Welcome to Mafia!

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Welcome to Mafia!

Postby Manders » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:06 pm

Welcome to the Mafia forum!!

How to Play Mafia

For those unfamiliar with the game of Mafia (known to some as "Werewolf"), here's a brief description (courtesy of carrion pigeons):
Mafia is a game with two basic teams: the "town" and the "mafia." The town is always the larger of the two groups (typically 2.5-3 times the size of the mafia), but they suffer from a lack of information. In general, no member of the town knows any of his teammates, and is therefore put into a position where s/he cannot trust anyone. Each townie is inherently dangerous, because they have a vote, which they can cast at any other player. If a majority of players vote for a single player at any time, that player is lynched. S/he is then "dead" and can no longer
participate in the game.

The mafia members, on the other hand, do know the identities of each other member, which gives them enormous potential power. They will never be put into a position where they must risk losing a team member unknowingly. In addition, they have the ability to nightkill a player.

The game is divided into days and nights. Days are the times when conversations in the thread take place. Any player may generally post any opinions, ideas, or lies they feel like posting, as long as they are within the guidelines set forth by the mod. This may include accusations, arguments, defenses, speculation, and most importantly, votes. Once a player is lynched by a majority, the Day - which may take weeks to conclude – ends. The game enters a period of Night, during which the mafia may converse via PM, and the mod will manage any abilities, such as nightkills. The mafia’s conversations will eventually end with a decision as to who to nightkill; the final choice is sent to the mod. That player is
then "dead" and may no longer participate.

Any number of other abilities may also be used, though these are specific to each game. One of the more common roles with abilities include cops, which can investigate a player each night by sending that name to the mod. The mod will then respond to that player with a result of innocent or guilty – an indicator of whether or not a player is a member of the mafia. Another common role is the doc, who can send in the name of a player at night with the hope of defending them. If that player would have been killed that night, the doc's ability prevents the kill.
Many mafia games have themes that make them very interesting to play in. Game mods often go to great length to make games saturated with flavor, which often bleeds into game mechanics. Thus, every game is different, and some of them are very complex. Strategies and counter-strategies have been developed for hundreds of situations, and yet, the thrill of uncertainty that made the
original game so exciting to play is still present. Go sign up for a game, and see what the craze is all about!
For more information on how to play, see the Mafiascum forums. A Flash tutorial has also been made by one of the Mafiascum users.

We will start by making a thread for people to show interest in playing/hosting Mafia games. For now, anyone can host. Down the line, we may limit that to people that stay on the site. Games will be hosted in the order that people sign up to do so. I recommend sticking to 7-12 players for the time being.

I'm new to the game. What should I do?
There is no single correct way to play Mafia. All players have their own styles, and Mafia is a matter of being able to read through those styles. There are some conventional wisdoms, however, which you may find useful for
starting out. See Mafiascum's "How To Be A Good Townie" article.

Articles ITT:
1. Common Roles/Glossary
2. In Defense of Pace, by LookingforReality
3. Mafia Pointing Theory, by Axelrod
4. Balancing a Mafia Setup, by Puzzle
5. Meta-Meta, by Xyre
6. The Pinnochio Problem - When Should a Townie lie?, by Azrael
7. Behavioral Analysis - Causal Analysis (Chapters 1&2), by Azrael
8. Devilry on Stage - Specialty Mafia Game Design, by Azrael
9. Mafiascum Guide to Game Design
10. Three Games Within the Game, by Sir Mu
11. Advanced Setup Design, by Kraj

Also, make sure to pay attention to all rules for the game you are in.

Any questions can be directed to myself or kpaca.

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Postby Manders » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:52 pm

Common Mafia Roles


Vanilla Townie: normal player without any special abilities, aside from the ability to vote. Every single basic (and most nonbasics) will have a least a few of these roles.

Town Doctor: a protective role that may be used during the Night Phase to protect someone from a killing action, such as a nightkill or vig' shot. In most variations, the doctor cannot protect himself (with very rare exceptions).

Town Cop: an investigative role that may be used once during the Night Phase to determine if a player is mafia or town. Considered the strongest investigative role by most users.

Town Day Cop: an investigative role that
may be used once during the Day Phase to determine if a player is mafia or town. Considered the strongest investigative role by most users.

Town Naive Cop: Cop that always gets a Town result. Naive Cops are generally not aware that they are Naive.

Town Paranoid Cop: Cop that always gets a Scum result. Paranoid Cops are generally not aware that they are Paranoid.

Town Insane Cop: Cop who gets Town on Mafia and Mafia on Town. Insane Cops are generally not aware that they are Insane.

Town Vigilante: often
referred to as a Vig, the vigilante is a killing role that may be used during the Night Phase to kill any target player. In basics, sometimes the Vigilante is given a limit of 1-2 shots, meaning they can only use the ability a limited number of times. Full vigs do not have a shot limit.

