Reach out and Play 3: Posting Format basics

Welcome back!

So, you’ve found an interesting game, created your character and applied. Congratulations! You’re in. Entering a Play by Post game is a great opportunity for both fun and creativity and learning the intricacies of the medium can go a long way towards getting the most enjoyment out of it.

Ask any long-time PBP GM and they’ll have a few favorite players, ones who’s posts enhance the game and engage the GM, other players and readers, alike. Here’s how to be one of those special players.

Technical formatting

Being an all text format, text formatting is a large part of tailoring a post to convey different details. The different format options available in a PBP are essentially storytelling tool. Here are the basics of what is commonly referred to as Bulletin Board Code or BBCode.

Out of Character text.

Most game message boards have an established color, representing out of character speech. This represents commentary made along with an in-character post. In some cases, this text can be used to summarize your action, aside from the storytelling descriptive text of the action or give a mechanical breakdown of what is happening.


Taking a step back and clutching her holy symbol, Shaya calls out to her goddess, seeking her blessing.

[ooc]Casting bless. +1 to hit and a bonus to your fear saves guys enjoy! [/ooc]

In this example, the [ooc] [/ooc] (out of character) tags, change the commentary text blue, indicating that it isn’t part of the actual post, but rather an accompanying note.

Bold Text (speech)

Whereas standard text in your post indicates what your character is doing, bolded text is used to indicate what is being said, usually within quotation marks as you would find in a novel. This allows a character’s speech to stand separate from their actions.


[b]“You want to get to the King, you’ll have to make it past us first”[/b] Longinus growls, drawing his sword in a single fluid movement.

The [b][/b] BBCode notation turns anything in between bold.

Italics (thought)

Inner monologue can be used to great effect in PBP, showing things from a specific character’s point of view. Consider the way we hear a character’s thoughts in a movie, the echoing internal voice. In PBP we use italics to do the same thing, separating what a character says, from what they are directly thinking.

This is done using the [i] [/i] BBCode, which italicizes anything within. Another use for italics is to represent mental speech between individuals. Whether as a result of a spell, an innate racial ability, or some other connection (such as the link between a caster and their familiar,) telepathic communication uses italics to indicate that the conversation is mental.


[i]‘I can’t even imagine how terrifying this is for him.’[/i] Varoma thought, watching the rogue take the news.

Sized text (Larger/smaller)

Emphasis especially when indicating an increase in volume, can be demonstrated by making a section of text bigger using the [bigger] [/bigger] code. This is especially useful if your character is rather emotional while speaking.


[b]“For the last time, [bigger]stand down![/bigger][/b] the fighter growls, holding his blade before him.

In a similar way, the [smaller] [/smaller] BBCode can be used to demonstrate that a character is speaking softly or whispering.


[smaller][b]There’s two of them each armed with a sword. I can definitely take one of them before they know I’m there.[/b][/smaller] the rogue hisses after coming back down the hallway.

Both of these techniques make use of a combination of code options, demonstrating the many ways these tools can be used to better illustrate the details of the story. The changes and differences in format help to break up the text, making a paragraph both more visually appealing to read, and letting the story contained within each post flow much better.

Quoted posts

There are times where you might be posting in response to a specific post that might be on a previous page. The easiest way to reference the previous post or part of it being responded to is to quote it.  The [quote] [/quote] code also lets you add the details of what you’re quoting.


[quote=Jovan said]Quoted post….[/quote]

Dice rolls

And now, one of the most important types of coded post, the dice roll. (Because what would a PBP game be without dice?)  Using the [dice] [/dice] BBCode, players enter the details of their dice rolls, and the built random number generator encoded within most gaming message boards, generates a result.


[dice]1d20+5[/dice]    which results in something like: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (12) + 5 = 17

By adding details to the brackets, you can specify the purpose of the dice roll.


[dice=Perception]1d20+5[/dice]       which results in   Perception: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (16) + 5 = 21

With a basic understanding of these tools, you have the groundwork of creating solid, well-structured posts that add to the flow of the story. In our next installment, we’ll get to the other half of what makes a great post…….writing style.

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.

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