The OxNomicker

Issue 3, 23 November 1997

You Don't Know


Not much room for waffle this week, because of all the judgements. What a tangled web we weave. Just one insignificant little thing: there is life on other planets. Yes, contact has been made with OxNomic by an alien Nomic: see the article by Chris Dickson on a game called "You Don't Know", below.

OxNomic has already recognised that other Nomics may exist, in the rule requiring us to declare war on any Cambridge Nomic. Readers may be interested in two extensions of this idea: The United Nomics, and InterNomic, a Nomic played by Nomics. Naturally, InterNomic itself is a player in InterNomic.

You Don't Know, by Chris M. Dickson

Some time ago, I started subscribing to a free e-mail games zine called The Bluesmobile, edited by Berry Renken <blues@hunze.iwg.nl>, which runs several games of Diplomacy and Diplomacy-like games, several word games, lots of miscellaneous and entertaining chat and general discussion; furthermore, hurrah, it runs a game of Nomic. Its initial ruleset read:

  1. All Blues subbers participate in this truly genious game.
  2. All participants receive one point each round.
  3. Each round each participant may suggest a new rule or a rule change. The game starts as soon as five or more people do this.
  4. Each round the players may vote Yes or No to proposals made in the previous round.
  5. If a proposal receives more Yes-votes than No-votes, it is accepted and will become effective in the round that follows.
...and even these rules were taken from Joakim Spaangberg's supposedly excellent e-zine WebAniara. Six turns down the line, the rule set has mutated to:
  1. All Blues subbers participate in this truly genious game.
  2. Proposals earn one point if approved, or the difference between yes and no votes, whichever is greater.
  3. Each round each participant may suggest a new rule or a rule change.
  4. Each round the players may vote Yes or No to proposals made in the previous round.
  5. If a proposal receives more Yes-votes than No-votes, it is accepted and will become effective in the round that follows.
  6. All proposals are "black", that is you may claim to be anyone you want, fictional or otherwise, when making a proposal.
  7. Rules be limited to 30 in number. Once this limit is reached an old rule has to be dropped (in a way yet to be decided).
  8. You can give any amount of positive points you have away to other players (whatever you give away will be deducted from your score and added to the recipient's).
  9. We establish a SETI programme to find another nomic game and establish formal contact with it.
  10. Any proposal that is accepted gives the proposer 5 points. In case the proposal is voted down, the proposer loses 2 points instead.
  11. There is a game board, which has 100 spaces on it, numbered 00, 01 etc. thru 99. Each player occupies one of the spaces, that is the space the number of which equals the amount of points the player has at the end of a round, or the last 2 digits of that amount if it is larger than 99.
  12. The Random Event Rule. Each round it's a 25% chance that one of the events listed in this rule takes place (the available events yet to be determined).
  13. The Lollapalooza Rule - players who submit their new rule proposals in the form of a rhyme or limerick earn 5 points.
  14. Equipment Rule: A player may use his points to buy items listed in this rule. (Items, function and price are yet to be determined.)
...so, you lucky people, I am the link between the two games. There is already a proposal of something that I am meant to send to you, and it's very amusing. To be honest, the Bluesmobile Nomic game is far more amusing than the OxNomic one, probably because of the simplicity of its initial ruleset. I mention this merely to invite people to join a fairly silly and extremely entertaining game of Nomic. Hope to see some more of you there!


Another busy week in OxNomic, so I shan't detail all the proposed rule changes and general fun. Proposals were made to tidy up rules about voting Quotas, the role of the Scribe and the conduct of Elections (which are currently more complicated than those for OUSU). Ian Snell's Grocer failed to make it into existence after the most thoroughgoing nitpicking any Proposal has yet received. Chris Dickson's proposed repeal of the Bribes rule fell, leading to much gnashing of teeth, and potential heartache if rumours of some OxNomickers' plans are true. Oh, and 0(0) didn't become mutable. This was an idea of Simon Cozens, if you have to ask.

The Speaker made a masterly defence of the ruleset against this Cozens' attempt to repeal a rule unilaterally (as mentioned last week). Rule 453 states that "Rules may be [...] repealed [...] without a proposal if, and only if, the rules currently in force allow it", and Rule 116 states that "Whatever is not prohibited [...] by a rule is permitted"; there is no rule explicitly prohibiting repeals without a Proposal.

I think it's worth quoting the Speaker's rebuttal in full, a) for its masterly exposition of the situation and b) to save me trying and failing to explain it:

Such a circular reference creates a bistable circuit: the two stable
states are "the rules do not allow repealing without proposal" and "the
rules allow repealing without proposal".  To see how the former works,
assume that it is true.  Then rule 116 will not allow repealing without
proposal, because the rules do not allow it, and therefore 453 will not
allow it either.  No contradiction is evident.

