Disclaimer: I do not own Leverage or any of its characters; I'm just borrowing them for fun and no profit.
Summary: When Hardison finally manages to get the entire Leverage team to try a game of Dungeons & Dragons, things most definitely do NOT go as expected.
A/N: In episode 5x04, Eliot offhandedly mentions that Hardison ordered a bunch of "Dungeons and Dragons crap, and this oneshot just popped into my head. I couldn't resist the shenanigans that would result if Hardison ever tried to pull his teammates into one of his geeky hobbies, so I hope you enjoy! And for those of you who actually play D&D yourselves, I used the 5e rules.
It was like herding cats to get everyone finally gathered around the dinner table, where Hardison had spent the last several hours painstakingly setting up and organizing this Dungeons and Dragons session. He had been pestering the team for weeks and they weren't likely to give him another chance, so this had to be perfect. When he had finally decided there was nothing left to improve upon, he summoned the team, and spent another hour eliminating every excuse they could throw at him. Tonight was his night, and nothing was going to steal it, not even the greatest thieves in the world!
He took his place at the head of the table, behind the Dungeon Master screen that would hide his actions as he led the others through this role-playing experience. Parker plopped down at his right hand, which was her designated spot, but before he could warn the rest, Nate sat in Eliot's seat.
Hardison cleared his throat as Eliot and Sophie also began to take the wrong seats due to the disruption. "Uh, Nate, I'm gonna need you to sit over there—" he pointed, "—because I have created characters and guides and stuff for each of you specifically, and that's Eliot's."
Nate frowned. "I can just give him his stuff, it doesn't matter," he said as he started to gather up all the papers in front of him.
Hardison squeaked, jumped out of his chair, and put his hands on the papers to keep them from moving. "Do you have any idea how long I spent preparing this!" At the blank stare, his frustration just escalated. "It most certainly does matter!" He took a deep breath, realizing it would be a bad idea to start a fight before they even got started. "Please, Nate, let Eliot have his seat."
Out of the corner of his eye, Hardison saw Sophie stare at Nate expectantly, and he finally sighed and moved to his appointed place. He seemed disengaged now, which was bad, but Hardison felt confident he could get the mastermind interested in the game soon enough.
Once everyone was settled, he picked up one of his old character sheets that he was using as an example. "I took the time to create the perfect character for each of you, so you can just dive right in and play instead of spending time on Session Zero. You'll see here all of your attributes and proficiencies and features—"
"Cut the geek," came the growl from beside him.
"Excuse you," Hardison retorted, "but this is my night to share the inner geek with all o' y'all."
Eliot just rolled his eyes. "English, then."
"At the top of the page I've given you a race and a class. Your class basically tells you what you are and what you can do. That's very important—"
This time the interruption came from Parker. "I want to be a thief."
Hardison patiently pointed to the class he had given her. " You're a rogue, babe, which is basically this world's version of a thief."
"But I'm not a rogue, I'm a thief."
"There's a specialization at level three that you can get that will let you be a thief, but your official class is a rogue."
"Just play the game, Parker," Eliot cut in.
She glared at him, but didn't say anything else. Hardison didn't appreciate the grumpiness at the gaming table, since it made for a bad mood overall and harmed the social atmosphere, but he was happy to move forward instead of getting stuck on semantics with Parker.
Hardison took on the same voice when doing the briefing for the cons. "Do you all see your classes there? Just so everyone at the table knows, Parker is an elf rogue, Sophie is a half-elf bard, Nate is a human paladin, and Eliot is a dwarf monk."
As soon as he finished speaking, Eliot interjected.
"A dwarf, man, seriously?"
Hardison shrugged. "High constitution and strength, loyal, protective, and grumpy."
"And short," Parker gleefully added.
"I got that part," Eliot growled, lip curling.
"It's not an insult, man, I swear! Dwarves are formidable."
"Maybe dwarf warriors, but a monk?"
"C'mon, hatin' on the monk too, now? I almost made you a fighter, but you talk about things like zanshin and you like punching people. You're like some sort of walking martial arts movie, so I couldn't resist."
"So it's like a fighting monk?" Eliot sounded a bit more interested now.
"You underestimate me, man. I gotchu." Hardison felt his confident smile creeping back onto his face.
Sophie piped up. "Well I, for one, appreciate being a bard." When everyone looked at her, she shrugged. "Bards were performers! I get to travel and sing, and play in all the great courts of… what is this place again?"
"Faerûn. And, girl, I got you loaded with persuasion, performance, sleight of hand, and everything you could want or need." He realized Nate was staring quizzically at his character sheet and asked, "What's wrong, Nate?"
