Thursday, December 28, 2023

Proposal: Without Fear or Favour [Core]

Timed out and failed, 3-5. Josh

Adminned at 30 Dec 2023 14:34:31 UTC

In “Fair Play”, replace “A Necromancer 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:-

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

Raising the cross-dynastic favour question back up, given that it timed out with an unclear consensus over the seasonal downtime.

The last two dynasties ended on sudden cross-dynastic favours: Clucky IX saw Snisbo kingmake Vovix from a losing position in exchange for agreeing some general future payback; Vovix I had JonathanDark cashing in an explicit favour “chit” from an unspecified past dynasty to compel a free assist from Josh. With favours now in the open, it seems like our two options are to either:

  • Accept formal favours as part of the metagame for every dynasty. Players can win games by selling or cashing in long-term favours. Peter can throw a dynasty they can’t otherwise win to make Paul the victor, on the agreement that Paul will do the same in return during a future one. Seen as moves in one big game, this becomes something for players to consider tactically: if Peter and Paul are both playing the same dynasty a year later, alert players should remember the outstanding favour and consider limits on Paul being able to trade directly to Peter, etc. (This was happening to some extent last dynasty with players being cautious about giving Vovix any freely usable King powers, in case they used them to pay back the favour to Snisbo.)
  • Reject formal favours and say that each BlogNomic dynasty should stand alone. There’ll be the same kind of social dynamics you’d get from any recurring boardgame night - a generally visible network of trust and antagonism just from reading the room, with maybe some friendly advice to new players about the regulars’ preferred tactics and foibles - but nothing deeper or more formal than that. If I went to a boardgames evening and a long game of Catan ended with a massive kingmaking trade, cheerfully explained as being pre-agreed payback for a similar kingmake in a game I wasn’t there for in 2017, I wouldn’t be impressed.

I don’t think we gain much from an ongoing metagame of favours traded between long-term players - it seems like a diminishing of the dynastic game, where a dynasty’s own short-term tactical alliances will often be less important than who had which favours banked. And it definitely feels healthier for BlogNomic as a whole if a surprising endgame can be immediately shrugged off to play a new game on a blank slate, rather than having half the table add “December 2023, Paul made unusual move which let Peter win = favour?” to their tangled string pinboard of cross-dynastic metagameplay.

Comments

Josh: Observer he/they

28-12-2023 13:53:19 UTC

Still against; this hasn’t been adapted in any way to address the concerns raised in the list post or in the discussion on discord.

JonathanDark: he/him

28-12-2023 13:56:54 UTC

I would still consider going the other way and making favours explicitly tracked, so that players in a dynasty could easily see what they’re up against and make decisions on whether they want to participate in a dynasty where some of the members have favours they owe or are owed to them.

The board game analogy is interesting, but also falls apart with the long-standing approval and appreciation of scam exploits. No one that I know of sits down at a board game and tries to look for loopholes in the rules to use some mechanism that no one else is aware of, yet we celebrate that here, and no one is trying to ban scam exploits. I don’t think it’s completely fair to try to compare a stand-alone board game situation to a BlogNomic dynasty.

Josh: Observer he/they

28-12-2023 14:57:44 UTC

Just on a point of accuracy, it’s been repeatedly clarified now that the agreement at the end of Clucky 9 was not for ‘some general future payback’; it seems that no favour was offered or asked, and was only introduced as a throwaway comment by Vovix in their AA.

This proposal has nothing to say about kingmaking just for the sake of it; as such it’s an imcomplete piece of margin-tinkering, which neither tackles the uncerlying cause of the issue it purports to be addressing, nor attempts to consider its own second-order concequences.

Kevan: he/him

28-12-2023 15:29:05 UTC

[Josh] Yes, there were some philosophical questions about how certain social agreements should be regarded - but such questions already exist for the “compensation outside of BlogNomic” rule that’s been in place for the last couple of years, and which already impacts a playerbase who are interacting socially and playing other games together. This proposal is just about whether to tighten that game boundary from “outside of BlogNomic” to “outside of the current dynasty”.

For-the-sake-of-it kingmaking is its own issue and seems best dealt with dynastically - we should try not to write rulesets where players can easily kingmake someone!

Vovix’s agreement was a mild one, saying “I owe you one” as a joke, but where they spent some of the next dynasty considering what that should actually mean - and it happening to become academic when Snisbo idled. If ruleset had said “you can’t owe someone one, across dynasties”, that would have played out more clearly, for Vovix and for the other players wondering what to make of it.

[Jonathan] We gave tracked favours a run for a few months in 2021 (enactment, repeal, final form and tracking page) - although they were implemented very technically in terms of numerical stats, and it was in part the implementation that led to their repeal. In spirit I think they were also partially about making a “legacy” game where players could carry some resources forward into the next dynasty.

