The Dungeons of Democracy

Battle of the Ballots: Calculating the Results

The voting system used in 2016 is as follows:

(1) Once the voting period is ended, ballots are analysed, and each vote is given its starting HP ('Hit Points' or 'Honor Potential').
  • Hedgehog: 25 HP
  • Dalek: 25 HP
  • Witch: 25 HP
  • Mithril Mech: 30 HP
Ballots which contain multiple votes for the same book are given a small penalty.

(2) In each ballot, the Mithril Mech book moves into the Herald slot. Led by their Mithril Mechs, the ballots descend into the Dungeons of Democracy.

(3) Every round, ballots are randomly paired. If the books in the Herald slot are the same, the two ballots pass this round peacefully.

(4) However, if the books in the Herald slots are different, both ballots sustain some damage. Each ballot chooses a Champion randomly. This is almost always one of the non-Herald books.
  • Hedgehog: deals 5 damage, or 10 damage vs. witch
  • Dalek: deals 5 damage, or 10 damage vs. hedgehog
  • Witch: deals 5 damage, or 10 damage vs. dalek
  • Mithril Mech: deals 5 damage
UPDATE: If the Champion who is chosen has HP of zero or less, they can sustain damage, but not inflict damage.

(5) Sometimes your ballot will switch Heralds for a while. After each fight, if the book in the Champion slot matches the book in the opposing Herald slot, then the Champion becomes the new Herald for the next round.

Or, if the fight was with a Wandering Monster Ballot (see below), a new Herald is chosen at random.

(6) Ballots whose total HP have fallen to zero or below must leave the Dungeons of Democracy using a Town Hall Portal spell, to await the results. They are removed from the count.

UPDATE: For the first thirty rounds, ballots whose total HP have fallen to zero are removed only every five rounds. Thereafter, ballots are checked every round and removed if they have fallen to zero. This was done to speed up the count.

(7) The process is repeated from (3). If two rounds pass in a row without any damage being inflicted, but a clear winner has not yet emerged, the award administrator must:
  • eliminate the ballot with the lowest number of total HP, even if it's not yet at zero; and
  • except in the final stages, replace the eliminated ballot with a Wandering Monster Ballot (see below).
(8) The book with the most remaining HP on the final remaining ballot wins the award. Alternatively, if a permanent peaceful equilibrium is reached among eight or fewer ballots, with all Wandering Monster Ballots eliminated, then the book with the highest total HP across all remaining ballots wins. The Award directors may decide to intervene at an earlier point, if a clear winner has emerged.

(9) New rules, norms, interpretations, exceptions, legal challenges and court decisions may materialize, as if out of nowhere.


Multiple votes for the same book: Any book that is duplicated on a particular ballot is reduced to 20 HP from the start.

Odd numbers of ballots: When there are an odd number of ballots, after the pairing phase, the leftover ballot automatically passes undamaged to the next round. ("You rest for a while in a grotto in the dungeon.")

"This is almost always one of the non-Herald votes." The process is as follows: there is a random pick from all four. If it turns out to be a non-Herald, that book becomes the Champion. If it turns out to be a Herald, there is a second pick, which is final. So to become Champion, the Herald must be randomly picked twice in a row.

Battle of the Ballots: Wandering Monster Ballots

Anyone may submit a Wandering Monster Ballot. There are no restrictions on the book titles you may choose. You may even choose titles that are already on the shortlist if you want. It is possible, although unlikely, that a book on a Wandering Monster Ballot may win the Award.

Sample WMB:
  • Darkmantle - 35 HP (treat as Hedgehog) - Zen Cho, Sorceror to the Crown
  • Mantifly - 5 HP (treat as Dalek) - Samuel R. Delany, Trouble on Triton
  • Vampire Buttercorn - 5 HP (treat as Witch) - Richard Matheson, I am Legend
  • Normmare - 5 HP (treat as Mithril Mech) - Naomi Mitchison, Memoirs of a Spacewoman
HP: Each Wandering Monster Ballot has a HP total between 40 and 80 (see below). Any book that would would normally be ineligible (because not published in 2015, or imaginary) begins with 10 HP. Any book that would normally be eligible begins with 20 HP.

You may elect to give your WMB "boss fight" status, in which case the topmost book will get an extra +15 HP, and the other three books will get -5 HP. (The sample ballot above is a "boss fight").

Entry into the Dungeons: A few special WMBs donated by authors, publishers, and pundits will arrive at set times. There are some special rules associated with some of these, which will be revealed when the results are announced.

A few other public-donated WMBs, up to a maximum of 5% of the total Ballots, are already present right from the beginning the Battle of the Ballots.

Any remaining WMBs over the 5% threshold may potentially still enter the dungeon. They are gradually dislodged from the shadows according to step #7 above. These WMBs enter the Dungeons of Democracy in order from most HP to least HP.

New WMBs are no longer inserted when there are eight or fewer of the original Ballots left standing in the Dungeons.

UPDATE: Ten Wandering Monster Ballots are present at the start of the contest. Six more awaken after five rounds. Two more awaken after twenty rounds. A final two awaken after thirty rounds. Some Wandering Monster Ballots are concocted by authors and others; others are assembled out of the write-in suggestions from voters.

Battle of the Ballots 2017: Wandering Undead Ballots

Damage sustained from WMBs is "fatal." Mechanically speaking, this simply means that any ballot eliminated by a WMB has a (small) chance of re-appearing in a future Sputnik Award. This would happen as follows: if the rules require the administrator to introduce a WMB, and all submitted WMBs have been exhausted, they may instead introduce a Wandering Undead Ballot, comprised of a groaning, brains-devouring, and/or spectral version of a fatally felled ballot from a previous year. A WUB begins with 25 / 20 / 20 / 20 across Mithril Mech / Dalek / Hedgehog / Witch.

UPDATE: Thanks to the careful monitoring efforts of our elfin sanctity team, no fatal damage will be inflicted on ballots this year. However, temporal anomalies may still allow some ballots from this year to visit future contests.