The Game’s Afoot — Welcome Back Leigh Perry

We are delighted to welcome back Leigh Perry. The Skeleton Makes a Friend, the fifth book in Leigh Perry’s popular A Family Skeleton Mystery series, just came out! Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Leigh!

I used to be a serious gamer, spending my weekends playing Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs. (That’s D&D and RPGs, for short.) I had stacks of rule books, notebooks filled with character sheets, and so many dice! I met my first serious boyfriend because he was wearing a dungeon master t-shirt, and he in turn introduced me to my future husband during a Christmas-themed game where we rescued Santa Claus from the Grinch.

Over the years, life got busier, and I slowly weaned myself from D&D and I haven’t played in decades. Still, I thought that I could use that otherwise useless knowledge of saving throws and character classes to provide fun background for one of my Family Skeleton books. I knew the game had evolved, but I picked my gamer daughters’ brains and found that  biggest change was that instead of always playing in somebody’s basement—those scenes in Stranger Things are eerily accurate—a lot of gaming happens online. My girls play massively multi-player online role-playing games. (That’s MMORPG to make it a little shorter, pronounced ma-morg.) I decided MMORPGs would a perfect fit for Sid, one of the two sleuths in the Family Skeleton series.

If you haven’t read the series, I should mention that the Family Skeleton really is a skeleton. He walks, he talks, he makes bad bone jokes, and along with his BFF Georgia, he solves murders. For obvious reasons—meaning him being an animated skeleton—he doesn’t leave the house much and that meant that an MMORPG was just what the cleric ordered. (That’s an old-style D&D joke, cause clerics did most of the healing and… Yeah, I’ll stop now.)

Knowing that gamers are sticklers for details, I decided not to use a real MMORPG for Sid and run the risk of making a major boner. (I never promised to stop making bone jokes.) Instead I designed a fake one: Runes of Legend, an MMORPG with a Nordic flavor. My daughters helped design the character classes and a perfect group for Sid to join, and my husband Steve used his knowledge of Icelandic sagas to help me with names. (I even threw in a couple of Viking characters he’d created for a short story published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.) By the time I was done, I wouldn’t have minded playing the game myself.

You might think the game stuff was just scenery in the book, but remember how I dated one dungeon master and married another? RPGs have a way of sneaking into real life, or in this case, into my character’s lives. There’s something about RPGs that makes them different from most games—the role playing. People are intentionally trying NOT to be themselves, but the fictional selves they pick show a lot about who they want to be and sometimes, who they really are.

Going back to the book, a book character named Jen plays a tracker who figures out puzzles and  shoots with a bow and arrow. Jen herself is constantly trying to figure out people, and keeps them at a distance. The character also has a domineering mother, and while Jen’s mother means well, it’s easy to see how Jen might see things differently.

Sid plays a trickster, which means he declaims alliterative verse to spur his fellow players to greater efforts. In MMORPG lingo, he’s a buffer because makes other characters more “buff”–stronger, faster, better. Now my mind was on game mechanics when I made Sid a buffer, but it makes a lot of sense for somebody like him. Due to his unusual lifestyle—meaning him not being alive—he is on the sidelines a lot, and his major contributions to Georgia are encouraging her, supporting her, and helping her. In other words, he’s just as much a buffer in real life as in the game.

Then there’s the game character Erik Bloodaxe. (I can’t tell you the book character’s name because the initial thrust of the book is Erik going missing, and Sid and Georgia trying to find him. It’s kind of a big reveal when you find out.) Erik is a mighty fighter with a big axe, which you should have with a name like that. But he’s also a true leader and hero, something that the person who plays Erik wishes he can be. (Small spoiler: by the end of the book, everybody agrees that the player really was pretty darned heroic.)

Now don’t worry –you don’t have to be a gamer to read this book. I limited the game stuff and kept what I did include as simple as possible so as not to slow down the action. But if you are a gamer, whether an oldstyle pencil-and-dice player like me and my husband or an MMORPG fan like my daughters, the game is afoot in The Skeleton Makes a Friend.

NOTE: If you’re interested, there is some serious research into how people choose their characters in RPGs, including an honors psychology thesis by my husband.

Readers: Have you ever become obsessed with a game? It doesn’t have to be a video game.

Leigh is giving away a book and skeleton swag to a commentor.


33 Thoughts

  1. I am such a Sid fan! Can hardly wait to read this one. I met Leigh at Bouchercon (we were on a panel together.) Such a good writer and a warm, funny person! My Dad worked for Parker Brothers in Salem and I loved playing Camelot, Flinch and of course, the sometimes interminable game of Monopoly

  2. I love most board and card games. They are all fun but my favorite of course is Clue & Rummy 500. I love Sid & can’t wait to read this newest installment.

  3. Welcome back, Leigh – sounds like you have this gaming stuff down. I knew nothing about it before I read your post!.And…happy birthday, too!

  4. I have had a love for games since I was 5! I was given Monopoly for my birthday and my dad always played with me. He loved board and card games and passed that on to me. I remember sitting on his lap and watching him play Canasta with his friends. I grew up listening to the clack of Dominoes, the swoosh of cards shuffling and being dealt. It’s just in my blood! I think the computer games I love the most are the Nancy Drew games. My goodness they have really improved over the years!

  5. I am so excited to read the next book in this series, I’ve read all your books under your different pen names. The only games I really like are word based games like scrabble, or words with friends, but never an obsession. Can claim a love of 80s game shows though. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  6. Hi Leigh,
    In my younger days 😏
    I loved playing the game Clue! Trying to shove The mysteries of who done,where and with what. It was so much fun! We would play it over and over.
    My son and his buddies play the games you are taking about. It’s interesting to watch. I don’t understand anything about them. Lol
    But they definitely have a good time and it’s great to see the friendship they have during the time spent playing the games.

