xartum

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What do most people think of when they think of languages? Nations. Ordinarily, learning a second language is done to live, work, or vacation in another country. I propose that the LLG officially sanction an online game to serve as an imaginary internet nation where Lojban is spoken. Until an official name is chosen, it will be called xartum, meaning "imaginary nation."

It's part game, part social organization, and part art project.

We hasten to stress that xartum has absolutely nothing to do with any actual governments or real-world politics. It should not be necessary to say that there does not exist a Lojbanic secession movement. The granting of this citizenship is the equivalent of play money.

The second disclaimer is that any imaginary government emerging within xartum is not intended to have any authority over the Lojban language, in the same way that Brazil has no authority over Portugal. Any given individual Lojban-speaker is free to ignore xartum if he or she wishes.

If this proposal is accepted as it is currently formed, those who make a nominal donation to the LLG would be mailed a naturalization certificate and/or passport, depending on which documents are approved by the LLG. The donation need only slightly exceed the cost of printing and mailing. No proficiency in Lojban would be necessary for citizenship.

This citizenship would be a membership in a text-based online game. The most attractive option is to give xartum a section of The Lojban MOO (MOO is MUD Object Oriented, MUD is Multi-User Dimension or Dungeon), which is currently in active development. A Multi-User Dimension is a persistent online multiplayer version of those old games in which you type "go north" and receive a response like "you are in a room with doors to the west and south." The original text-adventure was Colossal Cave, which incidentally has been fully translated into Lojban. From avel Curtis' paper about Multi-User-Dungeons:

"Three major factors distinguish a MUD from an Adventure-style computer game, though:

A MUD is not goal-oriented; it has no beginning or end, no 'score', and no notion of 'winning' or 'success'. In short, even though users of MUDs are commonly called players, a MUD isn't really a game at all.

A MUD is extensible from within; a user can add new objects to the database such as rooms, exits, 'things', and notes. ...

A MUD generally has more than one user connected at a time. All of the connected users are browsing and manipulating the same database and can encounter the new objects created by others. The multiple users on a MUD can communicate with each other in real time."

(Curtis, 1992)

You could potentially convince the other players to make you King, President or Senator if that is your goal. But in xartum the main activity is worldbuilding. Every characteristic of the nation, including its name and physical characteristics, its travelogue and its mythos, is intended to be determined by the discussion and voting of the players. I called this page "xartum", meaning "imaginary nation," only because the page had to have a title, but this is not binding as the name of the nation. Lojban is the only unchangeable absolute.

Originally xartum is a hump of sand only large enough to hold the founding citizens. There is a fire, but other than that there is no light and no breeze. The hill of sand rises out of a body of water which stretches into a pure, starless, and unreflective darkness to an unknown size. It might be outdoors or indoors.

Or perhaps xartum will start in a white room, with a Lojban sentence written on the ceiling, meaning: "Welcome to the Singularity. Kindly refrain from making requests that cause paradox. Thank you and have a nice eternity. - The Management."

Legend has it that Lojban is the language of an ancient civilization that uploaded themselves into computers and sleep solipsistically beneath the sea. They created a logical language that hacks into root access in the fabric of reality... the kind of language which you could speak to a genie without fear of being misinterpreted...

Is that the true backstory, or is it just legend? That's up to the game process to decide. A player has the power to summon a command prompt in midair and type Lojban into it. Create a description in Lojban of a building / species of animal / acre of landscape / imaginary character who lives there, or even a new rule to the game, and if it is voted in by other citizens (or whatever process emerges from the self-amending nature of the game) it will come to pass. For a rule change, you just have to convince the other players that it would be fun. For a world-building description of a character, a place, an object, or a plot complication, the players can keep surprises up their sleeves for each other.

Although you do not have to speak Lojban to adventure in the land as it forms out of the nothingness around us, all spells must be cast in correct Lojban. The ancient Precursors, or whatever power makes manifest our descriptions of xartum, respond to no other.

It is permissible to be a citizen without participating in play. Citizens who play the game will be referred to as players. It is not permissible for a non-playing citizen to be represented by a non-player character. The current state of the world will be documented on the Wiki.