Town Day Vigilante: often referred to as a Day Vig, the vigilante is a killing role that may be used during the Night Phase to kill any target player. In basics, sometimes the Vigilante is given a limit of 1-2 shots, meaning they can only use the ability a limited number of times. Full vigs do not have a shot limit.

Town Tracker: an investigative role that can target a player at night and will be told by the mod that player targeted anyone else, but not know what they did. (Because the tracker has to specifically target the player doing something, this is considered one of the weaker investigative roles.)

Town Watcher: an investigative role that targets a player
during the Night Phase. The watcher will then be told by the mod if anyone else targets the player the watcher chooses, although will be unaware of what actions are attempted on the target. (The watcher is a good role for catching a scum on an obvious nightkill target.)

Town Roleblocker: This is a town disabler role. The target of this role will be unable to use any of their abilities the Night targeted. In most cases, this will also stop the mafia night kill. A town role blocker is uncommon, but not unheard of, as the role blocker in a game is typically a scum role blocker.

Bulletproof Townie: This is a town passive role. This townie cannot be killed by abilities, although can still be lynched normally. (This is considered powerful, as without claiming, this role can usually soak up at least 1 mafia nightkill. In basics, this will usually take the place of a protective role.)

Town Jailer: a combination of disabler and
protective. The target of the jailer will be protected (see Doc), but cannot use abilities either (see Roleblocker). Jailers can never target themselves as this creates a paradox.

Town Mason: a group of players with a separate chat that they can communicate with each other. The largest advantage of the masons are that they can confirm themselves as town, and coordinate behind the scenes. [This assumes "confirmed masons." In some variations in larger games, three (or more?) masons may have a scum mason in the group with the remaining players being uninformed of this fact; known as "unconfirmed masons."]

Town Hider: a protective role. At night, this player may hide themselves behind another player, and will only be killed if the player they are hiding behinds dies. Some variations will kill the hider if they hide behind a non-town player, while others have restrictions (e.g. you can only hide every other day).

Town Back-
up Role:
a role that activates on the death of another power role and takes their place. Until the original power dies, a back up is vanilla for all intents and purposes. Upon the death of the character, the back-up "activates" and is told by the mod what they are.

Town Jack of All Trades: a role with usually have 2-3 different examples of common abilities (such as doctor, cop, or vig), but will only have a shot or two of each.

Town Paranoid Gun Owner: a passive role that, when targetted, killes the role that targetted it regardless of alignment. (Because of the ability to hit anything, the PGO is considered a very swingy, random role.)

Town Rolecop: an investigative role similar to the typical "cop," the rolecop will receive from the mod the ability(ies) of whoever is targeted at night, but not the alignment. (While useful for gathering information and clearing claims, this is weaker/less
reliable than an actual cop.)



Mafia Goon: the equivalent of a Vanilla Townie, a Goon has no special powers other than the vote, the mafia night chat, and the fact that he knows who his teammates are.

Mafia Roleblocker: this is a disable ability that prevents the target from using their night action. Typically, you will receive flavor text from the moderator, even if you did not attempt an action or don’t have an ability, although it will not be confirmed you’re were roleblocked. (By far, the most common type of scum PR in a basic.)

Mafia Rolecop: similar to the town rolecop, this is a scum power used to help determine town roles. At night, that player is targeted and their role (in any) is revealed. This can help determine who to use the mafia’s night kill on.

Mafia Tracker:: a weaker version of the rolecop, the scum tracker works as a town tracker does with the same purpose as the Scum Role Cop: To find town power roles.

Mafia Tough Guy: the mafia’s version of the vig. This role is considered powerful, because unlike a town vig, the scum tough guy knows who NOT to shoot.

Mafia Godfather: this is considered one of the stronger mafia roles. The Godfather’s most relevant power is that he/she will return a non-guilty verdict from a cop investigation. In some versions, the Godfather is also immune to night kill shots, and can also make the final decisions for the scum nightkill.

NEUTRAL ROLES: (These will NOT be found in a Basic game)

Survivor: a role where the players goal is simply to survive to the end game. They don't care if Mafia or Town get lynched, just as long as they
don't. They can either play as town and take the chance of getting nightkilled, or play scummy and take the chance of getting lynched.

Serial Killer: Independent player who has a nightkill ability and a goal to kill everyone else in the game. This player wins if they are the last player standing.

Glossary of Mafia terms and acronyms

Basic game: a game of the simplest level of design. Players should expect traditional mafia roles with very little embellishment. [Basic games are an excellent place to work on mastering behavioral analysis techniques. While new players are always welcome to join other game types, basic games provide a simple, uncomplicated introduction to the fundamentals of the Mafia game.]

Bastard Game: A setup in which the moderator inflicts confusing, difficult, suspicious-seeming, or misleading roles and mechanics on
the players. Generally disapproved of, in favor of games that put a greater emphasis on analyzing behavior than role analysis.

