Play-by-post games are usually written in the third person perspective. This allows the players and gamemasters to write in the personas of their characters. This is the best way to separate the player character from the person playing the character (the typist), and it makes the game more readable. Sometimes online game terms such as OOC (Out of character) or OOG (Out of Game) are used to differentiate character vs. personal posting.
The first message posted onto a thread of that nature is usually one person laying down the scenario, starting a story about their character and inviting others. The thread then becomes an ongoing story in which players periodically advance the plot by reading the latest reply and then typing what their character does and how the environment changes in response. These replies are often open-ended so that other players can continue.
Depending on the rules established on the forum, roleplaying and story can be pushed forward through moderation by a gamemaster, specific rules (often existing role-playing game systems), or by mutual agreement between players.
Role-playing by mutual agreement does not rely on statistics or dice; any combat is usually written in entirety by one or more players. In some games, players will be allowed to include the actions of another player in their post, but this practice is commonly considered cheating in more established play-by-post games, where players are responsible for their own characters. Any form of this cheating (automatic hits and controlling another player's character) is commonly referred to as "power playing". However, one player may temporarily hand over control of their character to another player if they cannot play for a while, rather than dropping out entirely.
In certain play-by-post gaming circles larger-scale boards exist where the entire board is devoted to advancing a single storyline, rather than many different stories proceeding in separate threads. They vary in organization, but many include a full set of rules governing roleplaying and combat between players, threads detailing a set storyline (often contributed to by plot-advancing, staff-organized events, or player roleplays), character approval forums, and a full staff with admin(s) and moderators. These types of games then vary from that groundwork; some games go as far as to include a virtual "world" to roleplay in, by cutting up the entire game universe into separate forums, each based on locations within that universe. All games set in a particular setting are played in the corresponding forum.
Many message board based games establish a hierarchy of moderators to manage plot flow and continuity. To keep story threads organised the message board is often organised into forums based on geographical location within the game setting.
Internet forums are the most common medium for Play-by-Post gaming. Some online forums provide benefits such as online dice rolling, character profiling and game history. Others emphasize the use of free-hand and the absence of dice and chance. Thanks to online forums, players can easily keep track of all aspects of the game, can see what is happening elsewhere and can re-read anything they have previously written. Many online services provide free game hosting for gamemasters.
In some message-board role-playing forums, dice rolls are made by the GMs either in real life or through a number generating program external to the role-playing message board. This relies heavily on trust from the players, but because the GM is not involved in the game there is no reason not to trust them.
Message-board role-playing is faster than play-by-email, but as all players can see all the posts there can possibly be problems on forums that do not support private messages. Sites like Proboards, Invisionfree and others of that sort are used for this. There can also be issues where multiple players respond to a post at once and contradict each other, requiring posts to either be edited or deleted. Sometimes the GMs will need to sort out such a situation when it occurs if an agreement cannot be reached by the players.
Some message boards allow members of any level of writing to join. These are usually called free-for-all, or beginner RPGs. A member who does not write long posts or use proper grammar may be referred to as a "n00b". Some sites are advanced, with a word minimum for every post. The word minimum usually falls between 200 to 800 words. Intermediate RPGs usually require two or three, sometimes more, paragraphs per post.
Play-by-email games are played as other play-by-mail games, using email as the postal medium. Players email their actions to the gamemaster or to each other using a mailing list. Play-by-email games are often slow, since the players must wait for each post before replying, but have the advantage that replies may be tailored to the players, allowing the gamemaster to keep information secret from the other players.
This type of role-playing uses an Instant Messenger or chatroom program. While technically the fastest method of play-by-post RPing, it can also be considered the most difficult, as it requires both the ability to type fast, and think quickly and in character. It is also necessary that all players be online at the same time, and sometimes it may require people to play multiple parts. It is often referred to as RPing with CCs (custom characters).
It is possible to hide information from other players if the chatroom has an option that allows chatters to send information only to certain people.
Free Form Post for Post RPG is the standard for which all other forms of on line chat role play gaming are built upon. It is integrated in an on line chat room or forum that is designated for role play purposes. Individuals choose a character based upon the theme of the room or forum which could be based upon a novel, movie, song, etc. It is up the individual(s) on what character(s) they may wish to develop and play. Once development of their characters is complete they enter into the room, or forum and begin to interact with other characters/actors via chat in a post for post fashion not unlike a theatrical play you might see in real time upon a stage. All play is based upon actions and reactions of the players thus given the impromptu of the characters in certain situations.
In free form P4P Role play gaming combat you are not allowed to call your hits and must give your opponent the opportunity to respond to your post in a ; they post you post situation thus the Post for Post.
Free Form P4P Role Play Gaming rooms/forums are more interested in the development of your characters and the interactions you have with other characters then it is in many other on line RPGing forms. Some people have taken years to develop a character and not unlike actors upon a stage there is a certain rush when given the ability to think upon your own and use your imagination to get out of adverses situations. Good Free Form P4P players will always leave an out for their opponent and many long time Free Form P4P Role Players have likened this form of gaming to playing a game of chess with the mind.
Play-by-internet (PBI) refers to fully automated games which take place using server-based software. Play-by-internet games differ from other play-by-post games in that, for most computerized multiplayer games, the players have to be online at the same time, and players can make their moves anytime independent of any other players in the game. The turn-time is usually fixed. A server updates the game after the turn-time has elapsed evaluating all the player's moves sent to the server. The turn-time duration can be hours, days, weeks or even months.
Play-by-internet can be considered an enhanced version of play-by-mail and play-by-post because it doesn't require manual labor to send out moves, or as an enhanced version of message-board role-playing which allows information to be hidden from players.
A play-by-wiki game is played using wiki software instead of a forum. Because players' previous posts are editable, plot holes can be avoided. For this reason, writing skills aren't as important for every writer. The gamemaster takes responsibility as the overall editor of the story.
Wiki space provides not only a means of communication, but also a permanent archive and a designated off-topic discussion area for each page. Players can edit information freely because change records are automatically maintained and changes can be easily undone.
The role-playing blog (RPB) is a game which is played out online using posts within a blog. Unlike play-by-post gaming or message board role-playing, a role-playing blog is generally restricted to one gaming group, and the blog contains static files such as maps, archives, and character sheets specific for that group.