One of the most powerful Dungeons and Dragons magic items of all time, the grisly Head of Vecna bestows upon its finder and activator the nigh-on godlike powers of the Archmage, lich, and demigod, Vecna.

Similar to, yet strikingly different from, the Hand of Vecna, Toes of Vecna, Eye of Vecna and the Teeth of Vecna, The Head, as it is sometimes called, requires no special powers, special words, spells, potions, arcane knowledge, wishes, or other of the usual magic item palaver to activate.

No special knowledge, that is, except knowledge of how to activate the other "Items of Vecna". And since these garish trophies of Vecna's destruction are possibly the most well-known magical items in D&D, you can bet this is something that everyone knows.

But let's step back for a minute before we activate our "Item of Vecna". It needs to be said that Vecna is not really dead. The body that the archmage Vecna was "wearing" when he transmuted into a lich was blown into pieces by the violent and rushed nature of the transformation spell. Vecna's acolytes fled with the non-consumed bits: 12 teeth, both hands, several toes (no-one knows how many), one eye, and The Head.

Exploding into little bits didn't slow Vecna down -- he became a lich to gain power, and it worked -- but the acolytes who had made off with the bits were never heard of again.

Vecna, we need to understand, before we proceed, was EVIL. Not "evil" as in "That's an evil smell coming from your football shorts", but EVIL.

Evil evil. As in: Slayer of Children for No Discernable Purpose; Drinker of Merlot; Republican; User of Fruity Language evil.

Yes, I know, it makes me cold all over too. Please, just hold me.

The way to activate an "Item of Vecna", of course, is to cut off (or rip out) the bit of yourself that matches it and shove the Vecna part, hot and sizzling with stored magic, into the hole / onto the bloody stump.

With the Hand of Vecna, this gives an instant boost to dexterity, as well as several cool (if evil) spells that can be cast once per day. The resulting alignment change to some brand of evil is not likely to bother you, and if it bothers others you now have several new ways of dealing with that. Per day.

The Teeth of Vecna are more limited, but give an instant boost to charisma, plus different spells depending upon what tooth you've shoved, raw, into your bleeding gum. The resultant alignment shift to evil also probably won't bother you much, as with your extra charisma, you'll be able to convince the squeamish to go along with your plans.

The Toes of Vecna give a boost to speed, but the resultant foot odor means you need to use the speed pretty much all the time just to stay ahead of the bounty hunters, after you for crimes against humanity.

The Eye of Vecna has many powers, including the ability to see in all directions, ala Professor "Mad Eye" Moody from Harry Potter.

Imagine you're the Dungeon Master as the Head of Vecna is found:

Dungeon Master: Behind the secret door you find a small alcove, in which is a disembodied head.

Player 1: I cast Detect Magic!

Dungeon Master: Oh, it's magical all right...

Player 2: I use my scroll of Identify!

Dungeon Master: The process of Identify takes about an hour. At the end you're sure that you have, in your possession, the fabled Head of Vecna! Tales have been written about this item, wars fought over it... (trails off)

Player 1 / Player 2 / Player 3 (gasps of astonishment fade into a thoughtful pause)

Player 1: Cut my head off!

Player 2: No! You got the Vorpal Sword! Cut my head off! Now!

Player 3: I'm already evil - so I won't lose my class abilities! Cut my head off!

(And then, if you somehow still possess the power of speech...)

Dungeon Master: (sotto voce as if disbelieving your own amazing luck) The magic of the Head of Vecna is about to be revealed -- and I thought there were no more surprises for this old, jaded DM -- so who is having their head cut off?

P.S. A brief word on copyright. The story one finds on the internet by one Mark Steuer, and the role-playing campaign he refers to, appears not to be the origin of the Head of Vecna legend -- this dastardly item was well known in Australian role-playing circles many, many years before Mark published his article. To make this retelling of the old story unique, I have deliberately changed the attributes of Vecna, the story of the creation the items, their properties, etc. etc.

The name "Vecna" is possibly a trademark of Wizards of the Coast.

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