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    What is a PB?

    PB stands for “playby.” It refers to the practice in text-based roleplaying games where players use images of celebrities, models, or other public figures to visually represent their fictional characters.

    This term is essentially synonymous with “faceclaim,” although the usage of one term over the other can vary by community.

    Regardless, the playby serves as a visual anchor for players to imagine interactions more vividly and to help flesh out the physical characteristics of their characters.

    The concept of using a playby originated in fanfiction communities and online roleplaying forums in the early 2000s. As online roleplaying evolved, the practice became standard in many communities, especially in forums dedicated to celebrity and fantasy roleplays.

    Playby FAQs

    How do you choose a good PB for a character?

    Selecting a PB involves considering the physical attributes that best match the character’s description in the story, such as age, ethnicity, and overall appearance. It’s also important to think about the vibe or personality traits you want to convey; some players select a PB based on the types of roles that actor or model is known for.

    Are there any rules for using PBs in RPGs?

    Yes, many roleplaying games have specific rules about PBs, often found in their guidelines or FAQs. Common rules include respecting other players’ choices by not using the same PB in the same game, and adhering to requests for changes if a PB makes someone uncomfortable.

    Some games prefer that you use images of celebrities; some prefer that you do not. The content and source of playbys will vary from game to game.

    Can a PB be changed during a game?

    It is possible to change a PB during a game, but this may require discussion with the game’s moderator and notification to other players to maintain consistency and avoid confusion. Some games might have more stringent rules regarding changes to avoid disrupting the visual continuity of the story.

    What if two players want to use the same PB?

    If two players want to use the same PB, it usually comes down to first come, first served, unless the game’s rules provide a different method such as voting or moderator decision. Some communities encourage players to discuss and resolve such conflicts amicably.

    Is it necessary to use a PB in a roleplaying game?

    No, using a PB is not necessary for participation in most roleplaying games, but it is a popular element that many players enjoy. It can enhance the visual aspect of the story and help players connect more deeply with their characters.

    Games that are more accessibility-oriented either will not require a playby or will gladly assist visually-impaired players in choosing one.

    Can I use playbys with NPCs?

    Yes. This is often allowed or even encouraged, depending on the game. Some games provide a structure for defining NPCs such as close friends, siblings, and household servants and may even have a spot for uploading information and images related to these individuals.

    Myths about playbys

    One myth is that choosing a popular actor as a PB gives your character more importance in the game. In reality, the influence or importance of a character in a game is determined by their role in the story and the player’s engagement, not by the fame of their playby.

    Another common misconception is that you need to have a PB to create a well-developed character. In fact, character development depends on writing quality and player creativity, not on the visual representation. Many effective roleplayers craft compelling characters without ever using a PB.

    Playby examples

    • In a modern fantasy RPG, a player might use Benedict Cumberbatch as the playby for a cunning sorcerer, capitalizing on the actor’s portrayal of intelligent and complex characters.
    • In a superhero-themed game, someone could choose Chris Hemsworth to represent their god-like hero, inspired by his role as Thor.
    • In a historical RPG, a player may select Audrey Hepburn as the PB for a character from the 1950s, using her elegant and iconic style to shape the character’s aesthetic.
    • In a high school drama roleplay, a player might use Zendaya to embody a fashionable and outspoken student.

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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."