“It is said, though not in the hearing of strangers, that when the mighty Lich, Vecna, finally met his doom, one of his eyes survived along with his hand.”
You can find both the eye and the hand of Vecna on page 224 of the fifth edition dungeon Master's guide. The sword of Kas can be found on page 226 of the fifth edition dungeon Master's guide. These are all listed in the artifacts section as sample artifacts. It is an absolute shame that there are not more than just a few short paragraphs regarding these iconic items. But today’s your lucky day because we have sequestered ourselves in the dusty confines of the Dojo’s super secret Lyceum to bring you a more complete description of Vecna’s artifacts.
There is a wonderful series of books written for second edition called the encyclopedia Magica and this is where we draw our magic items from. It is an easy conversion from second edition to fifth edition. You can go ahead and do it yourself, but why bother when you have us to do it for you?
The Eye Of Vecna
“It’s unclear as to whether or not the artifact known as the eye of Vecna is actually the arch Lich’s true eye. It is said that the eye glitters in much in the same way that the eye of a cat does. “
Here’s the 5th Ed version of the Eye:
“Both the Eye and the Hand are Wondrous items, artifacts that require attunement”
“Properties of the Eye.
Your alignment changes to neutral evil, and you gain the following benefits:
You have truesight.
You can use an action to see as if you were wearing a ring of Xray vision. You can end this effect as a bonus action.
The eye has 8 charges. You can use an action and expend 1 or more charges to cast one of the following spells (save DC 18) from it:
clairvoyance (2 charges)
crown of madness (1 charge)
disintegrate (4 charges)
dominate monster (5 charges)
or eyebite (4 charges).
The eye regains ld4 + 4 expended charges daily at dawn. Each time you cast a spell from the eye, there is a 5 percent chance that Vecna tears your soul from your body, devours it, and then takes control of the body like a puppet. If that happens, you become an NPC under the DM's control. Properties of the Hand, Your alignment changes”
Here’s the 2nd Ed version of the Eye (The one we like best):
This is how the eye works, the eye must be pressed into the empty socket of a living human head. Once that is done the eye grafts itself into the head of the user and grants that user remarkable powers. The eye, prior to being placed in the head appears to be a blood red clot of some sort but once it is pressed into an empty socket it takes on a golden, feline -like appearance. Once it is placed inside the head of user, the eye cannot be removed. When the eye is placed, and becomes permanently affixed to the user, there is an alignment shift. The user becomes chaotic.
So how does this alignment shift occur at the table? Let us say for the sake of argument that your character is lawful good. Once the eye is pressed into the socket and it grafts, your alignment will become chaotic good. If you are neutral evil, your alignment now becomes chaotic evil and so on and so forth. As a GM, and for the sake of your story because everything you do should be for the sake of your story, do not make this transformation immediate. Make the transformation dramatic, it should be a slow creep, a gradual dissent into chaos. My personal preference is to slowly sink the character into chaotic evil, once the transformation is complete, they now become an NPC and my next big bad.
The effect the eye has on its user cannot be altered, no matter what, not even by wishes. Speaking of wishes, one of the most powerful abilities that the eye grants the user, is the granting of a wish. This occurs once a week but it comes with a price. Every time a wish is used, there is an increasing possibility that the power contained within the eye will become free and take over the wielder. This results in the destruction of the individual soul. Now that the eye is in command of the wielder, it will, while retaining the form of the wielder, seek out any and all associates of the wielder and destroy them.
As a GM how do you run this in game? We recommend starting with a 5% chance of the eye taking over the wielder when a wish spell is used. For example, roll percentile dice, if the result is 95 or higher the eye has taken over the wielder. If, on the first use of the wish, the wielder is not overtaken by the eye then the results will become cumulative. For example, the second time a wish is used there will be a 10% chance that the wielder will succumb to the power of the eye. On the third occasion a wish is used there will be a 20% chance, on the fourth occasion a wish is used there will be a 40% chance and so on and so forth. Should you get to the point where there is greater than a 100% chance that the wielder will be overtaken by the eye when a wish is used, add some drama and have them roll percentile dice anyway. Anything except for a double zero, will result in the wielder being overtaken by the eye. This will be a quick transformation because we all know a wish in the hand of a player is going to be used, often.
The wish ability is not the only ability the eye grants the user, though it is the most powerful of them all. The eye also comes with secondary powers that may be used with no adverse effects whatsoever to the user. These effects are as follows:
Clairaudience, water breathing, and paralyzation. The paralyzation comes with a -3 on the saving throw for the target. These can be used three times a day.
The Hand Of Vecna
According to the encyclopedia Magica, the hand appears as a dried, shriveled, and blackened hand. This of course is one of the two remaining parts of the arch Lich Vecna’s body.
Here’s the 5th Ed version of the Hand:
“Properties of the Hand:
Your alignment changes to neutral evil, and you gain the following benefits:
Your Strength score becomes 20, unless it is already 20 or higher.
Any melee spell attack you make with the hand, and any melee weapon attack made with a weapon held by it, deals an extra 2d8 cold damage on a hit.
The hand has 8 charges. You can use an action and expend 1 or more charges to cast one of the following spells (save DC 18) from it:
finger of death (5 charges)
sleep (1 charge)
slow (2 charges)
or teleport (3 charges).
The hand regains ld4 + 4 expended charges daily at dawn. Each time you cast a spell from the hand, it casts the suggestion spell on you (save DC 18), demanding that you commit an evil act. The hand might have a specific act in mind or leave it up to you.”
“To attune to the hand, you must lop off your left hand at the wrist and the press the artifact against the stump. The hand grafts itself to your arm and becomes a functioning appendage. If the hand is ever removed, you die.”
