Usually when an in-game thing like a feat, magic item, spell, or, like in this case, a cleric domain gets reprinted in a later text, that later text's version of the thing takes precedence over all previously published versions of the thing.

Then there's the Darkness domain. It was introduced, reintroduced with commentary, renamed, then, finally, without commentary, reintroduced again.

Here's how it went: The Book of Vile Darkness (Oct. 2002) introduces the domain Darkness (80). Then Player's Guide to Faerûn (Mar. 2004) presents a Darkness domain (85) that has different spells from the Book of Vile Darkness domain of the same name, but the Guide says, "A cleric who has access to the Darkness domain [from any of the deities Graz’zt, Lolth, Mask, Set, Shar, and Shargaas] can use either the Darkness domain presented in… this book or the one in Book of Vile Darkness" (189).

But then Lords of Madness (Apr. 2005) presents the domain Vile Darkness which is like the domain from the Book of Vile Darkness, and it says, "This domain description is a revision of the Darkness domain presented in Book of Vile Darkness" (208). Finally, without commentary, the Spell Compendium (Dec. 2005) presents again the domain Darkness (272), like the one from the Player's Guide to Faerûn, but the Compendium doesn't mention the Book of Vile Darkness at all.

Now,—and I apologize for this hinging on technicalities and minutiae like primary sources and publication dates—, here's the question: Does the Spell Compendium's Darkness domain replace all previous iterations of the Darkness domain, including, possibly, the original Darkness domain from the Book of Vile Darkness (which received neither errata nor a 3.5 revision), therefore rendering obsolete the Lords of Madness domain Vile Darkness?

Specifically, Lost Empires of Faerûn (Feb. 2005) says that clerics of Ibrandul—the dead god of caverns, dungeons, and (I guess because somebody had to be) skulks—are granted access to the domain Darkness (41), and I don't know if such clerics should have access to the Lords of Madness domain Vile Darkness, the Spell Compendium domain Darkness, or both.

Note: While this question may sound trivial, and although they offer the same granted power (the feat Blind-fight as a bonus feat), the Lords of Madness domain Vile Darkness offers a much different selection of spells from the Spell Compendium domain Darkness. Also, while a source, the Book of Vile Darkness never received an official 3.5e revision, hence the inclusion of both tags below; note, however, that I am concerned only with this question's impact on 3.5e campaigns. As for why this question even arose, see this question.


3 Answers 3


There are two Darkness domains, with one renamed to Vile Darkness to resolve the name clash.

In short, there are two separate domains, both confusingly named Darkness: the Faerûnian version, and the Book of Vile Darkness version. The Book of Vile Darkness version was renamed to Vile Darkness in Lords of Madness to resolve this confusion. At no point does one version of the domain supercede the other.

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (June 2001) first introduced the Darkness domain (obscuring mist, blindness/deafness, blacklight, armor of darkness, darkbolt, prying eyes, nightmare, power word, blind, power word, kill). Lolth, Mask, Set, Shar, and Shargaas have this domain.

Deities and Demigods (April 2002) subsequently reprinted the domain, changing darkbolt for summon monster V for some reason (perhaps darkbolt was too specific to the Forgotten Realms setting). The only deity who gets this domain is Set, as he appears in the Egyptian pantheon.

Book of Vile Darkness (October 2002) then introduced a completely different Darkness domain (darkvision, darkbolt, deeper darkness, damning darkness, evard's black tentacles, wall of force, shadow walk, utterdark, screen).

It seems clear that BoVD did not draw on either of the previous sourcebooks. It cites no earlier works in its credits page, its darkbolt spell is second level instead of fifth, and no Faerûnian gods are named (not even Set). It has a completely different set of writers and editors to the previous two books (other than Kim Mohan as managing editor). It seems reasonable to assume that this is an accidental name clash.

Player's Guide to Faerûn (March 2004) presents the Darkness domain as it appears in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. That book also has an appendix on incorporating Vile, Exalted, Epic and Psionics content into the Forgotten Realms, which for the first time notes the name clash between the Faerûnian Darkness domain and the BoVD Darkness domain. It notes that they're different domains, and allows clerics to select either one, specifically naming the five Darkness domain deities from the FRCS plus Graz'zt as able to grant the vile version of the Darkness domain.

Lost Empires of Faerûn (February 2005), p.41, specifically notes that Ibrandul's domain is the BoVD version of Darkness. It's unclear whether the author was unaware that a Faerûnian Darkness domain existed, or whether they intended the BoVD version in particular.

Lords of Madness (April 2005) finally resolved the name clash by explicitly revising the BoVD version of the Darkness domain as the Vile Darkness domain, changing nothing but the name. It still has the 2nd-level darkbolt. This doesn't change the Faerûnian version, which remains named Darkness.

City of Splendors: Waterdeep (July 2005), p.145, refers to armor of darkness appearing on the Darkness domain list, which is only true of the Faerûnian version.

When Spell Compendium (December 2005) reprinted the Darkness domain, it's the Faerûnian version. There's nothing incorrect here. That book's darkbolt is also the fifth level Faerûnian version. This doesn't supercede the Book of Vile Darkness version, because Lords of Madness already renamed that to Vile Darkness.

In summary, the Forgotten Realms sourcebooks, Deities and Demigods, and Spell Compendium are all referring to one Darkness domain, while Book of Vile Darkness introduced another which was later renamed to Vile Darkness to avoid further confusion. Prior to that rename, Ibrandul was explicitly given the vile version of the Darkness domain, and clerics of Faerûnian deities with the Faerûnian version of Darkness domain were also allowed to select the vile version.


One is for Forgotten Realms, the other is for Greyhawk.

This is possibly purely conjecture, but 3.0/3.5's default setting, as I know you are well aware, is Greyhawk. Anything with Faerun in the title is for a Forgotten Realms campaign specifically. Although Darkness may share a name and domain power as the other, due to the deities that cover that domain, the spell selection would be different. Plus, there are examples of spells that exist in Greyhawk that don't exist in Forgotten Realms, and vice versa.

I, personally, don't take any of the compendiums as an absolute truth, unless it is specifically mentioned. The example of lack of mentioning Book of Vile Darkness could be an editing oversight, which we all know is very common for WotC. Compendiums, really are, just that. Just in case someone didn't spend a small fortune on all those books, there - at the end of the series, is an all-in-one so you wouldn't really have to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting idea, yet it's the Forgotten Realms version of the Darkness domain that's like the one reprinted in the wider-ranging, largely-considered-campaign-neutral Spell Compendium. (I know, right?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 14:05

Either, but (probably) not both.

The general rule is that the most recently published version overwrites earlier versions. Here, you have the odd case of a more specific rule on updates taking precedence over the less specific rule on updates: as of PGtF, both versions remain valid for play. Note that this is a separate rule (PGtF, p. 189), and not part of the domain, so this is not overridden by updates to the domain itself.

Future updates then apply to one version or the other of the Darkness domain (becasue there is no specific update to re-unite them.), changing the name of one of the two valid versions.

So, the final answer, after updates is that "A cleric who has access to the Darkness domain can use either the one presented in this book [PGtF] Spell Compendium or the one in Book of Vile Darkness Lords of Madness."


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