed to him, though this provenance is considered highly dubious.

Another literary relic of Vecna is the Tome of the Stilled Tongue, a spellbook that contains instructions for mental exercises that increase the potency of the practitioner’s spellcasting. Five copies are known to exist, each with the severed tongue of a treacherous Vecna cultist nailed to the cover.

Description
Vecna is usually depicted as a powerful magician resembling a desiccated corpse missing his left hand and eye. A constant theme in the adventures in which the character appears is Vecna’s never-ending quest for power, ending, should he succeed, with Vecna as the only deity in existence.

Relationships
Vecna has few allies, and countless enemies. In 2nd and 3rd Edition, his greatest, and perhaps only true ally is the mysterious entity known as the Serpent. In 4th edition, the Open Grave book introduces Osterneth, the Bronze Lich, as the mightiest servant of Vecna. The famed cambion lich, Acererak, once served Vecna, but the current status of their relationship is unknown. Among Vecna’s staunchest foes are Kas, Iuz, Saint Cuthbert, the Lady of Pain, Pholtus, the Circle of Eight, and he is also opposed by the Old Faith and the Silent Ones.
In 4th edition, Vecna’s main foes in the realm of death and undeath are Kas, Orcus and the Raven Queen (though he would rather she rule the dead than Orcus). Among the gods, Ioun is something of Vecna’s antithesis, for she would share with the world all the knowledge he would keep secret.

Dogma
Scriptures
Being a secretive cult, there are no real collections of Vecnan teachings. However, copies of the Book of Vile Darkness are highly prized by the cult for Vecna’s role in that work’s development. The Open Grave book offers the “Scroll of Mauthereign”, which offers a twisted version of Vecna’s history and tells his followers that committing evil acts is a holy and righteous act.

Worshippers
Vecna’s cult is very secretive, and cells have been uncovered, at various points in history, in Diamond Lake, Greyhawk, and Verbobonc. Temples to Vecna have also been reported in the Pomarj town of Highport and Erelhei-Cinlu, the debased city at the heart of the Vault of the Drow.

Hierarchy
Each position in Vecna’s cult is named for a certain body part. At the top is Vecna himself, followed by the Voice of Vecna, which can only be filled by Vecna’s manifestation.
Next is the Heart of Vecna, the high priest of the cult. The last known Heart of Vecna was Diraq Malcinex of Ket, who was slain by adventurers in 581 CY.

Immediately below the Heart of Vecna are two bizarre monsters known as the Hand and the Eye. The Eye of Vecna creature appears as a slender humanoid with an eyeball for a head, whereas the Hand of Vecna appears as a stocky humanoid with a huge left hand where its head should be.
Individual congregations are known as organs. Each organ is led by a Thought of Vecna. Lesser priests are known as Memories of Vecna.

Lay members of the cult consist of the Teeth, Fingers, Blood, and Spawn of Vecna. The Teeth of Vecna are made up of wizards, and specialize in arcane spellcasting and crafting magical items for the cult. The Fingers of Vecna consist mainly of thieves, who engage in various forms of subterfuge. The Blood of Vecna are mainly warriors charged with protection and enforcement of the cult and its goals. The Spawn of Vecna are the lowest in the cult hierarchy, and consist of the common people who honor the Lich Lord.

Other Vecnan organizations
Other Vecnan organizations are known to exist outside of the mainstream cult, and some may have similar or identical names. Relations between these groups and the mainstream cult may vary. Known examples are the Eyes of Vecna (a cult of undeath consisting mainly of rogues), the Fingers of Vecna (Vecna’s personal guard), and the Ebon Triad (a heretical cult seeking to merge Vecna, Hextor, and Erythnul into a single entity).

One secret group known as the Keepers of the Forbidden Lore is devoted to Vecna. Unlike most Vecna worshippers, the Keepers reject most of the nasty and evil rituals and beliefs associated with the God; they worship Him as the God of Secrets, and believe that there is some knowledge too evil for the world to know. They instead hunt down secrets and information they deem to be too dangerous for the world at large and keep it secret in the name of Vecna. This puts them in opposition to mainstream followers of Vecna who regard the Keepers as heretics, and makes them enemies of Ioun and her followers, who believe all knowledge should be available for everybody and the moral obligations on how to use it rest on the shoulders of the individuals involved.

Artifacts

Hand and Eye of Vecna
Vecna’s left hand and eye of Vecna’s original “mortal” lich form, which have never been replaced in his later more powerful incarnations, are now high-valued and very dangerous magical artifacts. To use the powers of the Hand of Vecna or the Eye of Vecna one is required to cut off one’s own corresponding body part and affix Vecna’s in its place.

Sword of Kas
Vecna created the Sword of Kas for his greatest servant, which contains a “portion of his consciousness.”

This interpretation is relatively recent. As per the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, Vecna only procured this most powerful sword for his chief lieutenant. Similarly, depending on edition and source, its appearance has varied, from a short sword to a wavy bladed two hander. However, it is undoubtable that the Sword is inextricably tied to Vecna’s relics.

Other artifacts
A number of Vecna’s other body parts are presented as minor artifacts in Die Vecna Die!, including the First Digit (right thumb), Second Digit (right index finger), Third Digit (right middle finger), Last Digit (right pinky finger), Incisors (a pair of inappropriately named fang-like canines), Molar, Scalp, Skin, Heart, Foot (left), and Right Eye. These artifacts are collectively known in D&D 3rd Edition as the Fragments of Vecna. The Compendium Maleficarum is a book of spells, doctrines, and secrets crafted entirely from bone (even the pages) and penned in blood, that is on par with the Fragments of Vecna. The Tome of Shared Secrets is an illustrated bestiary of relic status, with the ability to impart knowledge of dark and evil creatures at the cost of a portion the user’s life force. The Rod of the Whispered One, while not nearly so powerful as the Sword of Kas, is another item Vecna crafted to connect himself with his highest lieutenants. The final issue of Dragon Magazine, issue #359, featured rules for the “Left Ear of Vecna” as a minor artifact. It grants the owner magical bonuses to hearing and resisting sonic attacks, spell-like abilities to inflict deafness, grant clairaudience and create sonic blasts, and enables them to understand any spoken language. A lich known as Osterneth possesses the “Heart of Vecna” according to the Open Grave sourcebook.