DEXCON 20

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

DEXCON 20 wrap up time!

As always I am going to try to focus on how Yog was integrated and impacted the convention experience. However, this convention was AMAZING! Seriously guys, I love this convention series and have had some great experiences in the past, but this one makes the top ten list easily.

Our original plan was to get to the hotel about an hour before check in. That got derailed quickly. We had planned on packing on the Monday before since we were spending Tuesday with friends for the July 4th holiday. Then we got a request for a house showing Tuesday morning. So instead of packing on Monday, we prepped the house, which meant that ALL the packing had to be done on Wednesday. Yog chose to make this one of the rare mornings she let us sleep until 9 am, which was awesome, but got us a late start. Then we had a leisurely breakfast, because vacation. Then the process began. I needed to make sure to have costumes for the three larps I was playing, all black clothes for the larp I was NPCing for, AND all the props and costumes for the larp I was running. Oh. And all the board games I had listed in my event description for The Family Game Table. And that was just the event specific stuff. I still needed to consider other clothes and needs. I managed to pare down on my packing by deciding that living in pieces of larp costumes was a good idea. It turned out to be a very good idea, since I didn’t have much time to change or not be in costume anyway. All in all it took us two hours to pack, with Yog’s assistance. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but SIX IS AWESOME! I was able to give her directions and I didn’t have to pack for her. She got all of her essentials together, which then my husband went through to make sure she had everything covered. He was also my clothing wingman as I gathered costumes together and decided what pieces could be re-used. Just having his presence helped keep me focused as I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I had created a check list of things I needed to run the children’s larp, which I was really happy for as it was one less thing to think about that morning.

Then we needed to get everything in the car. We asked Yog to hang out in the living room and not make a huge mess while coordinated and she obliged. My husband lugged bags out to me and I figured out how to get everything into our car, as I’m a better Tetris player than he is. It was a tight fit, but we made it. The large orange ball I was bringing for the Escaping Steam was precariously perched, but that would only serve to entertain us during the drive as it rolled on top of Yog while she slept. She didn’t admit to sleeping and couldn’t figure out how the ball landed in her lap!

Check in went smoothly, a fact we (my awesome friends roomed with us) were all thankful for, and we got our connecting rooms. Dinner was had and then we lined up to get our badges. Which is when we noticed that some of the event spaces had been re-arranged. The one that had the biggest impact on us was the Con Suite, which was in an open area instead of a room. It felt more accessible and like it was a part of the activity instead of being a space to step away from the activity. I can see where that would be a negative for some people looking for a quiet space, but when Yog wanted to hang out there we didn’t feel as removed from the action.

Yog got her badge and had it laminated with the rest of us, then we shuffled her off to bed as it was already past bed time. This was a rough night for us. She fought a bit about getting into bed. Then kept insisting that she “just couldn’t fall asleep”. My husband was staying in, but I was heading off to the Larp Bazaar at 10 pm. I wasn’t sure if I had been assigned a space to represent Escaping Steam and wanted to be there to fill the space had one been provided. Also, it’s a great place to say hi to a lot of my friends. I had to put my foot down on the talking to get her to finally fall asleep. She slept through the night and I managed to not watch the sun rise. This is a real struggle with me and conventions.

I was grateful that the convention organizers had asked to move The Family Game Table

Between Events
Yog helped out by pulling our suitcase of games to and from The Family Game Table.

to the 11 am to 1 pm slot (I had been requesting the 9 am to 11 am slot). I was able to sleep in a bit and feel more relaxed going into Thursday. Yog opted to not wear her Wonder Woman costume, as she had worn it a week before and had to ask me to get her out of it, she just wore the headband and belt. I’m not sure if it was because of the later time slot or not, but we had one group join us on Thursday. We played Flash Point Fire Recue. Well, the other group of three and myself played. Yog played with bubbles and Jenga blocks. My husband also joined us as he had the slot open. He didn’t play initially, but as always he was helpful in explaining rules. And he was a total champ, jumping in to fill in for the little girl, when halfway through the game she decided that blowing bubbles with Yog looked like more fun. We also found out that the little girl would be joining us for Escaping Steam.

After that event we did a quick run up to the room to drop off our board game stash, eat a quick lunch and grab our props for

Escaping Steam
The poster we created for the event.

Escaping Steam, the children’s larp we were running. We had two children (with their adults) and one adult player. I had spoken with the adult player before to prepare her for the game, as I knew she was an avid larper and I was afraid she would be bored. Despite the axiom of “no plot survives contact with the players”, this event went very smoothly for me. I had plenty of wonderful help setting up and NPCing, so I could focus on making the game go smoothly, coaching, and playing Steam at the end (as per Yog’s request). Yog was really into helping out, which I was really grateful for. There was lots of adorable during the game. The kids loved making their super hero vests, seemed to get the simple rules quickly and dove right in. I didn’t have them do full character creation, instead allowed them to play themselves as super heroes with super powers. At times they were so involved with the puzzle they were solving they would forget where they put their bubbles down. I had worried about that prior to the game and considered making a way to attach the bubbles to them, but figured that might lead to kids covered in bubble soap and ditched the idea in favor of having the bad guy NPC hold back as needed. I had set each room up with supplies enough for ten kids. One puzzle involved putting stickers on a grid. If they had gotten one grid between all of the kids that would have been enough to consider the room unlocked. However, the industrious pair, along with Yog, loved the grid puzzle so much they did all ten grids before moving on! This caused a slow down for the adults, but since the kids were having fun and we had plenty of time, I let them go. They were completely prepared for the final showdown with Steam and even improvised their own ways of showing her that they wanted to be friends and not steal her treasure. When the game was over I gave each of the kids a paper lunch bag and let them take home some of the props. Clean up turned out to be an easy process since the kids had emptied some of the spaces claiming their treasure. I have several title ideas for other potential games in this vein, so we shall see if I’m able to do this again. A lot of it will depend on Yog wanting to be a part of the process. It definitely won’t happen until next Dexcon, for many reasons.

