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!

 

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!

 

Skipping Out

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

Last month I lamented on my lack of gaming due to a busy schedule. That schedule hasn’t let up yet. In fact it got so busy that despite the fact that I had a post ready to go I missed my typical posting date. While I could post it now, I want to make sure I take the time to edit and make it what I want it to be. Instead I offer this apology and a promise for a review of our experience at Dexcon in my next post.

Until then – Happy Gaming!

Dreamation 2016 Review

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

 
We just got home from Dreamation 2016, so recently that I’m still trying to shake off the exhaustion and Yog and my husband may be incubating the dreaded con crud!

 
Of the two Double Exposure conventions we attend Dreamation is the smaller, but not by much. It runs a day less and they have access to a little less space in the hotel, but again, not by much. Though it is amazing what not having access to three ballrooms can do to space needs!

 
I ran a well-attended seminar on improv tips for character development in larp and hosted two sessions of a not so well-attended Family Game Table. Not so well-attended translates into only Yog and I were there. We hung out for an hour and chatted with a few people as they popped their heads in. There are always people wandering about trying to find a room or person in a room. I spent our session on Friday finishing the organization of our Legendary box (labeling deck dividers). The entire time I kept asking Yog to play a game with me and offered to set up any one of the games we brought. She decided to play “Skully Dice”. Alone. At least I was able to finish up a project.

 

I decided that I would try a different tactic on Saturday. I started by talking to Yog during breakfast in our room about what we were going to do when we got to the event space. I had decided to set up Flashpoint and hope that she would play and that the game being on the table would attract other players as they stopped by. She told me that she would play a game with me if someone else was there. Repeatedly. I stuck with my plan and started to set up Flashpoint, all the while being told I was going to play alone. Though I have played this game many times I have never set it up. My husband will often set up a game as I’m finishing a chore, so this is definitely an area in which I am generally lacking. Luckily the directions for this game are well written. And I had Yog with me. She agreed to help set up the board, while still insisting that she wasn’t going to play. I handed her pieces and directed her where to place them on the board. Then we got to placing doors on the board. I thought they would go on the door icons, not the icons with two blocks printed in the circle. Yog informed me I was wrong. I looked at the instructions again and she was right! I was sad to have not read the instructions correctly, but proud that she knew how to set the game up herself. I played through by myself with Yog handing me more and more smoke tokens as the game went on. I lost, which I had assumed would happen from the beginning, but not as horribly as I had thought I would. Yog had a brief time out when she continually played with the extra pieces in the box despite being asked not too. There was pouting and then she rejoined me at the table to help smoke me out of the building. She then helped me clean the game up, which I was proud of since she hadn’t really played.

 

While the event was not a grand success, I was able to use the experience to teach Yog about hosting an event at a convention. We requested a badge for her this year as I felt it was time to start teaching her some of the ins and outs of how a convention really works. She was great at wearing it, which I was worried she would complain about at some point. Prior to an event the person running it is responsible for checking in with the operations desk and picking up the event tracking form. Yog carried the paper to the room and returned it to the desk for us both times, on her own. It was really quite cute how serious she took the process.

 
I was discussing the lack of attendance at the Family Game Table with my friends over the weekend. We are wondering if there are fewer children at Dreamation due to the timing. Many older children are in school on Friday and it’s possible that arriving for a 9 am game slot on Saturday is not possible for them. I also think I need to work on the program description. When I talk to people at the convention and explain to them what I am running, they think it’s a great idea and wish they knew before they had signed up for something else in that slot. I am hopeful that I will be able to try this event again in July at Dexcon and that I will be able to find the proper description.

In case you are curious here is the description I used this time around:

Bring the family to the table! This is an opportunity for parents to squeeze in an extra game and for older children who want to try more challenging games to play together. Younger children will also have space to share their favorite activities and games. Join fellow gaming families to play one of your favorites. Several options will be available in the room, but feel free to bring your own selection. We will choose a game with a shorter play time to allow for slower game play while parents tend to their children between turns. Please note that this is not a babysitting or drop off service, but a great opportunity to meet other gaming families.

 
This is different from what I wrote for Dexcon in July, but still doesn’t seem to embody what I am trying to get across – a space for parents to play a game while parenting their own children. Playing with people who will understand the interruptions that are inevitable when children are playing a game or in the room while you play. It’s possible that I’m offering an event that isn’t desired. I hope not. If you have any suggestions on how to refine the description, feel free to comment.

 

Yog also took part in some cosplay on Saturday, wearing her Batman costume all day. She was very excited to walk around, but was very adamant that she wasn’t really Batman, just Yog in a costume. She garnered a lot of attention and I got to not be sitting in a hotel room with a hyper four-year old, so I think we both won.

 
When playing a board game or table top role-playing game at this convention you are eligible to earn points that you can spend at the prize table. My husband and I combined our points and gave them to Yog to pick something out. She chose a game called Moby Pick. When we got home we opened it and looked it over, but she didn’t want to play.

 
She was too busy sewing.

