Wicked Ones Is A Free RPG Corebook Where You Play The Monsters

Wicked Ones is an RPG in which you play the monsters and fight intruding heroes. While you will be able to buy a deluxe edition, or a hardcover, you can also download the core PDF version for free!

"Wicked Ones is a Forged in the Dark tabletop RPG about a group of fantasy monsters building a dungeon, launching raids on the surface to gather a hoard, and pursuing your nefarious master plan. Along the way, there's pillaging, rituals, concoctions, contraptions, discoveries deep in the ground, dungeon rooms, traps, creatures, minions, and so much more! You build your dungeon over time throughout the campaign and no two dungeons will ever be alike. The free version is the full version of the game - 325 pages of full-color content, over 50 full-page illustrations (and tons of other small ones!). It includes everything you need to start building dungeons with your friends."


The PDF was released free yesterday. The designer, Ben Neilson, posted on Reddit explaining why:

Why make it free? I have a ton of reasons. But before I decided to release it, I consulted with my Kickstarter backers and Discord members to make sure it didn't feel like I was pulling the rug out from under anyone by releasing something they already paid for. And, a bit to my surprise, that community was overwhelmingly in favor of a free version! Mostly for the following reasons:

  • More people with the game in hand means more players, more GMs, and more community content. (There's a community content "license" now! Hoping to see some cool creations there.)
  • Players can have their own copy of the book. There's a lot going on with Wicked Ones - dungeons are complex beasts and the more knowledgeable players are, the better. These days with online play, it becomes really difficult to "pass a book around" and this solves that problem.
  • The art in the book is just too good for others not to see. Victor Costa did a really great job and I hope more people have a chance to see his work.
  • I made a lot of (I think) interesting changes to the Forged in the Dark system and I'd like other hackers to have access to that without having to buy my book. It just felt bad explaining my game, which turned into a recommendation that they buy it.
  • There are other products coming very soon - the Undead Awakening expansion where you play as the leaders of an undead horde, and the War for the Overworld expansion, which lets you play campaigns similar to the video game. If the game is free, there's no barrier to entry for these (and future) projects. I can imagine some people are interested in one of these and not the original game itself - I want to make it as easy as possible to play the game people want to play.

The game used John Harper's Forged in the Dark system (which is a variant of Blades in the Dark). It was Kickstarted last year to over 1,000 backers and over $40K.

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Great-looking game. I don't like the system (it's freaking dangerous to attempt an action - the best survival strategy is either to do nothing, get someone else to make a roll or buy a GM a free pizza every time there is an invasion), and yet it looks so enticing I would not mind helping myself to a session or two.

That said:
1. It's your standard Blades in the Dark system game. If you're a player, see above for the key survival tip. If you're a GM, expect lots of homework answering initial questions, and then pestering your players for further answers. As a GM, keep putting down important keywords.

2. Your character is a monster in a community of monsters - in addition to taking actions and facing consequences, you also need to cope with your character's urges to do bad stuff to yourself (or your community).

3. Important survival tip number two: detail your equipment. It may grant you that additional 16,6% to your success odds.

4. Magic is cool. It appears to be weak when you read the magic tiers... but when you get to actual spells... oh my. Suffice to say, that you need to be creative (and hope for the GM to be somewhat lenient - or, check the important survival tip at the beginning - the part about a pizza). The spells, while in theory balanced by a mundane effort (ie. whatever you cast, it should be achievable via comparable amount of sweat and tears), it is only to certain degree. For example, Tier 1 Spell, Lash (wind buffeting adventurers) plus rope bridge (it's your dungeon, after all).

5. The book lays out the structure of the game. There is a lot of advice (and even more questions). In other words, it is more of a toolkit than a ready product (though there is an example sufficiently detailed to run it).

6. The stuff that could have been a part of the game:
  • a random dungeon invasion gen - the adventurers vs. monsters may quickly become GM vs. players, and since BiD system games require that a GM constantly makes judgement calls this may result in a conflict of interest. And even with an ultrafair GM, the players may become quite unhappy due to low success chances. There is something called "Pathing" (randomizing success of invader actions), but it's a bit skimpy in my opinion.
  • a set of questionnaires - Create your Game, Create your Monster, Create your Random Event, Create your World, etc. The book, as written, goes about it in a roundabout way (advice, best practices) while a checklist would be shorter and much better structured (in my opinion of course)
  • not enough unallied monsters (the so-called denizens), traps and calamities,
  • not enough maintenance information (there should be a section on clock representing integrity of the dungeon, with examples of specific tiers)
  • not enough example encounters
  • since PCs are a part of a community, and since there are unallied monsters, there should be a bit more on developing relations between them.

