Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
Let It be.
Or Let It Go.
Keep Calm and Game On.
Whichever song title or meme works for you.
I have seen multiple online posts and had the same conversation with my husband way too often. When can I play games with my kid? What games can I play with my child who is age (fill in the blank) that aren’t going to bore me to tears?
I get it. You love your hobby and you want to share it with your child. Trust me, every parent ever who has loved any activity ever feels the same way. When you’re passionate about something you want to share it with those you love and even more so with your own kid(s). The thing is you’re just going to have to be patient.
And maybe just let go of the dream that in some part you cloned yourself. And I know. I have wanted to throw Yog into dance classes from the moment she could walk. But maybe that’s just not who she is or what she wants to do. So she didn’t go until this year when she asked me if she could (you know, to be honest about the fact that I got lucky and she wanted to get involved in something I am interested in).
Sure, kids can follow directions at an early age. They may even enjoy doing so for a short period of time, when it’s a new skill and before they realize they CAN say no. Some rare children may actually be playing games by age three. From everything I’ve read though, most kids don’t have the mental maturity to really sit down and play a game until they’re closer to seven. And that doesn’t mean that on their seventh birthday they magically become gamers. Some kids will be able to sit through a game sooner. Some later. Remember all of those milestones you sweated over in infancy? They’re not gone. There a ton of emotional, physical, and psychological milestones that get completely overshadowed by the focus on infancy and puberty. Not that those stages aren’t important, but I bet if most parents knew as much about their child’s developmental patterns as a little kid as they did about infancy and puberty we would all think differently about how our little kids act. Not that I’m an expert in child development or parenting.
I remember when I started this blog. I wanted to write about our amazing gaming child. I called it a blog about raising a gamer. Then Yog started making her own choices. We had to focus less on nurturing a gamer and more on how we could continue our hobby and support her in her own pursuits. Kind of like any parent ever. It hasn’t happened to us yet, but I’m sure there are afternoons at the sports field or at dance performances in our future. Time that we might want to spend gaming (or doing anything other than sitting in the sun on the sideline of field), but will spend supporting her. There may come a time when instead of packing her off to a gaming convention with us, we’re packing her off to a weekend at her grandparent’s or friend’s while we go to the convention. Or having to take her to a weekend event instead of going to the convention. Maybe we’ll also start choosing purchases differently and consider portability and small play space so that we can bring a game to said event to play while waiting. Because, let’s face it, the parents get there when they drop their kids off, an hour before the event. Then what do you do? Play a game on your phone? Maybe. But as board gamers we have other options.
And all of this is fine. The thing is it took me time to get there. I feel like it took my husband a little bit longer. But he’s much more of a board gamer than I am, he plays solo games because it’s too hard to get even me to the table as often as he would like. I’m more of a larper. And unless you want to spend your in-character time being a parent AND you can find a larp that will welcome a child for the weekend, larping together is something to save for when your child gets older.
I think the only topic I see on forums more often than “when” is one asking for game suggestions for (fill in the blank situation here). And even those tend to be “what can I play with my three-year old?” Unfortunately and fortunately the answer to these tends to be “it depends on who your kid is”. It’s unfortunate because obviously the parent asking is having trouble locating appropriate games. It’s fortunate because there are a lot of smart people out there who know that no two kids are the same. I recommend starting with the age range on the box. Then read the description. You might find that a game rated for an older child might be playable by your child, maybe with a few modifications.
My experience with Yog was that she wanted to “play” games in her toddler years and then in pre-school that fell off. My uneducated guess as to why this happened? Developmentally in her toddler years she wanted to mimic what she saw the people around her doing, which was gaming. That’s how toddlers learn to human, they mimic what they see the people in their environment doing. In pre-school she became aware of herself as an individual and wanted to find ways to assert that. So she became “the kind of girl who doesn’t play games”.
Maybe someday that will change. Maybe it won’t. My job as a parent is to help her be the best her she can be.
