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Wicked Fantasy (Full Book) $49.95 $9.99
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Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
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Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Michael S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2015 03:48:55

Wicked Fantasy is over 300 pages, covering 10 races old and new and presenting new background information, stats, options, and stories to help bring them to life. The book covers humans, haffuns (halflings), orks, elves, dach'youn (gnolls), gnomes, gobowins (goblins), uvandir (dwarves), roddun (ratfolk), and kuba-chubisi ("noble kobolds" will get you somewhere near the mark). So let's roll right into this!

To begin with, I have some negative things to say about this book, and I want to get them out of the way up front so they're not the last thing on your mind after reading this review.

First, the mechanics and rules language are surprisingly rough for such a beautiful hardcover. There are numerous instances of typed bonuses where the type is nonstandard and undefined, references to non-existent templates for size increases, poorly constructed rules language (for example "You can do this a number of times a day for each god's blood item you are wearing"), areas where the fluff and crunch are in direct conflict (the roddun entry refers to the fact that every fight challenging for the title of King Rat is a fight to the death, then talks about Ex King Rats reclaiming their titles), entire new base classes lacking BAB entries or reference tables, the list kind of goes on. Some of these are things where a reasonably experienced player or GM can easily divine the intent and smooth the rough edges, others are bad enough that the abilities need to be thrown out or rewritten entirely to be useful.

Secondly, the races, all of which have completely rewritten stats and racial abilities, are [i]crazy freaking strong[/i], generally by a substantial and very noticeable degree. This may be exacerbated even more by the awkward rules language; for example, the human "Hometown" racial trait refers to the human gaining a bonus feat, presumably of their choice, for each of two specific skills they have at least a +4 bonus in. Considering the humans also get an additional class skill of their choice that receives a +2 bonus and 1 rank plus the class skill bonus already puts them at +4, this means every human can easily get 2 bonus feats at 1st level. They also get their choice of +2 to any one physical stat [i]and[/i] +2 to any one mental stat, an awkwardly worded ability that gives them certain advantages in their hometown (separate from the Hometown ability), a bonus to Will saves that starts at +1 and scales up to +5, a more loosely worded and thus potentially more powerful version of the Inquisitor's Solo Tactics called Improved Teamwork, and an ability that procs off of their critical hits which can provide up to their Charisma modifier as a bonus to attack and damage rolls for all allies within 30 feet. All of the other races presented are essentially as strong or stronger. Honestly, these races are so ridiculously strong that you basically [i]have[/i] to limit your players to only the races in this book if you're going to allow them to use the new racial stats, otherwise the player using these options will be at a distinct and probably game-disrupting advantage. If you do have your whole group use the options presented herein, be ready to bump the difficulty of the challenges you throw at them to compensate for their increased power.

Okay, sound a little rough so far? Wondering if that 3 star rating was a mistake, maybe a sneeze where I accidentally scrolled up a bit? It's not, and here's why: This book is, at its heart, more about creating a kind of pseudo campaign setting, a new way to look at races some people have probably been playing with for years. Every chapter has a long description of the ecology, philosophy, and history of the race, and a short story giving you an example of how they fit into the world. Let me tell you, this stuff is gold. The world and people presented in Wicked Fantasy are exciting and interesting. My wife loves orcs, and frequently comments about how so many authors and designers "get them wrong" (I have no idea where her standard for orcs comes from, but I think it's mostly Thrall or his parents in some of the better written Warcraft novels), and she absolutely loves the orks presented here, a sentiment I share. The haffun manage to deftly weave some of the classic halfling stereotypes into a broader and darker tapestry that makes them much deeper and interesting, the roddun ratfolk as good-natured mafioso is just magical in its presentation, and every race is supported not just by a wealth of beautifully presented information, but also spectacular art. I literally sat down on the couch with my wife after buying this book at the game store and read it cover to cover in one sitting, something I don't think I've ever done before, and which I [i]know[/i] my wife hasn't. While I picked it up largely because of John Wick's gaming pedigree, the beautiful art, and the Pathfinder compatible logo, having read this I could recommend it to any fan of fantasy as an enjoyable and interesting read.

So, how do you rate something like this? I've been trying to avoid the words "fluff" and "crunch", but I think I'm going to have to use them now. The crunch of this book, sadly, fails entirely. I often found myself reading something and thinking that the author must have been playing the game long enough they don't even realize what things they are house-ruling, and in an earlier iteration of this review I questioned whether the writers ever actually picked up a Pathfinder Core Rulebook at [i]any[/i] point in the design and development process. It smacks of either laziness bred by familiarity, or enthusiasm without a firm foundation of system knowledge, and I can't always tell which. If this book's sole value was as a rules resource, I would have to give it 1 star. But it's not just a rules resource, it is a genuinely enjoyable read, a collection of short stories, a thesis on how classic fantasy races might develop and interact in a different kind of world than we are normally presented with, and in that regard it is an amazing success, 5 stars hands down. My final verdict then will be an average of the two, 3 stars, because I cannot in good faith go any higher than that given its deficiencies in the realm of balance and rules presentation/development. It is, after all, presented as being Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible, and I fear that is only true in the broadest sense. If that's not a complete turn-off for you though, I suggest you pick it up anyway, and enjoy it for the piece of art it is.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Alex L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/11/2015 00:41:34

This book is simply dynamite! Wick's unorthodox reimagining of these beloved (and often stale) races is a breath of fresh air. The ideas he presents can become your new understanding of each race, or you can do what I did and treat the racial genesis story as a LOCAL genesis. So maybe not ALL orcs are "orks" but on this island, they are.