Bastard Mod: A moderator who designs bastard games.

“barn” (/barn): to agree with it without contributing independent thought; short for barnacle, it is meant to be a metaphor for riding along with someone else’s opinion.

Burnout: a player ability that, when used, removes all other abilities the player has for the rest of the game.

Bus: an action word (often “bussing”) used to describe when a mafia member actively votes or participates in the lynching of one of their teammates in order to gain credibility in the eyes of the town. Sometimes even leads to full lynches of mafia by other mafia in order to win the overall game. Comes from the phrase to "Throw someone under the bus."

CC/Counter-Claim: an action taken by a player who sees
part of their own unique claim used as another player’s defense. Usually used to catch scum in lies or out power roles.

Claim: giving out the information in your role PM in a post during a game. (This must be paraphrased and retyped because copying and pasting, or “quoting”, is against the spirit of uncertainty in the game.) This is called a claim because it cannot be called a certainty until the player is dead (or the game is over in some extreme cases)

Crypto-Claim: Crypto-Claims/Acronym Claim - Crypto-claiming is a method of forcing players to put their role claims on record publicly in encrypted form, without revealing their content until a later time. The most common method of crypto-claiming is the acronym claim, in which players encrypt a message describing their role by posting the first letter of every word in the message, together with the number of words and the number of characters in the message. Later, the town can require each player to
reveal the encoded message, and verify that the word and character limits match. Generally a banned game maneuver. Attributed to Azrael. Example: TYVM. 4 words, 16 letters. Decoded: Thank you very much.

Day Phase: game phase where players post in the thread, attempt to make cases, and vote for lynches. When lower-case, indicates “in real life” time.

Deadline: a set time where the remaining players must reach a consensus vote as to who will be lynched or the Mod will be forced to move the game into the next (usually Night) Phase.

Distancing: a scum tactic where two scum argue or post against each other, either by fighting over a third party or about their own loyalties. This makes it harder to tell who the scum are if one player of the pair is lynched. Sometimes results in a Bus (See Above).

EBWODP: Edit By Way Of Double Post. Since editing posts is illegal in this game and sometimes corrections
need to be made, by starting a second post with this acronym you may fix errors that make the content of the original post confusing.

False Claim: a claim where a player lies about his PM information because to tell the truth would cause some sort of game disadvantage. Mafia must typically false claim to keep from getting lynched, but sometimes Town false claim, too. This is generally to keep from exposing power roles.

Fearmongering: a baseless argument where a player declares simply that something bad will happen if they are lynched.

Fishing: Mafia technique of using statements to elicit information from someone(s) in the game that they would normally keep to themselves. Typically used to determine town power roles.

Flavor: the fictional design elements added to a game of Mafia that give it style and uniqueness. Frequently loosely based off of popular cultural fictional properties, this gives the
players something to discuss and characters to portray i.e. roles.

Flavor Gaming: attempting to use the implementation of flavor in the game as a means to deduce facts about the game and thereby change the game state.

Flip: when a player dies in the game, a short term to indicate the result that is revealed, i.e. to “When you flip scum…” or, “When I flip town…”.

Flooding: also known as post-flooding, can infrequently be a scum play but is more frequently an overly enthusiastic new player’s misunderstanding of how to maintain a healthy game where everyone can keep up, even if they don’t follow the game every day. Akin to spam in any forum thread on the internet.

FoS: Finger of Suspicion. Weaker than a vote, stronger than simply speaking about concerns that a player’s posts have created, FoS is meant as an attention grabber for the town to notice and also an in-game attack on the player indicated. (
Also sometimes HoS, Hand of Suspicion and PoS, Pinkie of Suspicion. These last two are degrees of emphasis for FoS that have been used in Mafia elsewhere.)

Full Claim: the type of claim usually required when you are within a few votes of being lynched. Includes all pertinent information from your role PM.

Gambit: an active line of play, frequently involving deception, where a player takes a specific series of actions to illicit change in the game to benefit their team. Examples include a false counter claim, bussing, false claiming an investigative role and a known result, Daykill attempts to illicit responses, etc.

Hammer: to cast the last vote that lynches a player. (Has a sort of “Hot Potato” feel to it, meaning the last player to vote on a lynch is left with the hammer the next day, meaning they will be usually the first suspect. Frequently seen as a scum tell when actually is a null tell. The motivation behind the last
vote must be determined to be certain if the hammering player is town or not.)

Hydra: a form of gimmick account where two or more players are playing as one. This is sometimes used as a method of mentoring, other times it actually is a game element, and occasional other times it can be used by a pair of experienced players as a shared account to help free them from meta expectations.

IGMEOY: I’ve Got My Eye On You. Another weaker variation of FoS generally regarded as more warning than accusation.

