Hand of Vecna

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The Hand of Vecna is a powerful artifact in many campaign settings for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Originating in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, the Hand appears as a severed left human hand, blackened and charred, with long, claw-like fingernails.

Publication history[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)[edit]

In the third supplement to the original D&D rules, Eldritch Wizardry,[1] Brian Blume invented two artifacts he called the Hand and Eye of Vecna.[2] These were supposedly the only remnants of an evil lich, Vecna, who had been destroyed long ago.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)[edit]

The Hand and Eye of Vecna were also mentioned in 1979's Dungeon Master's Guide.[3]

In module H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, the Hand of Vecna is mentioned as one of the many treasures which adventurers would obtain if they destroyed the city of liches on Orcus's plane of the Abyss.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)[edit]

Ten years later, in the second edition Dungeon Master's Guide (1989), Vecna's history was expanded under the description of his Hand and Eye.[4] This information was further developed in 1993's Book of Artifacts.[5]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)[edit]

The Hand and Eye of Vecna appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide (2000) for this edition.[6]

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)[edit]

The Hand and Eye of Vecna appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide (2003) for this edition.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)[edit]

The Hand and Eye of Vecna appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide (2008) for this edition.[7]

In-game history[edit]

Once the left hand of the arch-lich, Vecna, the Hand, and its sister artifact, the Eye of Vecna, were all that remained of the lich-king after his battle with his renegade lieutenant, Kas the Bloody-Handed.

In the 5th century CY, both the Hand and the Eye fell into possession of a Shield Lands warlord known as Halmadar the Cruel, who terrorized the region from 420-455 CY. Halmadar was defeated only after being drugged and interred alive in a tomb the Kron Hills.

In 581 CY, Halmadar escaped with the help of Vecna himself, who had by this time become a god, and sought to become even more powerful with the aid of the artifacts, which he reclaimed after destroying Halmadar. Vecna's plans were thwarted by adventurers, and the artifacts once more became separated from his body, vanishing into the Flanaess.

The Hand resurfaced in 595 CY in the possession of a man named Darl Quethos, a powerful cleric of the Whispered One who used the artifact to take control of a Vecnan cult known as the Disciples of Darkness. Darl now seeks knowledge leading to the recovery of the Eye of Vecna.

The Hand of Vecna in Living Greyhawk[edit]

In the Living Greyhawk campaign, the Hand resurfaced in 594 CY, in the possession of a cultist of Vecna known as Pacanan. Pacanan performed an ancient Ur-Flan ritual and proclaimed himself the Voice of Vecna.

Pacanan, in 594-595 CY acquired the Eye of Vecna. He then sent one of his servitors to reclaim the dread Sword of Kas from an ancient Baklunish fortress. During a ceremony at Tovag Baragu, Pacanan completed a ritual whereby he seemed to call forth and become the Ruler of the Spider Throne. This ceremony was overseen by Wilf Hewitt (a Thought of Vecna), and Diraq Malcinex, the Heart of Vecna. Those cultists who survived the ceremony accompanied Pacanan/Vecna through one of Tovag Baragu's dimensional portals.


To use the hand, a player must declare that his character (PC) has touched it to the stump of the PC's left forearm; most PCs must chop off their own left hand to do so. The hand magically grafts itself to the PC's stump, and from then on can be used as a normal hand, though it retains its charred and rotting appearance. It grants an array of magical powers, such as the ability to conjure forth missiles of magical force. Additional abilities become evident if the user also possesses the Eye of Vecna.

The abilities the hand bestowed on its user has varied with different editions of Dungeons & Dragons. In the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the hand gave the user superhuman strength, the ability to damage plant-based creatures by touch, and fifteen other spell-like abilities, each being activated by a unique gesture. In Dungeons & Dragons third and 3.5 edition, the hand dealt cold damage to whomever it touched, could drain the abilities of others and transfer them to the user, and could be used to daze, weaken, paralyze, or kill non-evil creatures. In the 4th edition, the Hand grants a number of powers based on how pleased it is with the host. It defaults with a bonus to checks made with the Athletics skill, as well as a trinity of Warlock powers (Diabolic Grasp as an At Will, Sign of Ill Omen as an Encounter and Spider Climb as a Daily), as well as greater competence in battle. When satisfied, it increases the Athletics boon and can hurl explosive globes of necrotic energy, and when pleased it can create an aura of death around the host. A displeased Hand will occasionally try to throttle the host, while an angry one will also attempt to attack the host's allies.

Use of the Hand is not limited to PCs. The Dungeon Master may have it show up on the arm of a non-player character (NPC).


  1. ^ Gygax, Gary; Blume, Brian (1976), D&D Supplement IV: Eldritch Wizardry, Lake Geneva WI: TSR, pp. 43–44 
  2. ^ Gygax: "Brian blume (sic) was the creator of the Eye and Hand of Vecna, and nary a detail of those items did he ever reveal to me--beyond what appeared in print."Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part I, Page 13), EN World, 2002-09-16, retrieved 2009-08-28 
  3. ^ Gygax, Gary (1979), Dungeon Masters Guide, Lake Geneva WI: TSR, ISBN 0-935696-02-4 
  4. ^ Cook, David. Dungeon Master's Guide (TSR, 1989)
  5. ^ Cook, David. Book of Artifacts. (TSR, 1993)
  6. ^ Cook, Monte, Skip Williams, and Jonathan Tweet. Dungeon Master's Guide (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
  7. ^ James Wyatt. Dungeon Masters Guide (Wizards of the Coast, 2008).

Additional reading[edit]