Sword of Kas

Thanks to @ioverth for this artwork!

Thanks to the death-defying efforts of Team Half-Elf, Grog got his hands on a shiny, new, ancient, sentient longsword last week. Unlike the previous sentient weapon, the Sword of Kas (or just Kas, as it has elected to be called) has quite a bit of D&D lore associated with it, not to mention significantly more power (and potential risk).

Below, we run though a very basic summary of what we know about the sword from the DMG, Critical Role, and Talks Machina so far. While we always encourage critters to do their own homework and take a look in the DMG yourself for more details, keep in mind the DM privilege of self-customization. (As usual, we will attempt to refrain from speculating beyond what has been demonstrated.)

Looking for information about the big bads waiting for Vox Machina in Thar Amphala? Check out our Vecna or Briarwood compendiums! Warning, Spoilers abound! Proceed with caution below and in the compendiums if you haven’t watched through episode 112, or if you just want to be completely surprised when more details are revealed.

Who in the Hells is Kas?

The DMG tells us that during Vecna’s initial rise to power as a lich, Kas served the Whispered One as a faithful and highly effective lieutenant (DMG p226). Kas’s ruthlessness as assassin, warlord, and advisor eventually earned him the name Kas the Bloody-Handed. As a reward for his excellent service, Vecna gifted him a sentient longsword. However, at the sword’s urging, Kas attempted to usurp Vecna’s power. In the ensuing struggle, both Kas and Vecna were killed, leaving behind three powerful artifacts: the sword, Vecna’s left eye, and Vecna’s left hand.

In the world of Exandria, Ioun tells a more detailed story. Kas was one of many rivals that challenged Vecna during his initial rise to power before the Calamity. Upon Kas’s defeat, Vecna offered Kas eternal life as a vampire in exchange for swearing loyalty as his chief lieutenant. Kas accepted, becoming Kas the Bloody-Handed and receiving a relic blade Vecna forged with his own consciousness. With Kas at his side, Vecna was now unstoppable, and struck down many of his enemies in the months that followed.

On the Solstice, the Beacon of Arms, led by Yos Varder, invaded the Shadowfell and marched on Thar Amphala under the banner of the Dawnfather. Vecna struck down Yos Varder, but Kas, seeing opportunity, turned on his weakened master with the same sword that Vecna had gifted to him. In the ensuing struggle, Kas was reduced to ash, and Vecna was destroyed save for his left hand and eye. According to Ioun, the hand, eye, and sword were never recovered.

What’s the Deal with the Sword?

Like all sentient weapons, The Sword of Kas has its own personality, desires, and goals, and has the ability to exert its own will on an unwary wielder. According to both the DMG and Ioun, it is bent on the destruction of Vecna and his followers. Ioun specifically stated that a “powerful evil drives the sword, but to a just end.”

The DMG standard Sword of Kas is a +3 longsword that deals extra damage to undead creatures, crits on a natural 19 or 20, and grants a bonus to the wielder’s combat initiative. The Spirit of Kas allows the user to sacrifice some or all of the sword’s attack bonus to transfer to the user’s armor class for the round. The sword also allows the wielder to cast three powerful, pre-determined spells, each once per day until the following dawn. On the more sinister side, however, the Sword of Kas can be fairly impatient. As Grog demonstrated upon unsheathing it, the sword forces its user into a contest of charismatic wills if it's not immediately satisfied (within one minute). Upon failure (DC 15), the sword forces its wielder to bathe the sword in blood, ANYONE’S blood. This domination ends once blood has been drawn.

As an artifact, in addition to the base attributes discussed above, the Sword of Kas comes with both beneficial and detrimental side effects of both major and minor varieties. The DMG has a series of tables with suggested properties (p219-221), but DMs are encouraged to use them as inspiration for their own ideas, should they wish. As such, the Exandrian Sword of Kas might not only have attributes unique to the DMG, but might also carry more than the suggested number of four properties…

On the beneficial side, Travis hinted on Talks Machina that Grog has received a boost to his Constitution modifier and hit points. Assuming adherence to the DMG, this appears to take the place of the weapon’s major benefit. While we have theories about minor benefits, these remain unconfirmed at this time.

On the detrimental side, we have already seen the sword affect the physical appearance of Grog, who is now more pale and gaunt, and whose eyes now glow with a disturbing red glow. This matches a potential minor detriment. The psychic damage Grog took upon attuning to the sword also speaks to the device's major detriment, which was significantly more than the suggested 3d6 psychic damage Grog would have taken had he resisted Kas's Domination (which, he did not).

Can the Sword be Destroyed?

According to the DMG (p226), the sword can only be destroyed under very specific circumstances:

  • A mage must be attuned to both the Hand and Eye of Vecna;
  • This mage must cast the Wish spell to unmake the sword;
  • The spell must be cast within 30 ft of the sword;
  • The caster must succeed in a contested Charisma Check against the sword.

In episode 104, Pelor appeared to destroy the Eye of Vecna, so at a first glance, it seems the sword is currently invincible. However, the DMG (p224) also says that the Eye and Hand of Vecna can only be destroyed if:

  • Both the Hand and Eye of Vecna are attuned to the same creature, and;
  • Said creature is slain by the Sword of Kas, resulting in both burning into ash.

The DMG goes on to say that other attempts to destroy either the Hand or the Eye appear to succeed, only for the item to reappear in one of Vecna’s hidden vaults to be put to use once more. Under these circumstances, both Hand and Eye could be back in Vecna’s hands… er, hand.