IIRC: If I Recall Correctly.

IMO: In My Opinion. Also IMHO, with H standing for Honest.

“in” (/in): used in sign up threads to indicate interest in joining the game

ITT: In This Thread

Kingmaker: rarely used variant game structure where instead of a majority vote leading to a lynch, during Night one player is made "
king" and holds the power of the Day's lynch decision.

L-1: Lynch minus one, meaning one vote away from a the number of votes required to lynch a player. Any other L-# you see indicates (the number required to lynch) - (the number voting lynch on the higest voted player now) = #

LAL: Lynch All Liars. A philosophical viewpoint that basically states, “If you lie, we will lynch you,” based on the idea that town players shouldn’t lie.

Lurking: the practice of posting at a minimum so as to contribute sparingly and thereby raise little confirmable suspicion. Sometimes a tactic used to execute scum strategies and get to more powerful night actions, but then again sometimes used by town power roles to avoid mislynches. ("Lurking in plain sight" would be posting nothing that changes the game state, while appearing to keep a reasonable post count.)

LyLo: Lynch or Lose. Late game state where
town players must come together and vote correctly or they will be at even numbers with the scum and thereby lose the game.

Lynch: the point in a game when the votes on a single player equal a majority of the players left alive and that player is killed.

Mass Claim: everyone playing gives their role PM in the game thread to put all the information out there and make it potentially harder for scum to hide.

Mentor: an experienced player that offers some of their time to help a new player by being a “behind the scenes” source to answer questions about the game. Questions can range from vocabulary, to previous examples of when game results occurred, to general strategy advice. Mentors are advised to not give play-by-play instructions or make decisions for the new player, but to tell them (usually between phases) what they have done right and wrong already. Suggestions of what to do next are not allowed, and specific examples
about other players in the game at hand are not allowed. (Communications with a Mentor are usually handled in a QT monitored by the Mod.)

Meta: short for metagaming, and used to describe understanding a player’s behavior based on the readable pattern of actions a player uses when they are either town or scum based on the observations of other players. Through research of previous games, can frequently be used on experienced players as a map to their intentions in a current game. (Also can mean having an understanding of the player in question from outside the game, and thereby gaining insight into their playstyle.)

Mini game: a game with 12 or less players that varies in complexity, but usually more complicated than a Basic.

Mislynch: a lynch where the dead player is revealed to be town aligned.

Mod: short for Moderator. The forum member that runs the game and regulates actions taken by the players
for fairness with impartiality.

Modkill: a punishment handed out when a player breaks certain hard-and-fast rules in the game, such as quoting role PM material word-for-word or discussing an ongoing game outside of the game itself. Also sometimes a consequence of inactivity.

Neutral: a role or roles that are in the game that are neither town aligned nor mafia aligned. They have an independent agenda and win condition. (Not found in Basic games.)

Night Phase: phase of the game where players do not post in the main game thread and any actions/powers are relayed to the mod to set up the next day. (Picture this as the stereotypical murder-mystery movie scene where the lights go out, someone screams, and the lights come back on to reveal someone dead in the middle of the room.) When lower-case, indicates “in real life” time.

Nightkill: the mafia’s action, taken during the night phase of the game, of
sending the Mod a name of a town player they wish to be dead. Usually sent by one mafia player to the mod, indicating they will be the actually “nightkiller” or assassin. This term is usually meant to define one specific, mafia-sponsored and controlled kill that happens during the night phase, i.e. “the nightkill” as opposed to other deaths that occur during night such as a “vig-shot” (See Vig) or SK kill (See SK).

Normal game: a game expected to have a higher complexity than a Basic, but a lower complexity than a Specialty. Usually contains a high player count as well.

No Lynch: a voting choice outside of the normal decision to name a player for lynching. If majority agrees to the No Lynch option, the game will proceed to the next phase (Night) without a player dying by lynch.

OOC: Out Of Character, meant to delineate a player-to-player statement or detail relayed in-game but not pertaining to the game at hand. Sometimes IC,
or In Character, is used to return to the action of the game. Also sometimes /aside is used, or a spoiler, etc.

Outed: describes a power role or other in-game advantage that was secret information and has been revealed in the game posts, i.e. "I outted myself as the Cop because..."

PBPA: Post By Post Analysis. This occurs when Player 1 quotes or links to all relevant previous substantive posts made by Player 2, and then breaks down why Player 2 is scum according to Player 1’s concerns and observations.

Phase: indicates a portion of the game such as Day or Night, or Twilight.

PoE: Process of Elimination.

Policy Lynch: Like a safe lynch, a policy lynch does not typically care if the target is scum or not, but to lynch a distraction, or a player who commits a pretty clear cut scum tell. The most common example of policy lynch is the Lynch all Liars clause.
However, typically distraction players may also be considered for a policy lynch, however, not everyone agrees policy lynches are best for a game.

