Someone new to PBP asked for a primer, and I realized, we don't really have one!
Here are some ideas / primers from other sites I've seen:
On Petals the Thrones
, there's an amusing one:
There can be no doubt that if you are interested in learning how to PbP, you have, at the very least, seen one in action before. That doesnt necessarily mean that the rules of the games are obvious - while discussing what to include in this workshop we actually began to realize that many PbP rules are unspoken, that its actually taken for granted everyone knows and understands them.
The truth of the matter is that this isnt always the case. So in light of that here is a breakdown of the basic things that every player should understand before they run out to join a PbP.
PbP: short for play by post. A type of online game played out in a series of posts.
DM or GM: short for Dungeon Master or Game Master. This is the person who has set up the game and its plot, who is guiding the players through the story line and seeing to all of the technical aspects of the game.
PC: short for player character. A short hand term often used to refer to a character in a role-playing game.
NPC: short for non-player character. NPCs are characters that are introduced into a PbP by the DM, usually for a specific purpose. They often serve some sort of game/plot function (ie innkeeper, serving wench, merchant) and, in game terms, have limited roles to play in the over all scheme of the story. Unless the DM states that you can do otherwise never write the actions of an NPC.
OOC: short for out of character. Most PbPs will have an OOC thread where players can meet to ask questions, talk about the game or offer support and encouragement.
IC: short for in character. The actual PbP Game Thread will always be for IC posts only.
RP: short for role playing.
Open or Free Form PbP: this is an open ended game that has no DM and no formal structure. Players are free to join and leave the game as they wish.
Closed PbP: this is a PbP run by a DM, usually for a set number of people. Most PbPs that are closed will not accept new players into the game once its underway.
Meta-gaming: Meta-gaming occurs when players blur the line between IC and OOC aspects of the game. Examples of this can include: allowing your own personal feelings towards another player influence how your PC reacts to their PC or using IC posts to constantly ridicule and critique the way others are playing their characters. Nothing kills a PbP faster than Meta-gaming and for this reason we will be discussing it at length in other areas of this workshop.
Power-gaming: power-gaming occurs when a player creates a PC with over-exaggerated statistics or ridiculously potent magical items.
Co-post: This is a post authored by two or more players to facilitate PC conversations or interactions. Most DMs encourage co-posts between their players because it keeps the Game Thread from being over run by too many short, one or two sentence posts. Co-posts have a set of rules and etiquette all their own and will be covered in more depth in other areas of this workshop.
Signing up for a PbP:
Usually when a DM wants to start up a new PbP, they put out a feeler thread looking for anyone who might be interested in playing. This will usually contain all the basic information that you need to know in order to join the game what type of game system is being used (D&D, Cyberpunk, Masquerade etc), the number of players required, character levels, etc.
There are certain things you should think on before you consider joining a new game:
The first is your familiarity with the type of game. That doesnt mean that if you have never played a D&D game before you shouldnt join a D&D PbP. If you really, truly are interested in playing but arent familiar with the game system, speak with the DM. More often than not, they are happy to help new players work out the details of the game and to aid players in the intricacies character creation. A good DM will also offer ways for you to access game resource material so that you dont need to run out to buy rule books in order to play.
On the other hand, dont become dependant on others to continuously guide you through the technical aspects of the PbP. You need to make a concerted effort to learn the rules of the game and, even more importantly, how to properly play your character. DMs and experienced players are always more than willing to help out a new player, but no one wants to have to baby-sit them. If youre not sure you have the time or the inclination to learn a new gaming system, then it might be best to reconsider joining that particular PbP.
Another important thing to take into consideration before joining a new PbP is the amount of time that you have to devote to the game. A lot of work goes into setting up and creating game often the plot hinges on the number of players and the types of characters they bring into the game. DMs will set rules as to the number of posts/week they expect from their players and you should be certain that you can meet those quotas before you even think about signing up to play. Nothing is more frustrating, for DMs and players alike, than slow-to-post players who consistently dont meet the posting quotas. They slow down the pace of the game and ruin everyone elses fun. Remember that when you sign on to play in a new PbP you are making commitment not only to the game and the DM, but to the other players as well.
That said though, no one can predict what might happen to us in Real Life and there is always the possibility that you might not be able to carry on with your gaming commitments. Its always best to speak with the DM when situations such as these arise. Quitting a game isnt always necessary, quite often there are other ways to work around a real life crisis.
How a PbP works:
Basically a PbP is played out like a story. Characters are introduced, a plot develops and a tale unfolds all through a series of forum posts, the entire affair prodded and guided and nurtured by a DM. Thats not to say, however, that you write for a PbP in the same manner that you would write to tell a story. PbPs have certain rules and regulations that help facilitate play and keep order. These rules can vary from game to game but there are certain constants that you, as a player, must always abide by.
1) The only actions that you control within the game are those of your own character. THIS IS THE GOLDEN RULE OF ALL PBPS. Although it might seem obvious to state, this is a mistake that first-time PbPers often (innocently) make. You can not have your PC make his/her grand entrance into a tavern and write that everyone turns to stare at you. You can not write that your PC pets another PCs familiar and that the creature purrs happily at you. Thats not to say that you can never interact with other PCs in any meaningful way. If you want to pet the mages familiar and get the creatures reaction, try doing it in a co-post format.
2) Stay true to your character description. Stick by the contents of your character sheet and do your best to keep your PC true to what you envisioned. Think a bit before you write try putting yourself in your characters shoes for a moment to imagine how they would react. Make an effort to stay true to your PCs game stats as well that includes things like alignment, ability scores, skills and feats. Nothing is worse than a PC with a personality that bounces all over the place or one that is an expert in all manner of things that they should have no business knowing.
3) Keep OOC and IC aspects of the game separate. As a player you have access to all sorts of information that your PC will not character descriptions, OOC discussions, the inner thoughts of other characters revealed through IC posts. If two PCs are having a whispered conversation on the other side of a crowded room, as a player you can obviously read the post and know what was being discussed, but as a character your PC will have no knowledge of what was said. A player might describe their PC as feeling angry or upset, but unless they mention outward, noticeable signs of such emotions (such as clenched fists, angry growls etc) then do not write that your own PC could tell that they were mad just by the look in their eyes. Do your best to differentiate between what you know and what your PC knows. Theres a world of difference between the two. And please, please, please (we beg you) avoid Meta-gaming at all costs!
4) If youre not certain about something ask. If youre not sure about the area of effect of certain spell that you want to cast PM the DM. If youre not certain whether or not your PC was included in a conversation, or might have been in a position to over hear it PM the players in question. Never assume anything and when in doubt, check with some one in a position to know.
Above all else, remember that a PbP is a game and that the main objective of any game is to have fun. It may seem like a lot of work at times, but ask any avid PbPer and they will tell you that it is definitely worth the effort you put into it. Sit back and watch the story unfold, watch as the characters grow and develop, as the plot takes shape. I guarantee youll be addicted just like the rest of us!