We packed all the Escaping Steam props into the car to give us more room in the hotel room, then headed back to the room to grab dinner. Since I was running my larp character seminar in the 6 – 8 dinner block and it was such a crazy day, we chose to move our typical pizza night to Thursday.  I got dressed for my 8 pm game, ate, then dashed off to run my seminar, followed by said 8 pm game, leaving Yog in the hands of our friends.

Friday was much quieter. Yog let us sleep in a bit again. We grabbed breakfast then headed off to our event space for the last event we would be running for the weekend, another run of The Family Game Table. We were joined by the other child who played Escaping Steam and his mother. He and Yog played with the cards from Memory and the Jenga blocks. I introduced them to Ice Cool, which ended with the kids practicing flicking the penguins around. Then his mom and I played The Magic Labyrinth, followed by a game of Feed The Kitty with her and her son. We also spent a lot of time just chatting about games and kids.  We wrapped up and the kids parted as kids almost always do – with the resolve that play time couldn’t be over yet.

My Friday afternoon time with Yog was when I planned to go to the Dealer’s Room. Of course she declared shopping “Boring” (her new word for whatever she doesn’t feel like doing) and refused to go. Of course I didn’t give in. We struck a deal that she could sit in the hall outside the Dealer’s Room blowing bubbles while I shopped, with the understanding that I would be spending more time in the room because I had to check on her than if she would just come in with me. We found her a spot behind a table positioned next to the security guard outside of the Dealer’s Room. I would spend a minute or two perusing a table, then go check on her. The security guard was really sweet, he kept telling me she was fine, but I still wasn’t going to just leave her there. I bumped into some friends and chatted for a while, then checked again. I was in the middle of deciding which pair of horns I was going to purchase when little hands wrapped around my legs. Luckily those hands belonged to Yog. She decided to come check on me this time. Then she decided that she too needed a new set of horns. I told her that she would have to use her birthday money. She tried to talk me into buying them for her, but I held fast and she came out with a new pair of horns on her head.

We tried a new to us restaurant Friday night and decided that next time if we go there we’d order for delivery as the shop was tiny and with our whole group it was a bit crowded and there was not enough seating. We wound up taking our food back to the hotel and eating in their outdoor dining area. I had dressed for my 7 pm larp prior to dinner, and had to run off before everyone else was done. Their games didn’t start until 8. So I have no idea how things went with Yog after dinner, she was asleep when I got back to the room way late in the night.

Saturday morning’s schedule was a negotiation between my husband and I. Everyone had a game they really wanted to play. When that happens either he or I give up our game. Since the game he wanted to play was one he has played online with the person running the game at the convention since Dreamation, he let me go to yet another larp. Unfortunately this ran almost back to back with the event I was NPCing and helping to set up. So after the larp I ran up to the room to change out of my costume and devour some food. Larping always makes me hungry. That event ran late enough that I sent the group to dinner ahead of me and I met them at the diner. By now the long weekend was beginning to show on Yog and dinner was a bit of a trial. Once again I was running behind schedule, so once we got back to the hotel one of my amazing friends took care of getting Yog ready for bed while my husband and I ran off to our 8 pm games.

All of our friends had to leave earlier than we had, so Sunday morning was really quiet. We packed up the car, checked out of the hotel, got our prize points, perused the table and headed out. The drive home wasn’t bad, nor was our usual lunch at the diner, despite how tired Yog was. Despite my best efforts at making sure I got enough sleep I was still exhausted. But I was ecstatic. Honestly this convention was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a convention ever. Hence the crazy long post. And this is with me not going into details about how awesome all of the events I attended were. Or how awesome just the environment is. Or the awesome friends I’ve made there. If you want to hear about that, just ask. I could fill another convention talking about this one.

Yeah.

It was that good.

May your gaming table be even a fraction of that.

 

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Designing a Kid’s LARP

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

As promised it’s time to talk building a LARP for kids. I apologize if I get a bit vague in parts, but I’m not sure how many of my potential players’ parents might be reading this and I don’t want to give it all away prior to the game, since each child must have a parent/guardian at the game with them.

I’d love to say that I’m completely finished with the planning and preparing, but there’s still some work to do and just about a week to do it all. Most of that is building props. I like crafting. Maybe too much. I’m not that good at most of it, but I enjoy it. What does this mean for the LARP? That I want to make all the things. But I’m only one person with limited free time. That isn’t to say that I’m not enlisting some help. I’ve had Yog help make some of the items because if she’s going to co-GM, then she should help plan and build. I have several friends who I could ask to help. The thing is that what needs to be made at this point won’t take much time. I just don’t want to be sitting at the convention finishing pieces, so I need to make sure to focus up. Also, rehearsal needs to happen so Yog knows what is expected of her.

