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.

Oneshot Scenario – Toys VS Aliens

Hello Friends and Gamers,

This is a Scenario for Oneshot – The Simplest RPG.

Have fun!

The flying saucer from Moonbeam Ontario

Description

The world is being invaded by aliens. They’ve used their U.F.O (Universal Freezing Organics) Ray to stop all living creatures from moving. As toys you are not affected and must find a way to save the world before the effects of the ray become permanent.

Starting

The group starts in a large cylindrical white room. There’s a large hatch and a note written in crayon.

I think you’ll do better. Good luck – Sally

There’s a panel next to the door and a small air grate near the ceiling.

Getting out of the room should be easy. Either ask the panel to get out, hotwire it, crawl through the vent or break down the door.

Either way it should all lead to the main control room.

Control Room

Inside the control room there are a lot of people and computer screens.

Just outside the door to the chamber is a little girl holding three heavily armed drones. She seems frozen in place.

There are several adults frozen in a run towards her. They look horrified.

The computer screens seem to indicate that they were experimenting to make sentient drones.

There’s a TV on and it looks like it’s paused but the clock is working normally. If they rewind or look online they’ll see that aliens were spotted entering the solar system a week ago. After several days of trying to contact them, the three motherships took positions around the earth and started their Freeze Ray. It look less than a day for the ray to freeze everyone on the planet. The Phlebotinum Institute accelerated their efforts to make drones sentient barely activating the device before being frozen.

Outside the Lab

Enemies: Aliens and Drones

The game will require the players to figure out where they are and what they want to do. The overall goal should be to turn off the ray, scare off the aliens, or just stop the invasion.

This can be done in a multitude of ways. Let your players be creative. If they need help here are a few options that you can hint at:

  • Gain access to the ships and shut off the ray in hopes humans can fight the aliens off.
  • Find a way to launch nuclear/secret/etc weapons against the aliens.
  • Negotiate with the aliens.
  • Upload virus / trick / etc

No matter what they choose there should be 3 phases to the adventure: Plan, execute plan, and final boss.

Plan

Enemies: Aliens or Drones

In this section they are getting what they need to do their plan. It could be communication equipment, missile codes, etc.

In most cases the Aliens are the villains and anything they plan should include a fight with a few of the aliens. They are small, green, and ride around in flying saucers.

If they need to get into a human facility or negotiate with the aliens, the rogue drones become the main villain. They don’t want to let humans come back. They should only fight 1 or 2 of these.

Execute the plan

Enemies: Aliens or Drones

In this section they have their equipment and must apply the plan. This should be a series of challenges and fights.

Try to throw skills challenges that have an average difficulty of 4 or 5

Final Boss

Enemies: General

The General or Generals (Adjust depending on strength and amount of characters.) and their army want to prevent the characters from succeeding. In this section they must fight their way to the final phase of their plan.

Enemies

Aliens Rogue Drones General
Health 3 66
Defence 536
Body 144
Mind 304
Luck 110
Abilities Lasers 1, Slam 1 Missiles 1, Slam 1 Death Ray 1+2 flip

Have fun!

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG

Hello My Imaginary Friends and Gamers,

Back in 2013 I went to an event and at that event I offered to run a Oneshot RPG session. I had no rules and no ideas. They chose to play Cards Against Humanity instead and I spent the event dreaming up what I would call The Simplest Role Playing System.

It was okay and I used it for a few years before altering it and renaming it CoasteRPG I had grand plans to sell it as a coaster. The concept was cool but didn’t really work out. Apparently putting your drink on something you write on and then flipping the coaster didn’t work very well. I still plan on finding a way to sell this but I’m not sure how yet.

So here we are and I’ve modified the rules a little for balance. It still uses coasters, although you could use coins or even/odd dice rolls.

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG

Simple Rules: Each player chooses Body, Mind, or Luck as their character’s specialty. They have 4 in that ability. (Ex. Fighters choose Body.) Their Health and Defence each equal 4.

Complex Rules: Each person has 4 points to place in Body, Mind, and Luck. No negatives. Their Health equals their Body plus 2. Their Defence equals Mind or Luck plus 2.

Resolution Mechanism: When a character needs to do something, the Storyteller decides if it’s easy (1), hard (2), ridiculous (4), or inconceivable (6). 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 coaster 3 times and call it (if it’s a die have them call even or odd). Add every right guess to their attribute.

If the player gets 3 successes in a row they continue to flip until they fail.

Combat: Each character does 1 point of damage (unless specified in their abilities) if they hit something and takes the same if they are hit. Death occurs at 0 health.

Special Abilities: Choose 2 of; Hit (1 damage +1 flip), Heal (1 healing + 1 flip), or Help (+1 success to any other characters test.)

Everything else: The storyteller makes up.

Scenarios

Character Sheets

Oneshot – The Simplest RPG Character Sheet (43KB)


Thank you and Good Gaming!

Éric

Sexism in Gaming

Yesterday I read an Tumblr post that made me deeply uncomfortable. Go read the article but be warned it’s disturbing.

Ok if you don’t want to read it it’s an account of how abhorrently women are treated in the gaming community; specifically tabletop, Pen & Paper, and miniatures/strategy. Not just heckling or general sexism but multiple forms of assault.

It made me sick to my stomach and a little part of me was glad I’d never experienced it. (In case you’re just tuning in; I’m a thirty-something, white, cis, male.) As I sat there thinking how it might turn me off gaming completely, and how sad that would be, I remembered a game I ran once.

