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!

Dreamation 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is what LARP planning looks like.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time – Happy Gaming!

The Early Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Happy Gaming!

Dexcon 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, Happy Gaming!