Nomic: A Self-Modifying Game

What is Nomic?

Nomic is a cool game with rules and players. If you like rules, you'll like Nomic. There's really nothing but rules and the imagination of the players. The rules themselves, however, specify the way rules may be added to, changed, and deleted (Nomic players use fancy terms like enacted, amended, and repealed), thus making it a self-modifying game.

Is that it, just Rules?

Well, yes and no. A game of Nomic starts with an Initial Rule Set, which admittedly, is pretty mundane. Those rules simply specify how the current rules may be changed, and set up procedures for voting for rule changes, and how many points are needed to win. They don't even specify a way to score points. The important thing is that they specify ways to modify themselves so that they can become as interesting as the players want them to be.

They evolve to the will of the players. Players can vote in rules that eliminate voting. Our game has created governmental and political bodies, such as political parties, as well as a alot of bizzare stuff like the Voting Gnome, Magic Potato, Witchhunts, Gaol, Right-Handed Grapefruit, and much more. We even have an economy and bribery, and we've only been around since the beginning of 1996.

Can't that get complicated?

If you let it. Sometimes the interaction of the rules and the objects they create gets pretty intense. Furthermore, its often a matter of interpretation as to how the rules work, and different people have different interpretations. In Nomic, all complexities like that are handled by Judgements, where individual players are randomly chosen to untangle the thorny rules debates. Some people play the game just for this aspect; it can be mind bogglingly fun. As a former Supreme Court Justice of Ackanomic, I can vouch for this.

How complicated?

It can get paradoxical. In fact, if you can demonstrate a paradox in the rules, and convince a Judge, you win the game on the spot. To quote one of our current Supreme Court Justices: "To win by paradox is the ultimate joy". Having won by paradox, I can vouch for that, too. Some players play to intentionally plant self-referential paradoxi in the rules, or try to discover them. Others fight to stop them. We've had our share of Godelesque situations in our game.

That's not my kind of a game.

Nomic is so open that you can ignore all of that and still have fun. You can make it your kind of game. We have a player developing sub-games of Party Chess and Eleusis within the Nomic. We have an Inventor who develops gadgets for sale. We have an Underworld Party who has no morals and will sell votes for cash. I've even been thrown in Gaol for drinking Coke, and our Ambassador has been thrown in Gaol for calling an illegal Witchhunt, and our Finance Minister just survived a politically motivated impeachment paper! There is alot of role-playing. Your ideas will be met by intelligent, open-minded, and creative people, so long as you always follow the Rules.

What else is there?

Well, there's lots, but I should mention "loophole surfing", or "scamming". Some people hate it, some people play the game for it. Thats where you find loopholes in the Rules and play them to your advantage, to either force a win for yourself or a compatriot, or to deny someone else a win. I used several loopholes in the Judicial system to deny our President a win for a while. Some people simply enjoy going through the rules to find and fix loopholes, not exploit them. A Nomic war recently erupted between the Nobs Party and the Church of the Markovian Dream over this issue. Not interested, just buy a Prosthetic Forehead for A$7 and sit back and laugh. (We have a lot of TMBG fans in our game).

Cool, how do I find and join a Nomic game?

Nomic was originally developed as a pencil and paper, face to face game (more on that later), but the Internet and e-mail is the perfect medium for it. I'm Speaker for Ackanomic, so I'm biased and recommend starting at the Ackanomic home page, or e-mail me, Malenkai, or our Registrar, Alfvaen for more information. The beauty of Ackanomic is that you can join as an observer or player, and quit at any time. The beauty of our game is that it is fairly young, you can still get in on some of the early fun, before it gets too complicated. Its pretty fluid, as long as there isn't a crisis or crash going on. The home page has more information. Why don't you check it out now?

Where did this come from?

Nomic was invented by Philosopher Peter Suber. It was originally published in Douglas Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas" column in Scientific American, and later in a book of the same name. Suber is interested in The Paradox of Self-Amendment in law, and has a book of the same name. Nomic was orginally designed as a game to explore this concept. His nomic page has more information about his work, the book, and Nomic.

What other Nomics are there on the Net?

None that have the "Harfy" flavor of Ackanomic :-). Actually, all Nomics refect the distinct character, flavor, and personality of their players, and their Rules. Check out several of them. There is even an Internomic game forming with four member Nomics as players! Here are some links to Nomic games and Nomic information on the net (note this is a very small list. Follow a link and you will find even more Nomic games and variants):

Nomic FAQ
Nomic Bulletin Board
Michael Norrish's Nomic Page

Ackanomic
Agora
Thring

Malenkai's Ackanomic Links for Ackanomic Players:

Ackanomic Page

Internomic Home Page

Ackanomic Player List

Clerk of the Courts' Page

Current Events Page

Buried Treasure Archive

Trinket Archive

Ye Olde Rusty Lantern

Ackanomic Museum of Antiquities

''Round the Earth Archive


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Copyright 1996 by Randy Hall malenkai@itw.com