Hopefully helpful hints about pbp applications


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I don't want to butt in where I'm not wanted, but I thought I'd post a short opinion peice of what works for me when it comes to getting into pbp games. So far, I seem to have a 50% acceptance rate and while I don't know exactly why I get selected, I have noticed a few trends.

I haven't read anyone else's character submissions and haven't run any games, so I haven't had to select characters for one. I'm therefore speaking only as a player applicant. If this post is not helpful to you, please ignore it. I know that I'm not better than anyone else; this is simply what seems to work for me.

1. It really seems to help if you have a strong creative writing background. After 20 years in advertising, it's a skill I'm very thankful to have developed. I am careful with my submission, reading it over at least twice for grammar and spelling errors before posting. I figure little mistakes nag at the mind of my reader, never quite consciously ruining my entry, but adding up.

2. Pick a role in a categry with room for applicants. Some classes - Summoner, Magus, Barbarian, Monk - seem to have a lot of applicants for every game. In the last game I applied for, a summoner had a really strong application, so I went for a rogue instead.

3. Your character should match their race and class, but should also stand out due to their individual quirks. Make a dwarf character who is dutiful, honorable and hard working - then make him claustrophobic as an explanation for why he is a druid. Your story here is as much about what it's like to be a druid with dwarf sensibilities as it is to have grown up a dwarf unable to fit in their accustomed role. I don't recommend playing completely against type, but it does seem to help if you are an individual and not a stereotype.

4. Avoid the flavor of the month classes and make sure your character doesn't seem min maxed. While I don't have a problem with these characters per se, I assume DMs aren't big fans of them as they never seem to make the cut. If you utilize a dump stat, try to make it one your race has normally. That way, it doesn't seem like you dumped it for points.

5. I personally look online for cool pictures before I start making a character, often taking several hours to choose a picture but less than one on crunch. It helps me game to a concept rather than the reverse. If you are male, try making a female. If you are an organised go-getter, try to make an indecisive ditz. Even if you don't submit them, it's a good exercise for roleplaying.

6. With your concept selected, make your character, write your backstory, and then look at your character again. Does that story fit that character? If not, rework your character, not your story. Your story will get you in a game and the extra +1 to hit or damage won't matter if you don't get in.

7. Make a group-oriented character. Every lone wolf character I have submitted has been overlooked. Every character with a story that doesn't require other players for fulfillment has also been passed over. You don't have to be a support class, but your character does need to have a use for others, or else you don't seem to get picked.

8. Lastly, when all is said and done and your character is made, ask yourself, "Why this Barbarian and not someone else's?" If the character's personality doesn't answer that question for you, start again. The straightforward classes are the hardest to make standout, at least for me. A friend played a pig farmer who decided to become an adventurer when his pigs took sick and died. I've always thought the sheer ordinariness of it was brilliant, in a world where every hero has a prophecy predicting that they will save the universe.

Of course, all of this assumes you have good writing skills. What do you do if your writing skills aren't so polished? What do you do if you write well, but aren't as creative as you'd like to be?

I don't have answers to those questions but it seems to me that hard work can always make up for raw talent when dilligently applied. Work up three characters with everything you think GMs are looking for. Focus a lot of attention on their backgrounds and personalities. Pick over your writing to make everything as clear and grammatically correct as possible, and then submit them carefully, to adventures where they seem to fit, rather than simply the next one to come along.

As I said at the beginning, please don't think I claim to know any more than you. If this post isn't helpful, please ignore it. I have had some of my favorite concepts shot down. I have had characters that GMs like, but didn't pick. There are many good writers on these boards and all of you make excellent characters. Sometimes a character simply needs that extra little push to make it over the top.

Please don't give up if it takes you extra time to get into a game. Each time you are not accepted, take a look at the characters that were. What did they have that you don't? And once you are accepted into a game, apply what you've learned to your next application.

Best wishes and good luck getting into a game.

I'd add that GMs are sometimes willing to provide feedback on submissions; you can ask in-thread, or shoot the GM a private message, before or after selections are made.

I think that you have a fine set of guidelines, I would just elevate items on building race and class into a thoughtful and compelling character to the top of the items to consider when building a character.

As someone who both submits (very high success rate) and runs games, the one thing I care about more than all the crunch in the world is background. If I don't know who you are and why you are asking to come along you go instantly into my pass pile.

Please see the spoiler if you have horrendous luck getting into campaigns. These peeves are not just mine; they are widely shared by a large number of players and game masters alike.


