How to Play by Post


I am looking to start running a game via email. But I have no real idea how to do this. We are planning to send one or two emails a week. Otherwise, I don't have a clue.

I will be running the game and have the world and background set up. I also have a game system ready, if such a thing is needed. But I don't know how to determin success rolls, combat, magic, or anything else.

Combat in my games are very descriptive and typically consist of one move at a time. An attack and defense, leading to the next attack and so on. How would I do this via email? What if they fail at somethng?

So any advice, knowledge, rules or anything else that you guys can throw my way would be very much appreciated.

Thank you.

Your title says "by Post" but your article says by e-mail. Email is superior if the PCs are not necessarily working together, like a double blind war-game. play by post is a littel more dynamic in that everyone can read what others are doing before posting their own actions.

Theres a pretty good article here:
And here,, is a 2 mission ninjaburger game.

There are several games running on Read the stickies before posting but its pretty easy.

There are many ways to do the dice rolling. The method in the ninja burger game used the last 2 digits of the post time. Some GMs roll all the dice themselves, some allow the player to roll their own though I suspect some players abuse this (I would have 15 years ago). Depending upon the mechanic other systems can be devised.

Good luck


What's the game?

When it comes to combat resolution, you really have to choose between expediency and doing it move-by-move. Over e-mail, I think expediency is your best bet. You don't want to spend a month resolving combat when you've got a story to tell. I would suggest taking a page from indie games. The way a lot of them do it is by determining who "won" the conflict in a sense, and then letting that player determine what happens, or some of them determine who "won" but then have another player describe the outcome. The way to do it would be to devise a numbers system, based on your roll of the dice (or whoever's GMing). You would have the players roll their own dice or just randomly guess a number between 1-10 or whatever, then use their number and base the result on what you rolled. That way, it keeps the randomness, and you can keep people from guessing whatever mathematical system you rolled (not that it would help them - it'd be like figuring out that you have a 5% chance to roll a 20 on a d20, doesn't help much). Then, whoever has highest wins. You should probably roll two dice, as GM, one die to be your "determinant" and the other to be the roll like what the players roll. So, whoever wins gets to narrate what happens next, basically the resolution of the conflict. Now, this leads to a much more freeform, player driven story then you'll find in mainstream rpgs, so be prepared for that. Of course, you should set some ground rules in resolution, like no killing other PCs, etc. to make sure players don't abuse it. But most (non-MMO lol) players do well with it and don't abuse the mechanic, and you're dealing with gamegrene players here. I don't think you'll have a problem there. I'm sure you can build from there if you decide to use my advice. I'd try to pack as much into an e-mail as you could to keep things moving.

Well, that's it for now. This sounds like fun - I'd love to see where it goes.

Thanks for your help guys. I didn't know what playing by email would be called, and play by post sounded similar.

Both of your comments gave me good ideas and I will definitly read up on RPG net.


Calamar - why'd you choose email over forums? I'm not saying your decision was bad (I think I'd rather play over email too), but I'm curious on /why/ you made it. /me is planning a PBP on Gamegrene in the next month or so.

Honestly, I don't know the benefits or drawbacks of either. My life has changed and some friends now live to far to get together for games anymore. We're trying to find a way to keep gaming without resorting to MMOs, which I hate.

You are all the experts with long distance gaming. What would you recommend?

I ran a very effective campaign over Skype for awhile. I set my side of the screen up the way I would if I were running at a table, and then just put a headset mic on and moved my laptop next to my elbow.

We used MSN for private conversations (I think Skype has a chat window too, but we didn't like it if I recall), and the headset mics for the skype call. You can do conference calls over Skype, so that's how we all got online together.

Of course, this still needs everyone to be available at the same time. That's how that campaign ended actually...someone kept getting real life in my roleplaying.

When I first got into rping I was living in a military base (father's an Air Force man) as were most of my rping friends. So, very quickly, we had to deal with friends moving out. We basically did the same stuff, just over the phone. This only works if you absolutely feel you can trust your friends, that they won't lie to you concerning dice rolls, or if you've developed some sort of system. On the phone you can link calls all into one line, so you have four or five people all on the same line and on the same page. It's not as good as around a table, but its passable. Also, like Scott said, using programs like Skype and AIM (which has a dice rolling mechanic) can really get things going to. Course, all my games long-distance have ended, but that's more to do with one or two of my players than with the drawbacks of long-distance. People can be such a pain sometimes....

I'm interested, but can I have more info?
Maybe what system?

Cool, I'm interested.

Oh wait, a homebrew, I'll pass. Not that I don't like it,I havn't even seen it, I just don't have the time to learn the mechanics of a new systems.

This site is by far the most advanced play-by-post website on the internet. It's still new so you wont find a tonne of players but there is already a working, simple game system available. There is a built-in scripting engine which allows you to automate tasks in your game (like attacking or buying stuff from stores...etc). It's definitely the next level in play-by-post.