PBP Gaming 101

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PBP Gaming 101

PostPosted by verdilak » Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:40 pm

Play by Post Gaming 101 as written by Ryal of the 3ebb in the long, long ago.

"What are some ground rules for play by post gaming?"

Since the topic was raised by one of the players in a PbP game I was in, I figured I’d take the time to write a brief post about some tips on making PbP games more fun and easier for all involved. The post turned into a pretty long read and I thought that it would be beneficial to anyone playing in a play by post game, so I elected to reformat it a little and turn it into an article. To answer the above question, I can say only this: There are no rules, only guidelines to make the game flow more easily. In the play by post style of gaming (and it is its own style), flow is the key to success. A game that crawls along is boring and a game that moves at lighting speed is hard to keep up with and usually not much more than sparse descriptions and out of character action declaration. I propose a few guidelines to make the game flow at a good pace and still provide vivid imagery and exciting action.

Never let the medium limit your creativity.
We are all in this game because the DM felt we had the creative and literary ability to make it interesting for all participants AND for the readers who choose to follow along. Don’t let some stupid technicality get in the way of your creativity and role-playing ability. This medium is slow in general, so if you’re having a conversation with another character, it can REALLY slow the game down. Don’t be afraid to generate the 'expected' response. In a forum medium, you have to make a lot of assumptions. Using elaborate if...then...else... statements rapidly turns the game into a boring read. You don’t always have to wait to find out what’s going to happen if you're the one making it happen. Make assumptions. A tip for resolving conversations is to hold them on a faster medium then work with the character you're conversing with to determine who will post what. It’s perfectly acceptable for one person to post both sides of a conversation. ICQ, AIM, or IRC are all excellent media for performing quick conversations that would otherwise take DAYS on a forum.


Perform more than one action per post Just because you don’t necessarily know how one of your actions is going to turn out doesn’t mean you cant post the next one, ESPECIALLY in a non combat situation. When we enter combat, things work differently. When outside combat, however, feel free to post 2, 3 or even 4 actions at a time. If you have 5 trivial actions to perform, you don’t necessarily need DM approval for every one. We aren't here to make the DM’s life difficult. HELP the DM, don’t try to slip one by him. I hardly feel it's a problem with most groups, and I'm sure if it becomes one, your DM will be the first to step on it.

In combat, you can really only post 1 action at a time, so this is where you get to shine. Make your action descriptions elaborate and interesting to read. Don’t just "hit the skeleton", instead "Parry a weak blow that was little more than an attempt to throw you off balance then respond in turn with a fierce mace swing to the skeleton’s left femur, chipping bone and metal alike, sending sounds like crunching eggshells into the small room." Note that the above description need not be a "hit". Making contact with the skeleton doesn’t mean you "hit" the skeleton to do damage as per the PHB.

Keep most correspondence on the forum, but in appropriate threads Make use of Out Of Character (OOC) threads for more than just idle banter. Ask legitimate OOC questions there. Obviously, minor notes like "I’m going to take a 5' step to avoid the AoO for casting my spell" should be made in the game threads where they can be read and understood clearly. For the most part, the DM will easily be able to extract your intent from the post, but exact game effects should be noted with a brief OOC comment. Detailed questions about setting, character information, or rule topics should be discussed in the OOC threads, along with all the off topic info. Don’t be annoyed that the OOC thread takes up almost 60% of the forum's volume, that’s just part of the game.

Most game information can easily be shared with other players in an OOC context. Private emails are obviously needed at some points for secret character information, but a good group can avoid metagaming anyway so this isn’t usually an issue. Keeping an open policy on the information makes it easier for everyone to follow along and keeps readers interested. Elements of mystery are great hooks though, so don’t reveal everything all at once!

Quality over Quantity Nothing sucks more than reading a 600 word post that says nothing interesting. Description and creativity are great, but irrelevant information and boring text are not. If you plan on writing a novel of a post, please please please make it interesting to read. Be careful how you take this one: I’m not saying don’t make long posts, because I actually enjoy long descriptive passages. What I’m saying is that redundant (repetitive) information and information that has no purpose other than to exist (e.g. a 400 word digression on the history of your character's boots while describing a combat action) do not belong in the game thread. If you feel the need to generate this much detail, do so in your character's personal thread.

