The Great Game: Kanhlengo Topic

The Rules

Keywords: rules

This article gives the rules and regulations of the Great Game.


The Great Game is a conlang created by a community of conlangers. It gets around the basic problem that conlangers have the herding instincts of cats by proceeding in turns. On each turn, the player gets to add one thing to the language, or declare one area of the language closed.

In order to keep things orderly, there will be one player, the Dungeon Master (DM), who doesn't get to make moves, but who rules on the moves made by other players. In particular, the DM will be responsible to adjudicate the "one thing" rule.

The language itself will be built here on Webconlang. A Facebook Group will be used as the main forum of communication for the game.

Ground Rules

  • The DM's ruling is final.
  • Be nice(ish)
  • Players have to use IPA for phonology and standard linguistic terminology. You are allowed to declare how the speakers think about some area of their language that is parochial to the speaker community, but for the sake of all our sanity, you must use standard terminology to describe what the language is doing.
  • This is for Fun. Do not turn this into Work. A few of the following rules are corollaries to this.
  • The language is spoken by humans or beings with a human vocal tract and is an entirely spoken language (no hand signs, phonemic hats, etc. - a native written form is allowed). It uses IPA-defined sounds only.
  • There must be a romanization, based on Roman letters, or else this will become Work.
  • The basic definition of "one thing" is that you need to be able to describe what you're adding succinctly.
    • "Has nasal vowels that include /ã/ and /ɛ̃/" is succinct enough to be "one thing."
    • Proposing the entire phonology isn't.
    • That does not mean that a single move cannot have very sweeping and profound consequences! Only that it can't have too many moving parts in its description.
  • We wait for no one. If you're going to be away for a while, tell the DM and we'll skip your turn until you get back.
  • The group can collectively agree to a hiatus, however.
  • By playing, you agree that your contributions are all in the public domain forever.

A Note on the Dreaded PC

There is a bit of a line that has to be walked, here. Real languages are spoken by real societies, which can be ugly and not conform to our ideals. There has to be some space for that, and everyone has to come in agreeing that most of the gamut of human experience is on the table.

On the other hand, we also agree that we will be courteous with each other above all, and that we are here to have fun. If something is upsetting to someone and wrecking their fun, we agree to drop it, and speak no more of it. We will not give anyone any grief. Players are obliged to show basic sensitivity to each other's feelings and not be dicks.

The DM is the one who gets the enviable job of adjudicating this line. There is nothing fun about arguing at length about what is and isn't "political correctness." The DM should make decisions quickly if necessary and move on in a way serves the goal of keeping the game fun for everyone.


It is permissible to have Facebook group members who are only observers to the game and not players. Such observers do not get Webconlang accounts, but since the language is public, can observe the results of each move and watch the game play conversation on the group. Observers can be invited by the DM or any player. They may participate in conversations, but are asked to refrain from taking up too much "bandwidth" or impeding gameplay.


Create a language in Webconlang. Create a Facebook group and invite the players. Add these rules. Add the following topic stubs:

  • Phonology and Romanization
  • Orthography
  • General Characteristics
  • Closed Areas

Starting the Game

The players will be invited to the Facebook group, and when the group decides to start, the game is on. The following tasks must be performed:

  1. Select a Dungeon Master (DM)
  2. A new Topic is created, Players, which will record an identifier for each player in the game and the order of play for future reference. This gets added as a shortcut to the language main page.
  3. The group sets the order of play. It doesn't matter how, as long as everyone agrees it's fair. The DM can decide if necessary.
  4. Make the first move.

Game Play

Communications should usually be handled on the Facebook Group, but private message is acceptable for edits on a generally accepted change. The reason for private messaging should be to make the Group less spammy, public is preferred. On your turn you proceed as follows:

  1. Propose your move on Facebook.
  2. DM must either allow it or reject it. If rejected, DM must give a reason why. If rejected, modify proposal or come up with a new one and go back to Step 1.
  3. Do one of the following:
    1. Create a new Topic or Lexeme with only stub text. Then put it into Draft mode and finish writing it out.
    2. Place the Topic or Lexeme you want to add to into Draft mode and make your change.
  4. Signal DM to review the change. DM will either:
    1. Accept the change and tell the player to publish it.
    2. Reject the change with a reason and send it back to the player to modify until it is acceptable.
  5. Player announces the move is complete and publishes a link for review.
  6. Player signals to the next player that it is their turn.

Allowed Moves

The following types of moves can be performed on your turn.