Let's all contribute to this wiki page. You can help by suggesting ideas before the game begins, while we set it up. If the xartum project interests you, please tell me. - Matt Arnold, aka epkat

Lojbanists currently known to be interested in xartum:

Matt Arnold, epkat

Robin Lee Powell, camgusmis

Mark Shoulson, clsn

Adam Lopresto, Eimi

nedroid5.jpg

ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION ABOUT XARTUM CULTURE AND ONLINE GAME PSYCHOLOGY

The above cartoon is from the essay "A World of Warcraft World." Is this kind of anarchy what xartum's fictional setting might become? We we can go two directions. We can be really libertarian and let people do whatever they want, and end up with something like the image depicted here. Or, we can try to shape a consensus out of... well... no foundation, and attempt to enforce it on a world where any player can reshape reality just by typing a line. How much narrative consistency can we acheive? What measures can be put in place do so? Do we even want to do so?

  • Eppcott:
    When people have post-singularity powers, there have to be laws or customs on how to use such a massive ability. So, if somebody comes into the world and starts creating off-canon chaos, that is fun, and they're playing the villian, but the police get to work.
  • clsn:
    Until the job gets too big and/or boring for the police. Which may not happen and may not be something to worry too much about.
  • Eppcott:
    True. after all, you have to cast spells in Lojban. Which is a pretty good deterrent for random trolls.
    I myself would call into existence stone monoliths, graven with the architectural features of ziggurat temples, to rise from the water and begin laying down mountain ranges and forests. (Ziggurat temples as an homage to the Tower of Babel.) It really turns the Babel story on its ear.
    I think we will start with few enough people that the government of xartum can be a pure majority democracy at first.

Also, please read this paper about different types of players in multi-user dungeons. It describes four forms of motivation, and how to adjust a game world to provide equilibrium.

The Lucasfilm online graphical MUD Habitat had goals similar in some respects to the environment desired for xartum. Wikipedia's entry about has a link to a paper that is extremely relevant to xartum, titled The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat by Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer.

This story about LambdaMOO contains the following idea.

In a few days, Haakon announced, he would build into the database a system of petitions and ballots whereby anyone could put to popular vote any social scheme requiring wizardly powers for its implementation, with the results of the vote to be binding on the wizards.

For a great overview of the complexities of MUD socialization in general (specifically from the perspective of LambdaMOO, but as LambdaMOO was probably the largest social MUD ever, it's pretty generally relevant), see LambdaMOO Takes 2 New Directions, the aforementioned story about LambdaMOO, MUDs grow up and a set of CS course notes that ties them all together.

Design questions: Can players assign each other karma in some sort of ratings system?

See Ghyll for a similar world-created-by-storytelling. clsn participated a little, but didn't really keep up with it. John Cowan has done a lot there though.

Before the integration with the Lojban MOO was suggested, one idea was to play a game modeled loosely on universalis, which in turn seems to be the heir of Nomic, a game which includes mechanisms for the players to change the rules. (Incidentally, both Loglan and Nomic got their start as articles in Scientific American. In the case of Nomic, the initial ruleset was in Douglas Hofstadter's column Metamagical Themas in 1982.)

Until the Lojban MOO is finished and play actually begins, the following text will remain on this page only as an archive of that version of the proposal.

    • Interactive storytelling rules, adapted from Universalis**, which is copyright 2001 Ralph Mazza. See this Universalis Wiki Game for a conceptual demo. These rules have to be further modified if they are to match the purposes described above. Feel free to make suggestions. There are several differences between Universalis and what we are trying to accomplish. In Universalis, each player is not permanently attached to a particular character; every player is a GM. That's good. In xartum, in addition to controlling all the non-player characters, the players are each attached to a particular character; the player characters are doubles of the real people. What's more, they even know that they are in a modifiable universe; the characters are the GMs.

The Universalis version of the xartum proposal was to employ a xartum e-mail list for all official game messages. Record of the current rules, votes, and the current state of the world were to be kept on the Wiki.

PREPARATION

Decide the number of tokens each player starts with and the Refreshment rate for each scene. (The default is 25 tokens per player and 5 tokens Refreshment.)

By any means the group prefers, choose someone to begin. The first player then pays 1 token to propose a Game Tenet or passes to the player on his left. When all players have passed, begin the Bid for the first Scene.

PLAY

Play proceeds in Scenes. At the beginning of play, and after a Scene ends, players Bid for the Next Scene. The winner Frames the Scene, and play proceeds to his left.

Bid for Next Scene

Players secretly bid tokens. Bids are revealed simultaneously. Losing bids are retracted. Ties go to the player closest to the last Scene Framer’s left. The winner is the Framing Player.

