School’s back in session… A Tomb review.

It’s been a few months since school got back up and running. And let me tell you it has sucked all of my time, energy and will to be productive. Seriously, just raked and mowed my lawn for the first time since middle of August, it was getting long and snow is soon around the corner for us in the great Northeast. Seriously I’m writing this from the last baseball of my kids season and it’s wicked cold.

The sun is deceiving, it’s only 51°F out and the wind is howling at 15 mph which makes it feel like 47°F, oh and the sun is going down…

Now I have not been completely removed from the world of RPGs and while I thought I was going to start a series on Solo RPGs that has not happened. I have had very little time to think about playing let alone reading new systems or thinking about reviewing them. However, I had a chance to take a peak at Perplexingruins‘ new small form game Tomb. And let me tell you I am happy with it!

Used with permission, Perplexingruins

I read the short form game and loved the ease of rules for it. I even made my players roll up some characters to see how it would go, then I ran them through a cute little one page adventure by Josh Burnett, The Burial Mound of Gilliard Wolfclan.

The adventure was quick and painless to learn enough about to run it in about 5 minutes. Character creation in Tomb took about 5 minutes and with only a few rules needed to understand the game, my players and I were off in record time!

My players are used to DnD 5e, B/X (well OSE) as well as some OSR games like Maze Rats (I’m getting them more I got them). One of my players previously played a PbtA game with me (specifically we played a 4 shot of Uncharted Worlds).

They absolutely loved the speed in which they could make characters. After they rolled for stuff I allowed them to their swap gear around so they could make their own classes based on equipment. Tomb is a classless game and the feel of your character really comes from the incantations (the magic system in the game) and the gear. *Chef’s kiss* this is something I’ve really come to enjoy from a rules light game.

Incantations are a wonderful freeform way in which to run magic. A single word entry that is rolled randomly (although as with any game you could let them pick  for more “class” control if you so choose). For incantations each if the players rolled and all ended up with Mind, so I allowed them to choose two of them to reroll for new ones. They loved the ability to interpret what the word meant in their use of the spell.

We did question how many times they could use an incantation word. I allowed them to use it as many times as they didn’t fail and lose it. I stole the list if complications from the wizard playbook in Dungeon World to help with complications and the players seemed pretty pleased with those options.

I added devil’s bargains to the game to add +1 on a roll. They loved the additional narrative power that the other players could add to the game. Oh and since I haven’t me ruined it yet the resolution mechanics are a very simple 2d6 roll resolving like a PbtA game with <6 fail, 7-9 success with complication and 10+ full success. Damage in combat was filed out by a weapon specific dice as you would expect, like a d4 dagger,  d8 long sword, etc.

Character advancement is heavily inspired by Maze Rats. You get a point for completing stuff by session and you can pick to advance a skill, stat or HP. I let them do each for the conclusion in the second session if their 2 shot game we played.

Adding rules was easy and did not change the feeling of the rules light nature of the game. I would propose something as we played and the players would agree and we would move on with the ruling.

After reading the ruleset I was excited to take this to school and use with my middle school students, after running a game and getting so much fun out of the game, I am now even more excited to play this game with the students, there are just enough rules to keep them focused but not so many as to stifle or stop their creativity! The rules are free on Itch, a physical copy can be obtained from Perplexingruines’ webstore.

I hope to start writing more frequently again, though I can’t say I’ll promise anything for sure. Let’s try to make it every other week for now and see how we do with that.

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

#TTRPGRedList

First off, all I can say is fuck those dudes. Seriously, making a list of TTRPG publishers who care about the world and the people living in it and advising people not to play them? Who the hell are these fascists?

I made the mistake of hopping on twitter this morning and found a post about this RedList crap and just decided I needed to get a quick explosion of uncool out to the world, or at least the small subset of the world who will see this.

The list tells its readers to not play Mörk Borg because they reserve the rights to not allow printing of material based on their IP that would be racist. That is totally a reason to not play a game… (yeah to be abundantly clear this is sarcasm, I feel I should really let it be known since this is a written medium). This is only a single example of the atrocities on this list.

