Monster Analysis: Vecna the Ascended, Part 1

Thanks to @alymccart for this art piece!

Over the course of putting together this analysis, we came to the conclusion that there was just far too much to say in a single article. Therefore, we’ll be breaking this fight down into two parts. In this part, we’ll focus on the design of the encounter: the conscious decisions that made Vecna who he was and what the players would face before they ever entered the arena.

  • First Appearance: 102 Race to the Tower
  • Encounter Appearance: 114 Vecna, the Ascended
  • Armor Class 23
  • Truesight, Unmastered Omniscience
  • 5 legendary resistances per day
  • 5 legendary actions per round
  • Resistant to cold, lightning, necrotic damage
  • Immune to poison and nonmagical weapon damage, spell damage below 6th level
  • Immune to charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, prone, blinded
  • 1550 total hit points
    • 1890 total damage taken
    • 350 total damage regenerated
    • 1540 damage at point of Isolation

Spellcasting

Vecna’s spellcasting abilities, as expected, greatly increased from the last time Vox Machina encountered him back when he was still a newly-risen archlich. Back in episode 102, his spell save DC was 23 and his spellcasting ability modifier was +10. In what was a much shorter battle, Vecna cast Firebolt, Counterspell, Fireball, Hold Monster, Disintegrate, Finger of Death, and Power Word Kill.

As an ascended god, Vecna’s spell save DC increased to 26, though his spellcasting ability modifier remained the same. Over the course of eight rounds, Vecna drained a substantial number of his spells via legendary actions (2 spent per spell, 1 per cantrip), in addition to his own turn. Overall, he spent 22 of his spell slots:

  • Cantrip (at will) Firebolt
  • 3rd level (1) Dispel Magic, Counterspell
  • 4th level (3) Banishment, Polymorph
  • 5th level (4) Hold Monster, Telekinesis, Dominate Person
  • 6th level (3) Circle of Death, Disintegrate
  • 7th level (4) Forcecage, Finger of Death*, Teleport*
  • 8th level (4) Maze, Feeblemind
  • 9th level (3) Meteor Swarm
    *Teleport and one casting of Finger of Death cast through the Hand of Vecna

Passive Abilities

Limited Magic Immunity: Vecna is immune to spells of 5th level or lower, unless he wishes to be affected. (This is similar to the rakshasa ability to resist any spell lower than 7th level.)

Discorporation: When Vecna drops to 0 hit points, his avatar form is destroyed, but his essence travels back to his phylactery demiplane just beyond the Prime Material. He is unable to take physical form for an undisclosed time.

The Hand of Vecna

When attached as the hand of an already-powerful spellcaster, the Hand of Vecna serves mostly as a small buff to their available spell slots. The DMG-standard hand increases its user’s strength to 20 (unless it’s already there or higher), does cold damage when the user is hit by a melee attack, and has 8 charges, which can be used to cast Finger of Death (5 charges), Sleep (1 charge), Slow (2 charges), or Teleport (3 charges).

We saw Vecna use the first five charges to cast Finger of Death and the final three attempting to Teleport away when the battle seemed lost. He also did cold damage to Vax, Keyleth, Grog, and Arkhan when they struck him in melee. Like the Sword of Kas, the Hand has some random properties, but it’s impossible to say what these were based on the limited information we have.

The Hand is significantly more powerful when combined with the Eye of Vecna, as the user gains both the Eye’s base abilities and some bonus abilities from having both artifacts. Fortunately, since Vox Machina removed it from Delilah’s corpse and gave it to Pelor to destroy (or at least appear to), Vecna did not regain his Eye for this battle.

The Lair

In their previous battle with Vecna, Vox Machina experienced two kinds of lair actions: the dead rising (once skeletons and once zombies) and ghostly claws rising up to grapple them. This time, with the top of the tower still hovering above Entropis, the lair actions fell into one of the following three effects:

  • Skeletons rise from the ground to attack.
  • All combatants hostile to Vecna lose existing resistances to necrotic damage until the next lair action.
  • The remaining chunks of the tower pull farther apart.

Regarding the field itself, dividing the battlefield from the simple octagon to the floating debris gave the battle a feeling of finality. The simplicity of Final Destination is all well and good, but nothing raises the stakes like a boss character who physically alters one of the core components players don’t expect to change.

The split also allowed Matt to direct who could and could not enter the battlefield. Had the only entrance been the stairway, a random cultist could have joined the fray. By opening up the floor, the DM had precise control on not only the enemies who entered, but also made the heroic appearances of J’Mon, Kash and Zahra, and Arkhan that much more exciting as the party initially dreaded what horror would come for them next.

Lastly, it just looked really cool. (If you haven’t seen how Matt made each piece of the battlefield, go check out his Twitter where he posted pictures of the creation process!)