Written by Jonathan Wojcik
October 15: Powers of VILE DARKNESS!
Powers of VILE DARKNESS!
We're halfway to Halloween, and in the words of Grunkle Stan (you have been watching Gravity Falls, haven't you?) it's time for the whole family to get together and celebrate what really matters: PURE EVIL.
The original "Book of Vile Darkness" was one of the few official, licensed Dungeons and Dragons supplements to come wrapped in plastic with a big red "PARENTAL ADVISORY" sticker on the front. Marketed strictly towards us sophisticated adult children, the book is exactly what it says on the cover: chock full of the most evil, grotesque, offensive content Wizards of the Coast was willing to associate their brand with. It devotes entire pages just to defending itself, reminding readers that it's all just a fantasy game, and that the book serves merely as a "resource" to add "drama" and "tension" to a "serious" campaign.
So, how "serious" are we actually talking about, here? The book includes chapters on evil monsters, evil villains, evil places, evil archetypes, evil fetishes, evil weather, evil evil and evil evil evil, but we're just going to check out a few of the powers it makes available to gamers - the tense, dramatic magical spells, abilities, artifacts and weapons packed throughout its insidious pages! Oh boy.
The Despoiler of Flesh
Official Description: "This short staff is made of human tongues sewn together end to end. These tongues are slightly animated, so the staff occasionally bends and curls of its own volition. Despoiler of Flesh has been in the possession of a particularly twisted nalfeshnee named Tapheon that lives in a place called the Fortress of Indifference. It has also been in the hands of a mortal despot named Multheasan, a human in love with his two daughters. Rather than force himself upon them, he used the Despoiler of Flesh to reshape captives and slaves into the likenesses of his daughters so that he might have his way with them instead. The artifacts allows the wielder to reshape the flesh of any creature, as with the "polymorph other" spell except that any shape that the wielder can imagine can be bestowed, whether a creature actually exists in that form or not."
Love the arbitrary backstories they threw in here. Just so you know, a guy once used this for pretend incest. Classy. Not as classy as a Fortress of Indifference, though. Clearly these previous owners lacked true vision. If I got my hands on this thing you would be waking up to an entire world of giant flying octopus maggots with cats for eyes. Sadly, this is the only thing I've included here that even has a relevant illustration. At least it's a nice juicy one.
The Vasharan Offal Bag
Official Description: "This big burlap sack is filled with dung that always remains fresh and odiferous. If someone empties the bag, it loses all its power. Otherwise, a nonflying giant cockroach can be called out of the bag once per day to serve the bag holder. The giant cockroach remains for 1 hour or until killed. It obeys all verbal commands of the bag owner, although it will not roam farther than 100 feet from the bag. If it is forcibly moved farther, it responds to no commands. Unlike other vermin, a giant cockroach brought forth from this bag understands Common and has an Intelligence score of 3."
So this is kind of like a genie in a bottle, but it's a giant intelligent helpful cockroach in a bag of poop. How does this even qualify as "vile darkness?" This is exactly the single most specific thing my life is missing. Nothing else could ever matter if I just had a Vasharan Offal Bag. This entire website would become nothing but photos of my giant magical cockroach wearing different funny hats.
The Vasharan Worm Pod
Official Description: "This item is a 6-inch long gray seed pod. To get the Vasharan worm pod to function, it must be forcibly inserted into a helpless character's stomach (a standard action), dealing 3d6 points of damage to the character. For 2d10 days thereafter, gray-white worms grow within the pod, feeding on the character's flesh, dealing 1d4 points of damage each day and creating specialized body parts within the stomach lining. Once the worms are fully grown, the character can mentally command the worms to snake a long, fleshy tube out of his stomach and up into his nose. Thereafter, until the host of the worm pod retracts the tube (a standard action), he can command a worm to travel up the tube, into the nose, through the nasal passage, and into his mouth. As a standard action, up to three times per day, the character can spit a worm up to 30 feet away, hitting a target with a successful ranged touch attack. If a worm hits a living creature, it burrows into the creature's body and into its vital organs. The target must make a fortitude save or die 1d4 rounds after the worm strikes. even a target that succeeds at its saving throw takes 2d6 points of damage each round for 1d4 rounds, after which the worm dies."
