WotC: Stirring up Trouble, or Playing the Hits?

The latest d20 buzz is all involving the upcoming Book of Vile Darkness, WotC‘s hardcover D&D3e book of “mature subjects” written by Monte Cook. The book will go where no other “official” D&D rulebook has gone: deep into the nature of evil. Reportedly, the book will contain rules for human sacrifices, evil organizations, playing evil PCs, a plethora of demons, wicked spells, dark artifacts, and everything else you’d expect from a big 20 release. The commotion in the industry about D&D’s first “mature themes” rulebook is shown by reactions such as this one that recent Origins Hall of Fame Inductee Tracy Hickman posted at ENworld in reaction to the specially-sealed preview section promoting the book in Dragon #300. Here’s a quick taste of his reaction:

This literally makes me sick. […] This destroys it all for me. Every dark fear that mothers and clergy across America have about D&D is now, suddenly, true. In one stroke, I watched everything that Laura and I had worked toward for the last 25 years come crashing to the ground. […] Do you honestly think you can dump filth into our trough and blithely expect us to feed on it? You have sold out cheaply to the animal within, apparently too lazy to write something positive and strong. […] Do you honestly think that we will all follow you into this dark place?

Industry folks I’ve heard from seem to be at one of the two extremes. They’ve either said “WotC can print what they want, freedom of speech, etc, it won’t hurt the hobby,” or “This is a huge mistake, WotC should take the book off their release schedule before they hurt roleplaying beyond repair.”

WotC must be loving all the attention, especially since it’s focusing on something other than layoffs.