A Quick Note Before We Start: I drafted this up a few years ago - well before being modded - and it’s meant to serve as a player-to-player guide to the GA. I don’t moderate on off-site forums and I don’t provide “advice as a moderator” on off-site forums. Thanks for your understanding.
For starters, there are two forum posts on the rules in the GA section. Personally, I prefer the older one (what can I say? I’m a creature of habit), but technically, the newer one is the one that’s “in effect.” The rules are pretty much the same, though, so it’s not like either one should trip you up much, if at all … The former, however, doesn’t have information on the new category changes,
I’m going to cover all of the rules listed in those threads, but I may “re-arrange” the order a bit to try to make things clearer. I’m also going to be trying to link to examples of most of these infractions throughout - mostly by using examples found in the Silly and Illegal Proposals Thread.
The rules are complicated - no doubt. And I’m hoping that by giving you illustrations of what not to do … that might help. I’ll occasionally toss in examples of “legal proposals,” but except for particular circumstances, I’m not sure how useful that would be. However, I’ve tried to link to a lot of examples of “what’s wrong with this picture” throughout, to try to illustrate a lot of the problems.
Game Mechanics is basically trying to write stuff into your proposal that affect how the game works. Max covers an example of this in the NS FAQ:
[quote]Can I make a resolution to add war to the game?
The WA is not there to request new game features. I admit this would be nice: propose a change, vote it through, and BAM! The game gets better. But then, I would have to make the BAM! part happen. It would require me to spend so much time rewriting game code that I wouldn’t be able to pursue my real passion, which is earning enough money to buy food, and staying sane.
WA resolutions are a way to bring all member nations into line on a particular issue; be that environmental, democratic, free trade, or whatever. Don’t suggest game improvements there. They just clutter up the place. And they make people think, “Hey, yeah, that would be cool! Why doesn’t that bum Max Barry get off his ass and do that?” I get e-mails.[/quote]
For example, this proposal tries to repeal a bunch of repeals that were passed. I’m sticking this under Game Mechanics because you can’t repeal a repeal - just not allowed under the current game system. It has more things wrong with it as well, no doubt, but that’s a good start, at least.
Ideas for technical improvement belong in the Technical forum of NS. Other examples of this include things like, “Requires all WA member nations to use gold as their currency.” (You can’t change every nation’s currency field via a WA resolution.)
Rules on Blockers: Another item under Game Mechanics is that you can’t close off entire aspects of legislation within your text. You can’t write a proposal that “Decrees that WA member states will have the authority to make all decisions regarding human rights within their nation.” Of course, that line would conflict with about 80 passed resolutions, but you can’t just decide to deny access to a given category by passing a proposal.
However, it is legal to write a legal blocker, to prevent legislation on a certain topic. As I mentioned previously, NAPA (Nuclear Arms Possession Act) is a pretty good example of this. In order to be a legal blocker, there has to be at least one clause in there that forces WA nations to do something.
[spoiler=“Breakdown of how NAPA is a legal blocker”]Actual Example - Nuclear Arms Possession Act:
[quote]Category: International Security | Strength: Mild
Description: REALIZING that WA members are outnumbered by non members by about 3 to 1,
ACKNOWLEDGING the fact that only WA members are required to comply with WA resolutions,
NOTICING the fact that many non member nations are hostile towards WA members,
REALIZING that the WA members need to be able to defend themselves if attacked,
1. DECLARES that WA members are allowed to possess nuclear weapons to defend themselves from hostile nations,
2. PRESERVES the right for individual nations to decide if they want to possess nuclear weapons,
3. REQUIRES that any nation choosing to possess nuclear weapons take every available precaution to ensure that their weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.[/quote]
Blue: - Blocking clause that prevents further legislation. (In this case, it forbids the future banning of nuclear weapons.)
Red: - National Sovereignty-style clause. (In this case, it works with the blocking clause to ensure that WA member nations are not required to possess nuclear weapons.)
