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?

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 and

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 received.

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 Usenetters.

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.

7) What's the history of the PBM List?

Bryan McDonald's first posting of the PBM List to the Usenet newsgroup was made on March 12, 1991. I (Greg Lindahl) took it over in 1993, with a first posting on April 9, 1993.

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.

Greg Lindahl (