Play by Post Tips and Guidelines

I have just started a play by post game running Tomb of the Serpent King with Cairn as the system.

I did a bunch of research prior to running the game and landed on discord as the medium.

But I was wondering if other would be keen to share their “best practices” or processes for running play by post games? I am really interested in it as a way of playing as it seems very versatile, especially for those of us who find scheduling irl sessions difficult.

Thanks in advance! :slight_smile:


@Tam wrote this lovely guide on PbP. Check it out!

I’ve run a lot of games on PbP, almost exclusively on Discord. I usually include the following channels:

  • GM
  • lore
  • sheets
  • play
  • split
  • chat

The GM channel (usually called “Warden” for Cairn) is where I put things I’ve written that haven’t happened yet, if I’m anticipating an action by a PC and their player(s) haven’t responded yet. Also notes and ideas. Sometimes I roll on tables there (perhaps for generating an NPC or something). Obviously it is private.

Lore is for setting information, quick reference for players mostly.

Sheets is for character sheets and it follows a specific format.

Play is for the actual text in the game. If a player has a rules question or something completely out of game (e.g. “Whose turn is it?”) then they put two slashes before and after the question // like this // or they ask in chat.

Split is for when you split the party. Alternatively you can create channels named after individual party members but what happens if two go with one and two go with another?

Chat is for general discussion about the game itself, or whatever. We often discuss scheduling there.

I have a template of this you can borrow but I don’t know how useful it is. The dice roller bot I use is DiceMaiden.


I’ll second Yochai’s channel set up, and Tam’s excellent guide. I think between those two, you’ve got a great basis to begin.

A couple of things that I would add, which build from many of the things Tam discusses:

  • A very specific Discord tip: I find it very useful to take advantage of Discord’s ability to link to specific messages to keep notes of important events that happen in the play channel. For example, if an NPC hatches a scheme with a PC. I’ll put that in my notes for that NPC with a link to the message where it happened.

    • This is particularly helpful since I follow the approach Tam describes in her guide, and don’t consider anything canon until it appears in the play channel. So, I might have a lot of ideas kicking around in my notes or things discussed OOC, but if I have a link to a message in play, I know that’s something that really happened.
  • A much broader note: One of the most distinctive things about PbP is the IRL time scale of the game. There are advantages and disadvantages to that, and it’s good to have those in mind as you play.

    • Players will likely come and go, and have greater and lesser participation. Be prepared to be flexible about PCs entering and leaving the fictional spotlight and potentially hanging around the background of the world for a while.

    • The long time scale allows for both you and the players to really dig in to the details of the fiction in ways that might be impractical in a live game. This can mean fun complex fight scenes, intricate political maneuvering, or exploration of complicated world.

    • As a referee this time scale also allows for a lot of improvisation, and a real embrace of sandbox play - if that’s what you’re into. Say the players go in a direction you never expected, in a PbP game you’ve got hours or even a day or two to start figuring out what happens. You can do a lot of ongoing prep. In this sense, it’s a kind of dream as a ref, you can stop pause and figure out what you want to do, in a way, that’s impossible when the clock is ticking for a live session. Of course, you want to beware of getting lost down a rabbit hole in a way that’s not fun, but you have plenty of time to dig yourself out! lol

    • The game I’m just starting to prep now, is specifically an attempt to take advantage of this PbP IRL time scale.

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Thank you both! These are really amazing and helpful tips! Really like the idea of linking stuff out of discord, didn’t realise you could do that.

Also, the GM channel! Genius!!!

Thanks heaps! :slight_smile: