Play By Email (PBEM) in a larger perspective

For those looking for a PBEM game, it is probably no surprise that the term PBEM is used by many different types of games. Going back to the very basics of PBEM games, we take a look at the different types of games that all fall under the category PBEM.

There are basically two types of games that both deserve to be called play by email games. The first type of games is such games as war games, strategy games and board games. The other type commonly referred to as Play by Email games are role-playing games played via email.

Looking at the fist type of games, they are typically games based on turns where each player sends in their actions to the Game Master. The Game Master then processes the input from all the players and sends out the results. Depending on the type of game, players can control all sorts of things but from what I have seen, war games where they player controls an army is the most popular.

These games can range from simple games focused on the movement of a unit or a couple of units, to more complex games. Other examples are games where the player needs to care for their units by purchasing food and weapons. In the more advanced variants, the player leads an entire country, with all trade and politics that comes with it in a global perspective.

Other types of non-role-playing PBEM games are different types of board games. Dating back to way before Email and even computers, correspondence chess was popular.

The second type of Play by Email games are the ones we focus on at, role-playing games. Taking the classic role-playing games online provides some challenges and there are different ways of implementing it. Role-playing games can, strictly seen, be broken down into two categories: Free form or Game Master controlled. Of course, the boundaries between the two are not set in stone, and different game groups have their own style.

Like in a classic role-playing game, some games rely heavily on the Game Master to control and bring the story forward. All vital decisions and all events needs to be done according to the rules and often by letting the dice decide. In a free form game, the focus is less on the hard rules than on the role-playing itself. Less is decided by rolling a dice or having the GM decide and more is written as a story.