The Arch-Lich, the Maimed God, Lord of the Rotted Tower, the Undying King, Master of the Skull Throne, the Unspoken
Overview: Vecna is one of the few gods to originate from a mortal creature; legends suggest the Raven Queen was the only other mortal to accomplish this impossible task. Like most stories surrounding the gods and their history, the truth shall forever remain hidden from mortal understanding. Efforts to document Vecna’s mortal life and apotheosis have been consistently vexed by Vecna’s priests and minions; it would seem the Maimed God guards the secrets to his past with intense jealousy. Despite this and the swirl of conflicting stories, scholars have produced a relatively consistent history of Vecna and his ascension to godhood.
In the waning days of the Dawn War, a handful of mortals achieved the pinnacle of power. These mortals served the gods in the war against primordials, earning tremendous power in the process. So great was the gods’ trust and reliance in these individuals that they stood but one step removed from godhood. Chief amongst these Immortals was the so-called God-King known as Vecna.
Vecna had mastered the arcane arts and proven especially adept at necromancy. He animated vast armies of undead in the war against the primordials, and used his dark magic to drain the life from his enemies. By the end of the conflict, Vecna ruled an enormous empire on Stormfell, and his legions had conquered large areas of the Shadowfell. Even the other Immortals, as powerful as they were, dared not directly oppose Vecna.
Given his brilliance and cunning, Vecna depended on the gods to keep to their Covenant while he expanded his empire. With the gods became bound to this agreement, Vecna felt immune from divine interference. With limitless armies at his side, Vecna sought to conquer the mortal worlds. He took the lofty title of God-King, no doubt as an insult to the true gods.
Several of the other Immortals formed an alliance in opposition to the God-King. They launched their armies and powers against Vecna in a desperate bid to destroy their enemy. Although the war blasted vast sections of Stormfell, Vecna persevered and defeated the Immortal alliance. Rather than achieving victory through brute force, Vecna opted to corrupt and manipulate the other Immortals. In the end, he succeeded by playing his former peers against one another, throwing the erstwhile alliance into turmoil.
The gods, forbidden by the Covenant to intervene directly, instead sent powerful allies, artifacts, and spells to Vecna’s one trusted lieutenant – the infamous, bloody-handed Kas the Destroyer. Amongst all mortal creatures, Vecna only truly trusted Kas. This time, the master manipulator fell to his own tactics.
Unaware of Kas’s impending betrayal, Vecna fashioned a powerful sword for his lieutenant, a weapon capable of piercing the flesh of even a god. Kas accepted the weapon and proceeded to attack his master with it.
In the ensuing battle, Kas severed Vecna’s left hand. Another blow sheared Vecna’s right eye from its socket. Wounded but alive, Vecna fled to heal and scheme. The forces of Vecna fought the legions of Kas to a standstill on the blood-soaked plains of Uthryn Dal. In the end, Kas and Vecna mortally wounded one another. No one is certain what became of Kas, although there are rumors his mighty blade survives to this day.
Vecna’s body died that day, but his malign spirit clung to existence. From that point, only the gods know how Vecna ascended to godhood, or why. Did he bribe or blackmail the gods into granting him true immortality? What secrets or powers allowed him to cheat death forever? Regardless of his methods, Vecna went from being a spiritual vestige to becoming a full-fledged deity. Other gods in the pantheon do not offer any information about these events, and Vecna likewise seems reticent to reveal any facts. Vecna became a god, and remains a perpetual thorn in the side of the pantheon. Far more serious, he remains a dark blight on all mortal kind, his plots and schemes forever threatening to spread destruction and death.
Spheres of Influence: Undead, necromancy, blood magic, forbidden secrets, evil spellcasters, dark magic
Avatar: Vecna does not possess an avatar of the usual sort. Some legends suggest the gods cheated him out of his aspect. Even without an avatar, however, Vecna has found a way to instill a physical presence on the mortal world through the mummified remains of his severed hand and eye.
The Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna are both legendary malignant artifacts that pervade the mortal world. These horrid objects hold a splinter of Vecna’s essence. A mortal creature in possession of one such part gains tremendous power and knowledge, but always at a steep price and eventual downfall.
Signs & Portents: Vecna does not reveal his designs through omens of any sort. He keeps his schemes and plots a secret even to the most powerful priests in his faith. Vecna never hands out foreknowledge for free.
Tenets of the Faith: Never reveal all you know. Information is power. The more information you possess, the more powerful you become, and the greater hold you have over others. You should treat knowledge like currency, spending as little and as seldom as possible, always trading for a better bargain. If you surrender too much information, or the wrong kind of knowledge, you surrender some of your power, and perhaps grant power to another. Within Vecna’s faith, a lie of omission is not only appropriate, but also expected.
Find the seed of darkness in your heart and nourish it; find it in others and exploit it to your advantage. The use of dark knowledge and the collection of dark secrets together offer the only true path to power and influence in this world or any other. At heart, all mortal creatures possess a sinister nature, even those appearing good and noble on the surface. The follower of Vecna first seeks out that darkness in his own heart to cultivate it, nurture it, and allow it to flourish. By doing so, he turns a weakness into strength.
