Playing by Blog

One of the greatest things about our hobby is its progressive nature. And I'm not talking about elven politics or any such malarkey. No, I'm talking about how the hobby thrives as more and more options to play are made available.

Whether you play face-to-face, or via email or forum, or even through a service like Google+, there are more ways to get your roleplaying fix than ever before.

And now you can add play-by-blog to that growing list.

For the last couple months, I've been in a play-by-blog game run by the packmaster of the blog A Pack of Gnolls, called The Ruins of Empire and running Microlite74 in 4E's Nentir Vale setting.

Playing by blog means setting up a blog specifically dedicated to the game in question; the gamemaster makes the main posts that drives the game forward, then players post their actions in the comments section of the blog, and generally it acts a lot like play-by-forum. It's slow, but since it doesn't require a massive time sink, it's far easier to fit into a busy lifestyle.

But there are downsides to every dungeon and playing by blog is no exception. For every chest of gold, there's a gelatinous cube waiting in the shadows.

Because nothing says "Dungeon" like a giant slime that wants to slowly devour you and every possession you own.

Pros for play-by-blog:

  • It doesn't take much time out of your day. Just like play-by-email and play-by-forum, gaming by blog is slow and meticulous, giving you time to respond and think about your actions. This can be a downside for the impatient, but for those of us with jobs, families, and things that squeeze our gaming time to a bare minimum, it's a lifesaver.

  • It puts the focus solely on the game. This is great because sometimes forums lead to distractions. You say you'll post your response but then get caught up in a debate on cockatoo training or some such nonsense and, before you know it, you're late to your own game. With a blog, it's one lone thing to check with few, if any, distractions along the way.

  • And we all know how quickly cockatoo training discussions turn into flamewars.

  • You don't need a bunch of separate accounts. There's a really good chance that if you're reading this you have everything you need to be a player in a blog-run campaign. Instead of creating a new forum account, most blogs allow for commenting with all kinds of different logins, so there's almost no restrictions on entry.

  • You can trim your blog however you like. Even if you just use a standard Blogspot blog (and really, why not?), you can set the blog up however you want. Pages for maps, NPCs, anything goes, and it's a snap to add pictures wherever you want.

Cons against play-by-blog:

  • It takes planning. As gamemaster, you'll have a lot of the work to shoulder. You may have more time in which to plan things out, but you'll need to work twice as hard as a face-to-face game to get everything situated just right. After all, you can't bribe your internet players with nachos and Mountain Dew.

  • "The cans don't fit through the USB ports."

  • Combat needs to be carefully coordinated. We're in our first major combat in The Ruins of Empire and it's been a little messy. Even if you aren't running a tactical combat simulator and have no need for maps, you're going to want to carefully explain where the enemies are. For old-school games, a list of visible enemies is probably as much as you need.

  • It's slow. I know I expressed this as a pro, but it's also very much a con. Some people don't want to devote weeks, months, and maybe even years to one ongoing game.

Personally, I've had a really good time with play-by-blog. It has a different feel than play-by-forum, though shares a lot of similarities, and fits in really good with my busy life. In fact, I'm thinking of running a game using this format, as I have a few players in my group willing to game online, but not willing to sign up for a site like

How about you? Have you ever tried playing by blog? Or does it sound like an absolutely crazy idea to you?


  1. I'm a player in said PbB game. I think you summed it up well. The one nit-pick, which you mentioned, is not the speed of play but the positioning of inter-actors. The previous has a direct impact on the latter though. With the pace, it is hard for me personally, to remember who is who and where. Your suggestion of a list of things and their location would be good, but a map ideal, though this too adds to the DM's work load.

    You hit the Pros well, I would add that with this particular media, it is much easier to be as descriptive as I want based on the time I have available. I really like this and hope that my time allows me to be much more descriptive in the future!

    Great post!

    The Bane

  2. I'm playing in a play-by-forum game right now, and I think you hit on the advantages and disadvantages quite well. If (or rather when) I eventually run my own game, I'm leaning toward the play-by-blog if only for the added freedom in formatting the site exactly as I see fit (as you mentioned above).

  3. beautiful_toothDecember 04, 2011

    The idea excites me, and may be something worth pursuing in the future, but not right now. While reading this post I've been thinking about how best to approach combat.

  4. Hey, good to see you! :-)

    I dislike maps on general principle, preferring to use narrative to describe things in my own games, but this has already proven messy. I spent the weekend thinking on it and I thought maybe a list like this would work:

    Worg, Range:  Melee  Close  Medium     Long
                          Callix.            Bramble.    Bob the guard.

    Something along those lines anyway. I imagine it could look a lot prettier, but at least it'd give some idea of range in relation to possible targets. And we wouldn't lose sight of who was visible to who.

  5. I'd definitely recommend trying it sometime, especially if you like a relaxed pace and atmosphere.

    Oh, and if you come up with any killer ideas on combat, please share, because I'd love to hear them.

  6. This sounds perfect for me at the moment.. but idk how to find a game going

  7. Wizards mentioned your site in one of their community posts. Well done!

  8. Wow, thanks so much! I hadn't noticed this until you brought it to my attention. I guess I need to start paying more attention to Wizards main site.


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