DREAMATION 2018 Post Con

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

As promised last month I’m talking DREAMATION this month. Or ummm…a few days into March. Double post month! The convention ran the last full weekend of February, so I probably should have planned this post for March. But I wanted to share the fullness of my excitement with you as soon as possible. And now that I’m writing this I realize that if I share all of my excitement your heads might explode and you will probably cry. Because I had an AMAZING weekend. And I know after the last DEXCON I said “this was the best convention yet” and that DREAMATION had a tough act to follow. However DREAMATION saw the end of a six-year long larp chronicle I had been playing and it. WAS. AMAZING. I am still going through my thoughts on that so I can share them with my fellow players. And then there was the other larp I played. And the other one I helped run. Oh –

In the meantime, let’s talk kids at conventions.

Two board game sessions. Hanging out with friends in the hallways. Two table top role playing sessions. A visit to another larp. Planning begins.

That’s the short version of my family convention experience.

I once again hosted two sessions of The Family Game Table. It was only attended by one

022418-morgan-with-suitcase-at-dreamation.jpg
Yog volunteered again to be the one to drag the suit case to and from our board game session.

teenager on Saturday. I am really at a loss as to how to make this event succeed. I have considered dropping it, especially in light of how busy I was at this past convention. I booked myself solid, running or helping friends run something in every single block I had available and I’m not sure if this trend will continue. So maybe letting an under-attended event go away will be for the best, for me and for the packed convention schedule. That’s not to say that I won’t still be running events for kids. Not by a long shot. But maybe an open board game session just isn’t what people are interested in attending. Though when I speak to people and tell them about the event their reaction is usually “that’s so cool!” and “I wish I had known about that!”. I have friends who have offered to make flyers to advertise the event at the next convention since I’m not so good at self-promotion. I have a few months to ponder if I want to accept their help and keep trying to move in this direction.

My table top role playing game was Sidekick Quests “Picking Flowers in and Enchanted Grove”. The Friday afternoon session didn’t run due to lack of players. However since the game is geared towards kids I wasn’t overly surprised by this. Yog wasn’t with me because she was in school. I assumed most of her peers were in the same location Friday afternoon. Saturday afternoon’s session did run. The young lady who joined me for board gaming that morning came to play along with a friend of hers. As we were getting started we were joined by another young lady. Though they didn’t really “role play” in the sense that they all had characters, they did seem to have a good time. So much so that the young lady who joined us last is looking forward to the games I will be hosting at DEXCON. More on that later. As a newish GM I still have some learning to do and need to get more practice under my belt. There were some things about the puzzle portion of the game that I ran incorrectly, but was able to use my improv experience to work around. The girls didn’t seem to notice. Yog sat at the table with me as my co-GM. She interjected from time to time with some exposition, but mostly was my flower handler. The quest has the characters picking flowers in a certain order. I printed out tokens of the flowers so they could see the flowers they were surrounded by in their block and have a physical reminder of what they had accomplished. Yog was in charge of handing me the flowers I needed as I read them off the map so I could arrange them around the character’s avatar. It was a positive enough experience that I think I may run another table top game for children. This is one of my ideas for replacing my board game slot.

During some of the free time we managed to find with events ending early, Yog decided that she wanted to visit one of the larps. As I know the people running the game and a large portion of the players I decided to let her peak her head in, with directions to whisper and to stay out of the way of play. The game we visited is Bright Story and the characters are everything and everyone you can imagine and then some. So the costuming is a lot of fun, even if you don’t know what’s going on. As I had been able to play at DEXCON I had an idea of how the various rooms were being used, so I gave Yog a brief tour, during which she decided she wanted to play. I spoke with one of the game owners briefly and will need to have a follow-up conversation, but so far it looks like she may be welcome at the game. However, before I’m willing to let her play she and I are going to be working on the improv concept of “Yes, and…” because she still tries to control the narrative in all of her pretend play. Much like my board game session decision, I have a few months to work on this one.

And…

Yes.

A new Steam larp went into planning phase as I walked around with Yog. She’s got some really great ideas that I can run with. I will say this much, she has asked for no “bad guys” in this run, so it will be all puzzles for the players to solve. This is definitely a sequel to the first game though.

This was a different convention spending time with Yog in general. She’s more open to being in the convention area instead of playing in the room all day. I can trust her to obey rules and walk further away from her in the Dealer’s Room (while still having one eye on her). She spent about fifteen minutes chatting with one of the artists in Artist’s Alley (before I decided it was time for her to move on). I was able to stand a few feet away and talk with a friend while they chatted about art. Last year Yog wouldn’t have left my side and demanded my full attention. It was really nice. And as any parent can confirm, it’s amazing watching the changes happen in your child as they grow.

