Something Tookish!

I’ve just realized that I never posted about a game I published on itch.io last year. The game is called Something Tookish! It’s not a wholly original game design, but rather a hack of the popular Brindlewood Bay RPG. The elevator pitch for Brindlewood Bay could be summed up as Golden Girls meets Murder She Wrote with a streak of “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” 

Well, as soon as I read through the rules, I immediately started thinking about the cozy halfling game that was going with my Sunday night RPG group.

We’d been GMing it round-robin style: the first GM used Rise Up Comus‘s Under Hill, By Water, but then we started to run it round-robin-style. The second GM ran a session using Ethan Bardoe‘s Exceptional English Bake-Off ruleset. Later, another player GMed it using what I think (if I remember right) was a hack of John Harper‘s Lasers & Feelings

For my turn, I was fascinated by the parallels between Brindlewood Bay and the little halfling village we were playing in. Both settings were ripe with mysteries needing to be solved, both featured unconventional protagonists, and both were perfect for a cozy setting punctuated by both a sense of community and some deep weirdness. I did up a quick halfling-ish hack—just the moves and a few GM and player support handouts—and kludged my way through a session. It was, incidentally, my first experience running a game that was “Powered by the Apocalypse”, but my group was very receptive and supportive, and the result was good enough for me to take seriously the idea of building and testing out a full rulebook for the hack. 

If you’ve played Brindlewood Bay, you’ll immediately see the similarities, including a number of elements that only needed slight adjustment to fit into a halfling village. However, you’ll also see a few new moves. One move was inspired by the on the helping mechanic from Under Hill, By Water: you can sing a pertinent song, or improvise a pertinent bit of verse, to “help” another character with a roll. This is challenging, but there’s help in the player aids handouts for those who want to try it. 

Another big change is that the big horrible conspiracy side of things is completely optional. The core tension in Something Tookish! is centered on an internal struggle within each halfling. See, when I started working on the hack, I was thinking of halflings—the majority of them—as being averse to leaving the village. Happy only to stay home and indulge in multiple breakfasts each day, and prone to looking down on those who take to the road and go adventuring, they were the ultimate homebodies. However, something about this stuck in my mind: what if the rejection of adventurers in halfling society was due to anxieties within each halfling? What if every halfling felt the call of the road, the lust for adventure, and what if the homey, cozy 0villages they lived in inevitably came to feel stifling for most of them? What if every halfling was torn between a longing to stay home and enjoy familiar pleasures, and an equally powerful longing to leave and to see the world, to experience amazing and unimagined things?

Unlike how the older women in Brindlewood Bay struggle to resist the forces of an external plot against their community, the halflings in Something Tookish! struggle to resist the unspoken internal tension pulling them toward, and away from, their village. That led to some notable (if small) changes in how the crown mechanics work, but also led to much bigger changes in how the “big conspiracy” works: in fact, it led to me declaring that big conspiracy optional. Villages can have deep, dark conspiracies involving a shady group of local halflings… or they can simply have a handful of halflings who’ve hit the breaking point and should have left town for a while, but didn’t. (When a halfling reaches that point, they can either leave the village, or they can stay and be warped by the forces they’re resisting, becoming antisocial and selfish and a threat to the community’s peaceful and jolly mood. Get enough halflings like that in one village at the same time, and bad things happen: they might, say, team up with an outside wizard and try to set up a little  authoritarian state in the village; they might participate in a weird cult, or sabotage village festivals, or the like. 

Overall, though, Something Tookish! is deeply indebted to Brindlewood Bay, and indeed my first draft was directly based on the first edition of the game. (That’s cool, Jason Cordova said so on Twitter, and I do attribute him in the credits on the book.) Oh, and the stellar art is by my buddy Justin Howe! I did the layout myself—it’s the first book I’ve laid out.  

If the above sounds appealing, check out Something Tookish! over on itch.io.

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