Post Restriction: additional requirement sent in a PM where a players posts must conform to some preset quirk, such as only posting at some preset frequency, misspelling words, making flavor references, speaking as their character, rhyming, or not posting at all.

Power Role: any role in the game that has some sort of ability to affect the game beyond casting a vote (e.g. Doctor, Cop, Godfather, Vigilante, etc.). See the Roles section for more information and examples.

Prod: a PM sent to an inactive player in an attempt to see if they are interested in continuing to play in the game, and to tell them that they are lagging behind.

QT: QuickTopic, indicating a thread on an independent site for the side communications of a game. Everything from scum night
chat, to player diaries, to spectator content and mentor threads are handles in the form of a QT.

RVS: Random Vote Section. The very beginning of the game where people make votes and jokes to start discussion since they have nothing much else to go on. In games with experienced players this sometimes simply doesn’t happen. When it ends is arbitrary.

“replace” (/replace): Used in sign-up threads to indicate an interest in taking over the role of a player that either drops out of the game deliberately or abandons the game for reasons unknown.

Reviewer: an experienced Mafia player whose job it is to read through other people’s setups and make sure they are balanced before play proceeds.

Role: a player’s character and win conditions in the game, supplied by the Moderator before the game begins.

Safe Lynch: A safe lynch is a term coined for lynching either a claimed nuetral
role, or a claimed town who has added none or negatively effected the town through WIFOM, distraction, ect. It is called a safe lynch because a lynch on this person will not harm the town, regardless of alignment

Scum: Mafia and other non-town. Basically any player that doesn’t have town interests at heart. Neutrals with independent win conditions such as Serial Killers and Cultist are also scum.

Scum Slip: something said by a player that indicates they are scum by giving away conclusive information. Can be anything from a wording in a post that changes, to a behavioral tell, to a bald-faced lie.

Scummy: having or pertaining to scum, not to be confused with “annoying” or “spammy.”

Setup: the individual game written out as a whole, including Role PM’s and any extra structure. This is submitted to a Reviewer who then checks the game for balance to make it as equally winnable for both teams as
possible aka balanced. The Setup Creator is the author of the game and usually the Moderator of the game as well.

Sheeping: voting the same way as another player without contributing an argument to back up your choice. Sometimes a scum tell, sometimes a lazy town tell usually depending on whose vote is being sheeped.

SK: Serial Killer, a Neutral Role. See Role Section for more information.

Soft Claim: a claim where someone has given partial information as to their role PM, such as name, gender, etc.
Confirmed: a word used to describe a player that has been proven or verified as a town member.

Specialty game: the most complex games run on the site, these games are usually designed to push the boundries of what the game is experimentaly. Innovation and and experience are required for a player to run one of these games, and experience is suggested before joining one as well.

Used in sign-up threads to indicate an interest in being allowed to read the thread while being supplied all the setup information, similar to “playing along at home” in TV game shows that list the answer on the screen for you, or poker on TV.

Traditional: a game with simpler and expected game mechanics within its named structure, i.e. Normal, Basic, etc. The opposite would be a game with unusual mechanics, such as Burnout or Kingmaker.

Tunneling: hunting only one player as scum while paying no attention to any other player’s mafia behaviors in the thread. Usually caused by being so sure that another player is scum that you (mis)interpret every post they make as scummy, only seeing scum motivations (search the 'net for confirmation bias).

tl;dr: Too Long; Didn’t Read. Used to indicate a post or several posts in an argument were not worth the time to attempt to understand based on some reason,
usually a lack of real life time, or something else more pressing on the mind of the player in-game.

Twilight: the phase of the game between when a player has reached the number of votes to indicate they are lynched and when the Moderator posts the scene that takes the game into the night phase.

Vanilla: A basic town role without any special powers in the game. Never to be confused with weakness, powerlessness in Mafia gives a player the opportunity to play with less risk to the town if they are lynched. Also vanilla votes are frequently necessary to lynch mafia.

V/LA: Vacation/Limited Access, used when post frequency will become erratic because of plans outside the game.

Vig: short for Vigilante. A town role with a killing power. See the Roles section for more information.

Wagon: short for bandwagon, is used to indicate the list of votes that accumulate after a player’s
name as they are voted closer and closer to a lynch.

WIFOM: “Wine In Front Of Me” from the famous scene in the film The Princess Bride. Used to indicate circular logic applied to an “either/or” statement where no actual concrete conclusion may be reached because both possibilities are equally valid if different motivations and/or facts are taken into account or presumed to be true.

Win-mongering: a term meant to describe when a player states that if another player is lynched, the town wins the game.
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Postby Manders » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:54 pm

In Defense of Pace
By LookingforReality from MTGSalvation

Understanding how you can control pacing in a game is extremely important to unlocking the best methods of provoking useful reactions from players.