It was the mid-2000s and Lost was every geek’s favourite show. Narnia had burst onto the big screen and I was running a game for three other guys. They were my first gaming group and they had a strict no girls policy.

The game was set on an Island (of course) and had Halflings that rode polar bears into battle (what game doesn’t). The overall theme of the game was racism, I’d based the story vaguely on the real life story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. (I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time.) Only he was a Halfling Colosseum fighter.

The group was ridiculously cautious. They’d spend 20-40 minutes per decision trying to plan for every contingency. (Probably my fault, a polar bear had killed their character in the jungle when they’d foolishly run ahead alone.)

After several sessions of them literally doing nothing and then getting pissed that I wasn’t moving the story along fast enough I introduced a new character; an impulsive human female Ninja, with shady motives. The idea was to have a character that could move the plot forward without a player fearing for their characters’ lives.

I’d done it early with an, “enemy of my enemy” style bad guy and they’d followed him straight into a trap. They still liked him afterwards.

They hated the Ninja from the start. At first I thought it was the impulsiveness (ten years later I think it was the gender). It wasn’t too bad at the beginning but when I started having her assert opinions like, “You’ve been arguing about going through this door for 30 minutes, I’m sure they’ve heard you.” Or “Shut up and stab something.” They started to verbally abuse her both in game and out of game and she was renamed, “The Bitch”.

At one point, in the middle of a puzzle, I tried to give them a hint through the Ninja. One of the players told her to shut up and let them work. I snapped and asked through the character, “What the hell is your problem? I’ve saved your life, fought monsters beside you but you still treat me like shit.”

The answer was, “You’re an NPC.” (Non-Player Character) Which I would believe if they hadn’t had the epic bromance with the last NPC. Then the player added, “Plus I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

The rest of the group burst into laughter as if it was the cleverest joke they’d ever heard.

If it sounds familiar, it’s a quote from South Park that specifically makes fun of a character for being sexist.

The game fizzled out shortly afterwards. It had made me deeply uncomfortable. At the time I thought it was because I was doing something wrong in running the game. I thought the hate and vehemence was aimed at me.

I’m sure some of it was aimed at me but most was aimed at the character who dared to be female and not be a love interest, damsel, or incompetent.

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the sexism women deal with every day and it sucked. It’s nothing like the stories in the article but my experience does illustrate how deep seeded the sexism in gaming is, that a fictional character played by a man was treated poorly just because I wrote down F instead of M on the character sheet.

Since then I’ve played with dozens of people and have had great experiences. I’ve built up my own community of players that aren’t jackasses and I’ll re-post what I said on my facebook yesterday:

Let me be completely clear: Books End, FADDS, and any game I run is a safe space. If you EVER feel uncomfortable you let me know and it will be dealt with.

This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, deplorable, and will result in being permanantly banned. I also have no qualms with calling the police if things are bad enough.

Gaming is about having fun and imagining other worlds. It’s not exclusive to one gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, language, etc… It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

 

Be Excellent to each other!

Éric

Basic Update – July 14

The morning heat rushed to embrace me as I left the house. Its touch was warm and soothing to start but quickly it started to suffocate me. As I walked the short walk to the bus the heat threw a blanket of humidity over everything and made the world feel and look like it was under water, without the soothing liquid.

That’s not the start of a story, it’s just my morning commute… blarg. I hate heat. Fall is my favourite season. Give me 5-15 degrees Celsius and I’m happy. I realize it’s only been a few days of 30 degree weather but I’m not a fan.

Other than the heat my weeks are busy with multiple big projects at work, tweaking FADDS from player feedback, and trying to get some writing done. With the constant urgencies at work I’m starting to feel like I’m falling behind on my writing. I think it may be time to start writing at night again. (Yeah I know I was spoiled.)

FADDS is coming around really well. My two major blocks were Magical items and Villains. Last week in the shower I figured out magic items cost and creation.

Villains, Monsters, Fiends, Challenges, opponents, adversaries, bad guys, etc. whatever you want to call them they’re essential to role playing games. My biggest issue with most games is their lack of instructions for making a villain that isn’t a player class. Sometimes I like to have an insanely awesome rat fight my high level characters. Without making it really big or giving it class levels.
On the flip side as a game master I really don’t want to spend 1 hour or more making a monster that my players will ignore or kill in under 30 seconds.

So the challenge I have is creating a two tiered system, one for genuine big-bads and one for the challenging but quick monsters. All without players knowing the difference.

Building a game system is difficult but really exciting. I’ve spent so many hours in front of a screen that I can say with authority, get yourself computer glasses. I love the feeling I get when everyone is having fun and the game is moving forward. It’s great.

Éric

Recommendation Thursday – Non-Player Character Webcomic

Hi,

Every once in a while I’ll find a webcomic that devastates my productivity. It’s been a few months since this happened. The other day I was reading Weregeek and the guest artist had their own comic called NPC. The first joke I read was a D&D joke and I was hooked from then on.

It’s a gag a day comic with mini-storylines and it’s extremely entertaining.

Go check it out.

2013-12-06-8019a98d

Eric

Guidelines for Cooperative Gaming Fun!

A cooperative game is any game that you play cooperatively with others instead of opposed to other players. Massive Online Roleplaying games, some tabletop games, Pen and Paper Roleplaying games, and certain video games all fit into this category.

All of them require that you play well with others, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.

**Disclaimer: This is my opinion and I have almost no experience playing MMO-RPGs.**

tumblr_moe2u9w5Cw1qgpnkto1_500

Read moreGuidelines for Cooperative Gaming Fun!

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*