Too proud of his careful work putting together the perfect characters, Hardison treated that as an invitation to explain his choice. "Now, it took me a while to find the right fit for you, but I chose a paladin because you were the one who originally had the vision to help people. And, later on, you're gonna choose an oath to follow and I think you should pick the Oath of Vengeance, which is all about punishing bad people, even if it means doing some bad things yourself." He grinned. "Now who does that sound like?"
Nate raised his eyebrows and nodded his assent to that evaluation, and Hardison decided it was time to start the game for real.
After he explained some rules.
Eventually, Hardison decided his players had enough of a grasp of the mechanics to try a basic fight. "As you make your way down the street," he began, "a group of four bandits steps out looking for a fight."
He set down his map for the encounter and placed eight figurines on the table - four representing the bandits, and four very carefully chosen to represent each of his teammates. He grinned up at the other faces around the table, seeking some sort of reaction, but nobody seemed to acknowledge the very expensive, detailed figurines he was so proud of. Finally giving up on receiving any sort of response, he glanced back down at the table, only to realize one of the figurines was missing.
His eyes snapped back up to the only possible culprit. "What are you doing?"
Parker just raised her eyebrows.
Hardison gestured toward the table. "You can't just take the figurines, I need them for the battle."
She only smiled a little, and did not give it back.
Hardison opened his mouth to ask again, but Eliot interrupted him. "Put it back, Parker, so we can get on with this?"
Hardison did not appreciate the grumpy attitude or the implication that 'this' was not worth doing, but he didn't complain when the thief reluctantly complied and replaced the figurine.
But then, something else caught his eye. He squeaked in horror at the sight before him: a cold glass of something alcoholic sitting in front of Nate, pooling water underneath it and getting his precious papers wet. He leapt up and snatched the glass off of the table.
Nate reached out to catch it from him, but he moved it out of reach just in time. "No food, and especially no drink, at the D&D table, man! What's wrong with you? What if this had spilled all over the papers and figurines and books…" Hardison didn't even want to imagine the carnage if such a thing happened.
Nate was not at all sympathetic. "We're not toddlers, Hardison. I'm not going to spill it."
"But it's still getting all over the papers!" He left no more room for argument as he carried the offending beverage into the kitchen and left it on the counter. "No drinks at the table."
Nate grumbled under his breath, but thankfully, didn't go and get it.
Hardison decided to hurry this along before something else happened to chip away at the perfect evening he had planned. Hardison knew Eliot and probably Parker would get engaged once the battle started, and even Sophie seemed willing to try it, but Nate was stubbornly determined not to have any fun. So Hardison decided to get him involved first, and fudged the initiative rolls to make sure Nate had the first attack.
"You get to attack first, Nate," he said. When Nate's head jerked a little and his eyes suddenly came into focus, Hardison knew he had been off in some other world. Nate just smiled at him and pretended to have heard, but Hardison knew he hadn't. He decided to drop it for the sake of his own sanity, though.
He needed a new tactic. "Here, Nate. This is the die you get to roll for your attack damage, and then I'll tell you what happens." A simplified version would probably be best right now, so the mastermind would have to get at least a little bit involved. Hardison decided to skip the roll to determine if Nate even hit the enemy, and just let him have it automatically. This time.
Nate picked up the d10 and quirked an eyebrow. "Hardison, this does not look like a normal die."
Hardison grinned. "It's special, man. Gives you more damage than a regular one."
Nate just rolled his eyes and tossed the d10 onto the table. Hardison peered at it, noted the damage to the bandit nearest to Nate, and then put on his best dramatic voice. "You pull your longsword out its scabbard with a loud shink and charge into the fray wielding it with both hands. As you approach the bandit, he swings at you, but you block his blade with yours. After a few more blocks and parries, you lock blades, but you you pull yours back and bring it crashing down on top of him to break through his defense. He steps back from you, bleeding heavily as you finish your attack."
When Hardison finished his narration, expecting everyone to be engaged in the drama of the fight, the first thing that caught his eye was Eliot's head banging softly against the table. Offended now, he demanded with more irritation than he had intended, "What, man?"
Eliot glared up at him and growled, "You call that a fight? That's children playing with nerf swords! No one fights like that!"
Hardison shrugged. "It's dramatic! Light a fight in a movie, it's supposed to be interesting."
"It's an offense to the technique, man. You can't just…" His voice trailed off as he gestured over the table with a hand. "This ain't anything like a real fight. If you wanna do it right, you gotta get your technique right."
"What am I supposed to do, then? It's not like I've ever fought with a sword for real, except in LARP and cosplay." At the blank stares, he coughed and moved on. "I'm doin' my best, man. What do you expect?"
"Tell you what." Eliot tapped the table with a finger. "I'll describe the fights."
