A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Living the Dream

Oh no, we aren’t a gam­ing fam­i­ly. Why would you think that? Yes, our copy of Drag­on does get passed around to every­one in the house (and I fig­ure it’s only a mat­ter of time before Dun­geon gets the same treat­ment). Okay, so we have the D&D Mas­ter Tools pro­gram installed on every com­put­er in the house, and it does see a lot of use (we’re look­ing for­ward to the actu­al release of the program—the demo crash­es a lot). And dice do tend to be found in the odd­est places, but does­n’t that hap­pen to every­body who has a cat? So we have a lot of gam­ing books—three copies of the third edi­tion AD&D play­ers man­u­al at last count, but who’s count­ing? And does­n’t every­body have a book­case devot­ed just to RPGs?

I’ve been hang­ing around gamers since high school. I was exposed to D&D sev­er­al times and as well as a very bas­tardized ver­sion of Trav­eller that was played by some friends on the bus on the way to march­ing band com­pe­ti­tions. I kept run­ning into more and more peo­ple who were into LARPs (which sound real­ly fun, although I haven’t tried one yet) and oth­er RPGs. Still, I nev­er seemed to meet any oth­er females who played, and got the def­i­nite impres­sion that gam­ing was a boys’ club. I was curi­ous, but not quite enough to try get­ting past the implied “No Gurls Alowed” sign on the club­house. Besides, every­body else seems to get into gam­ing as a teenager—I’m a lit­tle old to start now, right?

But then an acquain­tance from the music com­mit­tee at church intro­duced me to an old friend of hers, Sam—a won­der­ful­ly intel­li­gent, fun­ny, roman­tic, hand­some game design­er (okay, can you tell I’m in love with the guy?). (Thank you Gwen!) They played Were­wolf on week­ends at Gwen’s place, and I was invit­ed to join. Gwen and the rest of the group were very patient with me as a new­bie. Yes, all of them had been play­ing since their teen years—but appar­ent­ly they’re always will­ing to wel­come new gamers to the fold, no mat­ter how old or young (we had a 10-year-old play­ing with us and hold­ing his own).

To be hon­est, I did­n’t find the whole idea of play­ing a were­wolf very appealing—and that came out in my char­ac­ter, who was expe­ri­enc­ing a fair amount of angst about it her­self. I quick­ly found, though, that it can be very fun to lose your­self in a char­ac­ter who can be very dif­fer­ent from your­self, or very much like your­self but doing things you’d nev­er dare doing in your mun­dane life! And you can learn quite a lot about peo­ple pret­ty quick­ly by gam­ing with them—more so than in most social sit­u­a­tions I encounter, any­way. And it’s a good thing I was inter­est­ed in gam­ing already—it isn’t some­thing you can fake well—because I don’t think I could real­ly get along with my part­ner that well if I could­n’t share an inter­est that is so impor­tant to him (obvi­ous­ly oth­ers have found this a prob­lem).

For a vari­ety of rea­sons the Were­wolf game end­ed more quick­ly than nor­mal. We moved on to play­ing a vari­a­tion on anoth­er White Wolf game, Mage, that Sam changed a fair amount (we played in the “World of Most­ly Dim­ness” rather than the World of Dark­ness™). He called it Thresh­old Mage, and I loved it. My char­ac­ter was com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from me in almost every way—well, she was still female, but just about every­thing else was dif­fer­ent. We end­ed up with eight play­ers in that game, which I’m told is close to the max­i­mum who can eas­i­ly par­tic­i­pate in a non-LARP game. I would have very hap­pi­ly con­tin­ued that cam­paign indef­i­nite­ly, but Sam start­ed with a def­i­nite end in mind.

We’ve just start­ed an AD&D third edi­tion cam­paign in which I’m play­ing a half-elven bard. This is the first time I’ve got­ten to use minia­tures, which is rather neat. I’m look­ing for­ward to play­ing Pen­drag­on, which is anoth­er game I’ve heard my gamer friends dis­cuss. There’s been a fair amount of talk about get­ting a Changeling game going, and I’m will­ing to give it a try but I’m not real­ly wild about the whole World of Dark­ness universe—I guess I see enough dark­ness in the real world that I’d rather play in a brighter place! Sev­er­al of the guys in our group love Shad­owrun, as well. Some of them do a fair amount of online gam­ing, but I don’t think that would be near­ly as much fun for me—I enjoy the real-time social inter­ac­tion a lot—I think it would be hard­er to do online gam­ing with kids around, too.

It may sound odd, but one of the things I’m enjoy­ing about gam­ing is that I get time to do my needle­work—if I’m not actu­al­ly rolling dice or mov­ing a minia­ture around in com­bat, I’m stitch­ing.

