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Tabletop Game / Wicked Fantasy

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Wicked Fantasy is a Dark Fantasy Tabletop RPG created by John Wick, Jess Heinig, and Gillian Fraiser. Originating as a series of articles in Kobold Quarterly, a Pathfinder online magazine and Spiritual Successor to Dragon Magazine, it was collected into its own sourcebooks and published as the Wicked Fantasy Corebook and Wicked Fantasy Companion.

The game uses Pathfinder mechanics, making it part of the extended Dungeons & Dragons family tree — however, the Companion sourcebook contains rules for running the setting in Savage Worlds and Dungeon World games instead.

Wicked Fantasy is set in the land of Estevere, a realm that has for centuries been the home of humanity, since they journeyed from a now-forgotten homeland far across the sea. The Reign of Humanity is a secular, republic-empire comprised of ten city-states; although founded on noble principles, in recent years, it has begun to rot from within. Corruption, decadence and decay are setting in, the Reign crumbling in upon itself. Other races, marginalized, are struggling as the Reign presses down on them harder than ever. And all the while, the dread and mysterious Enemy waits, watching from the darkness.

It is a time in desperate need of heroes.

This tabletop RPG provides examples of:

  • Abusive Precursors: The Uz and the Hassja. The former created the haffuns, gnomes and uvandir to be their slaves, until a significant population of them escaped and made it to the surface some two centuries ago. The latter created the orks and the rodduns, suspect they created the gobowins and are responsible for creating "dark elves".
    • The orks claim they were created by evil, malevolent deities who forced them to do battle against humanity for their amusement, until the orks rose up and killed them. In doing so, they unwittingly wiped out a third of the Hassja race.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Inverted; gnomes are fertile throughout their lives, to the point that female gnomes have been known to give birth as late as a year prior to dying of old age.
  • Alien Sky: Estevere has at least six moons in the sky of various colors (red, silver, blue, green, yellow, violet), and some Dach'youn believe that the apparently moonless nights are actually governed by a seventh, black moon.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Zigzagged. Several traditionally Always Chaotic Evil races — orks, gnolls and goblins — are envisioned as normal, functioning civilizations who get on perfectly well with the classic humans, elves, dwarves and gnomes. Not to say that there isn't bouts of conflict, but it's for all of the normal reasons that civilized people fight, not because orks/gnolls/goblins are Made of Evil.
  • Anti-Magic: The Kuba-chubisi have devised an entire unique school of wizardly magic focusing on dispelling enemy spells.
  • Beast Man: There are no fewer than three bestial humanoids who are playable races in Estevere; the Dach'youn are the hyena-people known in traditional D&D settings as gnolls, Rodduns are an entire Rat Men race, Kuba-chubisi are reptilian humanoids shapeshifted into human form. There's also a fourth example in the non-playable Hassja race; sapient snakes with the ability to assume a humanoid form.
  • Benevolent Precursors: The Kuba-Chibisi have secretly walked amongst and inspired humanity for many centuries, coaxing their society to develop along more noble, virtuous lines.
  • Big Bad: The Enemy and the Darkness, or the Uz and the Hassja to give them their proper names, compete for this title. The Uz have the primary focus in this role, though.
  • Blessed with Suck: The elves can potentially have immortality by being bound to a Great Tree... but, doing so also makes them vulnerable to iron, reducing them to dying near-wraiths known as the cwthellean (Iron-Bound) if their Great Tree is pierced with iron or if an iron shackle is placed on their body. Even the Soil-Bound suffer the same fate should they be shackled with iron.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Hassja rank every aspect of their lives by priority. The absolute top priority is the acquisition of knowledge. The second priority is the preservation of knowledge. Everything that does not fall into one of these two categories-such as mercy or empathy-is irrelevant. It's stated that the Hassja weren't nearly so pitiless in the distant past, but now seek knowledge at any cost to destroy the Uz.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: This description of the haffun's attitude towards the proper role of a tura, a servant, from the corebook:
    A proper tura knows how to cook, how to clean, how to manage money, how to silently kill interlopers and how to clean up the blood and dispose of the body in such a way that nobody ever knows he was there.
