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!

 

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!