Larp vs Tabletop

Here’s the thing. I love to LARP but I find it too limiting.

If I want to play a man in a table top game, I can do it. It’s not a big deal, most of my friends expect it now, even. But I’m not limited, I can play my characters male or female, depending on what I get the best feel for as I’m creating them. I can play a teenage girl, an angelic male, a ridiculously tall, buff guy or an older woman whose had several children. Or, y’know, a bunny or time lord or a monster with three heads, no worries.

When it comes to LARP though, we are all limited by how we look. Especially when we’re playing with people we know.

Here’s the thing, you can do a lot with make up, and prosthetic but there’s a real barrier when it comes to people’s perception of you… which is aided by your physicality.

For example, if a player is physically taller and stronger than me, I cannot expect to be able to push them around in game. Being me, there are a lot of people who are taller and stronger than I am, it’s just a fact of life. But it can be very limiting in a larp. Because if I decide I want to play someone physically intimidating it’s very hard. I can dress to look tough/scary/bad ass… but at the end of the day if I’m shorter and smaller than you, you’re not going to be so worried if I start threatening you. Someone bigger can use their physicality better than I can and be more intimidating.

Character and reputation do come into it though. My best example is my character Drake in The World That Is. Using Han Solo as my base inspiration, my other character homages are Mal Reynolds and Capt Jack Harkness. Notice a theme? It’s tough to find characters who have the same kind of swag, devil may care, roguish charm and are women. And I had no particular desire to try and find them, because those three characters were all I needed.

But when it comes to costuming I can’t get past the way my body’s built, or how my voice sounds. I can use a slightly lower register, but when I’m panicked I’m gonna go back to shrieking.

It’s a pain. And a couple of times I have played a boy with varying degrees of success. A couple of times I’ve been asked before the game starts if I’m playing a boy or a girl by the other players. It’s tough, it really is, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.. especially for the look I want for Drake. I can’t really put on a beard or stubble without losing some of the style I was after.

I dunno. It’s hard, and there’s no easy answers. But to sum up, this is why I’ll never go down to just LARP. In tabletop I can be anyone.

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4 thoughts on “Larp vs Tabletop

  1. I agree with you that LARP is more limiting than Tabletop – in both how you described and much more. Magic in LARP is downright hard to make cool, whereas in Tabletop it’s easy. Fights are as much about your own hand-eye co-ordination as they are about how good your character is (Sometimes more so). The best solution I’ve seen was a campaign I was in earlier this year, where all the high magic stuff was done in online scenes or tabletop, and all the social or low magic situations were LARPed in really cool locations (Casinos, Hilltops in the dark, deep in the Waitakere Ranges). It was one of the best campaigns I have ever been in because the GMs chose to separate those parts of the game and did so really well.

    As for physical limits – sometimes I really wanna play a badass chick who’s 2 feet shorter than me… or somebody really really small! Bummer I’m a 6 ft guy! Darn RL.. go away when we don’t need you!

    • Oh yeah the fighting thing really bugs me too… because you can really stat for being a good fighter in a boffer larp, it purely is your hand eye co-ordination irl.

  2. Great post! I agree with your description of limitation, and add that I think that many LARP setups feel like they limit my options. I have also posted on the differences between LARPs and Tabletop RPGs on my blog.

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