The Guild of Orpheus and the Tabletop GameJam

ConTessa, which is an online RPG convention organised by ladies for everyone, and which is also pretty rad, put up a competition on their website. The challenge therein was to design a roleplaying game that followed the following two rules:

1. It must use one D3 and no other dice.

2. It must fit on both sides of an A6 sheet of paper.

And I’m like, fuck yes. This is my meat and drink. This is the level of ridiculous constraints that really gets me going. I wrote a game called THE GUILD OF ORPHEUS and it’s viewable, here – if you like it, gimme a +1 and I might even win the contest. You play wizards of ambiguous moral nature tasked with destroying the Conclave of the Red Druid.

But those mad constraints really sparked me on, and got me to release something playable – I reckon! – in about an hour, and most of that was rewriting the game so it was legible. That’s pretty cool. I taught a very brief game-design workshop in Melbourne for Freeplay, and while I was very open-ended and it was a terrible lesson plan, it really fired me up. It got me going, got me thinking about how cool it is to teach others about game design, how to get them thinking in terms of mechanics.

This is only half of it! This is the fun half. (The other half is for GMs, pfft)
This is only half of it! This is the fun half. (The other half is for GMs, pfft)

So if I did it again – and, hopefully, some day I will once I can find a con or a school willing to unleash me on impressionable wannabe game designers – I’d reign them in. I’d challenge the players. I’d set absurd limitations on their work. Use only a coin toss. Use half of a pack of cards. Ban paper from the gaming table. Use coloured felt-tips and make them matter. Show me what you can do with almost nothing, because I’d rather see that than watch you struggle with infinite possibilities.


I think it’s time for a tabletop game jam; worldwide, perhaps, or just in a single city. (Melbourne? All good things happen in Melbourne.) There are problems, of course. There’s not quite enough people interested in this, I wager, to get a great deal of participants. Plus, roleplaying games are – in general! – designed by a single person, unless you’re tackling great hefty books like the World of Darkness series or Dungeons and Dragons, so opening that up to a team might cause some problems. I can already taste the potential arguments I’d have.

And of course, there are online events for this sort of thing, too, and there have been for years – Game Chef, for example, and the now-defunct 24-hour RPG challenge – and they’ve produced some incredible games that only needed a little more polish to get them to a sellable state. But I’d like to get people face-to-face, rolling dice and playtesting their games then scrapping them and running frantically back to the drawing board.

Hell, wouldn’t that be exciting? To put together a team – two designers, an artist, a layout expert – to craft and iterate and play something that has ludicrous restrictions placed on it. To release all of them as a published compendium, or a free PDF, at the end of it. Who’s with me?

Update: I totally won! Which is pretty cool. Thanks to all voters, and to ConTessa. Do go and check them out; they’ve got a lot of support from Meguey Baker and she’s running a couple of open-access online games, and she’s easily in my top five games designers ever ever EVER so, yeah. Afford ConTessa every courtesy.



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6 responses to “The Guild of Orpheus and the Tabletop GameJam”

  1. Sean Avatar

    I’m on board for the London crowd.

    I love restriction – I find that when teaching (something I am employed to do, rather than anything worrying and guerrilla) that giving tighter restrictions often enables more creative and interesting responses. There’s LOADS of theory on this from Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic: The Gavelling. I’ll hunt out one of the better links.

  2. Terrordactyl Avatar

    I would love to see a worldwide tabletop game jab.
    -Los Angeles Area

  3. Kyle Avatar

    I think a worldwide gaming jam would be totally splendid! I’ve actually been looking for design challenges, game jams, and design competitions to get my creative juices going. I’ve heard of game chef, but I never heard about ConTessa’s competition. Would you happen to know about any other competitions or game jams going on? Is there a list for game jams and game design competitions somewhere?

    1. grant Avatar

      I don’t know of any, I’m afraid! If you find some, let me know.

      1. Sean Avatar

        Seemingly ConTessa run quite a few short competitions through their G+ community.

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