- The Face - The Face is the social leader of the group. This is the character who serves most often as group spokesman to NPCs, usually due to the social skills of the PC, the social skills of the player and often due to in-game character status as well (ie. being a Noble in the system setting). The Face may not set battle tactics or make any plans outside of social situations, but by virtue of being the character doing important social interactions with NPCs, the Face of a party often leads simply by being the party spokesperson.
- The Captain - The Captain is the plotter, planner and tactical leader of the group. Unlike the Face, the leader is not a outside facing social spokesperson for the group, instead the leader is the character who comes up with the battle plans or the infiltration schemes or does the plotting of the group's next moves.
Playing a leader is a little easier in a LARP, since usually the game has enough players that when a player or character is dissatisfied with the leader of their group, they can join a different faction or subgroup or challenge for leadership. Much of the plot in a Vampire LARP could easily be all the characters working out who is the Prince of the city or the leader of the pack, etc. Plus LARPs usually have a large political component, so questions of leadership seem natural to the game.
For Tabletop games, it's been my experience that the question of leadership is much muddier. Sometimes it's not a big deal, like if the priestess in a D&D campaign has a high charisma, she can serve as the Face during the brief social interactions with NPCs and the party might be able to get along just fine without a Captain when they're moving from room to room in the dungeon. Linear plots and a focus on combat encounters (fight that troll) or trap encounters (disable that collapsing staircase) or physical skill based encounters (jump that chasm) make it fairly easy for a party to get by without a Captain, instead reaching group decisions on the fly or just getting by with the individual impulsiveness of the PCs. Occasionally there are hiccups (shooting acid arrow when the other players are intent on using social skills) but more often than not, the lack of a Captain just makes the group slightly less tactically efficient.
For other tabletop games that have a focus on political machinations (including of course, D&D games that focus on politics instead of sticking to simple goblin/skeleton slaying and dungeon exploring) the lack of a Captain can often be acutely felt. Here is a compare and contrast of two games run by the same DM and sharing several of the same players.
- In the first, I played Kamwise Clovertail, hyperactive teenage halfing monk and middle sibling of the Clovertail siblings (see also "An Excerpt from the Legend of Kamerlane Clovertail, the Doom Bringer (to his enemies)"). Because he was (a) a child and (b) not interested in it, Kam was neither a Face nor a Captain of the group, which aside from those damned, meddling Clovertail kids was entirely forgettable (honestly, I think there was a cleric and one or two additional rangers, aside from Kit, the youngest Clovertail who was a ranger, but I can't remember because our halfing siblings stole the show). I'm sure one of the 'adult' characters served as the Face for the group, speaking to the 'adult' NPCs while the Clovertail kids peeped through the door and watched. Outside of social situations, no character really stepped up to be the Captain of the group, which was fine, we probably could have used a Captain to focus our combat tactics a bit, but even with a spastic teenage monk charging all over the place, we survived, and that was even with the cleric going down in at least one fight. Kam was the very definition of a character given to Individual Impulsiveness, where one player/character does what ever they wish and the rest of the party adapts around those actions, but since Kam had two siblings who always had his back, his impulsiveness tended to drag in 3 PCs acting in loose coordination instead of just one. The game never reached a point where the lack of a strong Face or a Captain was a real hindrance to the group. Mostly, the sessions involved pretty straightforward wilderness exploration and dungeon crawling and any politicking was minimal and fairly ancillary to the plot (the very little bit of politics I recall from this game was straightforward, there was a civilized village(s?) and the party was on there side against obviously chaotic tribesmen and even more obviously chaotic and evil tribesmen and demi-humans.
- In the second, I played Isidore (Sid) Philokales, a crazy Ardent (psychic healer for those not fluent in the more obscure 4E classes) who was devoted to the worship of a stellar entity that he believed would come and cleanse the world in a burning apocalypse. Once again, I went the sibling route, having my good friend Bob, who played Kam's older brother Bill, play Sid's brother, Maxallion, a Psion (more classic psionicist, the telepath/telekinetic route) who travelled through space, time and dimensions in some weird way. This time, however, instead of discussing our character backgrounds in detail and really focusing on the sibling thing, like with the Clovertails, we agreed on a very basic sketch of a relationship (we knew we were siblings, we mostly trusted each other, we were both searching for our sister for some reason). The rest of the group, too, was more center-less, instead of having a fairly defined goal (protect the civilized regions from the chaos and evil) the group (minus latecomers Sid and Max) had made a deal (gotten tricked?) by an NPC into signing a magical book and going off in search of a different magical book in order to pay off said NPC who would then presumably remove their names from his book. Another character was also looking for Sid and Max's sister, not knowing of their relationship to her. As Citizen Ben, the DM for both games, said himself "the group lacked a moral center" and that was certainly true. As play progressed, the other characters quickly realized just how crazy Sid was as I let his descent into madness play out at a much more precipitous rate than was probably wise (or good for the longterm playability of the character). This led to an interesting dilemma, the players respecting my ability and experience, were often inclined to follow my lead as a player but their characters, recognizing the insanity, depravity and evil of my character where very disinclined to follow Sid's lead as a character. Because of his insanity (by the end he had not bathed or washed in almost a month and was clothed in several layers of tattered cultist robes and halfing gore) Sid could not be the Face of the group. Perhaps because, although it was evil and twisted, Sid did have an unwavering core set of convictions (the end was coming, the stars would come and cleanse the world, this should be facilitated) Sid was sometimes the best candidate for the Captain of the group as he had a clear baseline that he could make decisions from. Especially since the players looked up to me, this made it hard to thread the needle of Captaincy, holding both the respect of the players and their characters for decisions Sid made for the group. For instance, at one point the party came to a monastery dedicated to Order (which Sid despised and was dedicated to fighting against) being besieged by a chaos cult (Sid's natural allies). The group was paralyzed for a moment, trying to decide which side to assist or if they should just sit it out. Sid should have argued for them to join the side of Chaos, but the rest of the party was pretty unwilling to go that route, so I, as player and not as character, instead advocated smashing the siege from behind. It was a triumph for the group, but it was when I realized that Sid would never be the leader of the party, even if I as a player could be.