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    The gods of the Flanaess: Vecna
    Posted on Mon, October 01, 2007 by ratlord
    CruelSummerLord writes ""We all have masks, my friend. We all have things which we keep hidden from the world, and we weave our masks to project the images that we want those around us to see and believe. It is through learning how these masks are weaved, and how to manipulate them, that I have attained my power. My knowledge, the secrets I know, make me fit and worthy to rule."-Vecna the archlich, explaining himself to one of those victims who suffered under his iron tyannical heel.


    Domains: Secrets, secrecy, hidden knowledge

    Home Plane: Hades

    Alignment: Neutrally evil

    Alignment of Clergy: Any morally neutral, or any morally evil

    Alignment of Worshippers: Any morally neutral, or any morally evil. Vecna is worshipped both by humans and many humanoid races, including orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, formorian giants, derro, and kobolds.

    History and Relationships: Long, long ago, back before the Great Migrations, Vecna was a mortal warlock, born in one of the Flan nations of the Sheldomar Valley before the arrival of the Oeridians and Suel. Despite his family and his people being devoted worshippers of the sun and the oerth, there was always a strange, hidden fascination within Vecna. From a young age, he grew interested in hidden secrets, the true faces behind the masks people put on in their daily activities. He wondered about these masks and secrets, and how they affected the world around him.

    This fascination, a child’s innocence, led him to study strange and bizarre magic, especially that of the dreaded Horned Ones, the Ur-Flan magicians corrupted by their dark knowledge and lust for power and made irredeemably evil. What he viewed as an interest in forbidden secrets was viewed with horror and loathing by those around him, who thought he studied the Horned Ones’ knowledge to gain power over them.

    Cast out and exiled from his people, Vecna was intrigued by their horror-stricken reactions when he began studying things others had declared as too dangerous, heretical, or horrific to be known. A master at reading faces, at looking into a man’s eyes and seeing the depths of his very soul, Vecna had divined many of the secrets others had held, whether out of shame, a desire to keep up appearances, or a simple lust for power.

    He found it strange, how people could claim to love the oerth one moment and then slaughter people for honor, glory, vengeance or plunder the next; how people could say one thing and mean another, for the sakes of keeping their true, secret feelings hidden; how these repressed secrets could ultimately lead a man to destroy a stranger, a loved one, or even himself.

    Secrets, then, were the keys to power, Vecna decided. With forbidden knowledge, deemed too dangerous by others, one could become stronger and mightier than his or her foes. By learning to control the masks one wore, and exploiting the masks and secrets of others, true power could be attained. What others thought too horrific to be known or broadcast could be manipulated to become the ultimate master of the shadows.

    In time, Vecna became a mighty wizard, recruiting loyal followers among the more evil of the Flan peoples, as well as many of the humanoids of the Sheldomar Valley. Most of these beings knew not who their master was, save that he was the hidden master of the Spider Throne, a master of puppets who wove a mask that could both terrify and inspire those who were beneath him. By controlling the secrets and knowledge at his disposal, Vecna attained true might, passing into the horror of lichdom.

    Vecna unleashed his armies in a way that was designed to cause chaos and confusion among the nations who were his enemies, burning and conquering in what appeared to be a chaotic morass of destruction but was in fact a carefully controlled and manipulated plot to weave a mighty empire, a spider-web of secrets and knowledge with himself at its center.

    The mighty lich posed a threat to the whole of the Sheldomar Valley, until at the last he was laid low by a band of heroes who unmasked his intrigues and defeated his plots one by one. As Vecna’s followers were slain and his plans foiled, he was forced to devote more of his energies in an attempt to crush his enemies, leaving other matters in the hands of Kas, who he believed was his loyal general.

    Vecna had never intended to be a teacher, but Kas proved to be an excellent student in the manipulation of secrets and outward appearances. The general’s lust for power, hidden even from Vecna up until that point, led him to attempt to destroy the lich and seize control of the empire for himself. Vecna fought back, however.

    The titanic battle that followed lasted two full days, during which time one of Vecna’s eyes was torn out and one of his hands was severed by Kas’s sword, a blade forged from the bones of demons and oiled with the blood of the victims of night hags. Vecna ultimately destroyed his treacherous lieutenant, but was brought to the brink of exhaustion by his efforts, which left him vulnerable to the heroes who finally confronted him and destroyed the lich for all time, or so they thought.

