Following the basic explanation of what PBEM is (found here) the folks at Starbase 118 have returned to discuss the similarities between Play By E-Mail and Tabletop. If you're like me and love both Star Trek and roleplay, then you should seriously consider signing up for their PBEM. You can always start your own as well. In my experience, PBEM can be a great way to get some good RP in without dedicating large chunks of time to it.

Anyway, enough from me!

How is Play By E-Mail like Tabletop?

By Jonathan Snyder


At first glance, one may not think that tabletop RPGs and Play by E-Mail RPGs (PBEM RPGs) have much in common. Not only are they different systems that come with different ways of playing and managing, PBEM games are strictly online with little human interaction past the emails, internet messengers and forums. The truth is that they have a lot more in common than it seems on the surface.

The fundamental bases of an RPG game is its characters and dependent on the system you use, the way statistics and attributes are recorded are different. The basic idea of a tabletop game is a character sheet with numbers or words to describe the level while a die roll decides how well a character performs at a task.

In PBEM games, the basic idea is the same though instead of attributes, the bio becomes the statistics. Many of these games have detailed character species explanations from their physical characteristics to points about their societies. If one is playing a lizard character, then your character can reasonably thought to be stronger than a human, but have issues in cold climates. The PBEM GM has quite a lot of control over approving a character and making sure that the character stays within the confines of their species and their abilities. Instead of using numbers, they use common sense and thought to decide if it is possible.

Storytelling is much stronger in PBEM due to each player more to the story and so the manager may not know how the game will proceed. Many times, a manager has a base idea for a mission like investigate an unknown planet, but each player can put details of the mission together. Example: Player #1 lands on the planet and writes that it is presently raining, Player #2 says it’s a warm rain, Player #3 says they detected a life form approaching, and then Player #4 says that the life form is amphibious. Within one cycle of writing, an entire world has been fleshed out and action is taking place.

Rules governing what characters can do are also in PBEM games, but instead of measurements on far they can move, PBEM uses reasonable assumption. If the world has been written to say that a target is 5 miles away, nobody should sim their characters getting there in an hour or even getting there and back in 15 minutes.

PBEM game rely heavily on the GM to regulate and make sure everybody is having fun due to the rulebook being common sense and the patterns of playing.

Like tabletop games, PBEM games are not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a type of RPing that focuses quite a bit more on characters and the written word, it is definitely an area of online gaming that will be sure not to disappoint.

UFOP: StarBase 118 RPG is a free Star Trek Play By E-Mail role-playing game that combines the beauty and mystery of the future with the realism and imagination of today’s writers. Come immerse yourself in StarFleet and progress through the ranks starring in your very own section of a story written by you and other members across the globe!

I hope to see you out among the stars!

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