Please welcome Chad Charest (he/him)! He is a geek of all types, master of none, and he is in the running to become World’s Coolest Uncle. You can hear more from him in his podcast interview with DMs of Vancouver, and stay tuned! He is writing an urban fantasy series; it will hopefully be on your bookshelf in the future.
Chad, when did you first play Dungeons and Dragons? What was the experience like?
My experience with roleplaying games actually started with MSN role play chat with friends. We made stuff up with no material or oversight, just one person acting as gamemaster and the rest of us reacting. When I was 12-13 years old, I would go to a local Chilliwack game store (now Bastion Games) to play Yu-Gi-Oh!. Another teenager invited me to play D&D, and actually, we still play together! For years, I was mostly playing with people older that me, usually with straight cis men. I would love to play with a more diverse group, but queer female nerds tend to live outside of Chilliwack.
Nowadays, I usually split my time between DMing and playing 50/50. DMing is more work, but I like trying to force people to role play. A normal group is very hack and slash based, so I will give them prompts during character creation to expand a little. The one I usually use is the prompt “You are lost, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Why?” Then in a twelve-session campaign, each character gets three sessions of focus to find the thing that is lost.
As a player, my characters have changed a lot over time. I used to like paladins a lot, then I went through a charisma character phase. Right now I’m obsessed with intelligence based characters like wizards and artificers. I recently played gnome wizard inspector, and it was really fun.
I hear that you’ve introduced your nephews to D&D. How did that go?
Yeah, I recently taught my two nephews (aged 11) how to play D&D! The system allows for people to play at any age. Some handholding is necessary at first, and having an experienced player other than the DM at the table is helpful. But let them do what they want, and don’t guide them or be too helpful. Make suggestions and remind them what they’re capable of, but let them make decisions on their own.
When I was starting with my nephews, I gave them a walkthrough of every class and where they typically end up focusing, but I also gave them flexibility if they changed their minds. I think it’s also important to base the game on things they’re already interested in, like Minecraft. And sometimes it’s important to change how to play to fit their style. I usually play D&D with theater of the mind, but I bought them miniatures because I knew they’d love it. Now they’re playing by themselves, and they give me regular updates. I’m usually like, “That’s definitely not following the rules, but you’re having fun!” It feels so good to have passed this on to them.
How do you bring your asexual identity into D&D and roleplaying games? Has D&D played a part in exploring or understanding your sexuality?
Honestly, not really. I only figured out that I am asexual when I was 27 – about seven years ago. My D&D characters have just never been sexual, and usually I was playing with cis dudes who weren’t going to role play flirting with each other, and if they did romance an NPC, the scene would fade to back.
I love playing bards, but contrary to popular stereotypes, they don’t flirt. Instead, they’re cocky and fun, and they make great friendships with other characters.
What makes a D&D table a queer-friendly atmosphere to you?
I haven’t had much trouble with that. When I came out as asexual, my friends were accepting and it was fine – not a big deal. I do like to play with queer people; when I have it’s awesome. You get a lot less of the hack and slash role play, and you get diverse characters who care about more things and have more in-depth identities (though of course cis people sometimes do too). Izzy introduced non-binary characters into their campaign, and that was awesome. I want more of that! For now I seek out that representation and community in literature or TV shows.
What would you like to see done differently in D&D (either the culture surrounding the game or the mechanics of the game itself)?
Wizards of the Coast have made some good steps recently; Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything no longer forces stats based on race. We need more things like that! We should also moving away from stories based in imperialism and be more creative by telling different kinds of stories. I try to bring that into my campaigns when I can.
Are there TTRPG systems that you enjoy other other D&D? What are they, and what do you like about them?
I love Warhammer RPGs. It’s a well-established world. Even though it is very imperialistic, they’re fun! There is a wealth of history and lore that gives you a lot to work with, so you can lean away from imperialism and play from other alien species perspectives to get into more interesting content. Orcs grow from mushrooms, so let’s have asexual orcs!
I also like Clockwork and Chivalry. In fact, my queerest experience happened in that game…with non-queer people. There is a table you can roll to determine how you know the other characters. The one woman in the group was in love with my character, and everyone else was in love with another character. It led to this great scene where everyone spent the night sneaking to someone else’s tent, only to find it empty because the other person was sneaking off to someone else’s empty tent!
Of all the TTRPGs I’ve played, though, I think Rolemaster is my favorite. It is a little bit like D&D but it’s complex; there are 270 skills. In D&D, your characters are badasses too easily. In Rolemaster, you have to be really careful in combat situations. A group of goblins can take out a level 10 character if you aren’t strategic about your location or defenses.
Do you have any recommendations of asexual representation done well in a nerdy property (TV show, podcast, book)?
I actually got to sit on a panel at Emerald City Comic Con about asexual representation in media. We talked about Todd Chavez in Bojack Horseman and Jughead from Archie comics. Often in media, male representation of asexuality leads to characters that are infantilized and treated like children. On the other hand, there is a lot of amazing female representation. There is a drama podcast called ARS Paradoxica with a lead who is asexual, and it’s the best time travel anything that I’ve ever experienced. Elizabeth Moon’s fantasy novel The Deed of Paksenarrion has a main character who doesn’t use the word “asexual” to describe herself, but she does talk about not being interested in sex or romance.
Thank you for coming on Roar Cat Reads to share your experience with us, Chad!
Are you an Adventure Queer? Do you love to play D&D? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you would like to be interviewed!