A Game of Self-Amendment
Peter Suber, Philosophy Department, Earlham College

Nomic is a game I invented in 1982. It's a game in which changing the rules is a move. The Initial Set of rules does little more than regulate the rule-changing process. While most of its initial rules are procedural in this sense, it does have one substantive rule (on how to earn points toward winning); but this rule is deliberately boring so that players will quickly amend it to please themselves. The Initial Set of rules, some commentary by me, and some reflections by Douglas Hofstadter, were published in Hofstadter's "Metamagical Themas" column in Scientific American in June of 1982. It was quickly translated into many European and Asian languages. Games were regularly played, and kicked off, the ARPANET, the Defense Department network which sired the Internet. Nomic has been used to stimulate artistic creativity, simulate the circulation of money, structure group therapy sessions, train managers, and to teach public speaking, legal reasoning, and legislative drafting. Nomic games have sent ambassadors to other Nomic games, formed federations, and played Meta-Nomic. Nomic games have experienced revolution, oppressive coups, and the restoration of popular sovereignty. Above all, Nomic has been fun for thousands of players around the world. For me, it was intended to illustrate and embody the thesis of my book, The Paradox of Self-Amendment, that a legal "rule of change" such as a constitutional amendment clause may apply to itself and authorize its own amendment. (Nomic is the third appendix of the book.)

Here is the game and some preliminaries from The Paradox of Self-Amendment:

Here are three Nomic sites which do a wonderful job organizing the Nomic scene. Visit them to get a sense of what Nomic is and where it's going.

Here are some of the other Nomic pages on the web. Most are games. I once tried to keep track of which are ongoing and which will accept new players, but Malcolm Ryan's Net Nomic Database now does this much better than I could. So I will slowly phase out my annotations with this information. I encourage players seeking games to check Malcolm's database.

Unfortunately, I'm too busy with other projects, including other web pages, to update this page as often as I'd like. But I do update it when I can and I'm always happy to hear about new Nomic sites. May I suggest that all game sites register with Malcolm Ryan's Net Nomic Database? This will help players discover which games are ongoing and which games will accept new players.

On usenet, Nomic announcements and discussions are posted chiefly to and somewhat less often to There are two Nomic-specific newsgroups,, and, but many sites do not receive them; consequently, the traffic in them is so sparse that Nomic comments are usually outnumbered by spams. For a spam-free Nomic discussion, use Doug Chatham's Nomic Bulletin Board.

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Artwork credits

Ribbon] Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374, U.S.A. Copyright © 1996-2003, Peter Suber.