Untrained Deception Checks, (or How I Found the Right Voice for Faux Ho Ho) – Guest post by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This summer, I was lucky enough to take part in an all-writer Dungeons & Dragons campaign, alongside some amazing authors. Brandon Crilly was our DM, Marie Bilodeau was our fast-talking, shanty-singing aasimar bard, Evan May played a hysterical bugbear monk of few words (and even less grammar), Kevin Hearne played a grumpy human former-soldier turned ranger, and I rounded out the group with my perceptive—but really honest and trusting—half-elf cleric of the sea goddess. In the middle of a tense scene, where we were pretty sure we were up against a particularly bad foe who was skeptical of our arrival not being a hostile invasion (it was totally a hostile invasion, but we were hoping to convince him to leave without a fight), my wee half-elf tried an untrained deception check.

It went poorly. Or at least, he ended up having to blast the villain with the wrath of his sea-goddess, so it didn’t go as planned. But that’s D&D. You make a plan, the plan falls apart, you throw lightning and thunder around. Repeat.

Over the same time period, I was also working on a holiday-set, fake relationship trope romance novella, and our D&D sessions turned out to help coalesce some facets I was struggling with when it came to my protagonist, Silas. The set-up for Faux Ho Ho is pretty simple: Silas’s family isn’t particularly supportive of him, but they’re in the public eye as a political family, so they take pains to make things look better than they are. He lives in Ottawa, they live in Alberta, allowing him to keep his distance when he can, but at the start of the story, they’re trying to wrangle him back home for Thanksgiving, partly so they can have him included in an event for his eldest brother, a Member of Parliament, keeping the optics of “we support our queer kid” if not the actions. Silas can’t think of a single thing to get out of it, and then his roommate—who his parents don’t know exists—pretends to be his boyfriend, claiming they have plans already with his family for Thanksgiving. This sets into motion a series of further fibs that send Silas and his roommate on a path to a happy-ever-after, albeit one with quite a few hiccoughs on the way.

Now, Silas is an introverted sort, a coder geek and a gaming nerd, and while this is by no means outside of my wheelhouse (I mean, I don’t really code, but otherwise) I was struggling to find the right way to present Silas to the reader. His voice, in early drafts, wasn’t landing right.

Then we had the D&D session with my half-elf’s botched deception check and it struck me. While Silas is staring down his parents on the Skype call, his “boyfriend” behind him, Silas has to lie outright to them if he wants out of the Thanksgiving visit. I slipped into his point of view and wrote:

Okay. He could do this. He’d never put any points into deception in his entire life, but natural twenties happened, right?

And there he was. From that moment on, Silas took shape in my head, and everything started to flow just-so. Before I knew it, writing Silas’s dialog, his reactions, and his thoughts wasn’t just easier, it was fun, and I realized it was the first time I’d written a D&D playing adult as the protagonist of a romance, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I’d waited so long. I write queer characters in romance specifically because I want to see people like me with happy endings, but I hadn’t gone that extra step to add this particular flavor of nerdy gamer into the mix.

Dungeons & Dragons became one of the geeky lenses through which Silas viewed the world, and it was a joy to put those references in there. Luckily, my editor also has a history with the game, so I didn’t have to explain too much (and, in fact, some of the editing notes that came back included D&D references in return). Silas and his gaming group even get to play a session in Faux Ho Ho. Silas also dresses up in a Dungeons & Dragons cartoon cosplay outfit at one point (spoiler: he’s Presto).

In short, if it wasn’t for those gaming sessions this summer, and my writer friends who always have my back, I’m not even sure Faux Ho Ho would have made it out of the gate.

As for Silas’s ongoing deception checks to maintain the illusion of him and his “boyfriend” at his sister’s Christmas wedding, and how it all works out with his family and his roommate? Well, if you want to know how that particular campaign turns out, the answer is in Faux Ho Ho. But since Faux Ho Ho is a romance, it’s not a spoiler to say that even though it absolutely doesn’t go to plan, it definitely ends happily.