“The Eye of Vecna and the Hand of Vecna each have the following random properties:
1 minor beneficial property
1 major beneficial property
1 minor detrimental property”
Here’s the 2nd Ed version of the Hand (The one we like best):
If the hand is pressed against the stump of a wrist, the wearer of the hand is able to use all of its awesome and terrible powers. It is not immediately known with any of these artifacts whether or not there are powers associated to them, these powers are to be discovered through trial and error.
Once the hand attaches itself to the body of its host, the alignment of the host changes to evil. Not even a detect evil spell will reveal this however.
Removal of the hand can only be done under certain circumstances. The hand can be removed at any time prior to the use of any of the hand’ s primary powers. After 10 uses though, the hand can never be removed. No effects of the hand can be altered by any means at all and every time one of the hands primary powers is used successfully the wielder of the hand’ s powers incurs penalties. When I say that the effects of the hand cannot be altered by any means, I mean, by any means. Not even a wish spell or the act of a God can alter the effects of the hand.
The primary powers are used by extending the fingers of the hand in different combinations.
Sleep (also affects up to one creature of any level), 3 times per day.
Generate a double effect slow spell twice a day.
Finger of death with -4 on saving throw once per day.
Regenerate up to one half of all points lost in combat.
Teleport twice per day.
Monster summoning once per day.
X-ray vision as a ring of x-ray vision.
Spell Turning. • Death spell twice per day.
The user of this artifact always receives a premonition of danger, just before the event occurs. It does not reveal what the danger is, just that there is a threat in the area.
Detect traps and secret doors.
Use of this artifact causes the user to eventually become ethereal every time he or she is under stress. Each time it is used, the user has a 2% chance (cumulative) of going ethereal when under stress—after 10 uses the character has a 20% chance of becoming ethereal under stress.
Being under stress is defined as any situation where the user faces a monster, trap, place or person that the user is uncertain that he or she can conquer. After 50 uses, the user becomes ethereal with every stressful situation. The ethereal state lasts until the stress is removed.
In addition to the primary and secondary powers of the hand, being touched by this hand will turn an opponent’s bones to jelly. This gruesome power can be used once a day.
The Sword Of Kas
Kas was Vecna’s chief lieutenant and as Vecna was the greatest wizard of his time, Kas was the greatest swordsman. In the end, Kas betrayed Vecna and both were killed during that betrayal. All that remained of the Arch Lich Vecna was his eye and hand and all that remained of Kas was his sword.
Here’s the 5th Ed version of the sword:
The SWORD OF KAS is a Wondrous item, an artifact that requires attunement.
“The Sword of Kas is a magic, sentient longsword that grants a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it.
It scores a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20, and deals an extra 2d10 slashing damage to undead.
If the sword isn't bathed in blood within 1 minute of being drawn from its scabbard, its wielder must make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. On a successful save, the wielder take 3d6 psychic damage. On a failed save, the wielder is dominated by the sword, as if by the dominate monster spell, and the sword demands that it be bathed in blood. The spell effect ends when the sword's demand is met.
The Sword of Kas has the following random properties:
1 minor beneficial property
1 major beneficial property
1 minor detrimental property
1 major detrimental property”
Here’s the 2nd Ed version of the sword (The one we like best):
The sword has a thin gray blade made from an unidentified substance, though it is clear that the substance is some type of metal. The sword is approximately 6 feet in length, with a ripple of gold running down its center. The hilt is approximately 2 feet in length and wrapped in red leather flecked with gold., but the sword, although it seems incredibly long, can easily be wielded with two hands. The cross guard is narrow and made of unicorn horn, capped with black pearls. The basket surrounding the hilt is sculpted in the image of a leering, bearded face. Perhaps this face, is that of Kas himself.
The sword has a bonus of +3 to hit and damage and a +5 to hit and damage versus undead and fiends. This is an intelligent magic item and has an intelligence of 18. The sword of Kas is an evil weapon and will immediately turn the alignment of any who wield it to evil. The sword has the following abilities:
User may become ethereal twice a day
Cause serious wounds of double effect twice a day.
As long as the user carries the artifact, the character acts as a magic drainer. No magic directed at the user has any effect, and the user can use no magic. Any magic that touches any part of the user's body permanently loses its magical ability.
User may restore one lost level (as a restoration spell) once per week (perhaps one drained from a nearby friendly PC).
It is our opinion that the second edition versions of these iconic artifacts are far more potent than their fifth edition counterparts. Your opinion may vary regarding this, and that is fine, because it’s your game and you can do whatever you want with it.
Whatever you choose to do as the Dungeon Master, whether it be to use the hand and eye as it is listed in the fifth edition Dungeon Master’ s guide, to use the second edition version we have outlined, or to blend the two together, do take the time to add artifacts to your game.
Other Vecnan Artifacts
We talked about the hand, the eye, and the sword but over the course of Dungeons & Dragons’ long history, other magic items related to our favorite Lich have appeared. Now we all know, that the body of Vecna except for the hand and the eye, was completely destroyed in his battle with Kas but apparently more of his body survived.
His other eye and fingers on his right hand survived as did his scalp, a molar, incisors, a foot, some skin, and the heart.
There is a set of bracers associated with Vecna, he is believed to have not only worn them but have crafted them as well. These items are of course cursed.
We would be remiss not to mention the false artifacts. There was a time where a fake head and hand of Vecna was constructed and used by cultists.
And there you have it, a comparison between editions of some of the greatest artifacts in D&D Lore.
See you next time, in The Dojo!