You are the guy who has volunteered to keep The Mandate updated. It seems like a daunting task, and your service to the game is much appreciated by the player group. What motivates you to do such a thing?
Peter was trying to maintain the Mandate as well as everything else, so I volunteered to help because I enjoy TN and I could see that it was too much work for one person (back then it was even worse for him, as it was prior to auto order sheets or even auto transfer sheets). I fixed some formatting problems and tried to clean up some sections for him. That gradually grew into a more general updating role.
I often feel bad because it is often months between publishing updates, due to my other commitments (work, RL, etc). While Peter advises any significant change via email and/or the Tribe News, I still would like to keep the published Mandate more up to date.
It’s a very complex document, especially for new players. How would you suggest a new player approach the rules?
I think a new player should:
Not just rules nerds. I went through the rules just to get a ‘feel’ for the game’s potential. When you do that, you realise just how complicated micro-managing a clan could possibly get. It starts as such a simple game but the detail gets awesome the more you delve into it. Can you explain the structure of the rules; why they get so difficult to follow after the first few pages?
The rules have grown "organically" across several iterations; the order of various sections reflect this history. I have cleaned up some sections and tried to remove inconsistencies, but I have not done a complete re-write to impose a logical and consistent structure. Not least because many players have got used to how the rules are set out.
So you need to search them to find out what you need to know. The problem with using a word search, though, is that you need to know what term to use before you can set about finding it. What strategies do you suggest for players to find things they may not know about?
Some strategies spring to mind:
How 'hard and fast' are the rules? That is, how close do they correspond to the 'back end' of the processing program?
The ultimate arbiter of what happens in TN is the GM.
The Mandate is an outline to the players of what is supposed to happen under various circumstances.
The code (processing program) converts orders entered (via GM or the auto orders sheet) into outcomes in the report. It is a somewhat obscure language (based on VB for Access, as I understand it). There is only one person capable of making code changes, and his capacity is limited. So the code is often missing things; for example, things that are not yet coded or have errors that are as yet unfixed. There is a project underway to transition to a new program using a modern and more flexible programming language; once complete, this will provide a better basis going forward (including ease of maintenance and ease of change).
Are you saying the rules are mostly guidelines,
then? They are not hardwired.
My perspective is rather that the Mandate is an indication of how things should generally work. The GM can choose to vary the Mandate at any time to better reflect how he wants the game to run.
What about if the GM makes a mistake or if the auto program doesn't process things properly?
If you think there was an error, first double check your situation - perhaps you were missing an ingredient for crafting, etc.
If you are sure that there was an error and it is important to you, then you can ask the GM to review and fix any error.
Does cheating have a role in TN?
No. To get any sense of achievement out of a game, you have to play by the rules. Cheating will diminish the game for everyone concerned - other players do worse, the GM is forced into extra work to police cheating and you will have no sense of achievement from any success tainted by cheating.
So, in summary, players need to approach the rules with an understanding that they are not perfect, that the game is organic and has a human dimension to it.
Yes. Also to help them:
Yes. But there’s an ethical approach that needs to be discovered as well when there is a gap between what the Mandate says and what the program does. What are your thoughts on players manipulating or abusing a gap between a rule’s intent and its application in the program? Should we be like lawyers trying to find loopholes in the words or like best friends enjoying a chat over coffee?
People play TN to enjoy themselves. Part of that is seeing your Clan advance in various ways.
For me, deliberately doing something against the rules and/or the intent of the game would diminish my sense of accomplishment and hence enjoyment. Also, if I were competing against another clan and discovered that they had deliberately breached the rules, that would also reduce my enjoyment.
However, there are a lot of ways in TN that players can do things that are not supposed to happen - in my opinion, there is a big difference between an inadvertent mistake that produces a favourable outcome and deliberately constructing this. The rules are complex and a player may not realise that their order should not have been possible (or not that effective).
Historically, gaps between the Mandate and the code have sometimes been resolved by changing the code and sometimes by changing the Mandate (and sometimes by changes to both) - it is not guaranteed that the Mandate will prevail (not least because changing the code depends on Jeff's availability).
Is The Mandate like the Research document? Is it possible for me to design a new rule?
New rules are formed when the GM decides he wants to make a change in how the game works. If it is a simple change, he will just make it. For more consequential changes, he will usually discuss this with some people with relevant experience to get initial feedback, then with the wider group. Once the rule is finalised it is added to the Mandate (though there is usually a lag before the updated version is published, so significant changes are often communicated before the new version, e.g. via TribeNews or email).
If you have something you would like to see in the game, you could discuss it with other people and then put the idea forward to the GM. But new additions are often introduced as research items rather than rule changes.
But there are definitely changes to the Mandate over time.
Are there any examples of players making new Mandate rules?
Local Support and Commonwealth Territory have been added relatively recently. Both of those initiatives were player driven.
TN is ever evolving. That’s great. You’ll never be out of a job, then. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep up the good work.