The Trickster's Tale (The future is now, Hedge Wizard!)

by Houndmaster

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity
  • Sexual Content

Be careful when demanding reparations from gods. They rarely own up to their mistakes.

Due to a goddess's shortsighted error, Perry finds himself transported to a distant Universe with new proportions and a different identity. Instead of cowering before the deity, he demands she opens a portal home or provides reparations for him and his bereaved family. Unfortunately, standing up for himself doesn't earn Perry respect. Instead, she curses him with cowardice, limiting his combat and magical potential. 

Little does the goddess know that nothing can stand in the way of Perry's sheer will. If brute strength and arcane might won't get him the justice he desires, wit and creativity will. 

Perry's first target? A goblin shaman. Then, the world.

And so begins, the bard's ballad.


Posting 5 times a week from Monday to Friday!

Bard's Ballad takes place in the same extended Universe as my other story, The Houndsman. It's set on a distant 'disk', though. As a result, the magic system is unique in comparison and has a harder LitRPG system. While the story utilises stats, it doesn't take them seriously and occasionally makes fun of regular LitRPG mechanics.

This story is co-authored by J Pal.
He originally wrote it as The Halfwit Halfling but got tired of number-heavy LitRPGs.
I've taken over the story-boarding and the tale uses names/locations from the old story but not the same plot progression.
I dropped the prison break theme and have given the book a proper villain (a goblin shaman). As a result, the story shouldn't be mistaken as a slice of life despite the protagonist's combat limitations. 
Perry uses wit to overcome challenges instead of brawn or arcana.

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Houndmaster

Houndmaster

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l nimbus
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The british accent can be worked around, I promise

Reviewed at: Chapter 27

 

 This is gonna be a long one. Let's get that out of the way. I want to address several things, some of which might not seem immediately relevant to that review, and might seem to be left open for discussion. The review itself will be, as all of my reviews go, done with a mostly objective eye. While yes, subjectiveness might sneak it's way in, this is a look at what this story presents itself as, what it wants to be and how well it lives up to those standards.  



Note that despite my trying me damn best to be objective and not too controversial, this review and what it said in it is still my own opinion, and not presented as a hard set of facts. Take everything I say with some salt. 



Background: 



I'm not going to mince words. The LITRPG genre had become largely stagnant to me. I find less and less books interest me when I have read the essentials of the genre and every new book seems to contain the same basic premise with a minor twist or gimmick. It had become the same flavor of Apocalypse Survival, VRMMO Quest To Be Highest Level, poorly executed and bleh Harem Quest, frankly boring formula of Level Up And Use OP Skillz. There is no life in these books. One largely follows the other with minor variations and it's own little dash of flavor. Like eating at MacDonald's over and over with minor changes to your meal. 



Oh yes, I'm aware that good authors release quality books that they spend long amounts of time working on and perfecting, and I applaud those dedicated authors and enjoy their works when I have time. Yet the pile of scribbled-out Make A Quick Buck works grows higher every day and I feel like the genre is going to take a damn good kick to find a solution to this. 



The Trickster's Tale is not that story. 



No single story can have that impact and be that lever. It is, however, a goddamn good start. It is fresh. It is well-thought out with poignant humor and likeable characters. For a comedy fantasy with an MC who is SUPPOSED to be charming, this is life and death. The reader LIKING Perry is what will make and break their experience. 



I'm not mincing words. I have found I despise most Cha-based MCs in Litrpgs, given how lazily they're written or how skewed the author's idea of 'likeable' isz often making MCs who are outright assholes I'd gladly punch if I met them IRL into swaggering fuckbois who flash a smile and a skill at someone and have a lifelong friend. 



JPal does not make that mistake. His writing doesn't use Skills as a crutch or a way to hastily describe how something completely fooking implausible has happened. Instead, he writes a likeable character with limits, failings and who has to use every trick he has to get by when caught in a bad situation. 



Story: 



To specify. This review is being written two weeks after having read TTT, with no re-reading to refresh my memory. This is to see whether or not this work has insofar withstood the test of time and remained memorable to me after having finished it and moved on. 



It largely has. The premise is unique, fully remembered and can be mentally described from its inception to execution. The idea of cosmic horrors sponsoring champions and sending them to fight while gambling on the outcomes is as ludicrous as ever, yet I can happily say it was not wasted or fumbled. Proper care has been paid, giving it proper depth and insight in this first book. 



