+Vincent Florio and I have had some recent discussions about the differences between Convention, Organized and Home play of RPGs and we will probably be discussing it more today.
As I see it, some of the basic differences are as follows (this is by far not a complete list):
Convention Play - in convention gaming, the adventure itself is what the players are invested in, not so much their characters (which are general pregens - there are exceptions to this, such as the Mythus Tower sessions run by +Matt Finch and +Bill Webb at NTRPG Con). In a convention set up, the classic Tomb of Horrors or +James Raggi 's fairly recent The Monolith Beyond Space and Time work much better than in a home environment (and would never be part of organized play). If a convention adventure results in a total party kill, it doesn't kill a campaign. Houserules are rare and always announced prior to the session.
Organized Play - in organized gaming, groups across the world are playing through the same series of adventures. There will be no house rules, because it is designed so that players could theoretically move from one group to another with ease. Adventures generally have a rigid structure to ensure similar play across different groups. Adventures begin and end in a self contained manner, and the links between adventures are pretty much on rails - there is little if any opportunity to "sandbox" in organized play, and sandboxing would make similar play between groups running the same series of adventures near impossible.
Home Play - home play is probably the most traditional sort of play for most player. It is also the hardest of the three to apply a general definition to, as some groups run sandboxes, some run linked adventures (muck like organized play), some run episodic campaigns (where adventures or adventure arcs have little connection to each other.) Character development plays a large part of home play (and to a lesser extent organized play.)
The above is certainly not complete. There can be some bleed over between the three basic types of play and I'm sure I left of a crap ton of wiggly bits that would make the above definition less well defined.
I'd love some thoughts and input on the above.