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Play-by-Forum FAQ

Welcome to the RPGGeek Play-by-Forum.

This forum is meant to be a location to organize a game of any RPG your heart desires. For inspiration on which RPGs to play just check out RPGs for a look at a few. This thread includes the FAQ and some helpful resources for prospective players and GMs.

Q: What is Play-by-Forum (PbF) [A.K.A. Play-by-Post (PbP)]?

A: Play-by-Forum is a style of playing a role-playing game, or certain other types of games, on message board forums where the GM and Players alternate posting actions and events.

Q: How does PbF work?

A: When playing a RPG Play-by-Forum (PbF), the Game Master, (GM), posts an initial "in character" (IC) post that sets up the situation and what the characters see. The player then types out their character's response, usually in "third person" perspective. As an example...

GM Post (posted at 1:51 am): As the party stands before the solid looking stone door, an odd rumbling can be heard from further down the corridor.

Player 1 (Fighter) (posted at 1:58 am): Talon moves between Jan and the rumbling noise, "Hurry up, half-pint, we have company coming."

Player 2 (Rogue) (posted at 7:22 am): Jan tries to open the lock on the door again. OOC: I rolled a 12 (d20 result of 2, +10 modifier). "Blast it Talon, shut up and let me concentrate, you big lug."

Player 3 (Wizard) (posted at 8:37 am): Hal stands ready with arrow nocked, watching the corridor. OOC: Hal readies an action to shoot anything that comes around the corner.

Player 4 (Cleric) (posted at 12:34 pm): Maximillian casts guidance on Jan. "My deity’s light shines upon you, guiding your hand to success."

Player 2 (Rogue) (posted at 12:38 pm): "Thanks Max, but could you possibly spare me the preaching?"

GM Post (posted at 9:43 pm): OOC: Ok, everyone has gotten a post in. Player 2, make another Open Lock check, with the +1 from Maximillian's spell.

Coming around the corner of the corridor is a nightmarish beast composed of undulating flesh, eyes and mouths swimming about it's amorphous form. A maddening cacophony of screams, giggling, and other vocalizations assaults the group's ears.

OOC: Player 3, take your shot. Then everyone roll a will save.

The key to PbF is waiting for everyone to post a reply. Sometimes a couple of players will be online at the same time and will want to push things forward. Unless their characters are in a situation by themselves, or they're simply bantering between each other, players need to wait for everyone. Depending on how often the players assembled for the game can post, the GM will set a minimum post limit, such as one per day or one per week. If a player can't meet that minimum, they should let the GM know.

Q: Why is the dialogue different colors in the example?

A: Many players like to use different colors to differentiate what their character is saying from what their character is doing. It also helps identify which character is which if you're quickly scanning through posts.

Q: How does dice rolling work?

A: The Geek's own Geek Randomizer (Dice Roller) may be enabled directly in every forum and Geeklist. It's quite powerful and allows for a myriad of results depending on the game being played. You can also discuss needs / desires in the forum dice roller thread. (See also, Visual Guide to Basic Use of the GeekRoller)

In addition, there are a few online dice rollers available. An example is Roleplaying Dice Roller. You can also do something a little less formal, such as an honor system where the players roll, or the GM can roll all the dice. That decision is ultimately up to the GM.

Q: It seems like a PbF is a little slow.

A: PbF can go fairly slow at times, especially if players aren't able to post for a few days. Try to stick to the GMs minimum post requirements and be sure to notify your GM if you won't be able to post within those requirements for any reason.

Though slower, PbF games have a tendency towards much more depth in role-playing. As GMs and players are not pressured to convey large amounts of information in compressed time. Details and flavor can be added to each post with time. Also, rules referencing is much less a detraction from the game as everyone involved can take a few moments to look something up between posts.

Q: What kind of games can I play as PbF?

A: In general, PbF tends to focus on Role Playing Games, like Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, Rifts, and many others. It is common to play Chess and a few other board games as PbF.

Now with the Geek Randomizer, (Dice Roller), the use of image galleries and Geeklists, it is possible to play a wide variety of board games, on The Geek, not normally playable as PbF.

Q: I'm a Game Master, (GM). So, how do I start a game?