    Some of the nightmarish energy from Vecna’s wicked soul was infused in his Hand and his Eye, becoming artifacts of great evil which awoke the hidden lust for power and might that lurks in the hearts of many a man. Their promises of power were but a mask, however, of the evil and corruption they infused in those who took possession of them. In an ironic twist befitting their evil creator, the Hand and the Eye make promises of great power and control, but this is a façade for their true nature: to exploit the hidden desires of their ‘owners’ and use them for their own ends-ends that involve bringing ever more power to their dark master.

    Cults devoted to Vecna’s memory began soon after the destruction of the lich, often inspired by the very people who gained possession of the Hand or the Eye. The prayers of these cultists were soon answered by the granting of divine spells, until many of the supposedly independent cells began to coalesce into a veritable church and clergy, with its own intellectual beliefs and teachings. Unlike Vecna’s ancient and hidden empire, however, there was no central authority to control the church, despite the attempts of several powerful clerics to make themselves head of the faith, and so dissident sects and theological debates marked the church as much as any other religion in the Flanaess.

    Vecna has no allies; all other gods hate him for his attempts to pry at their secrets, and fear that he may use that hidden knowledge to strike back at them.

    Teachings: Vecna’s faith places great emphasis on the fact that knowledge is power; people should strive to attain personal power by learning secrets and knowledge, and being aware of how to control them. Any knowledge may prove useful in ways that may not seem apparent, and being able to control who has such knowledge brings personal advancement and power. Of equal importance is being able to both gain that knowledge for yourself, and keeping it away from your enemies. Control of knowledge thus becomes tangible power.

    Of equal importance is the ability to control your outward perception and appearance, and to be able to divine the true natures of those around you. One of Vecna’s central teachings is that all people, whether consciously or not, weave masks and outward personas that display what they want other people to know about them; gaining control of their secrets and the things they do not want known gives you power over that person. Control is also exercised in the manipulation of one’s own outward appearance-by controlling the persona you project, you may also manipulate the perceptions of others and exploit them thereby.

    Rather than emphasize the hopelessness and dismal nature of mortal existence, as faiths such as Nerull or Incabulos are wont to do, Vecna’s church stresses the importance of attaining personal power in this world, so as to gain power in the next. Vecna is said to reward those of his followers who become the most powerful and able in this world, whether through attaining magical, financial or political might, and he rewards them accordingly in the next life when they come to his side by making them his most powerful servants.

    The faith of Vecna, therefore, is one of the most ruthless, cold-blooded and self-centered, focusing on what is needed to gain, control and keep power above all else. Laws may be obeyed or exploited, given the ethical inclinations of the faithful, but they may also be ignored; Vecna’s faith places little importance in matters of law or personal freedom, leaving its followers free to exploit both to advance their own agendas.

    The virtues of the Vecnan faith include the ability to manipulate the perceptions of others as one desires, the ability to read and determine the true natures and hidden secrets of others; uncovering secrets in general; using and exploiting knowledge for one’s own purposes, and attaining personal desires and power through these talents. Vecna is said to look most favorably on those who attain power through their abilities as intriguers and manipulators.

    The sins of the Vecnan faith include excessive honesty and plain speaking, letting an opponent gain knowledge that you wished to keep secret, allowing yourself to be bested by an opponent who exploits your hidden secrets, and using knowledge for compassionate or altruistic purposes without personal gain. Vecna expects his followers to show ruthlessness and determination much in the same way he did as a mortal.

    Interaction with Outsiders: Most of Vecna’s faith operates in secret, as many of its followers attempt to gain personal power by either acting as or ministering to tyrants and power-hungry villains. Conquest, murder, raiding, and intrigues are all acceptable means by the followers of Vecna to gain the power and knowledge that is at the core of their perverted religion.

