How can anyone stand for it?

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I can say this much: one or more years ago, I decided to give PBP a shot. I figured I would have no problem because A) I am not generally a cheese builder and B) I'm by some accounts a "respected" member of the community here.

The responses I got merely from asking about some general points of PBP etiquette were enough to put me off the whole thing.

On the whole, I have found it to be my least favorite corner of these forums, and that's including open playtests.


I don't know what general points of PBP etiquette you asked about, but I've played in a few PbP games here and haven't had any such experiences.

Lately I've only been doing PFS PbP. Most people can make the commitment for that long so the games don't usually implode, nor do I have to worry about backing out on a long-term commitment to a game that isn't as fun as it seemed like it would be.


Well, actually, now that I think about it... that's probably overstating things a bit.

In any case, it seems to me like a very exclusionary community. It would be nice if people were a lot warmer.

Weird, I never saw anything like that. Most people seem thrilled to try and get more people to talk about it.

The Exchange

Yeah, I'm very surprised by that too. I think you must have been unlucky, MEL. Especially as the rules discussion section of the boards always seems way more heated than anything over on the PbP side.

I apologize for insinuating that my one experience reflects the whole forum.

Work must be getting to me today.

The Exchange

No apology necessary, for me or any of us. I'm sure PbP isn't a bunch of guys (and ladies) singing "I'd like to teach the world to sing" either.

The Exchange

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Ravingdork wrote:

Hours and hours and hours I put into the mere hope of getting into a PbP game! What a waste of my time! How can anyone stand for such a crummy format of recruitment? Begging for a spot while facing the cruel and public criticisms of other potential players trying to convince the GM of your concept's unworthiness? How awful! Being strung along for weeks, all for naught!


Roleplaying should be easy and fun. Not this. Never this.

Ayep. The system sucks. It's broken...but not beyond measure.

Too many players are getting burned by GMs who are unprepared for the burden/joy of running PbP. It can be hard...unless you are prepared.

I've written this to help get at the root of the problem:

Painlord's Guide to PbP GMing

We need to train better players and that starts with training better least ones that are prepared.

No, this won't solve the problems of the past, but maybe...just maybe...the PbP community could be better.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Painlord's guide is excellent, as is Doomed Hero's. I highly recommend both. There's a lot of very good advice in this thread too.

I found applying for PBP similarly frustrating. I finally hit the tipping point in the multi-page Kingmaker application where the GM dropped out just when he was supposed to pick the players. What the heck, I thought, I'll give it a try. That campaign's been going on for several years now. I actually enjoy GM'ing more than playing in PBPs and I typically have four games going on (three is probably the optimal number for me, but I keep having one more I want to do, so I allow myself to have one more shorter/non-AP game).

I think that's probably helped me get into a few games, so I definitely recommend trying that if you have time/interest.

However, I've also found that as a GM I return to the same circle of players. My last AP I started, I simply picked players I've played with previously, with no recruitment at all. I know they're going to post regularly, have interesting characters, and not have typos that make me want to claw my eyes out. It makes it hard to break in, though, since I think other GMs behave similarly.

That said, I do typically open recruitment for my fourth games, since I figure that's a good area to find other people I enjoy playing with. I agree with those who say recruiting GMs often don't really care about the builds. They want to get a handful of characters who they think will work together. I think that usually means an array of classes (I know when I recruit, I go in expecting to have one combatant, one arcane caster, one divine caster, and one skill money, with one wild card). I'm also looking at your submission to try to get a handle on your writing style; can you manage basic English?

I've always gotten many more characters than I'm going to be able to accept. There's no way around the fact that I'm going to have to reject some. I wish I knew a better way -- many times I wish I could run a couple games simultaneously, but I know that's not an option for me -- but I feel like I probably need to give better feedback DURING recruitment about what I'm looking for. Some recruitments seem to go really smoothly, others don't. I have to admit, I don't think I've ever seen someone badmouth another player's character -- I think I'd consider that a pretty severe mark against the person who did that, honestly. I want someone who's engaged in the process; show me you're going to be on the site regularly and checking the campaign. One thing I like is suggestions to other players about shared histories and whatnot. Getting connections between players/characters will lead to better games, IMO.

One thing that's definitely important is to make sure that the GM you're applying for (if you go this route) fits YOUR criteria as well. About a year or more ago, I made the mistake of joining a game without really looking at the GM's style (it is VERY easy to see someone starting up an AP that you want to play, and decide to apply based almost exclusively on the AP). The GM's descriptions were minimalistic, sometimes just stating an NPC's name upon their introduction with no insight into defining features, or even things like race, gender, etc. I tried to tough it out, but the game fell apart on its own.

One of the problems I find is that I have no control over the other players in the application process. Sometimes you join a group that looks like it has an awesome GM, but then you have a Mary Sue character, or a drama summoner whose idea of a good character is one that hates everyone else. It really sucks to get through the application process and to decide to drop out because player X made it through, and you don't want to game with them.

I hope I don't come across as sounding bitter or jaded; I've had some very positive experiences as well. But I definitely wish there was a better way to figure out compatability between players than the current process.

The Exchange

When stuff like that happens it is often down to an inexperienced DM. Someone who is not willing to be descriptive in their posts arguably shouldn't be playing PbP. But characters that are problematic are also largely an issue of the DM's.

In an early PbP I ran we had a character who ended up not liking the rest of the party. He was a moody youth-sort of character and while there was nothing wrong with the concept at first glance, the player effectively managed to roleplay himself out of the party and the game. In this instance it wasn't especially disruptive to other players but it wasn't a good result for the player (I guess - maybe he felt differently).

