Monday, December 18, 2023

Proposal: The Ear of the King [Core]

Pending more than 7 days. Failed by JonathanDark.

Adminned at 27 Dec 2023 14:09:20 UTC

In “Fair Play”, replace “An Heir should not trade actions in BlogNomic for favors or compensation outside of BlogNomic, nor trade actions in any other game for favors within BlogNomic.” with:-

An Heir should not trade actions in the current BlogNomic dynasty for favors or compensation outside of it (including in other games and future BlogNomic dynasties), nor trade actions in any other game for favors within the current dynasty.

Add a dynastic rule, “The Favoured Heir”:-

Let it be known that the Old King’s favoured Heir is the Heir named Snisbo. The Old King is permitted to ignore the Fair Play restriction on traded favours in relation to any pre-existing agreement they might have with the Heir named Snisbo, during this dynasty.

The current “outside of BlogNomic” wording on traded favours was introduced in 2021 after a player was found to have sold their BlogNomic votes for the entire dynasty to another player in exchange for a favour in a different Nomic. There was some talk at the time about expanding the clause’s scope to also cover cross-dynastic actions, but it looks like it was never put up for a vote.

It hasn’t really come up before now, but we’re playing the current dynasty in the context of the Old King owing a now-idle player some kind of unspecified personal favour. Vovix won the previous dynasty as a result of Snisbo voluntarily taking a dive (performing a game-losing move so that Vovix would win), and their subsequent Ascension Address included the note that “I will say The Old King may have a favorite Heir here :)”, which they haven’t clarified when asked about it.

It’s hard to know how much it’s affected (or may still affect) the current dynasty, but I think it’s worth questioning the precedent being established that future favours are a useful and socially acceptable currency that can be used to get around the mantle-passing limitation.


Josh: Observer he/they

18-12-2023 11:27:28 UTC

I unidle; quorum rises to 5.

Unidling specifically to vote against this, when it’s out of its window. I go back and forth on it - the debt of favours trans-dynastically is a part of the social fabric of the game, but it does also concentrate opportunity in the hands of long-term players a little. I also think that we can go too far when it comes to inhibiting certain play styles; much as the periodic attempts to ‘ban’ scamming rankles, this would effectively put a stop to a major element of the pooling approach, which has already taken a pretty big hit over the past few years. An affection for a diversity of play styles necessitates an opposition to this, from me.

But I have to vote against this now simply because I currently owe multiple unpaid debts, and I think morally that servicing those debts requires me to oppose this proposal until such as time as I’ve had an opportunity to satisfy them.

My impulse on this is that the imperial power is generally weaker than the power of proposals; if Vovix favours Snisbo too emphatically then we can and should overturn that favour through the straightforward mechanism, as per Anthony 1.

JonathanDark: he/him

18-12-2023 14:02:55 UTC

I am opposed to this as well as written, but I do think there’s a danger that we might miss when the person paying the debt is the Emperor. When a dynasty has actions that take place privately, such as privately randomly generated data, it’s possible for the Emperor to fudge results to pay their debt, in a way that would be hard to write proposals against.

If this were adjusted such that favors in future dynasties are only prohibited when one of the parties is Emperor, I might be in favor of it. Otherwise, I think the culture of favor trading, as long as it’s kept within BlogNomic dynasties, is a valuable part of the player-to-player social interaction.

Josh: Observer he/they

18-12-2023 14:16:40 UTC

Could be worth thinking about a line in the rule Dynasties, along the lines of “If the Special Case rule Malign Emperors is inactive, the Emperor should strive to eliminate deliberate bias towards one player or against another from their decision-making”

Josh: Observer he/they

18-12-2023 15:15:42 UTC


JonathanDark: he/him

18-12-2023 15:47:53 UTC


Clucky: he/him

18-12-2023 16:13:40 UTC

I think there is probably some value to this. Favors are murky from a gameplay perspective. Like lets take favors to the extreme:

A team of players who always work together and simply trade off who they are trying to help win is almost always going to have a leg up on the rest of the nomic

It basically lets people still very easily bypass the Mantle Limitations rule.