This is one hell of a lot of trouble just to spit three flesh-eating worms a day, and some exceedingly detailed build-up even by this book's standards. I appreciate the time they took to explain how the worms would get from your stomach to your mouth, because I certainly can't think of any other, more convenient channel between the two.
The Quiver of Lies
Official Description: "This 3-inch long quiver holds no arrows or bolts. It fits around the wrist, like a bracelet. if the wearer holds a bow or crossbow and speaks a lie, an arrow or bolt (whichever is appropriate) appears in the wearer's hand, ready for use. The arrow or bolt only lasts for 10 rounds."
So you can conjure an infinite supply of otherwise ordinary arrows, as long as you have something untrue to say. I guess this is supposed to be an "evil" artifact because lying is wrong, but it doesn't specify if your lie even needs to be believable enough to fool anyone. It also doesn't specify whether it has to be a new, different lie every time. For all we know, you could actually just stand there all day on the battlefield, screaming the same incorrect statement over and over, like "I ALREADY HAVE AN ARROW!" OR "I FART CATS" OR "BORON IS A COMPOUND OF OXYGEN AND SILICON WITH A MELTING POINT OF 1,975 K AND A MOLAR MASS OF 73.123 G/MOL."
Official Description: "The caster blasts a lancelike projectile of greenish-black energy from his hand, striking a single foe as a ranged touch attack. The energy does not harm the subject. Instead, the subject's closest friend or dearest loved one is wracked with pain and takes 1d6 points of damage for every two caster levels. There is no limit to the distance between the caster and the loved one, and the loved one gets no saving throw or spell resistance. It is rare but possible that no individual qualifies. In that case, the subject takes the damage."
This is one of many spells in the book that wouldn't even necessarily win you a battle; it's just pointlessly mean. I like how if your target loves themselves more than anybody else, this is also just a great way to expose them as a big fat douche to all their friends.
Official Description: "The hand of the subject tears iself away from one of his arms, leaving a bloody stump. This trauma deals 6d6 points of damage. Then the hand, animated and floating in the air, begins to attack the subject. The hand attacks as if it were a wight in terms of its statistics, special attacks, and special qualities, except that it is considered Tiny."
See what I mean? When it's just as easy to conjure giant fireballs and killer monsters, there's completely no reason to make someone's hand tear off and then strangle them other than a good laugh. Stop hitting yourself! stop hitting yourself!
"Oh, I'm sorry, was this yours?"
Official description: "The caster holds forth his empty hand, and the still beating heart of the subject appears within it. The subject dies in 1d3 rounds."
This one legitimately kicks too much ass to be funny. The hero busts in on our hardcore, sexy as hell dark overlord, he/she casually holds out their hand without even getting up, and poof. That's your heart, asshole! The question just remains of what bad-ass thing to do with the heart while they're still alive and watching. Do you drop it on the floor and slowly, casually crush it under your spiked boots? Do you cackle and throw it into the slavering jaws of your hellhound? Or do you just give it a big, sloppy, obscene lick and shove it down your pants?
Official description: "The caster detaches his hand, which transforms into a Small monstrous spider that he controls. The caster can see through its eyes, and it can travel up to 20 feet per level away from him."
As funny as Grim Revenge is and as bad-ass as Spider Hand is, I think they missed an entertaining opportunity to switch their effects. I want to see a spell that rips off someone else's hand and turns that into a giant spider you control. It could only be funnier if their hand tears off, turns into a giant spider, and then just leaves.
Official description: "The subject's skin turns red and blisters. The blisters quickly turn into oozing wounds. Furthermore, the subject's sense of self becomes strangely clouded, diminishing her self-esteem. The subject takes 1d6 points of Strength damage and 1d4 points of Charisma damage."
