2010 Contest Rules

The Basics
Design and submit a playable draft of a roleplaying game between Sept 11th-19th, preferably inspired by the theme and ingredients listed below.

2010 Theme
Game Chef 2010 is official known as Game Chef: Sojourner, and the theme is Journey. As always, you are free to interpret that however you like.

2010 Ingredients
In addition to the overall theme, pick 3 of these 4 ingredients to design your game around.


These ingredients were randomly selected from a list of 15 potential ingredients. The potential ingredients were culled from the titles of books on my bookshelf.

Rule on Previous Work
You may draw on concepts you have thought about or worked on before the contest starts, but everything you submit must be new work, not previously written material.

Rule on Intellectual Property
You are free to draw on or “hack” work by others as long as you include no previously written material (see above) and provide all the information needed to play the game, without requiring players to reference other material. Note that drawing on other people’s work may mean that your game is derivative intellectual property and you may not fully own the rights to it. That is okay in the eyes of Game Chef, for purposes of submission and judging, but it is ultimately the designer’s responsibility to deal with all rights-related issues.

Design Discussions
There are dedicated forums set up for discussing Game Chef 2010 on both the Forge (our previous home from 2002-2004) and 1KM1KT (our host from 2005-2006). If you don’t find discussions at either of those places to give you what you need, other options include Praxis, the RPGnet design forums, your own blog (if you have one), or any other design-friendly forum on the internet, including ones that focus on more specific needs, like Structured Freedom (for freeform game design) or the “Other Systems” section of Yog-Sothoth (for Lovecraft-inspired games). Find a place that works for you, wherever that place is.

I highly recommend sticking to a single thread per individual game rather than filling a forum with multiple threads about the same game concept. That makes it easier for everyone else to parse the forums and for the people interested in your game to find your most recent posts. Other threads for general discussion, open questions, and joshing each other are, of course, totally cool.

A Hopefully Unnecessary Note
You (and your fellow chefs) are responsible for your own experience of Game Chef. I have tried to set up various structures to make the experience as good as I can make it for participants, based on my own previous experiences and the hard work of the great Master Chefs before me, but that only goes so far, especially as the contest has gotten bigger and bigger, more than any one person can attend to personally. So take the initiative, ask others (including me, but also fellow chefs) for what you need, create what you don’t have, participate in discussions much as you like, walk away from discussions when they are distracting you from your own design work, etc. For example, if someone wants to organize one or more feedback groups, like we had in 2007, that’s cool but entirely unofficial and up to you. This is your Game Chef, make it what you want it to be.

Game Submission
Games are due by the time I wake up on the morning of Sept 20th and are submitted by posting a link to them in the 2010 Game Submission thread (which will be posted once the contest starts). I prefer games to be submitted in PDF format, but will accept any possible format or combination of formats (audio, video, whatever), so long as I can open your documents on my Mac without purchasing proprietary software. There are lots of ways to find a free place to host files these days, so find one. I recommend 1KM1KT, a partner of Game Chef, if you are looking for options.

Preliminary Judging
I will do an initial read-through of submitted games that focuses on three things:

  1. How complete is this game? Does it give me everything I need to bring it to the table and play?
  2. How successful are the rules in supporting the concept of the game? Has the designer achieved what they set out to do? Does the game seem likely to deliver what it promises? Are there superfluous parts that don’t add to the overall experience or key things that are missing?
  3. How effectively did you use the theme and ingredients? This includes smartly choosing not to use certain ingredients or even the theme if it is getting in the way of the design instead of contributing to it. The theme and ingredients are supposed to be inspirations and challenges, not traps and shouldn’t simply be tacked on at the end.

At the end of my read-through, I will post feedback on the games and announce which ones are Game Chef Finalists. I have no specific number or percentage of Finalists in mind, so — conceivably — any game could potentially qualify. At this point, the judging moves to a more democratic process, following traditions started under former Master Chef Kitkowski.

2010 Game Chef Playoffs
The Game Chef Finalist that has been played the most by the end of October (Halloween!) wins Game Chef 2010. This is determined by counting the number of different groups of people who have played it (no more than 50% player overlap between groups), with the tiebreaker — if necessary — being the number of total sessions played (including groups playing the game multiple times). We will log these sessions here on the Game Chef website, with participants posting comments saying that their group has played finalist X or finalist Y. Consequently, you can support the games you like most simply by playing them. Pretty cool, yeah? The winner will be announced early in November.

