Wicked Fantasy is a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting using the Pathfinder roleplaying system created by John Wick, Jess Heinig and Gillian Fraiser. Originally appearing as a series of "Ecology of ..." style articles in Kobold Quarterly, a spiritual successor to Dragon Magazine, it portrays a world where the conventional races of fantasy and several unconventional races are portrayed through a "dark lense", creating a highly unique, somewhat grimdark world.
So far, there are two books.
The Corebook is a set of 10 ecologies covering the main races, complete with stats, feats and new class archetypes as well as a short fiction piece for each race.
The Companion features three short stories ("The Courage of Tamyn Taval", "Broken Bonds", "Trusty Pete's Mug"), a complete adventure ("Love Beyond Death"), a section of new Pathfinder rules, conversion guides for Savage World and Dungeon World, a world-building article that focuses on Profanity (yes, how people in the Wicked Fantasy world swear), and a GMing section.
The ten races in Wicked Fantasy are:
- Humans: Unlike in most settings, where humans are "the young race", in Wicked Fantasy, humans are the Old Race - the first race to exist, the first race to civilize itself, the original rulers of the land before other races crept forth from the darkness. The Reign of Men is the dominant governmental force of the world. But, humanity is a crumbling race, sinking into corruption, decadence and spiritual decay; the once-shining beacon of hope and civility is spiraling inwards into avarice and evil. But there is hope that humanity may pull itself out of the darkness and rise up again. Humanity in Wicked Fantasy rejects the notion of gods, seeking power from within rather than without; humanity is bound by the common philosophy that all men may become more than they are. Thusly, they champion universities, and uphold will, self-determination and dignity to the extent that the secular philosophers and palantines replace the traditional clerics and paladins. Though there is a growing religious movement that professes belief in benevolent creator-deities they call "The Makers". The overall feel of humans in Wicked Fantasy is akin to the Roman Empire, especially in its waning years.
- Haffuns: The Wicked Fantasy version of halflings are essentially a darker slant on Golarion's halflings, and they're actually pretty damn awesome! They are part of the "Underbloods", the three races - haffuns, gnomes and uvandir -- who literally dug their way out of a human iron mine some two centuries before the present. Their origins are mysterious, but apparently the three races fled from somewhere else - it could have been the Underdark or the other side of the planet, to escape "The Enemy", a force that terrifies them still. Haffuns are charming, gracious, polite and naturally helpful souls, and so they are predominantly found amongst humans as servants. They're also magically stealthy and natural born killers who consider murdering those who "harm their (chosen) family" in the same vein and light as "make sure that all the washing up is done promptly and properly". So, that cute loli-esque haffun maid? She won't hesitate to brutally murder thieves and knows how to dispose of the bodies so expertly that her own masters will never even know she's a hardened killer. They also suffer from a curse called Ghuva. This "Giving Curse" makes haffuns mystically adept at empathizing with others, but also makes them compelled to assist someone truly in need of aide; refusal will ultimately kill the haffun.
- Orks: Originally, the orcs of the Wicked Fantasy world were your standard greenskinned raiders, created by evil gods to torment and slaughter the other races for the gods' amusement. Until the orks grew tired of being slaves and murdered their creators. Founding a new philosophy, worshiping sacrifice and effort, personified by pain, the orks have since tried to walk a new path, one free of the pointless butchery and endless, meaningless slaughter of the old one. Still living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the orks are nonetheless finding new ways to interact with their neighbors - for example, they're actually master brewers, and their mead and cider is quite prized by humans and uvandir. They actually gain special traits based on both their masochism, which is so central to their culture, and to lineage based on the god-killing heroes who freed the tribes. Half-orcs also don't exist in Wicked Fantasy; humans and orks can have sex, but they can't breed together.
- Elves: The elves of Wicked Fantasy are a strange and magical race, fey spirits tied to the mysterious Great Trees that sprout in the depths of the most primeval forests. Each aelfanderon is mystically bound to either the soil (cyllabellean) or a singular Great Tree (cyffathellean); those bound to the soil are mortal, living only as long as humans do, and labor to serve the tree-bound, who are as near-immortal as their soul-trees. Elves in Wicked Fantasy fear iron, which can kill their trees or be used to bind them into soul-deep slavery by placing an iron shackle around a limb or neck; these unfortunates are the cwthellean, the iron-bound, living ghosts doomed to slowly fade into nothing. Elf society is obsessed with racial purity, with all marriages being arranged by their leaders; bastards are hated and despised, but half-elves are truly reviled, such that the elfin word for them, dzunkaveth, translates as "abomination". The different sorts of elf have different powers; for example, tree-bound elves can potentially deliver deadly poison with a touch.
