The OxNomicker

Issue 5, 4 January 1998



I didn't expect to have to write a newsletter over Christmas, and if you read this edition, which wraps up the play to the end of 1997, you'll see that I didn't. Simply, there was a flurry of calls for judgement in December which engendered a fair volume of text and a dozen minor Proposals. Since the recorded judgements are the most interesting of these, they're recorded in full here, and I'll keep my head down until play restarts.


One of the sillier things in OxNomic is that we now have positions of both Joker and Jester. Chris Dickson's Joker was the first to be tried for, by both Ian Snell and Simon Cozens. It's a radically new form of comedy in which a joke is declared funny or not as the result of a vote - perhaps it's appropriate, then, that the first two jokes should be set in Russia. As it turned out, Simon was officially not funny, and Ian Snell claimed the Joker's crown (or whatever form of headgear a Joker wears).

The majority of Proposals in December arose from judgements, in one way or another. Colin Batchelor was responsible for two curios; the first was an insistence that "judgement" be spelt, well, "judgement" (with an e, that is). Unfortunately his Proposal would have imposed a penalty for the spelling "judgment" appearing on a web page, and as the Speaker pointed out, this included the web page bearing the rule which required the penalty for writing "judgment" as included in the rule which... His second was the suggested replacement of "twofold" with "thriffled" in the Rule Clerk rule. Neither got anywhere; nuffle said.

The Speaker accidentally declared one of Colin Batchelor's Fast-Track Proposals to have the full one-week voting period of a normal Proposal. Ian Collier's recently-adopted rule redefining the casting of votes allowed him to accept votes cast throughout the week and so there was effectively no problem with this. It was however a small example of the problems in deciding what action to take when it is discovered that the rules have been broken, even (or especially) unintentionally. An interesting thesis presented for a qualification in Agora Nomic deals with exactly this.

Finally, Chris Dickson tried to fool us into a miserable vacation by proposing the repeal of Rule 393 without reminding us that it instructed us to enjoy the holidays. OxNomic players (and non-players - see below) being the clever bunch they are, this trap was quickly spotted and rendered harmless with a pile of votes against.


The first player to invoke judgement... ahem, the first person to invoke judgement was Stephen Gower, on December 2. He was torn between the following:
  A non-player can invoke a judgement
  A non-player can't invoke a judgement
(Tsk, these lurkers!) Stuart Adamson defaulted on delivering a judgement but his successor, Colin Batchelor, was just prompter and judged on the 9th:
        A non-player can invoke a judgement.
Of course, if a non-player couldn't invoke a judgement then Stephen Gower's call would have been invalid and it wouldn't have mattered what was decided (except that there would have been no justification for altering the scores of the pseudo-Judges). Colin explained:
My reasoning is as follows.  Take the rule 398(0):

   398(0) When judgement is invoked, the Speaker must, as soon as
   possible, select a Judge as described in the Rules. The Speaker must
   then distribute the statement to be judged, along with the identity of
   the Judge, to all players.

It specifies that judgement can be invoked, but it nowhere states that
it has to be done by a player.  In my view the part of rule 401(3), which
mentions "The player calling for justice may..." only applies in the case
of a player calling for justice.  It doesn't imply that a non-player
can't invoke a judgement.

   401(3) The statement to be judged must take the form of a list of at
   least two possible interpretations of a particular rule or interaction
   of two or more rules. The player calling for justice may if they wish
   explain the conflict in greater detail but the explanation is not part
   of the statement to be judged.
He made a Fast-Track Proposal to prevent this happening again, which was adopted as part of the rules; but not before the loophole had been exploited by lurker number two, Dominic Camus, whose query on December 10 was in a similar vein:
103(0) At any time, each player shall be either a Voter or the Speaker;
       no player may simultaneously be a Voter and a Speaker. At
       any time there shall be exactly one Speaker. The term "player"
       in the rules shall specifically include both the Voters and the

116(0) Whatever is not prohibited or regulated by a rule is permitted and
       unregulated, with the sole exception of changing the rules,
       which is permitted only when a rule or set of rules explicitly or
       implicitly permits it. 

In view of the two rules above, the statements to be judged are :

a) A player must be a Voter or the Speaker, but nowhere does it say that
   a non-player may not be a Voter also. Therefore by 116(0) it is
   permitted for a non-player to be a Voter.

b) Non-players cannot be Voters since it would cause chaos throughout the
   OxNomic ruleset, not to mention being bloody stupid.
Simon Cozens delivered judgement the same day.
        Both of the statements are to some extent true. Non-players are
not FORBIDDEN by the current ruleset from being Voters, but are currently
do not happen to *be* Voters. However, it would cause a certain amount of
chaos if non-players voted. OTOH, it could be argued that by the very act
of Voting and thusly interacting with the game play process, one *becomes*
a Player. 
His Fast-Track Proposal, which failed, was:
        All Players are either Voters or Speakers. All Voters are either
Players or Speakers.
Where this leaves the players and non-players of OxNomic is anybody's guess.

There was no rest, at least for those players not in Suspended Animation. Two more judgements were requested the following day. Terry Boon sneaked in first:

   384(0) conflicts with 461(0)
   384(0) does not conflict with 461(0)
   384 and 461 are, respectively, "With Dusty Bin" and "Without Dusty Bin".

   Owen, as Rule Clerk, records that the two rules conflict so, 384 being
   immutable and 461 being mutable, 384 takes precedence and 461 is

   I disagree with this interpretation. Neither "rule" makes any assertion,
   so I do not consider it possible that there can be a contradiction.

