OngoingWorlds blog

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


Why I'm creating the OngoingWorlds website

PlanetOngoing Worlds is a project that’s born out of my love of PBeM games. I’ve been playing online text-based role-playing games since about 1998, when I first got the Internet at home. I loved the total freedom of using my character to inhabit this total virtual world that only existed in peoples imaginations.

I’ve already discussed in this article about how I’ve ran PbEM games before using Yahoo Groups, which does the job reasonably well, although is limited and to be honest starting to look a bit tired and oh so old fashioned.

Yahoo Groups is limited in that it’s trying to suit everyone, and therefore doesn’t provide tools that would really make life easier for the GM of a PbEM game. Of course I could bitch and moan about this all day, but it’s not their fault obviously because they can’t create all the functionality that everyone in the world wants. I chose to use what they created, so it’s my problem not theirs.

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My first PbEM game on Yahoo Groups

Yahoo Groups logo

Yahoo Groups logo

The first text-based RPG I joined was a Star Trek game, ran in a Yahoo Group. A Yahoo group was an idea medium for the game, as it allowed you to email one address, and the email would be filtered out to every member in the game. It was a true PbEM game, as it all happened by email.

I setup my own PbEM using a Yahoo Group because I was happy with this format. Then over the years, Yahoo changed slightly and allowed you to view the messages on the Yahoo Group pages. It still kept the functionality of being able to submit posts by email, but you could also do it on the web too, which I actually prefer to this day, as submitting it by email just isn’t as reliable and seems to take longer.

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PbEM? PBM? Sim? PBP? WTF do you call an online text-based-RPG?

Creating and running an online text-based role-playing-game isn’t really that hard. But what I do find very hard is explaining the concept to other people!

It doesn’t help when there are about a hundred names, all meaning the same thing. I’m just not sure what best to describe to call the game that I play, let alone even start to describe how to play.

So lets go over the possible names:

PbEM (Play by E-Mail)
This is the name I use the most. It’s probably also the least descriptive, because the game I run isn’t even played by e-mail, it’s on a Yahoo group. PbEM refers to a continual story where all members cc each other in each email, so that nobody misses a post.

PBM (Play by Mail)
A more broader term which actually pre-dates the internet. This refers to a game that could be played via good old fashioned snail mail. A big example of this game would be chess, where you make a move and then send a letter to your friend via a letter. It’s slow, but novel, and I can’t imagine anyone doing it apart from my Grandad. The term could also apply to internet games too. There’s a wikipedia article on this here

PBP (Play by Post)
According to Wikipedia’s article ( this is very very similar to an online text-based role-playing game. It is “a niche area of the online roleplaying community which caters to both gamers and creative writers.” They’re most likely written in third person format, and the writer often represents a character. This is a broad term that seems to imply that the members are creating collaborative fiction, rather than a game with points or score. The term also doesn’t specify how the game is played, and can mean it is played via email, forum, blog or wiki.

Online Text-Based Role-Playing-Game
This term has a lot more emphasis on the “game” aspect of role playing, and actually a bit more of the “role playing”. It includes TELNET, IRC and MUDS which are all ways of role-playing in “real-time” as part of a chat window, whereas all the above examples refer to writing a post like a short story. There’s a wikipedia article about it here

I think this refers to browser-based games like flash games, and database-driven management games. I don’t really know though, because it’s such a vague name!
SIM – An online text-based role-playing-game which is a “simulation” of life. I have often seen this proceeded by “PbEM” to specify that the PbEM game exists in a parallel universe of some kind.

A game played by using wiki software instead of a forum.
All these terms seem to be as specific or as broad as they need to be. I’ve seen games call themselves one thing, when they’re clearly another. I’m hoping though that specifying clearly what sort of game you have will helps when you get new people to your game wanting to join up, and managing their expectations so that they easily can tell from a short description what sort of game you’re running.

If you can think of more (and can describe them, please add them to the comments!)


Development Blog for the Ongoingworlds website

I’m starting this blog to chart the development of the new website “Ongoing Worlds“, a site where users can setup a text-based role playing game (sometimes called a SIM , PbEM or a PBM game).

I’ll describe in further articles more about this site, more about text-based RPGs, and why I’m spending so much time creating a website where people can create and run them.

Also this blog will also be where I’ll post articles with my thoughts on roleplaying to help GMs (Game Masters) and players of text-based RPGs.