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This article is about the artifact. For the D&D sourcebooks of the same name, see Book of Vile Darkness (3e) and Book of Vile Darkness (4e).

The Book of Vile Darkness is an ancient artifact and a work of pure evil. The wicked text it contains is an encyclopedic reference to every form of evil and depravity known to humankind, and it is the meat and drink of the priests of dark and cruel gods.

Appearance and personality[]


The Book of Vile Darkness is a large, crude and ancient tome, bound in black leather and held together with dull metal bindings. The cover is marked with eldritch runes whose truly evil meaning can only be understood by those who have read the entire book. Its spine is in the form of a shrieking face attached to the covers with nails and wire. The original book is believed to have been crafted by the archwizard Vecna from the flesh of a human face, and magically transmuted into metal.[1][2]


The pages of the book are made from a chaotic mix of materials, including parchment, cloth, and thin sheets of hammered metal, written upon in the handwriting and voice of multiple authors.[2] Parts of the book have been pasted over or annotated by later authors, and entire sections are missing, torn or damaged.[3]

The Book of Vile Darkness contains all manner of unhinged writings. Reputedly among its contents are dark and cruel spells, methods of ritual sacrifice, the true names of several fiends, the secrets of lichdom, names of forgotten dark gods, demonic lore, and forbidden secrets. Reading the book in its entirety takes around 80 hours.[3][2][1]


The Book seems to possess a will of its own. It wishes to wipe out all which is good in the world, and spread darkness and corruption. To this end, it offers its secrets to worthy servants, only to corrupt them in the long run. The Book of Vile Darkness knows when someone is handling it.[2]



In addition to the reference value of knowledge gained within, evil creatures who read the entire book increase in power and faculty.[4][3]

The bearer of the Book can use its authority to command evil creatures. They may assault the minds of their enemies with a language called the Dark Speech, and ancient and demonic tongue whose words are injurious to all who hear it.[3]

The Book can disguise itself as a less menacing book, or other item.[5]

The Book of Vile Darkness also possesses several other beneficial properties, many of which are not widely known or vary between users.[3]


The Book of Vile Darkness gradually corrupts its owner. They become paranoid, hear voices whispering of evil suggestions, and suffer terrible nightmares in which they are maimed by their companions. Food and drink decay and taste awful, and the flaws of allies and companions appear magnified. Shadows bend and flicker around the owner.

The book gradually destroys whatever it touches. Animals avoid the place where the book rests, and plants wither in its presence.[3]

The text of the book is thoroughly vile and depraved. Those who read it, if not already wholly evil, risk becoming truly evil in alignment.[3] Other dangers include physical injury, insanity, and death.[4]

Those who fully read the book and fully absorb its meaning are forever corrupted by its influence and marked by evil. The reader is afflicted with a physical deformity, such as losing all facial features, growing horns, gaining all-black eyes, or becoming physically wizened and twisted.[3] The reader's soul is forever defiled by the book and corrupted toward evil.[1]

The most righteous of good priests will be driven insane by reading the Book. Paladins who read the book are at risk of violating their oath of conduct.

Wherever the Book goes, evil goes, and powerful fiends watch over the book in its travels.[1] Possessing the cursed book imposes several other drawbacks which are not known for certain.[3]

The Book judges its owner's worthiness. When it decides to move on, it devours the owner's soul, leaving the body mindless.[5]


"Destroy the book?! You can't destroy the book, you silly twit. Not that it can't be destroyed. It can. Just... not by you."
— The Keeper of Scrolls[6]

As an artifact, the Book of Vile Darkness cannot be permanently destroyed by normal means. Pages torn from the book invariably find their way back into the book when a later author adds new material. Even when it is destroyed, the minions of evil eventually and invariably find a way to reconstitute or restore the book, and it will be found as long as someone is looking for it.

The Book may voluntarily decide to abandon its owner and move on, burning itself up in black flame. The place where the Book disappeared is cursed; all plant life dies, and animals and people who live there will suffer only sickness and death.[5]

A solar can destroy the Book by tearing it in half, but it will inevitably reappear somewhere in the multiverse within a hundred years. It is believed that the Book of Vile Darkness cannot permanently be destroyed as long as evil exists in the multiverse.

A creature who possesses the book for a hundred years can find a phrase hidden within its text, which if spoken in Celestial destroys both the book and its owner. Even if this is achieved, the book returns within a thousand years.

