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    What is play-by-post (PbP)?

    Play-by-post (PbP) is a form of text-based roleplaying game that takes place on digital forums or message boards where players create and develop stories over time.

    In a PbP, participants take turns writing posts, which represent the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of their characters within a pre-defined setting.

    These games are typically asynchronous, meaning players do not need to be online at the same time to participate, allowing for a flexible gameplay schedule.

    The concept of play-by-post gaming originated from the practice of play-by-mail games, which involved players sending their game moves to a moderator via postal mail.

    As internet access became widespread, these games transitioned to email and online forums, significantly speeding up the process and increasing the genre’s popularity.

    Play-by-Post FAQs

    How do I start a play-by-post game?

    To start a play-by-post game, you typically need to choose a forum or platform that hosts PbP games, create a game thread, and outline the setting, rules, and structure of the game. It’s important to establish clear expectations and guidelines for posting frequency, post length, and player conduct to ensure a smooth game flow.

    What are common rules and etiquette in play-by-post games?

    Common rules in play-by-post games include maintaining narrative continuity, respecting other players’ character autonomy, and keeping out-of-character comments separate from in-character posts.

    Players are also expected to write clearly, check spelling and grammar, and be considerate in pacing, allowing time for others to contribute.

    How does a play-by-post game end?

    A play-by-post game can end when the storyline reaches its conclusion, players reach a predetermined goal, or when real-life commitments or waning interest cause the game to fizzle out. Some games are designed to be open-ended, potentially running for years, while others have a more structured timeline.

    What genres are popular in play-by-post gaming?

    Play-by-post games can encompass a wide range of genres, from fantasy and science fiction to horror and historical drama. The flexibility of text allows players to explore complex themes and settings that might be difficult to replicate in other forms of roleplaying games.

    How do play-by-post games handle player absences?

    Handling player absences in a play-by-post game usually involves the game master or other players driving the absent player’s character as a non-player character (NPC) until their return. Alternatively, the storyline can be adjusted to sideline the character temporarily.

    For short-term absences, such as those due to AFK, players will simple “pose around” the absent player until they return.

    Myths about Play-by-Post

    Play-by-post games are less engaging than tabletop games. In reality, PbP games can be highly detailed and immersive, often more so than many tabletop games due to the depth of writing and character development involved.

    You need to be a professional writer to enjoy PbP games. While good writing can enhance the experience, the focus is on creativity, storytelling, and collaboration, not literary perfection.

    Play-by-post games are easy to manage. Contrary to this belief, PbP games require significant organization and dedication from the game master and players to maintain momentum and keep the story moving forward.

    See this interview with Clockwork, creator of The Network, for tips on how to maintain momentum.

    Play-by-Post Examples

    • In a fantasy PbP game, players might create characters journeying together to defeat a legendary dragon, taking turns to write detailed explorations of mystical landscapes and interactions with various creatures.
    • A science fiction PbP game could involve players as crew members of a starship, encountering new alien species and making critical decisions through their posts that affect the outcome of their space exploration mission.
    • In a detective mystery PbP game, players assume the roles of detectives and suspects, posting their investigative findings and alibis, slowly unraveling the mystery through collaborative storytelling.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."