This is a steaming pile of horseshit and anyone who actually believes that this is okay is welcome to not read my blog. Calling out companies for following their beliefs and supporting human rights movements is definitely not okay in my book.

Sure you may not like their cause, but can you just sit back and be a fascist in your own living room without having to spill your drivel all over RPG forums?

When did it become okay to open up your mouth and say “don’t support these guys because they won’t let me be racist?” Seems like a pretty narrow view of the world.

Please why don’t you add Halfling’s Hoard to the Red List now and someday please don’t play the game that I eventually write because there is no room for that shit in my world view. Everyone should be loved and allowed to love whom they want. No person should feel belittled because you don’t agree with what they believe. Yes, I see the irony in my statement, and no I do not take it back. Go sit in your garage with your confederate flags and swastikas and stay out of my space, no one needs to be subjected to your hate.

Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com

All are welcome in my neck of the woods unless you are unwilling to let others live their best life.

Seriously though I hope that if you feel this hate running through you then you have an experience that opens your eyes to the real world for what it is and leave the hate behind. We are much happier on this side of the fence, please do join us after the hate fades. We are inclusive and will welcome you in.

This is a short one because I don’t want to give them any more press than they already have gotten. I will not link to the post about this and I hope everyone who reads this is inspired to get on the RedList because it means we are doing the right thing.

Derek Bizier, The Halfling Master

Wormskin Questions, Updates and things to come

I was asked a few questions about my Wormskin post this past week that I feel I should address. Then stay tuned for a quick update on a new section I will be bringing to you.

First: But why would I buy this instead of waiting for the big Kickstarter that will inevitably come from Necrotic Gnome?

Answer: We’ll you don’t need to buy these pieces, because undoubtedly the product you back as a Kickstarter down the road will be a much more concise, put together, full and far reaching for the entirety of the Dolmenwood universe. Anyone looking to get access to a lot of this stuff can easily pump into the Necrotic Gnome Patreon and get a large portion of this material plus so much more for only a few dollars a month. But with that said there is something nice about looking at the source material.

I have enjoyed flipping through these tomes and love the simplicity in which they were created. There is also a nice progression you get to see as the issues progress. The Abbey of St. Clewd is a wonderful little adventure that could be slotted into any adventure and while I do not know if that will be available after in the new Dolmenwood materials, I am glad I have it to throw at my players in the future.

Now I’m not sure that I’ve really solidified my place on this stage of showing that The Wormskin Zines are totally worth the purchase, and… well I’m not sure that that was really my goal. I think they are great reference material and if you are really curious about what is actually contained in the 8 zines feel free to check out Question Beast’s videos as Ben showcases all of the finer points.

So in closing should you go out and spend the $80 USD on this? Yeah probably, but if you are hesitant at all, then maybe just check out the Patreon instead for all for the most up to date information available straight from the source, most of which is completely usable in your campaign today! You will know if your FOMO needs you to get this today before it is gone forever.

Second: Why didn’t you mention The Weird that Befell Drigbolton?

Answer: Frankly because I had not really thought about including it. However, that should not say that I do not love this book! It is totally worth it to get this adventure! I got to play through this as a player and let me tell you it was lovely, scary and oh so freaky. Here is just the tip of the iceberg on what is contained within…

Weird otherworldly beasts! A clock to race against before the world completely implodes on itself! Animated Meats? A hex crawl based around a quaint little Hamlet known as Drigbolton. A lake filled with jelly. A setting that can be slotted into any old campaign you may be running. And yeah I did say animated meats. Seriously though animated meats, you have got to see this!

It is worth checking out. Wormskin is not required, though it can be used to enhance the game greatly with all of the additional resources available within, maybe if you’re still on the fence grab this adventure and run through it. I do not know if this will still be available after the Dolmenwood Kickstarter or if it will be recreated for the Kickstarter? But either way It is worth a flip now and fits perfectly into any fantasy OSE style game you may be playing right now


Now onto more important things… Or well at least new things.

