Fearful Impressions: Reviews of Ravenloft Products

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Die Vecna Die! DIE VECNA DIE!
Product Type: Adventure
Rating:

hile Die Vecna Die! does not bear the RAVENLOFT logo, nearly half the action in this epic 160-page adventure takes place within Citadel Cavitius in the Burning Peaks cluster. Hence, RAVENLOFT fans may want to consider picking up this stellar work by Bruce R. Cordell and Steve Milller. As one of the last official adventures for AD&D 2nd Edition, Die Vecna Die! pulls out all the stops, and the result is a massive but tightly constructed adventure with a truly apocalyptic feel.

The story revolves—of course—around Vecna’s latest plot in his never-ending quest to dominate the AD&D multiverse. It appears that Vecna has devised a way to simultaneously ascend to full-fledged godhood, escape from his prison in the Demiplane of Dread, and usurp arguably the most powerful entity in the multiverse: the Lady of Pain. To carry out his elaborate plot, Vecna has lured his old rival demigod Iuz to the Demiplane of Dread. Iuz hopes to destroy Vecna and claim the Maimed Lord’s power for himself, but Vecna intends to turn the tables on his nemesis.

The adventure naturally falls into three parts. The first portion takes place on Oerth, where the heroes discover that a Vecna temple with odd dimensional properties has been seiged by a powerful army commanded by Iuz. The second portion takes the heroes to Cavitius in the Demiplane of Dread, where Iuz is about to confront Vecna in the Maimed Lord’s palace. The final part of the adventure plays out in Sigil, the City of Doors, as Vecna prepares to challenge the Lady of Pain herself.

A lot of the “ironclad” metaphysics of the AD&D 2ND EDITION multiverse get thrown right out the window in Die Vecna Die! A domain lord escaping the Demiplane of Dread? A god entering the City of Doors? In any other adventure this might have been unacceptable, but Die Vecna Die! is a truly apocalyptic scenario, involving one of the most infamous villains in all of fantasy role-playing. Cordell and Miller have crafted a world-shattering story that is worth breaking the rules, even if their own explanations of Vecna’s plot get a bit confused at times. The writers have the good sense to allay DM fears and questions where appropriate, although a more complete summary of the truth behind the adventure’s events would have been appreciated.

While I know little of Vecna’s history and never cared much for his placement in the Demiplane of Dread, I have to admit that Die Vecna Die! engaged me the way few RAVENLOFT adventures have. This is what high-level adventures should be: incredibly dangerous, challenging for all kinds of PC’s, and filled with layers of complexity. While the basic plot is fairly linear, there are literally dozens of opportunities for heroes to make allies or enemies, root out secret knowledge, and plunder fabulous treasures. The adventure’s “dungeons”—a pan-dimensional Vecna temple, Citadel Cavitius, and the Doomguard’s Armory—are incredibly detailed, and stocked with so many monsters and traps that it can make a DM’s head spin. And of course, the incentive to complete the adventure successfully, while not immediately apparent to the heroes, eventually becomes very compelling to say the least. Fail, and Vecna remakes the universe according to his whims.

The maps are sharp and nicely done, if a bit simplistic. Kevin McCann handles the interior art with the same distinct style that RAVENLOFT fans are now familiar with—sometimes clunky, always darkly gorgeous, and surprisingly faithful to the text. (Don’t think giant skeletons are intimidating? Check out page 65.) Typos pop out here and there, and there are a few unexplainable inconsistencies (lawful good Vecna cultists?), but I’m more than willing to forgive these in light of the rich detail Cordell and Miller have given us.

I’m surprised I’m recommending Die Vecna Die! as strongly as I am, but it’s just that good. It’s a great high-level adventure for any campaign set in the Prime Material Plane, particularly a GREYHAWK campaign, or for players who are just GREYHAWK fans. Die Vecna Die! really won’t work in a RAVENLOFT campaign (since the adventure has to start on the Prime and ends on the Outer Planes), but DM’s who are devoted to the RAVENLOFT setting may want it for the details of Citadel Cavitius. While Vecna Reborn was frustrating for its sparse detail about the domain of Cavitius, Die Vecna Die! has enough material on Vecna’s palace alone to fuel adventures set in the Burning Peaks cluster. There’s even the much-missed statistics for Vecna’s bizarre golems, the Hand and the Eye. In the end, Die Vecna Die! is a challenging and exciting epic adventure for any DM. Save it for the end of a big campaign, but be prepared for PC’s to fall left and right in their quest to save the universe from the hand of the Maimed Lord.

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