The development of this game came from many conversations. The first one, as you probably already know, was with Yog. We were at Family Game Table at Dreamation and she said “Mommy I want to play in a game like you do where you dress up”. As we talked it over it came to be that “All the kids get to be whatever super hero they want to be. I’m going to be Wonder Woman”. As I took notes on my tablet and tossed ideas to her she came up with the idea that she wanted me to play the “bad guy” at the end of the adventure and that I was to be a dragon. But not just any dragon. “A dragon who tries to make sure that no one can have an awesome day”.

We got back to our hotel room after our event ended and I announced our plans. The two friends who were there were very enthusiastic about the idea and offered to help and started tossing out more ideas that I added to the growing notes. One (a teacher) suggested that the challenges could be based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math if you haven’t been beaten over the head with this acronym yet).

I took all of these ideas and ran with them.

I started on Google to explore STEAM activities. I compiled a list of about twenty possibilities. I had originally planned to do five of them, but then wound up cutting one out once I got my room assignment from the convention. I will be in a group of three small rooms. Rather than trying to divide one of them in three I will divide two of them in half and use the last one for the “Boss Battle”.

Picking the challenges had several requirements. They had to be accessible to a young child. Lucky for me I have my very own six year old play tester. They had to be fairly easy to transport and not take up too much space. I will be playing in several LARPs during the convention and like to costume, plus we need to get our regular clothes and groceries in the car. Oh yeah, and the humans. We need to put us in the car too (hopefully just one car…). The components needed to be inexpensive, or better yet, no additional cost. I needed to be able to find a logical way to wrap plot around the challenge. Luckily I was able to find activities that fit all of those requirements. I had to purchase a few items that I can repurpose in my life, but most of the items came from things I already had (like that stash of construction paper I bought to make decorations for Yog’s first birthday party and have continued to use for other projects. Seriously I think I have the never ending stack of construction paper at my house) or are recycled. The best part about the recycled items? They don’t have to come home with me! More space in the car on the way home. You know, unless I hit the Dealer’s Room and make myself broke again.

Combat was something I had figured out early on. I knew that I wanted the kids to have the ability to battle smaller villains along the way, as I want this to mirror what my experiences have been as close as possible. Most standard parlor LARP resolution systems can be a bit complicated, even for an adult player. There was no way I was handing a bunch of children boffer weapons and letting them hit anyone. I decided to use bubbles. Since each child is playing a super hero they will each have a super power that can affect each other or the villains. They will blow bubbles at their target to enact their power. I figured it was fairly safe and hopefully fun for the kids. Likewise the villains they will be facing will be of a soft nature.

The age range was something with which I struggled. Yog of course wanted it to be all five and six year olds. There may be enough children in that age group at the convention, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you can’t restrict attendance that much. My original thought was 5 – 12. However after talking with my awesome gaming group about the plot and the challenges I was using we thought that maybe 5 – 10 would be a better target. Of course that’s not going to be a hard line. If there’s a 4 or 14 year old who wants to play and the guardian of the child thinks this game will work them, I’m willing to let them in.

Speaking of guardians, they will be required to attend and play. I thought that with smaller children they may need guidance or help. Or they may just need a hug if they get overwhelmed. All it would take is one upset child for the entire event to grind to a halt. If they have an adult they are comfortable with playing alongside them I hope to avoid any of that. It also gives each child someone dedicated for help when needed and keeps NPCs from being stretched too thin trying to help everyone.

Each chamber will have a friendly NPC, which will be an animal of some sort. Like I said, there are some details to work out. This NPC will set up the room, the goal and then help the players accomplish the goal.

Oh, and of course every super hero needs an alter ego costume, so we’re kicking the event off with paper vest making. Each kid will get to design their own super hero costume while I brief the “teddy bears”.

Escaping Steam
The poster we created for the event.

In the end I came up with the following :

Deep in Mount Hill lives the terrible dragon, Steam. Steam is trying to ruin everything so no one can have an awesome day. Many have traveled through the caverns of the mountain, but all have returned empty handed and sad. The townspeople of Downhill are afraid of living so close to such a mean creature, but are running out of ideas. They have asked your group of young super heroes to tackle the Steam problem, as knights and adventurers have not been successful. Join other super heroes and their trusty teddy bears* on an interactive exploration through Steam’s mountain to hopefully quell the dragon’s rage. *Parents are required to attend the game and will be playing the part of each child’s trusty teddy bear. This game is intended for ages 5 – 10.

 

The names are campy, but so is working with children.

I haven’t written a LARP in a long time, as I found writing and planning to be fun and running to be one of the most stressful things in the world. Though I will say that I feel that I have grown quite a bit as an improvisational artist since those days, so maybe I’ll be better at it now. I’m not as worried about stressing out working with kids. If the plot falls apart, but the kids have fun, mission accomplished.

I’m sure there are tons of details I’ve left out and questions you may have. Use the comments section and ask away!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

 

 

 

 

 

Random Gaming Thoughts

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing in my head lately, but none of them long enough for a compelling post on their own. So I’m going to follow the example of some of my fellow bloggers and just hit you with those thoughts this month. Maybe the thoughts will be more compelling when compiled. Or not.