I define pace as how many different reactions there are on a given topic of conversation. For example, if a certain player is questioned for voting no lynch in a game, the number of different responses from players determines the pace of the game. In a well-paced game, by definition the responses are more diverse and thereby provoke more discussion. The more helpful the discussion is, the more players will seek to contribute, and the more posts you will have in a thread.

A brisk pace is necessary for the enjoyment and the success of any town in any game. Analyzing whether a player is lagging behind the pace allows you to see who is lurking
and who is not: if someone is not responding to discussion, he perhaps does not want his thoughts to be seen. Pace keeps players interested; I would much rather read something that generates excitement and responses than boring, passive posting. Pacing allows the game to remain intense and full of twists and turns.

AA and PA

Specific posts have two kinds of pace: Active Affecting posts (AA), and Passive Affecting posts (PA).

If there is a response or reaction caused by a post, the post is actively affecting the game. A question is the simplest way of actively affecting the game: you are providing the opportunity for a player to answer the question, thereby adding another response or reaction. Provoking interesting discussion is another way of actively affecting the game.

If there are no reactions or responses generating by a post, it is passively affecting the game.

Making a Post Actively Affect the Game

Questioning players is the best
way to ensure a post will be actively affecting the game. Whereas with any other AA post you are fishing for responses, a question must be replied to, or there are huge consequences for the scum.

Always try to condense posting material if possible. Anyone can be verbose, but taking out unnecessary parts or simplifying your language will make your post much more readable. And of course, the more people who read your posts, the more replies to it there will be.

Another general way of increasing the pace of your posts will generally be to present your posting in a new and original way. This does not necessarily entail a massive playstyle change, but making sure that players will want to reply to your posts is a good skill to have.
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Postby Manders » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:56 pm

Mafia Pointing Theory
By Axelrod from MTGSalvation

For anyone who has ever attempted to design a Mafia game, one of the most important questions, perhaps the single most important question, that they must ask themselves is this: Is this set-up balanced?

"Balanced" in this context meaning simply, “is this a set-up where both sides have a reasonable chance of winning?” Which is not the same thing as an “equal” chance. Given the host of intangibles present in any Mafia game, creating a set-up in which both sides might be said to have perfectly equal chances of winning is an impossibility. Ideally, one should simply try to create a set-up in which the chances for either side are close enough so that no one will look back at the end and have the extremely frustrating feeling that they never truly had a chance to begin with.

follows are some of my ideas concerning balance in Mafia games, including the system that I currently use to evaluate games that I review. These are ideas that I developed over a long period of time, based on games played, read, and designed, but which I had never put down into numbers.

In particular, my goal was to see whether or not a “point” based system – one in which all the roles of the game are given a numerical value – could be made to work.*

Obviously no point based system is going to be perfect, but it seemed like a good place to start, and after using this system for more than a year-and-a-half and applying it to many, many different types of Mafia set-ups, I have developed great faith in it.

The Basic Role Values:

Vanilla Townie = 1
Cop = 4
Doc = 3
Vigilante = 3
Role-blocker = 2

Vanilla Mafia = 4.5 (I have tried this several different ways. Valuing a mafia at 5 seems too high, but valuing one at 4 seems slightly low. I therefore, brilliantly, put it
right in the middle. How scientific of me)

Where did I get these numbers from? I started by plugging them into some very basic Mafia set-ups (using 25% Mafia as baseline):

12 players: 9 town, 3 mafia

Town = 1
Mafia = 4.5

In this set-up, the town has 9 points (nine vanilla townies worth 1 point each.) The mafia has 13.5 points (three mafia worth 4.5 each.) Because the mafia “score” is higher, the mafia should win a majority of the games using this set-up if it's correct, and I do believe it is correct. To “balance,” change 2 of the basic townies to a Cop and Doc. Now the points are: Town 14, Mafia 13.5, which is at least close to being even.

The margin of error I decided on is +/- 1 mafia member (or 4.5 points). In other words, if the points add up so that the two sides are within 4.5 of each other, it shouldn’t play as too unbalanced. The vanilla set-up above is actually within this margin of error, and I believe you could play the vanilla set-up and no one would jump up and down at the end
about how unfair it was. Similarly, adding a Vigilante role to the town in addition to the Cop and Doc. doesn’t unbalance the game, it just shifts the odds around a little.

The point isn’t to be exact, but to get things in the ballpark.

20 players: 15 town, 5 mafia

Town = 1
Mafia = 4.5

Here the town has 15 points, while the mafia has 22.5. Again, if you played this exact set-up, I believe the mafia would win a significant majority of the time. If we add a Cop and a Doc. role then the town has 20 points to the mafia’s 22.5. This is much closer, though I think such a set-up still favors the mafia a bit. So again, it seems right.