  • Cannibalism Super Power: Hassja that have reached their elder years possess the Absorb Knowledge and Life Drink abilities, which let them respectively temporarily absorb & retain the thoughts, memories & experiences of other creatures and extend their own lifespan by eating the souls of living creatures. For convenience's sake, they usually do this by swallowing them whole and digesting them alive, because their Vampiric Draining may work at a touch, but they only get the benefits if they kill their victim with it.
  • Cast from Lifespan: The cwthellean, or Iron-Bound Elves, have the ability to sacrifice some of their remaining days of life to enhance their abilities.
  • Conlang: The Wicked Fantasy corebook is filled with excerpts from different racial languages to cover unique cultural traits or views on things.
  • Darker and Edgier: The creator's own words describes Estevere as a result of looking at conventional fantasy races through a "wicked mirror". That said, Estevere falls under the category of "grimbright" settings; things are dark and awful at a glance, but there's a strong emphasis on hope and how things can potentially be saved.
  • Dying Race: Elves and Uvandir, as always. Elves are dying out because they're being killed or enslaved and their Great Trees destroyed faster than they can repopulate. Uvandir can't repopulate on their own, so those who have fled the service of the Uz are slowly dwindling with every casualty.
  • Enslaved Elves: Humanity has begun enslaving elves in massive numbers purely because elfin beauty makes them highly desirable as sex slaves. It's well-known that once bound with iron, an elf will die in 6.5 to 10 years, maximum, but humanity doesn't care.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: Ork society revolves around the gunja ("partner") unit, which is two orks who have chosen to live together as a family. This is viewed as a partnership, and gunja members are selected based on personality rather than romance (although romance can enter into things); the goal is to select a partner with whom an ork can work well, maintain a home, and raise children. But gunjas aren't sexually exclusive (and, depending on how you interpret the writing, don't even have to be actively sexual themselves); dalliances with non-gunja members, called futha ("romance") are seen as perfectly normal, acceptable, and temporary. Futhas come and go, but the gunja remains, that's the orkish view. If a litter is born from a futha, then the two gunjas of the biological parents will usually both work together to raise those children — if one gunja doesn't wish to be involved, then the other gunja takes responsibility. Disputes over which gunja should raise a futha-born litter can sometimes arise, and are resolved by tribal council (or thunda).
  • Express Delivery: Several non-human races have far shorter gestation periods than humans do. Dach'youn come to term in only 90 days. Gobowins take about a month to deliver. Rodduns take six months to produce a litter.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Gangster: Roddun culture is essentially The Mafia, but if the elements of mafioso culture about looking after and protecting those people who pay you tribute and respect were actually taken dead seriously. It's one of the reasons they've managed to thrive in the barrios; the city guard is unreliable at best, but the local King Rat and his (or her) crew will help you out if you need it, so long as you prove your friendliness.
  • Gemstone Assault: The Rodduns have developed unique magical lore tapping into the powers of gemstones. The Uvandir can also enhance themselves by drawing on gemstone energies, but not in the same spectacular fashion as the Rodduns.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Averted, compared to most D&D settings. Humans and orks can't have children together, and whilst humans and elves can produce hybrid children, the results are sterile.
  • Hobbits: They're called Haffuns in Estevere (though their name for themselves is Hobyns). They're very similar to the halflings of Golarion, being a race of seemingly natural servants. However, they were created to be so helpful, giving them unique magical talents in relation to that role. They also have a tendency towards Yandere levels of loyalty to their chosen families — killing "enemies of the family" or otherwise making them disappear is something they consider as important to their roles as knowing how to act with discretion and courtesy. They also have secret traditions of martial artistry and magic they use to further their roles of protecting their people and their chosen families.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Part of what makes the setting grimdark is how human corruption, cynicism and selfishness is becoming the norm rather than the exception. To put this in perspective, the elves are dying out in part because humans are deliberately turning them into cwthellean in order to enjoy them as sex slaves, even knowing that this ''will' kill the elf in maybe a handful of years at most.
  • Humans Are Special: Unlike in most D&D settings, humans in Estevere are "The Old Race", the first civilization into which all others followed.
  • Immortality Immorality:
    • The Uz butcher the minds of sapient creatures, including their own unborn children, in order to create a psionic-enhancing fluid they call "dim water", which makes them immortal so long as they regularly bathe in it.