Green: - Legislative clause that DO something. (This makes the above 2 clauses legal.)
In contrast, this is an illegal blocker as it doesn’t do anything other than block future legislation.
WA Army: We don’t get to have a WA Army or a WA Peacekeeping Force or a WA Police Squad or … whatever you want to call it. No matter how you try to do it, the mods will see it coming from a mile away. (Example proposal) So don’t even think about it. The reasons for it are definitely of the Meta-Gaming sort, and - if you ask me - WA Army-like actions belong in the SC.
Ideological Bans: You’re not allowed to outlaw capitalism, communism, socialism, democracy, dictatorships, etc., just because you want to. These kinds of governments exist within NS, and the WA can’t magically make them disappear just because you passed a resolution saying that XYZ is Bad. (First proposal in this post, as an example)
This is similar, in some ways, to the Game Mechanics rule and is one that is said to “break the fourth wall.” Examples would include proposals that cover specific nations or regions, proposals that require specific forum activities, etc. A simpler way of looking at it might be to think of it as requiring particular actions to be done by a player. (Example)
For example, I can’t write a proposal to require all Delegates to vote FOR my resolutions when they’re at vote. (It would be nice if I could, but … no dice.) I can’t write a proposal that requires nations to Role Play something on the forums. And, on that line of thought, we have the …
Committee Rule: Nations can’t sit on committees (Example), and they are also subject to the same MetaGaming/Game Mechanics rules that are listed above. (You can’t create a committee to do stuff that your proposal can’t legally do anyway.)
Committees should be in addition to a proposal. If all that your proposal does is talk about a committee (and what the committee does), you don’t have a legal proposal. A more detailed mod walkthrough of this rule can be found here, but, basically, if you eliminate all of the committee stuff … do you have anything left other than your preamble? It may help to ask yourself this question if you’re looking at a proposal that introduces a committee: What does this proposal do outside of the committee stuff?
For example, this proposal is mostly about a new committee that it creates - Office for Education Exchange (OEX). However, Under Section III, Clause 4 (and 4a), the proposal goes beyond just what the committee does.
Non-WA Nations: You can’t affect non-WA nations in your proposal. (Example 1 & Example 2) They’re not bound by WA law, so you can’t strip them of their nuclear capabilities. It is legal to “invite non-WA nations to participate” … but that gets complicated, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk that fine line for your first proposal draft.
Optionality: This mainly refers to proposals that have language saying “WA Nations can ignore this proposal if they want” … or something to that effect. Mild proposals will often have weak verbiage - Recommends, Suggests, etc. That’s absolutely fine.
The first proposal in this post is illegal for this reason, as it contains the following clause: 5. Strongly urges all NationStates to adopt this resolution but declares it non-binding as many nations are theocracies or otherwise based on a certain religion.
This is the “meat” of the rules. The above are general content issues, but these really get down to how your proposal is written and what it does.
For the record, there is no required method that you must use to format your proposals. For example, I have a quick-hit list of 3 different resolutions that are all formatted differently, which is totally okay, provided no other rules are being broken.
- GA#2 - Rights and Duties of WA States
- GA#15 - Freedom of Marriage Act
- GA#23 - Ban on Slavery and Trafficking
And there are more ways, yet, to arrange your proposal, depending on your personal preference. So long as the proposal follows the rules, the exact setup/formatting of your clauses doesn’t matter too much. (Although: any repeal must end with a REPEALS Resolution XYZ line of some nature, I suppose. But we’ll cover that in a bit.)
Proposal Language: Proposals need to be in English. That’s pretty much all this rule is.
Your proposal won’t be in trouble if you have the occasional typo or grammar error, but you may get laughed out of the GA if you submit a typo-ridden proposal. (So far as I’m aware, however, the existence of 800 typos does not make your proposal illegal.) However, it’s not unknown for typo-containing proposals to pass into law. Often these typos are where a letter is missing from a word and somehow forms a different word instead. Spell check won’t catch that one, although I do sometimes wonder if some ambassadors even understand the concept of spell check.
