The PBP Player's Guide
Volume 2: The Player Guide
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles...
A good story tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad story tells us the truth about its author."
Now that you have an idea of what goes on here on rpgcrossing.com, it's time to jump in and become a part of it. This is a gaming community, so that means playing games! Getting into your first game can be a daunting prospect, and it may take more than one try, but you must never give up, never surrender! Everyone has to start somewhere, and these guides will give you a head start before you even apply for your first game!
Applying to a Game
Before you can apply to a game, you have to find one that's currently accepting players. Check the Advertisement forum. This is a listing of all games currently recruiting new players. Some may be looking for replacement players for existing games, but most are for new games that haven't started yet.
How to Select the Right Game
Play-by-post (PbP) games aren't like video games. You can't demo one to see if you want to buy. Instead, you have to read the advertisement to see what the game is about and ask questions if anything seems unclear or has been left out of the description or setup. Once you apply to a game, you're making a commitment to play it if the Game Master (GM) selects your character. Although you can always leave a game if it doesn't turn out to be fun. Not only does that hamper the GM and the other players, but it also reflects poorly on you if you do this over and over. To try to find a game that you ''will'' enjoy, consider the following questions:
Am I Familiar with the System Being Used?
For systems with freely available rules, like Pathfinder (see Tools tab > Resources, SRD), this isn't a big impediment. For RPGs that don't have free rules, like World of Darkness, you must have access to at least some of the books or you won't be able to play the game optimally. Mention to the GM that you're new to the system and want to learn, but may need help with the mechanics at first. Most GMs are delighted to introduce new people to their favorite systems.
Can I Meet the Posting Requirement?
If the GM didn't specify how often he expects players to post, assume he's looking for one post per day per person. Everyone takes a different amount of time to craft an in-game post as a player, and it will take you a little while to figure out how long it is for you, so to start with, assume you will need at least a half hour to read what's there already and write up your own post. If you can't devote at least that much time as often as the GM requires to a new game, you should look for a game with a less frequent posting requirement.
Do I Like What I See?
The setting, introduction, house rules, and everything else the GM has posted in his game advertisement is there to entice you to apply for the game. If you don't like it, or don't care for the GM's writing style, you probably don't need to apply. Don't complain to the GM about what you don't like, just keep searching for a game that does look fun to you. Remember, there are a lot of different game advertisements up at any given time; chances are that you'll find at least one that will interest you if you look closely.
Who are the Other Applicants?
Pay attention to the chatter in the advertisement thread. Are the applicants taking their characters seriously, posting detailed backgrounds and well-written descriptions, or are they posting light-hearted, even funny characters with zany personalities? If other applicants are posting serious, detailed characters and you want to play with "Wonko the Wonder Clown", you may need to rethink your character or try to find a more light-hearted game. Additionally, you should keep an eye on the conversation going on between the applicants, not just their applications, and participate in the discussion as best you are able.
Posting in the Application Thread
When posting your interest in an advertisement thread, mention exactly what interests you about the game advertisement. If you're new to the system, say so. If this is your first PbP game ever, also say that as well. Should you have a question about the game, be as concise as you can, and read carefully before asking. Someone might already have asked the same question, and the GM may already have answered it.
If another prospective player asks a question in the thread, don't answer it unless it's directed at you, or you're sure of the answer (such as a rules-based question, or something the GM already answered elsewhere).
If the GM wants you to have a character sheet as part of your application, you can find character sheet options by going to the Navigation bar, selecting Tools >> Character Databases >> My Characters. From there you will be able to create character sheets by following a few simple prompts.
How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Selected
For most games, a GM gets more prospective players than he could ever handle in a game. Getting your application selected over others isn't only a matter of luck. There are several things you can do to increase your chances of being picked.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
Spelling and Grammar: no one expects perfect Oxford English, but PbP is a written medium. The ability to communicate effectively through writing is required to play in a PbP game. Use a spellchecker, proofread, and proofread again. Your application for a game is your introduction of yourself to the GM. Make a good first impression.
Know Your Role
It should go without saying, but the GM is the boss. He or she is in total control and you are asking to be in his or her game, so show appropriate respect and deference. If the GM answers a request with 'No', then that is the answer and arguing the point will not help you. As a player, your role is to describe how your character interacts with monsters, NPCs, and the environment, not to describe how the monsters, NPCs, and environment react to the character. For example, "Bob takes his sword and kills the frightened monster by stabbing out its eyes!" is not the best way to phrase your character's actions. Instead, try saying "Bob takes his sword and bravely charges the monster, attempting to stab out its eyes!"
Make Sure Your Character Knows His Role, Too
If applications are public, review what has already been submitted. Though some GMs don't care about diversity of archetype or skill-set, most prefer it. If you see six skill-based characters and no spellcasters, you are better off submitting a spellcaster than another skill-based character. There are exceptions, so make sure you check the requirements for the game before making this choice.
