Tabletop designers can once again test their mettle against one blank paper during the One-Page RPG Jam 2021, which runs from July 18th to August 22nd on Itch.io and celebrates a long history of creating games under extreme limitations of space.
Hosted by designer James Lennox-Gordon, the One-Page RPG Jam is entering its second year after a debut in 2020 that saw over 150 entries. Like last year, artists must design their games to fit only on the front and back of one page - character sheets don’t count against this total. This isn’t a slight limitation, either. Published RPG books regularly comprise 50 pages on the low end, and even indie titles considered relatively small still span more than a few standard printer sheets.
One-page RPGs enjoy a popular legacy in the tabletop space, giving anyone taking part plenty of inspiration on which to draw. The official jam page explicitly mentions John Harper’s Lasers & Feelings and Honey Heist, by Grant Howitt. The former also created ghostpunk RPG Blades in the Dark and Homeric legend-maker Agon, while the latter is one two minds behind the dark, politically agitating and only sometimes horrific RPGs Spire and Heart.
Both of their games have managed to penetrate into broader cultural circles to the point that many folks are likely to play either Lasers & Feelings - or one of its many, many hacks - or Honey Heist as their second game after Dungeons & Dragons. Their charm and approachability come from simple rules, a strong theme and lean design. Worldbuilding and stat blocks might be tasty, but they devour precious page space.
Applicants are encouraged to hack existing games such as Honey Heist and Lasers & Feelings, or take advantage of system reference documents - Spencer Campbell’s Lumen SRD is a good recent example. They can also publish the game with a price tag, as long as a version is made available for judging.
“What does ‘Borders’ mean to your game?” Lennox-Gordon said via the jam’s Twitter account. “Are players crossing a border, or defending it? Is it a physical border, or a metaphorical one? Is it a border between places, people, time, or ideas? Or perhaps the entire game takes place in the liminal space between two opposing states?”
The One-Page RPG Jam 2021 has announced an optional theme of 'borders', chosen by the community. While not a rule, the theme exists to aid in fomenting ideas and collaboratively exploring ideas through design and play. The 2020 jam used 'elegance' as its theme and produced games such as Jason Tocci’s 2400, a modular “lo-fi sci-fi RPG” that went on to spawn the 24XX SRD, its own dedicated jam and a small but vibrant hacking community.
Lennox-Gordon is a tabletop designer who publishes under the name Unknown Dungeon. They previously hosted the first One-Page RPG Jam, and their games can be found on their Itch.io page. Find out more about the One-Page RPG Jam 2021, including how to submit a project, on its Itch.io page.