One of the less known and less clear aspects of Azad’s game is that which concerns the so-called “Philosophical Premises”.
These are basically a written declaration of the moral rules with which the player approaches the game.
Obviously, it is expected that these moral rules are those that the player follows even during his normal life as a citizen of the empire, that is, his philosophy of life.
This is the usual game played by any repressive system of the type “Tell me what you believe and I’ll tell you who you are”.
The purpose of the Bureau is to identify dangerous subjects or those who do not adhere to the moral directives of the empire and therefore, if necessary, to render them harmless.
Instead, the player’s aim is to show adherence to a specific moral directive in order to indicate the type of career he intends to pursue. Let’s remember that you play to earn respect, prestige, a social position but above all a working career.
These rules must be declared and transcribed (as indicated they are filed) with the Imperial Game Bureau [112.3].
The transcription is carried out on what are called “moral cards” where the term cards do not mean the cards used during the game but the papers or documents relating to the player which therefore become part of his identification file.
Let us remember that the empire obviously must know everything about its fellow citizens, in the empire there is no privacy as we understand it, the state knows everything (like the big brother).
These “Moral Cards” are transcribed before the start of the second round (round) in the 1v1 match, so it is clear that the empire, before accepting a player’s moral declaration, waits to have analyzed its behavior in the game during the first turn.
This allows the Imperial Game Bureau to verify the veracity of the declaration made by the player and therefore request a comparison on the premises filed when these are “different” from what the empire teaches / imposes on its subjects.
In these cases the player has the possibility to defend himself but must have valid arguments which happens very rarely as no argument can be accepted, but in the case of the most prominent players the punishment may not require the physical elimination of the subject but his permanent withdrawal from competitions or his disqualification or the loss of all his possessions, assets and titles.
The “Moral Cards” should be “confidential” or not in the public domain, but given their importance especially in the “Great Game” or the imperial tournament that takes place every six years, certainly high officials and the most important players have access to these documents . The purpose is simple to understand, first of all the moral / philosophical premises of the players give the empire a general picture of the state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the empire itself. Furthermore, they can also give indications on general game strategies, thus benefiting the opponents. Then they can also be used as a defamatory element in order to exploit public opinion as a weapon to destabilize the concentration and confidence of the player. Finally as a real blackmail weapon allowing the opponent to earn points in the game.
We know for example that Gurgeh’s moral cards were made public [117.15] for the purpose of antagonizing the population during the games. The alien who at first aroused sympathy has become with the passage of time and the victories conquered an enemy of the empire, therefore every means is permissible to prevent him from continuing to play or at least put him in serious difficulty so as to cause his retirement from the game. Obviously the attack on Gurgeh is an attack on the whole culture defined by the empire as anarchist and revolutionary but we know how it ended.
In any case, do the “Moral Cards” have any direct bearing on the game?
A sentence at the beginning of the text [34.20] perhaps indicates that Biotechs are involved. In fact, when Gurgeh is initially learning to play and cannot manage Biotechs, this phrase appears “altering from the equivalent of philosophical premises stationed well back in his own territories to become observation pieces”.
This suggests that some pieces may be related or dependent on philosophical premises. Since this relevance is never mentioned again in the rest of the novel, the doubt is that in this case it is only the use by Banks of the same term “philosophical premises” but without any regard to their subsequent use in Azad’s game.
As you know, the writing of a novel is not a linear process and therefore parts of it without a precise narrative order at the beginning are written and modified several times. It is possible that the term was in the mind of the author who used it in a part of the narrative when this particular rule of the game had not yet been talked about or yet developed in the story.
Does the player dossier make sense in Azad’s game development?
Of course, there are many role-playing games that use the player sheet where information about the character being played is shown. This sheet includes information not only on the strength or ability of the character but often also on his history and his “moral beliefs” (see A.D & D) even if only for the use of the Dungeon Master. Therefore the player’s card in Azad will be an element that must be part of it as it could create unexpected dynamics and reserve surprises during the game (if any of the players take a peek).
But how to create the philosophical premises of the players?
The reduction of Azad’s game to a playable level as a board game requires the use of predetermined “philosophical premises” from which players can choose the one they prefer.
Obviously the details will be the subject of the development of the game itself but from now on I can tell you that I was thinking of a kind of configurator of philosophical premises that can combine several to obtain a certain variety of them.
What do you think, are we on the right track?
As always, comments are welcome!