Review

Review

Dorks in the Crypt! 'Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness'

You're creeping down a dimly lit corridor. Your companions wait behind as you scout ahead. You gently push the huge wooden doors open into the adjacent corridor. If you were playing traditional Dungeons & Dragons you'd probably see a group of orcs or goblins waiting for your slaughter. But you're not. You're playing the new D&D expansion The Book of Vile Darkness and the people you see in the next room are just as likely refugees escaping your tyranny or a good and noble king in hiding. That's right: you're evil. And it's time to stir up some trouble!

Just last month Wizards of the Coast (the publishers of D&D) released an expansion set of rules and guidelines for, basically, the horror fan. The Book of Vile Darkness by Robert J. Schwalb has everything you need to inject evil, monstrosity, and doom into your traditional D&D campaign. The package retails around $30 and has three components: a huge fold-out double sided battle map, the Player's Book, and the Dungeon Master's Book.

The map, rendered in full color, is a 30 square by 21 square map of ruins (complete with dead human sacrifices scattered about). The other side features two different maps: one of a ruined forest temple and the other of a mystic cultists chamber, each 21 squares by 15. For the layman: these are some huge maps to play on!

The Player's Book, itself designed to look like the actual book of vile darkness (more on that nasty tome later), features options for the Player who wants an evil character. They start with the basics, explaining what it means to play evil. It then moves on to explain different types of evil (like dark magic, evil gods, "primal evil"). Finally there are new classes from which one can choose, including the cultist, the infernal slave, and the vile scholar (and no, that doesn't mean frat boy). The Player's Book is a great starting point for the player, but the real meat and potatoes of The Book of Vile Darkness can be found in the Dungeon Master's Book.

The final and most compelling component of this evil add-on starts with a bang and keeps kicking. The first segment of this 95-page book explains how to run evil campaigns for your players, teaches you how to backstab those foolish heroes, and generally gives advice on being an evil Dungeon Master. It then moves into discussion about "vile" encounters. Vile, as explained in the D&D world, encompasses cursed and forsaken lands, people and monsters. And the curses! The beautiful curses in this book! Want to freak out your players? Give them the "Sentient Tumor" curse: a bulge of cancerous flesh grows on the player and a flicking and free-moving eye emerges from the mass! There are also great evil monsters in here, cursed items and treasures to give to your players, and of course an expanded view of the book of vile darkness: a sentient magical book that helps the player when they're doing evil and is "disappointed" in the player when they do good deeds!

All in all The Book of Vile Darkness is a blast to run with your Dungeons & Dragons group. There is definitely more in this package for the Dungeon Master than there is for the Player, but it is absolutely a fun, freaky and new way to add a bucket of horror to a classic fantasy game.

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