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Literature / Homerooms & Hall Passes

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Welcome to Homerooms & Hall Passes, the role-playing game of nonadventure! With this book (and a set of dice), you and your friends will unlock a strange new world of routine and boredom set in the fictional Realm of Suburbia. Imagine, if you will, a place without monsters, magic, treasure, elves, quests, or even, to be perfectly honest, much excitement at all.

Homerooms & Hall Passes is a 2019 middle-grade novel by Tom O'Donnell. It tells the story of five young adventurers living in the world of Bríandalör. They make their living Dungeon Crawling, but between adventures they unwind by playing a Slice of Life Tabletop RPG about middle-school students having non-adventures in a world of mundanity suspiciously like our own.

When a curse sends them hurtling into the game universe, the adventurers are forced to step into their characters' shoes, navigating classwork and middle school drama while knowing that, according to the rules of the game, failure or expulsion is tantamount to death. Not to mention that they've brought a dangerous artifact with them from Bríandalör...

The adventurers and their characters:

  • Thromdurr the Barbarian plays Douglas the Nerd, who crushes his academic rivals with the POWER OF HIS MIGHTY BRAIN!
  • Devis the Thief plays Stinky the Class Clown, a gadfly and prankster.
  • Vela the Paladin plays Valerie the Overachiever, who excels at school while taking on a staggering burden of extracurriculars.
  • Sorrowshade the Assassin plays Melissa the Loner, a quiet weirdo with an array of macabre interests.
  • Albiorix the Wizard is the Hall Master who mediates between the players and keeps tabs on the setting and NPCs.

This work provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: June keeps referring to Zazirak as "Zazzmatazz." At one point Devis does it too, though that's probably intentional.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Thromdurr calls Devis "tiny friend."
    • Devis calls Albiorix "Magic Man."
  • Atrocious Alias: Albiorix uses dice rolls to give himself the alias Armando Boort. Several characters comment on how intensely fake this sounds.
  • Curse: The adventurers are sucked into the game world after one of them steals from a cursed treasure hoard. The curse reads:
    Woe to thee who loots this room.
    Let thy respite be thy doom.
  • All Elections Are Serious Business: Olivia agrees to tutor the adventurers if they can get her elected class president. They proceed to run an incredibly dirty campaign that includes false promises, blackmail, character assassination, and finally stealing and substituting every single ballot.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Albiorix's master, Velaxis, who hasn't been heard from since the beginning of the book, swoops in to save the party after an encounter with evil goes sideways. She makes it very clear that the rescue is a one-time thing.
  • Big Eater: Devis loves cafeteria food, to the extent that he steals extra servings and squirrels them away on his person to eat whenever he wants. Stinky's character sheet even lists "pocket tacos" as equipment.
  • Black Speech: The Malonomicon contains spells in at least two tongue-twisting, sinister languages. Shadownese is "the primordial language of darkness" and is spoken by gloom elves; Fiendish is the language of demons.
  • Book Dumb: The entire adventuring party (even The Smart Guy Albiorix) becomes this once they enter the game world. This is because they're trying to keep up in classes that presuppose technology, history, and even a cosmology completely different from what they're used to.
  • Canadian Equals Hockey Fan: Played with. Albiorix (as "Armando Boort") claims to be from Canada and to be a hockey player, but these two character details have different, unrelated origins: The Canadian background was randomly rolled, and the hockey was an attempt to gain sympathy by appealing to another character's interest in the sport.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: Under the influence of a spell called Mass Paralysis, the adventurers are completely paralyzed except for their eyes.
  • Character Class System: The game of Homerooms & Hall Passes has "ten rigidly defined character classes." The ones named in the book are Class Clown, Overachiever, Loner, Gamer, Nerd, and Jock. The sequel adds Populars.
  • Chekhov's Skill: June Westray's status as a world-class Oink Pop player is established in her first scene. She ends up using this ability to defeat a major antagonist.
  • Chess with Death: Albiorix volunteers one of his companions to challenge a demon to a game of Oink Pop, wagering (among other things) the souls of everyone in the group.
  • Class Clown: Devis's character, Stinky, is a prankster and troublemaker. Class Clown is, in fact, the name of his character class.
