Roll for real talk: Parenting vs. Pandemic

In March of 2020, we all rolled initiative versus an enemy we could not see, but has caused immesurable suffering. I, like so many of you, have given all I have to keep my little adventuring party safe. The battle continues 8 months later, and every day is another round of combat against Covid-19.

First, a quick disclaimer…I’m not here to give advice on masks, social distancing, or politics. If that is what you are looking for, that content pours from the internet in a constant stream of anger, fear, and desperation. It isn’t hard to find.

I’m here because I’m a mom. Im scared. Maybe you are too. I’m also a geek. That means I believe in beating the odds, making the hard journey, and being the hero of my own story. So lets talk about how we might try to balance those things in this new, challenging chapter of our adventure.

First, talk about the science. Intelligence should never be a real life dump stat! Knowledge is power, and talking to our kids in an age appropriate way about their world gives them the best odds of success. Talk about germs and the ways that they can defeat them! Read about it. Do science experiments. Let them ask questions and explore the answers together!

Try this super fun science experiment today!

Second, play cooperative games. Think of them as little team-building exercises for your pandemic survival team!

If board games are your jam, one of our favorite cooperative games is Stuffed Fables. I will do a full review on it later, but its basically a group of stuffed animals trying to save a little girl from the monster under the bed. Super cute and fun! Click the link below to see more details!

If video games are more your style, a simple game of Minecraft can give your kids the chance to go out and explore the world, even when they are stuck at home!

Third, read your favorite stories together. Now is the time to show our kids stories with unlikely heroes facing insurmountable odds. Stories where love and friendship bring light and hope to dark places. Read The Hobbit. Read The Princess Bride. Read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Let these stories become a part of them, and a part of their memory of you.

This is a link to my favorite Illustrated version of The Hobbit. The pictures are fantastic!

Lastly, give yourself permission to be a beautiful, hot mess. Let Ms. Fizzle be their teacher for an hour (or two), order out dinner so you guys can finish that last boss battle your kiddo is so excited about. Take time to do the things YOU love. Cook, craft, create, play DnD or other games with your adult friends (even if its just online).

For me, the hardest part of the pandemic has been losing a large portion of my identity. Parenting just takes more time and mental energy than it did before. I’ve heard so many other moms say the same. You are all heros. Taking on a monumental task, with no players guide, no rule book, and several levels of exhaustion. I sit here typing this with the messiest mom bun you can imagine, and I am here with you.

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

–Gandalf J.R.R. Tolkien, The Shadow of the Past, The Fellowship of the Ring

Heroes’ Feast

The DnD Cookbook with the Power to Enchant Any Kitchen

With the change of season and the upcoming holidays, so many of us are looking at new and delicious recipes to bring to the dinner table.

I am extremely excited about this cookbook, “Heroes’ Feast”. What makes it special is that its not just a fun gift for a DnD player (though it does have a special appeal for that crowd). It is also, at it’s core, a very well written and beautifully illustrated little book. Let me walk you through some of the features that I found the most magical!

Heroes’ Feast the Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook

What makes a DnD cookbook? Inside Heroes’ Feast, you will find 80 fabulous recipes that are taken directly from the lore of the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse.

Has your character ever eaten Dwarven Stew, Elven Bread, or Iron Rations? Now you can too!

I am obsessed with the idea of making the rations for our next DnD game. How much more interesting and fun it would be instead of the same old chips and pizza rolls!

The rations are a visually appealing mix of cheese, salami, dried fruit, nuts, and crackers. These can be served separately (a great option for party members with food allergies), or combined into individual servings, or “rations”. Small wooden bowls for serving will add to the visual appeal of this filling little snack!

Where is your current campaign located?

Look for recipes inspired by the many diverse locations found in the DnD multiverse. If you are playing Curse of Straud, why not serve up Barovian Butterscotch Pudding during your next vampire filled adventure? Treasure Hunting outside Waterdeep? Why not serve Sword Coast Seafood Bouillabaisse for dinner?