It is my belief that, for a 20 player game with no abilities (i.e. Mountainous Mafia), the closest balance you can achieve is to have 16 town players (16 points) and 4 mafia players (18 points).

24 players: 18 town, 6 mafia

Town = 1
Mafia = 4.5

Here the town has 18 points, while the mafia has 27. This would appear to swing very strongly in favor of the
mafia, and, again, I believe that actual games played would bear out that assumption. You can cut an entire mafia here (I think 5 mafia is probably correct in a 24 player game). At a minimum, you could add a Cop and a Doc., making the town score 23 and Mafia score 27. This is still favoring mafia, which I think is true, but it is definitely closer. Again, whether one agrees on the exact number values doesn’t matter.

The Serial Killer

A Serial Killer (SK) in the mix throws the numbers off. A SK will typically give an edge to the mafia simply by virtue of the fact that he will usually be hitting a townie at least 2/3 more often. How much of an edge the presence of a SK gives is an open question (possibly deserving of it’s own article), but my working premise is that a SK should be valued as an extra mafia - using my numbers = 4.5 points. These would be points added to the total mafia score for purposes of determining game balance.

*Note: I make no effort to balance the SK
role itself. His chances of winning are never good, and it would be a great mistake, in my opinion, for a game moderator to try and design a game where the serial killer’s chances were equal to the town and mafia’s.

Returning to a typical 20 player set-up, with a SK in the mix there are two primary ways to distribute the roles. One could have 15 town, 4 mafia, and 1 SK, or 14 town, 5 mafia and 1 SK.

In the former scenario, before counting the SK, the town has 15 points, and the mafia has 18. In the second scenario, the town has 14 points and the mafia score is 22.5.

Counting the SK as an “extra” mafia, then in Scenario #1, the mafia score would go up to 22.5. In the second scenario, the mafia score would go all the way up to 27.

So to “balance” these scenarios for the town, they need more. A Cop/Doc/Vig. gives the town in the first scenario 22 points vs. the mafia 22.5. That’s close. In scenario #2, the Cop/Doc/Vig. gives the town 21 points to the mafia’s 27. This is still not “balanced.” Here
you would want to give even more power to the town (or simply cut a mafia and go with scenario #1).

All this is with a completely vanilla mafia. If you want to give the mafia any abilities, which most moderators do, then that would increase the value of the mafia roles (over and above the 4.5 they are worth to begin with).

Rough estimates on other Role values:

Back-Up Cop/Doc: 2.5/2
Watcher: 2
Tracker: 2
1-Shot Vigilante: 2
Masons (with confirmation that co-masons are town):
-2 man group: 2 points each, total 4.
-3 man group: 2.5 points each, total 7.5
-4 man group: 3 points each, total 12
(this assumes a large 20+ person game. A Mason group in a mini-game is even more powerful because they make up a larger percentage of the total town. I don't think confirmed Masons should ever represent more than .20% of the total town bodies.)

In addition, it is possible to have roles with negative values which take points away from their respective sides (or are simply
worth less than 1). For example, I typically value a “Miller” role on the side of the town as .5 points. He still has some value to the town – he can vote, and provide analysis - but his drawback makes him worth less than even a vanilla townie.

A role that the mafia does not have to eliminate to win (such as a Survivor role) would be zero points, generally speaking.

There are other considerations as well, such as Day Start vs. Night vs. Kill vs. No-kill 1st Night. These I have not examined quite as closely, but I have a few additional premises:

-A day start generally favors the town = +1 to total town score
-Cop Head Start (Night start with use of all abilities but no kills allowed = +2 to town (and this could potentially be even more if the town had multiple investigate roles or more useful actions to take during the night.)

The number and variety of roles that creative moderators can design are literally limitless, but what I have found is that the foregoing system provides a very solid
foundation for balancing all type of mafia games, and that it is not difficult to estimate a value for a new role simply by comparing it to the values of roles already known.

I hope this system is of some use to new (and even experienced) mafia moderators. It is still very much a work in progress, and I welcome any comments or feedback players may have.

*I do not claim any of these ideas as blindingly original thoughts. You can find some very similar suggestions in several Discussion Threads in the forums at Mafiascum, and I am indebted to several individuals over there for inspiring me to try and create a more comprehensive system. The ultimate methodology described herein, however, is almost entirely my own.
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Postby Manders » Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:59 pm

Balancing a Mafia Setup
Ripped from a thread by Puzzle from MTGSalvation

I'm probably not the best guy around to do this but I trust the good ones will come and complete / correct / amend this list.

Having been recently contacted for a setup review, I realized that we need a thread like this one, to help everyone design fun and balanced setups. The purpose is not to say "such role is fun" or what, it's to help everyone make sure their setup will be have the best chances to be enjoyed by the players.

So, to begin somewhere, here are a couple of "rules" for a good design :

1. You are making a setup for your players to have fun, not for you to. The lesser your presence is felt, the best the game
will be for the players.