I have completed my affiliate program signup with DriveThruRPG, so now you can shop through my affiliate link HERE, or just about any link that takes you to DriveThruRPG from my site. I get a little bit of a percent of each sale that is made through my link clicks, and that cash will be used to purchase other pieces of work for me to look at and bring to you here in the blog. So should you feel like you would like to order something and help me out at no additional cost to you then please do not fret buying through the links around my pages. And hey, seriously thanks if you do.

Next order of business is the outlook of the future of what I will be writing about. Since the beginning of the pandemic (and some before that even) I have looked into a read through many solo RPGs. I have a few that are my favorite, and then some that I think are not worth the time getting through. So with that said I plan on starting a segment where I will be talking about Solo RPGs, maybe one every other week, or so? I’ll add a catchy little title to the beginning of each blog post so you know what’s coming.

I will focus on both Solos I’ve read and think would be fun, as well as ones I have played and enjoyed myself. What I will not be doing is bashing any Solos I have read and not liked, whether through play or just reading, because I don’t think that is fair, I may call on some of these to talk about mechanics that i enjoyed from them but ultimately I want my blog to be a happy place to read from and not a negative space. So If your Solo game makes it here congrats you have won the opportunity for this RPG geek to write a bit about it and alternatively if your game does not make this space, you should not be upset, because you don’t know if I didn’t like it or if I just never got to it.

I find that if i want to rad good things about a game I can always find them, and when someone writes about those great games they usually give any downfalls that they can see too. You will find that here, and I will be honest but kind about doing so when it is necessary.

Well there is a thousand words written, and I hope you enjoyed them. I do plan on another post this week so keep up to date by signing up for the mailing list below or following the blog if you’ve enjoyed what was written here or elsewhere in the past.

Thanks again as always,

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

Wormskin and Why It’s Worth Your Cheddar.

Gavin Norman has written a brilliant world for adventurers to visit. It is contained within 8 zine style book that can be purchased (at the time of this writing) as a bundle of pdfs for around $55.00 dollars or physical copies for $80.00.

There now that the heavy hitting numbers are out of the way I’d like to take some time to discuss why this product is so we’ll, good. But before we get into those details let me tell you that this will not be available for long.

Necrotic Gnome, you know the dude Gavin Norman who recently shook up the whole if the OSR with his rewriting of the B/X rules known as Old School Essentials wrote this fantasy setting with a twist that strays from the usual Tolkienesque fantasy many of us are so used to. Well anyway he wrote this series of books and is currently rewriting them into a single (set of) setting book(s). With the release of this upcoming book it is rumored that the Workskin zines will no longer be available.

These will be collector items at some point. Now say what you will about POD products, but these books are worth their weight in art (not sure if that’s really a phrase but who cares?) Here are the front and back covers to show you.

The setting called Dolmenwood is reminiscent of old fairy tales and Arthurian legend . There are ample goatmen, moss dwarfs, summerstones, eldritch horrors, drune, witches, and hex crawling for anyone’s campaign. The material can be used as is in most ORS systems, though they are written with B/X in mind or OSE since that is really what these were made for.

Ranging from a mere 40 pages up to 75ish pages these books will give you a large amount of material to work with. Whether you want to drop in a strange town, or a new race of root beasts in your enchanted forest, these book can do it for you.

So if you want to wait for the books to come out in a form factor that matches all of your OSE stuff you could wait, but the new books may not actually contain all of the flavor that these original workings of Dolmenwood does.

Gavin has gone in a slightly different art direction as well, and while beautiful in its own right there is something cunning about these Wormskin Zines, for a sneak peek at the books being created you can stop by Patreon and support Gavin’s work.

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

Secret Projects, New Logo and More…

So welcome back my dear readers, today I wanted to talk quickly about a few secret projects… Or rather talk about what’s going on in my head as I work on secret projects, because you know, they are secret!

But first here is a look at the new logo!

Drew Cochran of Epic of Dreams fame worked with me on getting this put together. I love what he has done! And yes that is a likeness of me, way to add that personal touch Drew. High res finalized files are incoming! He has been in the back end helping me get all of this going and I feel like he needs a huge shout out for being a great friend and muse in my journey as a RPG guy putting my stuff into the world. So thanks Drew!

