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Vecna: Eve of Ruin Adventure Path Review

Vecna: Eve of Ruin Adventure Path Review

Table of Contents:

Celebrating D&D or Milking the IP?

D&D is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a massive adventure path that takes the players through the game’s most popular settings and pits them against its most memorable villains. This epic adventure starts where many campaigns end at 10th level, and progresses all the way to 20th, and seems to be their answer to the many demands for high level adventuring. But is this a high-level victory lap through the D&D multiverse? Or is it just a rehash of the most popular settings to milk cash out of the property before the new edition rolls around. Curse the lich god’s name and hop through the portal as we go through everything you need to know.

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What’s in the Book?

This is a proper adventure path with all the content devoted to the adventure and its support. It clocks in at 256 pages which seems to be the standard and can be picked up for $30 digitally and around $50 physically which is also the standard. As a side note this has broken the curve of price increases that I’ve seen in 5e books for the past year or so, which is greatly appreciated.

All told, the Vecna: Eve of Ruin includes the following:

  • Eve of Ruin 10th to 20th level adventure path.
  • 40 New Monster / NPCs.
  • Character Dossier with 11 Characters and their stats. 

  • The Eve of Ruin Adventure

    The Eve of Ruin revolves around our favorite lich god Vecna trying to unmake the universe so that he can remake it in his horrifying image, which is obviously everybody’s problem. The adventure starts with the players fighting a Vecna cult in Neverwinter, resulting in their accidental “link” to Vecna that proves to make the players invaluable in stopping him. Vecna himself quickly becomes a sort of background threat however, as you’ll spend the majority of the campaign doing a multiversal tour collecting bits of the Rod of Seven Parts from dangerous corners of D&D’s most beloved settings. With the rod complete, the party uses their link to find Vecna, and deconstruct his half-made demi planes before facing the ultimate evil in a climactic final battle.

    Secrets play a central role in the campaign, as Vecna is using “secrets” to power his ritual and using his link the PCs can also acquire secrets and spend them for a massive party buff. The “link” the players have with Vecna is also used to keep reminding the players of his threat, as the DM is encouraged to sprinkle in little psychic visions of the lich and his cruelty. I was initially critical of this approach as this optional foreshadowing is really all we see of Vecna throughout the bulk of the adventure, with Vecna only really being included at the beginning and end. But I’ve realized how smart of a move this was.

    The bulk of the campaign has the players jumping through portals to different planes in search of the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts. These quests are otherwise completely isolated, and the “rod piece” can easily be replaced by any sort of powerful magic artifact. This means that each one can easily be run as its own smaller separate adventure! This is a fully realized massive adventure path, but it contains 8 short adventures as well. Want to run a short Eberron campaign? How about a dungeon crawl in Dragonlance? As much as I hate the trope of broken magical crap, the fact that this 1 book essentially contains 9 adventures is a genius move that really adds to the book’s value. Let’s go over each chapter, and the many mini adventures within it.  

    1: Return From Neverdeath Graveyard

    10th Level

    When the adventure starts, the PCs are already well-known heroes of Neverwinter and are tasked with clearing out Vecna cultists from a tomb. The tomb used to belong to the “Waterclock Guild” and has some fun opportunities to flood out the cultists. The PCs end up falling into Evernight, the Shadowfell version of Neverwinter and must fight their way back to the city they call home.

    While ostensibly a dungeon crawl, they still manage a great variety of character interactions and roleplay with some clever solutions to combats. This serves to introduce the characters to the threat of Vecna but is also a solid 10th level adventure in its own right.

    2: The Wizards Three

    11th Level

    In a who’s who of powerful wizards, Tasha, Mordenkainen, and Alustriel attempt a ritual to stop Vecna that fails and summons the PCs to Alustriel’s sanctum in Sigil instead. Mordenkainen comes up with a backup plan and sends the PCs after the Rod of Seven Parts. The first piece is deep in the Underdark claimed by a spiderdragon (which is just as awesome as it sounds) and a cult of Lolth.

    This is a tricker one to run independently but you can just saw off the beginning bit meeting the wizards if you need to. The actual dungeon crawl is a bit shorter than the others but is no less entertaining with opportunities to lure demons with giant lizards and make a cyclops friend. 

