...and so, after the Rain of Colorless Fire, the One-Named-In-Whispers ascended to the Spidered Throne. In the third year of his ascendancy, Burgred, King of the Mara, refused the tribute of heads the Whispered One demanded. The One-Named-In-Whispers took only himself and Kas, his evil counselor, and devastated the land of the Mara with his magic. Burgred paid with his own head.
Upon their return, Kas struck against his master, so that he might become the master of the Spidered Throne. In the end, both were slain and good people rejoiced.
It is said that not all of the evil Lich was destroyed. So great was his power that his Hand and Eye have lived on, working evil over the centuries....
For centuries, Vecna - archmage, despotic tyrant, the most fearsome of all liches - has been nothing but a fearful legend to the honest folk of Greyhawk. Once the supreme master of all undead sorcerers, even today his Hand and Eye are objects of immense power.
Now something evil is stirring in the lands around Greyhawk. The Hand and Eye of Vecna have been found - and Vecna wants them back.
WGA4: Vecna Lives! (1990), by David "Zeb" Cook, is the fourth adventure in the World of Greyhawk Adventures series. It was published in January 1991.
The WGA Adventures. The "WGA" adventures (1990) replaced the older WG-series adventures (1982-1989). The first three books in the series formed the mid-level "falcon" trilogy which was tightly connected with The City of Greyhawk (1989) supplement. Vecna Lives is thus a big change for the series. It doesn't connect to the preceding trilogy, and it requires players to use high-level pregenerated characters. Though it starts in the City of Greyhawk, it quickly leaves that environment behind.
It's also the final WGA adventure. The next year, Greyhawk adventures continued in the two-book "WGS" (a.k.a. "Swords") series (1991). Thereafter, Greyhawk publication focused on the WGR ("Reference") series (1990-1993), which was the heart of the setting in the "From the Ashes" era (1992-93). This move from adventure toward background material generally reflected TSR's direction in the 90s.
All about Vecna. Brian Blume invented the artifacts known as the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna. They're described in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976) as "the sole remains of an ancient lich who was so powerful that he was able to imbue his hand with wondrous/horrible powers and to enable it to survive even after his long undead body had ceased to exist." The book contains no more detail on Vecna other than the fact that Kas was his bodyguard.
Gary Gygax later said about the artifacts, "nary a detail of those items did [Blume] ever reveal to me." Others have suggested that they were based on the Hand of Kwll and the Eye of Rhynn from Michael Moorcock's Corum Swords Trilogy (1971), and it's widely accepted that Vecna is a purposeful anagram of Vance -- the author of The Dying Earth (1950), whose spells influenced D&D.
The artifacts reappeared in the Dungeon Master Guides for first (1979) and second (1989) edition AD&D. The second edition book suggested that Vecna's spirit still remained within the hand. However, only in Vecna Lives! is it revealed that the ancient lich has become a demigod since his death.
Though Vecna's story begins in Greyhawk, it goes beyond that world following this adventure: Vecna Reborn (1998) and Die Vecna Die! (2000) form a trilogy about the evil mage's modern-day plans.
Expanding Greyhawk. Vecna Lives is most notable as a Greyhawk adventure because it's a world-spanning epic. To that date, previous Greyhawk adventures had been largely focused on individual locales, with the exception of WG8: Fate of Istus (1989). Vecna Lives! instead gives a strong impression of the world as a whole (and of the ancient magics and legends that underlaid Gygax's vision of the setting).
The adventure is also notable for its detailing of the Greyhawk villain Vecna and his cult and for the attention paid to Mordenkainen, his Circle of Eight, and their henchmen. The Circle of Eight had been hinted at for many years during the first wave of Greyhawk publication, but was revamped and revealed as a group of magicians in The City of Greyhawk; this new book continues with City's version of the Circle.
Vecna Lives! further includes details on the City of Greyhawk, the Viscounty of Verbobonc, the Gnome Warren of Osnabrolt, and the Stone Circles of Tovag Baragu - all set in Greyhawk. However, the book is an adventure, so none of the details are particularly significant for the expansion of Greyhawk.
Verbobonc deserves some additional comments because it had been a major element of published Greyhawk ever since T1: "The Village of Hommlet" (1979). Zeb Cook accidentally gives a new description of the city of Verbobonc in this adventure, contradicting material printed previously in WG8: Fate of Istus (1989). He later acknowledged the error with the simple staement, "what can I say. Oops." There seems to be no agreement on which version of Verbobonc City is canon.
About the Creators. In 1990, author Zeb Cook was entering his second decade at TSR, having just finished the creation of the second edition AD&D game. He would also design the next major milestone in Greyhawk's history, Greyhawk Wars (1991).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.