Until then my husband and I will have to negotiate gaming time around her needs.
And appreciate the fact that she still has a really early bedtime.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
This edition is going to be less about the child and more about the parents. Sometimes getting a babysitter so that you can game is totally worth it! And this time it was a pretty quick turn-around – we had one hour to complete the game.
My awesome gaming group, along with a few of our other gaming friends recently did an escape room together. We had one team member who had done one before, but the rest of us were new to the experience. We were all familiar with what might happen in an escape room on various levels. Obviously this form of entertainment is the new hot commodity, so if you’re on the internet it’s hard to have not heard of it. My husband and I watch Escape! on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel (Yog often watches with us and is fascinated with it as well). Some of our group are larpers (though I am the most avid larper in the group), we all play table top rpg games and we all love doing puzzles. We felt we were well equipped to rock the room. Though we had one big shared concern – that we would over think the room and fail due to making a simple task complex.
We arrived about fifteen minutes before our scheduled slot and were greeted by the owners. We all then had to sign waivers, just in case we did something stupid (like walk into a wall while reading a clue) and got hurt. They had a table with a bunch of locks connected to eye bolts in the lobby and we were invited to try them out as they would be the types of locks used in the room. That way we knew how each lock functioned prior to going into the room. Once we were signed off and knew how to work the locks we were briefed and led to the room.
We played a pirate themed room. The story was that we found a treasure map in our great grandfather’s house (Goonies anyone? SQUEE!) and chartered a boat to take us to the site. On the way there we were captured by pirates who threw us in the brig. We had one hour to escape with the map before the pirates came back to decide our fate.
This was all explained to us before entering the room. Then we were escorted to a room, given a few last-minute basics and locked in. The last-minute basics were the location of a screen that had our countdown timer and would be where clues would pop up. During the game clues would randomly be given, unless we asked to not receive them. The cool thing is that since the clues were only displayed on the screen we could simply not read them. It sounds like it would be hard to not read the screen, but once we got into the game no one even looked at the screen until the end. We would be alerted to the presence of a clue by the sound of clashing swords.
Once the door was locked there was a threat made by the pirate captain over the speakers and the timer started. We could see the room we were in and another room that we could not access because it was gated off. In that room was a door. We figured out how to get the gate open and got into the next room. We started working our way through there and when we found the key to the door we thought we were so smart! We had managed to get out of the room in record time! Nope. Beyond that door? Another room! That was the first time I looked at the screen. I wanted to know how much time we had left. We had about twenty minutes (which means that even if we had escaped we wouldn’t have beaten the record of about 34 minutes) left to complete the room.
It was in that room that we asked for and used the only clue we needed and only because we were going in circles and were afraid there might be another room on the other side of the door.
After the game my husband I talked about how we did. We got out, with eight minutes to spare. So we were really proud of that fact. We also only “needed” one clue. We think we may have been able to figure it out, but “would have, should have, could have”. The funny thing I noticed is that everyone in our group kind of had their role to our success. I was really good about going into a room and finding clues and puzzle pieces. I had no idea what to do with most of them and maybe figured out one or two puzzles. Others in our group were really good at putting the concepts together that allowed us to move on. While others were really good at manipulating things to complete the puzzles. All in all I think we had an awesome team.
One of my favorite moments was when we were getting out of the room – I had the key in hand was trying to get it in the door…and couldn’t. “We made it this far and we’re going to fail because I can’t work a standard key!” I cried. Then I got the key in the lock and we made it out!
This will definitely not be our last escape room. The location we went to runs two scenarios at a time and they rotate their offerings, so we have a local option. A quick internet search showed me several other options not too far from home.
Talking with the owners of the place we went to I got a suggestion for a kid’s escape room! It’s recommended for kids 8 – 12, so it might be a bit too much for Yog, but I kind of want to try it anyway.
So get a babysitter, a group of people with whom you can work well and escape to an escape room!
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
DEXCON 20 wrap up time!
