How to Write a Tournament Rulebook

by Fabio

A good esports tournament is always supported by a rulebook. The big events usually draft gigantic documents, outlining every potential issue that can arise during play. For instance, the ESL Pro League rulebook is 40 pages long.

Hosting a tournament on Bitspawn, depending on its size and scale, will require you to lay down some ground rules. A lot will be handled by the tournament platform itself, but still there are some issues that you will have to deal with on your end. We’re going to present to you some problems that regularly come up at esports events and show how to deal with them. You’ll be able to take some of that knowledge and apply it to your own tournaments on Bitspawn. 

Teams Arriving Late to the Party

In professional esports, teams are usually present on time. However, in case they do miss the match starting time, what do you do? In the case of Immortals at DreamHack Open Montreal, they were forced to forfeit the first map. Of course, you should base the severity of your punishment on the amount of tardiness. 

Abuse & Misconduct

Some players are nice, others are not. While aspiring talents generally try to keep it polite, a few bad apples tend to shoot over the mark when it comes to personal conduct. In those cases, an admin has to penalize the players. This should be based upon certain rules of conduct, which you should definitely lay down in your rulebook. Otherwise you don’t have any set guidelines to base your reactions on. 

Tie-Breaker Scenarios

In Round-Robin stages, teams will often get tied in the standings. In those cases, you need to find a way to separate these teams. Professional leagues will have a set of tie-breaker metrics, with which they will sort the teams. Here are a few examples:

  • Round difference: How many rounds has each team won in total during the league phase?
  • Map difference: How many maps has each team won in total during the league phase?
  • Mini league: Create a smaller league out of the tied participants, which means that only the games that were previously played between those teams count towards the standings. Then calculate the amount of points, round difference etc. within that league. 

These rules should manage to dissolve most ties. If all else fails, you can still let the teams play rematches. 

Here’s the ruleset from Rainbow Six Pro League, as an example:

  • Mini league points
  • Mini league round difference
  • Overall round difference
  • Mini league rounds won
  • Overall rounds won
  • Rematch
Rainbow Six Pro League Finals (via
Rainbow Six Pro League Finals (via

Technical Pauses

Lots of electronic components work together in order to get esports games up and running. Often times, things fail on the end of the organizer. Servers unfortunately like to crash and broadcasts are prone to all sorts of failures. If something happens, players and staff will have to wait for the issue to be fixed.

But the players’ private computers are often times not perfectly set up and games such as CSGO tend to freeze on them. Technical timeouts on the competitors’ end are more difficult to handle – especially if the match takes place online, as you won’t have the ability to fix anything. Generally, your rulebook should include time limits on technical pauses for players, so that you don’t have to extend your pauses into infinity. Most importantly, if there is a set amount of time, no player or team can feel disadvantaged.


Unfortunately, cheating is still a prevalent phenomenon in esports. As the industry grows, more people will try to subvert it. In order to combat cheating, the game developers have obviously put anti-cheat measures in place. Sometimes, these are sadly not enough. In rare cases, tournament organizers will have to deal with potential cheating cases themselves. 

Most events have a specific protocol in place, which lets players and teams report cases. These are then referred to review, where admins take a look at the game demos. This process is something that you need to detail in your rulebook, along with the contact point. When it comes to the degree of punishment, most organizers will expulse any cheaters and their team along with them. Usually, proven cheaters will not be allowed back into the tournament.

Professional Rulebooks

If you want to take some cues from professional esports leagues, you should take a look at some rulebooks from ESL. They feature comprehensive guidelines and regulations. Most importantly, they show how to achieve proper structure. Here is the rulebook for Rainbow Six Pro League S11 and the rulebook for ESL Pro League S11.

Obviously, not all of these rules will be necessary for organizing your own tournament on Bitspawn. But there are definitely some things that you have to consider. Doing the work before the tournament prevents you from having to deal with them in the middle of the competition. So take some time to draft a rulebook, even if it’s just a few paragraphs long. It will help you create a more professional and appealing product.

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