Please take note that this thread lays out the general rules for playing the the Virtual Government Simulation (VGS), which is the main game hosted on this website. The Terms of Service regulate general activity on this website; this thread solely contains the rules of the governmental simulation itself.
1. WINNING AND LOSING.
The administrators seek through VGS to provide a compelling, realistic simulation of United States politics. Just as there is no set definition of winning in politics, there is no set definition of winning in VGS. You can define victory for yourself -- perhaps in being elected president, being the most well-known journalist, or just getting a certain policy enacted. Just as there is no way to win, there is no way to definitively lose. Indeed, many in politics will seemingly return from the dead, so truly, the only way to lose is to give up.
2. A ROLEPLAYING GAME.
The Virtual Government Simulation is ultimately a roleplaying game, where you players sign in characters that compete with others for power, fame, and fortune. Due to the inherently competitive nature of politics, other characters may betray, backstab, attack, and otherwise horribly treat your character. Yet it is important to remember that you are not your character, and that such nefarious conduct is expected by characters in politics. You should not blame another player for having a brutal, conniving, terrible character; such persons exist in politics, and you should instead thank that player for creating such a great antagonist for your character to fight.
You are strictly prohibited from lobbying the administrators of this game to enact policy solely because those policies will favor your character. As a player, you are expected to promote a robust, healthy community that plays an excellent simulation. You should not sacrifice that merely because your character might be more successful.
3. CHARACTER RULES.
A player may create one of each of the following types of characters:
A United States Senator. Please see the Senate Roster. You must pick a seat held by the party of which your character will be a member, and you must pick a seat not presently occupied by another player-character. Please see the senate roster. Please note that a player with a character that is President of the United States of America cannot also have a United States Senator character.
A journalist or the operator of a media outlet. Please see the Player Media Rules.
The President of the United States of America, the Vice President of the United States of America, or a cabinet-level official. Please note that your character must be elected or appointed to this position through game mechanics; you cannot simply sign-in as an executive branch member. There may be at maximum five player-characters in the executive branch at any time.
To create a character, post a thread in the character creation forum containing the biography of the character. Every character must abide by the biography guidelines, and must be approved by the Administrative Board. Every character that a player creates must be a member of the same political party as every other character that said player has created. Every character that a player creates must be related to, or closely associated with, every other character that said player has created.
A player may stop playing a character at any time, but it is at the sole discretion of the administrative board to explain the sudden absence of that character. You as a player cannot decide that your character is retiring for health reasons, for instance. A player may elect to stop playing an old character, and instead play a new character of the same type, only once per game. So if you create a senator character, then announce you are done playing that character, then create another senator character, that is the last senator character you can create until the game resets. Please note that this limitation on the creation of new characters does not apply where a player goes inactive for an extended period then returns to the game.
You may simulate the actions of your character, and to a limited extent, your character's staff. Yet you cannot simulate the actions of anyone other than your character and your character's staff including other characters, random persons, crowds, etcetera. What's more, your simulation of the actions of your character's staff should be limited to the very reasonable things that they would do in the ordinary course of their work, such as sending a letter on your character's behalf or introducing your character at a town hall. The sole exception to this rule is that at a press conference or town hall meeting, any player may post a question as a random reporter or townsperson, but only if such post is realistic and reasonable.
4. IN-CHARACTER FORUMS.
Each forum located in the Public Affairs, Capitol Hill, White House, and Elections categories is an in-character forum. Posts in these forums are generally considered to be verbal statements by one of your characters, except where the post takes the form of a press release, tweet, bill submission, or other clearly different in-character act. If you have multiple characters, and it is unclear from context which character is speaking or acting, you should specify. The Administrative Board will otherwise in the case of a dispute determine which of your characters was speaking or acting based upon an analysis of the totality of the circumstances. You may simulate the physical actions of your characters in addition to your character's verbal statements by describing those actions in third person in italics.