1. Add One Thing

On your turn, you can add one thing to the language. You cannot subtract something someone has already added, you have to live with it, although you can modify it if the modification can be framed as an addition - for example, if someone has declared SVO word order, but neglected to say it is strict word order, you can declare SV inversion to ask questions, or allow some free word order with case marking. The one thing you add in turn constrains other players on their turns in the same way. "One thing" could comprise:

  • An element of phonology, phonotactics, etc.
  • A general characteristic (e.g., agglutinating)
  • A general element of grammar (e.g., SVO word order, NOM-ACC alignment)
  • A specific element of grammar (e.g., a noun declension)
  • A lexeme
  • The actual name of the language
  • A worldbuilding note

The latter is important, because it can contain other areas. For example, if someone declares that this language is spoken exclusively by an illiterate society, there can be no orthography. If someone declares it is an iron-age society, there will not be a word for "computer," etc.

You are not allowed to sneak a second thing through the back door. For example, you cannot add a new phoneme by adding a lexeme that uses it - any new lexeme has to use the existing, defined phonology.

2. Skip Your Turn

You can always just Pass. You can also declare you're going to Pass on your next turn even if it's not yet your turn. You can take this back right up until your turn is passed, then it's too late.

3. Close An Area

You can use your turn to declare some area of the language closed to further additions - for example, you can use such a move to stop all further additions to the phonology. The "one thing" rule applies here, and so does the additional rule that the closure cannot be too broad and sweeping, as that would be no fun. The DM will exercise discretion in how broad such a closure can be. For example, "worldbuilding is closed" or "the lexicon is closed" is too broad and not allowed.

Add a note to the Closed Areas topic describing the area closed, who closed it and when.

4. Invite In A New Player

You can add a player to the game on your turn. That uses up your entire turn. The new player takes their first move immediately after your turn end.

5. Leave The Game

You can leave the game at any time, actually, it is appreciated as a courtesy that you announce it on the Facebook group. The move takes effect when your turn comes around. If you leave the game, the only way to get back in is for another player to invite you in again. If you just need to take a leave of absence and come back, you should go that route instead, only formally leave the game if you think you're going and not coming back. When you cease to be a player, you are entitled to remain in the Facebook group as an observer.

6. Press The Panic Button

This move should be avoided unless truly necessary, but is added in to deal with the eventuality that we paint ourselves into a corner somehow. The player can make a proposal to delete something from the language. The move has to obey the One Thing rule. The DM can reject the proposal for violation of One Thing, or based on a judgment that the game isn't truly painted into a corner. The DM can ask for the proposal to be modified, or reject outright and require a non-panic-button move.

If the panic button is accepted, it goes to a vote of the group; a simple majority is required to pass it. Even if the proposal fails, the player's move is used up.

Pace of Play and Forfeiture

Each player has 72 hours after their turn is announced to play or pass. If they don't play, they automatically pass. If this happens three times in a row, the player automatically leaves the game and can only get back in by being invited back in by another player on their turn.

The DM and players should make every effort to avoid forfeiture and needless delays, by announcing any absences, reaching out to a player who is non-responsive, and so on.

Once a move is proposed to the DM, the DM should respond within 48 hours as to whether the move is accepted, ideally the sooner the better. The player and DM should then work as quickly as possible to get the move implemented, ideally also within 48 hours.

It would be ideal if the game could be more fast-paced than this but these benchmarks are in place in order to accommodate the fact that everyone is busy, and the Game will turn into Work if it gets too demanding.

Players who voluntarily leave the game or forfeit their spot are entitled to remain as observers.

Leave of Absence

If you know you can't play for a period of time, announce a Leave of Absence on the Facebook group for however long you need. There is basically no limit. This gets added to the Players page to help everyone keep track of who's gone and when they'll be back. An indefinite leave is allowed, although in that case you may want to just withdraw entirely. While you're on leave, your turn just gets skipped.

Dungeon Master: Passing the Buck

The DM can temporarily or permanently assign someone else to be the DM if they need to take an absence or no longer want to continue the role. The DM should attempt to seek consensus amongst the players on their replacement, but can ultimately just decide.

Any other player or observer on the Facebook group can be appointed DM. If a player becomes DM, they cease to be a player for as long as they are DM. If a player becomes DM temporarily, they revert to their position in sequence when they become a player again.

A permanently retiring DM who wants to become a player and finds a replacement can do so and insert themselves into the order of play wherever they want. Otherwise, they become an observer. Once an observer, they can only become a player by being invited in the normal way, and they can only become DM again if the current DM asks them to come back.

The Hammer

Whoever is the DM shall be the main admin for the Facebook group and control access to the Webconlang platform. The DM can use the banhammer for unruly behaviour if necessary. Unruly behaviour is behaviour that takes the fun out of the game, and the DM has to judge that. The banhammer should not generally be a first resort.

Ending the Game

The game ends properly if any of the following happens:

  1. Someone proposes to end the game on their turn, and a majority vote in favour. However, if there are people who still want to play and a willing DM, the people who don't want to play really should withdraw instead.
  2. The DM can't play anymore, and there is no willing replacement DM. However, the group can also decide to go on hiatus in this circumstance instead of ending the game.


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