As always I am going to try to focus on how Yog was integrated and impacted the convention experience. However, this convention was AMAZING! Seriously guys, I love this convention series and have had some great experiences in the past, but this one makes the top ten list easily.
Our original plan was to get to the hotel about an hour before check in. That got derailed quickly. We had planned on packing on the Monday before since we were spending Tuesday with friends for the July 4th holiday. Then we got a request for a house showing Tuesday morning. So instead of packing on Monday, we prepped the house, which meant that ALL the packing had to be done on Wednesday. Yog chose to make this one of the rare mornings she let us sleep until 9 am, which was awesome, but got us a late start. Then we had a leisurely breakfast, because vacation. Then the process began. I needed to make sure to have costumes for the three larps I was playing, all black clothes for the larp I was NPCing for, AND all the props and costumes for the larp I was running. Oh. And all the board games I had listed in my event description for The Family Game Table. And that was just the event specific stuff. I still needed to consider other clothes and needs. I managed to pare down on my packing by deciding that living in pieces of larp costumes was a good idea. It turned out to be a very good idea, since I didn’t have much time to change or not be in costume anyway. All in all it took us two hours to pack, with Yog’s assistance. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but SIX IS AWESOME! I was able to give her directions and I didn’t have to pack for her. She got all of her essentials together, which then my husband went through to make sure she had everything covered. He was also my clothing wingman as I gathered costumes together and decided what pieces could be re-used. Just having his presence helped keep me focused as I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I had created a check list of things I needed to run the children’s larp, which I was really happy for as it was one less thing to think about that morning.
Then we needed to get everything in the car. We asked Yog to hang out in the living room and not make a huge mess while coordinated and she obliged. My husband lugged bags out to me and I figured out how to get everything into our car, as I’m a better Tetris player than he is. It was a tight fit, but we made it. The large orange ball I was bringing for the Escaping Steam was precariously perched, but that would only serve to entertain us during the drive as it rolled on top of Yog while she slept. She didn’t admit to sleeping and couldn’t figure out how the ball landed in her lap!
Check in went smoothly, a fact we (my awesome friends roomed with us) were all thankful for, and we got our connecting rooms. Dinner was had and then we lined up to get our badges. Which is when we noticed that some of the event spaces had been re-arranged. The one that had the biggest impact on us was the Con Suite, which was in an open area instead of a room. It felt more accessible and like it was a part of the activity instead of being a space to step away from the activity. I can see where that would be a negative for some people looking for a quiet space, but when Yog wanted to hang out there we didn’t feel as removed from the action.
Yog got her badge and had it laminated with the rest of us, then we shuffled her off to bed as it was already past bed time. This was a rough night for us. She fought a bit about getting into bed. Then kept insisting that she “just couldn’t fall asleep”. My husband was staying in, but I was heading off to the Larp Bazaar at 10 pm. I wasn’t sure if I had been assigned a space to represent Escaping Steam and wanted to be there to fill the space had one been provided. Also, it’s a great place to say hi to a lot of my friends. I had to put my foot down on the talking to get her to finally fall asleep. She slept through the night and I managed to not watch the sun rise. This is a real struggle with me and conventions.
I was grateful that the convention organizers had asked to move The Family Game Table
to the 11 am to 1 pm slot (I had been requesting the 9 am to 11 am slot). I was able to sleep in a bit and feel more relaxed going into Thursday. Yog opted to not wear her Wonder Woman costume, as she had worn it a week before and had to ask me to get her out of it, she just wore the headband and belt. I’m not sure if it was because of the later time slot or not, but we had one group join us on Thursday. We played Flash Point Fire Recue. Well, the other group of three and myself played. Yog played with bubbles and Jenga blocks. My husband also joined us as he had the slot open. He didn’t play initially, but as always he was helpful in explaining rules. And he was a total champ, jumping in to fill in for the little girl, when halfway through the game she decided that blowing bubbles with Yog looked like more fun. We also found out that the little girl would be joining us for Escaping Steam.
