Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Decisions by default

A few weeks back I had a bad role-playing session at my local club, which degraded into a heated discussion, at the end of which one player left. The situation was that our group of 5 players met in some ruins we were exploring a group of 5 NPC, who weren't hostile. In true murder hobo style 2 of the players in my group wanted to kill and loot the NPCs, while the other 3 didn't want to. Instead of discussing this, one of the players who wanted to fight simply declared an attack. The 2 players in favor of the attack assumed that once combat had started, the other 3 players wouldn't have a choice and would have to join. Well, we didn't, which is why one of the players who wanted the attack ended up shouting at us as traitors and leaving the table.

This was somewhat unusual, because I have been in far more situations where a player who wanted to negotiate rather than fight was effectively silenced by somebody starting an attack and forcing the issue. Groups do not always have good mechanics for arriving at a common decision. So sometimes a decision is reached by somebody acting without the consent of his fellow players, and triggering a decision by default. I'm not a big fan of that method of play.

I was thinking about this decision by default mechanic while watching the news over the latest parliamentary debates in Britain regarding Brexit. While the Brexit negotiations theoretically are held between Britain and the EU, those negotiations are somewhat pointless, because any agreement has to be accepted by the British parliament. And as it looks now, there is no possible agreement that would get a parliamentary majority. And one of the reasons why the parliament can't agree on anything is that some people clearly speculate that by not agreeing they will get their preferred outcome as decision by default, which is the no-deal Brexit. So that now the opponents of a no-deal Brexit are trying to change the rules, so that the default option becomes something else, like a second referendum, or no Brexit at all.

It seems to me that both in games and in real life it is not a good idea if the default option is the most extreme one. That basically makes the job of any extremists too easy, they don't need to convince anybody, they just need to sabotage an agreement on any alternative.

Yeah, I have little tolerance for people who can't follow the "chain of command" and try to force their will on the group. If you don't LIKE the chain of command, you can either leave the group or work towards changing it.

So, on "Brexit", I confess that as an American, I'm a little baffled by the whole thing. It's a treaty, an agreement. The UK is not a vassal state and can just walk away from any agreement they make, albeit there may be pre-negotiated penalties, but in the form of trade agreements, what could happen... they won't trade with you? That would only matter if you wanted to stay in the agreement. "I won't trade with you" is a hollow threat if they... actually... need to trade with you.

The US is different, the US is a Republic, not an aligned group of sovereign countries like the EU is. States in the US aren't sovereign like the UK is.

If an entity has a contract to buy or supply goods, there is a default clause that stipulates the penalty of breaking the contract. What is there to negotiate here?
Actually trade isn't negotiated at this stage. The problem is mostly one of borders. Much of the EU works without border controls, you don't need a passport to go from France to Germany any more than you need it to go from New York to New Jersey. If a country leaves the European Community, that open border suddenly disappears. There are passport controls, there are customs controls, etc.

The port of Dover handled 4.2 million trucks in 2017. Now imagine a 5-minute border control for each of these trucks. That can turn a border into a nightmare. In a world of just-in-time logistics, this can shut down factories and lead to shortages on the supermarket shelves. And that is just the trucks, the agreements which allow planes to fly from one country to another are far more complicated. As a member of the EU, the UK for example can fly to the US under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. Dropping out of the EU the UK can't use that any more, and they don't have a bilateral agreement with the US yet. So suddenly flights from London to New York become impossible, until a new agreement is sorted out.

In Ireland there is an additional political component: Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, has an open border with Ireland, which is part of the EU. The last time there was a border between the two, it led to troubles to the tune of 3,500 dead. Since the Good Friday Agreement that opened the border, there has been peace, and nobody wants to lose that.
I'm with Bloomberg's Bershidky there.

EU had driven their side too hard and current "May deal" is basically everything for EU and disaster for UK.

"No-deal Brexit" will be disaster for EU and UK - a lot more fair proposition.
We faced that same extremist sabotage in Australia when we held a referendum on whether to stay with the monarchy or become a republic.

Popular polling had a very clear majority for a republic, but the monarchists in charge effectively sabotaged the vote by splitting the republicans.

The question posed in the referendum (a question drafted by monarchists in government) specified that the head of state would be selected by a two-thirds majority of the parliament (an unpopular option amongst republicans), rather than a popularly-elected head of state (which was the version preferred by the majority of republicans).

It was a dirty trick, and even though the vote was close, it failed largely because of that split.
"No-deal Brexit" will be disaster for EU and UK - a lot more fair proposition.

That is only by a very theoretical, abstract vision of "fairness". A no-deal Brexit will hurt the EU too, but for the EU the pain will be very diluted and distributed. It affects some European companies and will cost them a few percent of their bottom line. For the UK the chaos will be concentrated, and will be felt much more acutely, and by a much wider part of the population.

May I remind my American readers that the last time some states decided to quit the United States, that didn't end well at all?
Brexit is pain either way.

