roleplaying is a many splendoured thing

From: David Cake (
Date: Fri 10 May 1996 - 09:38:18 EEST

        In the LARP/TTRP debate - I play in all three types of games that
have been discussed, and some that haven't.

        All three? Yep, what Erik was talking about as LARP is different to
what Sandy and Nick are talking about. I play both, and treat them as two

        For the record, here is Australia, or at least in my circle, the
terminology seems to be -
        freeform - what Nick and Sandy call LARPing - roleplaying based
around a a large number of people furiously interacting. It can be rules
light, or have a fair few, but it usually has pretty limited rules compared
to an RPG. Generally abstract combat rules. Tends to be run in a location
that is simple and open, allowing everybody to spend lots of time
interacting rather than moving between locations. Most of the ones I have
been involved in have been run in one big room over 2 to 4 hours.
        LARP - the rubber swords brigade. We have a pretty fledgling scene
here in Perth. The essential difference is that you have padded weapons and
you are expected to use them to resolve combat by attacking each other. Of
course, the fact that the combat is there and is expected tends to mean
that the scenarios focus around combat a lot more. Generally run in a
location of maximum verisimilitude.

        So, even if you don't adopt this terminology, please be aware of
the difference and make it clear which one you mean.

        Which one is better? I prefer freeform to LARP. Certainly in
Australia freeforming is a lot bigger. But a lot depends on your local
gaming scene. And they have very different aims and very different types of
        For that matter, the 'catharsis' small freeform roleplay as run by
people like John Hughes, a form which doesn't appear to have made it out of
the Australian east coast as a regular thing (I'm a West Australian), is
almost another form in itself, with its emphasis on much more emotional
confrontation, and a much more internal to the character focus.
Superficially it is similar to freeforming, but as an experience it is very
different. I have very limited experience here (just Johns 'Musik of the
Spears' at RQ Con DU), and the experience was not entirely satisfying, but
it certainly made me want to find out some more.

        Is either better than TTRP? To be honest, part of the reason I
dislike LARP is a lot of the scenarios seem to be like the worst of TTRP.
Reasonably linear plots with clear good guys and monsters. But that may be
just the situation here, it sounds like Erik group has a lot more balanced
view. But still, a lot of the pure imagination and clever background that I
love from TTRP seems to disappear into a sort of D&D like generic fantasy
universe. But then again, I've known truly great D&D games. I'm sure the
potential is there in LARP as well. And there are things that the LARP
crowd enjoy, that is part of the fun for them, that simply doesn't interest
me (armour building, for example).
        While freeforming can do things that TTRP can't do easily - such as
play out a very complex political situation fully, for example. I also find
that the abstraction of most freeforms allows you to play with situations
that would be impossible in LARPing, such as commanding armies, while
        Is freeforming better than TTRPing? To be honest, I think
freeforming with a complex surrounding world would be more fun than
TTRPing. However, I'm lucky to play in a freeform once every three months,
and that often only lasts as long as one of my weekly TTRPing sessions. And
due to the effort involved, those freeforms are generally written by
different people, and have very little to do with one another. Because of
that, many of the best parts of TTRPing simply will never occur in those
freeforms. For me, many of the best parts of TTRPing are the long campaign
changes, the characters whose beliefs gradually change, who grow, fit in.
The old enemies who resurface after months of absence. The tensions between
PC mind sets that gradually emerge.
        Also, TTRP has the strength that literally anything can happen.
There are no bounds of set or casting or danger to worry about - the
Bolivian army can teleport in, the players can dangle from the guard rail

of flying warcraft thousands of feet above the ground, etc. Whereas in
LARP, you are very restricted by casting and set (it sounds like in Eriks

group, you simply must work with existing buildings and all your
inhabitants must be close enough to human that makeup can make it work - an
enormous restriction), and in freeforming, you are restricted to very
minimal interaction with the environment, and most of the same casting
problems as LARP.

       But look - lets get one thing straight. This is mostly directed at
Doyle - no one thinks LARP or TTRP or freeforming or whatever is the one
true way. Amongst Glorantha fans, there is an enormous overlap between all

of these. No one is saying one should be developed at the expense of the
other. All the freeform fans who have spoken here are also notable
contributors to the TTRP gaming form as well. I happen to think there are
some aspects of Glorantha best enjoyed through the large rough and tumble
of a large freeform, and others that are best with a GM guided TTRP, or
even some which are best explored using board games (I still think Dragon
Pass and Nomad Gods are a worthwhile part of the Glorantha experience).
There are other forms as well that defy these categories. For example,
Wyrms Footprints has the Sartar High Council stuff from Greg, which might
be described as TTLARP, or tabletop freeforming. I may well do a similar
thing with my players for the Pavis city council later.
        There are some gaming forms that might not adapt well to Glorantha
- - a Gloranthan rubber swords LARP experience would be pretty hard to do
convincingly, a Gloranthan collectible card game is perhaps to scary to
contemplate. But I think the new forms of gaming enriches the gaming hobby,
and I think every new Gloranthan experience created makes Glorantha
greater. Just remember that in the end, Glorantha is not simply about any
of them, and none of the forms we push it into is as important as the
initial creative act. If anything is the most important way of experiencing
Glorantha, it is now the stuff that has no direct gaming connection, the
fiction, the discussions, the background material.




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