Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where All ‘Da Ladies (er, Babies?) At?

This is another guest post from my wife, Jennifer. If she does another, I'm just going to make her a contributor.

My husband will be doing a podcast on LARP’ing and the ladies, but I thought that since I am one I would do a blog post in addition. Or as an introduction. Depends on when he gets the cast done and up (hopefully, after he takes the trash out and plays with our rambunctious puppy…not likely, but hopefully.) My guess is that he isn’t going to talk about this particular topic, which is BABIES! Or at least little people that are not age appropriate to play NERO/LARP…

A lot of my lady LARP friends and male buddies have been dropping the kids off at the pool recently. And I mean that literally. I guess we have reached an age when that has become somewhat popular….or accidental. Either way, there is now a little bundle ofjoy, a product of conception. Yay you! But now that you have that little bundle of love and poop, what does that mean for your LARP-time?

Going to an event can be extremely difficult if you have a child, let alone multiples. Obviously, the baby/child is going to need to be cared for in a significant manner for the next decade or two. Maybe three if you are unlucky. You can’t exactly leave them with a bowl of water and some cat food and hope for the best. So now you have to find someone to watch the child while you play. Maybe it is your family, but many times they live too far away to make it a real, viable option. Or you aren’t exactly close to your family, and you recognize that leaving your kids with them would be the equivalent of dropping them on to the Event Horizon for a fun-filled weekend in creature-infested deep space. Another idea is having one spouse stay home with the child while the other plays, and you can trade events back and forth. The big drawback to that is not being able to have a few, stress-free days together to lay back and chill. A final idea, which works well if the child is a bit older, is a sleepover at a friend’s house. Those are basically your options at this point. I don’t know of any others off the top of my head.

Many who play LARP consider their LARP family to be, well, almost more understanding and supportive at times than their real family. So why don’t we rely more on them? There are a number of scenarios that could incorporate child-care and a LARP setting in a safe and fun-filled way for everyone.

I, personally, have no inclination to have children or babies in the middle of a town setting or anywhere nearcombat/in-game. I also do not want to see my LARP time go up in smoke when Bill and I decide it’s time to replicate. There are too many factors at LARP that could be considered dangerous: campfires, snakes, combat, cliffs, whatever. There are reasons you can’t just bring your kid and have them run around with you throughout the weekend. Besides the danger, it would be fairly friggin’ annoying to those that don’t have kids, those that have kids and want to be away from them…i.e. basically everyone. However, I do believe there are ways that it could be done safely and allow everyone to have a break, while at the same time keeping them out of sight and safe. Here are some ideas I’ve heard:

1. LARP for Kiddies: This could take on a number of different forms and would be camp-dependent (i.e. have to have an appropriate camp). You choose a nice cabin, out a bit from the actual field of play. You contact the ownership and arrange this with other parents ahead of time. You would be able to leave your child at the cabin and take shifts with the other parents. You could take them on nature hikes, play games, etc…even pack some food and stuff to bring ahead of time. At least one parent would sleep there at night with each child, so there would be plenty of people around. This would allow parents to play, but at the same time have a much more affordable childcare option than driving great distances to leave them with family or not coming at all. If there are more children, the more parents take shifts to help. If we are talking the 8-13 range, you could do a LOT with that. There would need to be some discussion about insurance and some very carefully worded legal releases and waivers.

2. The Off-Site Option: There are lots of local hotels. Again, same idea, just do it at a hotel. Keep in mind I’m not thinking 30-40 kids, but maybe 3-4. It’s doable. They could even come to the camp (maybe) to do some stuff during the day, or there are a lot of local options for things to keep them busy. The downside to this is the expense. It might be upwards of 150.00 for two nights at a hotel. However, if everyone chipped in 20.00-30.00 this would be a very doable option. Maybe the owners would take pity and give a bit of a discount…after all a lot of players aren’t able to come because of the “kid issue,” so in the long run they would actually be making MORE money, not less.

Keep in mind that this would be arranged ahead of time by parents, so there isn’t an issue of leaving them with someone you feel is untrustworthy or creep-tastic.

So there are two options. What do you do with your kids when you LARP? If you don’t LARP what do you think of the possibility of this at LARP?


  1. Mark Henry ~MariusMay 11, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    This is an issue I will facing all to soon, the wife is due in September. I've come to except a few things. No events for a few months, no events further than 30 mins away, and my play time will probably be 1 day not a whole weekend. I am however lucky to have several parents close by that could potentially watch our child if they don't work that day.