Next month I’ll talk about con prep with a Kindergartener and how my LARP design is going. I’m waiting until next month to talk about the LARP design because I’ve stalled a bit on that. There’s a couple of reasons. First up is time. I’ve been overly busy, to the point of getting ill. So I had to drop some activities and since I have some time for this, the LARP went to the back burner. Second is writer’s block. I ran into some issues I needed to solve and plain just couldn’t. See reason number one for one of the biggest road blocks there. Third is that I am waiting for confirmation on the space I will have at the convention. Location will affect some of my planning. So, in the next couple of weeks this will be my new focus item, and then I’ll have something to tell you for real.

SIX IS AWESOME! So is having friends with kids a little bit older than Yog.  Not much older, but old enough. Old enough for what you may be asking? Old enough that when the kids want to cross the parking lot to play on the swings when we’re at a mutual friend’s house for a party I have no problem letting them go on their own. My husband and I got to play in whatever game we wanted all day, whether that was together or not. We didn’t have to think about where we sat. Neither of us had to volunteer to sit out to be available for Yog’s needs.  Yog on her own is still a little tough. But I can’t fault her at that. Being the only child in a house where the adults want to play a board game when you have no interest and no one else to play with must be boring. She can still be really needy and our usual tactics need to come into play. Though I will say I was particularly let down at the latest gathering. Prior to the party I told Yog what we would be doing that weekend and she told me that she would “sit on my lap and roll dice for me”. That happened a total of ZERO times that weekend. Even when I asked her and reminded that she told me she would to that. And no, I didn’t expect her to ditch her friends to sit on my lap and roll dice. I’m not crazy. Well. I am, but not like that. When she was on her own though it would have been nicer than the whining. Also, I was looking forward to just having her with me.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest gamer girls in the world. I hear horror stories from other women about experiences at conventions, gaming stores, or in their own gaming groups. I have not one horror story. Not one bad gaming experience that was a direct result of my femininity. I’ve had bad gaming experiences. Ones where the game wasn’t for me, or where personalities didn’t mesh, but gender identity wasn’t the issue. Or at least I never felt it was. I had one bad game store experience, but my husband had the exact same experience, even when I wasn’t there, so I don’t think it was me being a woman that caused the problem. That just wasn’t the store for us. We do however have an awesome game store that we love to get to when we can. The owner knows our names, despite the fact that we’re only there a half dozen times each year. Even the other customers are awesome. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t wound up having a random conversation with another customer, and it was never about “why is a woman in a gaming store?”. I’ve not been to a ton of different conventions, but again I’ve never been made uncomfortable because I’m a woman. I am one of the luckiest women in the gaming world. And I try to not forget it.

I love games, but I tend to play one game to death, then move on. The good thing is I play the hell out of a game. The bad thing is that I may never go back to that game again. There are almost too many games in the world for me. But I can also be easily overwhelmed by too many choices. I have to avoid some diners because there are too many choices on the menu.

On that – I’m of the opinion that if your description of a game is “it plays like X” I probably am not interested. Either I’ve never played X, so it doesn’t matter. Or I have played X and I like it, which means I don’t need another game “like X”.  I have X. I like diversity. However, I know this is inherently a problematic stance. For one – there are only so many ways to combine cards, dice, random draw bags, etc. into a balanced, playable, enjoyable game. So uniqueness is hard to achieve. Secondly the human brain works well on comparison. It’s quicker to say “this game is like X” than it is to try to explain the details of the new game. I understand it’s a shortcut and that it really works for a lot of people. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m just weird. Mass marketing tends to work against me going for your product in any arena.

LARP is such an interesting cross section of talented people. Everyone brings a different set of talents to help tell awesome stories. Some are great at costumes. Others, make up. Still others, character creation. And everyone is willing to share their talents without breaking each other’s banks. I love collaborating with such an eclectic group of people to just  have fun.

I hope you enjoyed the random thoughts. Please use the comments to expand on them, share your experiences, or ask my random thought on a topic.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

LARP Mama

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

I’m going to be a bit self-centered this month. As I started pre-writing another post (yes, I write ahead when I can – it’s how I stay on top of things!) it occurred to me that in all my ramblings about gaming that I was leaving out a game type that was my launch into the gaming community and has become a large part of my current gaming schedule. LARP. For the un-initiated that’s Live Action Role Playing.

Over twenty years ago one of the RAs in my college dorm stopped by on rounds and noticed my “Interview with a Vampire” poster and said “My friends run a vampire LARP, you should check it out”. I knew about table top RPG, but had never heard about LARP. So I grabbed a friend of mine and drug her to the first meeting where the storytellers would be introduced, new characters could be made, and the plan for the year discussed. At that time the game was run once per week, usually in the conference rooms of the Student Union (any student could book a room for any reason). I was hooked. I loved my new hobby and the new friends that came with it. At that time I had never done improvisational theatre because “it was too hard”, “I’m not funny”, and lots of other “I can’t” and “I’m not” reasons that over the years have been conquered. I had never played a table top role playing game and the hardest board game I had ever played was Parcheesi.

As time went on the people running the game rotated in and out, as seniors graduated and players stepped up to story tell. The game matured and changed. Eventually I became a Storyteller myself, though I wasn’t heavily involved in the plot. Most of the story line plot had been mapped out way before, when I was still a player. I was all right with this as I had tried on several occasions to be a writer and felt that I failed often. My main involvement in this team was to further the plot by playing non-player characters (NPCs for those in the know, which is now all of you).