  • Conveniently Precise Translation: Albiorix's rough-and-ready translations of magical texts (including the curse on the treasure hoard and the opening lines of a spell in the Malonomicon) always come out in rhyming couplets.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mildly parodied in the case of Sorrowshade, who would like to remind you that her family was eaten by minotaurs.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Sorrowshade the gloom elf assassin has a Dark and Troubled Past and is The Eeyore with shades of Straw Nihilist. She's also unambiguously one of the good guys. Her temporary turn to a cheerier persona is her succumbing to a "Leave Your Quest" Test.
  • Dean Bitterman: Vice Principal Flanagan is a downplayed (and somewhat informed) example. He is strict and functions as an antagonist, but also has flashes of reasonableness and warmth. Of course, that's before he gets possessed by the ghost of an Evil Sorcerer.
  • Dem Bones:
    • Zazirak is a living skeleton in the opening scene.
    • Later, the adventurers must battle a horde of skeletal mooks.
  • Double Meaning: Vela won't address Albiorix as "Armando" because she Will Not Tell a Lie. Albiorix tells her to just call him "A," since that can stand for either name.
  • Dressed to Plunder: The adventurers happen to arrive at J. A. Dewar Middle School on Dress Like a Pirate Day, so their Bríandalörian attire doesn't attract as much attention as it otherwise might.
  • Dumb and Drummer: Subverted in the sequel. Thromdurr is a terrible drummer as long as he approaches it as an exercise in mindlessly hitting things as hard as possible. He becomes competent once he has the epiphany that drumming is actually math.
  • The Eeyore:
    • Sorrowshade frequently comments on the bleakness and meaninglessness of existence. She cheers up temporarily after being befriended by Nicole.
    • Vela the paladin takes on this role in Sorrowshade's absence, as a result of her own failure to live up to her paladin oath.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Subverted. There are three characters known as Stinky, but in all three cases the nickname has a non-embarrassing origin and is worn with pride.
  • Evil Is Petty: Azathor the Devourer is willing to honor his deal with the adventurers—but giving back the phone Devis lent him wasn't part of the deal, was it?
  • Eye Lights Out: Zazirak takes possession of the body of a mortal, who then develops Glowing Eyes of Doom. When the body is knocked unconscious, the eye lights go dim.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: Played fairly straight in the real world of Bríandalör.
  • Fence Painting: In the opening scene, the adventurers argue over who should carry the torches. Vela (perhaps unintentionally) convinces Thromdurr to do it.
    Vela: I'll carry the extra torches. I swore a sacred oath. It is a paladin's duty to shoulder the burden when the weak falter.
    Thromdurr: Weak? Weak?
  • Fictional Board Game:
  • Flashy Teleportation: Magical appearances and disappearances are accompanied by "impressively colored magical smoke."
  • Full-Name Basis: The adventurers, and especially Thromdurr, frequently address teachers and fellow students this way.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Albiorix's library of Homerooms & Hall Passes sourcebooks, containing information about virtually every character and setting the adventurers are likely to encounter in Suburbia. Downplayed (it's 27 volumes, not one big book) and justified (Suburbia is an RPG setting, and the books were written with a Hall Master's needs in mind).
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Albiorix claims to be a hockey player—and almost spoils the charade when he talks about doing "amazing hockey stuff on the hockey court with my hockey bat."
  • Guilt by Association:
    • Only Devis stole from the treasure hoard, but the curse comes down on the entire party—even Albiorix, who wasn't even present when the theft occurred.
    • When Devis frames Evan for playing a prank on the computer teacher, the teacher sends both Evan and his lackey Derrick to the office, reasoning that if Evan did it, Derrick must somehow have been involved.
  • Halfling: Ambiguous. Devis comes from a setting with Standard Fantasy Races, and he is implied to be quite short.evidence He could be a halfling; he could just be a human kid who hasn't had his growth yet.
  • Heroic BSoD: Vela the paladin has one after experiencing a moment of weakness and lying. For several scenes she is of no use to anyone, merely repeating a Madness Mantra interspersed with other expressions of Heroic Self-Deprecation.
  • Honest Rolls Character: Variant; stuck in the game world without an established identity, Armando rolls up a background for himself using tables meant for generating NPCs. He gets unlucky with the namenote  but lucky with the backgroundnote , and once these facts are established he never deviates from them.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Subverted and lampshaded. Computer skills are just about universal among H&H characters. But when Albiorix is dropped into the game world and needs to produce a convincing counterfeit document on the fly, he realizes with panic that he doesn't even know how to type a capital letter.