    • The Hassja steal the life-energy of others, usually by swallowing them whole and slowly absorbing their memories and souls as well as their lives. To make things worse, mechanically, a Hassja only gains 1 month of lifespan per victim killed in this way.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Averted with the orks; although there is a clear divide between the thurka (warriors) and the dunga (housemates), orks respect their dunga, as they know that their tribes could not survive without the efforts of the dunga in cooking, making clothes and weapons, etc.
  • Lady Land: Zigzagged with the Dach'youn. Like the spotted hyenas they resemble, they are matriarchal... but, it's in the real-world sense that they trace descent through the mother. This is based on the fact that Dach'youn have no cultural tradition of monogamy, so a pregnant Dach'youn rarely has anything more than a guess about which of the many males she slept with at the last pack-meet could have fathered her child.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: There are ten different playable races, consisting of the traditional array of Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, and Gnome, with the unique races of Orks, Goblins, Dach'youn (hyena-people), Rodduns (rat-people) and Kuba-chubisi (Lizard Folk). There's also three distinct varieties of elf, half-elves, the regional variants of gnomes, and the Tsituk (mutant) variant of Roddun adding to the list.
  • Low Fantasy: As the Companion makes clear, Estevere is intended to be set in such a world. While magic and fantastical creatures abound, it's akin to Eberron, in that there's no clear divine powers, most people with character classes are low-leveled, etc.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Gobowins have their "Buwuck" racial trait, which allows them to inflict bad luck on enemies.
  • Lunacy: The Dach'youn worship the six/seven moons of Estevere, and which of them they were born under gives them unique magical blessings and curses when their patron moon is full or new, respectively.
  • Mad Scientist: The Hassja Hat, being obsessed with knowledge and discovery of all kinds. Even their families exist largely as research teams and librarians.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: As is traditional for D&D games, there's the divide between arcane and divine magic, although in Estevere "arcane" magic draws upon and combines energy from the elemental planes and "divine" magic is really fueled by sheer willpower. Beyond that, certain races have unique magical lores or traditions, such as the rodduns and their gemstone magic. Also, part of what makes the Uz so alien to other races is that they use psionics rather than traditional magic.
  • Master of Illusion: The Dach'youn's unique wizard tradition, the Or'gakash, is able to do things with illusion spells that mere illusionists cannot.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • Downplayed; Orks and gobowins produce litters of offspring, but in fairly reasonable numbers of 3-4 for orks and 5-6 for gobowins.
    • Averted with dach'youn; despite the human belief otherwise, they actually only have one child at a time.
    • Played straight with gnomes; since they're fertile over the entire duration of their lives and form intense loving relationships, they tend to have big families. A female gnome typically has thirty to fifty children on average.
    • Rodduns zigzag it; they have litters of 6-10 children at a time, but typically only 1-3 of each litter's children survive their childhood.
  • No Woman's Land: The Uz treat their females literally as cattle, trading them like property in their endless internecine "games" and fathering children on them just to kill those children in the womb in order to make life-prolonging "dim water".
  • One-Gender Race: The uvandir all appear to be male. In reality, they're a genderless race of Artificial Humans.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Estevere's dwarves call themselves the uvandir, and treat the term "dwarf" as an insult that deserves a punch. They take many of the standard tropes and push them over the line, making them a truly alien race. For example, they seem to be a One-Gender Race, but they're actually constructs shaped from stone by the Uz, so they're actually sexless — and they're dying out because they can't reproduce. They're so brusque because they consider talking more than they have to "ghun" (wasting breath), the mark of a foolish and idiotic person. They're so blunt because they're actually very emotionally sensitive; they succumb to melancholy so readily that they risk turning back into lifeless stone if they get too upset.