You can actually search recipes by location in the Index at the back of the book, making themed meal planning a breeze!

How is it organized? The bulk of Heroes’ Feast is divided by Player Character Races, as each race in DnD has its own unique culture and cuisine!

It is fun to flip through the pages and see a cookbook laid out in a similar fashion to the Players Manual. There are sections for:

  • Human
  • Elven
  • Dwarven
  • Halfling
  • Uncommon (including such humanoid creatures as Drow and Orc)

The Uncommon section is uniquely entertaining as it has such monstrous concoctions as Fire Spiced Abyssal Chicken Kabobs and Fried Fingers!

The last section of the Book is entitled “Elixers and Brews”.

It is a fun little drinks section that includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. If you’re not in the mood for cooking, you could just whip up a quick batch of Evermead, or create potions such as Delayed Blast Fireball and Potion of Restoration as a special game night treat! It is an easy way to bring a little something special to your evening!

What kind of special features will I find? Lore! Lore Everywhere!!

The front of the book includes beautiful descriptions of the Core Campaign worlds that inspired many of the recipes you will read about. Because of the nature of the multiverse, the recipes you will learn are as diverse and unique as the lands that they come from.

One of the really fun themes throughout Heroes’ Feast is the Legendary Establisments feature. This segment is sprinkled throughout the book, and lays out full menus from famous taverns and banquet halls that your characters may have actually visited!

Recipes like the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuits are not only sound delicious, but the recipe page includes a description of the Yawning Portal and the lore around the recipe, as well as a quote from the DnD novel Streams of Silver that inspired it.

These fascinating morsels of lore are found on every single page, making this tome a fun read as well as an instructional cookbook!

But I don’t play DnD. Why should I give it a try?

As the weather gets colder, I always turn my attention to those rich, “comfort food”, kind of recipes that give me that warm-all-over, cozy sort of feeling.

Heroes’ Feast is the perfect book for this season.

The recipes vary in difficulty, so there is something for chefs of every skill level. The varying difficulty also means that there are both recipes for throwing together a Tuesday night dinner, and crafting a Thanksgiving feast.

This gem of a cookbook is a carefully crafted work of art. The photography is vibrant and rich. The art is full of fancy and magic with many large, two page spreads. Imagine it sitting open on a cookbook stand in your kitchen. It is a piece of art as well as a great conversation starter!

Finally, the price is so reasonable, it would make a fantastic Christmas gift for the Dungeons and Dragons players in your life!

Want to see more? I look forward to trying some of these recipes for you! Stay with us!

You can also get your own copy of Heroes’ Feast by clicking the link below!

“Heroes’ Feast” is actually the name of a DnD Cleric or Druid spell. The description of the spell in the DnD Players’ Handbook says “You bring forth a great feast, including magnificent food and drink…”

So, lets bring a little Divine Magic to our dinner tables this season! What a way to make your holidays EPIC!

The 5 Essentials for a Ren Faire Themed Thanksgiving

With the state of things in the world today, many people (myself included) missed out on going to our local Renaissance Festival Celebrations. It was a real bummer to be sure! The smell of turkey legs, the taste of sweet mead on my lips, the roar of the crowd at the end of a joust… so many memories of laughter and merriment.

This unconventional year also means that our Thanksgiving celebrations may look a little different than pre-covid. Many families are planning smaller, more intimate parties to help with social distancing. Some are even taking advantage of FaceTime or Zoom to connect with others.

In line with our “Don’t make the holidays ‘normal’, make them epic” series here at Dice Mom, lets look at one HUGE advantage of having a smaller gathering.

In Thanksgivings past, I have cleaned my house top to bottom. I’ve had to make gallons of mashed potatoes, multiple pans of stove top stuffing, and towers of rolls to feed a small army of extended family members. I’m so focused on having enough food for everyone, that there isn’t much time to worry about anything else. I’m a sweaty mess, my hair smells like turkey grease, and the clean up… oh Lord the cleanup…

This year is different.