I was lucky to live close enough to the college where I had been playing so that after I graduated I continued to play the game for another year. It didn’t hurt that the head Storyteller at that point was himself no longer in college either, so he understood having a job while continuing to LARP. This extra year, in a way, was the first step in me having this blog today. Playing that extra year after graduation meant that I met the incoming freshmen class. In that class was the man I married and with whom I started my family.

Not only did I meet my future husband, but I found a partner with whom to write and produce LARPs. When our Vampire: The Masquerade game wrapped up that was the end of that game with that group at my college. Too many of us had graduated and moved on and we hadn’t focused on recruiting new players, which was fine as those of us making the game happen were burning out. However, as is often the case, there was a new generation of LARP organizers to fill the void. In this case that was my then boyfriend and myself. My husband was very interested in the Cthulhu mythos and the Cthulhu Live! Role playing game.

We produced three games before he graduated college, one pre-written scenario, one he helped write, and one we wrote together. We had a lot of fun scrounging props from second hand shops and turning the student union conference rooms into various locations.

It was sometime during my late college/recent college grad days that I became aware of ‘boffer’ LARPs. I avoided looking too much into them though because I was afraid that I’d wind up getting beaten up by people who actually knew how to swing a sword. Also, most of the games I was aware of at the time were high fantasy, and while I enjoy that genre in most cases, it wasn’t what I wanted in a LARP.

Shortly after my husband graduated from college, friends of his contacted him and asked if he wanted to help set up and NPC a few Cthulhu Live! Games at a convention in New Jersey. This was how I was introduced to PST Productions and the Double Exposure convention series. We helped set up the space for the games and then my husband would NPC while I played. At first we only attended Dexcon. Then PST introduced a campaign game and I begged my husband to go to Dreamation so I could play in that run of the game. Being the huge gamer guy he is, it was really hard to convince him. Not.

Joan Werner - PST Productions Book of One Game
This was my first long running character since college. She was a fish out of water farm girl tossed in the middle of some really creepy stuff.

The longer we attended the conventions the more LARPs I got to try out, though I still avoided the boffer style. However not only did I get to play more LARPs at the convention I made friends with more LARPers. We, of course, love talking about our game experiences, so I began to get a glimpse into the real  (and much gentler than I had believed) world of the boffer LARPS and my curiosity was piqued.

One of the many convention LARPs I tried out was written by a  friend of mine based on the Dresden Files book series. I had read the books and was in love with the world, so I NEEDED to be at this LARP. Unfortunately I had no one to watch Yog for the first two hours of the game, so I couldn’t make it. Lucky for me the awesome Shoshanna Kessock held a character for me and let me come into the game late. I was hooked. This is the longest running LARP character I have ever played to date.

I was enjoying my LARPs at the conventions so much that I found myself pining for the next convention almost as soon as the previous one was over. So about two years ago I decided to finally try my hand at a weekend long boffer style LARP. Lucky for me there are two that are relatively close to where I live and I have friends who play in them. It took me about a year to get the nerve up to go to a game. I bought a rule book for one of the games and lurked on the Facebook group for the other. I talked to my friends who had played in either game to get a feel for where I felt I would feel most comfortable. This wasn’t just about the genre, rules,

or the people playing, but me dealing with my anxiety issues.

In the end I decided to try out Doomsday, a sci-fi game based in Hamburg, PA. The first weekend was a bit stressful as I tried to figure myself out (sleeping, eating, playing), but I had a blast. In March 2017 I will have been attending games for a year. I didn’t make every game, but I made a good portion of them.

The only reason I’m able to do this is my awesome husband, who is willing to be left on his own for the weekend with Yog. I usually leave before dinner time on a Friday and don’t come back until Sunday afternoon. Effectively the last time he or my daughter see me is Friday morning at breakfast.

There are times when I feel like I’m missing out or being bad mamma for not being there for so long. But then I get so wrapped up in the game that I just have fun. Which is good for me. I come home exhausted, but invigorated and full of game stories. As crazy as it sounds LARP has become my form of self care.

So for the foreseeable future I’ll be spending a weekend a month being someone else in another world. And twice a year I’ll get to squeeze in handful of games in one weekend. It strangely keeps me sane.

And when she’s old enough, maybe Yog will join me.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

 

Dreamation 2017

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

Another wonderful Double Exposure convention has come and gone, though this one felt particularly fast. I suppose the change in schedule didn’t help that.

Yog is in kindergarten this year, so we couldn’t go on Thursday as a family as we had in past years.  This took some extra planning on our part. I was still running three events and assisting at a fourth. My husband had decided to run a few events. So the question  was how were we to maximize our gaming time without asking too much of our friends?

I went up on my own on Thursday. This gave us two advantages – we could secure the connecting rooms we would need for our village to take care of Yog and I could get a jump-start on running some events and playing.  Yog and my husband came up Friday night after school and work. It was stressful for him, but I was prepared with pizza, soda and game books.

But I get ahead of myself. Thursday. I arrived early on Thursday afternoon to allow myself the time I needed to get three people’s worth of luggage and groceries and one person’s worth of LARP costuming up to the room and unpack well before dinner. While I love the craziness and energy of a convention I find that I need to ease into it. I got the room set up and had a realization – we had bought way too much food. We typically get stuff for breakfast and lunch and eat in the room. We also typically have had more people eating breakfast and lunch for multiple days. On the upside, we can go light on grocery shopping the following week. Once the rest of my crew arrived we went to the pub for dinner. When we got back the registration desk was open, so we got our badges and started the gaming.