Hardison opened his mouth with an indignant reply, because he was the Dungeon Master, thank you very much, but when he realized Eliot was inviting himself to actively participate in the game, and was actually getting sort of invested, he stopped himself. It wasn't a high price to pay to keep Eliot involved. Besides, then he wouldn't have to worry about Eliot's disapproval every time someone threw a punch the wrong way.
"Sure, man. All yours." He glanced down at his initiative sheet and decided to scrap it. "It's your turn next anyway."
Hardison handed Eliot the appropriate dice to roll for his attack. These also were not standard six-sided dice, but Eliot didn't seem to care. He rolled them onto the table but barely glanced at them as he narrated his fight.
"When the bandit closest to me attacks, I dodge his first swing and shove him backward so he goes off balance. Then I hit in the solar plexus, and while he's recoiling from that, I punch him in the temple and knock him out."
Hardison barely heard the description of the fight — which, by the way, sounded a lot less exciting than his, but whatever — because he realized with dismay a flaw in his brilliant solution. Sure, Eliot could describe fights really well, but he always won his fights. And he didn't know the rules for how many attacks he could make in a turn, or how to know whether they are successful or not…
Hardison sighed heavily and pointed to the dice apologetically. "That was, you know, um, that was cool, and everything." He rubbed his hand over his face, not wanting to make eye contact. "But you, uh, you rolled a critical fail to hit, man."
Eliot just shrugged his shoulders and stared, obviously not understanding what that meant.
Hardison groaned. "It means you not only didn't hit him, but you probably tripped on a rock or something and knocked yourself out." Eliot's face turned red, and Hardison wondered if maybe it would have been better to fudge the roll and just let him have his attack. But he had to stick with it now. Holding up the Player's Handbook — his authoritative source of rules — as if it were a shield, he pointed to one of the dice Eliot had rolled. It showed a 1. "This tells me whether your attack landed or not. If you roll a 20, something awesome happens, and if you roll a 1…" He shrugged. "It ain't pretty."
"That doesn't make any sense, I know how to beat him! I don't need a die to tell me if my attack succeeded or not, I know how fights work."
"It ain't a real fight, man!" Hardison knew he was starting to get heated, and heated fights at the D&D table were exactly what you were supposed to avoid, but he needed to put his foot down and enforce the rules. If he didn't, this would just deteriorate into a 'do whatever you want' session. "It's like a real fight, but not really. It's a board game. A highly sophisticated one, sure, but still a game. You cain't just throw out the rule because that ain't how it works in real life!"
Both Hardison and Eliot turned immediately to stare at Sophie.
She shrugged. "Well, if it were like real life, we wouldn't be fighting these goons at all." Eliot frowned and opened his mouth to retort, but she didn't give him time. "I would have just persuaded them that it would be better for them to leave us alone."
"And I steal their money!" Parker piped in.
One the one hand, Hardison was happy that they were getting into it and roleplaying their characters well, but on the other, this was a practice fight. The idea was the learn the mechanics, nothing more. But everyone was determined to mess it all up!
Even Nate betrayed him. With that smug, all-knowing mastermind tone of his, he asked, "Why are we fighting these guys anyway? What are we getting out of this?"
Hardison stared at him blankly. "It's a practice fight, man. To learn the rules. We haven't even started the real game yet!"
Nate leaned forward, smiling ironically, in that way that showed he felt the exact opposite of happy. "You mean we've been here all this time and we haven't even started?"
"There are a lot of rules, but we'll get there." He glared over toward Eliot and Sophie, who seemed involved in an argument of some sort. "If we could stop bickering over every little thing and just play."
"It's your game."
Hardison took that to mean that Nate wasn't going to help him keep everyone in line, so he cleared his throat loudly to get the attention of Eliot and Sophie.
They ignored him.
"Why does everything have to be about punching people?" Sophie nearly shouted. "There are cleaner, better ways to get what you want!"
"In real life, maybe," Eliot snapped back, "but it's a fighting game. Or why else do we have a whole sheet of paper," he waved his character sheet in the air, "telling us how we can and can't go about fighting whatever is in the way?"
"And what do you think the other skills are for, hmm? Why do I have persuasion and performance checked here, if I can't use them? And didn't you hear him say Parker can steal things? I'm pretty sure that doesn't require fighting!"
He hissed in a breath. "Are you sayin' I'm not a thief?"
Her voice dropped dangerously. "Certainly not one with Parker's finesse." She nodded toward Hardison's battlefield, where yet another figurine was missing.
Eliot reddened at the insult, and Hardison could tell this was about to erupt into a real fight. He decided it was time for him to take control of his game again before someone got hurt — either physically or emotionally.
Hardison growled. "Alright, enough!"