After that event we did a quick run up to the room to drop off our board game stash, eat a quick lunch and grab our props for
Escaping Steam, the children’s larp we were running. We had two children (with their adults) and one adult player. I had spoken with the adult player before to prepare her for the game, as I knew she was an avid larper and I was afraid she would be bored. Despite the axiom of “no plot survives contact with the players”, this event went very smoothly for me. I had plenty of wonderful help setting up and NPCing, so I could focus on making the game go smoothly, coaching, and playing Steam at the end (as per Yog’s request). Yog was really into helping out, which I was really grateful for. There was lots of adorable during the game. The kids loved making their super hero vests, seemed to get the simple rules quickly and dove right in. I didn’t have them do full character creation, instead allowed them to play themselves as super heroes with super powers. At times they were so involved with the puzzle they were solving they would forget where they put their bubbles down. I had worried about that prior to the game and considered making a way to attach the bubbles to them, but figured that might lead to kids covered in bubble soap and ditched the idea in favor of having the bad guy NPC hold back as needed. I had set each room up with supplies enough for ten kids. One puzzle involved putting stickers on a grid. If they had gotten one grid between all of the kids that would have been enough to consider the room unlocked. However, the industrious pair, along with Yog, loved the grid puzzle so much they did all ten grids before moving on! This caused a slow down for the adults, but since the kids were having fun and we had plenty of time, I let them go. They were completely prepared for the final showdown with Steam and even improvised their own ways of showing her that they wanted to be friends and not steal her treasure. When the game was over I gave each of the kids a paper lunch bag and let them take home some of the props. Clean up turned out to be an easy process since the kids had emptied some of the spaces claiming their treasure. I have several title ideas for other potential games in this vein, so we shall see if I’m able to do this again. A lot of it will depend on Yog wanting to be a part of the process. It definitely won’t happen until next Dexcon, for many reasons.
We packed all the Escaping Steam props into the car to give us more room in the hotel room, then headed back to the room to grab dinner. Since I was running my larp character seminar in the 6 – 8 dinner block and it was such a crazy day, we chose to move our typical pizza night to Thursday. I got dressed for my 8 pm game, ate, then dashed off to run my seminar, followed by said 8 pm game, leaving Yog in the hands of our friends.
Friday was much quieter. Yog let us sleep in a bit again. We grabbed breakfast then headed off to our event space for the last event we would be running for the weekend, another run of The Family Game Table. We were joined by the other child who played Escaping Steam and his mother. He and Yog played with the cards from Memory and the Jenga blocks. I introduced them to Ice Cool, which ended with the kids practicing flicking the penguins around. Then his mom and I played The Magic Labyrinth, followed by a game of Feed The Kitty with her and her son. We also spent a lot of time just chatting about games and kids. We wrapped up and the kids parted as kids almost always do – with the resolve that play time couldn’t be over yet.
My Friday afternoon time with Yog was when I planned to go to the Dealer’s Room. Of course she declared shopping “Boring” (her new word for whatever she doesn’t feel like doing) and refused to go. Of course I didn’t give in. We struck a deal that she could sit in the hall outside the Dealer’s Room blowing bubbles while I shopped, with the understanding that I would be spending more time in the room because I had to check on her than if she would just come in with me. We found her a spot behind a table positioned next to the security guard outside of the Dealer’s Room. I would spend a minute or two perusing a table, then go check on her. The security guard was really sweet, he kept telling me she was fine, but I still wasn’t going to just leave her there. I bumped into some friends and chatted for a while, then checked again. I was in the middle of deciding which pair of horns I was going to purchase when little hands wrapped around my legs. Luckily those hands belonged to Yog. She decided to come check on me this time. Then she decided that she too needed a new set of horns. I told her that she would have to use her birthday money. She tried to talk me into buying them for her, but I held fast and she came out with a new pair of horns on her head.