The setting has been wonderfully constructed so far, again with proper depth and care I rarely find in LITRPGs, more akin to literary fantasy yet still fitting into the flow of the tale. Stats, skills and levels are integrated well, have in-world explanations that make sense, and the MC isn't the only person who knows how to use magic and navigate it. 



I consider the plot to be well-constructed but not perfect, keeping the flow moving while never rushing, opening more information about the world and character development even as the stakes advance. With the exception of the ending, which, to be brutally honest could have been built a little better, this is something I would gladly binge-read more of. 



The small easter eggs and subtle hints dropped for later books were tucked away inside satisfying dialogue and character progression, with moments that genuinely made me laugh out loud and others that made me simply enjoy this story. 



As it was meant to be.



Grammar: 



It's been professionally edited by a studio that knows how to do its job and doesn't settle for anything less than top-notch. 



That should say it all. 



Style: 



JPal has, no mucking around, a very readable style. The story has an easy flow to it, combined with natural charm that a comedy lives and dies on. Proper attention is given to depth and pacing (mostly) and dialogue flows smoothly. At no time could I describe myself as bored or getting there, yet I wasn't truly riveted where everything else fell away. This isn't to disparage the obvious amounts of skill in the writing and editing, it's just me not hyping this like it's the Biggest, Bestest Thing Ever and disappointing readers when they find that out themselves. 



Still, a slick, flowing style is something I would live to see more authors emulate in the genre. 



Characters: 



This is two things. A comedy, and a character driven story. This is what it lives and dies by. And I can say without reservation that this lives on in glory. The cast? Well-constructed and fleshed-out. Proper backstories, reasoning and development all around. No skimping, and no info-dumping. All while maintaining the smooth, steady flow I have lovingly described above. 



Perry himself passess the test. As I mentioned before, I hold charisma based characters to a higher standard because I, the reader, must actually like him in order for others liking him to seem plausible to my critical mind. Perry succeeds. He's a person in a bad situation with a toolset artificially forced on him that he might not necessarily know how to handle perfectly. 



The solution is not neatly dumped in his lap, does the universe align to give him the perfect opportunity. Instead, he works for it. 



He is not, as I describe it, artificially charming, where a character on page may swoon for him and I wouldn't know wtf is going on because that line felt about as seductive as wet sandpaper stroking my bush. 



He is instead, built to be likeable, relatable, with his own unique set of strengths and flaws. He can cook and he can sing. 10/10 housewifey material. The british accent can be worked around. 



The rest of the cast, -and there are quite a few but I'm mentally tired and won't prattle- are just as well-developed, and presented in whatever light the author pleases. This works. Oh it works. I won't say much because spoils, but shout-out to my man Hruk and his new journey into the wonderful world of elf girls with a kink for smol goblins. 10/10 would read that scene again. 



Tlde: Everything in this section is excellently done. 



Closing: 



Look, if you want something to laugh over, read for some honest feels and even get some unexpectedly wholesome moments while dying inside at the humor and excellent execution, then by all means, read on. It's more than worth it. 

Zogarth
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

First, a disclaimer: I have never read any prior versions of this, and I don't know if that makes me more positive towards the story. But honestly, who cares? It's good, you should read it. If you already read it? Just read it again; from the author notes, it sounds like there were a lot of changes.

It's not often I find a story that feels "fresh" like this one. It doesn't do anything unique or special with how the power system works, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The system works, and that's what's most important. The stats are simple and easy to understand, and the author explains them nicely and concisely.

Now, like any other good LitRPG, it has a gimmick. The gimmick of our MC is that he is branded a coward, which means he sucks at combat and screws himself over if he tries to fight things, but is better suited towards non-combat activities. This gimmick hasn't played much of a role yet - at least it hasn't been that prominently displayed - but I am sure it will be more important as the story moves on. The main character is very relatable and helps ground the story, and the exploration of the new world for both the reader and the main character feels natural. Who doesn't want to know the dos and don'ts of the world they inhabit?

Storywise there actually is one. From the beginning, there is set up an end-goal, and after that, we quickly know the sub-goal to reach there.

As a story is about a bard, there is naturally a lot of talking to people, and luckily the characters so far have actually been interesting. The antagonists so far aren't cartoonishly evil, but just assholes, really.

Grammar? Seems fine, idk. 

Style? Plenty of style. He is a bard, is he not? Well, I can admit that I am not a fan of referring to real-world music, and quite honestly, it is quite risky to play the most recognizable cords (Thunderstruck) so openly. Who from Earth wouldn't recognize that? Well, it is a great song...

