Who Is Vecna from Stranger Things Season 4?
Soon, the battle for Hawkins (and the world) will resume when Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 returns on July 1. Before then, in between blasting Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” let’s take a step back in time (and space) to look at who Vecna really is.
First, the trailer for volume 2 is out below. After you’ve watched, run right back here so we can crack the case on Vecna. While other seasons have given us unforgettable monsters like the Demogorgon, Vecna’s eye-opening villainy really leaves a mark. From beginnings in Dungeons & Dragons to celebrity-fueled appearances in Critical Role, this Upside Down villain is the stuff of nightmares — and we’re here for it. Join us as we uncover Vecna’s origins and what might lie ahead for this dark wizard.
Warning: Following the Critical Role section, the Stranger Things section will contain spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 volume 2.
Vecna was first introduced in the Greyhawk Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting and is often considered one of the greatest villains of the tabletop game’s world. Initially, his only presence was in the Hand and Eye of Vecna, two remnant artifacts of his corporeal form. Largely regarded as a myth or legend, he was once a humanoid wizard who amassed enough power to become a lich.
Liches are spellcasters who defy death through their magic, often through use of a phylactery that stores their soul in a bound, protected, separate location. The only way to destroy a lich is to destroy this phylactery, or else their soul can regenerate indefinitely — but it is most likely guarded extremely well. Liches retain their memories and knowledge, using their extensive lifespans to refine their skills and gather more power.
All Eyes on Vecna
Vecna eventually achieved godhood, becoming a part of the third edition pantheon for the game. His holy symbol is an eye in the palm of the left hand, a reference to his relics. He had a trusted lieutenant, Kas the Bloody-Handed, who eventually became vampiric and betrayed his master. Each level in his cult’s hierarchy is named for body parts, including the Voice, Heart, Hand, Eye, Teeth, Fingers, and Blood, as well as more conceptual aspects like the Thought and Memories.
Despite being overthrown, Vecna’s power is nigh untouchable by even the boldest adventuring parties. He can cast an immense number of high-level spells without tiring, and unless his phylactery is destroyed by players, he can survive indefinitely. He is often depicted as a desiccated corpse, of course missing his left hand and eye.
Fun fact: Vecna is an anagram of Vance, the surname of fantasy author Jack Vance, whose writing inspired D&D’s magic system!
The players in Critical Role‘s campaign The Legend of Vox Machina fought Vecna as their ultimate foe. His influence was keenly felt throughout the adventure, as they contended with cultists and the arch-lich’s resurrection. Among his most prominent worshippers were Lord and Lady Briarwood (also seen in the Prime Video animated series about Vox Machina), and he was frequently referred to as the Whispered One. Riskel Daxio of the Council of Tal’Dorei and Professor Anders of Whitestone were also among Vecna’s followers.
Vecna is said to have ascended to lichdom in Exandria about a century before the Calamity, a centuries-long conflict that concluded the Age of Arcanum. Before his rise, Vecna was an archmage who had laboratories devoted to haunting experiments that corrupted the lands around him with abominations. Though he was supposed to be slain, his hand and eye remained on the mortal plane and he amassed followers as a lesser patron of dark knowledge and secrets. The Briarwoods and the Remnants, Vecna’s devoted cult, worked to resurrect the Undying King and Vax’ildan was even disintegrated during the fight.
Vecna the Celebrity
Actor Joe Manganiello’s character Arkhan the Cruel also joined the campaign for the episodes “The Final Ascent” and “Vecna, the Ascended.” A vicious draconic warrior in service of the Scaled Tyrant dragon empress, he assisted Vox Machina in fending off Vecna’s cultists and eventually performed several key attacks in the final battle that allowed the party to defeat the deity for good. At the battle’s conclusion, he grafted the Hand of Vecna, the dangerous relic of the former arch-lich’s body, onto his own wrist.
The character of Arkhan then later appeared in the official Wizards of the Coast game guide for Dungeons and Dragons: Descent into Avernus — still in possession of the Hand of Vecna, making the events of the campaign somewhat canonical in the world.
Throughout the series, Stranger Things has captured its audience not only with the appealing retro aesthetics and killer soundtracks, but with an unflinching sense of heart. We’ve witnessed a core group of friends mature, as their relationships evolve and develop in their own unique ways. However, the shock of Eleven’s brutal past, revealed over the course of season 4 volume 1, reminded us that childhood can be just as traumatic as it is beautiful.
In “Chapter 7: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” Eleven is at last able to recall what really happened in the memory that’s tortured her for so long. It wasn’t her who committed all those murders. It was actually Henry, the orderly in the Hawkins Lab. As Nancy discovers, Henry was also the son of Victor Creel and Brenner’s first test subject. Though Henry showed kindness to Eleven and attempted to liberate her, she refused to take part in his destruction. Instead, she banished him to the Upside Down. And with that, Vecna was created.
A Nightmare on Hawkins Street
Vecna (Jaime Campbell Bower), now also formerly known as Henry Creel, has long been a source of terror in Hawkins. His first victims were his family, including his father, Victor Creel. Horror fans might recognize Victor since he’s played by Robert Englund — the master of nightmares himself, Freddy Krueger. This retro-horror connection is just another layer that adds to the powerful pull of Stranger Things.
“It is over. Now I just want you to watch.” These chilling words from Vecna haunt the trailer for volume 2 of Stranger Things season 4. The odds are increasingly stacked against The Party and the stakes have never been higher.
How do you think it will all play out? Join the conversation alongside other Stranger Things fans in the Let Your Spoiler Sideshow Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!