Try to match your degree of mechanical optimization to the rest of the applications. This can be tougher, especially if you're new to the game system, but make an effort not to grossly outshine or underperform compared to the other applications. Most GMs want a group of characters with similar power level. If you're not sure how to do that, say you don't have a lot of experience and need help with mechanics for your character build.
Give your character a proposed role in the party, one that doesn't suggest he's better or worse than the rest of the team. In most games, you'll be part of a team, not a bunch of people who happen to be working towards the same goal. Show how you plan to be a team player, this will work wonders towards helping you get selected.
Don't Be Simple
There is nothing wrong with using a cliche, so long as you ''own'' that cliche and turn it into something greater. A character pitch like "Bob the Mercenary’s parents were killed and he now roams the land in search of justice" is boring and unimaginative. Find a way to tell this story so the GM wants to read it. Who killed his parents? Why? When? How does Bob the Mercenary really feel about it now, and what sort of vengeance does he want to wreak? Don't be afraid to throw in a twist or leave things undefined with suggestions for how the GM could use the situation.
It is worth noting that there is nothing wrong with the name 'Bob', and making a name more exotic is no 'better' than making a background or origin more exotic. A half-dragon vampire weregopher is not inherently better, more powerful, or more interesting than a human. The only thing it inherently has more of is mechanical complexity. What makes a character better and interesting is personality and depth, and none of those things come from mechanics. Get practice working up regular characters before you take a stab at complicated ones.
Write Your Character into the Game
If the GM has taken the time to create a homebrew world, read it. Find a piece that resonates with your character idea and use it. When the piece isn't fully fleshed out, embroider it for the GM, but follow the spirit of whatever else is there. Never contradict what's already been written, and if you're unsure about adding elements, ask if the GM likes a particular idea or not. This shows you are willing to invest your time and energy in the game right from the start, which is a great signal to send your prospective GM.
Many GMs will say that your character should be at a specific place or have a specific goal at game start. If so, be sure to write that into your application. If the GM doesn't provide this kind of information, ask about it. If there is not a particular requirement, then try to fit your character into the world somehow, offer a rundown of a typical day in your character's life, or something similar.
Don't Overdo It
Like a trailer for a movie, show the most important parts. You need to spoil the ending for the GM, but don't waste your time detailing little things. Stick to the most critical parts of the character. Your best friends should be the big five questions: who, what, why, where, and when. The GM needs to know immediately that Enemy X is looking for your character, but doesn't so much care that Enemy X's favorite color is green or he won't eat fish.
Let Your Excitement Show
Other players and GMs don't know if you're excited about a game. They can't see the "implied tone" of your post and have to guess if you leave things vague. Don't leave that to chance. If you're excited about possibly playing in a game, say so, and say why. Give specific examples about why being in this particular game tickles your fancy. Most GMs prefer enthusiastic players over curmudgeons.
Get Some Credentials
Start early by participating in the rpgcrossing.com forums wherever possible (RPXP and post count can be great boons for you). Get around and meet people, answer and ask questions, post interesting conversational topics, greet new members, and overall, enjoy yourself. This can really do wonders and even get you direct invites to game without ever having to apply. It also serves to increase your post count and posts per day (which many GMs look at when choosing players) while simultaneously getting you more in-tune with the rpgcrossing.com forum culture. If you build a positive reputation for yourself, then getting into that really successful, long-running game you've always wanted to play in will be that much easier.
Now that you understand the basics, it's time to delve deeper into the character concept. Your job as a player is to control one character in a story. In order to do that effectively, you need to know that character backward and forward.
Getting a good visual understanding of your character is key. It will help frame your character's actions and give other players an idea about how their characters might react. See if you can close your eyes and visualize your character. Consider either finding a picture on the web (we suggest Google image search) and/or using a technique called the sensory description. Sometimes finding a picture first can help with the sensory description, even if you later decide not to use the picture.
The sensory description is a visualization of your character using written language to describe them through five or more senses. This will give others a clear idea of exactly how to imagine your character.
Start your sensory description by jotting down notes on the following:
A detailed background is essential for any good character concept as it will help solidify who the character is to you, the other players, and the GM. Generally you'll have an idea of what this is from the few sentences or paragraphs you pitched to the GM. Often, completing your character sheet can help, since it provides you with a list of attributes and items you can explain. If your character has a special magic sword, where did it come from? If your character is especially strong, why is that?
This style of questioning is very useful when creating a character background. In this style, there are five major questions to ask (referred simply enough as 'the big five') which are: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Asking these questions in various combinations about each item or attribute of your character will help tell the story of your character background.