In conclusion: I like it. I barely read any new stories these days as I am too busy doing my own thing, but this one kept me engaged enough to read to the newest chapter and be sad the "next chapter" button was grayed out. That is a lot more than most stories I come across. Keep up the excellent work.

Alex M
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Wow, what a great find! Houndsmaster's pulled out another banger with this one. Perry's a hilarious character with the perfect levels of attitude and wit. The book kicks off with a parody of the typical killed and reincarnated into another world trope, introducing a group that make it their business to decide just who should be chosen for such a thing. Of course, Perry was a mistake, and it was his arsehole of a friend that was supposed to go instead. This whole section gave me similar vimes to the time traveling group from the Umbrella Academy, and I love the concept.

And straight away we're witness to the consequences of Perry's big mouth, as the rather unpleasant goddess, Tracy, bestows upon him a curse (and what I hope will be a blessing).

All the seeds are there for a great book, and we're quickly introduced to a fun cast of humanoid monsters and companions that make for an interesting and unique setting. This is the perfect break from typical litRPGs, where the MC certainly has his skills and talents, but is far from OP.

The writing is great. There's a few typos here and there, as one would expect, but the pacing and voice had me hooked all the way to the latest update. Just with Houndsman, if you're looking for a new and interesting take on litRPG, this is a great one to check out.

06rockstar
Overall

I'm just leaving a review here because I didn't see one. I really enjoyed what's out so far. The system in this story looks to be interesting and the character is enjoyable. Grammar is good, I didn't notice any glaring issues as I read it. I'd reccomend giving it a shot!

artsymarsy
Overall

Though it seems some people find this lesser writing than a version that came before, I am thoroughly enjoying Perry's tale. It isn't very dense, which is exactly what I'm looking for these days. I'll be glad if the posting rate keeps up!

There are some errors missed in proofreading but nothing overly jarring & the story doesn't suffer from repeating information. The paragraphs are reasonably sized and match the tone of whatever's going on.

A repeated error I noticed was failing to remove the end quotation mark of a dialogue that continues to the next paragraph:

Sarah said, "You often find this technique used at the end of a paragraph of a dialogue, before a topic change.

"Notice the missing quotation mark above," Sarah continued. "It shows that the same person is speaking. Otherwise, a reader is prepared for a different participant to be adding their voice.

Miss Corbyn
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Halfling Bard is trying to take vengeance on Gods

Reviewed at: Chapter 22

So this is a really early review I might update later on.

I did not got hooked by the houndsman. But this new entry in the diskverse worked for me just fine.

Style is good, consise and straight to the point. Grammar is excellent and beyond my english level, so beyond criticism from me.

As for the Story, the beginning is a bit too boring and cliché... but as soon as the race and class selection is done... everything is so cool.

The MC is really original as he received the Brand of the Coward, which prevent him prevently to be good at fighting. (And unlike Mark of the Fool, which is another story which I liked and gave a good review, this MC isn't trying to get around the Branding limitations)

If you wanna read a DnD/Pathfinder-like novel with a MC which resolve conflicts without fighting, you are in the right place. It's clever and the MC is nothing like the Cold/Calculating/Rational MC which is the bad standard of Revenge trope. The MC isn't a super-genius either and got himself in a lot of bad predicaments because of it, but yet, he is also smart enough to use opportunies to make a come back.

In the end, I would say it's promising. But with 22 chapters, almost 140 pages already and the plot still only beginning, there is a long way to go.

The Houndsman isn't done yet either so there is a risk that the most popular novel might take precedence or that the story might be drop at some point due to the enormous pressure (The MC halfling bard is suppose to take revenge on a Goddess in the end, afterall.)

Yet no matter if it take years to reach the end, the updates are regulars and the story is really fun. So I cannot advise you more to give it a try.

Commander Kane
Overall

Issa Bard 2: Electric Boogaloo

Reviewed at: Chapter 10

So, I read the first 10 chapters. They were pretty decent. Not gripping, but definitely interesting. The first few chapters are kinda boring - the standard affair, where the MC wakes up in an unfamiliar places, gets angry at the person/people who sent him here, and then some character creation. I think the author spent too long on the confrontation bits for how...lackluster they were. A lot of dialogue that I felt could've used a bit more spicing up than "MC speaks common sense, goddess gets angry, consequences for speaking common sense".

