LARP Mama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

 

Dreamation 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is what LARP planning looks like.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

The Early Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Happy Gaming!

Dexcon 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, Happy Gaming!