The OxNomicker

Issue 6, 1 March 1998



New Scribe, new newletter. New Game. New Speaker. New danger. Well, perhaps not, but a lot has changed since the last edition of the OxNomicker. Game 4 of OxNomic ended suddenly on February 2nd when Ian Snell won, and almost the entire Cabinet (if we can call our collection of Officers that) resigned under Rule 432(0). The Scribe, wishing to summarise the end of Game 4 before he left the post, did not resign immediately but has since decided that he will be unable to write another newsletter and handed over to the new Scribe, who was elected unopposed on February 28th. It therefore falls to the current author to report on events during the past two months on OxNomic.

As well as the start of the new game there has been the creation of a new officer, the Recorder, to document Judgements and Referendux, and the introduction of automated players called Puppets to the game. There has been a devious plot to explore the Prisoner's Dilemma and an introduction of a bit of colour to the game - at the second attempt. A small scandal over incorrect voting results caused one player to suggest two means of dealing with the problem in future, but they were both voted down. So, on to the gameplay. Hold on to your hat - over thirty Proposals are about to be mentioned.


One of the first things the Speaker discovered after returning from the Christmas vacation was that Colin Batchelor had expressed his wish to remove 15 points from Gordon Aickin as the result of the failure of three earlier proposals, but that the message had arrived after the one-week deadline for doing so. Normally this would result in a penalty of five points for each proposal, but it was decided that under the Statute of Limitations rule (446) this was invalid so the score remained unchanged. Judgement was not called to dispute the Speaker's opinion.

P58, a piece of administrivia proposed by Owen Massey to clear up the issue of voting and Bribes while on Suspended Animation (following a judgement described in the previous issue of this august publication), was the first result to be announced after the vacation. Boringly, it failed with only two votes on each side.

The Speaker was rather lax in collecting up and distributing the proposals made at the start of the year, so the first results came through at the end of January. P59 was proposed by Owen Massey to clarify what happens in an Election when the Speaker has resigned and was passed unanimously by seven Voters. In P60 Ian Snell attempted to amend the immutable Rule 0 in preparation for his Puppets by specifying that a proposal to transmute a rule cannot fail merely by votes cast by automated methods. Unfortunately this failed because of one vote against. Ian also failed to amend the Rule Clerk's duties to include the dates of enactment and amendment of all rules when P61 attracted six votes split evenly for and against. However, he was more successful when the Courtesy Title of Pedant was created by the passing of P62 with five votes for and two against.

This brought the top scores rather near to the required 200, and with the passing of FT5 (see the Judgements section) Helen Broadie decided to make the game interesting by donating her five points to Ian Snell to give him a total of 199. With Owen Massey on 193 points most players expected his pending proposals to take him over 200 and give him a victory. But the game wasn't over yet, and Ian Snell took ten points off Owen for the failure of his previous two proposals.

Meanwhile, Ian Snell had been proposing the idea of introducing automated players. These players were principally intended to influence the voting process, but they can also make proposals and possibly even become judges. The idea was soundly thrashed out in the newsgroup before being proposed as P68. Its companion P69 modified the definition of Quorum to refer only to human players. But more of this later.

On February 2nd the results of Owen Massey's proposals P63 and P64 were announced. The former, which passed seven votes to two, created the Office of Recorder to maintain a list of Judgements. The Recorder also has the duty of recording Black Marks against players' names, although it remains to be seen what these will be used for. However, P64, which attempted to repeal Rule 404 [Negative Points Disallow Proposals], failed with four votes for and five against. Ian Snell, who had voted for P64, gained three points and so won the game. The Speaker, Banker and Rule Clerk had all served since before the start of Game 4 in February 1997 (in fact I believe they had all been in office since November 1996) and so they resigned. Fortunately, Owen Massey had earlier cleaned up the messy election process and the new Officers were elected without even a vote since only one candidate came forward for each post.

Owen Massey's P65 [Transmutations are Amendments] passed easily but P66, Owen's first attempt to introduce the Babylonian `Drazi War' rule to OxNomic, failed because too many players voted against in the hope of gaining some points. Bowing to popular request, Owen re-submitted this proposal as P73 before he became the Speaker and this was adopted as Rule 477 on February 11th having received six votes in favour and two against. All players now have a Shade of Green, Purple or Colourless. Each Proposal is also given a Shade of Green or Purple and players receive points for voting in favour and lose points for voting against a Proposal of their Shade.