 
Mommy’s little larper in training. Now we just have to get her to understand that role-playing doesn’t involve telling the other people exactly what to say and do. I know. She’s four. This is normal.

 

As always we owe a huge thanks to our awesome friends who had a room connecting to ours and helped keep an eye on her so my husband and I could get to more games.

 

Until next month – happy gaming!

Dexcon 2015 Wrap Up

Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games! This month will be the first discussion on attending a convention with a young child. I intend to follow each of our convention experiences with a recap. This time around I’ll be talking about our trip to Dexcon 2015.

Conventions are events that vary widely in size and scope. I have to be honest and say that my experience in convention going is extremely limited. I have attended four different conventions, and two of them are run by the same company, in the same hotel, and for me are functionally the same. One was when I was in high school with my boyfriend’s family and only as a day trip. The other, while attended many times, was well before I had a child. Or a husband. So I am by no means an expert in this area. However, I know many of you have traveled to many other conventions, so I am looking forward to hearing about your experiences. And if you have questions or need suggestions, ask away. While I may not have experienced your situation, I may be able to look at it from a different perspective and give suggestions that might work for you. Or at least give you a good laugh!

Dexcon 2015 was held in Morristown, New Jersey. This is a small to mid-sized gaming convention held in a hotel. It features a board gaming room, RPG room, LARP track, video game room, miniature gaming room, video room, dealer’s room, artist’s alley, and a Con Suite where you can relax and grab snacks. Each gaming track has a space assigned to it, so it’s possible to spend the entire convention in one area of the hotel.  I jump around from board games to LARPS to RPGs to hanging out with friends, so I see a good portion of the convention. Having attended the same convention in the same hotel for multiple years (though this is the second hotel since we’ve been in attendance) has the advantage of familiarity. Now that we have learned the ins and outs of the hotel and the area surrounding the hotel, things have become easier. The passage of time and the wanderings I do around the convention have given me the opportunity to make observations about the convention.

One thing that is sticking out to me now that I am a mom is the number of children at the convention. There are infants all the way to young teens traveling the hotel with their parents. More mature children are attending games on their own.  However there is no area dedicated to meeting each other. This year I ran three sessions of an event I called “Family Game Table” to try to remedy this.  I had a lot of goals for this event. I wanted to give parents the opportunity to get an extra board game in during the convention. I wanted to give younger gamers who might not be ready for the board game room a chance to play more advanced games. I wanted to give the youngest gamers a chance to meet each other in a space where they could interact freely (and not play a structured game if that’s what they felt like doing at the moment). Basically I wanted to share my weekly game table with the convention.  Though attendance wasn’t high, it was varied. Along with Yog, there was a five-year old and a fourteen year old who attended at various times with their families. I had a great time talking about the different games we play at home and the attention spans of our young children. I learned that there are other families out there with awesome gamer friends doing what we’re doing.  Though attendance was light and we focused on kids games as opposed to my envisioned adult games, I still feel the event was a success and hope to be able to run it again.

Dexcon 2015 Grid Example
Dexcon 2015 Grid Example – Knowing who’s where

Outside of the Family Game Table we still had to figure out who would watch Yog while my husband and I tried to get to all the events we wanted to attend. Here’s where our awesome gamer friends come to the rescue! We have a group of friends who attend the convention with us and we all take turns staying with Yog. Everyone takes a gaming slot or two over the course of the weekend (this convention is block scheduled – including lunch and dinner breaks) so that my hubby and I can go to a few more events. We have this so fine tuned that pretty much everyone gets to go to the events that mean the most to her or him. What makes this work is pre-planning. We all love seeing what games will be on the schedule prior to the convention and pre-registering for each event ensures you will get to play. So doing the planning ahead of time is a win-win for my group. We create a spread sheet and a color coding system and over the course of a few days and a few emails everyone knows what games they will be playing and when they get play time with Yog. Or, if you’re lucky, nap time! (Yeah, at four we still get naps. Go ahead. Spend a few minutes being jealous, because I know some of you lost nap time at age two).

To help out with the babysitting we always make sure to get connected rooms. This allows whoever is with Yog during nap time or after bedtime to be in the other room doing whatever they please without disturbing her sleep. Sometimes there are multiple people hanging out in the room, and usually we wind up playing a game. On the occasions when we’ve only had one room, getting her to sleep has been trickier. We try to put her cot in a corner of the room and turn off the lights on that side of the room. Usually we wind up not playing games and reading quietly. Again – we’re lucky that our gamer friends are reading friends too!

Post convention I was on the forums for the convention and saw that there was a five-year old dominating parts of the board game room. While I was sad to not have had the chance to meet this amazing child during my event, it gives me hope for the future of including Yog in the mainstream games sooner than later.

So I lay it out to you – how do you tackle conventions? What challenges do you face? What can we learn together and from each other? Share your thoughts in the comments and hopefully I’ll see you on the convention floor soon!

Yog Playing Cootie
Yog Playing Cootie

Happy Gaming!