- Dach'youn: The hyena beast-men known in other settings as gnolls are quite different in Wicked Fantasy. Although still a feral and primordial race, they are more Neutral; their focus is on surviving, not slavery and conquest. As nomadic packs, they roam the wilderness, worshipping the moons and hunting for their next meal. They're given some pretty interesting fluff, without the usual "they're evil!" spins on it. For example, they're perceived as being "lazy" because they're nocturnal, to the point they worship the moons and fear the sun as an evil, destructive deity. They're "dirty" because their thick pelts make them overheat easily (another reason they move around at night) and are attractive to various parasites, so they take at least one mud-bath a day; it keeps the bugs off, cools them down, and is just plain fun. They're matriarchal, but in a real world sense of the term; since they're not culturally monogamous, they trace descent through the mother's line, since "fathers" are generally unknown. They're actually on slightly better terms with humans than orks are, as they lack the orks' history of raiding and warfare. They're also proving surprisingly adept as cooks.
- Gnomes: The Wicked Fantasy take on gnomes succeeds in taking a normally rather boring race and making it surprisingly cool, much like the haffuns. Gnomes clawed their way out of the earth alongside the haffuns and uvandir and found a new niche for themselves. Possessing powerful empathic abilities, they present a humble front. They're also literally born rangers, magically tied to the wilderness in such a way that they literally adapt, physically and mentally, to better thrive in different environments.
- Gobowins: Following in Golarion's footsteps, "gobowins" (they don't have the letter L in their language) are a comedic race. Traders and wanderers, they have two traits that really make them stand out compared to other goblins. Firstly, they shift genders, sliding between male and female at various points in their life. Secondly, and more notably, they possess "Buwuck" and "Wursa", the Worst Blessing and the Best Curse. The former is an aura of bad luck that surrounds them, causing others to become bedeviled by misfortune from the mere presence of gobowins. But the latter is an even more powerful form of bad luck that affects anyone who deliberately kills a gobowin, which has kept the species alive (along with the gender-shifting, litter births and fast gestation) in a world that would gladly be rid of them.
- Uvandir: The Wicked Fantasy equivalent of dwarves, uvandir take all the stereotypes of dwarfdom and plays them tongue-in-cheek. Uvandir (call them dwarves only if you're tired of living) are proud, arrogant, stubborn creatures who fought alongside the other two Underbloods in the Great Flight from the Enemy. Though they appear masculine, they're literally genderless, which is why they're a dying race; the Enemy carved them all out of stone before the Great Flight, so when one dies, the race's number drops irrevocably. With no physical or emotional capability for lust, they exist only to work, which fuels their immense pride; they never rest, even when it seems like they do. With no other great focus in life, working for the sake of working is normal to them, fueling their legendary stubbornness. Their beards mark their growth, adding about a braiding mark each year, and so are considered near-sacred; the more beard-braids an uvandir has, the more respect he warrants, and an uvandir who is guilty of crimes against his people will be forcibly shaven of a number of braids dependent on how severe the crime, from at least 100 braids (for murdering another uvandir) to 1 (for lying to/about another uvandir or stealing from one). They communicate primarily through non-verbal means; expressions, gestures, body-language, and the odd grunt - speaking more than they need to is "guhn" ("wasting breath"), the mark of an incredibly ignorant or foolish soul. They fight amongst each other to show respect, and also use violence to express annoyance with others, the difference being marked mostly by facial expressions. They love beer, and use it as an excuse to fuel the telling of stories, which make an entertainment form out of bragging, under very special rules. They are emotionally distant because they are vulnerable to a form of intense melancholy, which can paralyze them to the point they eventually turn back into stone. And though they are younger than humans, they pioneered great advances in many fields, including technology and magic, and that is why humans don't roll their eyes (too much) at uvandir boasting about their superiority at crafts.
