Play-by-post games (PbP) are text-based role-playing games played using a forum, message board, email, online group, community, or snail-mail. They are related to interactive fiction and collaborative writing where players create a character that fits the setting. Rather than using dice and random generated numbers to come up with attributes, strengths, and weaknesses, the player creates their character from a writer's perspective. Because of this, not all characters are adventurers. They can be shop owners, children, vagrants, or any other type of character imaginable as long as it fits the setting and the rules of the particular game.
Play by post games are generally written in the third person perspective, which makes it easier to follow along with various story lines. To keep things in perspective, game terms have been invented such as IC (In Character) and OOC (Out of Character) to differentiate between character and personal posts.
Each thread becomes a storyline, and each reply to that thread helps further along the story. Since many people are helping write the same story from their different character's perspectives, the plots can have many unique twists and makes for a unique reading experience. It's encouraged to keep each new reply open-ended so that the story can continue to advance.
Each play-by-post game is unique in terms of its particular setting and rules. Settings can be original ideas, existing fiction, or from existing games. Game rules cover how combat is resolved, what sort of characters and races are allowed, how to get new material approved for the setting, and other things of that nature.
Dice and statistics are not used to resolved conflicts. Instead, they are resolved by mutual agreement, rules, or a moderator/game-master. As a general rule, a player is not allowed to direct the actions of another player's character including whether or not an attack was successful; for example, a player might write "Azkul swung his sword toward Dare's head", but he couldn't write "Azkul sliced Dare's head with his sword" because that is affecting the other character. In this example, the next reply in the thread would be from Dare's player, who would decide whether or not the attack was successful and what the effect was. Characters, creatures, monsters, etc that are not the direct responsibility of a player are fair game. Azkul can kill as many random orcs as he wants, but depending on the rules of the game, he may not be able to kill the skeletons created by another player's necromancer. However, there are always exceptions, and these exceptions are determined out of character. If one player is going on vacation, they may temporarily allow people to post for them so that they don't hinder the story lines.
Depending on the established game rules, the roleplaying and story can be pushed forward through moderation by a game-master, specific rules, or by mutual agreement between players. Since a player determines what happens to their character, this help ensure the person doesn't dodge every attack that comes their way.
Play-by-post games can be very simple or very complex. They can consist of a single thread where everybody replies to that same thread, or they can consist of many different forums where each forum is a set area of the world. In the latter, a character may jump between forums depending on where their character is at the time.
The Desert Realm is an example of an original setting. In this game, magic is fueled by water. Over thousands of years, wizards have consumed most of the water leaving the realm as a desert wasteland. In this bleak environment, conflict and intrigue are abundant, and death brings the only true peace.