Current May deal protects a lot of things Brexiters wanted to see gone so they prefer no-deal to that - because May's negotiated outcome is all pain with no gain to them.
And this is all arguing on the terms of leaving and the rules for a temporary transition period! The difficulties in accepting the leaving agreement are due to concerns that the temporary solution will become the permanent solution by default (which is broadly unacceptable to all). Parliament cannot accept the transition agreement without (different and contradictory) guarantees on what will go into the future relationship, but it is very chicken/egg because the transition period mostly exists because the future relationship is yet to be decided!

Latest public opinion polls don't help (ComRes Dec 4). No majority for any outcome. Large, polarised minority interest in all outcomes:

Oppose May's deal by 42-26
Oppose No Deal by 41-34
Oppose remaining in EU by 45-44
Oppose 2nd referendum by 50-40
Oppose extending date when UK leaves EU by 46-34
Support renegotiating with EU if May deal fails by 45-25

Basically the only option with majority support is the option that cannot happen.
Tobold says:
"May I remind my American readers that the last time some states decided to quit the United States, that didn't end well at all?"

Yeah, it's a conundrum. Smaller countries are inferior to larger ones in a lot of ways. It's one thing to say "Live and let live" if a sizable portion of your population wants to wander off, but the damage it causes the whole can be immense.

If a Republic tries to split, the "war option" is a civil war, I.E. one that doesn't involve existing defense treaties. If the EU decides to go to war with the UK, The UK can say "Sovereign nation under attack, here!" Assuming, of course, their existing agreements don't consider them already in a "Republic" by name only.

And actually... the American Civil War ended fine. It was over in 4 years and the Union was back together. Sure, it sucked for the 500,000 that died due to the conflict, but it would have been FAR WORSE over the course of the next 150 years if the Republic was split in two. How would the Spanish-American war, the war of 1812, and the Pacific Theater components of WW2 have gone if there were 2 sets of states, each with it's own central government?

None of what I'm about to add changes Tobold's commentary about decision by default. However, it might help explain why the negotiations have been so tortuous for us Brits and why, to an extent, the EU has us over a barrel.

Some of you may be aware that we have an uneasy position between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and Ireland itself (a different sovereign country part of and remaining in the EU regardless of Brexit).

The EU effectively said to us "If you go for a hard/no deal Brexit, we will enforce border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland" This risks a re-eruption of the "troubles" / IRA national sentiment and effectively rendered a hard stance by the UK negotiators (and the more strident leave advocates) very tricky indeed.

Just some background for our friends around the world that might help explain why this is proving to be so difficult for us.
The EU effectively said to us "If you go for a hard/no deal Brexit, we will enforce border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland"

Wait... that's not an internal border of the EU. Isn't that outside of their purview? I thought they only defined who could cross internal borders in the EU. Ireland was never in the Schengen Zone, was it?

You're right that it's not an internal border, but post-Brexit it becomes the boundary between a UK outside of the EU and the EU bloc. Hence they are perfectly within their rights to impose controls on entry into the EU area.
I actually would have liked to comment on the rpg aspect as it is a very interesting discussion but your wild mix of rpg and real life politics makes it really annoying. With all honesty - I don't read your blog for politics.

Thus I will completely ignore this part.

My background is being a pnp dungeon master and player as well as a huge board game fan. My system was "das schwarze auge" probably only popular in Germany...interestingly you might never see an issue like this in any group I have played in. The system enforces way too much roleplay, character progression and skill tests outside of fighting. A discussion what to do would most likely NEVER happen to be out-of-charakter but in character only. So you would blindly charge into npcs only if you are a bad thief and the whole story is set up for baddies and not cat rescuers.

Additionally you have a concept of "fantastic realism". You might loot these poor guys - but good luck trying to sell their stuff without knowing the logistics if a bad guy: not running into a guard, not facing relatives of the dead knowing the nice cape you wear etc.

If characters follow their trait and do rob people - I would make a campaign out of the consequences alone. Isn't that the case d&d? I never played it but I find it ridiculous that everybody I just "in, fight, loot" Diablo mode...I even played one shots where everybody stayed in character and tried to act like a priest/paladin/whitch whatever...

All in all from a pure gaming perspective I dont like pnp fidghting systems. I would just grab a boardgame dungeon crawler or skirmish wargame instead and pay fights there, probably being able to solo it and with the fight mechanics I like and I can minmax in. And I dont have to bother with the consequences if mass murder....
I wouldn't put the emphasis on the system. I know DSA and I've played it in "Diablo" mode, and I have played D&D in role-playing mode. I comes down to the campaign, the DM, and the players. In this case the specific setup was an open campaign with changing players and changing DMs every session, which lends itself more to Diablo mode than to role-playing mode. Which is why I ultimately left that campaign.
What Shalcker said. Maybe they'd vote for a better deal.
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