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.

021817-dreamation-3
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!

RPG With The Kids

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

This month I won’t be talking about my experiences with my own child. I am going to share my first experience playing a role-playing game with the children of friends. Dylan is 14 and Spencer is 10. They are both avid gamers, mostly into miniatures, but like their parents, also enjoy role playing games. This wasn’t their first role playing game, but it was their first time at the adult table and my first time playing a role playing game with younger players.

We played Call of Cthulhu Dark Ages. Like Yog, Dylan and Spencer have been exposed to the Cthulhu mythos in a child appropriate manner since they were born. I met their parents because we all played Cthulhu Live. And if you don’t know how Cthulhu can be child appropriate look at this. I mean, seriously, insanely cute! Yes, Yog has one, of course.

The evening started out with some catching up as we haven’t seen each other in a long time. When it was time to sit at the table the final parental decision that had been put off had to be made. Would the boys be allowed to join the game? We had three adult players, plus our Game Master (the father of the two boys). The other two players were the mother of the boys and another friend, who also has a child. After a quick debate (this was the end of a conversation that had started earlier in the day) it was decided that the boys would be allowed to play, but as soon as “sibling one-upmanship” became the focus of their playing decisions their characters would be killed off and they would be asked to leave the table. The expectations and consequences were made clear before the game started and both boys given the opportunity to back out prior to starting the game. Neither did.

We started by choosing characters. I chose to play a lady of the court, Melissa (they boys’ mom) chose to play my lady in waiting, Kurt was a butcher, Dylan was a hunter, and Spencer was a woodsman. We were called upon by the lord of the manner (my character’s cousin) to deliver a message to one of the local villages under his domain. We arrived at the town to find it looking abandoned and wound up being attacked by what seem to be rabid wolves. I hid. What? I was playing a lady. Combat skills were not on my sheet. Lucky for me Spencer decided at that moment that protecting the lady was his job. We all survived the fight, mostly. While the role-playing was going on, some real life sibling rivalry and debate with the GM over rules came up. Our GM gently narrated that the two boys, and only the two boys, noticed a comet in the sky. The warning had been given.

Our party made a fortress for ourselves out of what had been the wolf den and spent the night, planning on trying to make it to the second village the next morning. Various plans of action were made over the course of the evening and the comet had another siting.

We made it to the second village only to be attacked again, this time by crazed villagers. Despite Spencer’s best efforts I died. Melissa’s character wasn’t too far behind me. And then went our hunter, played by Dylan. Kurt and Spencer made it to the end – almost. They separately made their ways back to the castle where we started and GM’s discretion needed to be employed. I don’t know what was written in the adventure book, however it was “bad”. Our GM explained in general terms that people were in a very advanced stage of insanity and debauchery and gave a knowing look to the adults at the table to indicate that what was written was too intense for our younger players. This worked because all of the adult players are able role players who have played games in the  Cthulhu mythos for years and know how to fill in the blanks for ourselves. Kurt didn’t make it too far in the castle. Spencer on the other hand managed to use political tactics to beat the King in Yellow. It was pretty awesome. He still went insane, but he wasn’t killed.

This is all very general as far as the game is concerned because I don’t want to write a summary of the game plot. I want to focus on the experience being at the table with two younger players. And honestly, the experience with these two young men is what remains with me more than the plot of the game scenario.

In short I found it to be a very positive experience. I hope it felt the same way for Dylan, Spencer and their parents. While both boys on occasion would snipe at each other, it was usually related to rules or play style and not a random “you’re my brother, so I need to pick on you” situation. However, it took only a look or brief word from one of their parents to redirect their attention to the game. Both parents were in agreement at letting the boys play, but it was obvious they both also had reservations. The expectations and consequences were laid out before the game started.

There were a few occasions when Spencer would try to drive the story by narrating everything he did through to success. His dad would gently explain that he got to choose a course of action and the dice would decide if he succeeded or not. At times Dylan would try to help reinforce the game rules and it would start some bickering, however their father was always quick to jump in with a gentle reminder.

Some of the descriptive content had to be tamed down, but I was all right with that. Again, I have an active imagination, so I don’t mind filling in the blanks as needed.

Spencer was the most active person at the table, and would from time to time get up to take a few paces from his chair, but never in a distracting manner. Honestly I feel that I get more distracting when I need to get up from my chair. During a two-hour game session I will probably only sit for maybe half of that in total. I was really impressed with his ability to deal with his need to move during the game.

In the end I was really glad that the boys were given the opportunity to prove themselves and that we were given the opportunity to play with them. I don’t think we would have done as well in the adventure with fewer players and they both made solid character decisions that helped the group. I had a good time and would definitely play with these two young men again.

What experiences have you had with younger role players? Share what you have learned in the comments!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!