We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

New Vecna book returns to one of DnD 5e’s wonkiest dungeons

We have a love/hate relationship with Death House, and Dungeons and Dragons will let us relive that all over again in Vecna: Eve of Ruin.

Vecna: Eve of Ruin takes Dungeons and Dragons players back to Ravenloft, and this means revisiting one of fifth edition’s most well-known – and wonky – starter dungeons. We’re talking about the infamous Death House. Designed back in 2016, this meat grinder of a building would mash level-one D&D characters to a pulp, before they even had a chance to start their Curse of Strahd game.

Ravenloft is just one stop on the multiversal tour that is Vecna: Eve of Ruin. In this DnD campaign, your adventurers are the only ones that can stop Vecna from remaking the world in his own image. To do so, you’ll need to gather every fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts, which are spread across several famous DnD settings.

One of these pieces has fallen into the hands of the cult that uses Death House – more formally known as the Durst House – as a headquarters. “The characters have to crawl through Death House, and the Durst Cult is running around”, senior D&D designer Amanda Hamon says in a press event on April 10. “They’ve got a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts, and they’re trying to get Strahd’s attention.”

DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin art of Strahd von Zarovich holding a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts

Strahd von Zarovich rules this particular demiplane in Ravenloft, and the Durst Cult desperately seeks his favor. Despite the power of the Rod of Seven Parts, Hamon says Strahd isn’t overly interested in this particular DnD magic item. “Strahd himself doesn’t really care about the Rod of Seven Parts, but he’s an opportunist and recognizes that a lot of people are interested in this piece.”

You’re going to need that Rod fragment, which means squaring up against the cult in Death House. For this encounter, your character will be level ten or higher. Plus, Death House has a deadly reputation – so we expect the cult won’t pull its punches.

Death House has something of a cult following (pun intended), as many players love it for its brutality. But just as many D&D fans would bemoan the dungeon’s balance and narrative problems.

The house itself is near-empty in most rooms, and DMs with a love of DnD homebrew often spend time filling it with extra furniture and fleshing out its backstory. They might also drop heavy hints to their players ahead of time – tread carefully, or this house will kill you. The handful of combat encounters in Death House can easily demolish an entire party of adventurers, and the RAW version of the house doesn’t even bother to foreshadow this.

DnD Vecna Eve of Ruin art of an Inquisitor in Death House

It may be clunky, but we’re glad to see Death House make a comeback all the same. We’re keen to see what might have changed since our last visit, too.

Amanda Hamon tells Wargamer: “We made a few small changes to Death House’s map to accommodate this adventure, but by and large, the physical location is very similar to Death House’s appearance in Curse of Strahd”. “However, the events unfolding in the house—including the combat encounters—are entirely different than those in Curse of Strahd to match the story of what’s happening at this place during Vecna: Eve of Ruin.”

“There are multiple groups of cultists lurking in Death House, and the owners of the house are embroiled in performing a gruesome ritual to try to gain the attention of Strahd himself”, she adds. “The piece of the Rod of Seven Parts that’s located in the house is the lynchpin tying all of these happenings together.” “Suffice it to say that those who have encountered Death House in Curse of Strahd will still find this part of Vecna: Eve of Ruin new and exciting even if they recognize the house where these events are taking place.”

The press event on April 10 did mention also one new feature. An Ulmist Inquisitor is skulking around Death House, and Hamon says they “can be allies to the players”. We don’t know much about Sarusanda Allester at this point, but secrets are a big part of Vecna: Eve of Ruin, so they’ll likely have something to reveal.

Vecna: Eve of Ruin releases globally on May 21, but it’ll be available early in Local Game Stores and on D&DBeyond from May 7. For more D&D updates, be sure to follow Wargamer on Google News. Or stay here for more news from the 2024 DnD release schedule, as well as all the key details about DnD classes and DnD races.

April 16: This article was updated to include new quotes from Amanda Hamon at Wizards of the Coast.