My opening game for the weekend was a table top game named Omnisystem; “Rememorex: Dischord and Rhyme” by Eschaton Media. It was a fun romp through my childhood and reminded me of a John Hughes film. The GM went the extra mile to have cassettes and other late 80’s/early 90’s memorabilia on the table.

Friday morning was the first of the events I was running – Family Game Table. I was, unfortunately, alone for the two-hour block. I did however work on my Ice Cool skills and may be able to finally get my penguin to curve the way I want it to about half the time. I also played a few solo rounds of Fuse. This was not completely unexpected since when I got to the convention floor Friday morning it was very quiet. I have a feeling I wasn’t the only lonely GM that morning.

Friday during the official lunch break I ran my LARP Character Development seminar. I had another great group of people. As always it was a ton of fun seeing how everyone interprets the same exercise differently.

I went right from the seminar to my last table top game of the weekend a game called “Damn the Man, Save the Music!: Revolution Records – Open ‘til Midnight” by Make Big Things in which I played a troubled artist working at a record store in the 90’s. The game used a standard deck of cards and six-sided dice to drive the story. I loved the simplicity of the system and the twists the cards could create.

While I was playing my afternoon RPG I got a text that pizza had been ordered for the room. My game ended on time and I headed to the room to get ready for my first LARP of the weekend  – Cthulhu Live! 3.5 “You Can’t Get There From Here” by PST Productions – and greet my family. It was as I was conferring with my roommates as to how to style my hair that I realized I was about to play in my third 1980’s era game of the weekend.

Traffic had been bad, so Yog and my husband were running behind. They arrived at 7:40 to find me in high waist pants, heavy makeup and poufy bangs. I got Yog a slice of pizza and a cup of milk and sat her down. I gave my husband his game books, poured him some cola and sent him off to the registration desk to claim his badge. My awesome friends took Yog from there and I was off to be a go-getter reporter. Somehow I didn’t go insane or die. Though I almost did join a cult. But then they all turned to ash. I think I made the right character choice.

Saturday morning was the second run of “Family Game Table”. Yog was very excited. We went to registration, got her badge, then picked up our GM form and headed to our room. This sounds all normal and it was except for one thing, Yog was dragging the heavy suitcase full of games through the convention space while dressed as Wonder Woman.

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This is what LARP planning looks like.

I was simply her escort. She was ready to run the event herself. We got to the room and I set up Ice Cool, Jenga, and Pirate Dice. I thought that having the games on the table might get more attention than two people sitting in a room. Yog and I spent some time blowing bubbles when she had an idea. She wanted to “play in a dress up game like mommy”. So
we started brainstorming ideas for a LARP for children. Her first idea is that “It’s a game where all the kids get to be superheroes”. From there we came up with some other basics and when I later talked with my friends I think we have a workable idea for our next convention. Kids. They make you do the darndest things. I had retired from writing and running LARPS years ago and here I am jumping in with both feet again because Yog asked me to! We were joined for the last half hour by an 18 month old and her mom. Yog enjoyed playing building blocks with the Jenga pieces with the other girl, who enjoyed tasting the blocks.

 

Saturday morning was also the premier of a new LARP – Bright Story “Pilot” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. I REALLY wanted to play, but it ran concurrent with Family Game Table and my time with Yog. I had a couple of friends who wanted to do a sister group of characters with me and I couldn’t resist! So we planned the characters out, I put together a costume and hosted The Family Game Table in my Bright Story character costume.

After Yog and I had cleaned up from Family Game Table we went on a dragon hunt. At the past few events there has been a large blow up dragon somewhere on the convention floor. Yog was determined to find it, so we went off adventuring. This was fine by me as it enabled me to keep her moving and I could direct her to places I wanted to visit. Like Bright Story. We stopped down because I wanted to say hi to my friends. The players were amazing. When we peaked in to the play space someone came right over to us to say hi, at which point Yog informed him that we were looking for a dragon. I had forgotten that another friend of mine was playing a dragon in the game and this kind player went off to find her. She came out of the game for a few minutes and chatted with Yog with her dragon puppet, which Yog loved. I can’t wait until the next time this game gets run and I get to play.

Yog made her first Dealer’s Room purchase ever on Saturday afternoon as we wandered around. She bought a pair of hand-made horns. I had purchased a pair earlier in the convention, so we wore our horns together for the rest of the day.

I took two hours to go play Puerto Rico Saturday afternoon. It’s been years since I played that game, but it all came back. All but the strategy that is. I came in last place, but had fun anyway.

Saturday night my husband got Yog to dinner and bed with the help of our friends while I disappeared early to help set up The Dresden Files Fate LARP Rules “Empire State Chronicles: Magic Night” by Phoenix Outlaw Productions. Sunday we packed up and headed out after our routine of one last pass through the Dealer’s Room. My husband had to use Yog’s cuteness to get me home as I kept stopping to say “a quick goodbye” on the way to the parking lot and getting swept up in conversations about the weekend’s experiences and games to come.

I will say that this felt like a whirl wind convention for me, even with the time on my own. My family events did not have the success I continue to hope for, but I did come out with an idea for a new game for next convention. So the next few months will be rife with me writing and planning. And relying on my awesome friends for advice.

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

The Early Years

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.