This year, I’m only cooking for a few people, which means I can really plan something memorable, something special, and something unique!

The wheels started turning, and that is where Ren Faire came into the picture. It is one of our favorite fall activities… and, best of all, there is already turkey! Ren Faire and Thanksgiving are a match made in heaven!

So, without further ado, here are 5 ways to bring Ren Faire home this holiday season for an Epic Thanksgiving that no one will soon forget!

1. The Feast

I mean, when you boil it all down, the feast is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving festivities. If you want a celebration to remember, you have to have amazing food.

For truly unique dishes, I recommend HEROES’ FEAST: The Official Dungeons and Dragons Cookbook. There are so many Medieval/Renaissance era inspired dishes to chose from. Need a turkey recipe to “Wow” the crowd? Heroes’ Feast even features a Roasted Turkey recipe with Sausage Stuffing and Drippings. Why not make biscuits from scratch this year using the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuits recipe? Why not a Wood Elf Forest Salad? My stomach is growling already!

For anyone interested in Alchoholic Beverages that will really impress your guests, check out the EverMead or the Dwarven Mulled wine!

Not only are the recipes mouth watering, but the art inside is absolutely stunning! Check it out by clicking the link below!

2. The Decor

If the meal is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving celebration, then the table setting and decor are the flair that lets everyone know that THIS is a special occasion. Check out the links below for some of my favorites!

If you don’t want to go out and buy fancy china, and you hate doing the dishes as much as I do, check out these beautiful white and gold plastic plates and cutlery sets. Everything is disposable/recyclable, making clean up a breeze!

What is a medieval feast without a ridiculous amount of candles?? As a mom, I love these flameless options. They still give you that beautiful candle lit ambiance without the fire hazard. I especially like the different heights to give the table a sense of dimension and randomness which I think adds to the overall look.

Finally, and most importantly, the proper drink ware is essential to really get into the Ren Faire spirit! Goblets are always a great choice if your party is more into mead and mulled wine.

There are simple options:

Or you could chose something more ornate:

If you are part of the dark ale or apple cider sort of crowd, a set of beautiful steins can make that Thanksgiving toast really special!

3. The Music

Music is one of the most overlooked elements of a dinner party, but it is one of the most important things to think about when setting the “mood” or “theme” of your event. Music relaxes your guests, and acts as a filler for lulls in conversation. It is an element of party planning you never want to skimp on.

If you don’t already, make sure you have some way of playing music in your dining space. An easy and affordable option is an Echo Dot, like this one on Amazon:

Once you are set up for sound, I would like to humbly introduce you to a genre of music called Bard Core. There are plenty of Bard Core options on YouTube so it is easy to set up a channel to play throughout the night.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Bard Core is basically modern music reimagined by a Medieval minstrel. Not only is it calming and relaxing music for a dinner party, but it is one heck of a conversation starter!

Check out a couple of my favorites!

Hildegard Von Blingin’:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ_jwWjf8u5mdtac71Be8QA?fbclid=IwAR23LHWU8d_fjpfk_NXxNPFxmTe95l7FOb7_JuC4qGeIztTlPssN5FhQQVg

One Hour of Medieval Hip Hop Classics by Beedle the Bardcore:

I especially like this second one because it’s all instrumental, which is perfect background music for when you are enjoying your meal.

4. The Costumes

This one might be a reach for some of you, and that’s okay! But, if you have that Ren Faire outfit in storage, why not dust it off for a night of merriment? Or if dressing up for the first time sounds like fun, there are plenty of fun options to chose from! Check out these links below!

For the Maidens…

and the Squires.

Even young Knights and Princesses.

Remember, it’s 2020. There are no rules. Maybe this is the year to let go and do something really fun!

5. The Games

Everyone knows that Ren Faire is all about entertainment! From jousting matches, to fire jugglers, there is something interesting going on around every corner.