Your - Possessive - ex. It's your ball.
You're - Contraction (You are) - ex. You're reading this post.

There - Location - ex. Your ball is over there.
Their - Possessive - ex. Their ball is over there.
They're - Contraction (They are) - ex. They're looking for their ball over there.

Its - Possessive - ex. Its ball is over there.
It's - Contraction (It Is) - ex. It's over the ball.

Cannot is one word (probably the smallest of my peeves.)

When I am writing a professional document, I never use contractions. If you are unsure on any of the above, I suggest you do the same.

Biggest peeve: Cellular phone messaging slang in creative writing. Unless you are quoting a text message sent from one person to another, ur is not a word, nor are lol, rofl, or r. If it is a word in the English language, take the time to spell it out. Cell phone slang prompts me to immediately, irrevocably, and unapologetically round file an application.

You may think I am joking, but I have seen all of the above in applications.

I like it. Some of it is what I call being the "un-cola".

I agree with totally but want to add a warning and extra point. My warning is about males playing females. I find it more chalanging than you might expect and observations of other players indicate the same (although I have these boards are better some), women played by men are often a college boy wet dream sluts or totally sexless and might as well be male. I think every role player should attempt it at some point but be aware of the dangers (and try not to scare off the few woman player, and this goes double for adventure path writers) and maybe make the character easier to play in other areas eg make them human.

Secondly this isn't so much about getting in although it can't hurt. Give your character goals or ambitions, I find real helps me enjoy the game more and contribute more to every one elses enjoyment. I have noticed several well written and interesting characters drop off posting then drop the game because after the player created this interesting character didn't know what to do with them (I might be wrong about their reasons but I have fallen into this trap with my chatacters at times). For me long term unachiebable goals work best eg become a God or change society but I enjoyed as simple things as greed.

The other important thing with the background is details. When I was GM for a short while, there was one application that I made sure was going to get in, making another slot just for him. The reason, was details. A general background is good, you need to get to know the person life story. However, what really is good, is to do a specific story. Take their life changing event, and spend a good paragraph on it. Give details, city name, names of people, even dialogue is good. The characters that blew my mind, had the backgrounds that I actually wanted to read, like a story.

What I'm saying is, write a narrative, not an overview.

Liberty's Edge

This is all spot-on and great advice. I have one more thing to add to the list that is especially relevant for myself, and may or may not be important for a lot of the GMs here.

Make sure your character works with the story and themes of the adventure ahead! The more closely linked you are to the adventure's thematics the better. If it's Rise of the Runelords, think about having strong Shoanti, Varisian, or Thassilonian themes about your character. If it's Legacy of Fire, think about fire, desert, dervishes, genies, oases, and so forth. Pick one clear thematic of the adventure or setting and ham it up. No matter how awesome your Ulfen Barbarian is, he's a real fish out of water in the middle of the Mwangi jungles, and you will have a much better character (and a much better chance at being selected) if you simply made a Mwangi Barbarian instead.

I hate to go in with the number of DM's start games and then something happens.

Then someone else "steps up" and keeps things going.

My suggestion to anyone thinking about running a game is to give it a test run.

Personally I would feel better applying to a game run by individuals such as:
Black Tom
DM Azure-zeroed
Megan R.

Of course new people come along all the time, nothing against new people, but I know some DMs are committed.

If I left you off my list....I am sorry!

I also have a pretty good acceptance rate over the past few months since I discovered PbP. I'm not particularly creative, and honestly, I'm learning a lot about Golarion as I go along, but I will reiterate these few points.

First, spelling and grammar are important. In a medium where all you *do* is write, you should put forth the effort to do it well. If you don't, then even if you don't annoy the GM, you'll likely annoy your fellow players. Also - and this is less of an issue, but still relevant - you should read this thread, and use the various guidelines contained therein.

Those times that I have been rejected, I can safely say that it was either I just didn't identify with the character, or because I tried to force the character to fit the campaign.

If you're going to spend the next year or more (in some cases) writing from the point of view of this character, then it should be a character with which you identify. Some aspect or quirk of personality, perhaps, or a class or function that you can really get in character with. If you try to force it, you're likely to come across as stilted, or any number of other terms that boil down to what I would consider "bad acting". That is, after all, what we're doing here, no?

Also, if you know you want to apply for a certain published scenario or AP, create a character *specifically for it*. I have tried to squeeze in race/class combinations because it was something I wanted to play, regardless of how well it fit the campaign. I've altered a background (by changing city or region names) that I had written for another campaign rather than writing a new one. I've written horribly generic backgrounds because I just didn't know anything about the world. In each case, they were rejected.

