Sunday, February 02, 2020

A case for special consideration

We have nine Special Case rules now, and the latest addition (“The Tree”) just doesn’t seem to fit there. This made me realise that a cleanup might be in order, and other rules might be moved out of this section as well, either to the Appendix or to the Core Rules.

To aid in this decision, I decided to conduct a survey of Special Case rules and how often they have been deactivated. It’s not perfect (I checked the history mostly in ten-day intervals), but I think I caught everything, or almost everything; I intended it to cover the last two years, but I extended it back to September 2017 when I realised that’s when the Special Case section itself was created. Here is what I found:

– “Dormancy” started its life as Inactive during the Katamari Dynasty; this continued into the Metadynasty that followed, and the Dynasty after that. At that point arose questions about its exact workings, and it was temporarily repealed by CfJ in December 2017 (to be reinstated a couple of weeks later). I believe it was switched off once, by Proposal, near the end of the end of the Tech Project Dynasty (last May).
– “Combos”, “Tags”, “Atomic Actions” were the first rules to populate the Special Case section, soon followed by “Seasonal Downtime” (right after “Dormancy”); these were all active and have remained so ever since. Of these, only “Combos” is no longer in the books: it was considered to be troublesome and was repealed in February 2018. (Not everyone agreed with this view at the time, but the abolition of the GNDT might have changed that now.)
– “Orphan Variables” appeared around the turn of 2018 and, in its first incarnation, actually drew this comment from Kevan: “Would we ever realistically want to switch this off, though?” Indeed, this rule has also never been switched off.

Compare these rules with the next batch…

– “Imperial Deferentials” was created in July 2018 and “Dynastic Distance” was transferred (with modifications) from the Dynastic ruleset in August 2018. They were both deactivated by Proposal a few days after the beginning of the Tron Programming Dynasty, and the same happened in the Activism Dynasty that followed (autumn 2018). “Dynastic Distance” was also deactivated by Proposal in the Moonbase Dynasty in mid-2019.
– In July 2019, “The Traitor” was created. Both it and “Dynastic Distance” were set to inactive in the Ascension Address of the Climate Change dynasty, but both were eventually reactivated by Proposal. In the Enneagram dynasty, “Imperial Deferentials”, “The Traitor” and “Dynastic Distance” were initially set to inactive, but “The Traitor” was then reactivated by Proposal.

These three are actually rules that are switched on and off occasionally, at least for the time being, and it makes sense to keep them in the Special Case section. “Dormancy” and “Seasonal Downtime” I’d also keep there; I can imagine this being useful in the future.

“Tags” and “No Orphan Variables” I’d move out. “The Tree” as well, as long as we’re supposed to be adding information to the Player Tree without paying attention to when we add it. If we’re meant to wait for some reward to be instituted before we name our Recruiters, it kind of defeats the point; it certainly doesn’t sound reasonable that anyone would start a dynasty now and consciously shut down the Tree. The only one I don’t have a firm opinion about is “Atomic Actions”; can we think of circumstances where disabling them helps us somehow?

So, discuss: do you agree with moving these rules out of Special Case? And if so, where would you put them?

Comments

Jumble:

02-02-2020 16:25:39 UTC

fyi, you accidentally doubleposted again

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 16:36:27 UTC

Just noticed; thanks. This time I made sure, when I clicked on the wrong button, that nothing had been posted, then I proceeded with the right button. Apparently there was a delay.

Cuddlebeam:

02-02-2020 17:53:11 UTC

arrow  I agree. Thanks for the analysis. I feel like Special Case has been used as a nursery for Core/Appendix Rules and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s time for the little ones to grow up.

Darknight: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 18:18:38 UTC

As I can only hop on briefly atm I’ll go right into my thoughts on seasonal downtime. As one of, if not the person to suggest having it back when it was a proper rule and before special cases were a thing, I’m happy to keep it. Back when it was first made it was common for players to not be on during the holidays and I would rather not risk someone trying to sneak proposals in when people are away

card:

02-02-2020 18:57:15 UTC

As it defines a type of action I would think that atomic actions would be moved to the appendix. However it’s just so clunky of a rule that I think it needs some sort of rewrite before that would happen; the length and clunkynees is to prevent scams but it seems unfit currently to move it out of the special case rules.

Some of these rules were initially moved to special case in order to test them fully before keeping them in the ruleset proper, tags, orphaned variables and possibly the tree rules. My idea for the special case rules was to keep all of the rules that seemed to be retained between dynasties or proposed consistently (g-man, imperial def, combos, atomic actions) and let the emperor turn them off instead of reproposing the same rules over and over again. Then some rules were moved there because they were taking up space in the core ruleset, at least that was the reason given. Now I think that we could all agree that an important part of nomic is reading the rules, so even if a potential player is driven off by a long ruleset—even when no dynastic rules exist—they probably would not have enjoyed their time here anyway. That’s not to say I don’t believe I shrinking word count in those rules, but to move something out of core and say “the number of rules a player needs to read in order to participate is lessened” is disingenuous.