This was another convention knocked out of the park by DOUBLE EXPOSURE, the staff, and their intrepid group of volunteers who run the games. And, no I don’t mean that to be a pat on my own back, I got to work with those amazing people and benefit from the work of others, so they all deserve recognition.

If you have some recent convention love, DREAMATION or otherwise, share it in the comments. We could all use a little more hype in our lives.

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

 

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Couples Who Play Together

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

This is one of those “more about the adults than the kids” articles. Though I believe that having a child created a different experience for us compared to our childless counterparts.

As those who have been reading this blog for any length of time know, I love to larp. My husband loves to run larps, and will on occasion play. As a holiday/anniversary present this year we were gifted a weekend at a large scale game. In a castle. A real, honest to goddess castle!

Let’s start with the child tie in as it’s a short one this time. We were at a disadvantage at the start of the game as it began at 2 pm on a Friday. With a child in school the logistics of finding someone to pick her up and coordinate that between the school, after care givers, and our intrepid volunteer is a monumental task. We chose to miss out on a few hours of the game instead, hoping that it wouldn’t impact our experience too much.  We did choose to take a half day off work and get mostly in costume before picking Yog up from school. While there were efforts made to catch us up on the rules of the game and the plot we still felt very much lost for the first few hours of the game. It took the entire first evening for us to really get in the swing of things.

The end of the game was also impactful on our family life. The schedule we had been provided indicated that the game would wrap up in the afternoon, but it wound up being closer to dinner time. We made the choice to stay until the end, but that meant that Yog got to bed late that night.

To kick the weekend off, on Friday afternoon, in a gown and heavy makeup (at least I was a human character!), I got Yog from school and dropped her off with my parents for a fun weekend with her grandparents.

We checked into our hotel and put the finishing touches on our costumes (driving the hour to the location with all of the jewelry on wasn’t practical). We arrived to the game site (did I mention that we got to play in a castle?!) right at dinner time, which was good because I was ready to cannibalize someone at that point. Poor planning on my part.

In general we both had a really good time. I got to meet some really awesome people, and I hope I’ll be able to see them again at other events. The experience popped up in conversations regularly for about two weeks post event and we talked to our gaming group about it as well.

One really amazing personal thing came out of the post-game introspection and I’m pretty sure that those who have larped or role played with me over the years will be thinking “duh” when you read this.

I was finally able to put a name to my play style.

For years my husband and I would have conversations about games and the different things that give one joy in a game and things that make enjoyment harder (yeah, not only do we play a lot of games, when we’re not playing we’re talking about them…). One of those things is your fellow players. Let me preface this with saying that with a few exceptions there is no wrong way to role play. However, we have found over the years that playing with a group mostly made up of like-minded individuals will enhance your enjoyment of the game. The thing was that I couldn’t target like-minded individuals because I didn’t know what my mind was until this weekend.

I’m a “play for the story” person.

Femke Jarlsdottir - Dresden Files Empire State Chronicles
This is one of my oldest larp characters…both in character age and how long I’ve played her. Thanks to my friend Liz for the awesome photo shoot!

What that means (to me, anyway) is that sometimes I will do something for the fun of it, for the excitement of the story. Sometimes this will cause a portion of the story to end. It might cause significant hardship for my character or even the death of my character. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where character’s life was on the line and I made the safe choice. Sometimes I’m just not ready to part with a character, mostly because I feel like their story hasn’t been fully told and ending their life at that point leaves too much undone. It’s as close to being a real goddess as I’ll ever get I suppose, getting to decided when a character’s story is or isn’t finished. It also means that I might be that character that the other characters hate. And sometimes PvP is fun. Some of my favorite characters in my regular larp are the ones who are morally ambiguous and may attack another player. It keeps you on your toes. I can think of multiple times sitting at my RPG table, looking at another player and out of character saying “Do the stupid thing!”, following that up in character by saying “If you do that stupid thing I’ll cut your pinky off”, going back out of character “Please do the stupid thing! It’s too perfect for your character and will be fun!”.

Of course that also means I have to admit something else. I love to stir the pot! In character drama and quandaries are fun for me. I don’t write extensive back stories prior to the start of a game, so these experiences are the crucible in which I discover who my character is. Sometimes encouraging another player to be mean to my character because it would make a great story is in order. I completely  understand the fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, so open dialog is necessary, but for me, usually it’s going to be – YES! Make my character’s life harder!

I also know that I enjoy intense experiences and that not everyone does. When it comes to this finding a group of like-minded players and open communication is crucial. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, however from time to time I have to let the drama beast fly.

What kind of role player do you think you are? Do you find that playing with others with a similar style enhances your game?

Let’s chat about larp play style in the comments.

And until next month – Happy Gaming!