I'm not saying you can't apply with a character you'd like to play, but you're likely to have much better success creating one character that you identify with that is custom-made for an AP (and if it's not accepted, rework it as necessary and resubmit the next time that AP comes up), than the one that you apply for every AP with. I don't care how much you want to play your synthesist summoner - if you can't come up with a compelling reason for the GM to *want to* accept the application, it isn't likely to get in. Coming up with that compelling reason is *very* different, by the way, from coming up with an excuse that the GM could use to explain your character's presence.

If you have a class that you're dying to play that would be tough to fit into a number of APs, then you have a harder job ahead of you. Consider saving that concept for a homebrew, perhaps. Anyway, sorry for ranting...just pointing out some of the things I've seen, and hoping to make the GMs' jobs easier by preventing some of the cruft that they have to wade through that seems to clog up every recruitment thread.

Hopefully this can be a two-way street in regards to communication between DMs and players.

DMs. Make sure that you are ready to do a PbP. Absolutly do not just skim through a module and then throw up a recruitment page since you will get into major trouble with the modules that have tricky sub-systems.(Like Skull and Shackles). So many of the Runlords games never get past the first goblin battle because the DM just vanishes for some reason, which makes me think they were trolling the board.

Instead of an AP, try a single shot module to test doing a PbP. Godsmouth Heresy is excellent for a 1st level group and can easily lead into other modules.

Hmm... Rejection cam take its toll. Apply to new game recruitments, but try the lower hanging fruit to start. Fill a new or vacated slot in an existing game.

Typically, you know what they need and they want the slot filled quickly, to keep/get the game moving.

That said, most of the above applies.

Read requiremts carefully... Looking for good and bad signs. Stay away from drug screenings, credit checks and cavity searches. Some folks are quite invasive. Others are a pleasure. Stick to your guns, so long as you're being reasonable.

If your don't like something, walk.

Oh, no whining! Stating your character was made for an AP, that died.. doesn't help.

The Exchange

My question to you guys (and gals) would be what is the best way to recruit?

Personally I have experienced plenty of examples that someone is capable of writing a great application doesn't necessarily mean that they would best suit a particular game.

I would agree that starting a game with an introductory adventure is a good way of telling whether or not everyone fits. But even an adventure would take several months to do. I mean how long does Godsmouth Heresy take to play by post? Would you use it as a means of choosing your final group? Or just allow natural selection to take place where one or two of the players fall by the wayside.

Here are two examples of recruitment threads I have followed.

One DM asked applicants to explain a bit about themselves and he would choose from suitable players before they even built a character. He tended to choose people from a similar background and age to himself.

Another gave firm guidelines, wanted optimised characters with strong well written and engaging backgrounds and chose from those people who kept up a reasonable rate of posting on the recruitment thread during the week he decided.

These are opposite extremes but they both had some merit. For myself I also wonder what is the optimum number of players as well. 4? 5? 6? Are four players more likely to create a quicker, more energised game than six?

This isn't a series of academic questions since I do intend to run another game again sometime this year (once I have mastered maps).


I can't speak from experience having only GMed face to face but I have been thinking about these issues as well for same reasons.

I personally like parties that are built together to allow interlinking of backgrounds and themed parties. My plan was ask potential players to submit their favourite character from a preexisting game (or unplayed character) and pick from the characteristics above. Once picked I could get the players to talk and come up characters for my game under my requirements. No idea if this will work.

I'm not sure if the AP asked for it, or if was the DM's idea... But my favorite idea for a recruitment was one where the DM essentially outlined the characters (role, purpose, mandatory trait)... I didn't make the cut.

Another very sweet recruitment was very thematic, the steampunk environment was detailed and we were asked to craft iconic/archetypal (general meaning, not PF) characters that could contribute. Everyone was getting fancy, I went for the "brute" (with a twist of course). Reminded me of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I made the cut.

Background is important, but don't ask for overkill. And, I wouldn't keep the recruitment open for overly long.

The Exchange

5 players seems about right to me. Not too many (I have run eight once on these boards) and not too few to keep things safe. However since I generally run homebrew games I expect I could craft it for 4 PCs too.

Homebrew adventures with lots of background info like that steampunk environment you mention Hassan Ahmed, may be one good way of reducing the number of applicants to those who truly wish to play.

The key seems to be getting players who post at the same pace as you. So that everyone's expectations are matched.


