Instead of using dice, the story progresses by drawing tarot cards. The deck is sorted into multiple smaller decks for this – one main deck for the plot, one deck for character creation and finally an individual deck for each character with individual problems and plot hooks.
But how are conflicts within the story solved? If a player character is in danger or is faced with a difficult task, then they decide what they want to happen. But success always comes at a price. Magical powers are consumed, relationships with allies are burdened or the witches’ refuge is being damaged. These resources are, of course, limited – there are too few of them to successfully resolve all issues with them. A failure costs no resources, but has devastating consequences for the story and threatens the balance between the overworld and underworld.
Want to know how Wickedness works in practice? Check out this great actual play video with Jay Dragon from Possum Creek Games, celebrity GM Brennan Lee Mulligan and game designer Jeeyon Shim.
Wickedness is split into three parts. At the start, the characters, allies and setting are established in “Truths”. In “Troubles,” the coven is faced with issues and conflicts, which they must overcome together. Here, there is always the question of how far the witches are willing to go. They must decide which problems to leave unresolved. Because they don’t have sufficient means to tend to all problems in the two realms. If they go too far, this has an impact on their personalities, solidarity within the coven and also on their direct environment.
In “Trials,” the conflict between the overworld and the underworld intensifies. Depending on how the witches have used their resources so far, the result will either be the downfall of one of the realms, the disbanding of the coven or a terrible fate for one of the witches.
During character creation, you determine through the tarot deck who plays which role in the coven. There are the Pure Heart, the Wild Spirit and the Old Soul. For each of these roles, Wickedness supplies you with two pages of options to individually create your character. Similar to the PBTA games’ playbooks, you select every character detail from a list of names, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, backstory events and source of magical powers.
Afterwards, you determine through the tarot cards which celestial body each witch devoted herself to – sun, moon or stars. Each celestial body comes with its own traits. A moon-born witch, for example, is more emotional and mysterious. Finally the characters’ favored school of magic is determined in the same way.
Wickedness’ character creation is really great fun. Through the tarot cards and the many options, it contributes a lot to the atmosphere and the joy of playing. And the fact that players can determine much of the characters’ background information also helps weaving their stories together.
Like with all storytelling games, Wickedness needs players who enjoy writing large parts of the story themselves. The tarot deck gets you quite far with its plot hooks. But still, you need to flesh out many of the scenes yourself, and adapt them to your current story. Ideally, you should play Wickedness with three people, who have been GMs before. It is incredibly helpful if you can fall back on a repertoire of ideas and stories to create a new plot with on the spot.
Players who prefer reacting to a pre-determined plot rather than creating the story as they play should probably instead stick to traditional roleplaying games. But this is, of course, true for all storytelling games, and not just for Wickedness.