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Book of Vile Darkness (4e)


This roleplaying game product is intended for Dungeon Masters looking to broaden their campaigns to include dark subject matter and truly evil threats. It features a detailed look at the nature of evil and the complex challenge of confronting the many dilemmas found within the deepest shadows.

It includes:

- A 32-page facsimile of the Book of Vile Darkness, filled with malignant secrets and musings that can inspire adventures or entire campaigns
- A 96-page game supplement that provides Dungeon Masters with sample roleplaying encounters, adventure hooks, skill challenges, rituals, and lore for some of the most despicable creatures to infest any campaign world, new character options for players who like to flirt with evil

Product History

Book of Vile Darkness (2011), by Robert J. Schwalb, is a book for GMs and players about playing evil characters. It was released in December 2011.

Near the End of 4e. Book of Vile Darkness was the final book released for D&D in 2011, and so lay very near to the end of the 4e line. After the cancellation of the short-lived Essentials series (2010), production in 2011 had been historically light (with just 8 books) and very scattered. Book of Vile Darkness was an example of this: a one-off book without much connection to the rest of the line. Unfortunately, 2012 would continue this trend: only four scattered books were released following Book of Vile Darkness and after that the 4e line (2008-2012) sputtered to a halt.

An Unusual Format. Book of Vile Darkness was a rather unique production. It was sold as a sleeve that contained a 96-page GM's book, a 32-page player's book, and a map. Many fans applauded the division of the player and GM content into two different books, but unfortunately it was too late in the 4e design cycle for Wizards to follow up on the idea.

Another Book of Vile Darkness. This was the second published Book of Vile Darkness. The first (2001) was an early release for D&D 3e (2000). It was a "mature audiences only" book full of rules for being evil — plus stats for demons and devils, who were just coming back into favor after the bowdlerized era of TSR AD&D 2e (1989-1997). However, some folks found the 3e Book of Vile Darkness — which included drug use, ritual sacrifice, and torture — to be a bit over the top.

The 4e Book of Vile Darkness (2011) is a bit different. It's still about playing evil characters, but it focuses more on running campaigns and on supporting those campaigns. Its mechanics include evil monster and character themes rather than rules for evil stuff that players could do. There's also very little detail on demons and devils in the new book, because they'd been fully integrated back into D&D by the mid '00s and had already been featured in the Demonomicon (2010) for 4e.

Though the two books shared the same basic themes, this new Book of Vile Darkness was definitely not a new edition of the 3e book of the same name

The Movie Connection. Wizards of the Coast had a good reason for producing a new Book of Vile Darkness: a movie was then in production called Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012). To underline the connection, Wizards' Book of Vile Darkness ends with an adventure called "The Vile Tome" which includes elements from the movie like the "dread mage Nhagruul" and the "wicked mind flayer Shathrax" — and, of course, a quest for the eponymous artifact.

About the Creators. A contract designer for Wizards since 2006, Schwalb was a heavy contributor to much of the 4e line (2008-2012). In 4e's last days, he also coauthored Heroes of Shadow (2011) and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Reviews (1)
Discussions (1)
Customer avatar
George F July 05, 2016 4:57 pm UTC
Other than the obvious game mechanics, how does this differ from the D&D3e version?
Customer avatar
Thomas M December 13, 2017 9:36 am UTC
3e's BoVD is over-the-top baby-eating devil-worshipping sadomasochistic evil. 4e's is a couple rule patches that should have been in the game from the start, a few player options that would likely be baked into most evil PCs' backgrounds, and some suggestions for running a campaign with the BoVD as a Macguffin. While 3e's was impossible to take seriously at times, 4e's attempt at a successor feels like following up an evil cackle with a nervous grin.
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File Last Updated:
April 13, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on April 14, 2015.