One snag I often find myself hitting is the "oh, someone is already making a (Insert Class) here. I was thinking that too" Then I start feeling like I'm 'stealing' something if I make one for my application. It's silly, of course. Even if ever class ever made in any book is going to be allowed, there's a very good chance of overlap and I shouldn't feel bad because of that. I wouldn't consider someone 'stealling' from me if they submitted a wizard after I'd submitted mine, so why would they? It's competition, perhaps, yes, but it's not claim jumping.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong there ;)

I would agree that it's not stealing at all - if you can make a more appealing character, then by all means, do it. This, of course, assumes that you're going to put a bit of effort into making yours unique. If you're going to make a plain vanilla character that has all the character of a piece of white toast, then honestly, I wouldn't bother.

For what it's worth, I imagine that a GM would much prefer to sift through a few high-quality submissions than several dozen ho-hum concepts - the only exception to this is if there are no good submissions in a particular role.

I would suggest that if you are interested in submitting a character and don't have a particular concept in mind, then submit a well-thought-out, full-bodied character that fills a role that has less-than-stellar submissions thus far.

My experience is limited, but I've gotten into a few games, and not gotten into a few more.
To the OP, yes. I think everything you said is right, but there's one thing that I want to add.

Especially for first level characters, you are not the hero yet. The important part of your character's story hasn't begun yet. You want your backstory to introduce possibilities and be the beginning of the story, so you don't want the past to overshadow the adventure you're about to begin.

I have a Character all ready to go for a Kingmaker game, though he was turned down for the recruitment thread. I am still working on him and making improvements.

That is the only way your character will be good enough to make the cut, into the game on the short recruitment window.

My next one I am going to have the recruits vote to fill the party, no matter how I like/dislike the characters!

Another thing that may belong in this thread -- or perhaps I ought to make a new thread for it -- is an offer...

Have a character you've submitted unsuccessfully, and would like feedback on? PM me, and I'll look it over (as I can) and send you thoughts/comments. This is an open offer, at least until I start getting an overabundance of characters.

In your PM, please let me know how honest you'd like me to be about the character, as well as whether there are any aspects you'd like me to focus on; i.e. "the DM said he didn't like my backstory" or "I was told by another player that this build is lame".

I can't promise that anyone else (the next recruiter included) will agree with my comments, of course, but the offer is open.

One thing I've never tried before that really worked was that I stated that posting on the discussion board whilst recruitment was open would count towards selection. Too often I've seen awesome character building but a lack of posting once selected.

The players (and some are already on this thread - blush, you know who you are) took it upon themselves to create a bar scene with their characters. This sorted out the committed ones.

So, I'd recommend any potential GM to do the same and any potential applicant to post often during recruitment. It shows the GM who's active and is a reliable poster.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As a counter-point and personal opinion, I am actually really turned off by the "Bar Scene" recruitment. I don't like to see it become a competition of who can post the most, and then new applicants are getting buried in the post count. It leaves the DM to scroll through pages of posts to pick out each entry. And sometimes the players start trying to get ahead in the story by building relationships that are not yet valid in the actual game.

DMs can check an applicant's profiles to check on posting history. I would think long-term consistency would rule over short-term quantity.

What I DO like, along that vein, is the DM posing a scenario for the applicants to respond to. It provides a sample of their writing style and keeps the post count to a minimum.

There have been occasional "Bar Scenes" that have been constructed, not as recruitment, but as a space for people to build a posting history with a character. It was billed as a place for DM's to find players, and maybe even a few games came out of it, but it was mostly a place of players interacting with players, and for that it was pretty good. I participated in one, before getting into my first PbP. Tip of the hat to Sunset21 for setting that that one up, but I believe there have been others.

Example I participated in: Boomer's Bar and Grill

It's certainly been said before, but a careful reading of the DMs requirements and preferences almost always pays dividends. Optimisation is often mentioned, some DMs encourage it, some are averse, some DMs are ready to run a very strange raced party others want few if any odd races, etc. When in doubt ask, if you are planning something strange that might turn off some ask and gauge the response carefully - a luke warm yes you can is often as bad as a no in recruitment.

Personally I value, background head and shoulders over everything else, it's both a writing sample and an ad for your character. I do not care about group composition and generally state that if the best submissions are all wizards I'll be running an all wizard party, etc. I like to see completed submissions with sheets there or there abouts.

Backgrounds are IMO more interesting if they read more like a story than a timeline. Consider fleshing out pivotal events, etc.

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