Blogposal (Goes Nowhere/Does Nothing): Fairly self-explanatory. This is a proposal that talks more about why XYZ is bad and doesn’t actually do anything due to a lack of operational clauses. They often read like a blog post, rather than a piece of actual legislation. “I think we should XYZ” is usually a helpful trick in identifying these. (Example)
This may also include proposals that ask questions rather than make statements. “Wouldn’t it be nice if the WA would make sure that no one was starving to death?” Yeah, sure, but that’s a question you ask yourself before you write your proposal - not the question you ask within the proposal text itself.
Real World Violations: If you reference Barack Obama, Mahmoud Amadinejad, Queen Elizabeth, etc., in your proposal it’ll be nuked. If you start talking about RL nations (India, Japan, Canada, etc.), ambassadors will likely start asking why you’re saying that India has done XYZ thing - and asking for evidence. Nation States =/= Real Life While you can use RL evidence and concepts for ideas/support within your proposal, you can’t have any RL references unless you want your proposal yanked. (Example - and to clarify, it’s the countries being mentioned that make this illegal, not the naming of specific drugs)
Further, if you actually want to talk about the NS region of [region]India[/region], again, you’re in the wrong chamber. Head over to the SC and talk to them about that stuff.
Joke Proposals: They’re great to draft up and post, but not a great idea to submit. “The Right to Arm Bears” was only funny the first few times it was drafted. Same goes with “Outlaw Di-Hydrogen Oxide.”
Still, they can be amusing and help to bring some joie de vivre to the sometimes stuffy GA chambers. Examples include Anti-Anti-Theism Act, Free Money!, and WA Ambassadorial Drug Act.
The WA subforum - much to my dismay - also now has a Joke Proposal Thread, where all Joke Proposals are supposed to go. I don’t like it because it ruins some of the fun of posting joke proposals. If you’re the author, having people wonder if you’re serious for the first 20 minutes after it’s posted is fun. If you’ve just stumbled upon the thread, trying to determine if the author is serious can also be entertaining. But, sadly, that practice will (theoretically) be no more …
Character limit: The approximate character limit on WA proposals is 3500 characters, including spaces. I could have sworn I saw a Tech post somewhere, sometime, where [violet] said that BBcode doesn’t count towards that, so I can’t be positive. Still, it’s a good ballpark figure all the same. Most word processors include a character count (along side word count, usually), so you can check where you are as you do your drafting.
There’s also a character limit to Proposal Titles, which I believe is 30 - including spaces. So keep that in mind next time you see an odd-ball abbreviation in a GA proposal title.
Grossly Offensive: Don’t kill off all XYZ ethnic/racial/religious group. Don’t deport all XYZ group. Don’t strip XYZ group of all their rights. And so on. (I think it’s fairly straightforward, but here is an example anyway.)
Bloody Stupid: Some things are just not topics the WA should be concerning itself with. We don’t need to mandate that all cars be painted purple. We don’t need to ensure that all children who eat their veggies get an allowance. (Example)
Branding: The only sort of nation or region name that may (legally) be in your GA proposal is that of up to ONE co-author. Even then, if you use the [nation] tags, you need to be sure to use the [nation=short] tag, as their pretitle is not allowed unless you want to fall afoul of this rule. (The Security Council, obviously, has different rules on this matter, however.)
Branding is also naming your nation (or another nation, or a region, etc.) within the proposal text. This lovely proposal (which also has a host of other issues) references their own nation twice within the proposal text, which is not allowed. (Another example and one more)
Branding also includes working an Acronym into your proposal that spells out your nation or region name, for example. (The now-repealed “Nautical Pilotage Act” had a U.N.I.B.O.T. committee - Universal Nautical Institute of Buoyage Oversight and Transportation.) The mods may have missed that one, but don’t think about trying that again.