  • Improbable Weapon User: After losing their usual weapons, the adventurers visit a sporting goods store for substitutes.note  Later, one of the party permanently adopts the substitute weapon they acquired this way.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • Vice Principal Flanagan is presented as a straightforward Dean Bitterman. His entry in The Album of Academic Administration goes so far as to call him "[u]niversally loathed (even among faculty)." He's definitely a stickler for rules, and he creates meaningful obstacles for the adventurers. But he has a few too many humanizing moments for the "uncompromising hardass" characterization to ring true.note 
    • Melissa is supposed to be a Creepy Loner Girl; her character sheet indicates she is interested in horror movies, death metal, and taxidermy. But we never see this in action. In the gaming session at the beginning of the book, the other students each have a colorful Establishing Character Moment while Melissa just sits quietly at her desk. And after the adventurers are sucked into the game world, Sorrowshade quickly develops interests that are at odds with Melissa's reputation.
  • Insult Backfire: Waldo Franks calls Thromdurr a "barbarian," meaning it simply as an insult. Thromdurr, who actually is a Barbarian Hero, wonders how Waldo could have guessed.
  • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: Vela is a paladin who carries a sun-shaped sacred emblem. Sorrowshade is an assassin with an affinity for shadows.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: While posing as Foreign Exchange Student Armando Boort, Albiorix is asked for the name of his host family. Unprepared for this, he blurts out that their last name is... Albiorix.
  • The Loonie: Devis delights in doing goofy shit in the low-stakes world of the game; justified In-Universe, as he's playing a Class Clown.
  • Madness Mantra: "I am an oath breaker." Repeatedly spoken by Vela after, well, breaking her oath.
  • Magical Counterfeiting: A semi-accidental version. Albiorix can do the What Have We Ear? trick via actual magic, pulling the coins from a pocket dimension. Luckily, they are the right size to use as slugs in the school's vending machines.
  • The Mall: Hibbettsfield has a dying mall. The adventurers first visit it while investigating the locker thefts; later, it serves as Zazirak's evil lair.
  • Media Transmigration: This is probably the trope that best covers the premise of this book, as four of the five adventurers take on the names, backgrounds, and responsibilities of their characters in the game world. Albiorix, however, is a simple case of Trapped in Another World; since he was the Hall Master rather than a player, he doesn't have an established character and has to make up his identity as he goes.
  • Military Brat: Vice Principal Flanagan was one, and it meant he had to switch schools a lot as a kid. It gives him some sympathy for "Armando"'s plight as a New Transfer Student.
  • Miracle-Gro Monster: Azathor gets larger and taller every time it eats something.
  • Mundane Utility: Albiorix is able to produce unlimited coins (one at a time) by pulling them out of a pocket dimension. Luckily, they work in the school's vending machines.
  • New Transfer Student:
    • Albiorix calls himself a Foreign Exchange Student, but the portrayal is closer to this trope. His "foreignness" is downplayed from two directions: In-Masquerade, he passes himself off as an anglophone Canadian, and on a meta level, his Hall Master experience and materials give him near-native level knowledge of Suburbia. He is still a new student, with no friends except his own adventuring party, and must overcome hurdles even to get officially enrolled.
    • June is a straightforward example, having just moved from another town.
  • No Indoor Voice:
    • Thromdurr seems to declaim most of his lines, and occasionally breaks into ALL CAPS.
    • Azathor the Devourer, being an enormous demon and all, speaks exclusively in capital letters. This turns his interactions with Thromdurr into Ham-to-Ham Combat.
  • Nominal Importance: An interesting case involving I Call It "Vera". Thromdurr's ancestral war hammer, Bonecrusher, is lost before a major confrontation. He replaces it with a croquet mallet, which he christens "Bonecrusher II." He later acquires a new war hammer, but doesn't give this one a name. He finds it difficult to adjust to the new hammer, so he goes back to using Bonecrusher II again.
  • Noodle Incident: Just what did Nicole mistake for a candy bar at Fall Festival?note 
  • Odd Job Gods: In Bríandalör, rocks are created by Cragnar, the god of rocks.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Albiorix is a Squishy Wizard in Bríandalör, but very athletic compared to the inhabitants of Suburbia.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Sorrowshade is a gloom elf—a darkness-themed race with superior senses and a soul "closer to the weave of magic." Played with a little in the sequel, where (as Melissa) she makes cookies shaped like Christmas Elves.