Obviously, if you and your guests are into Dungeons and Dragons, now is a great time for that special One Shot you’ve been wanting to try. Just make sure to have premade characters and maps ready to go ahead of time.

If DnD isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for something a little less mentally taxing when that turkey drowsiness sets in, there are some great Medieval themed board games you can try!

One of our favorites is called Kingsburg. It is a game of bribery and strategy where you are trying to win the favor of members of the royal court to build your town and your army.

If you are looking for something a little simpler, something to play with older kids perhaps, a rousing game of Carcassonne is always a winner. My 6 year old can play this game, so it is easy to get the whole family involved!

And if the kids eat way too much sugar and need to get some energy out, a foam sword fight is always a great way to have some wild fun!

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Pre Pandemic Memories

Thanksgiving is about being grateful. I’m wrestling with that concept this year more than I have in recent memory. So much of what we have had to endure has not made me feel very thankful. However, when I stop looking at the macro (the big things going on in the world) and start looking at the micro (the little things around me), I find so many small things every day that I can feel thankful for. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my home, my work and, more than ever, my health.

So lets lace up our corsets, sharpen our swords, and head out on our Epic Holiday Season Adventure!

Surviving the Pandemic

Explaining DnD Ability Scores Using COVID-19

Ability Scores are the foundation of the character creation process in an RPG. Most everything your character is, and will ever become, is based on these 6 scores. If you are new to Dungeons and Dragons, this step in the process can be the most overwhelming and confusing. What do these scores actually mean in real game play? Well, I’ll show you!

A situation that we are all way too familiar with is the Coronavirus Pandemic. It’s a complicated problem requiring all our physical and mental faculties. Which means there is no room for dump stats! Every Ability Score is important in it’s own way.

Strength & Dexterity

I lumped these two Attributes together because these “physical stats” have similar but slightly different functions. Strength allows your character to do things like lift heavy objects or do more damage with a great sword. Dexterity, on the other hand allows you to move and dodge with ease.

In a pandemic, these stats take the form of daily exercise. Whether stuck inside the house or hitting the gym, it is important to get your body moving at least 30 minutes a day. Why? Unlike the zombie apocalypse, this disaster doesn’t require fight or flight. (Unfortunate, I know. Zombies would be WAY cooler). What it does require, however, is a strong immune system. Studies have shown that an active lifestyle can boost your immune system and make you healthier. Think of it like this: Strength is weight training and Dexterity is cardio. A good balance of both will keep you healthy and strong!

Constitution

Your character’s final “physical stat” is Constitution. This translates into your character’s Hit Points. The higher your character’s constitution, the longer they will be able to stand and keep taking the punches. It is also the way your character fights off pesky little conditions like Poisoned and Diseased.

This one is kind of obvious, right? We need a high constitution to fight off disease. So how do you give yourself a bonus to your Constitution Score in real life? Make sure you take your vitamins and eat healthy! Eat a “rainbow” of vegetables and get lots of protein to get the most nutrients out of your food. Invest in vitamin supplements proven to boost your immune system like vitamins C and D. Take care of your body so that it can fight the good fight if the time ever comes!

Intelligence

Here is where we get into the ever elusive “mental stats”. Intelligence is a versatile attribute that represents how much knowledge your character possesses about the world around them. Wizards are the only class in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition that cast their spells using their intelligence. This is because Wizards learn magic through reading… lots and lots of reading.

You can probably see where we are going with this. And it is a divisive topic to be sure! In a world of “fake news” and an ever flowing stream of propaganda and social media noise, it is imperative that we understand how to sift through it all. After all, knowledge is power! If you don’t know how to identify reputable sources of information on the internet, take the time to teach yourself. Your brain, and your sanity, will thank you. Knowledge of science, even just a couple of skill points worth, will help you to make the best decisions for you and your adventuring party, and help you to avoid pitfalls and traps along the way. This leads us to our next Attribute.