Sam is invit­ed to run LARPs or one-shot games at var­i­ous cons from time to time, so I’ll prob­a­bly get my chance to try that soon enough. He wrote a kids’ LARP that he ran at our church a few years back and ran it as part of the chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming track at Drag­on Con in 1999—it was a major suc­cess. That led to being the direc­tor of Kid Con at Drag­on Con 2000, where he of course did anoth­er LARP. He also ran a chil­dren’s LARP as part of fam­i­ly week at the Omega Insti­tute for Holis­tic Stud­ies this past sum­mer.

Sam plays D&D with our kids (as well as what­ev­er oth­er kids end up here) when­ev­er we can make time for it. They played the old Star Wars RPG after we all went to see Phan­tom Men­ace togeth­er (and there’s a lot of excite­ment about the new ver­sion com­ing from TSR), and the girls recent­ly start­ed play­ing the Sailor Moon RPG with a friend of theirs. Katie has been ask­ing when she’ll be old enough to play Mage—parts of the Thresh­old cam­paign were def­i­nite­ly rat­ed PG-13, but I sup­pose Sam could prob­a­bly run a Mage game suit­able for kids.

Gaming As a Parent

Or actu­al­ly, with your kids around. I did­n’t real­ize it was an issue, since I’ve only gamed with kids around, nev­er with­out! It seems some peo­ple think that you can’t game with chil­dren present, or some­thing like that—I’ve encoun­tered sev­er­al peo­ple who said they stopped gam­ing when they had kids. Well, Sam’s kids have been around gam­ing through­out their lives, and Katie’s been around it for the last cou­ple of years, and we haven’t had any prob­lems. We do make sure we game here or at anoth­er house that’s already set up for kids, and we make sure we have things set up to keep the kids busy—videos, Playsta­tion games, what­ev­er (since our kids don’t usu­al­ly get much “screen time” videos and Playsta­tion games are a pret­ty big treat for them). They love gam­ing nights because we have more junk food around than usu­al and don’t real­ly enforce their nor­mal bed­times. They often want to sit in and lis­ten to the game as much as pos­si­ble (they are shooed away for some parts of the game—if any­thing gets real­ly nasty/dangerous for our char­ac­ters, etc.). It was nec­es­sary for me to explain the nature of role­play­ing to Katie in the beginning—otherwise, if my char­ac­ter got upset or hurt, she got upset because she thought I was upset. She under­stands that much bet­ter now that she’s play­ing her­self.

For­tu­nate­ly the folks we play with do under­stand that occa­sion­al­ly kids are going to inter­rupt a game with requests or minor crises or just the need for some atten­tion, and the kids under­stand that we’re busy and keep those to a min­i­mum while we’re play­ing. Since we play with sev­er­al oth­er par­ents, too, we use round-robin or trib­al parenting—if there’s either sus­pi­cious silence from the kids’ part of the house, or sus­pi­cious amounts of noise, who­ev­er isn’t imme­di­ate­ly involved in the cur­rent play goes to inves­ti­gate and deal with it.

Gaming With Kids

Actu­al­ly, Sam has said a fair amount about gam­ing with kids on his own web site, and he knows a lot more about it that I do. I’ve had sev­er­al peo­ple ask me, though, how I can let my kids get into gam­ing, or even watch us game as aduts, as they seem to assume gam­ing is a Bad Thing.

We do make sure the kids know the dif­fer­ence between fan­ta­sy and real­i­ty, and we find it good for them to see that some­times bad things hap­pen to your char­ac­ters through no fault of their own—no, life isn’t fair, and nei­ther are games. They also see our char­ac­ters being cre­ative in work­ing through prob­lems, and deal­ing with per­son­al­i­ty con­flicts with peo­ple they must coop­er­ate with in order to achieve what­ev­er the cur­rent goal is—all valu­able life lessons.

The way Sam runs games, at least, the kids quick­ly find out that no mat­ter how good their char­ac­ters are at fight­ing, com­bat isn’t the best way to resolve most sit­u­a­tions. They learn to ques­tion what they’re told, to look beyond sur­face appear­ances, and to think crit­i­cal­ly. They’re start­ing to get a decent instinc­tive grasp of prob­a­bil­i­ty from work­ing with dice and char­ac­ter sta­tis­tics. They’re learn­ing that all actions have consequences—and while we rein­force that in every day life, of course, there are some con­se­quences that we as par­ents won’t let them expe­ri­ence in real life that can occur in games (for instance, if they do some­thing real­ly stu­pid, it’s very like­ly that some­body in the game dies). In one game Genevieve was play­ing a cler­ic, and she abused her pow­ers by using them for per­son­al gain. The deity she served imme­di­ate­ly took away her pow­ers and she had to spend much of the next game ses­sion doing penance to that deity for her behav­ior. She remem­bered that les­son for a while.


These are a few links I’ve book­marked while learn­ing more about RPGs.

Last updat­ed Decem­ber 19, 2000