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  • Writer's pictureericvansingel

What is Play by Post Anyway?


As discussed in other posts pondering accessibility and other random announcements, my players have some new offerings in my professional dungeon master services - Play By Post games or PBP. Some players are veterans of this method of play, perhaps having participated in a system agnostic roleplay server or have leveraged the power of a bot called Avrae and played full Dungeons and Dragons campaigns by text in discord. This article is not for those veterans but rather for those wondering what PBP is all about.



The Wise Witches of Rashemen, a Play By Post Game by DM Eric V


Play by Post (PBP) is a way to play a TTRPG when scheduling, distance, and other restraints keep folks from being able to commit to a 3-hour chunk with no distractions. As a parent who works and homeschools, I can relate! It is also a terrific way for folks who prefer a text format. I recently read a post on Reddit by a young man who commented that they were autistic, mute, and unable to play a traditional game but playing by text over an application like discord allows them to play the games they love so much. Whatever your reason, Play by Post games is worth checking out.


PBP Basics


The game is set up just like a traditional game in that a Dungeon Master runs the world, NPC's, and some of the stories narrative elements to give the players a world to play in. The players make characters to role play, and the game begins. Aside from typing things out over speaking in a zoom or discord room, the most significant difference is that the space happens asynchronously, or not all simultaneously. Players post when they can (with some expectations set up front that checking in once or twice a day is a best practice). This frees people up to go about their daily tasks and responsibilities while still being able to participate in a TTRPG like Dungeons and Dragons, which generally has a pretty hefty time commitment weekly attached.


A Typical DM post explaining the situation and options ahead


I explain it when setting a game up for a player to expect about a session worth of content from me as the DM, the world, NPCs, and story should progress in about a week what a 3-hour live session would progress. It could go faster or slower and typically has more content as the characters are free from time constraints to roleplay and talk to each other.



A player and NPC interacting


Safety


Safety doesn't get brushed away just because voice and video aren't involved. The same lines and veils, stars and wishes, and X, N, O cards still apply. My server has a command set up for the corresponding cards, so any player may request a stop, slow down or keep going card. If you arent at my table, I wish you were! But if you aren't, I highly recommend working with a GM with safety tools implemented regardless of gameplay format.



Safety First


Avrae and dice rolling


Dungeons and Dragons and other systems require rolls and some complicated rules at times, and a PBP game accounts for this in a few ways. Avrae is a discord server bot that helps players and DMs roll complex expressions with simple typed commands. If my character Dweezil wants to cast a spell, he types !cast <name of spell>, and the bot make it happen. Same with attacks, initiative tracking, and other tasks. The bot does have the downside of remembering commands, but the support literature is extensive, and when you play a game with someone like me, you will have access to all the support and help you need to get rolling. There is even a workshop where people better at coding than me help develop the bot to run custom commands and things called an alias to customize the game further and automate complicated expressions.



Dweezil shows us a spell and attack in Avrae


The Verdict


Play by post is a fantastic way to scratch that DnD itch between sessions or make your primary method of playing the game. Many players, including myself, choose to play multiple games at once!


Potential downsides include:


Crunch. The PBP format shines for role play heavy games; crunchy tactics can get a bit complicated

Steep learning curve. The commands can be a bit much, and it can overwhelm some players.

Pace. Unlike a live game, the pacing is more dependent on other players, and sometimes there is a period without action. It does not move as fast as a live game.


PBP games are perfect for:


Busy people! Scheduling problems are a thing of the past; everyone plays when they can

Players are looking for accessibility. Folks who are not comfortable or able to do voice or video have a way to play that is comfortable for them.

Writers! Players who prefer shared storytelling in written format and enjoy roleplay over crunch will flourish in this format.


TLDR is worth a shot, and I encourage folks who enjoy the game to give this format a try. This week in Gaming:

PIFONs - Team PIFON took a break this week; two of the players have already sent some pretty cool photos from the Star Wars attractions at Disney and are excited to get back to the Storm Giants when we play on Monday!


Monday Mad Mage - The show goes on! The team found themselves in Wyllowood fighting some basilisks and digging up a grave. Findo wandered off a bit and had tea with the Mad Mage himself, who may or may not have encouraged him to be ablaze the entire forest. With the group reunited and the woods on fire, the team has been reunited, and I cant wait to see what happens next!


Undead and Opulence in Thay - The party follows a lead that there are magic scrolls and items lost to time in an abandoned mansion south of Nethjet. They were attacked by some invisible goats on the way in and had to slice and firebolt their way through some undead creatures and beasts, but it was worth it as they got to bring back a pretty good assortment of magical items have never seen or heard about. The team heads east to meet with a gnome who has a delivery for their contact back in Nethjet.


Mad Mage Wednesday continues with an assault on a castle deep in the undermountain. Undead minotaur and elite drow warriors were put to shame in an epic battle on the castle grounds. Haste, Slow, fireball, and more came into play as the heroes cut their way into the main building to find quite the interesting scene inside. We find out what happens next this week; it's a real cliffhanger after an action-packed session.


The Rangoon Platoon is deep in spoiler territory. Mid-swing is their final assault on the most significant enemy they have encountered in the realms. Separated in the desert with giant allies, this will be a fight to remember, and we continue this week.


The Frozen Few - yes! They have a name! I happen to dig the Frozen Few squad names quite a bit. We welcomed a new member who had some difficulty managing space and time but folded right into the party as they continued their adventures.


Wrath of the Storm Giants PBP: We are off to a great start in the play by post group assembled. This one is super fun with broad open customization on characters that I am looking forward to working with. We have an air genasi from Neverwinter, a reskinned custom lineage as a DRAGON, a Tortle druid who is into making flower crowns, a strong goliath who has sailed the seas, and a stunning speedy and acrobatic rogue all assembled to take on the wild frontier and its challenges.


Next week I will hopefully get to add our Rashemen PBP group; looking for a few more to kick it off; this PBP game is in the dreadfully underpublished setting of the unapproachable east, specifically Rashemen, and is bound to be a super cool adventure. Adventure in courage friends!

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