A: Post a recruiting thread in the RPGGeek Play-by-Forum Forum. (Players subscribed to this forum will be made aware of your posting.) In your thread describe your game, the player guidelines, and allow players to post their character concepts. Be sure to include a full description of your game in the initial post, as well as any character creation requirements you might have. Indicate in the thread title what game system the game uses. Then you may log your recruitment thread in this Geeklist.

Here is a sample recruiting thread.

Q: As a Game Master, (GM), how do I gauge the interest of players?

A: You may ask if people are interested by starting a thread in the RPGGeek Play-by-Forum Forum. Alternatively you may check out the PbF / PbP Players Looking for a Game and look up the game you are planning on running. Interested players have posted there and may be contacted by Geek-Mail.

Q: Were do I begin my game thread?

A: Use the "Play-by-Forum" forum under the actual RPG you are wanting to run. For instance under the RPG Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 Edition) scroll down to the forums and click on the Play-by-Forum link there. Then begin your thread for a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Ed game.

Q: How come most of the games have two threads?

A: Most games will have an Out of Character (OOC) thread, and an In Character (IC) thread. The IC thread is where the actual game takes place. The OOC thread is for out of character discussion about the game, asking the GM questions, and for general chit chat among players and fans of the game.

Q: What about maps and battle grids?

A: On The Geek we have a Guild which is used specifically for up-loading battlemap images, or any other game related images for that matter. These images can then be embedded into the PbF thread. As an alternative you may use your own user gallery to store images.

Play-by-Forum Image Storage Guild

If you create a nice homemade map, consider linking a copy to the Home Made / Homebrew Maps entry.

Q: Any etiquette rules I should be aware of?

A: See the Etiquette post below.

Q: Are there any restriction on games dealing with mature subjects or the use of mature language?

In the Play-By-Forum games, there are no restrictions about what you can role-play about (mature themes and subjects are fine). If there are to be mature subjects involved, please add to the end of the subject post "[Mature]".

So, for example, if your actual play post was going to be:

"Man, Woman and Goat - The Perfect Weekend (IC)" you would instead use

"Man, Woman and Goat - The Perfect Weekend (IC) [Mature]"

If there is something particularly offensive, you can always put it in spoiler quotes... but we don't think that's really going to be needed.

Q: I wish to play-test new RPGs, or I want to find people to play-test my RPG creation. Where do I go?

A: For play-testing there are a couple options;

1) For Homemade games you may use RPG Sandbox to post about and request play-testers. You may want to create a new RPG Item depending, or use one of the already available entries. Then you can use the forums under the item to seek out and communicate with play-testers.

2) For games which will eventually be published there is Unpublished Prototypes. Again an RPG Item may be created and those forums used for attracting and communicating with potential play-testers.

Note the above two options will leave your creation in the public domain for any user to view and discuss.

3) Another option is the Play-Testing Guild. This is a guild set up specifically for people to offer their creations for play-testing and for users to find opportunities to play-test. The guild offers a semi-private location to place your creations, in that only members of the guild can see what's there. Membership to the guild is not restricted though. Anyone interested may join.

So both players and creators can subscribe to the above choices and get notifications about new or current offerings.

Q: What should I do if I'm going to be absent?

A: If you're going to be away from the computer or otherwise unable to post for any length of time, be sure to inform your GM, or your players if you're the one running the game. You can then work with your GM to figure out what to do with your character (GM runs as a NPC, fade to the background, or something else). If you're absence is going to be more long term, it may be best to retire your character. If you're a GM and are going to be away for an extended period, it's best to try to wrap up your game, or to find a replacement GM to take over.

If you are in more than one game, you can also post in the Absence Thread.

Q: Can you have too much of a good thing?

Sort of. If your game thread goes over a few hundred posts, you should consider wrapping it up and starting a new thread, picking up where the old one left off. By doing this you can break your IC threads into chapters so players can more easily reference previous posts as the game progresses. The GM can summarize events to date from the previous IC thread in the first post of the new IC thread as well.

Also, Geeklists may become wonky if they exceed 500+ items. So you will want to close out one and open another when they get pretty long.
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Re: Play-by-Forum PbF / PbP - FAQ & Referance
Reference List

1) Players Looking for Games
a) Post your interest in playing a certain RPG. (Feel free to add an RPG if it is not currently listed.)
b) GMs feel free to Geekmail players listed under an RPG you plan to run.
c) GMs subscribing to an item will receive notifications when new players comment.