Wisdom

As the old adage goes, Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad. Wisdom is the stat your character uses to interpret and act upon the world. It is the attribute that helps with their perception skill, which is the one you will probably use the most, as well as skills like survival and medicine. Clerics, Druids, and Rangers all use Wisdom as their Spell Casting Modifier. Wisdom is knowing that during battle, its probably a good idea to spread out to avoid the entire party being taken down with a single spell. You don’t want to be caught in “fireball formation” when the enemy casts it.

So, in the world of Covid-19 how do you take the knowledge you receive and apply your wisdom modifier? Do you wear a mask in public? Do you practice social distancing with extended family and friends? Do you go to the grocery store or have your food delivered? Do you send your kids to school, or teach them from home? We are absolutely bombarded with decisions like these on a daily basis. Some answers are more universal, while others are more complex. Therefore, wisdom is also the ability to realize that the best decision for you might not be the best decision for someone else. As a parent, the school question has been a main topic of conversation in our home. What if you are a single parent who cannot afford to stop working to keep your kids home? That parent may make a very different decision than the stay at home mom in an affluent neighborhood. Even with the same information, these two adventuring parties come to different conclusions on how to proceed. Wisdom is looking at a complex problem and a series of information, and making the best decision possible for you in that single moment. It is both the most elusive and the most important attribute during a pandemic.

Charisma

We have reached our final Ability Score, Charisma. It is often called the “Social Stat” because it represents how well your character interacts with others. Persuasion, Deception, and Intimidation are all effected by your charisma, so if you are a “face” character, meaning you plan on talking a lot to the NPCs (Non Player Characters) in your adventure, this is one attribute you do not want to skip out on. Charisma is the spell casting modifier for Bards, Paladins, Sorcerers, and Warlocks. Each of these classes typically uses their charisma in a different way. Bards, for example, are iconic performers where as a Paladin’s charisma usually takes the form of protector and savior. Sorcerers, as instantaneous casters, are masters of improv, while Warlocks have a deep connection with a patron.

Charisma is important during the COVID-19 Pandemic because it is more important than ever to find safe and unconventional ways to connect with our friends and families. Maybe you are planning your Thanksgiving feast over Zoom this year. Or maybe you have moved your DnD campaign onto an online platform like Roll20. Maybe you bought a firepit, or a space heater, so you can still see each other face to face as the temperatures plummet. Whatever you are doing, it is important. Humans are social creatures, and these connections will not only ward off depression and anxiety during this time, but it will remind you that you are not alone.

Any DnD player can tell you that it doesn’t matter how strong, how dexterous, how hearty, how intelligent, or wise their character is. Not one class in this game is made to be played alone. They all have incredible strengths and unavoidable weaknesses. Only as an Adventuring Party can they overcome the challenges they will face. It is the same with us friends. Roll for initiative. Be brave. Stay together.

Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. And why shouldn’t it be? It is the cosplaying holiday after all! So, you can imagine my utter disappointment when we decided we wouldn’t be trick or treating this year. However, any soul with a truly black heart, a chest cavity of cobwebs and a taste for all that is spooky and pumpkin flavored can tell you that the true spirit of Halloween isn’t the parties or the knocking on doors… it’s the candy!

With that in mind, my brother and I set out on a mission to create the most epic Halloween Scavenger Hunt of all time!

We started with clue card design. The inspiration for our clue cards came from old Puritan headstones. I mean… look at these things. They’re both gorgeous and terrifying!

https://www.thefreedomtrail.org/trail-sites/copps-hill-burying-ground

Once we had our idea cemented, we used a free Image Manipulation Program called Gimp to create our own little work of art!

Are you a fan of our design? I hope so! If you would like to use it to make a spooky scavenger hunt of your very own, just click the link below!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UnGkt-LrTqCeSNLMPooTFWOrPSr3DvTCLuvjlQNr90Y/edit?usp=sharing

Now for some clues! Here are the ones that we used for the house scavenger hunt.

