Vecna is a fictional character that appears in both the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and the Netflix series Stranger Things. There are some striking parallels between the two portrayals of the characters, but also crucial differences.
Causality of D&D and Stranger Things in relation to Vecna
The fact that the villain character Vecna appears in Stranger Things is due in particular to the fact that the heroes of the series always name their antagonists after characters from the well-known role-playing game. In earlier seasons, the antagonist Demogorgon in Stranger Things already got his name from the D&D universe. Vecna appears as a dangerous monster and hostile creature in the fourth season of the series.
Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, is known as the first pen-and-paper role-playing game. (Players take on the roles of fictional characters whose characteristics are recorded on paper. Successful actions as well as failures are worked out and determined with the help of dice). Dungeons and Dragons is thus a kind of parlor game with elements of improvisational theater and storytelling).
The rulebook for the game was first published in 1974. In 1980 the publication of Adavanced Dungeons and Dragons took place. The version was originally intended for advanced players. It can be assumed that the protagonists from the Netflix series are based on the D&D from the 1980s.
Stranger Things is a science fiction mystery series that airs on Netflix. It is set in the 1980s. The main characters around the mysterious girl Eleven, who has telekinetic abilities, are confronted with secret experiments of a research laboratory, numerous supernatural events and dangerous, sometimes creepy appearing antagonists and monsters. Recurring in the series is the naming of the antagonists, who are named after the fictional characters of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
Vecna in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons
Originally, Vecna in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons refers to an evil mage who became a lich, that is, an undead creature. The wizard who defied death was first mentioned in the Greyhawk campaign as an addition to the actual ruleset of the game.
After his destruction, only his left eye and hand remained, which also appear as artifacts in further editions and additions to the rulebook.
In the D&D universe, Vecna achieves the status of an evil deity, this is always described as a figure with a missing eye and hand. Externally, it also resembles a desiccated corpse.
In terms of character, Vecna is an extremely power-hungry being in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, who has made his sole rule as the only deity his goal.
Vecna in the Neflix series Stranger Things
The character Vecna from the fourth season of the series Stranger Things is more aligned with the D&D version from the 1980s, namely Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, with Vecna being described in D&D as existing as a demigod in 1989/1990. Prior to that, the monstrous lich was considered a legend that could only personify itself if the appropriate artifacts (hand and eye) were used.
The Netflix series depicts Vecna as a disfigured monster who was also once human. Henry Heel, also known as One, like Eleven, has early developed telekinetic powers and is also a part of the research facility of Dr. Brenner, a popular series character. In One/Vecna matured an irrepressible hatred for all humanity, which he believes opposes the natural world order.
Along with One’s DNA, his supernatural powers were passed on to other children at the research facility, including series heroine Eleven. One/Vecna himself was implanted with a chip that inhibits and controls his powers.
When One escapes from the research facility and slaughters numerous people in the process, Eleven tries to stop him and accidentally catapults him into the parallel universe Upside Down. Here, One eventually evolves into the monster Vecna and pursues his plan to destroy humanity.
The character Vecna from Stranger Things consists not only of elements of the D&D character. The creators of the popular Netflix show were also inspired by other fictional horror characters like Freddy Kruger from Nightmare on Elm Street and Pennywise from ES.
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Clear parallels between the depictions of Vecna in D&D and Stranger Things
A well-known theory from the D&D multiverse regarding the archlich Vecna is that he absorbs the power of mortals through a special ritual.
This theory is also found in Stranger Things, where the series heroes assume that One/Vecna kills people to feed himself and become more powerful.
Also a striking parallel is the betrayal of One/Vecna.
In the fantasy role-playing game, Vecna is betrayed first by the half-demon Acererak, then by his own lieutenant Kas, who ultimately tries to kill him with the help of an energy sword in which Vecna’s evilness manifested.
In the Netflix series, One/Vecna first manipulates Eleven, and is able to free himself from the control of Brenner, the research director. However, he is subsequently betrayed by Eleven as well, because she refuses his offer to go with him.
Conclusion: Vecna from Stranger Things
A relevant difference between the Vecna version of the fantasy role-playing game and the Vecna version of the series is the D&D character’s obsession with obtaining other individuals’ secrets and keeping their own.
The character from Stranger Things, on the other hand, does not keep secrets, rather One/Vecna claims to reveal the truth about individuals.
Vecna from Stranger Things aims to completely wipe out humanity, while Vecna from the role-playing game wants to expand his power and achieve immortality.