During an email exchange with a reader I was requested to do an article I had meant to do when I started this blog, a piece on the early years of gaming with a child – what it’s like to game with an infant and/or toddler. I guess the good part is that I’ve had so many other things I wanted to share with you that I kept forgetting to write this post. The bad thing is – time is not good for the memory. However, not all is forgotten and I am FINALLY going to share my early experiences with you.

Yog was involved in gaming since before she was born, kind of. I was five months pregnant at Dreamation and when getting a LARP character assignment prior to the convention one of the organizers (a friend of mine) asked if I wanted to play a pregnant character. She let me read the character prior to deciding and I thought it would be a lot of fun. And it was. So, I suppose, one could technically say that Yog has already played in a LARP.

Right after she was born I was planning an interactive scavenger hunt/LARP/surprise party for my husband’s 30th birthday. I spent many hours holding and nursing her while researching various bar bet games with which to challenge my husband. Some of her first outings were to set up the arrangements at the various establishments I would be sending him to. My awesome friends helped get the gears in motion and keep an eye on Yog while I made the cake. So before she could walk or talk she was my co-GM.

From there things settled into our norm. Pre-baby we had settled into a pattern with our gaming group where we would take turns hosting. We even had a market bag of snacks that traveled between houses. This continued right after Yog’s birth. This was kind of our training ground for how portable infants are, if you don’t mind packing the bags. The weeks we hosted were a bit easier however, as there was no packing. The weeks we didn’t host we packed up the diaper bag, pack and play and our dice and trekked out together.

We chose not to sleep train, so for the first six or nine months of Yog’s life she had a cycle of her own that we were comfortable with, but that did not involve long stretches of sleep. While this may sound terrible to a lot of people, it had advantages. Mainly we could pretty much do whatever we wanted at any time we wanted, so long as we didn’t mind toting baby gear. Visiting with friends until midnight? Check. Weekend trip? Check. Late night movie watching? Check. So for about the first year of Yog’s life we didn’t have any major schedule changes in our social life, which for us is synonymous with our gaming life. When we hosted gaming if Yog needed to sleep she was in her crib. When she was awake we held her or, when she was sitting up on her own, we put her in her high chair next to the gaming table. When we were at a friend’s house it was the pack and play or our arms. We became quite adept at managing a hand of cards and a baby. I even mastered breast feeding while playing!

Diaper changes were never that big of a deal that I can recall. Potty training was a bit harder as we had to be more vigilant for a few months, but even that mustn’t have been all that impactful on our gaming as I can’t recall any specific incidents.

I think the biggest factor in success was open and honest communication with those at our game table. If we did need to step away, we never said “it’ll only be a few minutes”. If I knew a diaper change would take ten minutes I told them I’d be gone for fifteen. If I wanted to breastfeed before starting a game I would tell them I needed half an hour. I always over-estimated the time I would be away from the table and was willing to not play in a game if they wanted to get started. Typically this meant everyone set up the game and waited for me, or picked another shorter game to play while waiting.

One of my husband’s most uncomfortable gaming moments came from juxtaposition. When Yog was an infant we were playing a rather intense game of the Dresden Files RPG and he was our GM. There was a moment when he was holding Yog and putting my character in some very tough positions. He said it was really weird to hold our daughter and “torture” his wife at the same time.

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His eyes really are that color. We all know GMs are evil and have one purpose – to kill all of the PCs! Don’t let the presence of a cute baby distract you

 

 

Things didn’t get difficult until Yog was more mobile and had a static sleeping schedule. Mobility meant that we spent more time keeping an eye on her and more game interruptions. The static sleeping schedule made staying out late pretty much impossible. In some cases we were able to bring the pack and play and put her to sleep where we were and then simply take her home. However, the older she got the harder this was to do. She went through a period where if she fell asleep in one location and we picked her up, she would be wide awake for at least an hour before going back to sleep.  As I think I have said in just about every article, thank goodness we have awesome friends. We requested that our weekly game night be permanently moved to our house until Yog can stay up later. The response has always been “Thank you for hosting!”. We’re thankful that we are able to keep gaming with our group. The other solution we came up with was for my husband and I to take turns going to game night if needed. So the now standard routine was begun. We get home from work, have dinner, clean up, have a little bit of play time and get Yog ready for bed. While we are getting her into bed our friends arrive. As soon as she’s down for the night we get the game started.

All in all I found infancy to be the easiest time to be a gamer. Toddlerhood was the hardest. Once she got to Pre-School things started getting easier because she was more self-sufficient and was beginning to learn patience.

What did I forget to ramble about? Probably lots. Five years is a long time and with a child there are many, many experiences to have. What challenges did you face gaming with an infant or toddler? What tips do you have to share with other parents?

Happy Gaming!

Dexcon 2016

Welcome to CthulhuMom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.

Thanks for your patience while I gathered my life back up and put the breaks on. There’s no guarantee that this won’t change the release dates of the blog going forward, but I’m going to try hard to get back to the regular “last Tuesday of the month” commitment I made (at least to myself!).

July’s gaming got a kick-start with our attendance of Dexcon, one of the many conventions run by New Jersey company Double Exposure. We have been attending this convention for over a decade now, which gives us familiarity with the space, schedule and staff, which is a big advantage to us.

