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Call of Cthulhu creator’s RPG design prize pays out $10k

Publisher Chaosium is offering a $10k prize pool to help new designers create games based on its open source Basic Roleplaying system.

Call of Cthulhu creator Chaosium, cover art for Basic Roleplaying - a patchwork illustration of a human with four arms outstretched, half male, half female

Long-standing RPG publisher Chaosium, creator of the classic Call of Cthulhu horror RPG, is offering cash prizes for independent game designers to create new RPGs. $10,000 total will be available in the Basic Roleplaying: Universal Game Engine Design Challenge, “to financially assist new and upcoming creators” to publish games based on the Basic Roleplaying engine.

Basic Roleplaying is Chaosium’s main tabletop RPG engine, first launched in the RuneQuest RPG way back in the 1970s and most popularly known from the Call of Cthulhu RPG. It uses a fairly simple D100 RPG dice system, with players attempting to roll under a skill score to succeed on tests.

If you want a thorough introduction to BRP, check out this comprehensive video by YouTuber Blerdy Disposition:

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Chaosium published the ‘Basic Roleplaying: Universal Game Engine core book’ in 2023 under the open source ORC license, which allows designers to use the rules in their own games royalty-free.

According to Chaosium’s information page for the challenge, “entrants will need to provide a production budget for their game, as well as an outline on how the winnings from the BRP Design Challenge will help bring their game to life”. Entrants also need to provide basic information about the market for their game, why it’s unique, and how it uses the BRP rules.

In short, you’ll need to have a credible plan to launch a game, not just a rules document. Chaosium is asking for much the same information a publisher would expect from someone pitching a product or requesting a license.

The difference is that “Chaosium does not require the signing over of rights of any kind in order to enter the BRP Design Challenge”, will not acquire ownership of any IP from anyone who wins or is shortlisted, and entrants “may still publish their games royalty-free under the ORC license” even if they win a cash prize. There’s no cost to enter the competition, either.

10 games will be shortlisted, receiving $500 each, with three winners going on to win $2,000 each. There’s a further $500 “player’s choice” award that the public will vote on. Chaosium promises “continued promotion on the Chaosium channels” for all shortlisted entries, which may be just as valuable as the cash funding.

If you’re wondering what the ORC license is and where it came from, check out our coverage from early 2023, including Pathfinder’s announcement of the ORC, and when it finally launched.