OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Advertise your PBEM game to get new members

Man looking into washign machine

Where to look to recruit new members?

If you’re a GM of a PBEM/play by post game then you’ll appreciate how hard it can be to get new members to your game. If you’re a brand new GM and have only recently created your game then you’ve got the challenge of recruiting new members.

It’s hard work to get new members initially

If you’ve just created your PBEM/play by post game then you might struggle to get members straight away. For many people they find this struggle too hard and give up, but don’t worry once you have a few core members it will get much easier. People like to join something that’s already established so that they don’t think they’re wasting their time.

It’s best to start with a few friends, even if there’s only two of you, it will be enough to inspire other people to join.

Start alone

If you are starting alone, your prospective new members will need some reason to join. You can encourage them with the cool premise of your game, and make sure you have a few posts written initially which demonstrate what the writing style of your game is.

The writing style really depends on you. If you write good quality, well written pieces of literature you will actually turn away a lot of people, but you will also inspire people who write like you. Likewise, if you write short paragraphs that get straight to the point, with no extra fluff, you’ll get the type of members who like the same writing style. People will mostly only join games where they feel their writing style will fit in.

You might have to write 2-5 posts to set the scene. Make sure these are easy to follow and engaging to the type of people who you want to come and join your game. But don’t write too many more than that or your prospective members might think that you want to write a novel rather than play a game and they might think you’re dominating the story. Include a few cliffhangers, and make it clear using OOC comments that the story really isn’t set in stone and that anyone who joins can influence the direction of the story.


It’s very unlikely that people won’t just stumble on your game. You need to promote it somewhere. There are many websites where you can fill in a form to advertise your site. This should always be free, and I would be very sceptical at any service which will charge you money to advertise your PBEM game.

I asked Anthony Keen from Star Trek Freedom how he gets people to his game

We get 99% of our applications from Google. Using systems like Google Analytics, you can see what keywords people are using to find your site and then tweak your meta-tags to match, for instance, I have Star Trek PBeM in mine and we do quite well when you google that.

Some come from top 100s lists, we run one as well for any sites to join. The idea is that people vote your site up on these lists so that you appear higher…

Finally, word of mouth finishes off the demographics, friends of friends.

We’ve had people put up flyers at their schools, put banners in their cars, have t-shirts or caps made up…

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom.

Advertise to your audience

While there are many different places you can promote your game, it’s always best to tell the people who are interested directly. Your game might be based on a certain theme, or based on a TV show or film. These people share the same interest as you and are potential members for your game. This means you should make these people your audience and promote the game straight to them. If there’s a website that your audience looks at, place adverts here.

This can be as simple as adding some text and a link into the footer of each of your forum posts, or contacting the website owner themselves and asking them to place a link to your game somewhere on their site.

SMAndy from Reapers Union tells me where he advertises his game to his audience

I’m GM a game called “Reapers Union”. It’s a game based on an Anime called Bleach, in which soul reapers (essentially dead people who gained powers in their soul form) there’s hundreds of them, and they fight souls who turn evil. We’re currently advertised on, which is where the majority of our players come from. While its currently going slowly, we have plenty of members there.

SMAndy, Reapers Union, The Balance, Blue Dwarf

A personal recommendation is best

A PBEM/play by post game can be quite tricky to describe to someone who isn’t familiar. But once someone sees what’s involved, it’s actually a very simple concept. After all, it’s just writing! This barrier of understanding makes games hard to advertise, and often people don’t know they exist, and would never actively seek to join a game, even if they would really enjoy it.

This is why a personal recommendation from a friend often works very well. It was a friend who got me into playing PBEM games, and I’ve introduced the concept to more people I know.

Janus from PBEMplayers explains that word of mouth is usually the best way to recruit new members

There are numerous websites and email lists available to post your recruiting ads to, but they are all visited more or less only by those already in other games. And while I am sure some of them are great players I have found that when someone is in more than 2 or 3 games they no longer have the kind of dedication I am looking for. My game is just one among many for them. We actually stopped posting ads a long time ago after finding out that the members that stayed on were those that had a personal stake in the game. Word of mouth became the main, and maybe even the only, way of recruiting new members. It is slower, but over time I strongly believe it produces better quality players.

Janus from

There have been three case studies in this article of three different roleplayers who have experience at recruiting members into their games. Common ways to do this are:

  • Make sure your game has some posts written to entice your audience.
  • Promote your game by getting links to it from other websites, including forums.
  • Talk to people, because nothing’s more important than a personal recommendation.

If you’re not sure which websites to post adverts to your game, see my article “9 places to advertise your game“.