We tried a new to us restaurant Friday night and decided that next time if we go there we’d order for delivery as the shop was tiny and with our whole group it was a bit crowded and there was not enough seating. We wound up taking our food back to the hotel and eating in their outdoor dining area. I had dressed for my 7 pm larp prior to dinner, and had to run off before everyone else was done. Their games didn’t start until 8. So I have no idea how things went with Yog after dinner, she was asleep when I got back to the room way late in the night.
Saturday morning’s schedule was a negotiation between my husband and I. Everyone had a game they really wanted to play. When that happens either he or I give up our game. Since the game he wanted to play was one he has played online with the person running the game at the convention since Dreamation, he let me go to yet another larp. Unfortunately this ran almost back to back with the event I was NPCing and helping to set up. So after the larp I ran up to the room to change out of my costume and devour some food. Larping always makes me hungry. That event ran late enough that I sent the group to dinner ahead of me and I met them at the diner. By now the long weekend was beginning to show on Yog and dinner was a bit of a trial. Once again I was running behind schedule, so once we got back to the hotel one of my amazing friends took care of getting Yog ready for bed while my husband and I ran off to our 8 pm games.
All of our friends had to leave earlier than we had, so Sunday morning was really quiet. We packed up the car, checked out of the hotel, got our prize points, perused the table and headed out. The drive home wasn’t bad, nor was our usual lunch at the diner, despite how tired Yog was. Despite my best efforts at making sure I got enough sleep I was still exhausted. But I was ecstatic. Honestly this convention was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a convention ever. Hence the crazy long post. And this is with me not going into details about how awesome all of the events I attended were. Or how awesome just the environment is. Or the awesome friends I’ve made there. If you want to hear about that, just ask. I could fill another convention talking about this one.
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gamer family.
As promised it’s time to talk building a LARP for kids. I apologize if I get a bit vague in parts, but I’m not sure how many of my potential players’ parents might be reading this and I don’t want to give it all away prior to the game, since each child must have a parent/guardian at the game with them.
I’d love to say that I’m completely finished with the planning and preparing, but there’s still some work to do and just about a week to do it all. Most of that is building props. I like crafting. Maybe too much. I’m not that good at most of it, but I enjoy it. What does this mean for the LARP? That I want to make all the things. But I’m only one person with limited free time. That isn’t to say that I’m not enlisting some help. I’ve had Yog help make some of the items because if she’s going to co-GM, then she should help plan and build. I have several friends who I could ask to help. The thing is that what needs to be made at this point won’t take much time. I just don’t want to be sitting at the convention finishing pieces, so I need to make sure to focus up. Also, rehearsal needs to happen so Yog knows what is expected of her.
The development of this game came from many conversations. The first one, as you probably already know, was with Yog. We were at Family Game Table at Dreamation and she said “Mommy I want to play in a game like you do where you dress up”. As we talked it over it came to be that “All the kids get to be whatever super hero they want to be. I’m going to be Wonder Woman”. As I took notes on my tablet and tossed ideas to her she came up with the idea that she wanted me to play the “bad guy” at the end of the adventure and that I was to be a dragon. But not just any dragon. “A dragon who tries to make sure that no one can have an awesome day”.
We got back to our hotel room after our event ended and I announced our plans. The two friends who were there were very enthusiastic about the idea and offered to help and started tossing out more ideas that I added to the growing notes. One (a teacher) suggested that the challenges could be based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math if you haven’t been beaten over the head with this acronym yet).
I took all of these ideas and ran with them.
I started on Google to explore STEAM activities. I compiled a list of about twenty possibilities. I had originally planned to do five of them, but then wound up cutting one out once I got my room assignment from the convention. I will be in a group of three small rooms. Rather than trying to divide one of them in three I will divide two of them in half and use the last one for the “Boss Battle”.