It's not enough to turn somebody's flesh into painful, disgusting sores. That would be evil, but not funny evil. No, the same spell makes them feel bad about themselves, for really no particular reason. This isn't a Book of Vile Darkness. It's just a Book of Bully McJerkfaces.
Official description: "At 5th level, a cancer mage befriends a disease or virus that infects his body. He supernaturally enhances a disease, making it smarter by giving it a point of his own Intelligence. He establishes a telepathic link with the disease that functions at a range of one mile per class level of the cancer mage. The cancer mage can then attempt to infect a target with his viral agent, using his contagion ability. If succcessful, the viral agent can tell the cancer mage telepathically what its host experiences."
You read that right. Cancer. Mage. That's a class you can play, and exactly almost the only thing I'd ever want to play if I were allowed. Your diseases can be your friends! The only character class anywhere near this awesome is the insect-themed Vermin Lord in the same book.
Wall of Eyes
Official description: "The caster causes a flat, vertical wall of living, glistening eyes of all different sizes and types to spring into being. This wall can be used to seal off a passage or close a breach...any creature touching the wall must succeed at a Will saving throw or be held motionless as if affected by a hold monster spell. The wall magically consumes held creatures after 10 rounds, disintegrating them and adding more eyes to its mass. At any time, from any distance, the caster can take a standard action to look through the wall of eyes, seeing in all directions from the wall as if she were actually standing there."
Oh man. Is there any limit on how many of these damn things you can make? Or how long you can maintain them? What exactly would stop me from just building a rough frame and making an entire house of eyes? A house of eyes that eats people?
The "LichLoved" Feat
Official description: "By repeatedly committing perverted sex acts with the undead, the character gains dread powers. Mindless undead see the character as an undead creature. becoming more and more like an actual undead creature, he gains a +1 circumstance on bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease."
In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, having sex with gangrenous zombies can prevent disease.
Official description: "At 2nd level, a cancer grows within the cancer mage, forming a large tumor. This cancerous growth gains intelligence and a personality distinct from the cancer mage. The companion and the cancer mage can communicate telepathically. When needed, the cancerous companion uses the cancer mage's scores for saves, ability scores other than Intelligence, and so forth. The cancerous companion gains abilities as the cancer mage gains levels."
The only thing conceivably cooler than befriending hepatitus, I sorely wish something like this were available to the game's magic users in general. What kind of wizard are you if you couldn't grow a talking cyst on your back? The companion's abilities are nothing to sneeze at, either, as it can eventually learn to cast spells on its own and form tentacles. Actually, can I just play that? Can my character be another character's tumor? NO!? Man, actually playing this game must suck.
Official description: "The subject's eyes burst, spraying acid upon everyone within 5 feet. The subject is blinded and takes 1d6 points of acid damage. Those sprayed take 1d6 points of acid damage. Creatures without eyes can't be blinded, but they might take acid damage if someone nearby is the subject of seething eyebane."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hahahahahahahaha. Oh man. This might actually be the best thing I have ever read. Imagine casting this in secret, without warning, into a crowded room, some poor bastard just screaming and screaming as his eyeballs explode and flesh-melting acid just bukkake's all over his screaming, flailing friends. You would have to just barely wait for them to start calming down before casting it all over again on another one.
Official description: "At 10th level, a cancer mage gains the ability to transform into a disease once per day. As a disease, the cancer mage is intangible and invisible to standard methods of observation...a cancer mage can remain in disease form as long as he desires, or he can return to his natural form and be done with the disease form for that day. While in disease form, the cancer mage does not need to eat, sleep, or drink, and he does not age. A cancer mage could remain dormant in a room for a hundred years, then take his material form or infect a new victim."
You know what? If I could choose one magical ability to have in the real world, this would be it, and I won't even begin to go into all the horrible, amoral, selfish things I'd do with it. It's not like I'd have any obligation towards the traditional concepts of right and wrong once I could literally be a disease. I'd just be all, screw you, society, I'm a disease now. Cancer mages are punk as hell.
HALLOWEEN 2012 ARCHIVE: