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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tabeltop vs LARP

Certain things have started me to think strongly about my desire of playing in a live action setting versus your traditional tabletop game, and I thought I would share some of these thoughts and feelings. I welcome any and all comments and opinions on the subject. (FYI- My basis for the LARP pros and cons are based off of my experiences with the Camarilla/Mind's Eye Society.)




Tabletop



Pros:


  • Familiarity with rules. In all of the tabletop games I've played over the years, I have never had to create a large document to explain a multitude of house rules. When I've had house rules, it's usually limited to a single page.

  • Easy access to rule and setting material. I know that with e-books this becomes less of an issue, but some people (like myself) don't have a tablet/e-reader to take full use of this resource. Most of the tabletop games I've participated in are art a friends house (or my own) where the books are available.

  • No need for cosplay. As much as I appreciate watching people who costume well, I am a cosplay slacker.

  • Dice versus RPS. As I am a traditionalist, I prefer the feel of dice over the cold nature of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Besides, there is an element of psychology in RPS that is taken away when you utilize dice. It evens the playing field.

  • Single source for rules clarifications. I think this is self-explanatory.

  • More intimate setting. What I mean with this is that generally you play a tabletop game with a group of friends.

  • More options available for holding game. It's a great deal easier to host a tabletop game than a LARP. Most 24-hour restaurants will let you stay there for however long you need as long as you're a paying customer. Some game stores even have a room or space that can be used for such a game. Many players even appreciate having people over at their house/apartment for game.


Cons:


  • The feeling you need to bring snacks/drinks. This has always been an element of stress for many games I've participated in. Often times there are people who feel obligated to bring food or drink for the others, and occasionally the host feels obligated to prepare a meal for those invited. This becomes an element of undue and unspoken stress for all parties.

  • Kids. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate children... especially when they can go back to their parents in the end. :) There have been too many times where children have become a large source of unnecessary stress. Some times parent's feel as though the host's home is like a Chuck E Cheese's and they can just drop them off and forget about them. If the children are old enough and mature enough to participate in the game, this becomes somewhat moot. I won't even go into the topic of children being mobile incubators for vile strains of sickness and plague.





LARP


Pros:


  • Cosplay. As I said before, I do appreciate those people who can cosplay well.

  • No kids. Some are good for LARP, some are not.

  • Number of people. Generally, a LARP game can accommodate more players. This is, in part, due to player driven plot and additional ST's. I have my thoughts about adapting this in tabletop play. (I smell another subject for another post in the future.)


Cons:


  • Cosplay. As I said before, I'm a cosplay slacker, so for me this is both pro and con.

  • Rules being changed. In the Camarilla/MES, there is not a single person who can make strong rules clarifications at games. Yes, the presiding ST can enforce their specific ruling but are accountable to people higher in their chain of command. In my time since 2011, there have been numerous changes to the rules for one reason or another. There was even an occasion where the rules were changed in a manner of a week or less. This is not ideal (IMHO) for a global organization or even simply a national game. This actually goes for rules surrounding game as well as the out of game rules about earning prestige and advancing in member class.

  • Monthly reports. For people who old a primary coordinator or storyteller position within the Camarilla or MES organization, you are expected to provide a report on a monthly basis to the next level above your station. (i.e. VST report to DST. DST to RST. RST to NST.) For some people, this is problematic and they choose not to deal with it. My personal opinion is that if you don't want to do everything that is your responsibility, you shouldn't volunteer for the position.

  • Not a closed environment. In tabletop, you generally invite people who are your friends or those who are compatible with your play style. In the Camarilla/MES organization, you have people that are your friends and people you may not care for in your games. There are also those that are very socially awkward or extremely shy that simply hang around and view rather than take part in the game. On the rare occasion, there is also unstable element that could easily turn your well-designed evening of fun into a crime scene.

  • Finding a stable site location for games. When I began LARPing in 1996, we had a single location for our games and we appreciated it. Yes, it was outdoors but we didn't mind as much back then. Eventually, we got an indoor site at the same location. When the city decided to re-carpet that indoor location, we were forced to go back outside. In 2011, we evidently got thin-skinned at unused to the cold and wet weather our locale offers on a regular basis. We were fortunate to find an indoor location for the Winter of 2011-12, but that location was not available to us for the Winter of 2012-13. There are few locations that can support the number of people we have AND allow a group of live action role players who are acting like vampires AND stay open until midnight. As of this writing, we have only cancelled 1 game due to lack of location so far. I do concede that having a LARP game at someones house is an option, but sometimes not a viable option for those who cannot travel or have issues with being at someones home.

  • Prestige and Member Class. Yes, I put this as a con because there are those that feel that acquiring prestige and advancing their Member Class is everything. Yes, the Camarilla/MES is an organization based around helping the community and we try to do our part. Since I became the Domain Coordinator for my Domain, we've earned enough money to donate a new XBox 360 to the Children's Cancer Association and we've made a fair donation to the Keizer Food Share. Most of the people who donated for the XBox weren't thinking about earning prestige, and that's the way it should be. The problem is that to advance in Member Class, and thus providing a better start for your characters, you need to earn varying amounts of prestige. When you've earned enough to advance your MC, you receive a special benefit to your characters. It is very easy to simply buy your prestige for those who have the desire and money. This has been a topic of much debate for most of my time with the Camarilla/MES, and I seriously doubt it will end any time soon.


I'd like to mention that this is obviously not all the Pro's and Con's for each style of play and that with each pro or con, there can be a different way of viewing it to turn it to the opposite. Also, these are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of other people nor are they meant to slight the Mind's Eye Society or its membership.

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