Table Top RPG for Kids

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

Last summer I did a couple of articles about developing and running a larp for kids. With another convention approaching (in a few months at the time of this writing) I have been thinking about what I want to present for kids, as I have been enjoying bringing approachable gaming to kids in their own space. And yes, I know, I’ve had since July to think about this, but…I had other things to focus on too. Like…ummm…Arkham Horror won’t play itself. Yet. I don’t think. I mean, maybe there’s an AI out there, but… Anyway. Coming out of the holidays I don’t have time to write and prepare another larp script. Not to mention that Yog won’t be available until Saturday since she’ll be in school and typically that afternoon is blocked out for me to NPC in a campaign larp I have worked with for the past few years. Also, there will most likely be fewer kids until Saturday rolls around, so I want to scale down the size of the game I am running a bit. The larp was written to accommodate ten kids, I’m looking to half that number for DREAMATION. I also wanted something that I won’t need a staff of people to help pull off. I already run a few sessions of a board game session geared towards families, so the next logical venue is a table top RPG.

About a year ago (maybe even longer) my husband introduced me to a web comic called Side Kick Quests. I have been loving reading the family friendly story line and learning a

Side Kick Quests Page
Index of the comic strip with the navigation bar on the side.

bit about the RPG on which the comic is based. So when I decided that I was going to pitch a RPG (Role Playing Game for those not in the know) Side Kick Quests was the logical choice. I know from reading the comic and a bit of the webpage that the creator, James Stowe, wanted to create a game that was accessible to kids aged six and up, but still engaging for adults. This is exactly my goal in the events I run, so again,  a perfect match.

I jumped over to the online store to buy the game, which was crazy reasonably priced, another plus for parents looking to run games for their kids, or even just try it. While I understand the pricing of role-playing game books, if you’re not sure a child will like the game it may be cost prohibitive. Side Kick Quests is not one of those games. Of course being the tech savvy person I am I didn’t notice the download link when I made my purchase. So I had to contact James Stowe, and beg him to understand my lack of ability to read and use a computer and send me the download. He graciously did so and off I was to read the rules. And hopefully remember how to read and comprehend better than I did with the website.

The world of Adventur is charmingly approachable for kids, but challenging enough for adults. I love that the players are the sidekicks to the standard fantasy genre character choices. This makes the game scale down really well and makes them relatable to kids, since they are playing kids in the game. Of course an apprentice would have some skills, but not as many as a well-trained warrior or magician or bard. So instead of having a sheet full of skills to work with they have two. One they can use once per game and one they can use once per encounter. There are still health points, and characters can die (only by the players choice), but running out of health doesn’t automatically kill your character. It simply takes you out of the next action round while your character rests in the background to heal up. I like that it gives characters a reason to not get into combat situations “just because” but also isn’t deadly (again, unless the player wants to let the character die), which is often the deterrent for gratuitous fighting.

The basics of skill resolution is very similar to the systems I have been using recently (though to be fair I guess most RPGs use some form of “roll a die of X value and add your skill to the resolution). So I’m already off to a good start. While I know a child should be able to play this game I also know that rules systems tend to be my shortcoming in any kind of role-playing game.

The next big challenge I will have to tackle is what kind of quest to run, what is the story I will put the characters in? But wait. There are pre-generated quests for the system. Yay!  The .pdf of quests contains three stand-alone quests that can be linked together to create a full adventure. The advantage of doing a full adventure is that the players get to use the advancement rules. However, since I am running a convention game I won’t be using these rules and only running one quest.

I have a folder full of downloads to read and supplies to gather, namely pencils and D20s and then I need to print out character sheets.

To say that I’m a bit nervous pitching a table top game for a convention run would be an understatement. However I plan on preparing and practicing as much as possible. My plan is read everything, plan out how to run the game and ask my regular gaming group if they wouldn’t mind taking a break from our regular 7th Sea game so that I can run a session of Side Kick Quests for them. I haven’t run a table top game in a few years, and that last time I did had been my first time doing it. I’m also hoping that I can get Yog to the table to try it out as well.  Maybe if I frame it as her helping me she’ll play along. Literally I hope. If I’m really lucky I’ll be able to convince her to invite some friends over so I can try running it with a group of kids before the convention. Though to be fair the bigger hurdle will be finding time in my crazy schedule. This is a lighter time of year for me for performances and larps (post holidays anyway), but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can fill my schedule.

Have you ever run a table top rpg for kids? Share your tips, tricks and stories in the comments!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

Worth The Babysitter

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!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

DEXCON 20

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

Between Events
Yog helped out by pulling our suitcase of games to and from 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 poster we created for the event.

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.

Yeah.

It was that good.

May your gaming table be even a fraction of that.

 

Designing a Kid’s LARP

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”.

Escaping Steam
The poster we created for the event.

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!

Until next month – Happy Gaming!

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamation 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

021817-dreamation-3
This is what LARP planning looks like.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Happy Gaming!