You may make an out-of-character comment in an in-character forum only where a compelling justification for that out-of-character comment exists. Please denote such a comment by putting it in double parenthesis, and marking it as OOC, as follows: ((OOC: Comment.)). Please note that you must include in such out-of-character comment the compelling justification for its posting. If you fail to appropriately justify an out-of-character comment in an in-character forum, your comment may simply be deemed an incomprehensible rambling by your character. Generally, neither a politician's constituents or a journalist's audience find it reassuring when that politician or journalist rambles incoherently, so beware.
Generally, you may edit a post you make in an-character forum for only five minutes after making that post, but there are exceptions. You may at any time edit (or delete the content of) a press release, tweet, financial statement, or voting record, or other post that would in real life be changeable at any time by the author. You may also amend a bill that you submitted while it remains in the hopper, provided that it abides by congressional rules.
5. IN-CHARACTER COMMUNICATIONS.
Players may engage in in-character communications outside the in-character forums via any medium including personal message and telegram. A communication between players is treated as a communication between those players' characters if the communications is intended to be in-character. A communication between players is also treated as a communication between those players' characters if the communication focuses on in-character matters like strategizing, negotiating, or exchanging information. You should when conducting communications that would qualify as in-character communications specify which of your characters is conducting the communications. The Administrative Board will otherwise in the case of a dispute determine which of your characters was communicating based upon an analysis of the totality of the circumstances.
The Administrative Board treats in-character communications differently depending on the medium. In-character communications via personal messenger are treated as formal, written communications between characters. Generally, you may edit a personal message for only five minutes after making that message, except where the message would in real life be changeable at a later time by the author. In-character communications via other mediums including telegram are treated as informal, verbal, unrecorded conversations between characters. Your character can say whatever s/he wishes about such a conversation, but cannot provide any verification that either the confirmation occurred or that certain words were spoken during the conversation. Your character cannot post a transcript of the conversation. The media and public may or may not believe your character's claims that a conversation occurred or that certain things were said in that conversation; ultimately, it will be a matter of spin.
6. ACTIVITY REQUIREMENTS.
You must participate regularly in gameplay in order for your character to remain in the game. The Administrative Board will automatically sign-out your senate or media character after two weeks, and your executive character after a week, if during that period you take no substantive actions as that character. You may return to the game at any time after going inactive and reclaim a senate or media character, but you an rejoin the executive branch only through election or appointment. What's more, a senate character's senate seat will not be reserved, so it is possible you will have to create a new character as your old character's senate seat is occupied.
You may post a leave of absence if you are expecting to be unable to play the game for a brief period for out-of-game reasons. During a posted leave of absence, days of absence will not be counted towards the activity requirements above, and your characters will not be penalized in-game for any inaction on any subject. Yet there is generally a two-week limit on leaves of absence (and a one-week limit for executive characters), meaning the longest you will receive the benefits of this protection is for fourteen (or seven) days. Furthermore, if take an unreasonable number of leaves of absence during a round, your executive character may be signed out to ensure the game continues operating during your times away.
7. MECHANICS IN GENERAL.
You principally play the game by having your character seek to influence the world around him/her in order to pursue the goals that you have set for him/her. A character can do this through public activity (see section 8), legislative activity if a senator (see section 9), executive activity if a member of the executive branch (see section 10), and media activity if a media character (see Player Media Rules). To facilitate this work, a non-media character can engage in fundraising, either via fundraisers or k-street activity (see Fundraising Guidelines and K-Street Guidelines). A player will finally be able to influence elections, though election mechanics are still being developed at this time.
The Administrative Board will simulate the response to player activities through in-game news articles, the provision of information to player media outlets so they can write in-game news articles, the publishing of the approval ratings of senate characters and the president and vice president, and the posting of direct non-player-character responses. We'll do our best to provide a truly immersive simulation, where you have an understanding of what is happening in the world in which your character lives. Yet we may miss some things; if you ever wonder if a real-life event occurred in-game, please feel free to ask about it here. Please be mindful that except as otherwise indicated (including in player biographies), all historical events occurring before the in-game start date occurred in real life. The in-game start date this round is January 1, 2013.
