Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "My Favorite Deity"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 4- Favorite Deity
            Back in June of 2010 and then again in May of 2011 I wrote about my favorite villain in the DnD franchise up to that point.  I had been playing the game for 10 years at that point and was looking for something to write.  Here is a link to that 2011 edition of that blog entry, feel free to not follow it as I am now going to do an upgraded version of that upgraded version.
             Also, I realize picking an evil guy for this entry on favorite deity might reflect poorly on me.  This is favorite for storytelling purposes.
            “I am not, nor have I been, a cultist of the god of secrets,” *wink*
            “Did you just wink?”
            “No,” *wink*
            “You did it again.”
            “I don’t know what you are talking about,” *wink*
            “Stop it.”

My Favorite Deity: Vecna Undead Lord of Secrets
            If you are reading this, it is likely you have some idea who Vecna is.  The general public, not so much, and it is unlikely that they 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", etc.), so a good chunk of that lore will perhaps never see the glow of a TV screen.  Which is just the way Vecna likes it.

            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 nations under the heels of his vaste armies.  His only enemy it seemed was time, he was mortal then and doomed to befall the natural course of life.  He would eventually die.
            He decided that would be inconvenient.  To combat this eventuality Vecna encaged his soul into a magical container called the Heart of Vecna, and in doing so he animated himself as living death, a Lich.  Some claim that he is the originator of this process and the first recorded Lich, his genius allowing him to concoct a perfect means to transform and all subsequent iterations are poor imitations, flawed and imperfect.  Or maybe not?

            However when confronted with the limitless time and resources he had as the undying king of the world he decided to set to work making himself even more powerful.  He was not one to rest on past accomplishments, so he sought out the only promotion available to him at that point, Godhood.
            Vecna turned over the administration of his kingdom to his lieutenant, the Vampire Lord Kas.  So great was Vecna’s trust in Kas that he gifted him a weapon.  The Sword of Kas was made to be the greatest and most powerful handheld weapon ever, and possessed a piece of Vecna’s own mind.  Some say the piece was Vecna’s mad ambition, whispering to Kas, some say it was his sense of decency (so he could finally be rid of it), maybe it was Vecna’s own Thanatos (his death instinct, the aspect within us all that drives us to dangerous and risky behavior), and others say it wasn’t meant to be any of these things, that the intellect guiding the blade was a flaw, the first of Vecna’s long existence.
            Vecna went to work becoming a God.

            At the cusp of Divinity, Kas, once the most trusted of Vecna’s whole world, betrayed the Lich Lord and attempted to take his place in the position of Godhood.  This is the source of the conflicting accounts of the intellect in Kas’ blade was it imbued with all of Vecna's own personal Thanatos, and it wanted to kill him?  Was the blade filled with Vecna’s ambition and it wanted to usurp him?  Regardless of the motivation, Kas cut off Vecna's hand and smote out one of his eyes, but failed to stop Lich's ascension.
            Kas was either banished from reality entirely, transformed into an abstract concept (becoming part of the collective Thanatos aspect of the living world), or Kas escaped to rule over his own domain 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 talismans sought by those who would emulate the Dark Lord's success.

Vecna as Metaphor
            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 past that has been deified by the ill deeds he committed back before anyone living walked the Earth.  He is what most would prefer to be 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 buried in Dungeons, tombs, tomes, and relics.  Vecna is the creator of and holder of wonders and secrets that sit in ruins and broken shells of a once great and now dead civilization.
            Vecna’s powers were misused but could have been an instrument of great justice and prosperity.  Vecna is a perfect metaphor for the lingering threats of the fantasy kingdoms that are gone but are paradoxically envied and pillaged while at the same time being feared and frequently inhabited by dangerous monsters.
Boy, this card is sort of perfect right here.
The Flavor text even has "Vec" written on it.

Vecna Permutations and Alterations
            The Lich God is my favorite antagonist to envision in various permutations.  Sometimes I make Kas his spurned best friend who didn't want to betray the Lich King, he just didn't want to be left behind.  Or even that Kas and Vecna were husbands and that Kas was supposed to be the god of hunger and darkness but something went wrong with the ritual (or Vecna betrayed him because of a disagreement over how to raise their children).  Sometimes I have it that Vecna cut out his own hand and eye to fashion weapons from them for his own use or the use of his followers.
            A cute permutation that had less to do with motivation was when I said that “Vecna” was never his name.  It was a word that meant “secret” or “arcane” and that when “Vecna” became god of secrets he magically redacted his real name from all of history.  So every time you see the word “Vecna” it would be the equivalent of reading an intelligence briefing in a spy movie and seeing a blacked-out name with the word “CLASSIFIED” stamped on the page.  I have even taken it a step further, that all of the instances of the language his people spoke in life has been erased and jumbled like Yahweh and the builders of the Tower of Babel.  The original language “Vecnese” or “Arcana” has been all but lost.
            I have also made Vecna an anti-hero, out to keep secrets from those who would use dark knowledge improperly to destroy the world, as he regretfully nearly did (you don’t see his kingdom around do you?  Maybe his being a god was accidental and killed so many that he became warped by the experience).  Maybe he fosters his dark image to serve as part cautionary tale, part fear mongering propaganda campaign, all to keep people from repeating his mistakes, or just to keep them 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 story and inscrutable motives.  Easier to keep your true goals in the shadows that way.
I didn't even mention two of his bigger parts in the Lore.
Once, he tried to rewrite reality with him as the only God.
He is also a noted editor and contributor to the Book of Vile Darkness.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about my favorite playable race.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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