Before we go any further however, I need to correct an erroneous and quite blasphemous mistake against the geek world that I made during my last RPG Three entry. I had mentioned during Part One that there were only three main kinds of roleplaying setups: Tabletop, Live Action, and Play-By-Post. However, Erika aka Ravyn over at Exchange of Realities was quick to point out that I missed a valid game format. Play-By-Chat. Now, I've never personally done a chat-based game, but I have heard of them. Ravyn was kind enough to direct me over to a blog post where she spoke on the subject.
"Its first advantage is that it’s a balance between [tabletop and play-by-post games]; it can almost match the speed of a face to face game, but has a good measure of the locale flexibility of the play by post — I’ve seen chat games run with people spanning three states worth of West Coast, and was even in one in which the players were in locations spanning most of the Western Hemisphere and the game-master was in England."
You can read more of this post here. (As a side note, I did a little bit of surfing around Ravyn's site and apparently she writes for Victorious Press, an independent tabletop game design company. Her whole blog's pretty cool, and she's a member of the RPG bloggers network, so it's definitely worth checking out.)
Anyhoo, Ravyn said that she would try to write up another post more focused on Play-By-Chat roleplaying since I wouldn't even know where to begin with that subject, so stay tuned on her blog for that. I'll make sure to link to it when it's posted as well.
Live Action Roleplaying
Cost: Live Action Roleplaying, or LARPing, out of the four types of gaming, is probably the most expensive. I would argue however that it is the most worth it. While you can buy the three core rulebooks of a game for about $60.00 and not have to pay a penny more for tabletop, many LARPs cost around $40-$60 per game. I have seen LARPS for as cheap as $5, but they are usually as cheap as they sound in terms of quality.
With LARPs you are generally expected to provide your own equipment and costume. If you want a good costume and aren't particularly proficient at sewing, then this may cost you a little bit too. Chainmail shirts cost money...
If you find a good LARP, you will get what you pay for. If you're throwing in $60 per event, you should be getting $60 worth of entertainment. If not, you should probably play a different LARP. Trust me, there are enough of them out there. As a warning, though I love Tabletop, I may be a little biased towards LARPing since I am a senior staff member at a great LARP near Boston.
Food: While it's always good to bring your own food to any camping trip, good LARPs will probably make some effort to keep you fed. Depending on the LARP you choose, this can vary. I've been to LARPs where no food is served, where they just had a Saturday night dinner, where there are snacks out constantly. It all depends.
Some LARPs will include your food with the game price, while others may ask for a small amount of money per sandwich. Generally though, LARP food is great and not too expensive. At a nice LARP you can get really amazing meals.
Who: LARPs attract a wide array of players. A small LARP will usually have anywhere between 30-60 players at it, though more popular LARPs can have upwards of 100. The amount of players is also usually based around the size of the campsite or location which the game is held at. LARPers are generally fun people who have a habit of very quickly becoming friends. LARPers generally form bonds over their geekiness, just like gamers at a table, only on a larger scale. Fighting goblins together tends to spark friendships.
What: LARPing is kind of hard to describe. Most LARPs start on a Friday night and run to a Sunday afternoon. Some have breaks during the night so people can sleep safely, while others keep running 24 hours a day. Just like with tabletop roleplaying, you have a character, though instead of saying what your character does, you actually do it. Rather then rolling a die to see if your sword hits, you actually swing a sword! (They're foam, don't worry.)
Live Action Roleplaying Games are basically a cross between Renaissance Fairs, Dungeons and Dragons, and Improvisational Theater. You are part of a group of players, while the staff poses as NPC's, monsters, and other beings that you meet along your path. Weapons are usually made of latex of pipe insulation. Games usually have complex rules set up to create a magic system and a combat system, keeping safety in-mind foremost.
You don't have to be physically skilled to have fun at a LARP, though it can help. Since you're actually fighting your own battles, it usually helps to be quick on your feet, though if you'd rather play a spellcaster who just hurls magic missiles, or a sage who would much rather read a book or tell a story, such roles are also usually available. No two LARPs are the same, though a few LARPs such as SCA have grown so much that they branch across the country.
