For 45 years, players and writers have been intrigued and inspired by a linked pair of fictional artifacts. These two artifacts aren’t what one normally expects for objects of power, not holy grails or lightning-powered hammers or mysterious golden rings. They are a disembodied eyeball, and a shriveled-up left hand.
The stories of the Eye and the Hand began to take shape in 1976, when they were items created for Dungeons & Dragons. Over time, the backstory of these artifacts developed as such: an ambitious wizard named Vecna harnessed the power of death, but his unholy hubris was nearly his undoing. Vecna’s bodyguard Kas was forced to destroy him, and only Vecna’s left eye and left hand survived. Physical destruction isn’t the end for one as powerful as Vecna, who had forsaken life to become an eternal lich, and eventually a god of death.
Now the Eye and Hand of Vecna haunt the world of Oerth, and any other Dungeons & Dragons setting. They beckon the ambitious with a promise of dark power, as they’ve become conduits for the death god Vecna’s influence. The Eye grants its wielder truesight and may cast the spells clairvoyance, crown of madness, disintegrate, dominate monster, and eyebite as well. The Hand gives supernatural strength, and the ability to cast the spells finger of death, sleep, slow, and teleport. In tandem, the two artifacts also bestow immunity to disease and poison, premonitions of imminent danger, X-ray vision, regeneration powers, the ability to turn an opponent's skeleton into jelly, and finally, the ability to cast wish once a month.
These powers, of course, don’t come for free. Befitting a master of death with little regard for the sanctity of flesh, one can only access this power byremove one of their own eyeballs and replace it with the Eye of Vecna. They must sever their left hand and allow the Hand of Vecna to graft itself onto the remaining arm. Communing so closely with Vecna himself further changes the owner - their alignment changes to neutral evil, forever altering their role in the world around them. Any attempt to remove the Eye or the Hand will result in a horrific death for the bearer.
The power of these artifacts alter lives, families, communities, and even nations. They are an instance of one of the most compelling tropes in mythology and fiction - that power corrupts. Even those with the faith and conviction to challenge that concept find themselves changed, corrupted, or even destroyed. As fictional devices and role-playing elements, the Eye and Hand of Vecna have helped role-playing become one of the newest and most interesting forms of storytelling ever.