But on the other hand, social constructs are hard to really pin own. Where is the line between “I’ll help you because I explicitly owe you a favor” and “I’ll help you because this seems like some fun shenanigans and I’m always down for fun shenanigans plus you helped me in the past”

There is also both a question of how to deal with pre-existing favors, and how this might effect current dynastic plays to consider.

Kevan: he/him

18-12-2023 17:47:06 UTC

I think existing favours being lost in an amnesty is fair game - and all respect to Josh for not staying idle and seeing if this enacted unopposed, if he owes more favours than he’s due.

Somebody setting up a cross-dynastic agreement (“I’ll give you all my coins to let you win this dynasty but only if you promise to give me all of one tradeable resource upon demand in a later dynasty”) is already gambling on that ever being an option in the future - of sharing a future dynasty with that player, of the rules and gamestate also allowing it, and of a cultural core change like this not enacting in the mean time. If anybody had any long-term informal agreements of doing something in Agora Nomic to be paid back when possible in BlogNomic, those have already been lost in the 2021 amendment.

Social constructs are hard to pin down, but we’re already pinning them down for games outside of BlogNomic - this proposal is only contracting the scope. If a player wants to try informally but consciously trading fun shenanigans with a player of Infinite Nomic, they already have to consider what view BlogNomic might take of it if the receipts came to light.

This isn’t really an Emperor thing, it’s just a striking example in this case that Vovix pretty much thanked Snisbo for taking a dive and implied that some future favour had been agreed, possibly within this new dynasty. If Vovix doesn’t pull any Imperial levers to help Snisbo this dynasty, that favour may remain pending - which means a shrewd player base should be wary of ever letting those two players reach a situation where Vovix can throw the game to Snisbo. That doesn’t seem very interesting to have to work around on an ongoing basis - or fair on new or absent players who weren’t present in Clucky IX to see the favour being set up.

Tabula rasa seems more reasonable to me, where starting a new dynasty is like sitting down to play a boardgame. Regular members of the group will already have significant advantage in knowing their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, knowing who’s trustworthy and who might leave early. There may be some ongoing grudges, but with a boardgame you know that it’s unlikely to suddenly end with a player gifting all of their resources away to let someone else win, proudly explaining that this was just a promise they made with that person during a game of something else a couple of years ago.

Clucky: he/him

18-12-2023 18:59:37 UTC


overall the timing of this is a little off putting, and I think we might definitely run into issues later as to what actually counts as a “favor or compensation” but I’m okay with clear “I’ll owe you one later” being definitely against the rules

there is certainly still some concerns with what level of implicit trading of favors is okay

“I’ll help you if you’ll help me later” is clearly not okay under this

But “I’ll help you because you helped me earlier” is still probably okay. And I honestly think it should be, because sometimes you just wanna help a friend out and that is hard to police

But then that leaves the door open for an “I’ll help you (with a heavily implied but not explicitly stated expectation that you’ll help me later)”

but I think we can be reasonable people who work that out when and if it arises

Vovix: he/him

18-12-2023 19:23:48 UTC

Ok, I will clarify the full extent of cooperation involved, because I think people are imagining a lot more than there actually is. We were cooperating through the dynasty with Gift/Synergy shenanigans and such. When a situation arose where one of us had a shot at winning, but a traditional win split (mantle pass/roll for who gets the free achievement) wasn’t possible because Snisbo only had 1 achievement and there wasn’t enough time to get them 2. Given the friendly interactions between us thus far and the fact that they didn’t have a path to a solo victory of their own, Snisbo volunteered to give me the win. I didn’t have an in-dynasty way to return the favor, so I joked about how “I owe you one”.

I made the AA comment basically to the same effect of “Hey, this person helped me out and if there’s a dynastic mechanic that allows me to show favoritism (like, idk, marriages needing to be approved by the Old King), I have a specific person I’m biased towards”. I considered explicitly giving Snisbo the highest Age at the start or proposing some kind of “Favored Heir” claim for them to have, but decided to keep the initial proposals simple and then when Snisbo idled out, I didn’t have to think about it any further. And as Josh pointed out, any of those favors could easily be overturned by a proposal like “set Snisbo’s age to random like everyone else’s” or “set the Strength of the Favored Heir claim to 1”. I would absolutely never rig rolls that were supposed to be random or otherwise tamper with hidden information. That’s not favoritism, that’s just cheating, Emperor or not.

