DMs Guild Review – Rise of Vecna

Fight back against a dark version of the Forgotten Realms ruled by Vecna in this level 3-9 campaign.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Scott McClintockMarc AltfuldischKathleen Harrington

Tyranny of Dragons. Princes of the Apocalypse. Storm King’s Thunder. What if all of the 5e campaigns ended in failure? And what if Vecna was the big bad behind them all?

Rise of Vecna creates a uniquely twisted world where evil and death reign supreme up and down the Sword Coast.

But life finds a way.

Rise of Vecna is technically part two of the Doomed Forgotten Realms series (I reviewed part one last year). The first part can be played as an optional prologue, but you can also safely skip it, starting this campaign as artificially grown organisms in Mirabar at third level.

The campaign will take players to 10th level by the end. At first I was disappointed to encounter yet another tier one and two campaign that takes place in and around the Sword Coast, but Rise of Vecna earns its place with its dark world, big memorable moments, and easy-to-run format.

The party spends the first two chapters in Mirabar, as they wake up and join the resistance against Vecna, lord of everything. The first chapter alone features respawning mephits in a forge, a heist in a goblin fortress, and a dungeon crawl through a corrupted walled garden with an undead dryad.

The main quest is to gather three infinity stones, er Shroudstones of the Ancients, and then destroy them, weakening Vecna’s hold over the world and allowing the gods to return (and hopefully kick his ass).

The first stone is found in chapter two. Underneath Mirabar is a vast underground tunnel called the Great Underground Highway. It’s filled with thousands of zombies and a demon who can posses them at will. The demon wants the PCs to reach his tomb, but want them as weakened as possible — just like a DM!

The terrifying trek through the zombie-filled darkness tests the party’s resources and exhaustion-levels before finally battling the demon and grabbing the stone.

Returning to the surface they find the resistance has been compromised! It’s one of many exciting scenarios, leading to a fun escape sequence and the next leg of their journey: getting to Triboar to meet their next contact.

I was hoping the story would open up a bit upon leaving the starting city, but the campaign is shamelessly linear. The included map of the Sword Coast literally features points A, B, C, etc, and the story follows each leg of the journey in order.

The only optional events are the party deciding whether to stop in places that are on the way, such as Xantharl’s Keep, which has been transformed into a highly thematic sanitarium run by slaad.

In Longsaddle the party can get a quest to visit the Elder Elemental Evil area, formerly the Dessarin Valley, to power up some elemental gems. I was super excited to see what the designers had planned, but unfortunately this area of cult-rule and elemental planar portals is reduced to a single page and a single battle.

In Triboar they’ll meet another important NPC, the storm giant Zephyrus, who’s really one of the Storm Giant royal family members. He sends them to get the second gem in Helm’s Hold.

vecna helms hold

Helm’s Hold is a good distance away on the map, skirting along the Neverwinter Wood by Phandalin, yet we’re only given a few travel encounters for the entire campaign. Travel encounters are a great way to showcase the world and how’s it affecting everyone and everything. Give me more!

At Helm’s Hold the players rescue a hellrider and escape via a jaw-droppingly awesome chase sequence aboard his infernal war machine, including vecna agents riding giant severed hands, agents firing crossbows from rooftops, and a zombie purple worm tunneling up from below. Nice!

With two gems in play the party make their way south toward Thornhold to meet the hellrider’s contact. After battling through bullywug infested swamps and a deathtrap dungeon underneath, they meet none other than the Xanathar, deposed crime lord of Waterdeep.

I absolutely love seeing the Xanathar as a surprise ally and the primary quest-giving NPC for the rest of the story. Plenty of fun role-playing notes are included for running the hilariously paranoid beholder.

After gathering some important items, it’s off to the Maelstrom where the third gem resides. The Maelstrom is a much darker, twisted place from Storm King’s Thunder, featuring chuuls, zombie whales, and giant mummies.

All the while the party is expertly taunted by the Krakolich, which is neither Kraken nor lich, but an undead aboleth. The Krakolich has lair actions, legendary actions, and a penchant for villainous monologues — an excellent final boss.

The campaign ends when the party acquires the third gem and smashes them in the throne room, but the story can go in several interesting directions, including simply the gods returning and kicking Vecna’s ass, letting the PCs travel back in time to restore the Realms, or, staying tuned for the next entry in the series, where the higher level PCs presumably take on the weakened lich-god. Yes!

Despite an overly linear plot and several underdeveloped side areas, Rise of Vecna is an impressive campaign with an intriguing world, big moments, and excellent production value, including full color overland maps and grid battle maps. One of the more impressive campaigns I’ve reviewed on the DMs Guild, and I’m looking forward to the third installment.

Pros:

  • Explore a uniquely dark, twisted, “What-If” campaign for the Forgotten Realms.
  • Filled with several amazing, memorable scenes, such as trekking through a zombie-filled underground highway, or escaping a thrilling chase via an Infernal War Machine.
  • Multiple satisfying endings, including a tease for the next entry in the Doomed Forgotten Realms series.
  • Over 30 new statblocks, including many custom creatures.
  • Excellent production, layout, and editing.
  • Full color battle maps for dungeons, and region maps for towns and areas.

Cons:

  • The story assumes all the official 5e campaigns failed, and there are no alternate plans if you already (successfully) completed them.
  • The Temple of Elemental Unity, Leilon (Cult of the Dragon), and Elemental Plane of Water areas are disappointingly bare and underdeveloped
  • Need more scripted travel encounters!

The Verdict: Rise of Vecna is a grand, what-If campaign where the good guys lost every 5e campaign and evil has taken over, showcasing a uniquely twisted world of infernal war machines, zombie hordes, beholder allies, and slaadi santiariums.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

3 thoughts on “DMs Guild Review – Rise of Vecna”

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