The OxNomicker

Issue 2, 16 November 1997



This is a historic day: an OxNomic newsletter has reached its second edition. Yet even before this was written, the Scribe (in its incarnation as Owen Massey) had called for a reduction in its workload. Have no fear, I want to see every point of interest in OxNomic recorded: style points may not always be around but witty proposals and scams will be immortalised in the OxNomicker. It's about time, too, as a look at the Gameplay section will prove.

I'm sorry to say that Mark Rigby-Jones has left the game, owing to trivial things like having a job and a life and stuff (well, as much as is possible living in Kidlington). Together with Terry Boon, Mark was responsible for the monster rule that overhauled the Proposal structure, perhaps the most stylish proposal yet to have blossomed from OxNomic's fertile soil. (You can read it, as proposal number 414, here.) Mark also took on the role of Speaker for the majority of the second game, when Simon Cozens discovered after just 24 hours that no-one but a fool would do the job. Oosp.

The system of Judgements has been tinkered with this past week, with the introduction of Fast-Track Proposals and the ability to make an appeal on a Judgement. I'm very pleased with the existing structure of Judgements, that is to say, no Judgement is ever binding on the interpretation of the ruleset, but it can be made so in the normal OxNomic fashion by the proposal of a rule change enshrining it in the ruleset. Last week I was concerned about a new element entering the game, that of the intentions of the proposer of a rule change, because I felt it was a licence for sloppy thinking; I also thought it would cause problems when the proposer's intentions could not be discovered (because they'd left the game, or because they dissembled in order to see their rule corrected). However, the new system doesn't change the principle that the rules are all that counts, as cases where the implementation may clash with the intention are to be put forth for Judgement in the usual way, and I'm satisfied with this.

Readers may be interested in Formal Nomic, an idea developed for Agora Nomic, which takes the principle of content-free rules to an extreme. It appeals to the mathematician in me, though I sadly recognise that flaw-free Nomic at this level of pedantry would be unworkable... and much less fun.

Finally, Ian Collier has reminded me to take more care in using the word 'game': there is the game we're playing, called OxNomic, and there are individual games of OxNomic, of which the fourth is currently in progress. I don't fancy 'set' or 'match' for the name of the big game, so perhaps readers would like to help resolve this tangle in nomenclature. The use and abuse of OxNomic terms is a source of concern and interest to me, and I hope to write about it in a future issue.

The Scribe


The first Proposal made this week was by Ian Snell, as was the second, and the third. The second was a minor change to avoid a conflict when the Speaker is allowed to vote in exceptional circumstances, and I shan't say any more about it here. The first was to bolster the recently adopted Fast-Track Proposals by making their rule changes Probationary for a period of one week and giving players the chance to scrap them with ease. That's all: a simple and helpful idea, but the tortured tale of its execution has been instructive.

There is a bonus for successful Proposals of fifty words or fewer. Ian's original Proposal was already over fifty lines long! This is evidence of the care necessary in drafting an OxNomic rule change, looking out for loopholes and undesired interactions with existing rules. Anyway, after a bit of tidying up, it went through smoothly, compared with his third Proposal.

Did I issue a call for silliness last week? It seems to have been answered. Any Proposal starting, "There shall be an Office called the Grocer. The Grocer shall offer for sale Cabbages and Cheese." leads one to doubt the sanity of the proposer, and after its tempestuous journey through the newsgroup, said proposer (Ian Snell) might agree.

The Grocery is an attempt to provide a use for those CV points Officers accumulate. (It may stimulate the beginnings of capitalism in OxNomic, but it may equally provoke Bolshevistic calls for redistribution of Cabbages and Cheese.) The Grocer buys their goods from the Bank's infinite supply, adds a mark-up of CV1 and sells them on to the players. Now prepare for some new - and distinctly unusual - terminology.

Eating a Cabbage allows a Player to Gas all the other Players: this means that they cannot perform any 'Nomic business' (a phrase defined in the Proposal) for one hour subsequent. But it's possible to overindulge in Cabbages: eating more than one a week makes you Uncouth; being Uncouth more than twice in a term makes you Rude; and being Rude more than twice leads to expulsion from OxNomic.

Cheese is a useful as well as nutritious foodstuff: eating it makes you Full and effectively gains you a free vote on any Proposal. Again, Ian wanted to prevent indigestion, so eating more than one block of Cheese a week makes you Greedy; being Greedy more than twice in a term makes you a Glutton; and more than two instances of Gluttony leads to expulsion. (There is more, including Gas Masks, being In Another Room, and the status of Yob, but you get the picture.)

A fine idea, you may think; but the devil is in the details. This long Proposal must have seen more amendments before adoption than any other so far. Ian Snell himself made two sets of changes at the start; Ian Collier, Chris Dickson, Terence Boon and Gordon Aickin all raised queries about the Proposal within the three-day period for changes to a Proposal, and Ian Snell amended the rule appropriately, though no doubt with a certain amount of exasperation. Worse was to come, though, when the alert Simon Cozens pointed out - too late - that the Grocer's having no salary meant that there would never be an election for that empty Office. So, no Grocer.

Fans of Schadenfreude will enjoy reading the saga on the newsgroup, and wondering what will be done to fix up the rule. It's quite possible that no Grocer will ever appear: Ian Collier once introduced three rules defining Appeals on a rule's adoption, after which Owen Massey and Chris Dickson Appealed on the adoption of the Appeal rule - successfully. The ruleset still has two rules dealing with the conduct of an Appeal, but there is no way to call one.

In other news: Simon Cozens has showed us what chutzpah means by repealing a rule (430) without Proposal under rules 116 and 453. The Speaker hasn't yet accepted this brave claim, so 430 still stands. Mr Cozens also wants to 'Transmute 0(0) to mutable and self-destruct'. Nuff said.

Chris Dickson has proposed a new methods of voting, the Referendum, to accompany normal Votes and Motions. A Referendum is explicitly not intended to deal with rule changes; presumably it could be used to gauge opinion amongst Players, and this Scribe has an idea for a Referendum if his Proposal is adopted. Another good invention of Chris's are Yellow Cards and Red Cards. As yet he hasn't specified what they'll be awarded for, but it seems sensible to use them for disciplinary procedures.

Last week, Chris sallied forth into ox.games.nomic with a suggestion for an inanimate Player - the Automaton. (Compare the Voting Gnome or Tammany in Ackanomic.) Although there were general murmurs of approval, no-one has yet seen fit to propose a rule change introducing such an entity - gentle reader, let this be your task for today.


There has been only one request for a Judgement this week, by Gordon Aickin, who asked for a Judgement on the following on 14.xi.1997:

Rule 384 has no effect on the actions that may be made by any player, nor
on the interactions of any other rules.
Last week Gordon proposed to make the Dusty Bin rule sensible, but this failed, and he would like those who voted against to say exactly what its effect is. Simon Cozens - one of those to vote against - has been chosen to judge it, but no Judgement has yet been delivered. More on this next week.