The End of the World Is at Hand!
A hideous death cult has seized control of an ancient artifact-monument known as Tovag Baragu. The power behind the cult is the Old One himself, Iuz the Evil, demonic master of an empire. He's on an all-or-nothing quest for supremacy over the world—and the heavens beyond.
To stop him, heroes must face horrors never dreamed of, journeying to a shadowed city where Death rules and the living cower. Here, Iuz will achieve his mad dream by destroying the imprisoned master of that alien citadel: Vecna, the mightiest lich, an immortal demigod. Two items exist with the power to stop Iuz—the Eye and the Hand of Vecna—but using them carries fantastic risks. Not even the gods know what will be unleashed when these items are fully activated.
Die Vecna Die! takes the heroes from the Greyhawk campaign to the demiplane of Ravenloft and then to the Planescape city of Sigil. However, none of the material from those settings is required for play.
Die Vecna Die! by Bruce R. Cordell & Steve Miller, is an epic campaign-ending adventure for AD&D 2e. It was published in June 2000.
The End of the Vecna Trilogy. Die Vecna Die! ends a trilogy of adventures about Vecna that began in WGA4: Vecna Lives! (1990) and continued in Vecna Reborn (1998). They're all standalone adventures, but together they chronicle Vecna's rise in power, from his failures in Greyhawk to his imprisonment in Ravenloft and now on to his most daring conquest ever.
A Triple Crossover. Crossovers between multiple settings have always been rare in RPGs. TSR offered one of the earliest in S3: "Expedition to Barrier Peaks" (1980), which according to long-standing player speculation features the Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha (1976).
In 2e days, TSR provided three different settings that could be used to cross over to other settings. Spelljammer (1989) was the most explicit, and it even included sourcebooks for different worlds. The possibility was more implicit in Planescape (1994), while Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) often absorbed characters from other worlds—including player characters in the adventure duology of Castle Spulzeer (2007) and The Forgotten Terror (1997).
However, this is all prelude to Die Vecna Die! which takes players from Greyhawk (where Vecna originated) to Ravenloft (where he now dwells) to Planescape (where he aspires to rule everything). The result is one of the most epic—in the proper sense of that word—adventures ever, for any edition of D&D.
The End of 2e. There was a good reason for producing such an epic crossover: Die Vecna Die! marked the end of AD&D 2e and the end of Wizards of the Coast's use of the old TSR trademark. It is officially accorded the status of being the last book ever published for AD&D: Wizards published only novels and a final Volo’s Guide following the June release of Die Vecna Die! prior to the appearance of D&D 3e (2000).
Die Vecna Die! was also a finale for some of TSR's best-loved campaign settings. Planescape had been cancelled back in 1998, to be replaced by more generic planar books like "Warriors of Heaven" (1999) and "A Guide to Hell" (1999); the setting never got any particular attention under 3e, and was replaced by the World Axis afterward. Wizards’ Greyhawk revival had also largely fizzled out in 1998, although it would become the "default" campaign for 3e. Of the three settings, only Ravenloft was still receiving much attention when Die Vecna Die! was published, but it had become a more generic horror line after 1998; it was thereafter revived by White Wolf as a relatively short-lived d20 line (2002-05).
Die Vecna Die! was just one of three adventures intended to be the final story for a campaign setting—i.e., to clear the the table for 3e play. The others were the PC-killing Dungeon of Death (2000) and the world-ending Apocalypse Stone (2000).
Adventure Tropes. The background of Die Vecna Die! is pretty typical for a 90s D&D adventure. It starts out with Iuz plotting for power in Greyhawk and the PCs heading off to foil his machinations. However, there are wheels within wheels and plots within plots, all turning slowly in the background. Major NPCs clash as players try to make a difference (and save the multiverse).
This story is the background of a traditional D&D adventure of the sort you might have found in the 70s or 80s. Strongly defined NPCs help to fill ancient ruins, transdimensional lairs, horrific citadels, and magical armories. These are all “dungeons” by any other name, but unmistakably at the highest level of power.
Expanding Greyhawk: Vecna. Die Vecna Die! starts in Greyhawk, and expands on both its mythology and geography, starting with Vecna. The demigod lich had been a key element of D&D lore ever since Brian Blume introduced him in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976). In the 90s, he got particularly nice attention in WGA4: Vecna Lives!, Vecna Reborn, and now finally here in Die Vecna Die!