Winning Game Chef is Like Winning the Nobel Prize
It’s great, no doubt about it. But many folks who’ve won the Nobel Prize in Literature have books that are out of print. Really, it’s more like Barack Obama willing the Nobel Peace Prize: it demonstrates that you and your game have great promise and that a community of people are ready to support you. Whatever you decide to do with your game at that point is up to you. Rock on.


32 responses to “2010 Contest Rules

  • lcx0r


    As for:
    Rule on Intellectual Property
    You are free to draw on or “hack” work by others as long as you include no previously written material (see above) and provide all the information needed to play the game, without requiring players to reference other material.

    Are the settings for general mechanics (like SWEX/GURPS/Fate etc.) not suitable for Game Chef contest?



  • Jonathan Walton

    Lcx0r: If you want to use GURPS or Fate or whatever, that’s fine with me. Realize though that you cannot include any text written by somebody else, but have to put everything into your own words. Also, since the point of the contest is to come up with the best game — the best execution of your concept — it’s likely that a generic system may not be the best choice, unless you are able to adapt it sufficiently so it matches and supports your game concept.

    Does that make sense?

  • lcx0r

    Yes, it makes a perfect sense.
    I’m not a fan of generic mechanics myself ;-) The question was more to clarify the rules.


  • gryffudd

    Hi there. Thanks for the notice about Game Chef. I’ve been wanting to be in one for a couple years, but it never worked out. I had a question about utilizing previous ideas. If I have a dice roll resolution method (or some other game bit) from something I’ve previously put out there, can I:

    a) use it, as long as it is written up in a new way (Can use the system, but not the text);
    b) use a strongly modified version (Can use the basic idea, but not the exact system);
    c) I cannot use anything even remotely similar (Can’t use previously written ideas at all, just stuff you’ve thought about but not written up).

    I just want to check how far it’s possible to go with previous ideas before we get into the period where we should be working on the game idea. Also, not sure if dice systems have to be utterly different from previous stuff, or just ‘no more than a little similar’.

    Thanks again for getting this started.


  • Jonathan Walton

    Hi Pat,

    The guidelines boil down to this:

    I don’t care (and, actually, can’t possibly know) where your ideas come from. In all honesty, it’s hard for you to know where all your ideas come from, yeah? All I can ask is that you open a new document and write me something new, without copying text or diagrams or other parts of previous work by you or someone else. If I had to pick off your list, I’d say that’s Option A, I guess. But it’s more about the spirit of the requirement than any specific rule.

    Does that make sense?

  • Simone Cooper

    When you say “a playable draft of a role-playing game,” do you mean a single scenario, a larger system, or some combination of the two? In other words, if we design on the system level, would our submission require an included scenario in order for you to test it?

  • Gryffudd

    Sure, that’s pretty much what I figured. I’m just an obsessive worrier and figured I’d check first. :)

  • Jonathan Walton

    Simone: You can design at whatever scale you like. Often designers will focus on game concept that’s limited in scope, like how The Mountain Witch (from Game Chef 2004) focused on a group of samurai climbing a mountain to kill the witch and is meant to be played for about 3 sessions. But if you want to design a game meant for extended play, with no specific task to be accomplished or set end point, that’s fine too. You don’t need to necessarily include a “scenario” or anything like that as long as it’s clear how to run and play the game. Basically, just give people enough to go on so they’re not left wondering what to do. Yeah?

  • carthinius

    Hi! One short question: Does the “rule of previous work” cover work in other languages than english? Or: is it allowed to use previous work by translating it (for example, your own game mechanics) and convert it so that it fits the contest rules?

  • Jonathan Walton

    Carthinius: Yeah, the rule covers anything you’ve previously written, in whatever language. By itself, translating something isn’t enough to make it “new material,” but you can certainly use previous work as inspiration, as a starting point for creating a new game, adapting it to fit your new concept.

    As a general rule: when in doubt, open a blank file and start writing. Whatever comes out of you, no matter where it comes from, is okay, even if you’re effectively repeating stuff you’ve written elsewhere.

  • Jay Loomis

    Jonathan — Can you give some clarification about “the time I wake up on the morning of Sept 20th”? Given the many times zones encompassed by the participants, this isn’t exactly obvious. And I, for one, need to carefully plan out my cramming.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Hey Jay: The real deadline, the one you should be working towards, is midnight on Sunday, but, in reality, you have several hours past that, because I’m not going to close submissions until I wake up Monday morning. Does that make sense? If it helps, I live in Seattle and will probably log on around 8-9am.