LARPs can come in many shapes and sizes, as well as genres. For example, I play in two fantasy LARPs but work as a senior staffer at a steampunk LARP.
Where: LARPs generally take place at campgrounds - usually boy scout reservations or 4H camps. Some have cabins which are open to campers, while others ask players to bring their own tents.
When: A single LARP will probably not have more then six events in a year, unless the LARP is run by several different individuals who all throw individual events. Typically however, two-three events are held in the spring, while two-three events are held in the fall.
Why: Why go Live Action? If you are a devoted roleplayer who wants to be completely absorbed in the game, then LARPing is the way to go. It is a truly unique experience since you actually get to completely forget about the real world for a weekend and become the mighty warrior, the spunky priestess, or the dark sorcerer. You have the opportunity to fight evil creatures, join guilds, gain power, and find items of magic.
LARPing is great because it encourages you to basically play for a whole weekend! It's a great stress-reliever, since it's hard to worry about taxes and bills when you're running for your life through the woods from the undead (done that...) or lying in wait to disrupt a dark elf ritual 10,000 years in the making (that too...) with a war cry and a raised hammer.
If you want to just leave the dice behind and immerse yourself in a unique roleplaying experience, then I strongly suggest finding a good LARP and going for even one event. You may love it!
Cost: The cheapest of them all. Play-By-Post (PBP) roleplaying is absolutely free! Depending on what game you're playing you might need to invest in the basic rulebooks, but there are lots of resources online - like the SRD documents - that publicly share a lot of that information for some of the most commonly played games. Membership to great sites that allow PBP games is absolutely free.
Food: Whatever you bring to your computer!
Who: Through PBP games you are able to connect with and play games alongside people from all over the world. It allows you to find the gaming and posting style that is perfect for you. Due to the thousands of people who engage in PBP games there is really no limit to the number or types of games out there, which allows you limitless potential for roleplaying, unlike the limits of your tabletop gaming group, or the LARPs in your local area.
What: PBP games are text based games which use forums to tell a story. Much like in a tabletop game, there is a GM who is running the quest and will post story-based progressions of the campaign as the players advance. In response to the GM's posts, the players will post their actions in reply posts.
PBP games usually go much slower then tabletop and LARP games since you have to wait for the other players and GM to make their posts after you put one up. However, this extra time allows players and GM's to make their posts incredibly detailed and story-like. People who are fine writers usually shine in these games since they allow for very detailed storytelling and character development.
Where: Many sites offer fine PBP opportunities. The only one that I've personally found worth my time however is Roleplay Online. They have a great, easy-to-use layout, and a huge player base, allowing for thousands of games to happen simultaneously. Yours truly is hosting a handful of games over there as we speak!
When: Most GM's will ask that you post once daily, with many giving weekends off. It is general courtesy that you meet whatever posting requirement the GM asks of you, since otherwise games usually dwindle and die.
Why: As I said earlier, PBP games are great because they allow you to really take your time with what your character does and say. In a tabletop game, you may simply say "I attack the troll with my longbow" followed by a die roll. In a PBP game though you can really get into your characters mind and actions.
"Kaelantos quickly pulls another arrow from his quiver, nocking it into position with a deft celerity. Pulling back the bowstring the elf accounted for height and distance, all within moments. 'Corellon, guide my shot!' The elf shouted this prayer with force, as the arrow leapt from it's bowstring, arching through the air."
See the difference? If you want the time to be descriptive, then PBP are certainly for you. The great thing about PBP also is that you can play them every day! If you're playing a few PBP games then you'll probably be able to throw a post up for at least one of them every day. Ever get that rpg withdrawal halfway between gaming sessions every week? PBP games are essentially the nicotine patches for gamers with an rpg problem.
The final shining point for PBP games is that you can find games that play with any system. Seriously. You want to play Adventure? Star Wars? Mutants and Monkeys? You can probably find it. Even games that defy systems are out there! You can find freeform games and games based on TV shows, books, and movies!
God knows how many Harry Potter and Pokemon game advertisements I've seen out there. And if by some odd chance, no one is running a game in a system that you're itching for, you could always start one, and I guarantee people would join.
As the PBPers would say: "Host it, and they will come." Ok, so maybe I just say that. Yeah...