Excerpts Archive | 11/21/2011
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Villains and Monsters
Book of Vile Darkness Excerpts
Bart Carroll

E vil touches the world in many ways. One can find its stain in places where great crimes and horrors have been wrought, in items fashioned with cruel intent, and in the plots set in motion by truly heinous villains. To truly understand evil as an agency, one must examine those creatures in its thrall, to peer into corruption's depth and examine the underlying motivations driving such agents to serve the darkness that hungers.

Chapter 4 of the Book of Vile Darkness presents a variety of tools for creating and using opponents in vile encounters. It details all the following:

  • Creating Villains: Constructing a villain's statistics block is just a matter of creating a new monster, but creating a memorable and evocative villain requires going a few steps beyond.
  • Monster Themes: From chaos beasts to slaves of the Nine Hells, the monster themes included in this chapter help you transform ordinary monsters into terrifying adversaries.
  • New Monsters: Several new monsters illustrate how vile darkness can manifests in your campaign world.
  • Organizations: Several organizations offer disturbing power groups you can use to test and entertain the player characters.

Creating Villains

"Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I could make ink out of pain. Now, sit still and be quiet. Your suffering will end shortly."
—Shathrax the Mind Flayer

It is one thing to know evil is out there as a shadowy force, but quite another to put a face to the evil and know there is an active agent in darkness's cause. The villain gives evil an identity. It gives a face and name to the hordes of evil creatures, the endless tide of demons and monsters crawling out from the festering blackness to bring ruin and suffering to the world. A villain is the mind behind evil's plotting, the agency that will not stop until he, she, or it achieves whatever dark end it desires.

This section helps you create compelling and interesting villains, specifically those in thrall to vile darkness. Before diving into the particulars, it is first important to set villains apart from other creatures. A villain is not just some creature you use to populate the last combat encounter in an adventure. A villain is not just a stat block that is born, lives, and dies in the space between when characters roll for initiative and when the villain's hit points drop to 0. A villain is a crafted identity. It is the player characters' nemesis and a major force in the campaign setting. The villain's decisions, actions, and intentions should alter the heroes' circumstances and drive them through adventure after adventure.

Vile Monster Themes

"Necromancy leads nowhere. It is a flawed school, a useless study for understanding shadow's true potential. Necromancy cannot create a self-perpetuating race of undead. Each zombie or skeleton raised requires incredible energy to sustain it. These servants consume all their creator's resources. So the answer doesn't lie in animating the dead. Instead, it exists in the shadow's own marrow.

"Cast off bits of darkness at Creation's dawn formed the Shadowfell. Thus, it should be possible to harness the creative energy within that realm to make something new, something that could create a self-perpetuating race not subject to divine intervention or the natural processes found in the world. Although I had many failures, I take pride in the vessels that carry this potential to new hosts and make them my servants."

Evil influences creatures in many ways. In some cases, darkness has swayed entire races, keeping them forever in its thrall. In others, evil infects, warps, and twists, compelling creatures to its service. Evil's influence can create lasting changes in ordinary people, awakening new power in them or blighting them with unspeakable transformations.

To weave specific evil narrative lines into your campaign, you can use monster themes to flesh out existing creatures. For example, a theme could represent a particular master's claim on a monster; a transformation that is a consequence of working for a wicked force; or an advantage of special training, devotion, or environmental influence.

This section presents new monster themes that evoke vile darkness's power. You can find additional themes in Dungeon Master's Guide 2, Demonomicon, and other DM books.

Moilian Dead

"I like destroying pretty things."

Eons ago, there was a city wholly in the thrall of demonworshipers. Generations spent offering sacrifices to the Demon Lord of Undeath rewarded the people with the fiend's dread attention. But time and new ideas shifted the people away from darkness and toward the light. The demon lord, sensing their betrayal, cursed them all. He trapped them in an eternal slumber and then flung the city into the deepest reaches of the Shadowfell, where darkness would consume the graceful spires and elegant bridges, dragging all into oblivion. Moil was the city's name, and since its fall it has lured many treasure seekers and villains to explore its crumbling remains.

The citizens of Moil did not survive their eternal slumber, yet the sinister energies suffusing the dark lands have infused their corpses with terrible power. Now all sorts of undead roam the city, including zombies, ghouls, wraiths, and specters. The city's heritage combined with the intense unholy atmosphere gives these undead unusual and deadly capabilities.

The Moilian dead theme is available only to undead creatures and benefits creatures of any role.

Subtype: The creature gains the undead subtype if it doesn't have it already.
Resistance: A creature that has the Moilian dead theme gains resist 5 cold and resist 5 necrotic if it doesn't have them already. The resistance increases to 10 in the paragon tier and 15 in the epic tier.
Vulnerability: A creature that has the Moilian dead theme gains vulnerable 5 fire and vulnerable 5 radiant if it doesn't have them already. The vulnerability increases to 10 in the paragon tier and 15 in the epic tier.
Skill Modifications: +2 bonus to Stealth checks.

Attack Powers

Moil's slow descent into darkness grips the city in a killing frost. Undead emerging from the ruins wield cold as a weapon.

Deathly Frost
Moil's unwholesome coldness permeates the creatures stalking its ruins. Those confronting the Moilian dead must contend with the biting frost that rolls off these accursed creatures.

Freezing Doom
Within every Moilian dead is a spark of memory, an awareness of those choices that led to their miserable fate. Once released from their curse through final death, their freed souls erupt in a burst of killing cold.

Triggered Actions

Gift of Orcus
Some Moilian dead can transmit the curse that afflicted them so long ago to those who cut them down.
Triggered Actions

Utility Power

Moilian dead sleep until roused by the presence of the living.

Sense Life
Orcus's curse on the Moilian people consigned them to an eternity of sleep. The only thing that rouses them from their deathly slumber is proximity to the living, which gives the darkness granting them unlife impetus to snuff out the offending presence.

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.
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