Please be mindful that the approval ratings noted above are incredibly important in terms of gameplay. The Administrative Board produces approval ratings by analyzing the activities of your character with an emphasis on public activity. You'll need to have your senate or presidential character regularly engage in public activities in order to achieve and maintain a high approval rating; some acclaim can be gained solely through legislative or executive activity, but most voters will know what your character is doing only if your character tells them. There are of course some extraneous factors beyond your character's direct control that will impact your character's approval rating -- the public's view on your character's party, the public's view on the state of the nation, and much more. But your character can hugely impact it, and you should -- because public opinion is amongst the most important things for an elected official to track.
8. PUBLIC ACTIVITY MECHANICS.
There are a number of ways that your character can influence the public. You should create a press office thread for your senate character in the press offices forum, and post press releases on that thread in order to sway the mass media. You should create a twitter thread for each of your characters in the twitter forum, and post tweets on that thread in order to sway the masses. You should create a public activities thread for your senate character in the character activities forum, and post events that your character attends and hosts in that thread, along with any speeches given (you may post talking points in place of a speech). You can create new threads for your character to hold town hall meetings and press conferences in the character activities forum, seeking to sway the public and the media in an interactive environment. Finally, as a member of the executive branch, subject to the president's approval, you can post press releases and hold press conferences in the White House Press Briefing Room. Take advantage of these resources to make sure as a politician that the American people share your values and views.
Your character may organize large rallies involving multiple characters, and post those rallies in the character activities forum. The organizer of the rally will assumed to be the primary character of the player that posts the rally, except if otherwise specified. Every attendee must speak, though this speech can take the form of either a properly written speech or just 5-10 bulleted talking points. You must specify in such a large rally the city (or list of cities) in which it is occurring and the public groups targeted for attendance by your organizers. Holding a large rally costs $20,000, though if you hold a series of rallies, only the first rally costs $20,000, and the remainder cost $10,000 each.
9. LEGISLATIVE MECHANICS.
The Congress in-game holds the same powers as the Congress in real life, making it immensely important to influence the legislative process. Players largely influence the legislative process through the United States Senate, whose in-game activities are decided based entirely on the actions of player characters. Player senate characters elect the leaders of the senate, and also set the rules of the senate. Player senate characters craft the legislation submitted to the senate, and can debate the merits of said legislation during senate debates. Most importantly, senate characters can vote on legislation (and other matters), and those votes decide the final fate of that legislation (and those other matters) in both the Senate and the House of Representatives via the Influence Voting System.
The Influence Voting System determines the outcome of votes of the Senate and House of Representatives by using the relative influence of senate characters to decide how non-player characters in both Houses vote. A senate character can gain influence by earning a higher approval rating, winning election as a party leader, or winning congressional elections on behalf of the party in accordance with the congressional election rules. We are still developing election mechanics, which will be made available upon completion. A Republican senate character can also gain special influence in the House of Representatives by being a "Tea Partier," a label assigned by the Administrative Board based on in-character activity. The President pro tempore of the Senate will use the Influence Voting System to decide the outcome of Senate votes, while the Administrative Board will use the Influence Voting System to decide the outcome of House votes on legislation approved by the Senate. The Administrative Board will also use the Influence Voting System to decide if a bill passed by the Senate will receive a vote in the House; the majority party in the House will only schedule a bill for a final vote if a majority of its members (according to the Influence Voting System) support the bill.
A senate character may instead of voting indicate non-presence through a note in italics. If there is any indication a quorum may not exist, the presiding officer shall before using the influence voting calculator to decide the outcome of the vote first use the influence voting calculator to decide if a quorum exists, entering every senate character that voted at all as a "yea" and every senate character that declared non-presence as a "nay". If a quorum does not exist, the remaining senators can compel the presence of absent senators, as provided in the Senate rules. Compelling presence of sufficient senators to create a majority will take twenty-four hours. The House of Representatives will not copy an effort in the Senate to avoid a quorum as there are too many Representatives for a party to successfully avoid a quorum.