Since we were previously in the state "the rules do not allow repealing
without proposal", and (as far as I am aware) nothing has happened to kick
the game into the other stable state, my opinion is that we are still in
this state, and I am disallowing the repeal.
As a fair Speaker, he then called for Judgement on the ability to change rules in order to clarify the situation; his opinion was supported, and a Fast-Track Proposal is underway to made this explicit. (Judgements have been much in evidence this week: see below for the full, thicketed story.) Anyway, we're safe from attacks on the rules now - oh, what's this proposed by Nick Fortescue? "Without Dusty Bin."? Oh dear...

OxNomic now has yet another type of vote, to accompany Proposals (including Motions), Fast-Track Proposals and Elections: Referenda. Or rather, as Chris Dickson made explicit in his rule, Referendux. Like an OUSU Indicative Vote these are available for gauging the opinion of the players on any issue, for instance, Owen Massey's first Referendum about the pronunciation of Nomic.

Chris has now proposed using Referendux to vote on players' sense of humour - having complained about the dullness of the game, he's taking steps to change it, which is a Good Thing. A successful joke-teller gains the title of Joker. Sadly Owen Massey had also been musing on these lines and slipped in front with a Proposal for a system of Courtesy Titles, the first of which would be the Jester. Both rules have similar intent, so perhaps the humbler of the proposers will back down. And perhaps hell will freeze over.


First I'll get a minor judgement on a minor issue out of the way. Owen Massey (for it is he) noticed an omission in the Bribes rule and wanted to know whether:

A player who Bribes another shall lose 5 points:
o immediately on giving the Bribe;
o upon the Speaker receiving the notification of the Bribe;
o when the Speaker declares the result of the relevant vote.
and Stuart Adamson made a helpful decision, the first paragraph of which is worth remembering for its application in similar situations:
Seeing as the action of making a bribe involves informing the speaker, the
bribe is not made before then. By informing the speaker, this is read as
the speaker understanding the situation, rather than a message being sent
to the speaker which the speaker may or may not have yet read.

The loss of points is judged to be part of the bribe, rather than an
effect of the bribe, so as the bribe is "effective" before the end of the
voting period (second paragraph of 449(2) ), then the loss of points
also has to be effective before the end of the voting period.

Therefore, it is judged that a player who bribes another shall lose 5
points upon the Speaker receiving the notification of the Bride. (where
receving is to be read as "receiving and understanding")
Now for the nested meta-judgements... Hanging over from last week was a judgement requested by the persistent Gordon Aickin. Little did Chris Dickson know what he was wrighting in writing "with Dusty Bin."
Rule 384 has no effect on the actions that may be made by any player, nor
on the interactions of any other rules.
Of all the people in all the Nomix in all the world, it was the lunatic Simon Cozens who was chosen to be Judge. This is what he said:
Reject the statement. If anyone is clever enough to find a way to
implement Rule 384, they deserve the credit of their actions. Further to
that, it is part of the rules of the game, and thus must be adhered to.
Notice I didn't say this was Simon's "judgement". Gordon was quick to deny that it was a judgement at all, because it didn't give an alternative to the statement provided. (I wonder if he'd have done so if Simon had said "Accept the statement."?) So Simon asked whether his "judgment" really was official:
With reference to my judgment called by Gordon:
	1) My judgment is legal and binding.
	2) My judgment is legal, but not binding.
	3) My judgment is not legal, but binding.
	4) My judgment is neither legal nor binding.
David Woolger chose option 1: that is, Simon's judgement is legal and binding.
Clearly, under 401, Simon's judgement itself is not legal.  Since,
it clearly rejects the option set out in the CFJ.  But fails to set out an
alternative option, instead it merely stating the judges (Simon) opinion.

However, since the Speaker distributed judgement, it must be treated as
legal and binding, again under rule 401.
(Are you sitting comfortably?) So Gordon appealed against this judgement, saying:
Clearly this Judgment is inconsistent, There is no rule that says the
Speaker may not distribute a non-legal Judgement.

Rule 328 says that the speaker must distribute that judgement
as soon as possible, but nowhere does it say that he may not distribute
non-legal judgements. (So under 116 distributing non-legal judgements is

Anyway I would maintain that this Judgement was distributed in error, the
Speaker failing to notice that the judgemnet was not a "legal judgement"
as that is defined in 401.
This was the first instance of an appeal against a Judgement, a rule introduced by, er, Gordon Aickin. The Speaker chose an appeal panel of Tim Ricketts, Nick Fortescue and Ian Snell, who have yet to report. So it looks as if you should keep those flame-proof suits handy for at least one more week.