I suspect that anything that adds another reason for potential players to (as you say) “make decisions on whether they want to participate” probably doesn’t help the game as a whole. If the cost for an additional layer of metagame intrigue for the regulars is that some new or occasional players will drop out, that seems expensive, especially when the same intrigue can still find expression in shorter-term dynastic play.

I’m not sure I see the connection you’re drawing between scams and standalone games. People have been playing standalone games of Rumble on the Discord for years without (at least so far as I’m aware) scammy cross-game powers or long-term kingmaking deals.

Zack: he/him

28-12-2023 16:08:44 UTC

I think someone wanting to help someone else because they helped them in the past isn’t something that can or should be regulated. It’s just a natural consequence of having a game that runs for such a long time.

JonathanDark: he/him

28-12-2023 16:17:49 UTC

Let me make a counter-point to the idea that this issue is raising the bar for potential players and may cause some to drop out. I agree that this is a possibility, but I still go back to the idea of rule scams being a subtlety that new players often fail to grasp, having had personal experience with this myself. Some may see it as “cheating”, preferring to play the dynastic game in front of them rather than the meta-game “engineer a win around holes in the rules”.

There are also other “antagonistic” facets to the current rules that could deter new players in any given dynasty, mainly in the Special Case section:

Declared Alliances: New players wouldn’t know the personalities involved among other players and would be at a disadvantage knowing with whom to partner.

Malign Emperors: New players would likely find this off-putting, as it rarely occurs in other games and might bring up old triggers of an antagonistic GameMaster in role-playing games.

The point here is that we have some flexible options built into the rules to allow certain gameplay for those who want it, at some expense for new players. The above two options are examples that we’ve kept for some time, and while they may not be used often, at least Declared Alliances has been used, and I assume Malign Emperors may have been used at one point. I think a case could be made for cross-dynastic favours to be another Special Case.

In short, I’m trying to understand where we want this bar to be set for new players. Right now, I’m not seeing consistency regarding this particular issue, and I have a hard time establishing a position on one potential contributor to new player drop-out when there are already several others in existence.

Kevan: he/him

28-12-2023 16:32:34 UTC

[Zack] I think the key there is what happened at the “helped them in the past” moment. If it was an act of unprompted generosity with no expectation of reward, and which the recipient is free to ignore, I wouldn’t call it a “trade”. But a more transactional “I will give you the 100 coins you need to win right now if you agree not to vote against any of my proposals for the next three dynasties”, where players agree in advance on an outcome, is the kind of thing that we can decide as a group to not do.

Desertfrog:

28-12-2023 18:26:22 UTC

for
A few counterarguments:

-appreciation of scams and banning cross-dynastic favours aren’t necessarily contradictory: favours also mean less opportunities for scam-based victories

-the fact that there are other rules that are bad for new players doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reduce them (no ought from is)

-explicit favours would make the game feel a bit deterministic: if player X owes one to Y, player Y is very likely to win, so why even try to beat them?

Josh: Observer he/they

28-12-2023 18:28:52 UTC

against

Josh: Observer he/they

28-12-2023 18:29:59 UTC

I’d've been more willing to vote for this if even lip-service changes had been made to address the concerns, and I’m not committing to opposing it forever - a lightly modified version could pass, but hey, politics is the art of knowing how to count.

Vovix: he/him

28-12-2023 19:26:17 UTC

@OP I still dispute the characterization of “in exchange for agreeing some general future payback”. I understand the general concern, but this rule explicitly *wouldn’t” have prevented our play, because there was no future favors explicitly offered, asked, or traded.

@JonathanDark I think at least as far as scams, new players generally know what they’re getting into, as “messing with the rules is part of the game” is very much part of the elevator pitch for Nomic. If someone finds an exploit, I’m here for it. If I don’t find an exploit, it’s because I wasn’t skilled enough to spot it, not because of some inherent injustice towards new players in general. A new player has the same opportunities for scams as everyone else. But a cross-dynastic favor makes new players go “there was nothing I could have done, I was at a disadvantage from the start”, as they just don’t have access to the same tools.

Similarly, my pet peeve as a new player was (is? Do I still count as a new player?) mechanics with admin advantage. When someone can win as a result of being able to choose the ordering of actions or being the first to act after a proposal passes, it makes non-admin players feel like there’s no way for them to fairly compete. When thinking about what discourages new players,  I would focus on things that new players *can’t* do, rather than just complexity.