Perhaps the biggest addition to Vecna's lore from this new adventure is the revelation that there are additional bits of Vecna floating around like the scalp, the foot, and the incisors. Most amusingly, there's also a "Head of Vecna." This references a long-standing internet joke, dating back to a December 6, 1996, posting to Steve Jackson Games’ Daily Illuminator. Mark Steuer is attributed as the originator of the story, which tells of a group creating a fake head of Vecna in order to trick their foes into cutting their heads off. (It worked, though the group later realized they'd mistakenly left both eyes in the head!) More recently, Wizards of the Coast released an online "Head of Vecna" adventure for April Fools Day 2007.
Die Vecna Die! also adds considerable detail to "The Serpent," a mysterious and powerful entity associated with Vecna. It was previously said to be the essence of magic itself, but here it's dealt with more as a discrete and sentient individual. Some see this as a sign of Vecna's insanity, while others take Die Vecna Die! at face value and accept the Serpent as one of the "Ancient Brethren." As with a few of the more contentious issues of Greyhawk lore, your Greyhawk's mileage may vary.
Expanding Greyhawk: Iuz. Iuz has also had a long history in D&D, dating back to his first mention in The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (1980). He was supposed to be detailed in a "City of Greyhawk" supplement by Gary Gygax in the early 80s, but that never got written; instead, players had to wait for a full description in "The Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk" in Dragon #67 (November 1982).
Iuz never got quite the same degree of adventure support as Vecna, but he moved toward center stage following the release of Carl Sargent's From the Ashes (1992); his war-torn advancement of the Greyhawk setting was further detailed in WGR5: "Iuz the Evil" (1993) and WGR6: "The City of Skulls" (1993). However, it was Die Vecna Die! that put the Wicked One in the most direction contention with player characters.
Expanding Greyhawk: Tovag Baragu. Finally, the Greyhawk segment of Die Vecna Die! is notable for its geographical locale: Tovag Baragu. This stone circle is set in the Dry Steppes, one of Greyhawk's oldest wastelands. The circle was first described in James Ward's Greyhawk Adventures (1988), and its connection to Vecna was revealed in the Book of Artifacts (1992). However, Die Vecna Die! was the first time that the area was extensively mapped out and detailed.
Expanding Ravenloft. Vecna's Citadel Cavitius was first described in Vecna Reborn, but its description was somewhat scanty. Die Vecna Die! makes up for that by providing extensive details on the locale.
However, some readers didn’t like Die Vecna Die!’s other major expansion of Ravenloft: the fact that a Vecna, a domain lord, is able to escape the Demiplane of Dread. They thought this development violated Ravenloft canon.
Expanding Planescape. Similarly, some readers didn’t like the fact that Die Vecna Die! violated several metaphysical rules of Planescape: The god Vecna is able to enter the City of Sigil and then fight the very powerful Lady of Pain to a draw. Of course, all of these “impossible” feats of metaphysics (in Ravenloft and Planescape alike) were the results of a demigod trying to become the ruler of the multiverse as part of an apocalyptic campaign-ending scenario.
So maybe we can cut Vecna (and the writers) a little slack about rule-breaking.
Future History. Apparently, the events of Die Vecna Die! worked out rather well for Vecna. He went into the adventure as a demigod, but when he’s described next, in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, he’s become a lesser god.
Vecna’s efforts also apparently do some real damage to the Great Wheel: “Some Outer Planes drift off and are forever lost, others collide and merge, while at least one Inner Plane runs ‘aground’ on a distant world of the Prime. Moreover, the very nature of the Prime Material Plane itself is altered…” Many take this as the explanation for the relatively minor cosmological changes from 2e to 3e—much as the Avatar trilogy (1989) explained changes in the 2e Forgotten Realms and WG8: Fate of Istus (1989) did the same for Greyhawk.
Some players have looked even further into the future, suggesting that Vecna’s antics here could explain the change from the Great Wheel of classic D&D to the World Axis of 4e.
About the Creators. Cordell was one of D&D’s most prolific writers in the late 90s. After writing Die Vecna Die! he’d kick off 3e’s first adventure path with The Sunless Citadel (2000) and The Forge of Fury (2000).
Miller was similarly an up-and-coming D&D writer from 1996 onward. In 2000 he wrote for a large variety of settings, including additional Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft books, and even a Star Wars sourcebook.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and 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.