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DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin review - almost Marvel-ous

The latest DnD book, Vecna: Eve of Ruin, is a high-stakes multiversal romp with all the dramatic highs (and lows) of a major Marvel movie.

Wizards of the Coast art of Vecna from DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin

Our Verdict

Vecna: Eve of Ruin showcases the history, variety, and creativity that Dungeons and Dragons has to offer. The core adventure is dramatic and dynamic, thanks to a combination of blockbuster plot twists and high-level play. However, Wizards of the Coast once again sacrifices depth to show off the breadth of its product, with two-dimensional writing and a lack of support for DMs dampening my excitement.

Reasons to buy
  • A varied and interesting adventure
  • Creative dungeons and creatures
  • A dramatic overarching plot with great twists
  • High character levels offer a unique campaign experience
Reasons to avoid
  • Some less-than-creative combat sections
  • Two-dimensional characters
  • Details of the story don’t feel fully fleshed out
  • Requires a lot of homework from the Dungeon Master

From the moment it was announced, Vecna: Eve of Ruin looked like D&D’s answer to Avengers: Endgame. As the old era of fifth edition closes, Dungeons and Dragons gathers its most famous faces for a multiversal battle with the greatest evil the IP has ever known. So far, so Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After a thorough review of the campaign book, I can confirm the parallels run even deeper. Like an Avengers movie, this DnD book is a bombastic popcorn fest of galactic proportions. And just like an Avengers movie, the DnD campaign’s writing often feels shallow. Martin Scorsese is out there somewhere, shaking his head.

Before I kick off my full DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin review, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way. Firstly, my copy of the book was kindly provided early by Wizards of the Coast. Secondly, my thoughts are based on a thorough readthrough of the entire book. I haven’t had time to run a full campaign, but I have tested the final boss battle with Vecna himself.

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What is Vecna: Eve of Ruin?

The “off the rails” campaign that Wizards of the Coast promised starts with your everyday adventuring encounter. Your party is sent to retrieve some kidnapped Neverwinter nobles, and you unwittingly stumble into an evil ritual hosted by the Cult of Vecna. Your meddling means you become magically linked to Vecna – which is handy, because you’re summoned to defeat him shortly after.

A botched Wish spell cast by three of the multiverse’s most powerful DnD Wizards transports you to Sigil. Alustriel Silverhand, Mordenkainen, and Tasha explain that Vecna is working on a Ritual of Remaking, which will rewrite history and appoint him as ruler of everything. They clearly can’t wish the problem away, so you’re sent to find a DnD magic item that’ll help stop Vecna’s plans.

After establishing this premise, most of the campaign book is a multiversal treasure hunt, with your party sent to find each fragment of the Rod of Seven Parts. An Underdark infiltration mission is followed by a jaunt around the Astral Sea in a Spelljammer. You’ll sightsee in war-torn Eberron, dungeon crawl your way through Barovia, assault Lord Soth’s armies on Krynn, and sneak your way through one of Acererak’s infamous tombs, before topping the whole thing off with a trip to Avernus.

Vecna: Eve of Ruin is a smorgasbord of DnD settings, characters, and play styles. You’ll get a taste of everything the tabletop RPG has to offer, with hints of social intrigue and mystery-solving alongside the traditional dungeon exploration and combat. Plus, along with 30 new stat blocks, you can expect plenty of celebrity cameos from famous DnD monsters (pause for audience applause here).

Wizards of the Coast art of Vecna from DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin

Who is Vecna: Eve of Ruin for?

Vecna: Eve of Ruin is designed for four to six players (plus one DM). You begin the journey at level ten, and your final battle with Vecna takes place at level 20. This is a rare chance to test D&D’s max power levels in a first-party adventure, so if that idea floats your boat, this might be the book for you.

There is one caveat, though: Wizards of the Coast doesn’t spend much time on hand-holding. You might see the occasional sentence hinting at ways to run a particular monster, but beyond that, DMs don’t get much help running such explosive, high-level encounters.

