Blog · DM Tips and Tricks

Playing D&D Via Text

So…an experiment

A few weeks ago I had become curious about “play-by-post” RPGs. For those of you that don’t know, play-by-post is a way of playing an RPG where everything: narration, resolutions, descriptions, player actions, etc. is conveyed via written messages. I decided that rather than looking up how they typically work and what kinds of accommodations are necessary to play this way, I would just try it! So here are my experiences with playing D&D via text.

Person playing D&D via text

I invited a group of friends into a Facebook group chat and hit them with a few important points (paraphrased):

  1. No messages in the chat outside of game actions.
  2. Create a character concept (not actually rolled up on paper, just a concept).
  3. Don’t worry about the specifics of stats/abilities/skills, that will all come as we go.
  4. This will be really slow, be patient.

From there, I hit them with my initial hook followed by simple instructions…describe yourself!

๐˜ˆ๐˜ง๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฑ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต, ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜บ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ. ๐˜ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ. ๐˜š๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฏ'๐˜ต ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ.

๐˜ˆ๐˜ด ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ. ๐˜๐˜ต'๐˜ด ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฑ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ, ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜จ๐˜ฉ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ป๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜จ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด, ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ.

๐˜ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ง ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ. ๐˜๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ข๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ? ๐˜ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜บ, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ค๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด, ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด, ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ด, ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ด. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ง ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ. ๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ, ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ข ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ต. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฌ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜จ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ. ๐˜๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ ๐˜ข๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜บ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ป๐˜ป๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด.

๐˜ˆ๐˜ด ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ. ๐˜Œ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ ๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ.

[describe the physical appearance of your character]

Let there be descriptions!

And so we were off! My players quickly dove into descriptions of their characters that became more and more elaborate. Once introductions were complete they were given an opportunity to explore the room. As an added layer of intrigue and excitement I gave the players an additional power: they are allowed to make simple observations that I have not stated. This granted my players some amount of ability to influence and shape the world I threw them into.

The thing that has jumped out at me the most about this experiment is the quality with which players describe their character’s actions. Where at the table people would often say something along the lines of, “I investigate the portrait”, in the experiment I’m getting things like, “… She walks quietly over to the portrait. Her feet making the quietest “swish” on the carpet. … Putting on a pair of black leather gloves she begins to run her hands over the ornate gold frame.” Players are no longer simply telling me what they want to do they’re adding flavorful descriptions to their actions. As a DM I frequently describe and narrate actions in greater detail than given to me by my players, but it adds an extra layer of player agency when they’re doing it for themselves. It also gives the players better control over the way that their characters are viewed by the other players and suddenly we’re weaving this tapestry of imagery together rather than a series of statements and then descriptions controlled by me.

I found this to be an extremely rewarding shift. I’ve spent some time thinking about how to carry this I’ve into my regular games, but it’s something that is very dependent on the players and the style of play they prefer. Several of my players have started making the effort on their own and it has been a significant boon in my opinion.

What I’ve Learned

Outside of the quality of descriptions I’ve learned a variety of things from this experience:

  • Play by text is even slower than I’d imagined. This is not a criticism, but an observation.
  • Each of the players are involved every event rather than just a few.
  • At first my players were not certain what to do with the freedom I offered regarding descriptions and observations, but they did eventually start using it to add to the world around them. This is not specific to this play style and something I may consider bringing to my table in the future. It helps to give the players more agency and ownership over the world, much like the “I know a guy” house rule.
  • Players adapted surprisingly quickly to the lack of structured character creation. (This will not be typical of all play by post, just a part of my experience)
  • Players have required far fewer reminders than I expected. Player responses vary between hours and days after I post a section of narration but thus far there has not been any real need to prod and remind people.
  • There are a lot of things I don’t know yet, I will need to keep learning along the way.

More to Come

I’ve found this experiment to be hugely rewarding. The quality of the descriptions has been fascinating and they are really helping to forge this idea into a living world. Each player is writing the story of their character as events unfold. We have yet to run into a complex combat or social interaction. It will be very interesting to see how this system holds up when events become more complicated. I’m really looking forward to continuing this experiment and seeing how these things unfold.

Have you ever played a text based RPG? What did you like/dislike about it? Do you have any suggestions from your experiences? Tell me about these things in the comments!

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