There are many PBEM games around, many set in their own fantasy worlds where the GM has done their own worldbuilding to create a world for their game, but there are many films and TV series which have already done the worldbuilding for you and provide a great setting for your PBEM game.
George Lucas has created a diverse fantasy world with spaceships and limitless types of aliens. It is popularly extended through many films, books and games. Creating a new scenario within this world would be easy, and because if it’s popularity you will have a large audience who are already familiar with the world.
Settings for this game could be a planet, a spaceship, or a group of people travelling the galaxy. There are also multiple time frames you can choose from when creating your game.
This is a rich science fiction universe described in all of the Star Trek series’. Each spinoff series has focussed on exploration so there are many locations already described, and it is not too hard to invent many more for new adventures.
The classic way to create a Star Trek PBEM is to think up a name for your ship, set up a goal (usually exploration of new alien worlds) and populate your ship with members as your crew. Because of Star Trek’s popularity, you will have a large audience already familiar with the world and technology within.
The TV series’ episodic format can be easily converted into a PBEM format – discover a planet, perform a mission, then leave to planet and go onto the next adventure. It can be tough for a GM to keep coming up with new worldbuilding ideas for new planets however.
A rich universe explained in Stargate SG-1 and spinoffs. Stargate is set in our timeline which can make all characters easy to relate to. There are many locations you could set your PBEM in, but the classic format is a team going on missions through the Stargate.
The TV series’ episodic format can be easily converted into a PBEM format. Go through the Stargate, perform a mission, and make it back through the Stargate. The diversity of the universe would allow for much more creative ideas however.
This science fiction world is lo-tech and quite homely. The solar system where Firefly is set has many moons which aren’t named in the series or film, it would be easy to invent your own. Common themes are Western Cowboys and Chinese traditional, blend these in as flavours for a realistic Firefly experience.
The classic way to create a Firefly PBEM is to think up a name for your ship, find members to take the place of your crew, and invent missions where you visit one of the many planets and complete a “job” to get money. This could involve simple trading, or smuggling.
Lord of the Rings
A fantasy setting already popular with fans. The world has been described in great detail, no no new worldbuilding is necessary. The problem with this however is that it makes it hard to extend. Another problem is that in the books, the world goes through a constant change, so it has to be agreed by the GM which time period your PBEM game will be set.
Not an obvious choice for a PBEM game. The world is the same as ours, but with ghosts as a serious pest problem. A typical PBEM would be set about a ghost busting team in any city of the world, and missions would be to find and catch a ghost which is causing a disturbance. A simple concept which could be used for some good character building.
This series was about two members of the FBI who investigated paranormal activity, if you ignore the complicated government conspiracy storyline in later series, there were many great stand-alone episodes.
A typical PBEM set in the X-Files universe would involve a branch of investigators (not necessarily FBI) based in any city of the world, who investigate paranormal activity. A typical mission would be to solve a mystery and close the case.
This PBEM would be best with few members rather than many.
This hospital drama could be easily converted into a PBEM game using different characters. Set your PBEM in any hospital in the world and invite members to be doctors and nurses, who have to go through the dramas of bringing in patients, healing them, or going through the anguish of loosing them.
A Town called Eureka
This series has great potential for a PBEM game. The town of Eureka has many scientists who like to invent crazy technology which often threatens the lives of everyone else in the town. A typical Eureka PBEM would recreate the town of Eureka and allow the members to control characters who are either scientists working in Global Dynamics (the largest employer in the town), or scientists working at home on their own projects, or a deputy in the police force to keep everyone from destroying the world every adventure.
A typical mission would be that a piece of technology has malfunctioned and everyone is affected and needs to help fix it.
The Jurassic Park world is very much like ours but where dinosaurs have come back from extinction. In the films and books, the dinosaurs are restricted to a few islands in the Pacific ocean, but in your PBEM you could explain that they have escaped into other countries and have a team of characters who have to catch the dangerous dinosaurs.
Or maybe your group of characters have been sent to the islands to study and catalogue the different species of dinosaur, a typical mission would be to track a specific type of dinosaur and capture it with or without trouble happening.