- Roddun: Nearly a century ago, a virulent disease called the Blue Death swept through the Wicked Fantasy world, wiping out almost a third of humanity. When it ended, humanity had new neighbors; humanoid rats who had moved into the quarantined settlements and ghettos, the barrios, tending to the sick and dead, and settling... and then refusing to leave. Somewhat disparagingly known amongst humans as "ratters", rodduns can be summarized as Mafioso rat-people; an entire species of criminal rats who follow traditions clearly derived from the Italian mafia -with particular emphasis on the part about caring for and protecting the poor and disparate who choose to help them out in turn. Needless to say, not all of the human cities are so happy with the roddun openly ruling their barrios, and they face a lot of prejudice.
- Kuba-Chubisi: Long before the Underfolk reached the Reign of Men, another race did battle with the Enemy and fled from them in defeat. This race, an immortal race of reptilians, eventually stumbled across humanity durign the dawn of the Reign of Men, and was fascinated; here, they found a race already reaching for virtues like the ones they had championed, a race that could be a powerful ally, but which they feared would reject them out of hand for being different. So, they took on human-like forms, and secretly worked inside of humanity, guiding them down a more virtuous path - a plan they have begun to fear was in vain, watching as the nobility and glory is being eaten out of the heart of humanity. And worse, horrible new monsters have appeared - grotesque dog-lizard things with no culture, corrupted and degenerate parodies of the original forms of the Kuba-Chubisi. These things, these "kobolds", are a message from the Enemy: "We found you."
But who are "The Enemy"? Well, only the Companion reveals that, tucked away in the back of the chapter on new Pathfinder rules. They are known as the Uz, their own word for Enemy - or, in the darkest depths of the soul for the Underbloods, "Baln'Uz": Beloved Enemy. An ancient race of corrupt and malignant cephalopodian aliens (the description of the "Uz Subserviant" suggests they look like seaslug-taurs in their natural form, but males have bloated into pulsating masses of pustuled flesh) who crashed on this world centuries ago, they use powerful psionic energies to command the wills of other beings, served by various slave-organisms engineered through psionics and alien technology. Arrogant, stagnant and cruel, the males obsessively collect and wallow in oszthechnik ("Dim Water"), a psionic-augmenting serum derived from the brains of sentient creatures. Addicted to this power-boosting substance, which enables them to live forever, the males dominate and enslave their females as badly as they do other races. Hiding in the Underdark, they eye the surface greedily; long rulers of their petty fiefdoms, having nearly exterminated in internal feuds, they eagerly seek to corrupt new races.
Their menagerie of horrors is quite extensive; the kaszh'nek (venom-blooded horrors bred to fight for the Uz's amusement and mindlessly loyal to their creators), the hungers (psionic oozes created from the toxic pus seeping from the bodies of the bloated, dim water-addicted male Uz), the adon’de’nadoi (once-proud and beautiful psionic humanoids who fought the Uz and lost, now trapped in astral projections as their bodies are physically shackled to keep them from escaping), and of course, the haffuns, gnomes and uvandir who failed to escape or even to throw off the Uz's psionic domination.
There's also another great enemy, beyond the Uz. Elves know it as "the Darkness", the evil force that tempts them to become dark elves. The orks know it as their gods, dead yet somehow still whispering to them. Even the roddun are tied to it, though they don't know it. They are the Hassad, shapeshifting serpents that can take on more humanoid form. A race of brutally logical creatures who once ruled the world before humanity arose. A race singlemindedly obsessed with gathering and preserving knowledge. The hassad prioritize all things in their lives, and first and foremost, comes the development and expansion of knowledge. Emotions have no meaning before it; "right" and "wrong" are abstracts that the hassad disregard, morality is secondary to knowledge and thusly unimportant.
The hassad created orks and roddun, and now they experiment with the elves. Why? Because, when the Uz first made their campaigns of enslavement and corruption against the world, the hassad were, alongside the kuba-chubisi, the only race that survived. Though they were logic-focused and driven by the urge to experiment before, their original peacefulness was lost. Now, they experiment with a goal: find a way to destroy the Uz. Orks were created to be a warrior-slave race, only to revolt against their creators and devour a third of the race. Rodduns were an accident, a strange effect of the Plague of Blue Fire that the hassad engineered to try and push human evolution along. They're not entirely sure of where gobowins came from, but they're pretty confident they were cooked up in a hassad lab. Somewhere.