The 5 Most Bad-Ass D&D Villains

Vecna is a chump. Sure, he founded an empire, became a lich before it went mainstream clawed his own way up to deityhood, but he’s still not as awesome and gnarly as these characters from Dungeons & Dragons canon.

5. Kyuss (3E, Age of Worms)

Like many Dungeons & Dragons villains, Kyuss had a massive cult of fanatically loyal followers and more high-level magic than the Epic Level Handbook. Unlike most villains, Kyuss discovered a way to ascend to godhood, at the cost of permanent imprisonment in an ancient monolith. Not to be deterred, Kyuss took the deal, but not before setting in motion an elaborate two thousand year long plan to have his cultists break him out of prison.

What’s especially awesome is that it works. Elements of the plan include slaughtering most of his followers, inventing and creating the first dracolich, establishing a cult to last for two thousand years, establishing a fake second cult just to distract adventurers, and bringing about the End Times just so that he can escape.

4. Acererak (AD&D, Tomb of Horrors)

Powerful undead liches are ten for a gold piece in D&D, but Acererak is something special. He created the Tomb of Horrors, a dungeon so horrible and twisted that it’s not a question of whether your character will be killed or not, but how many blank character sheets you’ll run through per hour.

There’s a Gem of Wishing, which grants the opposite of what you wanted and then explodes to deal 200 damage. There’s a portal which is actually a Sphere of Annihilation. Then there’s a tapestry which falls on you, turns into green slime, and kills you outright. There are also at least two fake Acereraks in the dungeon, one of which can kill you once per round as a standard action.

3. Rary the Traitor (AD&D, Greyhawk)

Rary of Ket was one of the Circle of Eight, an elite group of powerful mages whose members include such big names as Tenser and Mordenkainen. The Circle had organized the signing of a peace treaty to end the long-running Greyhawk Wars. This really bothered Rary for some reason, who hatched a plan to kill all the signing ambassadors using a magical trap.

The rest of the Circle got wind of this plan and managed to stop it, but not before Rary killed Otiluke and Tenser and severely wounded Bigby before fleeing to found an empire in the desert. At the same time, his ally Lord Robilar destroyed the Circle’s clones of Tenser and Otiluke to prevent Mordenkainen from reviving them. Tenser had prepared for this eventuality, however, and had left a clone on the moon.

2. Osterneth, the Bronze Lich (4E, Open Grave)

Osterneth wasn’t always a the most powerful servant of Vecna, god of secrets. She used to be just some woman who knew a few spells. It wasn’t until later that she tore out her living heart and replaced it with the preserved Heart of Vecna, becoming an undead lich and earning a gold star in the Maimed One’s good books.

If you don’t realize how incredibly risky this is, you probably need to read the story of the Head of Vecna, or rather, the fake Head of Vecna. In D&D lore, the lich Vecna lost a hand and an eye before ascending to deityhood, and these relics became powerful magic items, which the user must cut off his own body part to attach. The AD&D adventure “Die Vecna Die!” introduced several other parts of Vecna, including, a fake head:

"Being a fake, an attempt to place the ‘head of Vecna’ on a freshly beheaded corpse fails; the mummified head just rolls off and drops to the ground. If possible, the DM should avoid outright laughter as long as possible, just in case the would-be tomb raiders want to try their head on a potential recipient or two."

1. Aurgloroasa, the Sibilant Shade (AD&D, Forgotten Realms)

The Forgotten Realms has its fair share of named dragons, but few are quite so murderous as the dracolich Aurgloroasa, a shadow dragon famed for manipulating events from the shadows. After coercing the dwarven city of Thunderhome into building a temple for twenty years and then dedicating it to her own deity, Aurgloroasa raided the settlement and killed everyone.

The population of Thunderhome isn’t recorded, but since the population of Baldur’s Gate is around 100,000 at one point, it’s fair to say this was some massacre. Thirty dwarves escaped, but Aurgloroasa later hunted them down and killed them too. She did all of this in revenge for an event sixty-five years previous, when dwarven miners from Thunderhome tunnelled into her cavern by mistake and interrupted her sleep. I like to think she ate them all.

If that’s not enough, the Sibilant Shade runs a protection racket on shipping worldwide, personally destroying ships who don’t pay their dues. If this dracolich doesn’t have the biggest treasure hoard in Faerun, I don’t know who does.

Comments (5)

Andy (March 2nd, 2010)

Very interesting stuff! Me, not being really up on D&D canon at all, found this to be a nice overview. Osterneth sounds pretty hardcore, and of course Mr. Tomb of Horrors is legendary…what most impressed me, though, was Kyuss.

A two-thousand year-old Xanatos Roulette? That’s crazy awesome.

Matthew Arcilla (March 3rd, 2010)

I’m not familiar enough with previous editions of D&D to know if Osterneth had been around before, but she sounds pretty awesome, and I have to say, she is the most awesome thing we got out of Open Grave. Girlfriend DM wants to use her someday.

Brian R. James (April 4th, 2010)

Cool to see Osterneth listed here. That made my day.

Anonymous (June 5th, 2010)

this is awesome i got to do homework this helped

Anonymous (May 18th, 2013)

Rary was a low-level wizard created by Blume for play in Gygax’s home campaign. However, Blume was not interested in developing the character into a high-powered wizard; he only played Rary until the wizard character reached 3rd-level and then retired him, having reached his objective, which was to be able to introduce the character as “Medium Rary”.

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