With my RPG group we decided to setup a private online forum to play in differed time together (and other reasons that are not the subject of the question).

Installing and setting the forum itself isn't a problem, it will be a simple PHPBB install with 3 group of forums : "organization" to talk about how we organize, "games" for the running games threads, "meta" for discussions about the running games.

What I'm thinking is to setup some basic rules for timing over the games rules (currently Eclipse Phase and maybe some Vampire). Something like not allowing more than one post by players between action resolution from the GM or relying on some modified version of the games turn/actions timing rules.

I'm asking if there are some sources for best practices, or if you have some tried and true advice for rules to follow when setting up a forum for play-by-post RPG purposes; are there things to avoid or things you must have?


1 Answer 1


admin side

The singlemost important rule of any forum is consistent moderation. Don't let someone get away with behavior X because they're your buddy.

It's also useful to identify the status of copyright on the board: do you as board owner assert text contributed is:

  • copyright the poster
  • copyright the board (which may not be legal in some places)
  • all content must be under some open license (CC NC SA is pretty common)
  • defaults to the board owner unless asserted otherwise
  • joint board and poster (which is legal in more places than just the board alone, but still isn't legal in some places)

You need to have a required informed consent to the board rules as condition of use.

As for actually running a game, install a dice protocol on the board. It makes life just so much easier.

Giving the GM a separate subarea helps a lot, especially if they can move others posts around within that area.

Generally, it isn't useful to require specific read access permissions to a particular game, unless the subject matter is controversial (such as a moderns espionage game or a modern drug gangs theme), heavily religious themed, adult themed, or involves certain universes published by certain litigious companies (companies like Paramount and Games Workshop).

It's often of use to restrict posting to those who have requested, but it's not inherently a "best practice"

Game Side

Most online RPG's I've seen use either 1, 2 or 3 threads. The best models are the 2 thread and 3 thread models

Two Thread Models

For each chapter, usually:

  1. Game and Chat
    1. Thread one is both the narrative, the declared actions, and if included in the board, the dice rolls.
    2. thread two is the Out of Character chat, discussions about actions, and often, off topic table-chatter.
  2. Narrative and OOC
    1. The Narrative thread is only narrative descriptions of character actions, settings, and outcomes.
    2. the OOC thread is used for actions, and often also for chatter.
  3. Narrative and Actions
    1. The Narrative thread is only narrative descriptions of character actions, settings, and outcomes.
    2. the Actions thread is restricted to game mechanics discussions of actions

The third style is a bit constrained for many.

Three Thread Models

Again, for each chapter:

  1. Actions, Narrative, Chatter
    1. Actions is restricted to game mechanics.
    2. The Narrative thread is only narrative descriptions of character actions, settings, and outcomes. If it requires a die-roll, that's done in the actions thread.
    3. Chatter is the OOC conferencing by players, table chatter, and absence notifications.
  2. Rolls, Game, and Chatter.
    1. Rolls is just the die-rolls
    2. Game is both the actions and narratives
    3. chatter is all other discussion.

I've used version one for my current games, and have seen the other for Burning Empires on Google Wave; the rolls were separated out for technical reasons (the waves with rolls in them got ugly quick...)

Additional Threads

It is a great idea to have public character information in a separate thread, stickied.
It's also good to have any recurrent maps in another stickied thread.

Both of these I've seen and have used, and it really helps.


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