This was probably the most relaxing convention experience I’ve had in a long time, which is odd considering I ran four events and NPCed for a fifth. There were a few things that played into this. First off was my mind-set. I came into this convention without expectations. I didn’t expect certain behavior from Yog. I didn’t expect to enjoy any one game more than another. I didn’t expect to sleep. I didn’t expect to exercise. In the past these are all things I thought would happen and when they didn’t I felt like I was doing something wrong. The only thing I had wrong was expectations. So that helped me relax.

The other major player in the relaxed feeling of the convention for me was the lighter schedule I had planned for myself. In recent years I didn’t have a single block open. I figured the lunch and dinner breaks would be enough. However when the schedule came out there were blocks where nothing interested me. That isn’t to say there wasn’t anything going on, or anything “good” going on – just nothing that I felt like doing out of the choices available. Sometimes that was because what I wanted to do needed a four-hour block, but due to needing someone to watch Yog, I only had one of the two-hour blocks open. So I had more down time, which left me with more time to chat and wander the convention floor.

We also lucked out in our hotel room. We were on the fourth floor, which meant we could walk the stairs. I know this isn’t appealing to everyone, but it’s not uncommon on a Saturday to have to wait for what feels like 20 minutes for an elevator that you can actually squeeze yourself into. Having the option to take the stairs meant we didn’t have to do that wait, which can be a big thing with a bouncy five-year old. Also, when I got to a larp and realized I had forgotten something (like the time two of us were at the same game and realized neither of us had a room key…) it was quick and easy to resolve. Check in had a small stumble, but the desk staff was quick to resolve it, a welcomed relief from our past few experiences at this hotel. As usual, we had our connecting rooms so that Yog could keep something that resembled her sleep schedule while the adults keeping an eye on her could enjoy the convention and each other’s company.

We had arrived Wednesday night, the official start to the convention, but most of us didn’t make plans for anything but sleep. I stopped by the LARP Bizarre event to say hi to everyone I knew, being as that might have been the only chance I got to really sit and chat with anyone I know who was running a larp. I had considered playing a table top RPG, but decided that being up to 2 am the first night of the convention when Yog would have me up by 7:30 and I had a 9 am event to run was a bad choice. I could be irresponsible later in the weekend when I would have more friends with whom to spend time (not everyone gets there right away).

Thursday morning I ran the first of three sessions of Family Game Table. Yog discovered a game she loves – Jenga. I had begun setting up Eldrich Horror for solo play since at 9 am it was just Yog and I in the room. Yog asked me about the Jenga blocks, I believe because she just wanted to build with them. Which, honestly I would have been fine with, but I wanted to see if she would give the actual game a try. And she did. And then she played for an hour straight! About 45 minutes into the slot we were joined by a Dad and his daughter who was no older than 7. We pulled out Legendary and I got to teach it to both of them. They had so much fun that the daughter was asking to come back and play another game later. Unfortunately I was only running the morning slot and they were only there for the one day.

Yog playing Jenga. Or is it Batman?
Yog playing Jenga. Or is it Batman?

Immediately following my event was another kid centric event called “Early Bird Adventures”. The woman running the event set up a scavenger hunt and prepared a science experiment for the kids. Both Yog and the daughter from my event made colored slime and then ran around the convention floor together, with the help of both parents to decipher the clues to find the little containers stashed around. Each container had a letter in it. Once we collected the letters, we returned to the game room to solve the anagram. Each child got a medal for successfully completing the scavenger hunt. I am sincerely hoping that she will be back at Dreamation, and if not for Dreamation, next year’s Dexcon. I loved the idea and the girls had a blast. So much so that Yog asked to go back the next day. We weren’t able to make it back due to our schedule, but we did get to chat with the hostess since our events were back to back.

In addition to our two events, which ran back to back, in the same room, three days in a row, there were a few board games in the board game room that were geared to the younger set. There were at least two LARPS designed for the pre-teen set, including one run by a teenager! Even though Yog didn’t participate in any of these events, I was ecstatic to see them on the schedule. It shows that what has always been a family friendly convention is making strides to being family inclusive.

Friday morning started out much like Thursday did, Yog and I in the room alone. A man and his son poked their heads in, I invited them to play, but they declined. About half an hour later they came back and we played Eldritch Horror. Saturday’s session didn’t see anyone outside of my game group, but we did play Flashpoint.

I also ran a two-hour seminar on using Improv techniques for LARP character development and was an NPC for the Dresden Files – Empire State Chronicles LARP. In between all of that I got in Settlers of Catan, Tsuro,  The Resistance, a Cthulhu Live LARP,and a Vampire, the Masquerade LARP.

I tried a new experiment this time around with Yog. I brought her to my game of Tsuro. I wanted to see how she would handle being in the main board game room, which can be overwhelmingly busy. Tsuro is a pretty quick game, lasting no more than 20 minutes. We played three times in about 45 minutes. Yog sat next to me the whole time and was well-behaved. The group at my table was very welcoming, even inviting her to play, which she turned down.  I don’t think she’s ready to sit there for a full two hours, or for me to play a game that she can’t interrupt with questions, but I was very proud of her at this event.

My in between event time with Yog was spent wandering the convention area and talking with friends. Yog is starting to discover the joy of the dealer’s room and almost came home with a really cool pair of horns. Unfortunately she couldn’t hold up her end of the bargain to behave at dinner. There’s always Dreamation to try again.

As always, we had a great time, and the wait until February is way too long!

Let me know what questions you have about Dexcon and our experiences and I’d love to talk them over with you.

Until then, Happy Gaming!