Picking the challenges had several requirements. They had to be accessible to a young child. Lucky for me I have my very own six year old play tester. They had to be fairly easy to transport and not take up too much space. I will be playing in several LARPs during the convention and like to costume, plus we need to get our regular clothes and groceries in the car. Oh yeah, and the humans. We need to put us in the car too (hopefully just one car…). The components needed to be inexpensive, or better yet, no additional cost. I needed to be able to find a logical way to wrap plot around the challenge. Luckily I was able to find activities that fit all of those requirements. I had to purchase a few items that I can repurpose in my life, but most of the items came from things I already had (like that stash of construction paper I bought to make decorations for Yog’s first birthday party and have continued to use for other projects. Seriously I think I have the never ending stack of construction paper at my house) or are recycled. The best part about the recycled items? They don’t have to come home with me! More space in the car on the way home. You know, unless I hit the Dealer’s Room and make myself broke again.
Combat was something I had figured out early on. I knew that I wanted the kids to have the ability to battle smaller villains along the way, as I want this to mirror what my experiences have been as close as possible. Most standard parlor LARP resolution systems can be a bit complicated, even for an adult player. There was no way I was handing a bunch of children boffer weapons and letting them hit anyone. I decided to use bubbles. Since each child is playing a super hero they will each have a super power that can affect each other or the villains. They will blow bubbles at their target to enact their power. I figured it was fairly safe and hopefully fun for the kids. Likewise the villains they will be facing will be of a soft nature.
The age range was something with which I struggled. Yog of course wanted it to be all five and six year olds. There may be enough children in that age group at the convention, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you can’t restrict attendance that much. My original thought was 5 – 12. However after talking with my awesome gaming group about the plot and the challenges I was using we thought that maybe 5 – 10 would be a better target. Of course that’s not going to be a hard line. If there’s a 4 or 14 year old who wants to play and the guardian of the child thinks this game will work them, I’m willing to let them in.
Speaking of guardians, they will be required to attend and play. I thought that with smaller children they may need guidance or help. Or they may just need a hug if they get overwhelmed. All it would take is one upset child for the entire event to grind to a halt. If they have an adult they are comfortable with playing alongside them I hope to avoid any of that. It also gives each child someone dedicated for help when needed and keeps NPCs from being stretched too thin trying to help everyone.
Each chamber will have a friendly NPC, which will be an animal of some sort. Like I said, there are some details to work out. This NPC will set up the room, the goal and then help the players accomplish the goal.
Oh, and of course every super hero needs an alter ego costume, so we’re kicking the event off with paper vest making. Each kid will get to design their own super hero costume while I brief the “teddy bears”.
In the end I came up with the following :
Deep in Mount Hill lives the terrible dragon, Steam. Steam is trying to ruin everything so no one can have an awesome day. Many have traveled through the caverns of the mountain, but all have returned empty handed and sad. The townspeople of Downhill are afraid of living so close to such a mean creature, but are running out of ideas. They have asked your group of young super heroes to tackle the Steam problem, as knights and adventurers have not been successful. Join other super heroes and their trusty teddy bears* on an interactive exploration through Steam’s mountain to hopefully quell the dragon’s rage. *Parents are required to attend the game and will be playing the part of each child’s trusty teddy bear. This game is intended for ages 5 – 10.
The names are campy, but so is working with children.
I haven’t written a LARP in a long time, as I found writing and planning to be fun and running to be one of the most stressful things in the world. Though I will say that I feel that I have grown quite a bit as an improvisational artist since those days, so maybe I’ll be better at it now. I’m not as worried about stressing out working with kids. If the plot falls apart, but the kids have fun, mission accomplished.
I’m sure there are tons of details I’ve left out and questions you may have. Use the comments section and ask away!
Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a child in a gaming family.
I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing in my head lately, but none of them long enough for a compelling post on their own. So I’m going to follow the example of some of my fellow bloggers and just hit you with those thoughts this month. Maybe the thoughts will be more compelling when compiled. Or not.