I haven't been so impressed with a supplement in a long time!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2014 17:51:03

Wicked Fantasy is a really bad Pathfinder RPG race book.

What it is instead is a really good fantasy RPG book.

And that's why you should absolutely buy it.

Let's break it down.

(Up front, I've met John and enjoyed playing RPGs with him a few times, interviewed him about Wicked Fantasy and other projects on Out of Character, and I backed this Kickstarter.)

The first Wicked Fantasy "race supplements" came out some time ago. I got copies of them in the DrivethruRPG Featured Reviewer queue, I read them, and didn't review them. The reason why was because I couldn't see how the race described could fit into a Pathfinder game. D&D3 and 3.5 were pretty generic, but not completely so - Pathfinder is much less generic and has a much more clear aesthetic for its "classic fantasy races". In the context of its classes and world (Golarion), it makes sense and is fine. So the best "new elves!" or "new orcs!" supplements for Pathfinder didn't stray too much from the Pathfinder aesthetic, whatever new ground it broke was right next door to Pathfinder, so I could put the "new orcs!" into the game world I bought from a different publisher last week, or in 1986, and it would be fine. To really be a functional product in this sense you need to not to be too different.

The orcs of Wicked Fantasy were so different that I couldn't envision putting them into most of the fantasy worlds I liked. Just try envisioning them in the Forgotten Realms, for example, one of my all-time loves. There are many good things about the Forgotten Realms, but thematic boldness sure as hell isn't one of them. Wicked Fantasy orcs would stand out like a sore thumb in such an environment. Similarly in quasi-modernistic Golarion, faux-noir Eberron, or gloom-and-doom Midnight. It didn't mean Wicked Fantasy orcs were bad, it just meant that to tell if they were good, I'd have to work up a whole fantasy world around them and I'm a broken down old man, not a young, vigorous gamer like the kids today, I don't have time for all that. So I reluctantly set them aside - as really exciting and interesting as they were, I just couldn't fairly review them.

A few months later I got word the Kickstarter was coming out. I lamented this indecision of mine regarding the quality of Wicked Fantasy material to my wife who said I was being stupid, "You just said you really liked it, so put some money in it, what's the issue?" She's always right about these things.

So I dropped enough cash on it to get the hardcopy, shut my eyes and waited. (This is the best way to handle Kickstarters by the way.)

When I finally got the full Wicked Fantasy book, everything changed. Now I could see the orcs in the context of a fully fleshed out world - these orcs make thematic sense next to these humans, these halflings, these gnomes. Indeed, the full Wicked Fantasy collection actually gives you a fully fledged fantasy world that, with the community creation rules already in the D&D and Pathfinder DMGs, is absolutely playable.

It's interesting seeing a fantasy world presented through the lens of its races. "Race" isn't the best word for all this stuff, but "species" doesn't work because that's scientific and these worlds aren't, and anyway you can totally get your elf girlfriend pregnant, so IDK. D&D calls it "race" so that's what we ended up calling it. In Wicked Fantasy, the traits of each of the races are intertwined with their origins, their legends, their history and most importantly to play, their cultures. This is a game about cultures, and characters who emerge from these cultures will be EXTREMELY fun to play with each other.

That's really what it comes down to. Wicked Fantasy is still about being adventurers - still about going into dungeons or across wildernesses - still about battling monsters and bandits - but the motivations of the characters become more fleshed out by a choice that normally just adjusts a few ability scores (death to ability scores) and changes your appearance.

The ten races covered are humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, orcs, ratmen, kobolds, gnolls and goblins.

Here are a couple of examples that should give you some idea of why I see these cultures as so fruitful for actual Pathfinder/D&D3 play:

Humans value philosophy and knowledge - they labored under many tyrannies until they liberated themselves, created city-states and a great elected Senate to rule, along with controlling the money supply and other modernizations. However, human lands now face corruption from without and from within. They need heroes to revitalize or challenge their values. Human clerics and inquisitors may champion philosophy and intellect instead of veneration of the gods.

Halflings (called "haffuns") fled a terrible underground menace two hundred years ago and almost instantly insinuated themselves into surface society as servants and dogsbodies. They value social (and sometimes even physical!) invisibility, secrecy and partnership. When they die their families perform a ritual to keep their ghosts in the home they served. However, many challenge this culture in different ways since they have reached the surface. Their families give them bonuses depending on what sorts of professions their families have (the first time the Profession skills have ever been worth anything in D&D3 history.)

Just these two should show you the wealth of roleplaying opportunities afforded adventurers in the world of Wicked Fantasy - the human who blindly serves a decraying Republic bickering with a halfling who sees too well the injustices of the system....or perhaps a human who prefers the cool intellect of philosophy to the warm emotions of hearth and service advocated by their halfling partner. Put these partners on a quest for glory and virtue and their interactions will be memorable and exciting.

An epub version is also available in this packet, which gets a big reviewer bump up from me.

If there was anything I could list about Wicked Fantasy that could improve it, I would say it would be a section for each of the races focusing on the core, expected elements of a D&D game. Why do people from these cultures become adventurers? Why would they team up with other adventurers? What would drive them to battle monsters and obtain magic and loot? D&D4 did this, to great effect, and I think it should be something everyone is thinking of when supplementing a D&D experience. Given what D&D games are about, what specifically do you bring to that core game experience?

In any event, all together these supplements are much, much greater than the sum of their parts. You absolutely should check out this exciting world through the eyes of its well-detailed inhabitants.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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