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Archive-name: games/play-by-mail
Last-modified: 2007/06/20
Play by Mail Games Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Play by Mail Games Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Welcome to! This is a newsgroup for discussing play by
mail games, both ordinary mail and electronic mail, and both wargames
and non-wargames.

There is a PBM WWW homepage at:

1) What is Play By Mail?
2) What games get talked about here?
3) What other games are there?
4) Are there any mailing lists for PBM games?
5) I read German or Russian or Italian. Do I win a prize?
6) Is commercial advertising allowed here?


1) What is play by mail?

PBM stands for "play by mail". Since this IS the Internet, we use it
to mean both ordinary postal mail and electronic mail. Games like
Diplomacy have been played via postal mail since the 1960's, starting
with John Boardman's 'zine. The US commercial PBM market was started
by Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo in the early 1970's. Now there are
commercial PBM companies all over the world. In addition, there is
some activity in role-playing games via mail.

Why play PBM games? Well, even though the commercial games are
expensive, they offer some things that some people have a hard time
finding face to face -- good opponents, convenient playing times, and
games with lots of hidden information. Non-commercial games can offer
the same benefit, as long as the people running it are dedicated.

How do PBM games work? Generally you mail in orders to a moderator,
human or computer, once a week, and they mail the results back to you.
A PBM game can be as simple as a human running an ordinary Dungeons &
Dragons game, or a 45,000 line program moderating a fantasy
strategic/role-playing game with 50 pages of rules.

PBEM games -- those conducted via email -- are generally played by
mailing human-readable files back and forth. A few games require
special software on your home computer; if so, it will be mentioned in
the game description, if there is one.


2) What games get talked about here?

Many postings on this group will have a game name mentioned in the
subject line. If you post, please mention the game in the subject so
that others who are interested in the same game will actually read
your postings. Some frequently mentioned games are:

Adventurer's Guild (AG): a commercial fantasy arena combat game.
                         It has its own FAQ posting.

Atlantis: a free or commercial strategic fantasy PBeM. The largest
existing game of Atlantis is Eressea.

Duelmasters (DM): a commercial fantasy arena combat game.

Galaxy: a free PBeM originally written by Russell Wallace, with a
space setting.  It exists in several forms, including Blind Galaxy,
and GalaxyNG.

Legends: a commercial D&D-type simulation in which 200 players
         wander around a large map trying to become more powerful.

Middle Earth (ME-PBM): a commercial strategic simulation of J. R. R.
                       Tolkien's fantasy universe.

Quest: an open-ended commercial fantasy PBM game.

In addition, other PBM games are discussed in separate newsgroups:

Core Wars and C++ Robots:  a game of battling programs. An email server is available
            for an ongoing tournament. Discussion about Core Wars
            generally takes place in

Diplomacy: a boardgame often played by email. Discussion for this
           game generally takes place in the group

Board games: games such as Empires in Arms, Third Reich, and Axis and
             Allies are discussed on, and are
             sometimes played by mail.

Chess: discussed in

Fantasy Baseball and Football: discussed in


3) What other games are there?

The PBM List is a list of all PBM Games on the planet, pretty much. It
has details about all the free games that I know of, plus a paragraph
each on a bunch of commercial games, plus a list of all PBM Games on
the planet courtesy of Flagship Magazine.


4) Are there any mailing lists for pbm games?

These mailing lists concentrate on particular games:

Adventurer's Guild -- write saying
	   `subscribe guild-l' in the body of your letter.

BSE (Beyond the Stellar Empire, SMG version) -- see

BSE (Beyond the Stellar Empire, KJC version) -- see

DM (Duelmasters) -- see

DungeonWorld -- see

EiA (Empires in Arms) -- write saying `help'

Galaxy-NG -- see

Legends -- see

LOTE (Lords of the Earth) -- see

MI (Monster Island) -- (newsletter) write

Midgard -- see

SDW (Stars of the Dark Well) -- write saying
 'subscribe sdw' in the body of your message.

Third Reich -- write (Chris Goldfarb), he has a
               list of people interested in PBM play.


5) I read German or Russian or Italian. Do I win a prize?

Yes! There is a newsgroup with some interesting
things going on, but it's all in German. Some German-language games
are included in the PBM List mentioned in section (3) above.

Likewise, there is a newsgroup, which is mostly
in Russian. They play a lot of "Galaxy" in Russia.

Likewise, there is a newsgroup it.comp.giochi.pbem, which is mostly
in Italian.


6) Is commercial advertising allowed here?

Usenet is traditionally a non-commercial place, because many people
who read the Net are actually paying to receive articles. Posting an
advertisement is somewhat like sending them junk fax. However, there
are three exceptions to this rule:

A) There is an entire hierarchy of commercial groups, called "biz.*".
These groups allow advertising. But this group isn't in that
hierarchy, and biz.* isn't well propagated because no one wants it.

B) Traditionally, a single, short, tasteful, fact-filled (not
hype-filled) advertisement for a product will be favorably

C) Most groups, like this one, have some informational postings which
will list, in one place and in a consistent format, commercial
information. In this case, the list is the "PBM List", mentioned in
section 4 above, which is posted twice a month and is available via
WWW and ftp.

So if you are a commercial company and wish to make information about
your game available on Usenet, (C) is your best bet. Send email to and I'll tell you what information I need to put you
on the list.

[ For more information about this Usenet tradition, please
see ]

Other than posting basic information about your game, supporting your
game on the group is encouraged -- if folks have questions, post and
answer them. It's only repetitive hype-filled postings, or perhaps
repetitive answers of the same question, that will tick off

If you did post an advertisement, it might pay to use the [AD] keyword
for it, but you might not want to use that for a single, fact-filled
advertisement ((B) above) because people might ignore it, thinking
it's a repeated ad. I haven't seen much use of this keyword yet, so
I don't have much practical advice to give regarding it.


If you think of other useful topics for this FAQ, please send me mail
at If you're tired of seeing this posting, add the
subject line to your kill file.


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