Reach out and Play 2: Making the Cut

Welcome back to our foray into the adventured of Play by Post gaming. So now that we know what PBP is, and are all ready and excited to give it a go, we get to the most important part. Joining a game.

While there are instances where people who already know each other arrange a PBP game for their group (most often referred to as a closed game), by far the most common scenario involves a GM posting an Open Recruitment thread, where players apply to join their game.

So right about now, that old anxiety of waiting to get picked in gym class is probably raring its head. It’s okay. It really isn’t that bad. In fact, some players will tell you that the application part, where the character concept is first given birth, developed and brought to life. The thrill of creating your character, placing yourself both into their heads and the conceptual campaign world can be almost as exciting as the game itself.

The Submission

Your submission to a given PBP Recruitment thread, is both audition and resume, showcasing your character, your writing skills, and how well your playstyle might mesh with the GM’s. This boils down to mainly two things, the Character sheet and Writing style.

Most GM’s opening recruitment posts include a list of character creation parameters, the framework for what they look for in the characters of prospective players. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION. How well your character fits the requirements says a lot more about you as a player than you think.

How well does this player follow instructions? Is their character just a collection of the stats they think matter? Is this player trying to create a superhuman juggernaut at level one? Does this character work as part of a group?

Yes, the idea of your barbarian being able to punch out a camel might get you excited, but building a character whose Strength score is three or four times your Intelligence indicates a pretty narrow-minded outlook on problem-solving.  “Thogg see problem, Thogg hit problem!”

In most cases, you’ll be asked to create the framework of your character, the outline, (or full detail) of a character sheet, that gives a GM an idea of how effective your character is likely to be within the game as well as how they might complement others in terms of overall usefulness. Remember, your character won’t be existing in a vacuum, and how likely they are to work with others is a major element of a GM’s decision.

Stats are stats, and we all want to create a character that’s good at what they do, but try to pick a niche that you can fill, rather than attempting to be good at everything. RPG adventuring groups are like special ops teams……groups of specialists that excel at something others may not be that great at. GM’s who care about party balance will take note of submissions that clearly seek to fill a role. GM’s that care more about their players getting along and everyone having fun will likely see you as a team player. Either way, it betters your odds of being picked.

Another consideration is the build (the style or specialty of the character within their class). Not all GM’s make use of maps or set up combats with visual aids. In such games, characters that require very specific tactical movement, make use of a number of Area of Effect spells or otherwise depend heavily on positioning, can be difficult, and as a result less attractive to a GM. By contrast, characters with entourages (summoners, paladins, druids, rangers etc), are actually rather attractive choices in a PBP, especially in cases where there may be only a few players or a shortage of those opting for melee roles.

Writing Style

Then there’s the fun part, fleshing out the character.  In writing your background, character description and personality, you bring a collection of statistics to life, painting a picture of your intrepid adventurer. This is your opportunity to impress the GM with how well you can tell your character’s tale, as well as make them really and truly interesting. There are a number of things to consider that can improve your chances.

Don’t get carried away.

 A solid backstory is good. Ten pages of elaborate backstory for a first level character…..a little overboard. Try to keep it appropriate to what the character’s starting level is.

Be interesting.

 A gnome wizard who apprenticed at a prestigious magic school? Okay. Solid, but nothing special. A gnome wizard who has a love of fashion and aspires to one day craft the most amazing wondrous items that are also completely dazzling, whose outfit matches their daily spell selection and uses prestidigitation for everything……that’s’ a character whose story we all want to see unfold.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Describe them as vividly as possible, try to truly paint an image of your character, if possible find an image that you think best portrays them and link it to your character sheet. A well-crafted description or a visual is far more real than a collection of numbers on a sheet.

Create an alias with the appropriate image for your submission (most PBP forums allow this). A GM wants to know that the players they pick are reliable, and will look at any other aliases you have, to see your posting habits. If you have a similar character you created for another game that didn’t get picked or a game that collapsed, remodel the same alias. It looks better than a dozen versions of the same character, which can seem unimaginative.

Remember that while the PBP experience is collaborative storytelling, the GM does most of the heavy lifting, and it needs to be enjoyable for them too. In most cases, this is found in the one aspect they don’t control, the PC’s (Player Characters). Putting forth a fun, interesting and exciting character will go a long way toward making yourself a vital part of any game.

About markt

Mark has been playing RPG's for over 25 years, the last 10 primarily online. A veteran of countless Play by Post games, he is also a content creator for OGN and an RPG Superstar alumni.

View all posts by markt →

Submit a Comment