The OxNomicker

Issue 4, 30 November 1997



Hello again. Despite not being represented by a union, the Scribe recently improved his conditions by proposing a rule change allowing him a measure of freedom from the shackles of the Scriptorium. But, life or no life, the pull of the OxNomicker was too great to resist, and here is your newsletter, almost on time. An example of how players can do Good Things (TM) without being required to by the rules. One might say the same about OxNomic itself - from nothing, and for no reason other than the joy of playing, we have created our own private world.

The past week has been a classy illustration of why we play Nomic - a clever conspiracy by two players, possibly leading to the end of the game because of a logical paradox, and its rescue by a truly ravelled interpretation of the rules. The game continues, this time, but I have a feeling there are many potential loopholes to be squeezed through. This player, for one, intends to follow Rule 393(0) to the letter by finding them.


This seems to be an auspicious time for changing the rules: the vast majority of recent Proposals have been adopted as rules. In fact, the last nine Proposals have passed, leading to precipitous increases in players' scores and the all too worrying possibility of a fifth game starting when someone hits 200 points. The only thing to fail was Owen Massey's trial Referendum on the pronunciation of "Nomic"; in Chris Dickson's words, it should now be said "fish".

Gordon Aickin has made an attempt to salvage Ian Snell's idea of a Grocer, and in a new departure for OxNomic, has started with a general framework for specific rules to utilise, rather than waiting for the general system to emerge from several ad hoc instances. He has come in for great criticism from the Speaker and Chris Dickson, though, because his Proposal is by far the longest ever made, and it's difficult to evaluate it without there being any concrete "Vendors" and "Objects" in existence.

An interesting Proposal came from potential Jester Simon Cozens, who wants to screw up the overhauled judgement system by allowing players to Bribe a Judge, in true mafia style. Like a Bribe on a vote for a Proposal, a Bribe on a judgement costs 5 points, for which a player gets to dictate the Judge's thoughts; and as with Bribes on votes, the player being Bribed will not know, so Justice is still blind.

Most of the remaining Proposals have been small - not footling, though, a Proposal's importance being unrelated to its length. A little rule change can earn as many points as its longer relative on passing; or even more if it slips under the 50 word mark. So don't be put off from tidying up the rules.

Ian Collier, the Speaker, has used his privilege under 439(2) to propose a rule change. A timely rule change, as it turns out, which should remove the clumsy concept of a "counting vote" and reintroduce the controversial Double Vote to OxNomic. Why is this timely? Read on...


It so happens that there is a large overlap between OxNomickers and the membership of the OU Invariant Society. At one of the meetings of the Invariants this term, Nick Fortescue and Helen Broadie noted that Rule 449(2) [Bribes] had not been repealed, and welded a wonderfully simple spanner to hurl into the workings of OxNomic. Nick Fortescue distracted players' attention by proposing "Without Dusty Bin." as a new rule, but that wasn't the problem (it not contradicting the existing "with Dusty Bin." because of the laws of precedence).

No, the plan was to exploit the careful (but not careful enough!) phrasing of the Bribes rule, which had been written to ensure that it, and it alone, defined a counting vote. So, having chosen a player at random (or not: it was Owen Massey, who was responsible for the original Bribes rule), Nick Bribed him to vote FOR the Proposal he'd made, and Helen Bribed him to vote AGAINST. Buss and fother, you might think, and you would be right.

Ian Collier was party to this wicked plan, and as Speaker, was the first to know when both Bribes had been received; actually, as it was not immediately obvious what Owen's vote would be, he was the only person who could know for sure. He thus took the opportunity before the end of the voting period to call for judgement on whether a contradiction had been reached by Owen being required to vote simultaneously FOR and AGAINST. Ironically, it was Helen Broadie who the random Judge selector chose. (See Judgements, below, for the details.)

Well, it was a silly trap for the author of the Bribes rule to have fallen into, so it was fitting that he should provide the (rather dubious) means of escape from a possible paradox. OxNomic, it seems, now has a new vote to complement FOR and AGAINST, that of "FOR AND AGAINST". Owen was deemed to have voted FOR AND AGAINST Nick's Proposal and all was well.

So what happens now? Helen has promised to submit a Fast-Track Proposal to clear up this mess, perhaps (at least) repealing the Bribes rule; Ian Collier had already proposed a rule change that would prohibit silly tricks like voting "FOR AND AGAINST". In general, it takes some time before a loophole in a rule is spotted, because on its adoption players view it only in the manner in which its proposer intended it, and only much later does it become a string of words whose interpretation can be perverted.

I think I speak for most players in saying that I'm glad the game didn't judder to a complete halt because of a contradiction. There's too much life in OxNomic for it to die so abruptly, and I for one would have suggested continuing it as OxNomic II with just the Bribes rule removed and play proceeding as if nothing had happened. As it is, we've learnt the easy way, to the greater glory of the Rules.


Hanging over from last week was the report of the Appeal triumvirate. Gordon Aickin had queried whether the Speaker's distribution of a faulty judgement acted as an endorsement of it, as David Woolger had judged. Tim Ricketts and Ian Snell upheld the judgement being Appealed, as did Nick Fortescue (though it took him a bit longer). Tim's Judgement was rather Zen-like:
I have not been following the game very much recently so I will base my
judgement entirely on what I can see at this moment (this email and part
of rule 401).  Gordon's appeal text seems to be saying that there is no
rule saying the non-legal judgements should not be distributed; therefore
the original judgement should not have been distributed, because it was
not legal.

Having not seen the original judgement, I therefore have no choice but to
uphold it:  it can't possibly have made any less sense.  Besides, Gordon
has far too many CV points.
This led to a rather embittered response from Gordon Aickin. Perhaps some smileys should be distributed to all players (-: .

As you've read above, on 25.xi.1997 Ian Collier called for judgement under the Stalemate rule (219). Stalemate requires a special kind of statement to be judged, indeed, a statement of a form not obviously catered for by the ordinary list-of-possibilities call (which happens to take precedence over the Stalemate rule). So, wishing to cover all bases, he said that the statement he wished to see judged TRUE under 219 was:

A contradiction has been reached.
and for the purposes of 401 this was accompanied by the list of choices:
A contradiction has been reached.
A contradiction has not been reached.
Just inside her time limit, with all players biting their nails, Helen Broadie reported as follows:
I Judge that


As Owen says, 207 says that Voters may only send in a vote for or against
a proposal, but there is nothing to stop their counting vote being "FOR
and AGAINST", which is what I judge to have happened in this instance, so
I find that there is not a contradiction.