Nomic, the game of changing rules
This rendition of the rules was posted by Mathew Moss.
The game was also written up by Douglas Hofstadter in his book,
Metamathematical Themas but was originally designed
by a chap named Peter Suber.
Initial Set of Rules for Nomic
All players must always abide by all the rules then in effect,
in the form in which they are then in effect. The rules in the
Initial Set are in effect whenever a game begins. The Initial
Set consists of rules 101-116 (immutable) and 201-203 (mutable).
Initially, rules in the 100's are immutable and rules in the
200's are mutable. Rules subsequently enacted or transmuted (ie,
changed from immutable to mutable or vice versa) may be
immutable or mutable regardless of their numbers, and rules in
the Initial Set may be transmuted regardless of their numbers.
A rule change is any of the following:
- the enactment, repeal, or amendment of a mutable rule
- the enactment, repeal, or amendment of an amendment
- the transmutation of an immutable rule into a mutable rule, or vice versa
(Note: This definition implies that, at least initially, all new
rules are mutable. Immutable rules, as long as they are
immutable, may not be amended or repealed; mutable rules, as
long as they are mutable, may be amended or repealed. No rule
is absolutely immune to change.)
All rule changes proposed in the proper way shall be voted on.
They will be adopted if and only if they receive the required
number of votes.
Every player is an eligible voter. Every eligible voter must
participate in every vote on rule changes.
Any proposed rule change must be written down before it is voted
on. If adopted, it must guide play in the form in which it was
107 No rule change may take effect earlier than the moment of the
completion of the vote that adopted it, even if its wording
explicitly states otherwise. No rule change may have retroactive
108 Each proposed rule change shall be given a rank-order number
(ordinal number) for reference. The numbers shall begin with
301, and each rule change proposed in the proper way shall
receive the next successive integer, whether or not the proposal
If a rule is repealed and then re-enacted, it receives the
ordinal number of the proposal to re-enact it. If a rule is
amended or transmuted, it receives the ordinal number of the
proposal to amend or transmute it. If an amendment is amended or
repealed, the entire rule of which it is a part receives the
ordinal number of the proposal to amend or repeal the amendment.
109 Rule changes that transmute immutable rules into mutable rules
may be adopted if and only if the vote is unanimous among the
110 Mutable rules that are inconsistent in any way with some immutable
rule (except by proposing to transmute it) are wholly void and
without effect. They do not implicitly transmute immutable rules
into mutable rules and at the same time amend them. Rule changes
that transmute immutable rules into mutable rules will be
effective if and only if they explicitly state their transmuting
111 If a rule change as proposed is unclear, ambiguous, paradoxical,
or clearly destructive of play, or if it arguable consists of two
or more rule changes compounded, or is an amendment that makes no
difference, or if it is otherwise of questionable value, then the
other players may suggest amendments or argue against the proposal
before the vote. A reasonable amount of time must be allowed for
this debate. The proponent decides on the final form in which the
proposal is to be voted on and decides the time to end debate and
vote. The only cure for a bad proposal is prevention: a negative
112 The state of affairs that constitutes winning may not be changed
from achieving N points to any other state of affairs. However,
the magnitude of N and the means of earning points may be changed,
and rules that establish a winner when play cannot continue may
be enacted and (while they are mutable) be amended or repealed.
113 A player always has the option to forfeit the game rather than
continue to play or incur a game penalty. No penalty worse than
losing, in the judgement of the player to incur it, may be
114 There must always be at least one mutable rule. The adoption of
rule changes must never become completely impermissible.
115 Rules changes that affect rules needed to allow or apply rule
changes are as permissible as other rule changes. Even rule
changes that amend or repeal their own authority are permissible.
No rule change or type of move is impermissible solely on account
of the self-reference or self-application of a rule.
116 Whatever is not explicitly 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.
201 Players shall alternate in clockwise order, taking one whole
turn apiece. Turns may not be skipped or passed, and parts of
turns may not be omitted. All players begin with zero points.
202 One turn consists of two parts, in this order:
- proposing one rule change and having it voted on
- throwing one die once and adding the number of points on its face to one's score
203 A rule change is adopted if and only if the vote is unanimous
among the eligible voters.
204 If and when rule changes can be adopted without unanimity, the
players who vote against winning proposals shall receive 10
205 An adopted rule change takes full effect at the moment of the
completion of the vote that adopted it.
206 When a proposed rule change is defeated, the player who proposed
it loses 10 points.
207 Each player has exactly one vote.
208 The winner is the first person to achieve 100 (positive) points.
209 At no time may there be more than 25 mutable rules.
210 Players may not conspire or consult on the making of future rule
changes unless they are teammates.
211 If two or more mutable rules conflict with one another, or if two
or more immutable rules conflict with one another, then the rule
with the lowest ordinal number takes precedence.
If at least one of the rules in conflict explicitly says of itself
that it defers to another rule (or type or rule) or takes precedence
over another rule (or type of rule), then such provisions shall
supersede the numerical method for determining precedence.
If two or more rules claim to take precedence over one another or to
defer to one another, then the numerical method must again govern.
212 If players disagree about the legality of a move or the interpretation
or application of a rule, then the player preceding the one moving is
to be the Judge and to decide the question. Disagreement, for the
purposes of this rule, may be created by the insistence of any player.
Such a process is called invoking judgement.
When judgement has been invoked, the next player may not begin his or
her own turn without the consent of a majority of the other players.
The Judge's judgement may be overruled only by a unanimous vote of
the other players, taken before the next turn is begun. If a Judge's
judgement is overruled, the player preceding the Judge in the
playing order becomes the new Judge for the question, except that no
player is to be Judge during his own turn or during the turn of a
Unless a Judge is overruled, one Judge settles all questions arising
from the game until the next turn is begun, including questions as
to his or her own legitimacy and jurisdiction as Judge.
New Judges are not bound by the decisions of old Judges. New Judges
may, however, settle only those questions on which the players
currently disagree and that affect the completion of the turn in
which judgement was invoked. All decisions by Judges shall be in
accordance with all the rules then in effect; but when the rules
are silent, inconsistent, or unclear on the point at issue, then
the Judge's only guides shall be common morality, common logic, and
the spirit of the game.
213 If the rules are changed so that further play is impossible, or if
the legality of a move is impossible to determine with finality, or
if by the Judge's best reasoning, not overruled, a move appears
equally legal and illegal, then the first player who is unable to
complete a turn is the winner.
This rule takes precedence over every other rule determining the
See also the Nomic
pages maintained by Michael Norrish.
The Game Cabinet
- Ken Tidwell