Categorized | Reviews, RPGs

The Book of Vile Darkness 4E Review

Posted on July 9, 2012 by Michael Holland

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    Playing evil characters in Dungeons & Dragons has always been a touchy subject. For the most part the fourth edition of the game has avoided the pitfall of “evil player characters” by assuming most groups are playing heroes or alignment neutral characters. Occasionally options appear which allow players to skirt the boundaries of evil without actually stepping over the edge. The Book of Vile Darkness provides gamers with advice and tools to explore the darker side of fantasy adventure whether the goal is a complete immersion in the “evil campaign” or to just add a little more “evil” to your villains.

    This game supplement is actually three products in one. The supplement includes a book for dungeon masters, a booklet for players (cleverly printed so the cover is a replica of The Vile Book of Darkness) and a high quality double sided map.

    “It’s a glorious blasphemy, a condemnation of all that is good and pure. Gods and demons have obliterated it many times, but like evil itself, the book always returns to enslave, corrupt, and destroy. It’s utterly marvelous.” – Asmodeus, Lord of the Nine Hells

    The double sided map includes a full sized layout of ruins in which a group of explorers have met a grizzly end as well as two smaller maps. The first depicts a rural location with standing stones perfect for a ritual casting scene and the other is a bit of interesting terrain with obelisks surrounding a cosmic portal.

    “Only the most indomitable minds dare to look upon the malevolent thoughts and forbidden secrets bound herein. This corrupt tome is filled with deplorable wisdom. Evil permeates every word and image inscribed within it.” – Orcus, Demon Prince of Undeath

    The player’s booklet begins with general advice about playing evil characters and what a player needs to do to explore that concept without ruining the game play experience for everyone else. It provides several character concepts on which to build characters and also explores the various archetypes of evil characters. For players more interested in the “crunchy” parts this book has to offer there are five new character themes including the cultist, disgraced noble, infernal slave, reaver and vile scholar. The book also includes five new paragon paths including the blood-crazed berserker, contract killer, demonologist, idol of darkness and vermin lord as well as a new epic destiny, the Exemplar of Evil. Finally the book is rounded out with an interesting selection of evil feats.

    “Terrifying. This could be the last book you ever read.” – Mordenkainen the Archmage

    Chapter 1: Evil Unearthed

    This chapter is a little bit of flavor material pertaining to the Book of Vile Darkness as well as a product overview. This chapter also outlines the concepts of Domination, Corruption and Annihilation as the three phases of evil. These are the foundation on which much of the material in this book is built.

    Chapter 2: Evil Campaigns

    Evil Campaigns covers some basic advice about managing evil characters at the game table and how to build adventures and campaigns. It provides several story seeds for evil adventures and several themes for evil campaigns. This chapter is rounded out with an example campaign arc which is perfect for challenging your evil players… err, I mean, player characters.

    Chapter 3: Vile Encounters

    Vile Encounters is a useful toolbox for dungeon masters building vile encounters. Dungeon masters always work to construct challenging encounters and this chapter helps with that while also emphasizing the story behind the encounter. An excellent selection of curses, diseases, traps and more will make many dungeon masters dance around with evil glee.

    Chapter 4: Villains and Monsters

    While the bulk of this chapter is new monsters, new monster themes and evil organizations I think the most potent material is actually the first portion which focuses on creating villains. Villains are as important in our games as the player characters themselves. Building great villains is even more challenging when the player characters are evil as well and this chapter provides advice and examples of how to accomplish that goal.

    Chapter 5: Dark Rewards

    Cursed items and sinister items fill this short chapter. While each item makes for an interesting reward in the eyes of the players I find the stories these items can drive even more intriguing.

    Chapter 6: The Vile Tome

    The Vile Tome is a series of paragon encounters which dungeon masters can sprinkle into their ongoing campaign. The challenge levels for these encounters are spread out across the paragon tier allowing for a good deal of leeway to work them into any story.

    The Book of Vile Darkness is an excellent Dungeons & Dragons product because it adds a lot of material to both dungeon master and player toolboxes in terms of both flavor and crunch. This product really does have something for everyone whether you are running full blown evil campaigns or you just want to spice up the villains in your game.

    Review by Michael Holland

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    2 Responses to “The Book of Vile Darkness 4E Review”

    1. Played some evil campaigns in my time, and after a while the novelty tends to wear off. I think the best use for this is seeing just how evil you can your NPCs. Maybe not even the villains…

    2. I agree, there is a novelty there that can wear off. I have been toying with the idea of running an evil campaign without letting my players know they have fallen on the wrong side of the conflict. So the PCs won’t be evil per se but they are serving evil’s cause without knowing it. Eventually they will learn the truth but there will be checks in play to motivate them to keep making hard decisions.

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