  • Our Elves Are Different: They're half-spirit beings that emanated from the magical Great Trees. They come in two distinct varieties, depending on whether they were spiritually bonded as infants to either a Great Tree (cyffathellean - Tree-Bound) or the soil (cyllabellean - Soil-Bound). Both types are physically immortal, in the "do not age" sense, but Tree-Bound elves live as long as their Great Tree, whilst Soil-Bound ones only live as long as humans do. They're reclusive, racist and arrogant; the Soil-Bound exist as laborers to serve the whims of the Tree-Bound nobility. They're averse to iron, as it can strip them of their immortality and turn them into living wraiths known as the cwthellean (Iron-Bound). Soil-Bound elves have greater than human strength and resistance to impacts, Tree-Bound elves have unique powers based on their spirit-tree, and Iron-Bound elves can sacrifice their remaining lifespan for bursts of greater skill, savagery or fortune.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They're mystical empaths of such power that they literally mutate to be better suited to surviving in the regions where they are born.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: They're called "Gobowins" because their language has no L in it, and they bear the "Worst Blessing" of Buwuck, which causes bad things to happen to people around them whether they want to or not. This culminates in the "Best Curse", Wursa, which causes fatally terrible luck to strike anyone who murders a gobowin. They're very similar to Golarion goblins, but are a race of merchants and traders rather than insane vermin. They also have a propensity to spontaneously switch genders, which combines with their rapid gestation rate and litter births to make them the Explosive Breeders of the setting.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They used to be the standard Always Chaotic Evil horde race, until they tired of being playthings for their malevolent creator-deities and destroyed them, after which they sued humanity for peace. They have a philosophical reverence for pain, seeing it as a positive force that goads you towards life and shows you are testing your limits. As a result, they believe that nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice; an ork would gain more honor from a bloody, near-fatal duel than one in which they triumphed without a scratch.
  • The Pig-Pen: The stereotype of Dach'youn is that they're always filthy. It's explained in their racial writeup that, because of their thick, heat-trapping, bug-attracting pelts, Dach'youn take at least one mud bath a day because it's cooling, cleansing and just plain fun.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Uz; the males brutally enslave and mistreat their females, up to and including siring children on them only to then mentally kill the child in the womb, making their females fight for their amusement, and trading the females around like property. No wonder, then, that the females are secretly striving to rebel against the males.
  • The Power of Love: An act of true love can be used to save an Iron-Bound elf from their damnation, binding them to a chosen soul. Such an elf gains a minor form of Mindlink Mates and is guaranteed to live as long as their partner lives.
  • Rat Men: The Rodduns, who appeared out of nowhere during a terrible plague, moved into the quarantined ghettos of the Great Cities, and have stayed there ever since. Their culture can essentially be summed up as Friendly Neighborhood Gangster.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: The Kuba-Chubisi are a rare benevolent example. Reptilian humanoids in their natural state —to the extent that Estevere's kobolds are recognizable as fallen, Uz-corrupted and enslaved Kuba-Chubisi— they have used magic to assume mostly-human forms in order to secretly walk amongst humans and guide their civilization to attain levels of nobility and honor that they hope will allow humanity to defeat the Uz.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Perhaps the defining attribute of haffun culture, and why they take loyalty to their masters so intensely.
  • Snake People: The Hassja, who are hatched as sapient black serpents and eventually develop the ability to shapeshift into different forms as they age.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Averted. Each race in Wicked Fantasy comes with a sidebar listing exactly what classes it should be allowed to take, as defined by its place in the setting.
  • We Are as Mayflies: The different races have different lifespans in comparison to humans.
    • Because of their violent traditional lifestyle, it's unclear just how old orks can actually live to be. The oldest ork known today is over 50 years old. This means orks are probably mayflies in comparison to humans — but we don't know, and it's possible they may actually live longer if not killed off.
    • Elven longevity depends on its spiritual binding. Tree-Bound elves technically are mortal, but live as long as their Great Trees do, ensuring they can count on seeing many thousands of years. Soil-Bound elves live only as long as humans do. Iron-Bound elves live from 2400 to 3600 days after being clasped by iron, unless they burn their lifespan even shorter. Heart-Bound elves only live as long as their soul-mate lives. Dark elves are immortal unless slain.
    • Gnomes live for 180 to 200 years, making humans mayflies in comparison to them.
    • Uvandir are, as far as can be determined, biologically immortal, hence making humans mayflies by comparison.
    • Most Kuba-Chibisi are biologically immortal, but some end up giving up that trait as part of the transformation to better blend in with humanity.
    • Dach'youn, rodduns and gobowins are all mayflies in comparison to humans. Dach'youn are "old aged" by around their thirties, gobowins are ancient at around 18 to 20 years old (the oldest known gobowin made it to 27), and rodduns are about as short-lived as gobowins, reaching middle-aged at the age of 15.
    • Hassja have reached old age once they hit 35 years, and don't naturally live longer than 40 years, but can preserve their lifespans for centuries by devouring other beings and stealing their life essence.