Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
Last summer I did a couple of articles about developing and running a larp for kids. With another convention approaching (in a few months at the time of this writing) I have been thinking about what I want to present for kids, as I have been enjoying bringing approachable gaming to kids in their own space. And yes, I know, I’ve had since July to think about this, but…I had other things to focus on too. Like…ummm…Arkham Horror won’t play itself. Yet. I don’t think. I mean, maybe there’s an AI out there, but… Anyway. Coming out of the holidays I don’t have time to write and prepare another larp script. Not to mention that Yog won’t be available until Saturday since she’ll be in school and typically that afternoon is blocked out for me to NPC in a campaign larp I have worked with for the past few years. Also, there will most likely be fewer kids until Saturday rolls around, so I want to scale down the size of the game I am running a bit. The larp was written to accommodate ten kids, I’m looking to half that number for DREAMATION. I also wanted something that I won’t need a staff of people to help pull off. I already run a few sessions of a board game session geared towards families, so the next logical venue is a table top RPG.
About a year ago (maybe even longer) my husband introduced me to a web comic called Side Kick Quests. I have been loving reading the family friendly story line and learning a
bit about the RPG on which the comic is based. So when I decided that I was going to pitch a RPG (Role Playing Game for those not in the know) Side Kick Quests was the logical choice. I know from reading the comic and a bit of the webpage that the creator, James Stowe, wanted to create a game that was accessible to kids aged six and up, but still engaging for adults. This is exactly my goal in the events I run, so again, a perfect match.
I jumped over to the online store to buy the game, which was crazy reasonably priced, another plus for parents looking to run games for their kids, or even just try it. While I understand the pricing of role-playing game books, if you’re not sure a child will like the game it may be cost prohibitive. Side Kick Quests is not one of those games. Of course being the tech savvy person I am I didn’t notice the download link when I made my purchase. So I had to contact James Stowe, and beg him to understand my lack of ability to read and use a computer and send me the download. He graciously did so and off I was to read the rules. And hopefully remember how to read and comprehend better than I did with the website.
The world of Adventur is charmingly approachable for kids, but challenging enough for adults. I love that the players are the sidekicks to the standard fantasy genre character choices. This makes the game scale down really well and makes them relatable to kids, since they are playing kids in the game. Of course an apprentice would have some skills, but not as many as a well-trained warrior or magician or bard. So instead of having a sheet full of skills to work with they have two. One they can use once per game and one they can use once per encounter. There are still health points, and characters can die (only by the players choice), but running out of health doesn’t automatically kill your character. It simply takes you out of the next action round while your character rests in the background to heal up. I like that it gives characters a reason to not get into combat situations “just because” but also isn’t deadly (again, unless the player wants to let the character die), which is often the deterrent for gratuitous fighting.
The basics of skill resolution is very similar to the systems I have been using recently (though to be fair I guess most RPGs use some form of “roll a die of X value and add your skill to the resolution). So I’m already off to a good start. While I know a child should be able to play this game I also know that rules systems tend to be my shortcoming in any kind of role-playing game.
The next big challenge I will have to tackle is what kind of quest to run, what is the story I will put the characters in? But wait. There are pre-generated quests for the system. Yay! The .pdf of quests contains three stand-alone quests that can be linked together to create a full adventure. The advantage of doing a full adventure is that the players get to use the advancement rules. However, since I am running a convention game I won’t be using these rules and only running one quest.
I have a folder full of downloads to read and supplies to gather, namely pencils and D20s and then I need to print out character sheets.
To say that I’m a bit nervous pitching a table top game for a convention run would be an understatement. However I plan on preparing and practicing as much as possible. My plan is read everything, plan out how to run the game and ask my regular gaming group if they wouldn’t mind taking a break from our regular 7th Sea game so that I can run a session of Side Kick Quests for them. I haven’t run a table top game in a few years, and that last time I did had been my first time doing it. I’m also hoping that I can get Yog to the table to try it out as well. Maybe if I frame it as her helping me she’ll play along. Literally I hope. If I’m really lucky I’ll be able to convince her to invite some friends over so I can try running it with a group of kids before the convention. Though to be fair the bigger hurdle will be finding time in my crazy schedule. This is a lighter time of year for me for performances and larps (post holidays anyway), but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can fill my schedule.
Have you ever run a table top rpg for kids? Share your tips, tricks and stories in the comments!
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
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 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.
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”.
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!
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.