Remember the Book of Vile Darkness for D&D 3.x? Many thought that book was…let’s say…not so great. This opinion might color your perceptions of the 4th Edition Book of Vile Darkness. It shouldn’t; while the 3.x version of the book often relied on gross-out or “shocking” material, the new book is much more usable for D&D games where you want to toss in a dash of evil but don’t need to go so far as to have a slave lord that uses the souls of children as armor. (ahem)
The Book of Vile Darkness is actually not just a book, but two softcover books and a double-sided battlemap packaged in a cardboard sleeve. The battlemap is useful for the adventure tucked away in the back of the DM’s book, and is of the same good quality as most of these types of maps.
The player’s book is 32 pages, and designed so that the cover looks like the BoVD. There’s now a whole lot in the way of fluff here, other than a few pages with guidelines on playing evil characters. The rest of the book contains several themes, paragon paths, an epic destiny and a small handful of feats, all geared towards evil characters. All of the new options are cool, and none seem overpowering. There are definitely some good ideas for characters in here and the Vermin Lord is very, very cool.
The DM’s book is significantly larger, clocking in at 96 pages. Much like the player’s book, there is little fluff in here, amounting mainly to some suggestions on how to run an evil campaign and, most importantly, how to keep a group of evil characters together as a group. The last several pages are an adventure in which the Book of Vile Darkness figures (and apparently it ties in to the new D&D movie. The adventure includes a writeup on the BoVD itself. The adventure seems solid enough and well written.
Sandwiched between the adventure and the fluff is a bunch of useful crunch to help heighten the evil of any game. Curses, items, themes for monsters, new creatures (including fallen angels), cursed items…all items that can heighten the game without the excess and shock of the older version of the book.
This book would be a great addition to any game that needs a little extra evil in it. There are certainly worse versions of the BoVD to get hands on….