But then again, I didn't see it coming either. Now I'm quite careful to look at the basic concepts and where a character has some sort of difficult caharacter flaw or quirk I always make sure to warn the player not to end up making their character unviable in the party. While there is a stronger element of group-storytelling in PbP, it is still a game and requires the players to be able to cooperate. Therefore, it is generally much better, where the players have connections between them, that they have reasons to like one another rather than not. And it is also generally best to avoid characters who are "lone wolves" of some sort.

The Exchange

That said, as I said above I generally operate on a first come-first served basis when selecting for a PbP. I think it can be a bit upsetting to have your character concept just rejected as inadequate, and the competition element makes what should be fun a bit tense instead. It's a bit less harsh to say "You just weren't quick enough" as it isn't a test of their roleplaying puissance but just a question of luck. I then prefer to work with a player on their concept to get something that works within the party rather than turfing them out before it can be developed. Often players will independently come up with ideas where you can, as DM, weave them together to create a more cohesive party.

Ravingdork wrote:

Hours and hours and hours I put into the mere hope of getting into a PbP game! What a waste of my time! How can anyone stand for such a crummy format of recruitment? Begging for a spot while facing the cruel and public criticisms of other potential players trying to convince the GM of your concept's unworthiness? How awful! Being strung along for weeks, all for naught!

I was friendly, compromised my character concept left and right hoping to make it work, and I did absolutely everything I could to make it easier for the GM--linking all of my feats, magic items, spells, and other rule sources, and am I rewarded for all that effort? NO! Cast aside like unwanted garbage.

I was really looking forward to that game, and I'm wondering now if I even have the heart to start over again any time soon. Even if I did, I would likely just end up in yet another low-level game, or one that doesn't have nearly as good a premise. Even if I did get into a high-level game with a great premise, it will likely be dead inside of a month!

How do you do it? How do you possibly make PbP work on this site under such awful, cut-throat conditions?

Roleplaying should be easy and fun. Not this. Never this.

This is par for the course with PbP. Do what I used to do. Build good relations with as many GMs as you can. Give them helpful characters without using any crazy rule tricks, just standard characters. BUT feel free to make them memorable in role play... memorable in a good way. Be nice when you are not selected and helpful to others when you are. After a while those GMs will begin to request you in their games, thats right free pass to the front of the line. And they will be far kinder to unusual concepts you present, even far out ones. After all once they know you are a good player you will stand way out from the crowd of potential bad players.

I have considered GM'ing a play by post. I just don't think I have the time available that it would require.
I can check the board several times a day. I generally check it just before I go to work and then at least 2 or 3 times on break during the day. Usually once more in the evening. But most of those occasions I do not have time or access to upload maps or other pictures, look up creature stats, copy/paste or type in large blocks of descriptive text, etc...
So I can consistently get the time to make several player level posts a day. But I don't think I could consistently get the time for GM level commitment. And I am NOT going to half-ass it. I won't do that to people.

Note: I'm not against GM'ing. I GM about 1/4+ of the time for our home group and maybe 1/3 of the time recently for F2F PFS events.


Hmm... Just remembered something else I found during the recruitment gauntlet. When I had ben rejected several times in a row for what seemed like the perfect character, I started PM'ing the GM's to ask why.

I was reject for some remarkably piddly reasons and some just plain misunderstandings.
One guy didn't like the way I had my character stats arranged (before I got herolabs). He found it difficult to read. And rather than give me any feedback (I would have been happy to rearrange) just rejected the character.
Several others misunderstood the history personality section. I tried to give it in a first person narrative, with the PC giving his personal (and self deceptive view) on what had happened. I admit I am no author, but I thought that was pretty clear. But several GM's didn't understand it and just decided he wouldn't be a team player so dropped him.

So I started sending a PM immediately after applying to a PbP with a few questions to make sure they understood and see what they thought about it while I would still have time to change, clarify, or re-arrange things. Then if not selected, I would send another to ask for more feedback on what could have been better.

That did seem to help me get selected a few times.

Actually, one of the biggest obstacles I've seen to PbP vitality has been combat. Personally, I tend to join PbPs because they allow for a deeper RP environment, due to the ability to create a fuller character compared to a standard tabletop setting. I love the RP sections. The combat sections, though...

It always seems like combat slogs on. 20 posts out-of-combat will move the story forward, have interesting dialogue, contain insights into character personalities, etc. 20 posts of combat is usually pretty boring (to me) unless everyone really gets descriptive on their actions, and there are only so many ways to describe how you swing a sword. Also, in out-of-combat sections, the game can move forward even if not everyone has posted. In combat sections, it always seems like you're waiting on that one person.

I feel like I've been in more PbPs that died due to slow combat than anything else.

The Exchange

There are ways around it to speed things up, but combat can be slow in PbP. On the other hand, I have had some really quite exciting combats on PbP. And, actually, combat is often the slowest thing in face-to-face games too.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Combat can definitely be tough. I wish I knew a way to do it better -- especially since I think my own do tend to drag a little -- but it is what it is. I have learned/decided it's not worth it to do random encounters, though. And I'm starting to trim out some other small fights. Unless there's a good story/plot reason for combat (and sometimes that's just so the PCs don't have all their resources for the BBEG), it's worth it to not bother.

The Exchange

Generally, big set-piece combats work best in PbP. Random fights are, as mottedior says, not worth the effort.

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