  • Shinobicow

    first time trying this, not sure if I will get my game in on time, but I was wondering how the submission process works… what forum is the submission actually being submitted? I know you have to host it yourself, but where do you link to that officially?

  • Jonathan Walton

    Shinobi: The submission thread will be posted sometime soon, perhaps tonight, since I know a few folks already have drafts to submit. There will be a big announcement when it goes live, don’t worry.

  • Shinobicow

    word. thanks a lot. mine will be there too I think :)

  • Jonathan Walton

    In case you missed it, the submissions thread is posted now. Check the menu up top.

  • il mietitore

    As I wrote on the forge: i finished the job, but i would like to know if i can show the document to a friend of mine, so he can review it, because English is not my native language, and these are 18 pages of pure potential grammatical junk…

  • Jonathan Walton

    Mietitore: You can do anything you need to do. Just give credit for any help you get. You can even co-write games with other designers, so getting some language help is totally okay.

  • il mietitore

    Another question. Can we play our game? @_@

    • Declan

      Well I fully intend to play my game lots. I also plan to refine it and improve it further.

      I doubt it will count for the purposes of the Game Chef Playoffs but if I don’t love my game enough to play it why should I expect others to?

      • il mietitore

        Uhm, I’m not sure that if the autor plays then that group can’t be counted for the playoff pourposes… he his just spreading his job, after all :S

        Let’s wait for a response from the boss.

  • Jason Morningstar

    Hey JWalt, can I update the submitted document to make it easier for people to play? Add play aids, etc that I didn’t have time for? Or does it have to stand on its own at this point?

  • Jonathan Walton

    Jason: That’s a good question, Jason. I’ve downloaded all the games at this point to make sure people weren’t updating them as I was reviewing. Hmm… on the one hand, once I’ve reviewed your game, it seems like you should be able to update it for two reasons: 1) I can’t do anything about it, and 2) people may want to keep working on their games and it seems silly to make people play less good versions just to make the contest more “fair” or whatever.

    So, yeah, go for it.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Mietitore/Declan: Playoff rules are coming soon, guys. And of course you can play your game. Do you think I’m crazy? :)

  • Baxil

    JWalt – Re the “can you update your game” question – as another designer who has kept working to make his game better (I added a revised version of Egregore to my website alongside the GC2010 version), it heartens me to hear that it’s okay. But it also makes me feel a little guilty.

    The devil’s advocate in me says: Since the winning finalist is based on overall gameplay, it seems people who are willing to put in the extra post-contest work to make their game more friendly (errata, expanded examples, new scenarios, etc) have a significant advantage over those who designed a really solid game but let it stand once the design period ended.

    I guess it comes down to what Game Chef is supposed to measure: the best 10-day start-to-finish game, versus the best game whose framework came from that period. My guilt comes from a sense that there are some entries that are *already* quite good, and that skill should be properly recognized.

    Of course, your point #2 is compelling as well.

  • Jonathan Walton

    Baxil: These comments aren’t for discussion, they’re for asking questions only. And I think I’ve answered that question. That’s how things stand for now. Your points are well taken, though.

  • David 'Doc Blue' Wendt

    What’s the status on the determination of the finalists?

  • Travis Lindquist

    Given the date and such, is there a change in the final play date for determining Game Chef?

    Also, will game plays take into account how long they’ve been a finalist?

  • Jonathan Walton

    Finalists will hopefully all be chosen by Halloween; that’s the current, updated plan. Playoff rules should be posted shortly. I don’t think any play before Nov 1st will count towards the playoffs, so I don’t think Finalist longevity will matter. However, any playtesting and revision you do before the playoff starts will probably make your game better, so it’s not a bad idea.

  • Mike Olson

    …So if my group played a game eight times already, we’ll have to play it another eight times — probably at the expense of being able to play other games even once — if we want it to “count”?

  • Mike

    That does make sense in all fairness.

  • kristaewhite

    Jonathan, I’ve got links to two extra documents:

    There’s a template for the Cosmic Journey Cards in .doc format for Avery 5160 or 8160 labels: http://users.drew.edu/kwhite2/Cosmic Journey Cards.doc

    There is also a set in .docx format:
    http://users.drew.edu/kwhite2/Cosmic Journey Cards.docx

    Here’s my description:
    As Galactic Roadies, you must bring the Celestial Guardians back to the Cosmic Temple to save the universe. But beware the Adversaries!

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