  • “When you’re feeling hungry, and want something that you crave, to cook it in a hurry, you’ll use the ______________.” (Answer: Microwave)
  • “Some say I start off as a bean, and then I have to be ground. I only need a little brewing, then inside mom’s mug I’m found.” (Answer: Coffee by the Keurig)
  • “This place is in your house. It’s where your coats you might deposit. It’s good for storing boots and things, and we call this place a __________.” (Answer: Closet)
  • “I’m a three letter word, that takes your dad pretty far. I have four rubber wheels, and he calls me his favorite _____.” (Answer: Car)
  • “If there is a show you love, and candy hunting is your mission, grab your remote and look behind a big screen called a ___________.” (Answer: Television)
  • “I look just like a mannequin, but I’m a small plastic affair. I come with clothes and accessories, so you can choose what I should wear. Sometimes I have a sword, for bad guys that do hassle. There is one thing I know for sure! There’s candy behind this ___________.” (Answer: Barbie Castle)
  • “In a place you keep what’s written, be it fairy tale, myth, or song. I can house a short story, or many novels that are long.” (Answer: Bookshelf)
  • “When your mom and dad are tired, and off to bed they go, the place they lay their head is their lovely, soft, __________.” (Answer: Bed)
  • “A house has one front and back. A car usually has four. If it’s candy you are seeking, check outside the back _________.” (Answer: Door)
  • “This might get filled with water, so that you can have a drink. We can use it to wash the dishes. We call this thing a ________.” (Answer: Sink)
  • “When all your clothes are dirty, you need to get them clean. You fill this with detergent. Its called a washing _____________.” (Answer: Machine)
  • “You’ll need to ask a grown up to look inside this space. If you want to make s’mores at home, then you need a _________________.” (Answer: Fireplace)
  • “Look for a piece of furniture, on which you might choose to slouch. You can find it in your living room. This seat is called a ___________.” (Answer: Couch)
  • “The answer to this riddle, is where you lay your head. But the answer isn’t a pillow. Instead it’s under your __________.” (Answer: Bed)
  • “There is a part of your house, where something can be flushed. Check the place you wash yourself, and where your teeth get brushed.” (Answer: Bathroom)
  • “I am something in your kitchen, there’s lots of food I hold. The reason you keep them inside me is because I can help keep them cold! What am I?” (Answer: Refrigerator)
  • “I am a household item, which is used to sweep inside. I’m also a mode of transport when witches need a ride!” (Answer: Broom Closet)

You can use your free Google Doc above to customize your headstone cards for any location!

I look forward to posting pictures of our big scavenger hunt this year. We have added a few extra surprises to ours, including black light ink clues, a puzzle, and a Wizard’s horde for the grand finale! The wizard’s horde consists of things like: Crystal Rock Candy, Chocolate Coins, Candy Bracelets, and Ring Pops and will be hidden inside a box that looks like a stack of books.

I hope everyone has a safe and spooky Halloween. Things may be unconventional this year, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Let this be the year your kids talk about with excitement when they are grown-ups reminiscing about the holidays of their childhood. If we can’t make Halloween “normal” this year, lets make it EPIC!

About Dice Mom

When you become a mom, it is very easy to lose yourself in your new subclass. Suddenly you have to take on all of these new skills, class features, and quest lines that you weren’t ready for. Then one day, you look in the mirror, and don’t recognize the character staring back at you.

I started this blog because figuring out motherhood while still staying true to myself has been the most challenging journey I’ve ever undertaken. My hope is that my posts will inspire others to take what they love about life, and share it with their own little adventurers.

We are a family of gamers! From Dungeons and Dragons with my brothers, to LAN party date nights with my hubby, to board game convention family vacations, we have always immersed our daughter in our geek heritage.

My plan is to share my favorite nerdy crafts, recipes, and decor…and even a few ideas to give your parenting and your gaming a little touch of magic.