    3: The Lambent Zenith’s Last Voyage

    12th Level

    This leg propels us into Spelljammer as the PCs pick through the remains of a spelljamming ship that crashed into the floating corpse of a god. They’ll have to negotiate with the stranded crewmembers and fight off the parasites that infest the divine flesh. Something insidious troubles the stellar castaways, and the PCs will have to figure out what in order to claim their prize from the Heart of Havock.

    Some very fun characters here and a lot of good roleplay as the PCs try to piece things together. Once again, we’re dipping our toes into Spelljammer without actually doing any spelljamming but that’s an old gripe and the setting is fun. 

    4: The Ruined Colossus

    13th Level

    Eberron’s Mournlands are scarred by war and littered with the rusting remains of absolutely gigantic war machines, and one of them holds a piece of the rod at their heart. The PCs will have to settle an old conflict between warforged and veterans of the war and battle their way up through the remains of a colossus that may not be as dead and gone as it first appears.

    Eberron holds a special place in my heart and I thoroughly approve of this adventure for capturing the style and atmosphere that I remember. I also appreciate that while limited, you do get to just explore a bit of the land as you search for the correct colossus.

    5: Death House

    14th Level

    You may remember this little death trap if you’ve adventured in Ravenloft, and death house has not gotten any less deadly. The PCs will team up with a cultist hunting inquisitor as they brave the haunted and cultist infested mansion before challenging the vampire lord Strahd himself*.

    Spooky hauntings and a huge name drop fighting Strahd (with a slightly weakened stat block) make this a strong option to run on its own. The dungeon crawl is peppered with fun haunts and visions of Strahd, and the run-ins with the inquisitor help break up the fights. 

    6: Night of Blue Fire

    15th Level

    Welcome to Krynn! Dragonlance is a beloved setting and here we dive into ancient conflicts, allying with werewolves and pruning some evil treants. They must delve into the Three Moons vault and battle a powerful servant of Lord Soth and an awe-inspiring lunar dragon.

    I didn’t play Dragonlance back in the day, so I don’t get the nostalgia hit but what I see here is an excellent adventure that quickly embroils the party into the world’s conflicts. I do feel that this is the start of the “high-level” problem though, as we start fighting CR 15+ monsters as just regular encounters, but I’ll get more into that later. 

    7: Tomb of Wayward Souls

    16th Level

    We return to the classic setting of Greyhawk to challenge a dungeon built by the legendary lich Acererak. The PCs team up with some pirate archeologists, solve devious puzzles, and fight their way down to Acererak himself, or at least a convincing copy of him.

    This is probably the most straightforward dungeon crawl of the bunch, and I think intentionally evokes a classic AD&D feel. I was also pleasantly surprised with the alternate method of dealing with the final fight which I won’t spoil.  

    8: The Dragon Queen’s Pride

    17th Level

    We descend into Avernus, ride some gnarly hell motorcycles and gamble with souls in a demon casino ruled by the great dragon queen Tiamat. A mostly roleplaying adventure, the PCs must earn the trust of demonic floor bosses and earn their way into a VIP section where they will eventually fight against an incredibly powerful scion of Tiamat. 

    There’s a strong emphasis on fun here as you gamble with pit fiends and bet on nightmare races. It caps the beginning and end with combat but the meat here is roleplay which I appreciate at this high of a level.

    9: The Betrayer Revealed

    18th Level

    So, major SPOILER WARNING. Ok, with that out of the way, in this chapter we learn that the person we thought was Mordenkainen was actually Kas, the vampire general commander of Vecna’s ancient armies that originally slew him. Kas sent us on this quest to get the rod to free his demon buddy Miska the Wolf Spider, so that he can beat Vecna and take his plan for his own. The PCs must chase him down in Pandemonium, fighting in the middle of a clash of demons loyal to Vecna or Kas. 

    This is where we get past the mini-adventures and shift back into the main plot, and it’s where the “late-game” problem rears up the most with a ton of combat with incredibly high level enemies. That being said, the setting is awesome as you press through a demonic war.

    10: The War of Pandemos

    19th Level

    This chapter directly leads off the last one as the PCs fight off a horde of demons before toppling a giant cliffside tower. They must then battle Miska’s minions while sealing him back in the ancient dimensional prison before regrouping and defeating Kas himself.

    This section is a bit of a meat grinder with a ton of high-level fighting back-to-back. Personally, this was my least favorite section of the book, but it is still satisfying to stick it to Kas.

    11: Eve of Ruin

    20th Level

    Using the PCs connection to Vecna, they teleport into the Cave of Shattered Reflections. They must enter the growing demiplanes that Vecna plans to replace reality with. Once they break apart these potential realities, they interrupt Vecna’s ritual and fight against the weakened Lich god.