The Blurb:

Silas Waite doesn’t want his big-C Conservative Alberta family to know he’s barely making rent. They’d see it as yet another sign that he’s not living up to the Waite family potential and muscle in on his life. When Silas unexpectedly needs a new roommate, he ends up with the gregarious—and gorgeous—personal trainer Constantino “Dino” Papadimitriou.

Silas’s parents try to browbeat him into visiting for Thanksgiving, where they’ll put him on display as an example of how they’re so tolerant for Silas’s brother’s political campaign, but Dino pretends to be his boyfriend to get him out of it, citing a prior commitment. The ruse works—until they receive an invitation to Silas’s sister’s last-minute wedding.

Silas loves his sister, Dino wouldn’t mind a chalet Christmas, and together, they could turn a family obligation into something fun. But after nine months of being roommates, then friends, and now “boyfriends,” Silas finds being with Dino way too easy, and being the son that his parents barely tolerate too hard. Something has to give, but luckily, it’s the season for giving. And maybe what Silas has to give is worth the biggest risk of all.

You can pre-order Faux Ho Ho at the Bold Strokes Books webstore in all e-formats; it will also be available December 10th, 2019, wherever quality LGBT e-books are sold.


‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published, including his first collection Of Echoes Born. Even though short fiction is his favorite, ‘Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul are available now from Bold Strokes Books, as well as his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks. More novels, novellas, as well as works of short fiction are always under way.

Pike or Lance?

In one of my favourite Voltron episodes, the Paladins play Monsters and Mana (their version of Dungeons and Dragons) and Lance plays a character called Pike. This costume (by @gilove2dance) is practically screen-accurate. So great!

D&D in a Castle

Do you like tabletop role-playing games? Do you want the atmosphere to be authentic?

There is a company offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences of playing D&D in a castle. You don’t even have to worry about finding a GM (they’re provided as part of the package), or if you’ve never played before (they’re great at coaching newbies).

Check it out! This is seriously cool.

Side note: Can you imagine your first experience with D&D being IN A CASTLE?

Are you interested in travelling to a castle to play D&D?

You can contact Jennifer Desmarais through Orleans Travel. jennifer.desmarais@orleanstravel.ca

Stranger Things – A Review

Hello My Imaginary Friends,
Since July of last year people have been recommending to me a TV show called Stranger Things.

If I were to describe the show, I’d say it was an homage to 1980’s YA movies with more than a little supernatural horror thrown in. It has D&D, Monsters, Psychic/Magic abilities, Conspiracies, Eighties Rock, and lots of kids on bikes.

It’s eight episodes on Netflix and although the first episode is a little slow, it builds quickly. The special effects are amazing, the locations are great, the music is wonderful, but most of all the acting is fantastic. The actors in this each play stereotypes from eighties movies, but managed to pull those characters out of cliché and make them believable.20161201_stranger_things_node

The one thing that I found lacking in the show was complexity and surprise. After two episodes I could have given you an outline of the entire season. I wasn’t surprised and was actually a little underwhelmed by the story.

It was a fun watch and the acting alone made it worth it, but this show was too close to my own influences, likes, and writing style for comfort. Seriously, after the last episode, I went to IMDB to make sure I hadn’t written it. I’ll let you decide if that’s a compliment or a condemnation.

In short, if you like Horror, YA, Eighties movies, and/or my writing; you’ll enjoy Stranger Things.

I give it 85% or 4.25/5

Later Days,

Éric

The Simplest Role Playing System – Part 2

Hello Friends,

Last weekend I ran the fourth playtest for The Simplest Role Playing System. It went great. I noticed a tiny issue with balance between defence and attack which I fixed. Other than that it’s a perfect rules light system for quick games.

I’ve also developed a Character sheet for the Advanced rules.

The Simplest Role Playing System-CharacterSheet

Here’s the PDF for download: The Simplest Role Playing System-CharacterSheet (111kb)

Have you tried the system? What did you think of it?

