" I am so tired of the completely unrealistic polar view of good and evil that I tortured this book just to show there is justifiable deviancy. "
Title: Book of Vile Darkness by Wizards of the Coast
Format: D&D 3ed. Supplement
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
The Hype: What was easily the most anticipated and debated supplement in recent roleplaying history has finally hit store shelves in all its gorish glory. Designed to introduce "true evil" into your campaign, the Book of Vile Darkness (BoVD) is a wealth of horror stereotypes.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: Primarily a resource book, Vile Darkness goes light (very light) on anything resembling story, or even drama, and instead preaches philosophy and ideology. The introduction and first chapter, representing the bulk of the story resource, outline various definitions for evil and how it can be incorporated into gameplay. And while that's all fine and good in theory, in practice only the most basic of principals presented apply to a diverse and intellectual gaming group. Subscribing to the painfully stereotypical "light side / dark side" ideology of the very traditional fantasy genre, what author Monte Cook chooses to describe as "evil" is often questionable and dehumanizing. While, yes, more often than not classic Dungeons and Dragons does only illustrate extreme good and extreme bad, actual ROLEplayers will fine that too much of the middle moral ground that makes up life is pushed hard into the darkness, making it often difficult to back terms like "Vile" and "Malevolent". Of course, this only applies to the more mid-lined issues and not to some of the truly twisted things this book gets into…still, it's enough to put the whole book into that boring polarism that too often occurs in fantasy. 2 out of 5
Layout and Presentation: The overall layout and design is D&D standard and, thus, very easy to read and use. Information is presented logically, with an effective table of contents and index, and the rules are easily understood and applied. The art, however, is both sparse and a bit substandard for a major WotC supplement. While it is occasionally highlighted by a few exceptional pieces, most of the work is mediocre and obviously drawn by people who either have a sincere uncomfortability with, or limited understanding of, the horror/gore genre. 3 out of 5
Playability: I've always felt that supplemental roleplaying rules fall into one of three categories: Highly Usable, Interesting, and Worthless. Most often a new book will hit one or the other but Vile Darkness is one of the few supplements I've seen that spans all three. For creatures BoVD is nicely usable and will introduce numerous new encounters into your gaming mix-- which is a good thing. Its Feats and Spells are interesting and occasionally "spicy" (especially when it comes to some of their new takes on evil in magic), but most often will be discarded for the infinitely more useful and playable options found in other books. Still, many remain interesting and will occasionally appear on specific characters and in select campaigns. When it comes to additional rules, however, BoVD is a painful combination of ludicrous and underdeveloped. From the horrifically remedial "Evil Player Characters" section to the remarkably uninspired rules on torture, Monte Cook shows that it was, evidently, the other 3rd Edition developers who contributed all the imagination into the D20 core books. Sure, this information might be useful if you've been playing nothing but pre-packaged adventures your whole gaming career, but if your troupe has any imagination at all you've long since dealt with the issues these rules cover and probably handled it a lot better than he does. 3 out of 5
Desired Content: I honestly don't know what I was expecting the Book of Vile Darkness to be, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't it. Hardly Vile and definitely less Dark than numerous other books in the D20 line, the BoVD ends up acting as little more than a harder-core version of the Fiend Folio. Sure, it has some entertaining Spells and Feats, but realistically it is only the monsters that remain compelling about this book. 2.5 out of 5
|All in all, the Book of Vile Darkness has a few entertaining ideas to express and some cool monsters to add to your campaign and not much else. Near sophomoric in scope and design, this book is only "Vile" if your creativity and exposure to the horror genre is limited to late night re-runs of Hammer films.|
The Good: Some cool monsters/encounters.
The Bad: I am so tired of the completely unrealistic polar view of good and evil that I tortured this book just to show there is justifiable deviancy.
The Overall Ugly: "How to Play Evil PCs"? Are there really experienced players out there that haven't already done that? Give me a break.
What it's Worth: A rip-off at its $32.95 street price, but might be okay half off for the npcs.