I think the following rules could easily be moved somewhere else: tags, seasonal downtime and orphan variables.

Also speaking of the length of the ruleset, does the wiki have a way to make collapsible sections? In this dynasty especially, it’s somewhat annoying to refer to rules if you need to scroll between the artefacts rule multiple times.

Josh: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 19:11:50 UTC

I wrote the original seasonal downtime rule years ago but it has never once not been controversial. Darknight aside, I feel like every winter it provokes this wave of mild irritation. I do still think it’s better to have than not have in its current incarnation but I don’t doubt that it could use some reform.

I’m generally of the opinion that the special case rules would make more sense if “off” was the default value, as anything that’s almost always on should be a core rule anyway.

Thanks for the work on this, Duke. It’s a helpful provocation.

Kevan: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 19:30:56 UTC

I’d go with Duke’s suggestions here, putting the removed rules into the Appendix under whatever headings seem appropriate.

I’d also put Atomic Actions into the Appendix (probably as its own section with each paragraph a bullet point), as it makes no sense to have a toggleable rule that’s just defining something. If we don’t want to use atomic actions in a dynasty, we can just not write any; if we have written some, toggling the Atomic Actions off mid-dynasty would just break those rules.

[card] If you’re talking about mobile, https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:MobileFrontend would give the wiki the same navigation as Wikipedia’s mobile site, with every section collapsed by default. But we’d need to be running a newer version of MediaWiki to install it.

Darknight: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 19:49:46 UTC

Thanks josh. I know I had been part of the thought with it back then but I forgot who wrote it out as a rule

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 20:04:24 UTC

My thought was that Dormancy and Seasonal Downtime might remain where they are, because they are contingent on what the active players prefer, and we might sometime decide that these protections (which rightly are the default state for the game) impede rather than facilitate gameplay in a particular dynasty. If, on the other hand, we decide that these protections should be permanent, then the rules might as well reflect that.

I had this thought that “The Tree” is a good fit for “Individuals”... But it’s not important enough, and I am conscious of the need to keep the Core Rules manageable. Players must indeed be aware of the entire ruleset, but they can jump in without knowing things like Traitors, Atomic Actions and the relative precedence of rules.

On the other hand, leaving out a tag is an easy way to ruin a proposal, and there’s a good case for making “Tags” a subrule of “Votable Matters”.

card:

02-02-2020 20:14:48 UTC

[Kevan] I am not limited to mobile, but I think the option of collapsible sections can be useful on both mobile and desktop. Not sure who else agrees with.

Tantusar: HE/THEY

02-02-2020 22:51:33 UTC

I don’t think “The Tree” has a good reason to be in the ruleset, Special Case or otherwise. I certainly don’t think the associated page should be gamestate.

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 23:08:45 UTC

Card might be agreeing with you… They’re already breaking the rules, hehe.

I suppose the point is that the Player Tree might later serve as a hook for dynastic mechanics. No idea what these might look like, though.

Tantusar: HE/THEY

02-02-2020 23:10:12 UTC

I don’t think it ever should.

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-02-2020 23:13:30 UTC

My plan for the transfer of rules out of the Special Case section, once this discussion runs its course, is to do it rule by rule. It would be easier to manage, and it could serve as an opportunity to see if there is a desire to repeal the “Tree” rule instead of moving it.

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-03-2020 20:38:23 UTC

I’m working on a Ruleset Sandbox (permanent link here), where I’ve converted the “Tags” rule into a subrule of “Votable Matters” and I have moved the “Atomic Actions” rule to the Appendix, between “Gamestate Tracking” and “Clarifications”.

More importantly, I have made various changes to “Atomic Actions”: I’ve added a brief definition, changed the paragraphs to bullet points, rearranged some of the clauses, made minor textual improvements, changed a “should” to “must”, and removed the “cannot be overruled by the Dynastic Rules” clause at the end, which is no longer needed because the Appendix has precedence anyway. It’s probably not the kind of rewrite that card had in mind – I don’t think I’ve changed anything of substance, and the rule isn’t any shorter than before – but I consider the result an improvement all the same.

Please have a look and bring up any objections; otherwise I’ll make a proposal tomorrow to implement these changes.

(I’ve also moved “The Tree” to right after “Atomic Actions”, but I’m not satisfied with that solution and am considering alternatives.)

Brendan: HE/HIM

02-03-2020 21:13:21 UTC

Duke, what made you decide to go with bullets rather than paragraphs for the Atomic Actions rewrite?

The Duke of Waltham: HE/HIM

02-03-2020 21:32:02 UTC

Kevan suggested it above, and I thought I’d give it a try. I suppose you get away with shorter paragraphs that way: individual elements that walk you through it step by step, rather than denser blocks of text. The Appendix is already full of bullets, and this is a fairly technical rule, so I found it appropriate.

If I were to take out the bullets, I’d likely end up joining at least some ex-bullets together, though I’m not sure which. (The order of the clauses would probably stay the same; I’m very satisfied with how the rule flows now.)