I had a very good time at Recess over the weekend. I got a chance to play some Jungle Speed (just thinking about it makes my heart start beating faster) and I also played some role-playing games. First, I was in a session of The Mountain Witch and, later, I played in a neat parlor LARP* about the President and his Cabinet dealing with reports of an outbreak of zombie-ism in Georgia.
I've never really played in a LARP before. I have played some LARP-like games - like the Burning Wheel convention scenarios "Inheritance" and "The Gift" - and I've been in a few other convention games that were pretty close, but this was my first LARP-that-calls-itself-a-LARP.
So, I had a pretty good idea going in that LARPs weren't really ever going to be my thing, but I'm always interested in trying out new/different types of games. I'm glad I did - I certainly enjoyed myself and had fun - but I also decided that, really, LARPs aren't my thing.
Now, this is certainly personal preference talking (and I am drawing, of course, on my own experience), but here's why I'm jazzed about tabletop RPG play and not so much by LARP:
In The Mountain Witch game, we sat down at a table and created something together. There was incentive for us to share ideas and to shape the story together. It was a neat social experience, in as much as I got a chance to interact on a person-to-person level with folks who I had never met before that game.
But in the LARP, everyone was kind of stuck behind the character they were playing. As a social experience, it was a little weird and unsatisfying: all the interactions having to pass through the filter of "my character".** The only people I seemed able to connect with were the people I knew prior to playing in the LARP. Because I kind of knew them, it was easier to see the character choices they were making. That is, I could see how the character they were playing was different from them "in real life".
Does that make sense?
More directly: in the LARP, it felt like there was this barrier keeping people apart, while the tabletop game brought us together.
*LARP means Live Action Role Playing. The "Parlor" part just means that the action was all kept in one room: we weren't running around the woods swinging fake swords at each other.
**Sure, some people play tabletop RPGs this way, too, it's just that, with this kind of LARP, it's the only option.