(The book has an illustrated Secret of Vecna. I did not include the image here because it’s gross.)

This post is part of a series! Click here to see the other.

I first saw a stat block for these in Thunderspire Labyrinth, the second heroic-tier module published for 4e. They appear here in revised form.

The Lore

Vecna is an ascended lich, the evil god of secrets and magic. He teaches that secret knowledge is the path to power, encouraging and rewarding his followers to learn all they can by whatever means necessary. He also punishes his followers for willingly sharing these secrets, an act that is anathema to him. The most common punishment is to transform the heretic into a Secret of Vecna.

These creatures resemble bald humans with plain features, usually wearing robes and wielding daggers or staffs. When they get seriously wounded, their skin sloughs off and they turn into an horrific living ghoul with wickedly sharp fangs and claws. Secrets lack any will of their own, living to do the bidding of their divine patron. They get sent to guard sites important to Vecna, or to aid the plans of his priests. A Secret’s ultimate aim is always to advance Vecna’s goals, though, even to the detriment of his followers. Smart followers know never to trust a Secret completely.

Legend says there is a ritual capable of mending a Secret and turning them back into the person they used to be. This could be done for altruistic reasons, or as a means of getting access to the information that person knows.

The Monsters

Secrets are Medium Natural Humanoids with a speed of 6. They are not undead and have no special resistances.

Their signature ability is Horrific Visage, which triggers as soon as they’re bloodied. It works as a Close Burst 3 attack vs. Will. On a hit it does light psychic damage and pushes the target 3 squares. This is the transformation into a ghoul-like horror.

Some of the monster’s abilities can only be used before it transforms, while others can only be used afterwards. So in practice each Secret has two distinct attack profiles. The human one is usually some degree of tricksy, while the “monster” one is simpler but stronger.

Enigma of Vecna

A spellcaster who grew too greedy and offered to sell or barter the secrets they learned in service to Vecna. They retain some of their magic, and gain the ability to temporarily strip a victim of its memories. They’re Level 6 Controllers with 68 HP.

When human, they fight with daggers and magic. Shock Bolt is a ranged attack that targets Reflex and does lightning damage, also slowing the target for a turn. And Memory Ripper is another ranged attack targetting Will and doing light psychic damage with an awesome rider. Targets hit by this spell are prevented from using encounter or daily attack powers, and any utility powers (save ends).

After the Enigma is bloodied, Horrific Visage triggers and it transforms into a straightforward melee combatant. Its only attack from that point on is Rend Flesh, which does heavy physical damage.

Spell Howler of Vecna

This is a more powerful caster who failed Vecna in some way. Maybe they failed on a mission given to them by the god, or failed to share a secret with Vecna after discovering it. Or maybe they just dug too deep and looked into matters forbidden to one of their rank. They’re Level 18 Artillery with 130 HP.

Spell Howlers are powerful enough to not need weapons. Their basic attack is a Maddening Touch that deals psychic damage. Their basic ranged attack is a Word of Force that targets Fortitude and does force damage. They can use a Word of Madness to deal psychic damage, slide the target 3 squares and have it make a free attack against another target of the howler’s choice. This recharges on a miss, so they can keep trying it. And finally they can say a Word of Pain once per encounter to deal heavy necrotic damage to a target, half on a miss.

Most of this stops after the transformation. Maddening Touch remains an option, but their only ranged attack is now the Word of Doom, which deals psychic damage and dazes for a turn.

Secret of Vecna

The titular monster of the entry used to be a high priest of Vecna who allowed some of the god’s secrets to fall into the hands of a non-believer. Vecna appears to them personally to shatter their minds and transform their bodies.

Secrets are Level 19 Skirmishers with 176 HP. Faster than average, they have a Speed of 8 and a Teleport speed of 4.

In human form, they use a Cloak of Ignorance spell that covers a Close Burst 3, deals psychic damage, and makes them invisible to the target (save ends). Then they move in with Shocking Grasp, a basic attack that deals lightning damage and has a big damage bonus when the target can’t see the monster.

After transforming, their only attack is Thundering Claws, which deals heavy thunder damage, knocks prone, and slides 1 square.

Final Impressions

This is exactly the sort of odd monster that you can typically find in Monster Manuals numbered 3 or above. Fortunately they had enough space for a nicely evocative bit of lore. Their mechanics are an interesting take on the “two-stage” monster, and a different one from both the MM2’s Phoeras and Fey Lingerers.

As the lore mentions, these are Vecna’s specialty divine servitors, so they’ll be found wherever the god’s cultists and temples are.