2) GM Recruiting List
a) GMs may list their recruitment thread here so prospective players have a single place to look at new games.
b) Subscribing to this list will allow you to get notified of new entries.

3) Sample Recruiting Thread

4) Absence Thread

5) Play-by-Forum Master List
a) A wiki page to track games in progress.

6) RPGGeek Glossary

7) Play-by-Forum Image Storage Guild
a) Store battlemaps or other images here to be embedded in your PbF Threads

8) Play-Testing Guild
a) A guild dedicated to people who are looking for play-testers or wanting to play-test RPGs.

9) Tips for users new to play-by-forum games on RPG Geek

10) Visual Guide to Basic Use of the GeekRoller

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Re: Play-by-Forum PbF / PbP - FAQ & Referance
RPGGeek Suggested Play-by-Forum Etiquette


1) The “Golden Rule” is in effect here. If it would offend you, don’t do it.

2) The GM is the final authority for the game you are participating in. It’s OK to disagree or dislike something, but the GM’s decision is final.

3) Resolve player disputes privately through Geekmail or email.

4) Be aware of the language you use. This is a multicultural community, and something you might think is OK may offend others.

5) Always be courteous of other players/GMs and inform them if you will be unavailable for posting for any period of time. Post on your game’s OOC thread or here.

6) You may be participating in several games, but other players may only be participating in one. Something you do may affect the ONLY game someone else is playing.

7) REMEMBER WE ARE ROLE-PLAYING. Actions and behavior exhibited by a character in-game do not necessarily reflect those of the player. We should all know if a character hates another character in-game, it does not mean that hate carries into real life.

8) This is all supposed to be fun.


1) Discuss the rules for editing posts with the GM. Use care when editing posts. Editing typos is OK, but if you change the content of your post you may change what happened in the story. If other players reacted to your post, they will have to edit their posts, and so on. This can screw up game continuity. Take a moment to review your post before hitting the “Submit” button.

2) Patience is more than a virtue. Allow time for other players to post. Posting before everyone has a chance may cause problems in-game.

3) If you can no longer meet the minimum posting requirements for a game, be up front.

4) Keep a solid pace. It is often better to keep posting at a slower pace instead of speeding up if everyone can. Once the pace is sped up, players feel obligated to keep the pace fast.

5) Before responding to a post you find offensive, STOP. Reread the post 3 times to ensure you are not misunderstanding it. “Step away”, literally or at least browse elsewhere for a few minutes. Consider your response and, more importantly, if a response is even needed. Finally post a level and non-inflammatory response.

6) Do not attempt to cheat the Geek Randomizer, or other Dice Rolling mechanics.

7) Try to follow the same post formatting as requested by the GM or other players.


1) When playing as a player in another person’s game. Remember you are not running it.

2) When setting up a game, make all house rules clear to the players in the beginning.

3) You will often have to act as a moderator. Players often view the GM as an authority and may seek your guidance on disagreements. Be fair.

4) When a thread or Geeklist becomes too long, close the thread/G-list and open a new one.


1) No one likes to be upstaged. If you find your character is in the lime light for several scenes, consider this before taking center stage in yet another scene. Allow everyone a chance to shine.

2) There are many games and even more play styles. Keep an open mind when playing in PbF games.

3) Do not be a bossy player. Allow the GM to direct the flow of play.

4) Do not bring your real life, (RL), into the game. Avoid basing characters or another game aspect on your own RL. It may cause you to over-identify with your in-game character.

5) When beginning or joining a game, players should openly discuss character choices and options with each other.

6) Avoid creating a character in direct conflict with another player’s character unless this is agreed upon beforehand. In-game conflict may detract from the game if not prepared for.

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Currently Playing 2 games: Star Wars Edge of the Empire and Labyrinth Lord (Barrowmaze)
Stelio started a nice thread with tips for people new to PBF gaming here on RPGGeek. I wrote a short basic guide (with pictures) and it is found in that thread as well.

Here is a link Tips for users new to play-by-forum games on RPG Geek
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Lottie Kingsmith
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Gameicreates wrote:
What does mean of play by forum?

It means the players and DM talk to each other in a is an example of a game I'm currently in...
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