  • Passing Notes in Class: During the interrupted H&H session near the beginning of the story, Devis's first in-game action is attempting to pass a note.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager:
    • June treats playing Oink Pop as a serious hobby.
    • Nicole Davenport spends time on what's implied to be Instagram.
    • Devis acquires a cell phone and uses it to look up lots of baby hedgehog memes.
    • Parodied near the end, when Azathor plays Oink Pop against June and immediately gets hooked on the game.
  • Pointy Ears: Sorrowshade has to hide her elven ears after entering the game world. Later, Nicole tells her she wasn't fooling anyone.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Douglas is officially a Nerd. Thromdurr leans into this characterization without embarrassment, and is confused when his fellow nerds don't appreciate being addressed as such.
  • Real Joke Name: Stinky's parents, who are both also called Stinky. Devis named them that as a throwaway joke, but after entering the game world he discovers that there's a perfectly reasonable in-universe explanation for it.specifics
  • The Real Man: Parodied. Thromdurr embodies this player archetype while playing a Nerd, treating intellectual challenges as the narrative and rhetorical equivalent of mighty battles.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sorrowshade delivers one after realizing one of her former allies can't be reasoned with. Since Sorrowshade is a dark grey Anti-Hero, the speech also has a practical purpose: she first points out Nicole's insecurity, then blackmails her with it.
  • The Roleplayer: Subverted. In the gaming session at the beginning of the book, Vela asks what an NPC is wearing . . . so she can strategically compliment them and improve her chances on a future assignment. (Then again, this maneuver is in character.)
  • Rousing Speech: Vela gives a slightly unusual one the students of JADMS. It mostly consists of warning them to protect themselves and stay out of the fight, but still qualifies as this trope because of how it continues:
    "The last thing you must not do is despair. For I, and my brave companions, are on our way to confront this evil right now."
  • Shop Fodder: In the opening chapter Devis acquires a ring of turtle speech, which he views as this. Later, he gets a very good price for it when he trades it to turtle-loving Waldo Franks in order to get back a rare action figure that Franks was otherwise unwilling to part with.
  • Silence in the Library: When Thromdurr has a hammy outburst in a public library, he's loudly shushed—by the other patrons. (This is Truth in Fiction, by the way.)
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: During one confrontation, Zazirak eats a soft pretzel while taunting the adventurers.
  • Squishy Wizard: Albiorix the wizard is the least physically fit and least melee-ready of the party, though he still outstrips anyone native to Suburbia.
  • Statistically Speaking: Albiorix is in the habit of expressing certainty and confidence as percentages.
  • Stealth Expert: Sorrowshade. "Melting into the shadows" is her usual way of exiting a situation.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Thromdurr, being the most passionate but not always the most articulate of the adventurers, does this from time to time.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Devis is a thief by vocation, and he'll steal from anyone, even unsuspecting Muggles in the world of Suburbia. He's still accepted as one of the party.
  • Token Good Teammate: In the sequel, a character the heroes had assumed was an NPC turns out to be an undercover member of the party of evil adventurers. Thing is, this character is an acolyte of a good religion (and basically a nice person) who ended up on the wrong side by happenstance.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Stinky's parents, Stinky and Stinky, love soup and serve it for every meal. They both have soup-related jobs, as well.
    • Once in the game world, Devis finds that mustard goes well on everything. Including cafeteria pizza.
  • A Villain Named "Z__rg": Zazirak is an evil sorcerer and the villain of the first book.
  • Weirdness Censor: Implied. Thromdurr is a barbarian, with the physique to match. He somehow still manages to impersonate his H&H character, a nerd who has a low Fitness attribute and is portrayed as chubby in official art. June does notice Douglas's muscles and Barbarian Longhair, but doesn't give them much thought until Albiorix reveals his true identity.
  • What Have We Ear?: Albiorix is able to do both this and Pick a Card via actual magic, and has no idea that the Stage Magic versions exist.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Vela refuses to lie, as it would be a violation of her paladin oath. She's even reluctant to perform misleading actions, such as nonverbally pretending not to know the other members of the party. When she's cornered into lying, it triggers a Heroic BSoD.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: Magic users tend to have an L and an X in their names; examples include Albiorix, his teacher the Archmage Velaxis, and (in the sequel) the enemy spellcaster Calixia.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Played with. The adventuring party has their regular H&H night in the back room of a tavern, and they're perfectly happy to turn down or postpone all the quest opportunities on offer that night. It's indicated that on any other night they would play this straight.