P67 was a simple clarification by Helen Broadie to allow the Speaker to reject Fast-Track proposals if they do more than clarifying the situation after a judgement. It passed unanimously.

It fell to Owen Massey, the new Speaker, to announce the results of P68 and P69, Ian Snell's proposals mentioned earlier. They both passed, and with that Robin Hood and King John became players of the game. This was to start a short rush of Judgements, of which more later. There were three subsequent proposals to create new Puppets, of which the first two - Chris Dickson and Death - were successful. The real Chris Dickson had resigned from the game shortly before Game 4 ended, claiming that OxNomic had become too legalistic and boring. The Puppet was a humorous attempt by the present author to reproduce his apparent bias against long proposals and to resurrect some of his more memorable postings in the form of random rants posted to the newsgroup. We have yet to see this come into action. Death is a player who proposes the repeal of a random rule each Monday; this was proposed by the Speaker since by happy coincidence the Chris Dickson Puppet was proposal P74 leaving the Speaker free to propose P75 under the `Speaker's Privilege' rule. The third proposed Puppet (P76) was a rather complex self-replicating and self-preserving puppet called `Life(1)' proposed by Nick Fortescue. However, several flaws in the proposal were pointed out in the newsgroup and Nick decided to withdraw the proposal.

P70 was a devious proposal of Simon Cozens. The text, slightly modified by the Speaker to conform to the rules when it was first proposed, was as follows.

     * Enact new rule:
       All people voting for this proposal gain 20 points upon the
       proposal's enactment. All people voting against this proposal lose
       20 points on enactment. However, if this proposal is to go through
       unanimously, people voting for lose 20 points and those voting
       against gain 20 points.
     * Repeal the new rule.
This is an attempt to mimic the mathematical puzzle of game theory known as the Prisoner's Dilemma. Unfortunately it doesn't quite work because if all the players vote against the proposal it will not be adopted and therefore the rule will not be able to apply the 20-point penalty. However, the proposal did pass with five votes for and two against and the scores were altered accordingly. Of course, the proposal had no effect on gameplay except for these score changes because the rule it created was instantly repealed.

P71 was another bit of administrivia amending the Motion for Renumbering, proposed by Owen Massey before his election to the post of Speaker. It was adopted. P72 was another proposal from Owen to change the system for scoring Proposals and the votes thereon, and initially it seemed that this proposal had passed but unfortunately something odd had happened during the handover of the Speakership causing Colin Batchelor's votes to flip from `-' to `+'. When this was corrected P72 failed, and the Speaker quickly had to recalculate all the scores. So Colin Batchelor proposed in P77 that the Speaker should receive a Black Mark for each mistake made in the publishing of voting results, but thankfully this was voted down. A 9-2 vote against also resulted in the failure of Colin's next idea, P79, suggesting that there should be an International Observer who receives a copy of all votes in order to check the Speaker's announcements.

In P78 the Recorder's duties were extended to cover the listing of Referendux, since the Speaker had earlier observed that no archive of Referendux exists. This passed easily, and fortunately all Referendux were available to be archived (the other task of the Recorder - the archiving of Judgements - is, technically, impossible because about three Judgements from 1996 have unfortunately been lost). P80 extended the Recorder's duties even further, with all responsibilities for supervising the process of Judgement being taken from the Speaker and given to the Recorder.

Unfortunately, P81 and P84 were discovered to have fallen foul of the `One Amendment at at Time' rule (313) and were disallowed by the Speaker. These were later re-proposed as P87 and P86 respectively, but in order to prevent this from happening again the present author proposed P89, allowing several amendments at a time under certain circumstances, of which perhaps more in the next issue of the OxNomicker.

P82 was an attempt at scoring reform. Although the earlier attempt by Owen Massey in P72 failed, this passed with eight votes for and only three against. This makes it easier for a proposer of a failed proposal to be penalised and makes the scoring system slightly more balanced (although you still get 10 points for voting for a failed proposal and only 5 for doing the opposite).

