I can understand the appeal of on-line RPGs, especially MMORPGs. I thoroughly enjoyed games like “Knights Of Legend” and SSI’s line of computer-based AD&D games like “Eye Of The Beholder” and the “Krynn” trilogy, back in my Commodore-64 days. Even at the time, I thought to myself how cool it would be to be able to network six computers together so that each character could be controlled by a seperate player without the need to swap seats. More recently, there was “Age Of Empires” and “Heroes Of Might And Magic II.”

The latter was an important step forward for me, because Heroes II came with a scenario/map editor, which I still use from time to time to make maps for my D&D campaigns. The thought of uniting that concept with the AD&D computer games to construct more interactive RPG campaigns was very exciting, but it never happened.

It’s easy to see why people get hooked on MMORPGs, as well – being able to game at any time you want, with no need to allow for the fickle schedules of others, is obviously appealing. The main reason that I never got involved is quite straightforward – I couldn’t (and can’t!) afford it, either financially, or in time. For me, they would be a black hole into which too many of my other projects and interests would vanish (hence the illustration that accompanies this blog post!)

That doesn’t mean that computer technology is not part of my roleplaying; it’s a massive part. It might not be essential, but it comes close to it. Utilities to help generate the scenarios, word processing to write them, the internet for research, art programs with which to generate illustrations and images and maps, email and instant messaging for communications, spreadsheets for rules analysis, even business software for time management, the list goes on and on and on.

But the fact remains that I never got into online gaming. I can’t speak for Johnn, but it’s my impression that his on-line gaming experience isn’t that much greater – we’re primarily (if not exclusively) table-top gamers. Which made it rather difficult to answer an Ask-the-GMs question that came in from a GM named Ruan:

I ran an [online] campaign but a few players stopped posting and the game almost came to a standstill.

So I mailed them all and gave them a deadline to tell me if they are playing or not. Im not interested in the campaign anymore (Its my first time, and I’m kinda drowning in all the plots etc etc.)

Can you recommend a good site which gives a detailed noob-DM campaign with maps and images?


This was followed soon afterwards by another question from a different GM:

I’m interested in starting an online/PBEM game. Which RPG system translates over well to PBEM/online gaming in your opinion? I was considering perhaps Hero’s Sidekick system or D20 Modern.

I am curious about how some RPG systems translate to PBEM or do most GM just ‘wing’ it? Perhaps using the sourcebooks as general reference but adjusting for online gaming; if so how? Currently I have WOTC’s D20 Modern RPG and Mage: The Gathering-Revised sourcebooks, but was looking at Hero’s “Sidekick” system since it seems to be rules light, and perhaps is easier to translate to a PBEM?
Thanks in Advance!


Can anyone else out there give answers?

To start the ball rolling, here’s some advice from Johnn for TS:

Hi TS,
I have some tips coming up in the Roleplaying Tips E-Zine that might help, though they don’t specifically address system selection. If you don’t subscribe, you can do so for free here:

In addition, you might find these helpful:
Tips For Setting Up PBeMs & PBPs
10 PBEM Etiquette Tips For Beginner Players
Comparing Play By Email (PBeM) With Other RPGs
Guide to PBP / PBEM By Scott Sylvester
Roleplaying Tips Weekly Supplemental #10: “Subscribers’ Online Games”

To the best of my knowledge, game systems with complicated combat or skill rules are often modified for PBeM. GMs either handle the dice rolls or choices too complicated to communicate efficiently via email, or they use software to help arbitrate. For example, unless the group does desire long combats (i.e. 2 months+ real time), D&D / d20 is either not selected for PBeM, the GM handles combats herself and just reports back results based on certain criteria, or the group agrees to daily posting frequency.

WOD games are good for RPG, as I believe their dice pool systems and task resolutions systems don’t bog down too much via PBeM.

Hero’s systems are number-heavy, through I haven’t played Sidekick. It might be worth checking out, though I’d hedge that a GM would need to handle a lot of the mechanics herself offline. So, the answer does seem to be that GMs just wing-it.

Does anyone know of a site with more specific information on the subject that they can provide a link to? Or have any advice or assistance that they can offer to Ruan or TS?

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