There is no formal agreement in place requiring me to return the favor, whether through specific helpful actions or through a full-on throw. I never promised one and Snisbo never asked for one. So the scenario that Kevan is describing doesn’t exist. I’m not going to throw this dynasty (not that I have any mechanism to do so anyway) or a future one.

If Snisbo hadn’t agreed to help on pure good will, I wasn’t going to offer any formal mantle passes or explicit next-dynasty commitments because Mantle Limitations was active and I didn’t have any way to honor those commitments without going full Malign Emperor and vetoing any attempts to balance the game away from “one person starts with an advantage”.

That said, like Clucky pointed out, I am grateful to Snisbo for helping me throughout the dynasty and feel inclined to cooperate with them in the future. While I agree that a blank-slate approach to new rounds of a game is perfectly reasonable, I don’t know how you can really formally regulate people’s history, informal favors, gratitude, trust, etc. Like, on the one hand, if someone betrays me in a game of Diplomacy, I’m not going to attempt to take cross-game revenge or refuse to ever cooperate with them again. But at the same time, I now have a better understanding of the circumstances where this particular player is willing to betray an agreement, and can’t be expected to ignore that knowledge and give them the benefit of the doubt every time.

I would like to dispute the characterization of Snisbo’s actions as a “throw” or “dive”. These terms imply voluntarily giving up one’s own victory or deliberately playing to lose. By the point that the achievement trade had taken place, Snisbo did not have a clear path to 3 achievements that could be accomplished before one of the players who already had 2 got their third. So while definitely kingmaking (quite literal, in this case), it was kingmaking from a player who didn’t feel like it was at any real cost to themselves.

That said, it absolutely is kingmaking, and Nomic is quite unique in being a game where kingmaking is not only possible and prevalent, but actively accepted and seen as one of the core strategies of the game. In a game of Catan, if one player is about to win, I would consider the other two rolling a die to pick a winner and giving all their resources to that player to “share” the win a to be extremely poor sportsmanship, but in Nomic, that’s straight up the “meta”. I think as long as pooling wins are seen as equally legitimate to winning through honest dynastic gameplay, the threat of “one player suddenly wins the game out of nowhere because one or two friends gave them free stuff” will persist.

So TL;DR: I don’t have any explicit or implicit obligation to throw this dynasty into chaos, and I don’t think I’ve violated any official Fair Play rules or unofficial principles of good sportsmanship. There’s a broader discussion to be had about game philosophy both of BlogNomic individually and gaming as a whole and while I *love* to discuss such things and I have my opinions, I’m going to imperialer to the more invested players, as I’m not a regular/consistent/frequent enough player to be influencing the long-term health of the game.

Kevan: he/him

18-12-2023 20:38:31 UTC

Thanks, I appreciate the clarification on the nature of the agreement with Snisbo. No suggestion of poor sportsmanship intended at all: cross-dynastic favours are something that we’ve discussed before but never held a vote on to clarify either way, so the ruleset is silent on it, a mutual kingmaking pact would have been valid with no reason for you to think that anyone would object to it. You say you didn’t offer any “explicit next-dynasty commitments because Mantle Limitations was active”, but Mantle Limitations only covers making a player the Emperor of the next dynasty - it doesn’t rule out helping them to win that dynasty, or a further future one.

Vovix: he/him

18-12-2023 21:23:43 UTC

@Kevan To clarify the phrasing, I didn’t offer a mantle pass because Mantle Limitations and I didn’t offer “making them win using Emperor powers” because the Emperor isn’t all that powerful unless the dynastic ruleset makes them so, or unless they go the adversarial route of holding the game hostage.


26-12-2023 15:05:32 UTC


JonathanDark: he/him

26-12-2023 17:30:41 UTC

I will likely veto this Proposal before I post the AA so that this Proposal does not get enacted.

The Core modification won’t actually happen once the synonyms for Heir and Old King change to the new synonyms, because that text will no longer read “An Heir should not trade actions…” and the dynastic rule addition won’t make any sense in the new dynasty.

Check the Discord #current-dynasty channel for further discussion.