The tokens bid by the Framing Player are set on the table; he may use these, in addition to his own, during the scene. Any bid tokens not used when the scene ends are lost.

Framing a Scene

The Framing Player establishes (and pays for) the Location, the Time, and any Components present. He Controls any Components he introduces. Framing ends when the player narrates the first Event. The Framing Player may not be Interrupted until then. His turn then proceeds as normal.

Rounds of Play

On his turn, a player narrates his additions to the story, and pays for any changes. He Controls the Components he brings into the scene. If he tries to change a Component he does not Control, he starts a Complication.

Other players may Challenge, Create an Obstacle, Take Over, Interrupt, Call for a Fine, or speak Dialog for Components they currently Control.

A player may end his turn at any time, but must end it when Interrupted or when he has no tokens to spend. If not Interrupted, play passes to his left.

Ending a Scene

Only the Framing Player may end a Scene and only on his turn. Ending a Scene normally costs nothing, but does allow other players to continue or flash back to that scene. Fade to Black costs 1 token and prevents anyone from returning to the scene.

When a Scene ends, all players claim Refreshment tokens, and then start the bid for next scene.

Challenges

A player may challenge at any time. Play pauses for negotiation and bidding. If no agreement is reached, bidding starts with the challenger and goes to his left, except for the challenged player, who bids last. The challenge ends if the challenger does not put up at least 1 token in his first bid. Other players may pass or bid as they wish.

Players place their bids in support of the challenger or the challenged. (Or they may suggest an alternative, which may also be supported with bids.) The solution with the most number of tokens wins, and may not be challenged again.

All bids are public. All tokens bid are paid to the bank. A player who passes is not barred from bidding later. Bidding continues until all players pass.

Fines

Anyone may call for a fine. Play pauses while the accuser and defendant make their cases. Then all players vote. The majority wins. The loser must pay to the bank a number of tokens equal to the number of tokens against him.

Importance

The total of all tokens spent to create a Component and any Sub Components. The value of a Master Component is not included in the Importance of a Sub Component.

Injury, Death, and Elimination

Injury may be added as a Trait. This increases the component’s Importance. Alternately, you may just remove Traits. A component with no Traits may be removed from play for 1 token. A Master Component may not be eliminated until all Sub Components are eliminated.

Master Components

A Master Component defines a template for Sub Components. Traits bought for the Master Component may be used by each Sub Component in a Complication. The Sub Component’s Importance is based only on their own Traits, not the Master’s.

Actions you can do any time:

  • Spend a Token to Interrupt and begin your own turn.
  • Spend a Token to Interrupt and Originate a Complication.
  • Take Over a Component in the scene for 1 Token.
  • Initiate a Challenge. Bid Tokens if necessary.
  • Engage in dialog for a character you Control.

Actions you can do ONLY on your turn:

  1. Scene Narration Activity
    Establish or change the scene’s location to a new or existing location for 1 Token.|
    Introduce an existing Component into the scene for 1 Token.|
    Exit a Component from a scene for 1 Token.|
    Describe an Event for 1 Token.
  2. World Building Activity
    Create a new Component and Introduce it into the scene or not for 1 Token.
    Add, Remove, or Restore a Trait for 1 Token per Trait.
    Reduce or Restore Importance for 1 Token per Level.
  3. Game Tenet Activity
    Propose a new (or modify an existing) Social Contract issue for 1 Token.
    Propose a new (or modify an existing) Story Element for 1 Token.
    Propose a new (or modify an existing) Rules Gimmick for 1 Token.
  4. Complication Activity
    Originate a Complication with one or more Components you do not Control.
    Draw on a Trait to add dice to a Complication Dice Pool.
    Buy Dice (and justify the purchase) for a Complication Dice Pool for 1 Token apiece.
    Roll the dice, determine the winner and spend or keep Bonus Tokens.

Control

A player controls any Component he brings into a scene. During the scene, other players may Take Over control of any Component., as long as it isn’t involved in a Complication. When the scene is over, all control is lost.

COMPLICATIONS

A Complication begins when the acting player wants to change Components he does not Control, OR when another player buys dice to create an Obstacle.

1) Start Dice Pools for the Complication and each player who controls a Component involved.

2) Regular play continues. However, narration should focus on the Complication. On their turn, a player may add dice to (or subtract dice from) the pool(s) of their choice by drawing on traits or buying dice. He may also Call for a Resolution. If all players agree, the dice pools are rolled.

