There were a total of six copies and at least eighteen fakes and botched copies of it. The original from Vecna, a deity from Oerth, was a book with a cover made from flesh from a human face and bones from a demon. The latter was made into the book's metal binding via magic. It had—at least for normal people—unintelligible symbols on the cover.
The book could be edited by the owner and the owners of a book did so without regard to uniformity of the material or the look of the book. Therefore, the books looked ugly, they had pages made from different materials, and they had different writing styles. A major reason why these books were so hard to read and navigate through was its non-uniformity. Therefore, it took a long time to read through the book.
Reading the entire Book of Vile Darkness took about seven days or, to be more precise, eighty hours. Upon completion, an evil divine spellcaster, such as a cleric, gained enough insight that it allowed him or her to grow in power and become more insightful into matters in general.
To neutral people, the book was dangerous. Reading it physically harmed them and their personality changing it to that of an evil person. If they also happened to be a divine spellcaster, the book sapped their essence away but conferred no benefits.
To good people, even touching the book was dangerous. Looking into it brought them the hostile attention of a fiend, who attacked them on the night they looked into the book, though this happened only four in five times. If a good divine spellcaster tried to read the book, the person died or at the least went permanently insane, like under an insanity spell, and the book drained his or her essence without conferring any benefits.
Reading the book strengthened one aspect of the user at the cost of another aspect. It also disfigured the user so that he or she became more intimidating to non-evil people, while becoming more respected by evil people. In fact, the reader could use a dominate monster effect on a evil person.
The book was so evil that it prevented plant life from growing.
The owner of this book was given additional knowledge about arcane, historical, and religious matters. He or she became generally more knowledgeable on evil matters. For example, the user learned the dark speech.
The book could be used as a magical implement that was more effective against non-evil creatures than against evil ones.
The book had an actual corrupting effect on the personality of the user and those within 5 ft (1.5 m) from the user. The book actually modified their personality to become that of a chaotic evil person.
This corrupting effect could be deliberately hastened if the user wanted to hinder his or her enemies from escaping their own effects or use the book's powers to make an otherwise botched attack into a successful one. Creatures called with summoning abilities became deadlier if the book was used but this also came at the cost of accelerated corruption.
The book was intelligent. It could deliberately hide its more dangerous content to make it appear less dangerous or malicious. It could also make its intentions discernible for the reader by moving words on its pages around. If it was satisfied with the user, it conferred additional abilities like one usable for ranged attack or increased usefulness as an implement, granting additional knowledge, and the ability to induce fear into others. If the book was not satisfied with the wielder, it could not only downgrade its abilities but actually hinder the user. If it lost all hope in the user, it killed them and destroyed their soul and disappeared until the next person found a way to find it. If the book was pleased with the user, the book gave them full access to its contents.
The books' most fearsome ability was that they were easy to edit. Every time a Book of Vile Darkness fell into the hands of someone, that someone took out old pages and added new pages, changing the content according to the current owner's priorities.
The first content of the Book of Vile Darkness was penned on Oerth by a Vasharan spellcaster millennia before the 14th century DR. At that time, it was only one single scroll with that spellcaster's ideas in it. Later, the scroll fell into the hands of a priestess of Nerull, a god worshiped on Oerth, who tripled the content by adding her knowledge into it. This trend continued and various evil clerics of different faiths came into possession of the scroll, added their knowledge to it, and the scroll fell into the hands of a different owner. At some point in history, it fell into the hands of Vecna, who did not just add his knowledge but transcribed the scrolls into a bound book, the Book of Vile Darkness. The book fell into the hands of worshipers of Erythnul who made of copies of the book. Only six perfect copies existed, the rest were in some way imperfect. Baalzebul was also rumored to have owned one and to have made his edits in that copy.
The books enjoyed an excellent reputation as far as reference works for evil matters went.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide 3.5 edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 277–278. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- ↑ Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). The Book of Vile Darkness, Dungeon Master's Book. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-7869-5868-9.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-0786965622.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Monte Cook (Oct 2002). Book of Vile Darkness. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-0672-3.
- ↑ Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). The Book of Vile Darkness, Player's Book. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7869-5868-9.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). The Book of Vile Darkness, Dungeon Master's Book. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7869-5868-9.
- ↑ Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Christopher Perkins, James Wyatt (2014). Dungeon Master's Guide 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 222. ISBN 978-0786965622.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Robert J. Schwalb (December 2011). The Book of Vile Darkness, Dungeon Master's Book. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 7. ISBN 978-0-7869-5868-9.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Schwalb, Robert J. (December 2007). Elder Evils. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-7869-4733-1.