A senate character may engage in an old-fashioned talking filibuster of a bill in-game, just as in real life. To do so, a player should have his senate character clearly indicate that she or he is filibustering during a post in debate. To maintain the filibuster, the player must post at least once once every two hours as that senate character. Just as in real life, it is impossible to yield the floor to another senator to continue the filibuster; you must post at least once every two hours to maintain the filibuster. Once you've gone more than two hours, your filibuster is done, and you cannot filibuster the same bill again. A filibuster only stops debate on the bill being filibustered, not other senate business.
The Administrative Board allows senate characters to submit two kinds of legislation. You can write your own real bills, stock full of legalese, on behalf of your character. You can also use a real-life bill, though you should be sure to give appropriate credit to avoid a scandal. You must include at the end of any real bill a plain english summary, breaking down what the bill's provisions so that a high school student can basically understand the proposal. You can alternately avoid the legalese altogether by drafting a summary bill, which is a bill that contains only a plain english summary. For in-game purposes, it will be pretended that your character's staff actually drafted the real bill for which you are providing a summary, and the summary bill will be treated in all respects in-game like a real bill. But a summary bill must still be very clear about what it does -- you cannot just say "this bill will solve this historical US problem," you have to specify how your law will accomplish what it aims to do.
10. EXECUTIVE MECHANICS.
The President of the United States of America holds immense political power, and Virtual Government Simulation extensively simulates this influence, generally providing the president the same powers as the president possesses in real life. The president is allotted an entire category for his or her work including the Oval Office forum (where executive orders are issued, bills are submitted, and other formal actions are taken), the Roosevelt Room forum (a password-protected forum for use in holding bipartisan negotiations), the West Wing forum (containing several sub-forums in which the president discusses issues with advisers and makes key decisions), and the Press Briefing Room. The vice president also automatically receives access to each of these forums including an office in the West Wing in which the vice president can engage in his or her own activities. In the case that the president resigns, goes inactive, or is removed from office, the vice president will assume the office of the presidency as in real life.
The president possesses the power of appointment as in real life, though the exercise of this authority is truncated to an extent to facilitate gameplay. The president appoints cabinet-level officials, Supreme Court justices, the Federal Reserve Chair, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and these appointments take the form of nominations subject to senate approval where such is the case in real life. Yet all nominations are assumed confirmed unless the Senate leader of the opposing party of the president indicates a desire to contest a nomination, in which case the nomination requires confirmation via a senate resolution. There is no simulation of the appointment of subcabinet officials, judges of federal courts inferior to the supreme court, military officers, or diplomatic officers. The Administrative Board will where necessary select a non-player character to fill such a role, basing the selection on the president's simulated appointments. The president may fill up to three cabinet-level offices with player characters; the president cannot appoint a player character to any other position. There is no simulation of recess appointments in the game.
The president also possesses the power of the veto as in real life. When the Congress passes a bill in-game, the President Pro Tempore will present the bill to the president, who can then either sign or veto it. The president only has five real-life days to either sign or veto the legislation; failure to act will result in the bill's automatic enactment. The president can waive this five-day period, and simply allow the bill to become law, through an OOC post. The president can pocket veto a bill that is submitted within five days of the end of a session of Congress by posting an OOC note that the president wishes to pocket veto the bill.
The president must propose the federal budget as in real life, though for the purposes of the simulation the United States uses budgets spanning two fiscal years. The president must by the end of the first quarter of each odd-numbered year propose a budget for the following two fiscal years, and the Congress must pass that budget by the end of the third quarter of each odd-numbered year. The Congress can delay the deadline for passing a budget using a continuing resolution, as in real life. Failure to submit a budget on time will prompt a major political scandal, while failure to pass a budget on time will result in a government shutdown. The president should be mindful when passing a budget that, as in real life, the debt ceiling must be increased on a regular basis. The Administrative Board will provide notices of when the debt ceiling is to be exceeded; failure to increase it on time may result in a catastrophic default on government debt.
The president is also required to post an inaugural address upon taking office, and a state of the union address during the first quarter of each year other than the year in which the president takes office. The opposition party must in each year in which a state of the union address is delivered select a player-character to provide a formal response to the state of the union address.
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