Overall, a very solid game.


Considering how many video games have had this as a theme, I am surprised it took until now for someone to turn the idea in a tabletop game.
Reverse Dungeon (2000), for AD&D2 by Wizards, doesn't have any dungeon building, but you do play as the monsters who live in a dungeon and try to cope with adventurers.

Achan hiArusa

I twisted it a bit and would love to run it as a LARP:

I'd been working on the 2nd Edition D&D module Reverse Dungeon. In it you play the eeevil monsters defending yourself from the heroes. Given that it was written almost 20 years ago, It probably a reaction to the success of the World of Darkness. And it reads as human propaganda. But I wanted to change it a bit.
The Yar-Gock Tribe of Goblins have lived in this land since time immemorial. The humans are recent settlers and have laid claims to a land that is not their own. They are tresspassers. The goblins believe the humans have forfeited the right to their stuff by stealing land that doesn't belong to them. And humans have sent trained killers (adventurers) to ransack their lair and thus have proven themselves the enemy. Their Dwarven, Kolbold, and Bugbear prisoners are actually that. They murdered goblins but the goblins don't believe in capital punishment.
The monsters on the levels below are a community of sorts, like an artist collective. They were brought together by the Wizard Blaine so they could pursue their interests in peace. They also have jobs to do in their community.
Xiccapocthul the beholder is the quartermaster and keeper of the armory. He is also an obessive collector and a gun nut, even though he cannot bear arms because, well, he has no arms.
Hlyddhth the mind flayer is the librarian. He comes from a highly advanced technological society and uses this position to read everything he can about the world.
Box the Mimic is the janitor, but lives in the study. He is a bit of a clean freak and has a drinking problem.
Ellis the Ardent is the new chief of security taking over for the Shade who came before. She had recieved the call to be a paladin but was rejected by the church of Heironeous because she was female. She joined the chruch of Nerull as they would accept her, making her hunted by the Heironean church. She fell in love with a prince who was being forced into an arranged marrage. She fought the princess in single combat to the death and won and fled with the prince. The paladins of Heironeous chased them down to "rescue" the prince and ended up killing him instead. She fled here where she was given her current job.
Coach Whurp the troll is a fitness nut. He arranges the exercise schedule of the other inhabitants.
Lane the Doppleganger had created the personas of several actors so he could bask in fame. Then he was found out captured and tortured by the humans believing him to be an infiltrator and spy. The torture was so bad he has unstable transformations, but he still craves the attention so he often leaves the costume room to run messages for the other denizens.
Lypygia the medusa is a beautician and does her best to make everyone else feel and look good.
Ydora the Night Hag was Blaines lover and research assistant. She is continuing her work but owes too much in library fines that she refuses to pay to Hlyddhth, so he has suspended her borrowing privileges.
The Cloaker collective is a group of alchemists and cooks who give their services to the others.
The Guardian Beast pretends to be a cat because it likes pettings and snacks.
Blackhelm the Babau demon is a tortured artist who works in the medium of bones and paints in his various types of ichor which are poisonous.
Shay Straylight the Vampire Cleric of Nerull is the spiritual advisor to the group. She also has probably read too many romance novels but is very inept in her attempts with the other creatures here. Her devotion to Nerull and her appetites don't help either.
Antioch Lorn the Ghost Wizard is a former roomate to Blaine and spends his time doing his own research. He was brought back by Blaine and really is upset about it.
Nthalturin was the former king of a long dead land corrupted into a wraith by his, now missing, ring. He runs the Mausoleum and Embalming room and then sends his products to the cloakers.
Justin Yearwood the death knight claims to be retired and is trying to learn how to play the flute.
Mourn the Death is a death from the Deck of Many Things unable to do his duty because the card drawer died from a stray arrow. He has a large collection of games and invites everyone to play them.
Tothomes the sentient flesh golem wizard is the receptionist/administrative assistant to Blaine and was given orders centuries ago to cancel all appointments which he did. He will not allow anyone into Blaine's laboratory.

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