According to the cambion Rule-of-Three, destroying the Book of Vile Darkness requires only three things: the Ritual of Endings and Beginnings, the Well of Many Worlds, and a death wish. Even so, doing this would require absorbing an immense amount of good from every world in the entire multiverse.[5]

Related items[]

Copies of the Book of Vile Darkness[]

At least six complete copies of the Book of Vile Darkness are known to exist, and at least eighteen flawed, incomplete or fake copies.[1] Fraz-Urb'Luu, Demon Prince of Deception, once claimed that only nine copies of the book were ever made.[7]

However, none of the copies are fully as potent as the true original, of which even the best copy is at best a lesser facsimile.[5]

It is speculated that each world in the multiverse has its own unique copy of the Book of Vile Darkness, each an imperfect representation of a prototypical perfect Book. Each book contains the thoughts and knowledge of the most terrible evil individuals from its own world. If the evil from all books were combined, it would theoretically be more powerful than the gods themselves.[5]

Book of Exalted Deeds[]

The Book of Vile Darkness has a good-aligned counterpart, the Book of Exalted Deeds.



The Book of Vile Darkness was compiled over the course of centuries by successive authors, each of whom came into possession of the text and added their own vile secrets to its text.[1]

Authorship of the Book of Vile Darkness began millennia ago when a uniquely wicked Vasharan spellcaster recorded his studies, experiments and ideas in a few thousand words on a single scroll.

Some years later, a cleric of Nerull, god of death, acquired the original scroll and added to it her own knowledge of dark gods, evil divine magic and ritual sacrifice, expending the original text to three times its length. Later clerics who came into possession of these scrolls added evil lore acquired by dark experiments and recorded verbatim from summoned fiends.

The scrolls fell into the hands of Vecna, then a mortal wizard and feared warlord, who added lore of his own. Vecna contributed every evil thought, every piece of dark arcane magic, and every wicked detail of the sins of mankind.

Following his ascension to lichdom, Vecna transcribed the scrolls into a bound book whose cover was made from the bones of a demon and flesh of a human face, magically transformed into a dull metal. This version is considered to be the original Book of Vile Darkness.[1]

Later owners[]

The high priesthood of the cult of Erythnul held the book in secret for some years. During this time, several copies were made, many of which were incomplete or dangerously flawed. The original was stolen by thieves during a war, and passed through the hands of many owners, many of whom modified or added to the text.

The demon lord Baalzebul once held the original Book of Vile Darkness. At least one copy was made in this time, which incorporates the errata Baalzebul personally made to the original.[1]

Baba Yaga used to sleep with the Book of Vile Darkness under her pillow. She lent it to her daughter, who lost it.[8]

Fraz-Urb'Luu, Demon Prince of Deception, once claimed to own eight copies of the Book of Vile Darkness.[7]

Destruction and recreation[]

An unknown event led to the temporary destruction of the Book of Vile Darkness.

The dread mage Nhagruul recreated the book from his own flesh and blood. His minions attempted to use this to spread chaos and destruction, but were stopped by the Knights of the New Sun, an order of chivalry dedicated to the sun god Pelor. Nhagruul's disciples divided the book into three parts and hid them separately, patiently awaiting the day when the Knights of the New Sun would fade into obscurity.

Centuries later, the cult attempted to reform the parts of the Book of Vile Darkness, but were contested in their attempt by the mind flayer Shathrax, who wished to take the Book for himself, and a Pelorian knight named Grayson, who wished to rid the world of the book. Grayson defeated both Shathrax and the cultists, and the book was buried under the rubble of Shathrax's fortress, presumed lost.[5]

Recent history[]

Publication history[]

Original D&D[]

The Book of Vile Darkness and its good counterpart first appeared in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), p.58. It causes any Chaotic cleric to gain one level. Any Lawful cleric who reads the Book of Vile Darkness is driven insane, while other characters may suffer damage or be turned Chaotic.

AD&D 1st edition[]

The Book of Vile Darkness appears in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1e) (1979), p.139. Non-evil characters who read or handle it may suffer death, insanity, level loss, damage, transformation to evil alignment, or an attack by a night hag.

AD&D 2nd edition[]

The Book of Vile Darkness appears in the Dungeon Master Guide (2e) (1989), p.161. Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.216.

D&D 3rd edition[]

The Book of Vile Darkness appeared in the Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5) (2003), p.277-278.

The book lends its name to a Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook, the Book of Vile Darkness (3e) (2002). The artifact itself is detailed in that book on page 14.

D&D 4th edition[]

The Book of Vile Darkness is detailed in The Book of Vile Darkness (4e) (2011), the second sourcebook to bear its name.

The book also appeared in the 2012 movie Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness.

D&D 5th edition[]

The Book of Vile Darkness appears in the Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.222-224.

Creative origins[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Book of Vile Darkness (3e) (2002), p.14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Book of Vile Darkness (4e), Dungeon Master's Book (2011), p.83-85.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.222-224.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5) (2003), p.277-278.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 The Book of Vile Darkness (4e), Dungeon Master's Book (2011), p.80-85.
  6. The Book of Vile Darkness (4e), Dungeon Master's Book (2011), p.68.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Book of Vile Darkness (4e), Player's Book (2011), p.2.
  8. The Book of Vile Darkness (4e), Player's Book (2011), p.28.