   By the interpretation that there in one, one may as well say that the
   English language, or the dictionary, is logically inconsistent on the
   grounds that both "possible" and "impossible" are words. (Of course, the
   English language is inconsistent in many ways - in grammar, orthography,
   and pronunciation - but not logical, in my opinion.)
Poor, semi-detached Colin Batchelor was asked to be the Judge again, and made a colourful decision (within two hours of judgement being invoked):
   384(0) does not conflict with 461(0).

Owen Massey has it arsy-versy, I think, or Terry Boon has Owen Massey's
interpretation misunderstood.  He (Owen) writes:

 [This rule conflicts with Rule 384(0); 384(0) is immutable and
   therefore takes precedence over 461(0).]

but this only applies if there is a conflict as laid down in 111(0):

   111(0) In a conflict between a mutable and an immutable rule, the
   immutable rule takes precedence and the mutable rule shall be entirely
   void. For the purposes of this rule a proposal to transmute an
   immutable rule does not "conflict" with that immutable rule.

The game doesn't define a "conflict", but I think it's clear that the
sentences "384(0) with Dusty Bin" and "461(0) without Dusty Bin" conflict
no more than "Surrey with a fringe on top" and "Berkshire without a
fringe on top" do.

If we had a rule with a number 384(0) in addition to the present one
which said "384(0) without Dusty Bin" then there would be a conflict.  I
wonder what happens if I make the following Proposal (not a Fast-Tracker):

 P57 What's without Dusty Bin? 384(0) without Dusty Bin.
This Proposal failed anyway, which was fortunate as it would have led to all sorts of bother about whether Reference Numbers were part of rules and whether there was a contradiction even with all three rules in effect.

The other call on the 11th was from Ian Collier, the Speaker, who demanded that Owen Massey sort out a vexed question:

I also call for judgement on the following statement and its negation.

   A player who is in Suspended Animation may be assigned a counting vote
   as the result of a Bribe.

Rule 382 [Suspended Animation] states that no player may conduct any Nomic
business during a period of Suspended Animation.  Voting seems to constitute
Nomic business, so a player would seem to be ineligible to vote during a
period of Suspended Animation.  Rule PR449 [Bribes] states that the Bribe
takes effect if "the nominated Voter is eligible to vote on the specified
Proposal".  So whether a Suspended player may be bribed depends on the
exact interpretation of 382 (either the player is ineligible to vote, or
the player is eligible but unable to vote).
The following rather long decision was delivered on December 15.
A player who is in Suspended Animation may not be assigned a counting vote
as the result of a Bribe.

"Nomic business", an as yet undefined phrase, may be informally understood
as any communication which may change the state of the game in a manner
specified by the rules. Thus casting a vote is Nomic business as it may
alter the result of a vote on a Proposal; whether it does so or not is
immaterial. Posting a comment to the newsgroup is not Nomic business as no
rule suggests a change in the game state that would follow from it. A Scribe
is conducting Nomic business when writing a newsletter because they are
performing the duties of an Office laid down in the rules and they will
earn CV points for doing so.

Rule 382 [Suspended Animation] states that no player may conduct any Nomic
business during a period of Suspended Animation. Sending a message to the
Speaker to cast a vote certainly constitutes Nomic business. I interpret
'vote' to mean 'send a message to the Speaker to cast a vote', so a
Suspended player is ineligible to vote on any Proposal for which the voting
period falls entirely within their period of Suspended Animation. A Bribe
takes effect only if "the nominated Voter is eligible to vote on the specified
Proposal". Hence the vote of a player in Suspended Animation may not be
determined by a Bribe if the voting period for the specified Proposal falls
entirely within their period of Suspended Animation.

[other comments]
Rule 382 states explicitly that a Suspended player makes a "legally cast
counting vote which is an abstention" on every such Proposal. My presumption
is always against rules being internally self-contradictory, so I feel that
this abstention does not count as Nomic business. The Speaker is the player
responsible for recording this vote, of which the Suspended player is
unaware; I deem the Speaker to be performing, and the Suspended player not
to be performing, Nomic business.

By this token, however, a player is not conducting Nomic business when
their counting vote is determined by a Bribe, unless they Bribe themselves.
The reason a Suspended player may not be Bribed is merely that they may not
cast a vote themselves. Note also that, since the Speaker may only cast a
vote on every 25th Proposal, the Speaker may only be Bribed on every 25th
The Speaker had called for judgement because a player had entered Suspended Animation after the start of a vote and subsequently received a Bribe; fortunately his vote was irrelevant to the adoption or failure of that particular Proposal but it was necessary to decide how he'd voted in order to award points. Owen Massey's judgement failed to deal with this case, but when prompted, he provided an addendum. (This was given after the first judgement, but since judgements are not binding and technically only the first sentence of the above was the judgement, it didn't matter.)
The Speaker is right. In this case, according to my reasoning set out
above, the player is eligible to vote on the Proposal, and so their vote
will be determined by a Bribe sent just as if they were not Suspended.
This also applies in the case where a player leaves Suspended Animation
partway through a voting period. It is therefore not possible to avoid a
Bribe by entering Suspended Animation for a brief period, only by doing so
for the entirety of the voting period, which of course debars you from
casting your own vote. 
The Judge made an ordinary Proposal to make his judgement explicit:
_P58_ Amend 382 by appending to the second paragraph:
This vote does not count as Nomic business. It may be overridden by a
Bribe only if the player is not in Suspended Animation for some part of
the Proposal's voting period. 
We have yet to discover the result of this. No doubt next term will see Proposals aimed at straightening out the wrinkles caused by undefined terms like 'player' and 'Nomic business'.