Of course, you are allowed to spell out things with acronyms. One that still makes me laugh is the “Standardised Passport Act,” as they created the Global Emigration, Security, Travel And Passport Organisation. I’ve also written the Missing Individuals Act, which spells out M.I.A., which amused me to no end.
I think that Categories are one of the harder rules to “figure out,” since there’s so many, and it can be difficult to find the Right One. (Note: don’t worry too much about the “details” of this one right now since we’ll be going into more detail on the GA proposal categories in the next set of lessons.)
As a result, it’s generally recommended to pick a category before you start writing your proposal. It’s much easier to fit your proposal to a specific category if you know what you’re aiming for - rather than trying to shoehorn it in later.
If you submit your proposal under the wrong category, it’ll get yanked. Same goes if you submit a repeal without using the repeal function. (I’ll cover repeals more in a minute.)
Strength Violation: If you have a proposal filled with Mandates, Requires, Demands, etc., and submit with a Mild strength, you’re likely to get your proposal killed.
For Categories that have a “strength,” the order goes from Mild → Significant → Strong. It has been ruled in the past that some categories (i.e. those with various Decisions - such as Gun Control, Gambling, and Recreational Drug Use) are Significant/Strong in strength. I’d presume that the Education and Creativity category is more Mild in strength, but that’s never been officially declared.
For Categories that have Decisions/Areas of Effect, make sure you pick the right one when submitting. This proposal (titled Legalize Weed Now!) was submitted under the Outlaw decision of Recreational Drug Use. (It also has a RL reference of America … among other issues.)
Repeals must be submitted using the repeal function. At the bottom of each of the Passed, Un-Repealed Resolutions, there’s a [Repeal this Resolution] link. GA#1 isn’t repealable, but everything else is fair game. (Example of trying to repeal without using the repeal function)
Repeals need to have the final “Repeals GA#X.” I usually toss in the “Resolution Name” too, but I don’t know that that’s required. If you don’t finish by stating that the GA is Repealing whatever prop you’re aiming for, you have an illegal resolution on your hands.
Repeals cannot legislate. All they can do is repeal. You can’t promise a replacement - that’s Metagaming as you can’t guarantee that a replacement will pass. You can’t “declare that WA nations will make these decisions for themselves going forward” - not without passing a new resolution that says that. Your repeal text should be an explanation of all the problems within the resolution in question. (Example of a repeal trying to introduce new legislation)
NatSov Argument: Repeals can have NatSov arguments - but that can’t be the only argument. (Example) NatSov is an easy argument that can be used against any resolution. Those who try to repeal contentious topics (i.e. FoMA (Freedom of Marriage Act)) often run into this problem, as their main objection to the resolution in question is that their nation can’t ban gay marriage. They can be repealed … but it’s much more difficult to do so. (Note: most NatSov arguments could be made into a legal argument with some careful wording. Whether those arguments are popular, though, is a different story.)
Mentioning “Rule Breaking”: Now, as infallible as the mods are, occasionally rule-breaking proposals get to a vote before the issue is discovered. One a resolution is at vote it’s “safe” - and the only way to keep it from becoming law is to vote it down.
If an illegal resolution passes, the repeal text cannot mention the illegality within it. (This is really a MetaGaming argument as the rules don’t “exist” from an In Character perspective, per the mods.)
Honest Mistakes: If you misunderstand what the resolution in question does, and submit a repeal on those grounds, this will get your proposal yanked. It can happen with non-repeals, but it’s most common with repeals itself.
Duplication / Contradiction
You can’t duplicate or contradict already existing legislation. If we’ve already legalized gay marriage, you can’t submit a proposal that magically outlaws it.
So far as duplication goes, minor duplication (i.e. one clause that echoes what a different proposal has already done) is generally ok, as it may just serve to ensure that XYZ right is maintained, even if the original resolution is repealed. Another fine line to walk, so I’d suggest trying to stay clear of this for your first few proposal drafts.
