Playing by Post: How to RPG at a distance
You know what they say: “Time keeps on slippin’.” Between work, school, and other chores, it can be difficult to establish in-person gaming sessions, even for quick ones. Creating a flexible, consistent time block for expansive tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons will be even more difficult. Even if you can get everything set up, finding a time everyone can set aside to do it will be a challenge. There’s always that one player that can’t show up for whatever reason. Don’t deal with flakes, there’s a new solution in long-distance gaming.
The Internet Revolution
Virtual tabletops are here to make your session planning simpler than it’s ever been. Soon enough we’ll be floating through space in a fully automated cruise ship. Until then, we still have tools like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds to remove the obstacle of physical location from the equation. They’re your best friend for long-distance gaming, and especially D&D over Discord. I play online in a game and GM in another game, and I’m grateful for the capability to do so. All the physical barriers have been lifted. Still, time can be a challenge.
A Welcome Alternative
This is where Play-by-Post, or PBP, comes in. PBP is a way to play long-distance gaming entirely over text posts. You just have to type in what your character says and does. People all over the world can play in a game from their phone or computer, without needing to synchronize schedules. It doesn’t take being part of a hivemind to get a game going. There’s something really enjoyable about exploring dungeons at any time, even when you’re on the bus or waiting for your dice subscription box to come in. It makes the game feel more all-encompassing like you’re actually living in it.
Depending on your GM/DM, players can agree to post at certain levels, even as infrequently as once every 48 hours. Your long-distance gaming mileage may vary, though. D&D players are snowflakes, after all. But, improvements in technology mean you can find a group of like-minded players, or, as Reddit likes to call it, an echo chamber. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into Pathfinder, D&D, Shadowrun, or any other game. You don’t have to rely on message boards for this either. Dedicated forums are alive and well, but are now one of three main categories for scratching the tabletop itch.
If you aren’t familiar, Discord is the biggest gaming hub out there right now. The D&D Discord community is thriving. You can text, voice, and video call, have access on pc and mobile, and it’s all free! Your wallet is safe with Discord long-distance gaming. The suite of features also makes for a great play-by-post platform. Many games and gaming groups grow from fandoms. That, plus the recent search in play podcasts, notably Matt Mercer, leads to servers full of fans starting looking4group channels. Hope on into one of those channels and you can easily find PBP and other virtual game opportunities.
You always have opportunities to make your own looking4group for long-distance gaming in a community. All you have to do is send the mod of the server a message and ask for one! As long as they’re not a mod on a power trip (seriously, look out for those guys) they’ll totally help you out. And, there are plenty of dedicated bots that can be invited to your server for dice rolling and character sheet management. This really is the future of gaming. I’m currently playing in two PBPs on Discord and it’s super fun, quick, and easy. I even end up fist-pumping in my cubicle without notice sometimes, usually when I roll, max damage.
Dedicated PBP Sites
I only learned about these sites recently when I saw a post mentioning a Play-by-Post was starting on Rolegate. I started tinkering with Rolegate afterward and it looks like a thoughtfully designed website that exists specifically for long-distance gaming. It’s the Chad PBP platform. Creating an account is simple and free, and public games can be read by anybody. In fact, one 5e game on their Good Reads tab shows over 2,000 people actively read the adventure these seven players are experiencing. They’ve practically gone viral in the D&D Discord community. And there are plenty of other PBP websites to look at, also. Ongoing Worlds, for example, has over 100 active games on it. If you’re looking for a PBP campaign, there are sites made just for you.
By some miracle, vinyl made a comeback and is cool again. Message boards are doing the same thing. I guess time really is cyclical. Forums or message boards once dominated the internet landscape, and long-distance gaming can trace its roots back to these sites. For Pathfinder and Starfinder players, the Paizo boards are both popular and active. As for D&D, there’s an active forum at DNDbeyond. The internet is huge. More huge than you can imagine. And that’s not even counting what lies beyond the Blackwall. Odds are, there’s a place out there for you to play whatever your game of choice is. Streamline your search using the PBP subreddit. They’ll be sure to point you in the right direction or lead you down an enticing rabbit hole in the process.
I’ve participated in my fair share of Play-by-Post campaigns. Some of them have been successful, and some of them have gone the way of 3D television. That’s something that can happen whether you’re long-distance gaming or doing it in person. Most of the time, I’ve had an absolute blast. You’ll increase the chances of having a good time if you do two things: pick a method that fits your lifestyle and temper your expectations. If you rarely sit down in front of a mouse and keyboard, go for Discord or a mobile-friendly website. Rolling virtual dice is practically almost as fun as rolling your favorite set of metal dice. Regardless of what you choose, opting for PBP can be a great way to get your RPG fix on your time. Hopefully, you’ll have the same positive experience as me! Just steer clear of the dark web in your pursuit, they call it dark for a reason.
Jairys Tak is a writer, IT professional, and all-around nerd. He is a Pathfinder player and GM, enjoys board games, and is probably drinking coffee right now.