It is quite some time since the last proposal to transmute a rule to mutable succeeded and when the last one failed the Speaker at that time remarked that Rule 444 determining the result of a vote seems to imply that such a transmutation would require more than 100% of the votes received to be in favour of the transmutation. Fortunately this was never tested, and now such a situation is impossible thanks to P83, which resulted in the immutable Rule 480 which at the same time defines the effect of a Quorum and decrees that no proposal receiving a unanimous vote can fail to be adopted.

Players with long memories might recall that an Appeal process existed at one time and consisted of three rules, one defining the situation in which an Appeal is called, one defining when it is valid, and one defining the procedure to be used to determine the result of the Appeal. The process was only used once, and resulted in the removal of the first of the three rules. The second and third rules still exist but are inactive. Coincidentally enough, the first Proposal to come from the newly created Death puppet was P85 suggesting the repeal of 378 - the second of the three Appeal rules. It remains to be seen whether this will succeed. Interestingly enough, the closing date for the vote on P85 was said to be February 30th until it was pointed out that this date does not exist.

It was at about this time that the Scribe decided to resign, having discovered that he had what he called a `personal life' and didn't think he would get around to writing another newsletter. At the same time he observed that if he had not resigned and failed to write a newsletter before the end of term the Speaker would have been obliged by Rule 433 to table a Motion of No Confidence - but this would have been difficult since a Motion is part of a Proposal, and the Speaker is not allowed to make Proposals except those divisible by 25 (it was once a matter for contention whether or not this means the number of the Proposal should be divisible by 25). P88 was proposed by Colin Batchelor to rectify the situation.

The remaining proposals still being voted upon are Colin Batchelor's P90 and Ian Snell's P91. The latter reduces the penalty for Puppets failing to vote, since the first application of this penalty caused Simon Cozens to lose CV30 and 30 points on the Fast-Track proposal FT6, and it was thought that this was excessive. P90 makes the length of the voting period dependent on the number of voters and cleans up the process of amending and withdrawing proposals.


Ian Snell decided it was time to make representations to another Nomic. He proposed two Referendux, as follows.
   R4 OxNomic shall require Chris Dickson to present to Bluesmobile
   nomic, as a gift from OxNomic, a virtual bond-maid. What a virtual
   bond-maid actually is is to be left in obscurity, but for information
   on what a real bond-maid is, OxNomic Players are advised to ask
   ox.clubs.ousfg for more information.

   R5 If OxNomic is too boring to offer a virtual bond-maid to
   Bluesmobile nomic, then it shall instead present them with merely a
   virtual banana.
Due to a counting error it initially seemed that both Referendux had passed, but in the end R4 failed, leaving the more boring option of just presenting a virtual banana.


As if it were not enough for Ian Snell to begin one section of this newsletter, he also begins the Judgements section with the first Judgement of 1998. He wrote:
According to 339(0) [Changing a Vote], the Speaker has no _counting_ vote
(emphasis mine), but according to 439(2) [Speaker's Proposal] the Speaker
has the right to vote on every 25th proposal. Therefore I call for
Judgement on these statements:

1) The vote allowed for the Speaker by rule 439(2) is a counting vote.

2) The vote allowed for the Speaker by rule 439(2) is not a counting vote.
and added the following stern warning:
If Judgement is found in favour of option 2, and records show that the
fate of any proposal has been altered by the Speaker's vote, then I
request that under rule 454(0) [Breaking the Rules] this state of affairs
be altered.
Fortunately, the first statement was judged to be true the very next day, thus sparing the players of having to search the records and decide what action should be taken. The Judge was Helen Broadie, who supplied the following reasoning.
By 439, which takes precedence over 339, the Speaker is not just able to
vote on every proposal divisible by 25, but becomes an honorary Voter
_with full rights_ for these proposals.  By 207, the rights of Voters
include having a vote, which is defined to be a counting vote, therefore
he has an honorary counting vote for these proposals.  For all other
proposals only 339 applies and he has no counting vote.
Helen proposed FT5 to clarify the situation:
     * Repeal the second paragraph of 339(0).
     * Amend the second sentence to:
       The Speaker has no counting vote on any proposal unless it is
       explicitly stated otherwise elsewhere in the rules.
     * Amend 439(2) to:
       For the purposes of every Proposal divisible by 25, the Speaker
       shall be an honorary Voter. This gives the Speaker a counting vote
       and all other rights associated with being a Voter.
and received six votes for with only one against.