Éric

Gaming and Writing

Hello my Imaginary Friends,

I may have way too many things on my mind right now. It has nothing to do with being busy and everything to do with my mind working in overtime. I blame running oneshots and preparing to run a new campaign.

Gaming

After nearly four months of not running or playing in any games (pen and paper games like D&D) I ran a oneshot two weeks ago and another yesterday. Oneshots are short adventures that take an evening to start and finish.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons with both games. The first being that rules light games are harder for people to grasp as a first gaming experience. Second is that I’m very rusty with the D&D 3.5 rules. It took me forever to make characters.

I also got the Emerald Spire Superdungeon in the mail from Paizo. It’s the special Kickstarter, leather bound edition. It’s beautiful and exciting. I can’t wait to run my group through it on Thursday.

Hobbies

I’ve noticed most authors I know have another creative outlet. It varies from person to person, there’s gardening, sculpting, drawing, painting, music, acting, web videos etc.

I think it’s important to have an outlet that lets you do something other than writing. I’m still not an official author but I’ve noticed that writing sort of steels a section of my brain. I’m constantly thinking of scenes, stories, novels, characters and other things for what I’m writing or want to write. It’s exhausting and sometimes builds into stress.

If I don’t do something else with my mind, I often feel guilty for not writing. Writing is a combination urge, craving, and need.

The closest thing I have to another creative outlet is gaming. It allows me to use the same parts of my brain that create stories for another purpose. A good gaming session, or preparation session feels like I’ve rebooted or defragmented my brain. It’s great.

I’ve also greatly enjoyed working on my own gaming system called Four Attribute Duel Dodecahedron System or FADDS for short. I’ve talked about it before but I’ll be doing some playtest at the end of August for the game.

I’m toying with the idea of filming a playtest oneshot to see how well it plays.

fadds

Parasomnia

On the note of writing, I’m hard at work on chapter 20 of Parasomnia. It started out as a Supernatural Suspense but I think I’ll have to re-classify it as a Drama Fantasy. I also started writing it for Adults but I’m fairly sure it’s better suited for Young Adults, or that odd new category called New Adults.

The book should have roughly 23-25 chapters and I’m going to do something with it that I’ve never needed to do before and that’s edit the crap out of it before my Weditor (Also known as my Wife) looks at it.

Unlike the Elizabeth Investigates series, I find this book needs a lot more cleanup. It might be that I have 5 POV characters instead of 2 or maybe the others need it and I didn’t notice. Either way once I’m done I’ll have a few weeks’ worth of work before I send it to the Weditor.

An author I know, and respect, sends her beta readers her new books one at a time. So she’s already edited what the first one says before she sends it to the second one. I think this is a brilliant way to get a book edited and that’s what I’ll do with this one when it’s done.

It’s been a hard book to write. Each of the five main characters is fundamentally broken. I don’t mean a fatal flaw but a mental problem that hampers their development and their ability to deal with the world. It’s hard to include those things and try to make them realistic without caricaturizing them.

There’s still a strong dose of action and adventure throughout but this book has more character introspection than I’ve ever attempted.

I’m very proud of it so far and I hope it will be well received.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow with more random topics.

Éric

Recommendation Wednesday – WereGeek

Hello my imaginary friends,

Last week I wrote ahead to make sure I had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday off from writing. I thought that was enough. I totally forgot about the fact that Monday was a vacation and that I should have worked ahead. Past Eric messing with present Eric again.

Of course it’s a short week and the workload can be described as “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” so I’m not getting as much done as I’d like.

For all those reasons I’m starting a new tradition: Recommendation Wednesday. Where it’s Wednesday and I recommend something.

This week’s recommendation is: WereGeek.

It’s the most balanced gaming/slice of life comic I’ve read. The characters are fun and believable and the gaming is exciting and makes me want to try new things. Plus there’s a healthy sprinkling of puns.

Alina Pete has a great sense of humour and a great feel for characters. Go give it a read if you’re into gaming and like webcomics.