  7. Obsessed? I don’t know. I mean my father and I used to have epic Trival Pursuit games. My daughter and I love Clue. And I played strategy games over lunch with co-workers at an old job (like Dominion) – some of them were obsessive, but for me it was just a chance to hang out and have fun. Which is good, because I usually lost.

    The Hubby and my brother-in-law can get a little cutthroat over Sorry!, too. I used to get more worked up than I do – too much competition sucks the fun out of it for me.

  8. I’ve never become obsessed with a game, although I did really enjoy Trivial Pursuit back in the day. Since my exes were very into D&D, this post brought back memories. This sounds like a really fun series. Thank you for the chance to win!

  9. Hubby and I love to play games of all sorts. So naturally when company comes, we play games for entertainment. We have one very near and dear couple that live out of town, but we are more like family than friends. We found we all have this love for The Andy Griffith Show and started playing the trivia game for the show. We soon found that the questions in the game were too easy and we all knew them. So it became our own game that in between times of getting together that we each found out own questions surrounded around the show and it’s actors. Then when we got together we used our questions for the board trivia game. It’s tons of fun and the game last a lot longer. In fact, we might not finish one game the weekend we are together. Plus it makes it more interesting to watch all the old shows to find some obscure little detail (like what was the house number of such and such scene) to use in the next game. The four of us are a crazy bunch and we also love to play FART. Yes, that’s really a game and if you have a great sense of humor and love to laugh, check it out. 🙂

    We also use to love (ok going to age myself here) Atari games with our daughter for hours on end.

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  10. I LUV this series. Can’t wait to read “The Skeleton Makes a Friend.” Wahoo!!!!

  11. I love this series. I used to enjoy playing pinball and Pac-Man but I can’t say I was ever obsessed

  12. Hi Toni,

    I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s ossifying wonderful to be spending some quality time with Sid again. There are times I wish I could a. do without sleep, b. collapse myself into a suitcase for easy transport, and c. come up with those wonderful/horrible bone puns and curse words you give Sid and Georgia. I’m still waiting for Byron to make off with one of Sid’s bones and bury it somewhere. That would be an “interesting” subplot, for sure.

    As far as games are concerned, I’m afraid I’m to ossified myself to dip into role-playing games, multi-player or not. I’m afraid I’m pretty much limited to the catalog of five of the Microsoft Casual Games (Solitaire, Sudoku, Minesweeper, Mahjong, and Ultimate Word Games. And I must regretfully admit that I am sufficiently addicted that I cannot head for bed if I haven’t successfully completed that day’s Daily Challenges. (And to be even more frank, if I didn’t occasionally give up on an expert-level game of Free Cell, I’d be getting about as much sleep as Sid. Ok, not just occasionally. I can NEVER do the d*** four-dot Free Cell games. Ugh! Nevertheless, he persisted.)

    I also get a big kick out of the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shout-out you always have for Charlaine Harris in all the Skeleton books. Just like Josie Prescott is always in the middle of reading a Nero Wolfe book in Jane Cleland’s antiques books, Georgia and her daughter are always watching Midnight Texas or the like. Hmm. I wonder if that frequent exposure to Charlaine’s universe could explain why Georgia keeps tripping over bodies.

    One of the things I most love about the series is the (unfortunately) accurate way you depict the way adjunct professors are treated in colleges and universities. After I read the first book in the series, I called my best friend who was a non-tenured instructor at the University of New Mexico. He was always complaining that, because of his status, he got the worst of everything. I asked him about the treatment of adjuncts, and he had to admit that the adjuncts were treated far worse than he. So you’ve nailed that exactly right.

    The Skeleton books are both great mysteries and wonderfully funny. if you haven’t read them you are DEFINITELY in for a treat. Leigh Perry is a treasure and has full tenure as far as I’m concerned!

  13. I’m a huge fan of games! I love board games, card games, and party style games. I’m also a fan of word games like scrabble and words with friends. I can’t wait to read this book! Sid is one of my favorite characters!

  14. I never entered a roll playing phase in my game life. I have enjoyed various card and board games over the years, however.

    But that didn’t keep me from enjoying your book at all. It’s wonderful!

  15. Welcome back, Leah! I am such a Sid fan. My son plays online D&D and in real life has even designed a game for his daughter–with princesses, of course.

  16. Love SId! I used to be a D&D fan, but I don’t think I was ever obsessed. I enjoy trivia games…anything that makes me smarter, even if it’s just useless knowledge, which I am the queen of.

  17. I love Sid & all his bad jokes! I enjoy games, however I’ve never become obsessed with any.

  18. This is a new series for me, I’m looking forward to exploring it. I know some guys who still play D&D but somehow I never got into it.

  19. I’m not a video gamer at all and have never been obsessed with a card or board game. Thank you for the chance to win. I adore Sid!

  20. Love Sid!
    I had a computer Mahjong game that had one played against three virtual players that I would play for hours.
    Unfortunately, the disc was lost and the game is no longer available.

  21. I am still obsessed with Assassin’s Creed it’s my favorite gaming series!

  22. This is a new series to me and I can’t wait to get to know Sid. I’m obsessed with playing Mahjong and Solitaire on my tablet.

  23. I miss Did. I also have not played D&D in decades as well..I love this series and can’t wait to read it.

  24. As my players I once had plans for my players to rescue Santa from the diabolical Anti-Claus. Never got around to it though.
    This sounds like a fun one, I’ll keep an eye out.

  25. I do play a pirate game and a couple word games on my phone, and for the interview!!

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