    Vecna’s faithful sometimes operate in secret within cities, ministering to hedonistic or decadent clubs that perpetrate deeds too foul to be mentioned here. The cultists, some of whom try to present respectable and honorable facades in daily life, value secrecy and the contribution Vecna’s clergy make to this all-important need. Oftentimes, these cultists are not interested in attaining personal power, but simply exercise their secrecy and knowledge to gain as much pleasure out of life, however sick and twisted it may be.

    The few temples of Vecna that operate openly are given to small, reclusive services, and may perform marriages, burials, blessings, and other standard priestly duties for those followers that attend their weekly services. These priests typically belong to one of the variant sects of Vecna, and thus place more importance on the retaining of knowledge deemed heretical or dangerous by the authorities, imparting it to those who convert to Vecna’s worship. As such, they may minister to dangerous radicals, fanatics, or others whose knowledge is viewed as dangerous by the authorities, and would be destroyed if those in power had their way. Such followers are the only ones that clergy of Vecna will heal, free of curses, or otherwise assist.

    Vecna’s faith is officially banned almost everywhere, although what is said and what is actually done are often two different things, even in lands like Furyondy, Geoff or Irongate. Temples are either openly established or are openly known to be established in cities such as Dyvers, Edgefield, Greyhawk, Irongate, Littleberg, Monmurg, Naerie, Niole Dra, Rel Astra, Rel Mord, Riftcrag, Rookroost, Stoink, and Sulward.

    Variant Sects: There are some sects who place more emphasis on hedonism and pure pleasure, rather than the ruthless attainment of power, claiming that Vecna rewards those who know how to manipulate knowledge and keep secrets by allowing them to engage in their deepest, most twisted desires. These desires are exploited in secret, the knowledge of their existence is hidden, and a tightly controlled respectable façade is maintained; as such, these variant sects claim, by following their master’s example, they are rewarded with their material pleasures.

    Other followers of Vecna place more emphasis on the hoarding of knowledge, especially knowledge deemed dangerous or heretical by authorities. They believe that such knowledge should be available to any who wish to access it, and that if a supplicant proves himself worthy of learning such things, it is the responsibility of the clergy to give him the lore he seeks. In this way, strangely enough, the chaotic and evil priests of Vecna have been known to find themselves working with the chaotic and good followers of Trithereon to ensure that knowledge is distributed freely, without restrictions on who may learn it.

    While the hedonists among Vecna’s followers are often viewed with indifference, if sometimes with contempt, by the most driven and ambitious of Vecna’s church, those clerics who place more store in the retaining and dispensing of knowledge are often scorned by the driven hardliners. The conquerors, manipulators, and murderers among Vecna’s followers claim that these types pervert the intentions of Vecna by making secrets and information available to others. Those who place emphasis on the storage of knowledge reply that oftentimes their own positions can be advanced by sponsoring dangerous heretics and radicals, expanding their own power and using the knowledge of these radicals for their own gain.

    Adventuring Clergy: Vecna’s clergy may adventure as they wish; adventuring is viewed as an excellent way to advance one’s own personal power and agenda, gaining wealth, fame and knowledge in the process. Adventuring priests are typically encouraged to wear leather armor, or scale or ringed mail, and wield daggers and quarterstaffs instead of massive broadswords or plate mail armor; adventuring Vecnans typically do not wish to call attention to themselves, and such run-of-the-mill gear is viewed as projecting a façade of commonality and normalcy. Clerics may associate with demihumans and humanoids of any type as necessary.

    When adventuring, clerics are urged to keep their eyes and ears open to any knowledge and secrets that may be of use to them in fulfilling their purposes. They may heal or otherwise use their spells as they wish, even on those not of the faith, so long as it helps to keep up the façade they wish to maintain, and gains them the trust of others. If they belong to an established church, clerics must tithe forty percent of their wealth to their temple, although if they have managed to cover their tracks and escape detection, they must sacrifice this treasure to Vecna himself instead.

    Vecna is said to smile and favor above all else those who use his gifts to them to advance their own personal agendas, using knowledge, secrets and perception to gain what they want. Just as Vecna was a treacherous, intriguing, murderous conqueror as a mortal, so too does he reward those who use similar means to gain what they want. The dispensing of knowledge, or the pursuit of hedonism, are also generally acceptable, provided that proper manipulation and secrecy are used to attain these ends.
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