Once a Vecna follower masters his own darkness, he must seek that element out in others. He can use greed, jealousy, anger, hatred, and sorrow of others to his advantage, gaining power while exploiting weakness. It is far better to conquer your enemy’s heart and soul than his physical body.
Oppose the followers of all other deities so that Vecna alone can rule creation. For the most part, the Gods of Dawn do not seek total dominion over each other or the whole of creation. Even the gods viewed as evil, such as Bane, do not pursue such a goal. Vecna, however, would relish the death of all other gods in the universe. He seeks total domination over this world and all others, and he wishes to rule alone, independent of any outside being. Based on this tenet, it appears obvious that Vecna’s megalomania as a mortal only grew in size and scope upon his ascension to godhood.
To help fulfill this tenet, Vecna’s priests seek out information, spells, relics, and artifacts with the ultimate goal of slaying gods, destroying Vecna’s enemies, and bringing creation to heel before the his throne. No secret is too vile, no weapon too powerful to escape his notice. The worshippers of Vecna scour this world and others in search of every possible advantage for their twisted god.
Most other deities, even the dark ones, understand the value of cooperation from time to time; gods such as Bane and Tiamat, for all their selfishness, are prepared to put aside prejudices in the pursuit of an important goal. Vecna, however, sees no value in other gods, and does not deign to share anything with them, regardless of what is to be gained. Vecna considers the other gods worthless and untrustworthy. This attitude trickles down into Vecna’s religion, and his priests hold nothing but disdain for clerics of other gods. Priests of the Maimed God do not share, cooperate, or put aside differences; followers of Vecna only work with other followers of Vecna.
Holy Symbol: The shattered skull
Place of Worship: Vecna’s religion is one dedicated to secrecy and seclusion. There are no overt or obvious temples dedicated to the Maimed God; most of his temples lie hidden underground or within ancient ruins, overlooked or forgotten by the civilized world. His places of worship are not for outsiders or peasants; only clerics and true servants of Vecna may enter one of his temples, upon pain of death.
Most Vecna shrines include a library of some sorts, vaults for locking away secrets, barracks for servants and acolytes, and laboratories dedicated to the arts of alchemy, necromancy, and summoning.
Canon: Codex of the Dark Pact. Given how little is known about this sinister tome, outsiders refer to the canon of Vecna as the “Book of Secrets.” As befits a god of secrets and forbidden knowledge, his canon remains forbidden to all but the highest and most powerful of his clergy. Acolytes, servants, and lesser priests may not own a copy, may not read its words, and may not even crack open the cover. Should any individual break this edict, death is the best possible outcome.
Outsiders to Vecna’s faith are also forbidden to even touch The Codex, under any circumstance. Copies of this book are kept hidden and locked away within a Vecna temple, often protected by powerful wards and curses.
Surprisingly, there are few stories about the sinister afflictions lying in store for those reading the work. Indeed, a number of legends describe the opposite. If a non-believer peruses Vecna’s canon, he suffers no immediate ill effects. The individual often comes away with a vast infusion of knowledge, and the ability to use the new knowledge for impressive gain. For a period of time, the person seems blessed for his boldness.
In truth, however, the blessing degenerates into a curse. The individual slowly becomes corrupt, tainted by his forbidden insights. He turns inward and becomes suspicious. He severs ties with friends and family, often viewing them as enemies or threats. With methodical planning, the curse victim becomes dark, twisted, and venomous. He inevitably destroys everything he once cared about, and either dies alone and miserable, or pursues ever-darker paths into Vecna’s service.
Cleric’s Alignment: Any evil
Duties of the Priesthood: Vecna’s clerics seek out and collect information in all its forms, ranging from whispered secrets to ancient tomes and everything in between. They plunder libraries, kidnap sages, and do everything necessary in their pursuit of dark knowledge. Vecna’s clerics also track down and retrieve magic items, relics, and artifacts, especially those related to necromancy and blood magic.
There are numerous occasions where Vecna’s priests not only collect information, but also go to great lengths to deny that knowledge to anyone else. If they kidnap a sage to interrogate him, they eliminate him after they glean the answers. If they steal books from a private owner, they burn down that person’s house afterwards. If more than one copy of a book exists, they steal both copies or destroy the one they cannot steal.
Limitations & Sacrifices: Vecna’s clerics are expected to devote their entire lives, and every facet of those lives, to the Maimed God’s service. Within Vecna’s faith, there are no half-measures and no distractions permitted. His clerics do not have families, do not own outside possessions, and do not pursue other ambitions. Priests failing to maintain a proper lack of focus become lessons for others in the order. Everything a Vecna cleric owns or knows belongs to Vecna.
Role-playing a cleric of Vecna is typically a poor choice for a player character. The majority of Vecna’s clerics work only with other followers of their god, as they do not trust outsiders. Such a cleric might work with an adventuring party as part of a specific mission or goal (such as retrieval of an ancient relic), but he will be forced to betray his erstwhile companions afterwards. Clerics of the Maimed God are too secretive and paranoid to function well within an ongoing campaign. DMs would be wise to keep Vecna’s clerics as NPC villains or obstacles, and not allow characters to choose Vecna as their patron deity.