2006-11-27

 

Éric

The Simplest Role Playing System

I went to a social gathering the other night and someone asked if I’d brought a game. I hadn’t, so obviously I offered to run an improvised RPG. I had my phone with a dice roller so I was covered.

Turned out that I wasn’t needed but it got me thinking about how to create a simplified rule set that would be easy to remember and even easier to teach.

Here’s what I came up with… You need a coin or a dice (a coaster or other flip-able thing works too), a storyteller, and players. (Something to write on and with would help.)

Simple Rules: Each player chooses Body, Mind, or Luck as their characters specialty. They have 3 in that ability. (Ex. Fighters choose Body.) Their health and defence equal 4.

Complex Rules: Each person has 5 points to place in Body, Mind, and Luck. No negatives. Their health equals their Body plus their Luck+1. Their Defence equals Body plus Mind +1

Resolution Mechanism: When a character needs to do something the Storyteller decides if it’s easy (1), hard (2), ridiculous (4), or clownshoes crazy (7). The character then subtracts their attribute from the difficulty.

If the attribute is higher than the difficulty they succeed. If not they have to flip the coin 5 times and call it (if it’s a die have them call even or odd). Add every right guess to their attribute.

Combat: Each character does 1 point of damage if they hit something and take the same if they are hit. Death occurs at 0 health.

Everything else: The storyteller makes up.

Character Sheets: Available here!

I’d like to thank both XDM and Shadowrun for inspiring me.

Remember this when you’re at a bar or party and everyone looks scared or/and bored. Everyone will think you’re awesome! I promise.

*Rules updated July 7th, 2015 after a play test*

The Siberys Operative Eberron 3.5

The Siberys Operative

Requirements:

Base Attack Bonus: +12
Feats: Combat expertise, Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Whirlwind Attack, Improved Feint.
Abilities: Evasion
Skills: Stealth 11 ranks, and Bluff 11 ranks.

Hit points: d8
Skills per Level: 6+ Int Modifier

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Fort Save Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special
1st +0 +2 +2 +0 Fast Movement +10ft, Sneak attack +1d6
2nd +1 +3 +3 +0 Hide in Plain Site, Careful Step +5ft
3rd +2 +3 +3 +1 Improved Evasion, Sneak Attack +2d6
4th +3 +4 +4 +1 Fast Movement +20ft, Careful Step +10ft
5th +4 +4 +4 +1 Improved Whirlwind Attack, Improved Wandwind Attack, Sneak Attack +3d6

Fast Movement +10ft (Ex):

At first level a Siberys Operative base speed increases by 10ft and by another 10ft for a total of 20ft at level 4.

Sneak Attack :

A Siberys Operative gains the ability to sneak attack, like the rogue ability.

Hide in Plain Site (Ex):

At second level a Siberys Operative gains the ability to use the hide skill even when being watched or in the open.

Improved Evasion (Ex):

This ability, gained at third level, works like evasion. A Siberys Operative takes no damage at all on successful saving throws against attacks that allow a Reflex saving throw for half damage. What’s more, she takes only half damage even if she fails her saving throw.

Careful Step (Ex):

At second level and at fourth level, the Siberys Operative can weave in and out of combat with little difficulty, allowing them to move an extra 5ft without an attack of opportunity at second level and an additional 5ft at fourth level.

Improved Whirlwind Attack (Ex):

At fifth level a Siberys Operative is so comfortable with their Whirlwind attack that it no long takes them a full round action, instead it is treated as a standard action.

This allows the Siberys Operative to use a move action in order to either move or use improved feint; only one bluff check is used for all enemies. 

*Edited* Improved Wandwind Attack:

The Improved Whirlwind Attack ability can be used in conjunction with a wand that uses a touch attack and Use Magic Device check.

The Siberys operative must make a Use Magic Device check of 20+opponents Base attack bonus or incur an attack of opportunity. The target must be in adjacent scare and must still pass the normal save. Each attack is treated separately and therefore uses a separate charge from the wand even if the attack fails.