I received a copy of Darkwalkers: The Evil Within as a free review copy, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in. The primary purpose of the book is to provide advice, mechanics, and support for players who wish to play evil characters, either in The Hunt: Rise of Evil campaign setting or in other settings. As both a player and a DM, I've never been a huge fan of evil player characters or evil campaigns, but I did my best to approach the book with an open mind. What I found surprised me, the book is an excellent resouce not only for players wishing to play evil characters, but also for DMs looking to add more depth and believability to the forces of evil in their games.

The book begins with a chapter providing a basic overview of what evil behavior is and how an evil character can sucessfully work with a party, even if the rest of the party consists of good characters. This is great information, presented in such a way as to make it pretty much rules set and setting independent.

The next chapter presents a new mechanic to replace the rebuke undead ability of clerics, paladins, and other evil divine casters. This new mechanic ties the ability much closer to the actions of the character, one who is working hard to advance the cause of their diety will have thier devotion rewarded in many ways. The section refers to a similar mechanic for good divine casters that was presented in The Hunt: Rise of Evil campaign setting, as someone who does not yet have access to that resource I would have liked to see this mechanic reprinted in this section for sake of completeness, but the mechanic presented is still very usable and intriguing on its own.

Chapter three is a detailed examination of the various core and prestige classes from both the Core D&D books and The Hunt: Rise of Evil setting. Foe each class, the author looks at how their abilities can be used for evil intent. This chapter also includes a large variety of core and prestige classes tailored to evil player characters, each with a blurb about how to adapt the class to a more generic fantasy setting or to a modern setting. These classes look interesting, with a lot of unique flavor, however I haven't had an opportunity to playtest them to see how balanced they are in practice, and a few of them share names with classes published in other D&D 3.5 sources (Beguiler and Warlock for example). Care would have to be taken to prevent confusion if multiple classes by the same name were allowed in the same game.

Chapter four is a more detailed examination of evil behaviors and actions. This chapter provides rules for actions such as using another creature as a shield and fighting dirty. Rules are also provided for an advantage/liability system to allow characters to become more powerful in some aspects in exchage for weakening other aspects or developing a more unique vulnerability. Rules for characters molded by the seven deadly sins are also presented.

Chapter five is for characters who would be willing to make deals with powerful extraplanar entities. Much can be bargained for, but the cost is always steep, and the entities rarely have the character's best interests at heart. Additionally, over two dozen powers and abilities are presented, each with a corresponding drawback. None of these appears particularly unbalancing, and the costs involved ensure that characters will not take acquiring them lightly.

Chapters six and seven are devoted to feats and skills respectively. The majority of the feats are tailored to evil characters, although several are more general in nature and it is obvious that the author has put effort into making sure there are no gaping loopholes or opportunities for abuse. The skills chapter focuses on how to apply the existing skills to evil actions, and new skills (primarily Knowledge and Profession) to support evil activities. This chapter also gives rules for conducting torture and the results.

The final chapter covers evil and deceptive uses for existing magic items, a broad selection of new items, and a large variety of new spells and domains appropriate to the theme of the book.

From a production value standpoint, the product is good, but there is room for improvement. The page layout utilized the entire page, so to print it on most printers you will need to shrink the pages to fit, otherwise the pages will be cut off. There are many pieces of artwork scattered throughout the book that serve to enhance and illustrate the points being made. One particular font used for the chapter titles and page headings I found particularly difficult to read. The sidebars are done as white text on a black background, which looks good on screen, but tends to be blurry when printed and uses a lot of ink when printing on an inkjet printer. The book does have a table of contents, but it is done as hyperlinks only, with no page numbers, reducing its usefulness if you print the book. The document does have all of the sections bookmarked, but the bookmarks could be better organized in a more hierarchical manner. There are a few typos that managed to creep into the final copy, but these are relatively minor and don't distract much from the content. It would have been nice if a version of the book designed for printing was included, with larger margins, sidebars with light gray backgrounds instead of black backgrounds.

Overall I feel that this product would be a good investment, and is very well done, especially as a first product from a publisher. It is one that I will be using in my games, and recommending to my friends.