    I plan to "do stuff" with my character via email when I can't make events to stay attached to the game and get a minor fix of roleplay.

    Your 1. Larp for kiddies sounds cool, but I think the kids staying would need to be close in age for it to work. I also heard other chapters have a Page system for young people who can participate as non combatants. I see a whole slew of problems with that, but I wonder if anyone has 1st hand knowledge and seen it in action good or bad.

  2. We have had kids pretty young at some of our games. It is camp specific, at our nicer camps I am able to give them a space appropriate and they are fine. I typically run little mini mods for the older kids that are too young to play.

    Babies are the toughest, because of the risk if the mom is carrying it somewhere and the inherent noise of a NERO event. But toddlers and up can not only be dealt with, they can add a lot of atmosphere to a game.

  3. Coming from a small game perspective, getting insurance/liability coverage for minors is a nightmare :( Or at least it was when we looked into it. I think WAR (NERO?) having the affiliation with the Boy Scouts really helps them here. I've gone through the process for both games and it was much easier for WAR.

  4. Boyscout insurance is great but the minimum age of coverage is 11 for medical. Liability covers the camp runner for legal expenses but not the parent for medical expenses. Insurance would have to be either verified or waived.

  5. I don't know anything about the insurance end of things, but I've played plenty of larps with kids on site. Usually if people had younger kids, they'd keep them indoors and take turns between the parents looking after them. Older kids enjoyed pretending and wearing costumes and would play outside during daylight (with an orange headband to show that they were non-combat. I think as long as there's always an adult who is available to them if they need attention, a lot of kids can be pretty independent and keep themselves entertained (though I like the LARP for kiddies idea!). It depends on the kid, of course, but parents are usually a pretty good judge of that.

    I mean, it depends on the LARP too, and I'm sure there are games that are never appropriate for kids. But generally, it seems like people who aren't used to having children around get a little more gun-shy than necessary. . . having kids on site really isn't a big deal, as long as the parents understand their responsibilities.

  6. NERO Atlanta used to do the "daycare" center during the day (at night it was the parents responsibility). I think the problems come with enforcing the shifts and trying to manage the kids. If you have 2-4 kids in an area one person can probably manage it (if the kids are reasonably well behaved and occupied), but getting more then that you have to start scaling up the babysitters. And if you have toddlers or infants the ratio of kid to caretaker has to go up by a lot.
    Honestly until my son is older, and I know he will behave in that sort of situation I am not comfortable bringing him to a LARP game. Josh and I scheduled the Exiles games and our parents have volunteered to babysit for us on those weekends (Darian was at least 3 months old before I felt comfortable leaving him overnight) and Josh tries to make another game a month solo (once Darian hit 2 months).
    Gone are the days of LARPing 3 weekends a month, but honestly most of that energy is going into chasing after the little one now.

  7. That's true - Exiles is not appropriate for children as it's an 18 and over game. Which does bring up the point - what kind of language are you okay with your kids coming home with? :) I know at WAR you were not supposed to swear - but everyone always did. I learned terms there that I never heard anywhere else. I mean, when you've got a character named Dirty Sancho... ;)

  8. I cringe at the thought of anything less than 8-10 at an event. Depending on thier parents and their socialization level, younger than that could/would be very difficult to control. Also, as stated, insurance and liability are VERY sticky issues. If a volunteer parent swatted my kid on the butt for misbehaving, she'd probably get the same from me when I hear about it. But what would happen if someone swatted the child of someone that doesn't believe in spanking?

    I'm just trying to think of things that aren't a legal or medical issue per se, but would amount to a large issue if it came up. I'm not trying to be a downer here, I'm just thinking of things that could come up in the spirit of protecting the game and ill feelings between players. Plot is already haggard at the end of an event, and to have this significant issue to worry about on top of it, I think would be a detrement to the game.

    And this is coming from someone about to have a second kid, so I'm no stranger to the struggle of playing with a kid to worry about.

  9. Mark Henry ~MariusMay 11, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    I'm going to get a tag printed for my baby so it is steal-able item and then it will be the thief's problem for a few hours before I decide to steal my baby back :) J/K lol!

  10. We don't allow kids. Period. Had one of our players ask if she could leave them in her no-combat cabin during the event, and I had to say no. Too much liability, too much risk, too much hassle on the other folks who would be staying there.

    It's harsh, but as an airsoft LARP our combat's a little too risky for minors.