Nate smirked, Parker looked disappointed, Sophie rolled her eyes, and Eliot looked ready to punch something. Or someone. Hopefully not the hacker who was desperately trying and failing to turn this into a fun evening for his team. "Look." He sighed, deliberately calming himself. He had to hold it together or this whole evening would fall apart. "This is supposed to be fun. A chance for everyone to do what he or she enjoys, while playing a game and socializing with friends."
The sincerity in his tone must have finally gotten the attention of his increasingly uncooperative teammates, because now they listened to him without interrupting or arguing.
He turned to the easiest member of the team. "Parker, those figurines are very special to me, and I'd really appreciate if you didn't keep snatching them. I'll give you stuff to steal, I promise. But just not my figurines."
She nodded, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her hand carefully replace the figurine she had stolen from the table, and then three more that he had been keeping behind his DM screen. His eyes widened because he hadn't even realized those were gone. "I'm sorry for messing up your game, Hardison. I won't take them anymore."
He smiled at her, a smile that lingered a little too long and with eyes a little too gentle, and she returned it.
Suddenly he caught himself, and returned to the task at hand.
Nate was next. "I know you like to be in charge, and you especially don't like to let me lead, but even if I'm not the best at running cons, I know how to run a game. Trust me, man. Can you let go of being 'the great Nate Ford' for a night and just have fun?"
Nate leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. Hardison felt like he was a piece of art being analyzed and evaluated for its value and quality. And falling short. A minute later, Nate sighed. "I guess it's safer to let you run a game like a game than let you run a con like a game." Another minute of staring, he gave a single nod. "Just for tonight."
Hardison beamed. Finally Nate was gonna cooperate, and that would take the pressure off of him to force Nate to have fun. That left just one more problem to solve. He turned his attention to Sophie and Eliot, who had gone back to quietly arguing about the nature of the game. "You're both right, in a way."
Hardison addressed Sophie first. "He's right in that a lot of this is about fighting. I mean, if you looked at the number of rules there are and how many of them are specifically for combat…" He laughed. "You'd think it was all about the fights." He turned to Eliot. "But it's called a roleplaying game for a reason. The idea is to get to play your character, interact with other characters, be someone—"
Eliot deadpanned, "Playing pretend for adults."
Hardison was going to object, because it didn't sound nearly as dignified when put that way, but he had to admit it was pretty accurate. "S-sure."
Eliot nodded in acceptance. "So it's not really a fighting game, it's about pretending to be someone in this…" he indicated the table, "fantasy world of yours."
Hardison jumped on the opportunity. "Sometimes that means talking your way out of situations…" He nodded toward Sophie. "And sometimes it means fighting." He looked squarely at Eliot. "It leaves room for both. And as your DM, I will make sure to put in plenty of opportunities for both." A smile crept across his face. "As long as you give me a chance." Come on, guys. Gimme another chance.
Eliot's gaze fell to his hands. Hardison looked over to Sophie, seeking some sort of support. When he didn't get an immediate response, he turned toward Parker.
She smiled and nodded. "It's like playing with your pretend friends, only we aren't pretend."
"They're not pretend either, Parker, it's just—" He cut himself off, deciding it wasn't worth fighting over. He just smiled at her as genuinely as he could. "Thanks, Parker."
Sophie smiled at him. "Well, I haven't even gotten to perform yet. Can't quit now before I've even gotten a chance to try, now can I?" Hardison could tell she was sticking around mostly for his sake, and not because she was actually all that excited about the game, but he appreciated it. Besides, it gave him a chance to show her exactly why he loved it so much, and hopefully get her more invested than she was right now.
That left one more obstacle to her perfect night. His eyes landed on Eliot, who was still staring at his hands. Hardison didn't say anything, but just let the table fall silent in anticipation.
Finally, Eliot looked up. "Tell you what. I play your little game tonight, and this weekend, we're gonna go fishing. Real fishin', not your video game substitute."
Hardison considered him for a minute, and then grinned. "And I'll be as grumpy on Saturday as you are tonight." If Eliot wanted to ruin Hardison's night, Hardison would turn it right back on him and ruin his fishing trip.
Eliot narrowed his eyes, but didn't object. "Deal."
Hardison wanted to whoop and holler, but felt the rest of the team wouldn't appreciate it. But he did. Tonight was a victory, and even though he hadn't actually gotten them to play for real yet, he felt like he had won an even more difficult battle: getting them to genuinely try. He had a good feeling that everything would just kind of work itself out as long as his teammates were willing to work with him and just relax and enjoy themselves.
"Alright," he said, unable to keep the excitement from his voice. "Five minute break so I can get set up for the real game, and then we are on!"
Parker bounced in her seat, Sophie smiled at him across the table, Eliot clapped him on the back as he passed, and even Nate gave an approving nod.
Yeah, tonight was going to be perfect.