Reach out and Play 7: Combat Posting pt 1.

“Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s face it, while there are all different types of RPG’s, filled with plot twists, heroic decisions and the application of useful skills, at some point there comes the inevitable point of combat. A core element of gaming, as ubiquitous as dice rolling, character classes and by extension, characters are often built around how effective they will be in a fight.

In PBP games, combat entails several elements not usually an issue in face to face table games, making combat posts a bit of an art. With a little effort and attention to detail, combat posting can be not only efficient but exciting, adding a wonderful dynamic element to the storytelling, while also making things easier to navigate.


At a gaming table, when combat breaks out the GM calls for an initiative roll, with each player rolling (using the dice roller function) and adding their modifiers to determine the order in which they act. Some games may make use of this message, with the GM calling for a roll at the end of the post where combat breaks out.

In a case like this, the players would then each post their dice rolls, after which the GM does the same for enemies and NPC’s (Non-Player Characters), listing them in initiative order.


Player posts :   [dice=Initiative]1d20+6[/dice]

Result:   Initiative:1d20 + 6 ⇒ (19) + 6 = 25

While the fun of the dice roll and the thrill of rolling well for initiative is definitely enjoyable, one of the downsides to rolling initiative this way is that depending on the availability and number of players, it could be a day or more before getting to the action while waiting for everyone’s initiative. A common alternative is for the GM to roll for all players, adding their initiative modifiers and posting the rolls in initiative order.


Cultists: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (6) + 3 = 9

Cult leader: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11 

Anduriel: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (17) + 2 = 19 
Lily: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18 
Damari: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (8) + 3 = 11 
Dalen: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4 
Wellington: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20 
Serill: 1d20 + 13 ⇒ (6) + 13 = 19







Cult leader



This makes it easier for each player to keep track of their turn and sets up initiative much more quickly.

Stat Bar

In order to make the GM rolled initiative method work, and to make the GM’s life easier in regards to rolls in general, a stat bar with useful information is a great idea.

A solid stat bar lists key information the GM might need quick access to such as AC, saves, initiative and perception modifiers, allowing them to make rolls that need to be done without player knowledge, determine if an enemy’s attacks hit, and check things like a rogue’s ability to detect secret doors without giving information away.


Female Human Witch (Ley Line Guardian) 8 HP: 53/53 | AC: 13 (17 mage armor) | T: 13 (15) | FF: 11(15) | CMD: 16 | Fort: +4 | Ref: +4 | Will: +8 | Init: +7| Perc: +3

Dice Rolls:

When posting dice rolls in combat, the more information included the better. With factors like damage reduction, including the type of damage the weapon does or any types of materials they might be made of, as well as any energy-related damage is important.

By inserting the details into the parentheses for the dice roll ([dice=Silver]1d20+5[/dice]) the player posting the attack can include the specifics of the weapon or attack.


If your character is attacking with a silver flaming longsword the roll would look like this.

Silver: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (8) + 5 = 13 
1d8 + 4 ⇒ (4) + 4 = 8 
fire: 1d6 ⇒ 6

By separating the normal weapon damage from energy damage, and identifying any special materials or qualities, the GM can easily see what resistances apply, or have been bypassed by the attack or what immunities or vulnerabilities need to be taken into account. This would apply similarly for casting a spell requiring an attack roll.


Shocking grasp (touch): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25 
Electricity: 4d6 ⇒ (1, 5, 6, 5) = 17

By including details such as the fact that the spell is delivered with a touch attack, the player makes it clear which AC the attack will be against.

Bonuses and Modifiers.

Due to weapon enhancements, class abilities, spell effects, and situational or tactical circumstances there are a number of different factors that can modify an attack or damage roll as combat unfolds. Most GM’s will greatly appreciate showing what bonuses affect an attack, making it easier to both verify and understand the roll.

Where this roll gives little information:

1d20 + 13 ⇒ (4) + 13 = 17 
1d8 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12

The same attack with included details not only do a better job of explaining the attack and damage bonuses but includes important details, that can affect such things as resistance or fast healing.

Silver/Favored enemy/Inspired/flanking: 1d20 + 5 + 4 + 2 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 5 + 4 + 2 + 2 = 17 
1d8 + 3 + 4 + 2 ⇒ (3) + 3 + 4 + 2 = 12

This can be especially important in the case of situational or enemy specific bonuses. In the above example, perhaps the enemy is a shapeshifter that only appears to be the same race as the ranger’s favored enemy, or is a high enough level rogue that they’re immune to being flanked, including the bonus details makes it far easier for the GM to disregard the elements of attack or damage that do not apply, or likewise isolate those that might unbeknownst to the player do additional damage (like flaming on a creature with fire vulnerability)

In our earlier example with the shocking grasp spell, one of the spells inherent features include a modifier when striking an opponent wearing metal armor. This means that should the attack have been against an enemy in chain or plate metal, the roll would look more like this:

Shocking grasp (touch)/ vs Metal armor: 1d20 + 7 + 3 ⇒ (18) + 7 + 3 = 28 
Electricity: 4d6 ⇒ (1, 5, 6, 5) = 17

One added benefit of listing modifiers is that it helps the other players affected to remember to factor them into their posts as well.  I’m sure we’ve all been in games where someone keeps forgetting to add the bonus for bardic music or a bless spell. This way makes that far less likely to occur while easing the GM’s burden of recordkeeping.

Now that we’ve looked at the mechanics, in our next installment we’ll get down to the dynamics of combat posting.

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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