Amendments: You can’t amend proposals. TL;DR answer is that the coding is too complicated to do so. The only option for changing a proposal is to repeal it and replace it with something better. Details, for those so inclined, can be found here and here.
This proposal is an example of an attempt at amending a resolution - via repeal, apparently.
House of Cards: Don’t mention other resolutions within your text. (This is also a rule that’s been introduced after I passed my first resolution.) If the resolutions you cite are all repealed, a lot of your arguments in favor of your resolution are suddenly gone. (Lots of the old UN nations fall afoul of that rule - including my Historical Resolution. That was “common practice” back then - as it wasn’t against illegal at that time.)
(As an aside, this rule does not apply during repeals, and - if memory serves - it was past Euro President/WAD Oliver Grey who asked the question that ended up with that ruling being handed down)
Please note that you can give new responsibilities to an already existing committee, but you shouldn’t be trying to “add on” to an existing resolution - otherwise, you run the risk of having your proposal be viewed as an Amendment to the resolution in question.
This is one of two or three violations that can earn you an instant kick from the WA. (And once you’re kicked, you can’t rejoin with that same nation.) Whether it’s copying another player’s proposal, whether it’s copying a now-defunct Historical Resolution (if it’s not yours), whether it’s doing copy-pasta from wikipedia, etc. - don’t do it. (Example, and another, and another)
Generally, WA nations get “three strikes” before they’re booted from the WA. From what I’ve heard, there is some leeway there - if your violations are fairly minor, you may get more “chances.” I’d figure that nations with 3 strikes over a number of years are probably fine - versus those who earn 3 strikes within a few weeks.
As I said above, Plagiarism is one that will get you booted ASAP. Grossly Offensive usually will too. If you resubmit a rule-breaking proposal without any changes, you may get ejected as well.
If you get ejected from the WA: that nation cannot rejoin the WA. However, you can move a new puppet into the WA instead. This is one way in which Testlandia WA Mission might pop up.
How do I check for all of these rules when writing a proposal?
Wellllll … reading through the rules (which you’ve now done) definitely helps. However, it’s hard to remember all the rules - let alone keep track of them all - when you’re a new proposal author. A lot of them may be common sense, but a lot more are more complicated and intricate.
This is why it is so important to make sure that you post your draft on the NS forums for a least a week (if not longer!) prior to submission. A lot of the GA regulars will do a legality check for you - especially if you ask nicely and say up-front that you’re a new author who could use some help. You might get some snarkiness in response, but hopefully you’ll get some useful comments too.
Proposal drafting is a marathon, not a sprint. The faster you rush your text from draft to submission, the less time there is for people to check out potential legality issues. Take your time - and do it right the first time.
I’ve picked 20 proposals that (truly) were at one point submitted for delegate consideration. (Under the UN, WA, etc.) I’ve pasted them into this dispatch, and I’d like you all to check through them and see what sorts of illegalities you can spot. I’ve found at least 35 “things wrong” with the proposals (in total), but unless you’ve really familiarized yourself with the GA rules, it’s unlikely you’ll find ALL of them.
However, challenge yourself to find as many as you can and maybe jot down a note (or at least a mental note) about why it’s illegal - i.e. “Game Mechanics because of this line” or “MetaGaming because it tries to affect non-WA nations” or … whatever.
Also note: That “35+” count doesn’t even touch on duplication/contradiction here. We’re looking at the other rules since checking for duplication/contradiction is more complicated than this lesson is intended to cover.
After you find as many illegalities as you can, pick 3 (or more!) of the illegalities you found and fix them. It’s not uncommon for illegalities to abound in first proposals, and knowing how to fix your issues is a good skill to learn. However, as a friendly (modly) reminder, it’s illegal to submit a proposal that is largely the text of someone else’s proposal (or UN resolution), as that is considered plagiarism.