    Seeing the windows into Vecna’s “perfect world” is a fun touch and uses some of the secret mechanics that were built up over the course of the campaign. An excellent adventure to cap off the campaign with.

    40 New Monsters

    The campaign is robust and ranges across the multiverse, so we get a very interesting grab bag of fun high-level monsters. The highest volume probably goes to the wolf-spider demons, and you’ll have a ton of new toys to play with if running a Lolth or spider themed adventure. No real complaints on this roster but do be aware that most of them are pretty high level if you’re thinking of picking this up for just campaign resources.

    11 Character Dossiers 

    There are some BIG names in this campaign. Massive villains that would be the primary antagonists of entire games are thrown around and used like just end of chapter bosses. All-powerful wizards with books named after them are just hanging out as your quest giving NPCs. The book includes some helpful “dossiers” for these important NPCs, which includes their stats along with some history, context, and roleplaying tips for them. I thought this was an amazing idea, as not every newbie will fully appreciate some of these characters by their name drops alone and the added context is helpful for newbies and a nice bit of fluff for the veterans.  

    What’s Good About Vecna: Eve of Ruin? 

    Eve of Ruin is a highlight reel of the most popular characters in D&D. You aren’t just fighting a vampire, you’re fighting Strahd. You’re not just in any old dungeon, you’re in Acererak’s dungeon. For the uninitiated it’s still a solid adventure, but for a veteran it will give you goosebumps as you casually chat with Tasha before going off to fight Kas. If done poorly this would feel like a bad homebrew where the DM just threw in all the characters they knew, but it’s done so well that it genuinely feels like you’re a part of D&D history.

    Because the bulk of the adventure comes in these 3-4 session long “standalone adventures” you can easily just pick and choose your favorites and play them as short campaigns. I was initially very critical of the minimal throughlines with the Vecna plot, but then I realized what an amazing resource this book represents. You can play this game from start to finish as an epic adventure that may take your playgroup a year or longer to complete, or you can pop out your favorite bits as perfect 3-4 session dungeon crawls.

    I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get a big reality reset at the end of the session which many people were predicting (because of the oncoming new edition) but it still felt epic. Because of the big names and big locales, this adventure feels like a huge event to take part in at the forefront of D&D’s story. The campaign is filled with variety, memorable characters, and fights that will stick in your player’s minds for years.

    What’s Bad About Vecna: Eve of Ruin?  

    Most of my gripes are really unavoidable consequences of a very high-level campaign. The nature of D&D requires encounters before climaxes that wear the players down and use up their resources. This isn’t bad when the chaff encounters are a few goblins that take 20 minutes to finish off, but when it’s a CR 18 monstrosity that takes the entire play session you can easily fall into player fatigue as they grind their way through the high level monsters. Nobody minds a climactic conclusion fight that takes an entire session, but when it’s just one in a long line of fights the mood can sour. I think Vecna does a great job of avoiding this for the most part, but there are still a few sections that will be a slog to wade through in the final chapters. 

    I also noticed a couple typos that were worrying. In one puzzle it reads “can’t” when it clearly means “can” that I could see leading to an unpleasant situation. I also spotted some scene artwork that was contradicted by the descriptions in odd ways, with an open arena shown in picture but a description of a tight enclosed battle. None of this is a deal breaker, but it smacks of needing one more editing pass and perhaps a bit of rush and miscommunication between departments. I worry that there may be more unfortunate mistakes lurking in the text. 

    Vecna: Eve of Ruin Conclusions

    This is by far the best high level adventure path I’ve read. It doesn’t completely overcome all the high-level hurdles, but it comes damn close. The modular nature of the bulk of the adventure means that with one book purchase you are essentially gaining access to 9 different adventures, all of which I’d have happily paid for in their own right. Most of the adventures here are primarily dungeon crawls with some roleplay, with some notable exceptions that will let the diva players act their hearts out. 

    For the people who have been hungering for a high-level adventure path, I think you’ve gotten your wish and then some. I think it stumbled a bit right near the very end and also needed just a bit more development time, but these are minor nitpicks. I’m happy to give my whole-hearted recommendation for this one. If your group wants a real challenge and some epic tier gameplay, this is the way to make it happen. 

    Final Score: 9.5 out of 10 


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    Last updated: January 27, 2019

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