Name: Book of Vile Darkness
Publisher: Wizard of the Coast
System: Dungeon and Dragons 4th Edition
Author: Robert J. Schwalb
Category: DnD Game Supplement
Pages: 32-page facsimile of the Book of Vile Darkness
What began with a good idea for an expansion has come out in a very strangely packaged and constructed supplement.
Firstly the packaging. Initially I thought it was packaged as per their 4E scenarios, in book form and with pockets for the booklets and maps. Instead the outside is just a cardboard sleeve which everything has to slide into, risking creasing the corners of your products. I do not know why this was done and it is not a good design by WOTC.
The first booklet is the players’ one. The cover for this is that of The Tome of Darkness, which is a nice touch. The Tome has some good advice for playing evil and some sensible suggested limitations. However throughout the book it is advised against playing evil and the booklet size (32 pages) and the limited amount of detail for character classes, paragon path and epic destinies (one) shows their reluctance. I am not sure why this would be except that a worry of upsetting the right-wing middleclass and a return to the stereo-type of the eighties. With the success of titles such as Vampire etc, you would expect better from D&D.
The second book is so much better. The DM book begins with a good discussion on running an evil campaign and suggestions on how this should be approached. It touches on adventurers before suggesting campaign themes and arcs. Then the book really comes into it’s own with Chapter 3 – Vile Encounters. Vile terrain, curses, diseases, traps and hazards all nicely explained and some very workable examples given. Next in Chapter 4 villains are discussed and again well described in designing some really memorable foes for your group. Vile monsters are then suggested and how these should be introduced. Again these will add real flavour to any campaign and really help to personalise a campaign arc. The chapter ends with some suggestions for Vile Organisations to pit your adventurer’s against.
Chapter 5 discusses Dark Rewards – cursed and sinister items. Chapter 6 brings the Book of Vile Darkness as an artefact and gives 4 encounters of level 13 – 18 you can use as part of a campaign to use or destroy the book!
I have to say this book (96 pages long) is the jewel in the crown. There is some of the best artwork I have seen in a D&D product and there is detail and ideas for numerous campaigns. This book more than make up for the disappointing players’ book. A final note on the maps. The Double-Sided map is of a nice detail but the larger map has dismembered and mutilated corpses that could distress younger players.
All in all, this has some design flaws and should only be used by a DM to flavour their campaign and add a real feel of evil. The adventure is well written and can add more flavour to paragon level. I do think this is a bit expensive for what you get and there are better products on the market that give you the same effect.
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