Playing by Post: How to RPG at a distance

Time is a most precious commodity. Between work, school, and the general business of life, it can be difficult to regularly meet for even a quick board game. Finding a workable, consistent block of time for a tabletop rpg like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons is even more difficult. Many people have taken advantage of virtual tabletops, with Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds being the two most commonly-used, to remove the obstacle of physical location from the equation. I play online in a game and GM in another game, and I'm grateful for the capability to do so. Still, time can be a challenge.

 

This is where Play-by-Post, or PBP, becomes a welcome alternative. As its name implies, PBP is a way to play text-only by posting what your character says and does. People all over the world can participate in a game from a mobile app or browser, without needing to synchronize schedules. There’s something really enjoyable about exploring dungeons at any time, even while you’re on the bus or waiting for your dice subscription box to be delivered. Depending on your GM/DM, players may agree to post as infrequently as once every 48-hours, but your mileage may vary. Improvements in technology have made it even easier to find a group of like-minded players, whether you're in to Pathfinder, dnd, Shadowrun, or a completely unique homebrew game. Much has changed since Geek & Sundry and GeekDad talked about PBP in 2017, when the most popular method for finding and playing in a PBP game was on message boards. Although dedicated forums are very much alive and well, they are now one of three main categories where you can use to scratch your tabletop itch.

 

Discord

 

Discord is a popular service for gamers. It supports text and voice chat, costs nothing for all necessary features, and has slick mobile apps. These make it a great platform for PBP gaming. Many games and gaming groups grow out of fandoms, and the proliferation of actual play podcasts and their servers full of fans have started many looking4group channels. These channels can be a great place to find PBPs as well as virtual games. Many people already have the Discord app and are taking part in their gaming communities already, so if you're in a server that doesn't yet have such a channel, send your mod a message and ask for one! There are several dedicated bots that can be invited to your server for dice rolling and character sheet management. I'm currently playing in two PBPs on Discord and it's fun, quick, and easy. Maybe I fist-pumped in my cubicle when I rolled max damage just now…

 

Dedicated PBP Sites

 

I was recently made aware of these sites when I saw a post mentioning a PBP was starting on rolegate.com. I've since started tinkering with rolegate and it, in particular, looks like a thoughtfully-designed website that exists specifically for playing by post. Creating an account is quick 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 together. Another website, ongoingworlds.com, has over 100 active games as well.

 

Forums/Message boards

 

Just as vinyl is still cool in 2019, message boards have not gone out of style. Forums or message boards once dominated the internet landscape, and play-by-post games can trace their roots back to these. For Pathfinder and Starfinder players, the Paizo boards are a popular and active place to find or start a game. D&D players will find a similar forum on dndbeyond. There's a great chance that somewhere you can find a board for whatever game you prefer, and one such way to find a group is on the pbp subreddit.

 

Closing Thoughts

 

I've been a part of successful PBPs as well as ones that have fizzled out. Just as it can happen in in-person games and virtual games, the same factors roll in to a PBP. More often than not, I've had an absolute blast. You'll increase the chances of having a good time if you pick a method that fits your lifestyle. If you rarely sit down in front of a mouse and keyboard, I'd recommend Discord or a mobile-friendly website, for example. Rolling virtual dice is exciting and almost as fun as rolling your favorite dice set of metal dice. Regardless of which method you choose, playing by post can be a great way to get your RPG fix. I hope you can find the same positive experience that I've had!


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.
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