1 Trait or 1 token = 1d10.

3) Roll the dice. A roll of 1-5 is a Success. Compare the total successes in the Complication Pool to the total of successes in all opposing pools. The side with the most successes wins.

Ties: Sum of the numbers on each side’s Success dice. The higher side gets an Edge dice. (If more than one player is involved, then the Edge die goes to the highest single total or the player closet to the acting players left.) Reroll and repeat as necessary, adding more Edge dice.

4) Get tokens. Winner gets tokens equal to the sum of the numbers on his Success dice. Losers gain 1 token per die rolled.

5) Winner uses tokens to narrate Events and add, remove, or restore Traits as desired. He may also buy down the tokens other players got in the Complication.

6) Losing players narrate, in order from most to least tokens received, limited by what has already been narrated.

Tokens not spent may be kept.

Initial 26 Nomic Rules, modified for xartum (If desired, this could be played as a game within the game to establish the government of the nation):

Immutable Rules

101. 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 201-213 (mutable).|

102. Initially rules in the 100's are immutable and rules in the 200's are mutable. Rules subsequently enacted or transmuted (that is, 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.|

103. A rule-change is any of the following: (1) the enactment, repeal, or amendment of a mutable rule; (2) the enactment, repeal, or amendment of an amendment of a mutable rule; or (3) 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; any rule of any status may be transmuted; no rule is absolutely immune to change.)|

104. 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.|

105. Every player is an eligible voter. Every eligible voter must participate in every vote on rule-changes.|

106. All proposed rule-changes shall be written down before they are voted on. If they are adopted, they shall guide play in the form in which they were voted on.|

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 application.|

108. Each proposed rule-change shall be given a 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 is adopted.

If a rule is repealed and reenacted, it receives the number of the proposal to reenact it. If a rule is amended or transmuted, it receives the 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 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 eligible voters. Transmutation shall not be implied, but must be stated explicitly in a proposal to take effect.|

110. In a conflict between a mutable and an immutable rule, the immutable rule takes precedence and the mutable rule shall be entirely void. For the purposes of this rule a proposal to transmute an immutable rule does not "conflict" with that immutable rule.|

111. If a rule-change as proposed is unclear, ambiguous, paradoxical, or destructive of play, or if it arguably 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 time must be allowed for this debate. The proponent decides the final form in which the proposal is to be voted on and, unless a Judge has been asked to do so, also decides the time to end debate and vote.|

112. There is no state of affairs that constitutes "winning,". The means of earning points, and whether or not points even exist, may be changed, and rules about what to do 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 judgment of the player to incur it, may be imposed.|

114. There must always be at least one mutable rule. The adoption of rule-changes must never become completely impermissible.|

115. Rule-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 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.

Mutable Rules

201. Players shall alternate in alphabetical order by surname, 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: (1) propose one rule-change and have it voted on, and (2) subtract 291 from the ordinal number of their proposal and multiply the result by the fraction of favorable votes it received, rounded to the nearest integer (This yields a number between 0 and 10 for the first player, with the upper limit increasing by one each turn; more points are awarded for more popular proposals.) and add that number of points to one's score.|

203. A rule-change is adopted if and only if the vote is unanimous among the eligible voters. If this rule is not amended by the end of the second complete circuit of turns, it automatically changes to require only a simple majority.|

204. If and when rule-changes can be adopted without unanimity, the players who vote against proposals that pass shall receive 10 points each.|

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 always has exactly one vote.|

208. At no time may there be more than 25 mutable rules.|

209. 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 of 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 again governs.|

210. 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 decide the question. Disagreement for the purposes of this rule may be created by the insistence of any player. This process is called invoking Judgment.

When Judgment has been invoked, the next player may not begin his or her turn without the consent of a majority of the other players.

The Judge's Judgment may be overruled only by a unanimous vote of the other players taken before the next turn is begun. If a Judge's Judgment is overruled, then the player preceding the Judge in the playing order becomes the new Judge for the question, and so on, except that no player is to be Judge during his or her own turn or during the turn of a team-mate.

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 Judgment 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 shall consider game-custom and the spirit of the game before applying other standards.

We don't have to use Nomic, but the rules are included here for reference. As I said above, it looks like Universalis would work better. Nomic seems to be designed to eventually break down and cease functioning, and a winner is then declared. That's not what we want to happen in xartum.