Next month I’ll talk about con prep with a Kindergartener and how my LARP design is going. I’m waiting until next month to talk about the LARP design because I’ve stalled a bit on that. There’s a couple of reasons. First up is time. I’ve been overly busy, to the point of getting ill. So I had to drop some activities and since I have some time for this, the LARP went to the back burner. Second is writer’s block. I ran into some issues I needed to solve and plain just couldn’t. See reason number one for one of the biggest road blocks there. Third is that I am waiting for confirmation on the space I will have at the convention. Location will affect some of my planning. So, in the next couple of weeks this will be my new focus item, and then I’ll have something to tell you for real.
SIX IS AWESOME! So is having friends with kids a little bit older than Yog. Not much older, but old enough. Old enough for what you may be asking? Old enough that when the kids want to cross the parking lot to play on the swings when we’re at a mutual friend’s house for a party I have no problem letting them go on their own. My husband and I got to play in whatever game we wanted all day, whether that was together or not. We didn’t have to think about where we sat. Neither of us had to volunteer to sit out to be available for Yog’s needs. Yog on her own is still a little tough. But I can’t fault her at that. Being the only child in a house where the adults want to play a board game when you have no interest and no one else to play with must be boring. She can still be really needy and our usual tactics need to come into play. Though I will say I was particularly let down at the latest gathering. Prior to the party I told Yog what we would be doing that weekend and she told me that she would “sit on my lap and roll dice for me”. That happened a total of ZERO times that weekend. Even when I asked her and reminded that she told me she would to that. And no, I didn’t expect her to ditch her friends to sit on my lap and roll dice. I’m not crazy. Well. I am, but not like that. When she was on her own though it would have been nicer than the whining. Also, I was looking forward to just having her with me.
I consider myself to be one of the luckiest gamer girls in the world. I hear horror stories from other women about experiences at conventions, gaming stores, or in their own gaming groups. I have not one horror story. Not one bad gaming experience that was a direct result of my femininity. I’ve had bad gaming experiences. Ones where the game wasn’t for me, or where personalities didn’t mesh, but gender identity wasn’t the issue. Or at least I never felt it was. I had one bad game store experience, but my husband had the exact same experience, even when I wasn’t there, so I don’t think it was me being a woman that caused the problem. That just wasn’t the store for us. We do however have an awesome game store that we love to get to when we can. The owner knows our names, despite the fact that we’re only there a half dozen times each year. Even the other customers are awesome. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t wound up having a random conversation with another customer, and it was never about “why is a woman in a gaming store?”. I’ve not been to a ton of different conventions, but again I’ve never been made uncomfortable because I’m a woman. I am one of the luckiest women in the gaming world. And I try to not forget it.
I love games, but I tend to play one game to death, then move on. The good thing is I play the hell out of a game. The bad thing is that I may never go back to that game again. There are almost too many games in the world for me. But I can also be easily overwhelmed by too many choices. I have to avoid some diners because there are too many choices on the menu.
On that – I’m of the opinion that if your description of a game is “it plays like X” I probably am not interested. Either I’ve never played X, so it doesn’t matter. Or I have played X and I like it, which means I don’t need another game “like X”. I have X. I like diversity. However, I know this is inherently a problematic stance. For one – there are only so many ways to combine cards, dice, random draw bags, etc. into a balanced, playable, enjoyable game. So uniqueness is hard to achieve. Secondly the human brain works well on comparison. It’s quicker to say “this game is like X” than it is to try to explain the details of the new game. I understand it’s a shortcut and that it really works for a lot of people. However, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m just weird. Mass marketing tends to work against me going for your product in any arena.
LARP is such an interesting cross section of talented people. Everyone brings a different set of talents to help tell awesome stories. Some are great at costumes. Others, make up. Still others, character creation. And everyone is willing to share their talents without breaking each other’s banks. I love collaborating with such an eclectic group of people to just have fun.
I hope you enjoyed the random thoughts. Please use the comments to expand on them, share your experiences, or ask my random thought on a topic.
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.
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.
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.
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.