Following the passing of P68 and the consequent introduction of Puppets, there were several controversies. The first began when Ian Snell claimed a reward under Rule 442 for `enticing' two players into the game - namely, the first two Puppets Robin Hood and King John. Since the Speaker acceded to this claim, Ian Collier applied to have the score change reversed with the following call for Judgement.

   - Creation of Puppets does not fall under Rule 442.
   - Creation of Puppets does fall under Rule 442 and the proposer of
     the rule to create each Puppet is deemed to be the person who "enticed"
     it to join.
   - (not the disjunction of the first two statements)
(The Speaker remarked that the third statement was unnecessary as the Judge is not bound to agree with any of the statements provided). The Judge selected was Nick Fortescue, who delivered Judgement the same day, choosing the first statement as the truth. He added:
A puppet is defined explicitly as a type of player. So the remaining parts
of the rule to consider are

1) The use of the verb entices.
2) The use of the word non-player.

As regards to 1), no enticement is done. The puppet is forced to come into
existence by the proposal that creates it. Switching to my handy
dictionary, entice means "to attract by exciting hope or desire" both of
which a puppet clearly does not have before it is created.

However, more importantly, non-player is not defined in the ruleset. This
means I have to give my interpretation to this. I interpret this as
any(one/thing) which is not currently a player. A puppet does not exist
(as a concrete object) until the rule proposing it is passed, and it is
then a player. To assert that a puppet exists because the concept of it
has been proposed as a rule is rubbish. It is like saying to my tutor that
my work exists because I considered doing it.

So creating puppets does not fall under rule 442, on two counts.
The Speaker then removed Ian Snell's 40 bonus points for enticement.

With his Judgement, Nick added a Call for Judgement, and coincidentally Ian Collier was selected as a Judge. The call read:

   - Puppets can exist
   - All of the Puppets currently defined in the rules do not exist
   - Puppets cannot exist
Nick explained:
By rule 113(0) - "A player always has the right to forfeit the game rather
                  than continue to play".
By rule 473(0) - A Puppet is a type of player.
               - "The Actions of a Puppet are entirely accounted for by
                  [its] set of Instructions".

The rule does not seem to explicitly allow or disallow a Puppet to forfeit
the game. Certainly none of the Puppets existing so far can forfeit the
game as their Instructions do not include this action, and their actions
are governed entirely by their Instructions.

By rule 111(0), immutable rules take precedence and any mutable rule which
conflicts with an immutable rule is entirely void. So is rule 473 entirely
void, and are any of the rules creating Puppets entirely void?
Judgement was delivered the next day:
Puppets can exist.  There is no conflict between having the right to forfeit
the game and not actually taking the right.  A puppet's instructions may
specify that it does or does not resign at particular times.
A few days later, Colin Batchelor, seemingly in imitation of the previous Judgement, asked:
* Puppets can go into Suspended Animation.
* Puppets can not go into Suspended Animation.
The Speaker now faced a dilemma because, although it was clearly never intended for Puppets to be judges, it was unclear whether the rules actually allowed it. The first Judge selected was Death, but since Death cannot produce a Judgement and neither can her Master (who is the Speaker), the Speaker decided to choose another Judge and ended up with Terry Boon. Unfortunately, Terry was slow in realising that he had been picked as a Judge and so was slightly late in producing a Judgement. The Speaker deemed Terry to have defaulted, and so fined him 10 points and passed the Judgement on to Helen Broadie. Eventually, Helen produced a Judgement and chose the first statement, namely that Puppets can go into Suspended Animation. Her reasoning was:
382(0) says that, "at any time, a player may choose to enter Suspended
Animation."  Puppets are players by definition so are therefore always
able to go into Suspended Animation if they so choose.  Of course, they
won't so choose unless it is in their Instructions, but they would always
be allowed to.
Meanwhile, because of the confusion over Judges and Puppets, Colin Batchelor wrote:
Owen Massey has written:

    Another interpretation is that "the Actions of the Puppet will be
    decided by its Master until further play becomes possible"; the
    Speaker is the Master of Death, and the Speaker is not normally
    allowed to make a Judgement, so this too is undesirable.