This is stage 1, the question phase. Once the questions are answered, the next step (optional) is to put the background into a readable story format.
For now let’s start with some generic starter questions, remember to add the big five on to any of these as necessary. Please note that many gaming systems may have rules regarding certain background features (such as monstrous parentage or being independently wealthy).
Remember to keep asking the big five questions about your answers until you are satisfied with the results. For example: "Yes my character has a title, he is a knight." The next questions might be, 'why' and 'how' did the character get this title, the answer to which is subject to more of the same line of questioning until the story starts to write itself. This type of questioning can go on forever, however, although it's important to cover the important parts of your character background, it is okay (and sometimes encouraged) to leave some mysteries to be discovered and invented by you and the GM at a later time. The exact length and detail of a background that is required or desired will vary from game to game. Also be sure to include answers to any additional questions the GM may have asked.
Integrating with the Party
When you were writing your character background it may have occurred to you that you will need to meet up with the other party members.
If your GM has not explicitly stated so, ask if they intend to start the party together or separate. Once that is determined, follow up by asking if they intend that the characters should be connected in some fashion. Perhaps two old soldiers were in the last war together, or the elves in the party were second cousins from the elven kingdom and traveled to the human lands together. In all cases remember that it is not OK to write for another player without their explicit consent and that the GM may encourage or veto any or all background ideas as he or she sees fit.
In the case that you do work with the other players to develop backgrounds that intertwine, although forums are a great tool, consider using other tools like instant messaging or Google Docs to help speed the process along. Ask your GM about using the Johnstoning Technique.
Games That Succeed
According to Play by Post gaming statistics, of the games created, not many will survive their first year. It's important to remember that everyone is responsible for a game's success and one person cannot carry the whole game. A successful PBP game, even more so than table top games, requires a serious group effort.
Posting Etiquette is the set of techniques that help games become and remain successful. Maintaining good posting etiquette is the easiest thing you can do to keep a game away from the danger zone and help transform it into a long-standing epic.
Out of Character Interaction:
Always partake in the OOC threads, and if you have something interesting or relevant, even it's not game related, post it. This stimulates conversation among the other players and by proxy, keeps the game moving because people are now more engaged in the game and invested in the other players socially. Even if you can't think of something interesting to talk about, post about how you thought something in the game was interesting, cool, or well-played. Letting people see your enthusiasm helps inspire their own enthusiasm, again, feeding into the circle of keeping the players socially interested and checking back on the board frequently. Keep banter fun and friendly and game morale will remain high.
If you are going to be away and not able to post longer than the required minimum posting requirement, always say so, that way the others don't spend time needlessly waiting around for you to post. Of course, you shouldn't join a game unless you are reasonably certain that under normal circumstances you can meet the minimum posting requirement, but if circumstances arise that will keep you from posting regularly for some period of time, be sure to let everyone know.
The reverse of this, posting too much, is far less of a concern usually, but it does happen. Discuss with your GM if this becomes an issue and see if some regimented posting house rules can be implemented to ensure everyone has a fair chance to play.
Post Presentation Counts:
Give vivid descriptions of your character actions and expressions as well as in-character thoughts. Write something worthy of your fellow gamers' enjoyment, something with some "weight" that at least one or more players can respond to in most cases. Avoid the single sentence response. Be sure to check spelling and grammar and be familiar with post formatting tips and tricks.
Do Not Write for Others:
It bears repeating. Do not write for other players or the GM. Even free form games have rules for how much leeway is granted for each writer. Some players are comfortable writing for each other to a limited extent, especially in groups that have been playing together for a long time, but never assume that is the case. Always get permission first to include anyone in your writing. If you can't continue your post without doing that, then stop writing.
Along with Posting Etiquette, there are certain expected protocols from members as gamers as well.
No One Way to Play:
No two games are identical, in fact, almost every game is decidedly unique. Even two different groups running the same pre-made adventure are likely to have completely different gaming experiences. As such, there is no one exact right way to play or contribute. Don't judge others for how they play. Every gamer has their place and the GM hand-picked each player for a reason.
Keep It Enjoyable:
Although there is no one right way to play, there are many wrong ways to play. Remember, games are supposed to be fun, if you're not having fun, refer to this step: keep it enjoyable.
Discuss with the GM in Private:
If you have something that needs discussing with the GM specifically (whether it's an actual objection and/or lengthy discussion), do it in private. Bring up the topic in private tags, in your private thread or in a private message to the GM. You can never be sure what the GM would prefer to have discussed in private, so err on the side of caution.
Bite the Hook!:
A good player learns to not only recognize plot hooks, but dive at them. If you see a plot hook, instead of looking for an excuse for why your character wouldn't be involved, see if you can instead find a reason why your character ''would'' be involved. A good player makes it a point to be agreeable and try and go with the pace of the GM unless there is a serious in-game reason they simply cannot.