The story really picks up after Perry is finally sent into the Disk. The first of his trials were really entertaining. I have a few nitpicks, though.

~~~

The Coward's Blessing is a big part of Perry's whole deal but we barely see it affect combat at all. We see a status screen that shows his lowered stats and...that's about it. He gets a little tired but afterwards, he starts playing his guitar with seemingly no adverse affects, despite his lowered dexterity.

Speaking of the song he used in the battle against the kobolds, I was a little miffed that we were only shown him singing one line. We got an explanation for the altered lyrics and then...that's it. Come on! (Author has clarified it's because of stupid legal reasons. Still miffed though.)

There are a few grammar mistakes here and there. Not enough to be terrible, but enough that it's slightly annoying. Sentence structure also needs work in some places; the author tries to express something, but the way it's worded makes it confusing.

The characters are average. Not bad but rather 'meh'. There's the best friend who cheats with the MC's girlfriend for some reason (why that's such a popular point of conflict, I dunno) and the arrogant goddess who accidentally got MC killed along with the best friend who were my least favorite, but they noped out fairly quickly. The company master or whatever was cool but there wasn't much characterization put into him besides his helpful explantations of the system, because why not? He feels bad for assisting in the MC's death.

The goblins are standard as well. You get the one goblin in the group who found the MC who buddies up to him and then the nasty higher ups who are suspicious and force the MC to prove himself. So far we haven't seen the goblin buddy's master or the tribe chief, and I hope my expectations for them will be subverted.

All in all, it's a pretty chill story so far. If you find the first few chapters kinda boring like I did, it's okay; they're worth reading for the explanations and the story really picks up after Perry gets to the disc.

I can't say I'd recommend it to anybody out of my own personal tastes, but if you're interested in bard MCs, I think this story will deliver.

Nozwolf
Overall

Nice story for now, the side character aren't two dimensional and the main character show intriguing wit and reactivity to each event he encouters. The world and lore seems interesting and well thought. I hope you won't include any change of point of view before you end the current arc. It's attractive to discover the world along the MC and it can be jarring to be introduced to a trap before it sprung on us

loimprevisto
Overall

Third rewrite of a fun story - better every time!

Reviewed at: Chapter 26

I don't remember when the original version of this story hit RoyalRoad, but I remeember following it until it jumped the shark and the author decided to do a re-write. The next one was called The Halfwit Halfling and it smoothed over a lot of the rough spots and turned into a great read. The author published it on Amazon and took it down from RR so I figured that was the end of it... then I jumped into this story and saw a suspiciously familiar run-in with a cat/Herald of The Devourer.

This rewrite is cleaning up a few of the rough edges and substantially improving the flow of the story. Knowing the broad strokes of how the story will turn out doesn't feel like a spoiler, it's just something to look forward to. I can't wait to meet Curry again!

NoxAlleric
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

The halfling that will have it all!

Reviewed at: Chapter 28

It's been a long time since I genuinely binged read a story on RR, all 28 chapters were gone in one gripping and enticing session. But that's enough gushing from me, let's see why this halfling is going to knock the rankings half-dead.

Style Score: The story is written in an engaging yet easy-to-read manner, making the overall experience more immersive and pleasant. A lot of pop culture reference is utilized, especially in music, which may go over some folk's heads but I enjoyed them. 

Grammar Score: Aside from a few typos and misplaced words, the grammar itself is basically perfect and rather high standard for RR.  

Story Score: For a Litrpg, the story itself feels fresh with a unique character lead, a halfling that's unable to utilize violence as the main method for problem-solving, which feels refreshing to read after a plethora of knights, wizards, and assassins in most Litrpg novels. The settings feel like your standard fantasy world with some godly games going on, but it's really the characters that truly gave flavor and spices to this standard-setting. 

 

Character Score: Characters, the creme de la creme of this entire story so far. Each character feels exceptional, their appearance, demeanor, and right down to how they interact with other characters in the story. Even with most of the characters in the first arc consists of goblins, each of them feels unique and not just a gang of goblins doing goblin things for goblin reasons. The MC is very likable (or I might just got charmed into writing this review by that crafty bastard.) and it's easy to root for him in any dire situation, thanks to his charming personality and reasonable goals. He was screwed over by a cosmic entity and he's out to for revenge, extra points for not doing it in a edgy, brooding, "crawling in my skinnnnn" kind of way.

And now, for the score that matters the most. 

My Overall Enjoyment: I give it a 5 halflings stack on top of each other with a trenchcoat on so they can pretend to be one tall person out of 5.