Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Intro to Dungeons and Dragons: Vecna (Upgrade)

(This was originally published in June 2010 on my facebook page but I have made some edits.  The characters discussed are owned by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro games)

           Know who Vecna is?  Well it is unlikely that you ever will, Dungeons and Dragons is not a topic that has adapted well to live action or animated presentations of its material.  For some reason the concepts within Dungeons and Dragons only work well when not under their official banner (e.g. "Lord of the Rings", "The 13th Warrior", "Conan: The Barbarian").  However I feel that more people should indulge in the hobby, and it is because of characters like Vecna.

He's not that popular within his own universe, being a monster and all.
            In ages past a great and terrible user and creator of the darkest and most evil of all magic ruled nearly the whole of the mortal world, crushing under his heel nations.  His only enemy it seemed was time, he was mortal at that time, and to combat this he encaged his soul into a magical container called the Heart of Vecna, and in doing so he animated himself as living death, a Lich.

The book in his right hand is his revised edition of "The Book of Vile Darkness" to which he added a few chapters.
            However when confronted with the limitless time and resources he had as undead immortal king of the world he decided to set to work making himself even more powerful, he sought out Godhood.  He turned over a lot of the administration function of his kingdom to his lieutenant, the Vampire Lord Kas (holder of a Sword forged by Vecna to be the greatest and most powerful weapon ever held), and then Vecna set to work ascending.

This is Kas, who takes fashion tips from Clancy Brown's Kurgan from "Highlander"
            At the cusp of godhood Kas betrayed Vecna and attempted to take his place in the position of Godhood, it turns out that the sword Kas carried was imbued with all of Vecna's own personal Thanatos (that means death instinct, the side of the human mind that drives a person to self destructive risky decision making).  Kas cut off Vecna's hand and smote out one of his eyes, but failed to stop Lich's ascension.

"Gods are allowed to walk around barefoot.  What?  It's my lair, so I choose not to wear shoes, it's my choice."
            Kas was either banished from reality entirely becoming part of the collective Thanatos aspect of the living world, or Kas escaped to rule over his own night-world in the world of shadows.  Whatever happened to Kas, Vecna became the God of secrets and living death.  Vecna's hand and eye, touched by the power of divine accession became magical talisman's sought by those who would emulate Vecna's success.

He's also somewhat handi-capable in that his new deformities became his holy symbols.  In no way combining the copy righted images of Sauron's red eye and Saruman's white hand... Total coincidence.
            Dungeons and Dragons is a high fantasy setting more often than not, and Vecna represents the penultimate villain in such a world.  He is the lingering of a past that most would prefer forgotten, a world ruled by darkness and despair unending.  At the same time he embodies exactly what adventurers in Dungeons and Dragons wish to delve into, the secrets of the old world forgotten in tomes, secrets that created the wonders that sit in broken shells, ruins of a great civilization, that had been misused but could have been an instrument of great justice.  Vecna is a good metaphor for the lingering threats of the fantasy kingdoms that are gone and are paradoxically envied and pillaged while at the same time despised and feared.

"I don't care if the place is lousy with undead, orcs, hippies, or pedophiles.  There is loot and damned if I'm not going in there to get it."
            Vecna is my favorite antagonist to envision in various permutations.  Sometimes I make Kas his spurned best friend (or even butt buddy), who didn't betray him, he just didn't want to be left behind.  Sometimes I have it that Vecna cut out his own hand and eye to fashion weapons from them for his own use.  I have also made Vecna an anti-hero, out to keep secrets from those who would use them improperly to destroy the world, as he regretfully nearly did, and that he fosters his dark image to serve as part cautionary tale, part fear mongering propaganda campaign to keep people from challenging him for his dreary and lonely position as undying keeper of the world's secrets.  Then there is the best Vecna, the one who likes the multiple choice origin and motives, easier to keep his true goals in the shadows that way.

He has a lot of cool art associated with him if you haven't figured that out yet.

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