Sunday, August 31, 2014

Looking at Some of the Differences Between Convention, Organized and Home Play of RPGs

+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.


  1. I'd add that Convention Play and Organized Play both usually have time constraints. You've got 4 hours to finish this adventure and then the game's over whether you're done or not.

    With home play, if you've set aside 4 hours to play, and the party spends the whole time in the tavern, that's fine, you'll pick up on the adventure next week.

  2. Erik--

    Perfect timing (in general) given the 5E rollout and (for me) some thinking about the eventual dT&T release.

    I play at conventions, only. 3-5 hour shots.
    1. For the most part, people behave better.
    2. One shots encourage risk-taking, more active play.
    3. The game itself, the GM often have a more tangible goal to push towards so there's a sense of satisfaction/completion/closure at the end even if everyone dies (I've seen this even Apocalypse World type games)

    (The flipside/negative of the above points are easily deduced.)

    The organized play does bleed into convention play--I was in two 5E organized games at the local convention this weekend. In "Playing at the World" I remember a comment about Gygax's concern about rampant house rules limiting character movement from game to game--a sentiment (and yes, this is heresy coming from a T&T honk) I appreciate. I liked turning my Friday night encounter into a full-weekend fling. That will probably be it with this character but I won't recycle the sheet.

    Organized play needs corporate backing and organization--I'm wondering whether the D&D Adventurer's League is trying too much too soon. (Factions could have waited--in spite of my glee at earning points I don't understand). And then there should always be a way to cycle new players and one shots in and out. (Level appropriate pre-gens are a must).

    I'm curious as to your (pl.) thoughts on the value of smaller developers devoting resources to create some sort of organized play/convention adventures. (And yes, I'm thinking about dT&T)

    Final recollection, from a convention/organized 5E experience: one of my GMs talked about the balance of trying to run a good game but also help teach it, help players transition to the new edition. (At the table experience ranged from those few grounded in 4e to me, who pretty much stopped at AD&D).

    GMs are after all, de facto representatives of the game and the brand, whether they have corporate handouts or not.


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