Coach New Players/Members:
If you know something well, be a good site member and politely help teach those that do not. Be careful not to overstep, however. It is one thing to help teach someone the rules of a system or the limitations of a genre, it is quite another to try to control the way that someone else chooses to play the game.
As the game develops and time rolls on, the characters and the world around them will change. Paradigms will shift, as will game focus and possibly other game traits. This is a part of role-playing; otherwise the story and game would become stagnant.
Character Growth and Advancement:
As your character grows and evolves it's important to keep in mind that feats, skills, spells, and even class choices should take into consideration not just what makes the most powerful, battle-ready character, but also what the character would do in the world of the game. For example, if you play a mage that specializes in destructive spells, but you spend the majority of the game in council chambers, it might be more prudent to purchase advancements in public speaking and leadership rather than the biggest new explosion spell. The opposite of this is also true. Consider the way you develop your character critically. Further, do not eliminate all of the character's weaknesses and conflicts as they progress. This doesn't mean they can't outgrow their old challenges, but you should supplement the old conflicts by introducing new ones. Characters without flaws and conflicts are uninteresting and boring. Make sure you always have at least one thing about your character that frequently challenges you as a player.
Enhancing the Game World:
If you really enjoy your game, ask your GM about writing fan fiction and articles for his setting. Consider keeping an in-character journal or redrafting the game story to read as a book would. The extra efforts can truly help enrich the game and setting with lots of added flavor. Also consider developing aspects of the game world with articles (with GM approval and oversight, of course). Adding extra source material will also enhance the flavor of the world (just be sure to work closely with the GM to prevent conflicts in your writing with the setting). Writing a fan-fiction story is also another great way to enhance the world (again, check with your GM before adding this to the wiki).
Retiring the Character:
Although many characters die on the path to greatness, some achieve greatness, even at a young age while they are still able-bodied. If your character seems to be consistently upsetting the balance of the game, consider retiring them as an NPC to join the GM's cast of powerful and great heroes of legend and writing up a new character. This will benefit you, the other players, and the GM. Characters that are too powerful for the setting they are in become unwieldy and boring, not just for the player, but the entire game becomes boring for all the players and GM because there are no more true challenges. Although you may be sad to let your character go, take great joy in the fact that they were one of the few lucky ones that made it and have joined the ranks of named NPCs of the setting.
Do not get discouraged when GMs and Players disappear. Firstly this doesn't have to be the end of the game. If a player leaves, another player can be recruited to either play that character or create a new one, or the GM may opt to NPC the character or write them out of the story. Many GMs even practice a tactic called "over-recruiting" when starting a new game. This entails recruiting more players than necessary, with the expectation that several players will drop out of the game early on, allowing the GM to keep the game running with only the dedicated players.
When the GM disappears unexpectedly, this is a bit more problematic. But it still doesn't have to be the end of a game. A player could take on the GM role, or the group could seek out a new GM.
In the case that the game just isn't going well for the players as a whole, it's also OK to just let the game die out, but if that is the case, hopefully you've at least made some new gaming friends that will apply with you to other games or send you invites to their games.
Leaving a Game
If you are leaving a game, always say so. Put a post in the OOC to let everyone know. You don't have to give a reason, but if you do, it's best to keep it short and not let it be an attack of any kind. If you don't give a reason, expect that someone will probably ask if you don't specifically ask them not to in your farewell post.
In all circumstances, don't "quit" a game to seek attention and then rejoin after you have received attention. This is a bad gaming practice and will not be embraced by mature gamers.
If someone else quits the game, accept the fact and move on. Do not attempt to drag it out in argument, place blame or otherwise exacerbate the issue.
Last edited by WoLT; 04-15-2013 at 11:03 PM. Reason: Updated EE Links
Congratulations on completing the player guide, you now have a leg up on the rest. Remember that this is a constant work in progress. Additional resources and tips may crop up and older data might become out-moded, so check back occasionally to review this guide. Unless of course, you're ready to continue your journey and become a GM!
If so, take your rpgcrossing.com experience to the next level: Game Master Guide
*Please note even if you don't intend to be a game master, the GM Guide still has a wealth of resources and information that are great for players and is highly suggested to anyone who enjoys play by post gaming.
**Also note that it is strongly recommended that even experienced table-top GMs not only read the GM Guide, but also experience playing in a PBP game for a few weeks before attempting to run a game on rpgcrossing.com.
Alternately, if you are looking to get right into playing at the mass game, Eternity's End, head over to the Eternity's End Player's Guide or consider perusing other great game advertisements here.
Last edited by WoLT; 04-09-2013 at 05:15 PM. Reason: Updated EE Links