Experienced DMs with existing knowledge of D&D’s big stories and settings will be at a serious advantage here, both in and out of combat. Wizards of the Coast included a character dossier to help newbies roleplay such iconic characters, but the book’s context sections are brief. You could run the adventure straight out of the book, but if you want things to feel fleshed out, expect to do a lot of your own writing, wiki walks, and homework.

Wizards of the Coast art of the Wizards Three from DnD Vecna Eve of Ruin

Is Vecna: Eve of Ruin good or bad?

I may poke fun at Marvel movies, but there’s a reason many of them are successful. Vibrant popcorn movies, with a roller-coaster plot and colorful characters, put fun first. And true to form, Vecna: Eve of Ruin offers plenty of entertainment.

Each chapter of the book is varied and interesting, so every session has the potential to be memorable. Expect some soap-opera-level plot twists down the line, as well as dramatic final chapters that really sell the ‘end of the world’ stakes of the story.

The boss fight stat blocks are chunky, and some creative dungeons keep things interesting. Combine this with the ridiculous power levels of your party’s DnD classes, and things quickly get silly in all the right ways.

However, I need to address the undead lich elephant in the room. Dungeons and Dragons dominates the tabletop RPG space, and Vecna: Eve of Ruin is meant to be a flagship adventure, closing out ten years of fifth edition and celebrating the game’s 50th anniversary.

Wizards of the Coast art of Miska the Wolf Spider from DnD Vecna Eve of Ruin

For an industry leader with a birthday party to throw, fun is the bare minimum Wizards can deliver. To be truly successful, Vecna: Eve of Ruin needed to be special – but imperfections mar the final product.

In true Marvel fashion, the narrative writing lacks depth. When characters were introduced, either to assist the players or to stand in their way, I frequently found myself asking “how?” and “why?” without satisfactory answers. The events of the adventure are strung together with frayed string, and it’s easy to spot gaps in the writing that need filling.

Perhaps one of the most glaring gaps is found in Sigil. Your characters will be brought to the sanctum of Alustriel Silverhand early in the adventure, where your three Wizard allies meet to plot against Vecna. You’ll return here regularly, and presumably you’ll spend time resting and working with its inhabitants.

Wizards of the Coast art of Vecna from DnD Vecna: Eve of Ruin

But these encounters are barely acknowledged in the book, and the handful of context paragraphs about each Wizard doesn’t feel like satisfactory preparation for the amount of roleplay each meeting might entail.

Similarly, many of the campaign’s cameo characters feel like shadows of their former selves, with two-dimensional roles to play. Even Vecna himself feels like a guest star.

The DM is encouraged to play up the psychic link the characters have with the lich in dreams, but apart from this, the campaign’s primary villain is barely mentioned between the book’s introduction and its final chapter. Vecna: Eve of Ruin makes almost no attempt to build anticipation for its climax: the work is left entirely in the hands of the Dungeon Master.

This finale has some imperfections worth noting, too. The final dungeon of the campaign is creative and engaging, but it’s prefaced by several grind-y encounters that suck some of the fun out of fighting Vecna.

Monsters from DnD Vecna Eve of Ruin

Pre-boss fights that drain your resources are a standard experience, and they’re often necessary to even the score. But Vecna: Eve of Ruin pulls a few disappointing tricks for the sake of balance, and they significantly reduced the ‘wow’ factor for the players.

In recent years, we’ve seen several D&D books prioritize breadth over depth, offering a highlights reel of what the game can do rather than a concentrated effort in any one direction. For better and worse, Vecna: Eve of Ruin echoes this trend.

The foundations of the adventure are strong, and expansions suggested by D&D’s passionate players may turn this into an unforgettable classic. My mind returns to Curse of Strahd, an excellent first-party book that was made even better when a committed community added to it. Vecna: Eve of Ruin may well get this same treatment in the not-so-distant future.

But I can’t review a hypothesis. And what I have in front of me, however strong its foundations, remains fun but flawed. Like an undying lich, the urge to compare this book to a blockbuster lives on. Marvel movies may get butts in seats, but they rarely win awards.