JonathanDark: he/him

28-12-2023 19:39:52 UTC

@Vovix: Good points, and now I’m seeing the issue a little more clearly. I also see Desertfrog’s point and I realize that I engaged in a little whatabout-ism there.

against

I would support making favours a Special Case and making it Inactive by default, so that new players have a better chance by default, and it’s up to the Emperor of the dynasty to set the tone for new players by enabling it per-dynasty (or the players could do so with a Proposal). I would just like the option to be there.

Vovix: he/him

28-12-2023 20:04:20 UTC

Special casing it just makes players sit on them for longer, right? The favors are still there, just coming into play in short bursts.

JonathanDark: he/him

28-12-2023 22:18:05 UTC

Sure. That’s why I’d also support public tracking of favors, so everyone knows who has them and who might cash them in. My personal belief isn’t that the favors exist, it’s that they might be used to have an unfair advantage against new players who don’t have the ability to have collected a similar amount of favors, creating an imbalance. If a dynasty has Favors as a special case enabled, then the new players know ahead of time whether or not to avoid the dynasty for that reason. If it’s off by default, it’s likely most of the time they won’t have to worry about it, and players who have favors will just keep it in their back pockets for whenever it comes up.

I realize that means that favors will become less valuable if they are only available rarely. I’d see that as a reasonable compromise.

Zack: he/him

29-12-2023 03:09:54 UTC

against

Ravenhearted: she/her

29-12-2023 03:18:23 UTC

against As a new player, I find the idea of favors from previous games somewhat daunting, but I think the idea of making it a special case rule makes sense. That way long-term players can make use of their favors, but not every game feels unwinnable for players who haven’t been around forever. I would be in favor of a rule like JonathanDark mentioned, limiting this power, but I don’t necessarily like trying to do away with it entirely.

lendunistus: he/him

29-12-2023 03:20:39 UTC

against would rather keep this around until we find some sort of solution to maybe better declare the existence of favours

(apologies, I just never got around to voting)

Kevan: he/him

29-12-2023 11:11:31 UTC

Whether we publicly track them or secretly deduce them, cross-dynastic favours are known part of the game now. If we’re not disallowing them, they’re out of the bottle and something to build around.

If we enacted a rule requiring public declarations (whether that was a very specific “in November 2022, JonathanDark agreed to perform any single action at Josh’s command in a future dynasty; this favour has not yet been cashed” or a general “JonathanDark owes Josh one secret favour”) then the players outside of that deal wouldn’t politely step back and give them freedom to use it. It’d be the same as that text being written in a dynastic rule - other players would consider it when creating any free-choice Emperor actions for Jonathan, and bear in mind that a Josh-Jonathan alliance was more likely than others.

If we play on allowing untracked favours in some or all dynasties, the same goes, but it’s gatekept by the regular players who are able to privately deduce which favours have been probably forged in previous years, while others are in the dark.

Clucky: he/him

29-12-2023 17:44:12 UTC

for

If this passes, I’ll want to propose a rule that turns it into a special case rule

If this doesn’t pass, I’ll want to propose a rule that turns it into a special case rule

But as there is no guarantee that such a rule will pass, I’d rather get this passed as I’d rather have this and no special case rule than nothing at all

Vovix: he/him

29-12-2023 20:47:48 UTC

I still think none of the solutions address the fundamental problem of defining what it is we’re actually talking about. Explicit IOUs, sure (though even then, do people actually spell out “I owe you one specific dynastic action” and “I owe you one kingmake” rather than “I owe you a favor, method of repayment TBD”?), but I feel like “owing someone a favor” is by its nature a very imprecise and informal social expectation. A favor isn’t a contract, it’s a personal dynamic. And different people might resolve the same favor very differently. Publicly “JonathanDark helped Josh and Josh now owes him one” doesn’t say anything about what Josh will and won’t do in the future, unless you actually know the people involved and how they act.

Vovix: he/him

29-12-2023 20:49:59 UTC

Basically, what I’m saying is that banning formal agreements that cross dynastic lines is reasonable, but this does nothing to actually prevent previous dynasties from influencing future ones as players remember who helped them and return the favor *without being asked*.

Kevan: he/him

29-12-2023 21:55:12 UTC

Yes, some players do actually spell out “I owe you one specific future action” - and from the way that the last dynasty played out (that Josh could have taken the same deal as Clucky and tried a couple of Succession rerolls in exchange for helping Jonathan win, but didn’t) I assume the Josh-Jonathan “chit” was of that nature, that Josh was compelled to obey its terms.

This proposal is only changing the scope of the rule’s existing “trade actions in BlogNomic for favors or compensation outside of BlogNomic” clause - that phrasing seems to have been unquestioned for the past couple of years on how it actually applies to Agora Nomic or cold hard cash, although I can see that the tighter focus is making people reflect on it more this week. No objection to a clearer and more nuanced line being drawn!