Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Book of Vile Darkness

NOTE: This review is the beginning of a new direction my reviews will be taking. I will spend more time discussing the production quality of the product and the value for money. I will provide a four star rating based on the only thing that matters, "Is this product worth a place on my bookshelf?".

The Book of Vile Darkness is a role playing supplement for the Fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It contains a 96 page Dungeon Master's Book, a 32 page Player's Book and a double-sided battle map featuring 3 encounter areas all contained in a thick paper sleeve.

Before I begin, over the course of my role-playing life I have not been keen on the inclusion of evil characters to a party in my campaigns. In the rare occasions where I have allowed them, I required a pretty detailed list of reasons as to why a player should be permitted to play an evil character. 
When I first saw this product on the Wizards Product Catalog, my initial reaction was "Here we go again, Wizards wouldn't know an original idea if it slapped them across the face!" I am going to let you know at the end of the review if my original impression holds water but to be fair, I am going to review this product on its current merits. 

Production Quality

As I mentioned earlier, the product is packaged in a thick paper sleeve. Thick paper seems to be the direction Wizards is going and I suspect it is to save money on production and shipping costs. I would prefer a nice cardboard box but its not a major issue with me. The books are soft cover and the inclusion of the paper sleeve will provide a nice level of protection. The pages white and are well laid out. The quality of the art work is good. 

The Battle Map

My biggest problem with this battle map is the quality of the paper the map is printed on leaves quite a bit to be desired. I would have loved for this map to have been printed with the same paper as is included in the weekly Encounters sessions. The map feels as if it will rip after using it a couple of times. This is really unfortunate because this is map meets my primary requirement for what makes for an excellent battle map, is it useable once the adventure is finished. This battle map is printed on one side with ruins and bodies littered through out, and the second side contains two smaller maps. The first one is an outdoor scene with a statue in the middle surrounded by a circle of stones. The second part of the map is that of an open multi-coloured portal. All three of the maps are unique and I expect to use them over and over. 

The Player's Book

The 32 page players book contains all the information a player needs to effectively play an evil character. The book covers evil character creation, some new themes, five new Paragon Paths, one new Epic Destiny and a few pages of evil themed feats. These new additions are interesting and even if you don't allow evil characters in your party, you will be presented with plenty of new options for creating unique and powerful NPCs. With a little bit of creativity on a DMs part, much of the information presented in the Player's Guide can be adapted to other alignments. An added cool feature of this book is the cover. The cover is like that of the actual Book of Vile Darkness making the Player Guide an excellent prop to use in your games.

The Dungeon Master's Book

The 96 page Dungeon Master's book contains plenty of information for a DM to run an evil campaign. This book spends a 20 pages on running a party of evil characters. There are some ideas on creating adventures for evil players and some really interesting campaign arcs. All of this information is very useful and easily adapted to any campaign. The remaining pages are filled with new creatures, villains and organizations that will add a touch of darkness to any campaign. There are some new cursed magic items and obviously a complete description of The Book of Vile Darkness artifact. The last 16 pages contain a few encounters to help introduce the book to the players and a method to destroy the book. 


The materials presented in this supplement definitely fill a niche that was missing. Unfortunately, it feels unfinished. There are no stats for the greater demons or devils and rules for things such a possession are missing. Granted the Demonomicon provides some information on the chaotic evil demons but there is nothing on the lawful evil devils.

This unfinished feeling is intensified when you compare this version of The Book of Vile Darkness to the 3rd edition version version written by Monte Cook. It is ironic but if this supplement would have been called "Running An Evil Campaign Featuring The Book of Vile Darkness" or something like that,  I might have given Wizards a little slack. By continually rehashing previous materials they invite criticism. I have mentioned this on numerous occasions and I suspect it won't be the last time I do but Wizards needs to introduce some new materials and stop rehashing the past.

So, does this The Book of Vile Darkness deserve a place on my bookshelf. The short answer is yes, provided you don't mind finishing the supplement with either your own work or by finding 3rd party stuff to fill the holes. The Book of Vile Darkness deserves a 3 Stars out of 4.


  1. Peter,
    Nice review...after the "original" 3.5 version wasn't quite my cup of tea, I was more than a bit on the fence with this one. Leaning strongly towards the "not for me" category.
    Again, nicely done and timely!

  2. Thank you for the nice words. This is definitely one of those products that isn't for everyone. I am glad I could help you with the decision!