In other news I am working on becoming an affiliate with DriveThru to help fund my ability to receive new content from them to bring more reviews, news and other content here to this blog.

Now onto the secret projects…

I am currently working on 3 secret projects across the internet with many cool people in the RPG community. I had a bit of a slump for about three months. Covid, life, work, friends, family, etc. have gotten in the way of my creative ability to well… create.

I have recently had a flash and have had some excitement return to my creative flow. That coupled with my recent blog activity have given me to go power I needed to pick it back up. So I am writing, slowly and picking up a bit of steam for one of the bigger projects.

Is this what a writer’s block looks like?

So all of that said I am moving past my block and working away at some content that I hope to be able to talk about here in the future. Until then please keep reading, tell your friends who are excited at all about RPGs or wargames. I think I’m going to be trying to expand my posts per week to two soon. The Halfling’s Hoard is a growing project and I want to take you and yours along for the ride.

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

Random Encounter Tables

As I look into the future of tabletop gaming I see more and more random tables being produced. Is this a shift in play style back to the old ways or is this something new and cutting edge?

set of colorful dices on desk with pencils and toys

Photo by Will Wright on Pexels.com

The vein of books, that derive full adventures from random tables, is not new to the hobby of table top gaming. We can look back to the days of B/X with B1 In Search of the Unknown, who’s main design feature was a dungeon that each room entered was rolled for it’s contents. Each room description had a spot to write in your own encounter and treasure. This first release has not been remembered or idolized nearly as much as the highly popularized B2 Keep on the Borderlands, which employed many of the same table rolling for encounters, the caves of chaos were exactly a chaotic mess of encounters that had roaming bands of kobolds, orcs or other mythical beasts ready to leap out of seemingly nowhere, at least no where that made any sense.This leads us to have to look at dungeon ecology.

Dungeon ecology deals with  what exactly is there, lets say that the little old lady down the road is having rat problems in her basement, you would not want a random encounter table to add a dragon upon entering the room.

This leads to a point that a random table should not be all encompassing and kitchen sinkish. Here is where the new school of dungeon design really shines. Most adventures in the modern RPG scene that include random tables, will theme the tables to the adventure…

Wait they did this in old school too?

Turns out that this is not so much of a brand new idea, one can look as far back as say the Against the Giants campaign from AD&D 1E.  The tables provided allowed a referee to roll and see if there way anything that would pop up and the tables were themed to the module it was contained in, so lots of Giants and things that were relatable to the dungeon at hand.

The idea of a targeted experience based on the module or adventure being run has not necessarily changed since the dawn of RPGs.  New school games like A Packet of Particular Peaks have really taken that base idea and extended it however, with modern design features, to a new realm that shows a much cleaner layout design, but that is a movement all of its own design. (See what I did there?)

So whether it is planning out a world to play in or you are just looking for a cohesive one shot to run your players through, keep random tables in mind for that next adventure, but please be mindful of what you include on that list. No one needs a Dragon appearing in the basement where your party is supposed to be fight rats, unless the old lady was lying and she was really hiding the dragon from the town because she is building up its power to destroy the world…  wait maybe thats an idea for another time.

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

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P.S. As I await the official announcement for the remaster of the Gardens of Ynn, I look at games like Maze Rats, The Stygian Library and To Elfland and Back. These books all keep dungeon ecology in mind while allowing for a new play experience every time you delve into their worlds. I do not make any money off of these links as I do not currently have an affiliate account with any of these sites, so please feel free to visit and give your patronage to each and every one of these great creators.

BattleTech where have I been?

So I recently stumbled across BattleTech. And my mind was blown! A hex miniatures game that gets down and dirty with all the parts of a giant Mech machine? My buddies and I can sit and toss lasers, machine gun fire and oh yeah cluster bombs at each other without tape measures?

Now don’t get me wrong I love measuring out spaces between our wizards in the frozen domain of Frostgrave. Slinging spells and watching the puny humans fall to the ground. But this is a new level of excitement.

The problem of course is that the “advanced starter set” called BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat, is sold out currently and the only cookies I can find are from jerks who bought them all up and are selling for 4 times the original MSRP.

No thank you!

