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<   No. 377   2004-02-06   >

Comic #377

1 Lambert: {pointing at a detached hand on the bar of the tavern} What's that?
1 Kyros: The Hand of Vecna. It's a well-known artefact.
2 Kyros: You cut your own hand off and press it to the stump. It grafts itself on and grants you immense powers.
3 Lambert: Cut your own hand off? Nasty! But why does it have such a boring name?
4 Kyros: The "Occupational Safety Standards Violating Body Part of Vecna" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

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2013-01-11 Rerun commentary: Given that I obtained a LEGO set with a tile showing an image of a mummified hand, I couldn't resist making some joke like this.

For anyone not in the know, Vecna is a major character from the World of Greyhawk setting for Dungeons & Dragons. He was an evil wizard who used his magic to transcend death and become an undead lich.

Vecna's back-story has evolved over time, but the one constant is that at some point he was betrayed by his trusted lieutenant Kas, and in the ensuing battle Vecna ended up losing his left hand and eye. As a lich, Vecna only has his right eye, and his left arm ends in a handless stump. Vecna's detached hand and eyeball are now magically mummified artefacts, which Vecna constantly seeks to find.

As with all such magical artefacts, they possess great power, and it is vastly more likely for adventuring parties of player characters to come across them than for Vecna to find them himself. If a "lucky" adventurer finds the Eye of Vecna, they can gain great powers, but only by plucking out their own left eyeball and inserting Vecna's mummified eye into the socket. The eye grafts itself into the adventurer's skull, functioning as a normal eye, and also granting fabulous magical abilities.

Similarly, the Hand of Vecna must be attached to the handless stump of a living character, where it will magically graft itself on and act as a functional hand, in order to access its powers.

These facts about the artefacts are generally well-known among players of Dungeons & Dragons. So anyone in such a game finding a shrivelled, mummified hand that radiates a strong aura of magic will be very strongly tempted to cut off their own hand and try to attach the mummified one to the bloody stump. (And similarly for the Eye.)

This sets the stage for one of the most classic gaming stories of all time: The Head of Vecna.

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Last Modified: Friday, 11 January 2013; 02:11:01 PST.
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