Proof Read Carefully Before you submit your post, cut and paste the text into a word processor and spell check it. It only takes 5 minutes and can save you editing the post later, or being horribly embarrassed by a plethora of typos and spelling errors. It also makes it more enjoyable to read if the reader doesn’t have to stop every 30 seconds and figure out what you were TRYING to say, instead of what you ACTUALLY said.

Do not include forum signatures in roleplay posts This is just bad form. Sigs are great for regular board posting and maybe even in the OOC threads, but in the roleplay threads signatures are a HUGE distraction and detract from the game. It's not something blatant that you'll scream at when you see it, but when you see the difference between a roleplay thread with sigs and a roleplay thread without them, you'll understand why leaving them out is desirable.

The bottom line here is that Play by Post gaming is a unique medium. It is a balance between the ancient days of play by email and the real time experience of IRC or tabletop gaming. As such, it requires its own style of play and it's own group of devoted players in order to be successful. I personally feel PbP games allow a freedom of expression that is not present in tabletop games, but maintains a fast pace that Pbem games cannot deliver. I would not say one medium is better than the other, but that they are different. As a result, one has to adopt certain ideas about how to utilize the particular medium (in this case an online forum). The ideas presented above are guidelines that I’ve pulled from my own experience and from suggestions by others to help facilitate game play in our medium of choice. I hope you found it helpful.

OOC thread and OOC comments in the IC.


Although a good proportion of these threads tends to be taken up by rather off-topic issues (which is far from a bad thing), players and DMs shouldn't be afraid of trying to use this thread for something on topic. The IC thread(s) should try to read something like a story, in a rather odd action->result post by post manner.

A player/DM will often leave a short OOC comment at the bottom of a length IC post in an attempt to clarify his action (a detailed description of the character's thoughts as he on to a table and charges in a blood-frenzy towards a villain is excellent, adding a few words to explain game terms is even better). This isn't hard and need not be intrusive. A DM normally has a preference with the recording of these clarifications, such as :

[charge at half-orc leader, using power attack +3dam]

Some players like to take things a step further and include relevant details in their ooc clarification. My hat goes off to you for this practice which makes my complicated life as a DM easier, it is one however that I frequently neglect when I play.

[charge at half-orc leader, using power attack +3. +7 to hit, 1d6+9damage]

A OOC comment in the IC thread should not ever be without an IC partner. If you are making a post in the IC which includes no IC then it simply does not belong in the IC thread. Having a conversation in OOC comments inside an IC thread is really bad form, if it's s stand-alone conversation which is not accompanying IC progress then it is a terrible blasphemy and players should not be surprised if their DM hunts them down and explains the problem with his friend Mr Chair

A direct question (to player or DM) is a good example of what belongs in the OOC thread. Let's assume the players have just entered a room which the DM lovingly and in great detail described, but he neglected to explain just how many orcs it contained! The player should here head to the OOC thread and ask, the DM will then reply (possibly editing his former IC post to include the missing details) and the world will be saved without sullying the IC thread

Quoting and Emoticons

No doubt everyone is familiar with quote tags, these make it clear what your message is in response to in the message board medium. An IC post should be inherently clear as to what it is in response to, quoting is inelegant and distracting. In short don't quote using quote tags in the IC without good reason. Good reason can exist but in a huge majority of cases there is a better way.

Emoticons should be our friends and I personally use them in my day to day jibber-jabber and posting, they help to explain the tone you are employing and prevent undue offense being taken. However they do not belong in an IC post, here it is up to your writing skills to express the information concealed a yellow expressive circle. There is no excuse for using emoticons in an IC thread (I even find their inclusion in an OOC comment in the IC thread to be very distasteful)

Character Sheets

A character sheet contains all the crunchy aspects of a character. A clear up to date sheet is essential. Spending long periods of time hunting through a sheet for a particular number is no one's idea of fun. Sheets can be clarified by using our friends Colour and Style, along with other devices such as code tags and multiple posts. As soon as someone works out a perfect method of recording character stats I assume there will be some form of huge international party, until then do your best. Don't squash everything into a few lines, take the space you need.

Upon occasion multiple posts find themselves beneath a character's thread which are simply the DM/ other players explaining any issues with the sheet (your fort save is +3, it should be +4 etc), these aren't too much of an issue in most cases. However, from time to time they occur between useful posts. A player may have split his sheet into three posts, stats, spells and background. Having random, now irrelevant ,comments between posts is unnappealing and increases search time. It's a good idea to remove them
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