So I did manage to find the starter box with two mechs and some cardboard standees. It was a lot of fun, in my first game I managed to win in the second round as a well placed headshot killed my Griffin. Oh and I played it solo because it makes sense to do so!

Robit Battle

The turns were quick once I got it all figured out and I managed to play a second game in very short order adding a Locust to each side, which extended the game for an additional hour or so. Which I manage to do in between making my 4 year old breakfast and getting us ready for the day ahead. Nothing better than early morning gaming!

My plans going forward are adding to my friends 3D printer que a few mechs to play with and getting myself a copy of the advanced combat book. Well play it by ear and see how it goes. I’ll make sure to include updates on our adventures, maybe we will get into a good rhythm with this game and start a campaign!

Until next time,

Derek Bizier, the Halfling Master

The Halfling Master Has become.

I am rebranding. Rebranded is a super weird word, I used to hear it often in a corporate world job I held for about a decade. What does it mean to rebrand? Lets explore, I swear I will give you more about RPGs after this short discussion.

I was lost and didn’t know what to call my online presence. I branded myself as DM Bizzy. Well it made sense at the time since it incorporates my name’s initials and a clever play on a term often used by the world’s most popular table top RPG. It was formed on a whim, this time around I have sat with this conundrum of what do I was to have for a presence online within the RPG community.

After sitting for many months working on a couple small projects, not getting much accomplished and definitely not writing in my blog over at the DM Bizzy Blogspot page, I have come to realize I needed something that was more me. And nothing in fantasy game setting is more me than a good old Hobb…. Halfling, even though I call them the other thing in my home games, I knew I couldn’t use that trademarked word but the later was good enough for the rest of the gaming community so why not me!

The Halfling’s Hoard is my gift to the world a gaming where I will provide my outlooks and purview around the industry, specific books or settings, and any other musings that may come to the plate. I have a few saved started drafts that I will work to finish up and release, but for now subscribe and follow along as I attempt to make my mark on our small but amazing group of people out there.

I will also be working with a friend to help update the site and with the move I have set up ways to help remind me to write. I will be looking into a graphic to use along with my new Brand.

Also you should know I support all humans regardless of gender, color, creed or any other defining features of the people in our world. I support causes like BLM. I support the rights of all people and hope for the betterment of our society through facts, logic and science. My blog will not be focused around the rights of humans, however, I reserve the right to include anything in support of these groups and the hard work that they are putting forth to help our world grow and form a better commitment to our fellow humans. Love you all.

Derek Bizier, The Halfling Master

Much Needed Update

It has been a while.

With a successful Kickstarter contribution under my belt and another (maybe more?) project on the horizon. I am looking for time to work soon My world will free up a bit, I am finishing up my work on a continuing education course.

This will soon be coming to an end. With less than a month left in my class I will be able to focus more closely on everything that I love about designing games, getting lost in music, coming up with new ideas for hours on end and then bringing my ideas to my friends for some quick idea jams.

This summer should prove to be fun as I take a deep dive into summer school at work and tackle a new role as Extended School Year (ESY) teacher. I expect to have plenty of time to work on the various projects I have ahead of me.

I will return with some more musings over a few things I\’ve been meaning to write about. A few of the topics saved so far are

Miniatures: is 28mm Really Where It’s At?

Death in RPGs

Mörk Borg Musings

 and many more! Keep coming back to see some more work as I get more time to devote to these musings!

Harrowings 3 is live!!!

There will be badass dwarfs, a 8 legged donkey, an old bumbling fool of a dwarf who will be your guide. 

Together you and you band of mostly cool dwarves will be on a mission to stop Ragnarok!
There is a lot of cool stuff planned for this so check it out and get ready for a mega dungeon like you\’ve never seen before! Brought to you by Drew Cochran of Epic of Dreams fame.
Oh and the rules are OSE comparable and we are making solo rules varients thanks to the Solo Guru Alex at Blackoath Entertainment
If we make it past our stretch goals I get to work more on a super secret project, so check it out and back if you can!
Many thanks to everyone else involved with this project.
Until next time, keep rolling dice and keep telling stories.