Looking over the rules, I see that:

   327(0) Any Judge selected shall be a randomly selected Voter. The Voter
   thus selected may not be the player most recently selected as Judge for
   that statement, nor the player who invoked judgement.

Thinks: But the reason why the Speaker is not normally allowed to make a
Judgement is because he normally isn't a Voter, though here the Puppet is
a Voter.  So, I'll call for Judgement on the following statements:

  * Puppets are allowed to be Judges when their Master is not a Voter.
  * Puppets are not allowed to be Judges when their Master is not a Voter.
Helen Broadie was again selected as Judge (though, chronologically speaking, this Judgement was passed to her before the previous one). Four days later, back came the reply. Puppets are allowed to be Judges when their Master is not a Voter. Her reasoning was:
By rule 473(1), Puppets are allowed to do anything they have Instructions
for, so if they have Instructions for being a Judge there is no conflict.

If they do not have Instructions for a situation then they may take no
action unless this would make further play impossible, in which case their
Actions must be decided by their Master.  This is the only instance in
which a decision can be made by a human for a Puppet.

For a Puppet to take no action on a Judgement would not make further play
impossible, as after four days they would be deemed to have defaulted, and
a new Judge would be chosen.  Therefore their Actions in this situation
*cannot* be decided by their Master.  So, in fact, whether or not their
Master is a Voter is irrelevant and puppets are always allowed to be
It was never intended that Puppets should be Judges unless their Instructions allow it, but even after all the rewording which the Puppet rule went through it still had a loophole. So Helen proposed the Fast-Track proposal FT6 to rectify the situation. The proposal amended Rule 327 (the Judge selection rule) to the following.
Any Judge selected shall be randomly selected from those Voters who are
either human or who are automated but have explicit instructions on how to
make Judgements, excluding the player most recently selected as Judge for
that statement and the player who invoked judgement.
The proposal passed unanimously, but unfortunately all three of the Puppets mastered by Simon Cozens failed to vote, resulting in a penalty of CV30 and 30 points.

Well now that it had been ruled that Puppets can be selected as Judges, Terry Boon contacted the Recorder to ascertain whether the Speaker's actions in not allowing Death to be a Judge were legal. He offered the alternatives:

   1) The selection of Terry Boon to judge J3 was not valid, and the
      penalty for his failure to deliver judgement should not be imposed.
   2) The selection of Terry Boon to judge J3 was not valid, but the
      penalty for his failure to deliver judgement should nevertheless be
   3) The selection of Terry Boon to judge J3 was valid.
supplying the following rationale.
   In the selection of the judge for J3 (concerning whether Puppets could
   enter Suspended Animation), Death (a Puppet) was selected as Judge. The
   Speaker decided that Death could not serve as Judge, and went on to
   select Terry as Judge (explaining what had happened).

   Judgement was promptly called on whether Puppets could serve as
   Judges, and Helen Broadie (in J4) ruled that they could. In particular,
   this meant that Death was a valid Judge when first selected.

   Terry failed to deliver judgement within the required period (due
   chiefly to his not realising that there was a CfJ which he was expected
   to judge...)

   Because of J4, Terry Boon should not have been selected to judge J3. I
   therefore believe that (1) is the correct choice. However, there may be
   more general issues connected with retrospectivity and penalties, which
   is why (2) is included. I do not believe (3) is correct, but include it
   for the sake of completeness.
Within three hours, the selected Judge, Nick Fortescue, had chosen the first alternative and supplied the following reasoning.
   It seems to be the case in nomic that anything which happened not
   according to the rules was deemed never to have happened (how could it,
   the rules would have been broken). As the selection of Terry as Judge
   was not according to the rules, (from J4) it clearly never happened,
   and so no penalty should be imposed.
And thus Terry's 10-point penalty was reversed. It was not entirely clear what action should be taken to resolve the original Call for Judgement, which at that time had still not been judged, but it was decided to allow Helen to complete her Judgement on the grounds that Death had defaulted and passed the Judgement to Helen. Given FT6 it is unlikely that such a dilemma will happen again so the players were happy to accept this interpretation.