2. Mafia should represent 25% to 33% of the total number of players, changers included, depending on their abilities / advantages.

3. Always make sure that a mass-claim doesn't break the game. Whenever a setup involves a restricted number of possible claims, give safe ones to the scums or make the mafia not evident by their names.
3 bis. Winning via comparing mod PMs should also not be possible. Banning mod PM quoting is the general way to do it, but if you allow it, you should vary the writing style and wordings of the win conditions.

4. In the same vein, never make any more than 10% to 20% very confirmable townies (from the setup, masonry or cop/doc role). The mafia should have a chance to generate mislynches.
4 bis. Not every role has to have an ability. It may be slightly less interesting for a player if they are basic town, or arent mafia with some extra one use whatever, but a game stocked
with 100% power roles is both a pain to mod and to balance.

5. Sleepers / switchers and all kinds of changers are very unbalancing factors that tend to shorten games, by accelerating situations either way. Use them with extreme caution, if ever. On the opposite, Neutrals are generally stabilizing factors. Always wonder whether irregular roles will encourage the game to last (fun) or shorten it (a bit frustrating or dispappointing).
Avoid creating super-powerful roles. This prevents huge tilts should that role be randomly killed or be a lurker.

6. Neutral roles (including SK) should be rather on the powerful side than the weak one, given that scums will try to kill them at night and everybody will go for them during the day.

7. Avoid giving any certainty in any form to the players. Certainty is antithetic with fun in Mafia.

8. Do not pre-plan what a player should claim or how he should play given
his role for him. It's more fun if roles are created to interact with each other, rather than being completely independent but don't forget that you have knowledge of the whole setup while the players don't. A way to play may be obvious to you but it isn't or at least shouldn't be for the players. They will also often take a path you missed, according to Murphy's Law. In short, let doors open for different ways to play to your players.
Play out some "worst-case scenarios" for the town and mafia beforehand to make sure the game doesnt degenerate really quickly but keep in mind they'll find scenarii you didn't plan.

9. Try to minimise randomness in the game, since Mafia is chaotic enough as it is. It's quite depressing when the result of a game hinges on a single coin flip (eg. 50% to avoid death, 25% to kill another player etc.) rather than the players' skill.

10. Avoid synchro-lynches : they make games shorter and breakable through
confirmed townies or mafiosi voting last.

11. When designing a game, be aware of how you want to start it. Day starts tend to be slow (no info), and will generally lead to random bandwagons, but supposedly (?) are better for the town than night starts. Night starts generate early action, but you may get the random death of a power role or a random early scum investigation. From a player perspective, it also sucks to join a game and die before it really starts. No-kill Night starts are a compromise between the two.
If you have 12 players or less, consider the implications of mislynches and night kills : the town should always be authorized at the very least 1 mislynch without having to vig to win.

12. Players appreciate flavor and good descriptions. They also appreciate PM feedback for night actions. (I guess this isn't so much about good design than it is about being a good host.).
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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:02 am

By Xyre from MTGSalvation

I know what you're inevitably thinking... what's an admittedly bad player of the game doing discussing the game? That's a damn good question.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not good at mafia, and my record speaks for itself. However, I do have a few thoughts about the theory of the game as a whole that I feel could be useful for consideration. Specifically, about the philosophy of metagaming in mafia.

For reference: the way I see it, there are two major ways of playing the game - playing off players, and playing off the setup. The former is the tried-and-true method of gameplay - analyzing tells, making judgments, predicting players' moves and reading them. This is, of course, harder than the latter, which is playing off the setup, which effectively treats the players as merely a means to determine
who claims first. Now, of course, there are those of you in the audience - yes, I see you, you may put your hands down - who will argue plainly, "well, isn't that the nature of mafia? Like some brilliant, complex, dynamic puzzle?"

Yes and no. I will admit, first, that every game of mafia ever (with the exception of vanilla games, but then again, they're the exception to everything) has boiled down to a claim comparison. This varies, of course: see the mass claims on Day 1, against the games where the claims only come out when the town is desperate. Which brings us to a tangent: how good is metagaming the setup, from a strategic perspective? To be perfectly honest, I don't know, and the statistics of such an issue are probably impossible to conceive of or measure, if by nature only. This article is not about that, although such a thought will inexorably draw us to the main topic, which is how the mod fights back. But I'm losing track. Hang on.

Okay. So, every game ever has turned to claims;
that's clear. And yes, claims serve as wonderful weapons against the mafia, and yes, that dynamic makes the game unique in its complexity. These I will agree with.

But there is one casualty of such a perspective (and here is where I draw the loop I opened above back closed). The game of mafia, by its very nature, is a competition between an informed and empowered minority and a blind, weak (individually) majority. The way the mafia wins is by lying and scheming and playing through the town. The way the town wins is by preventing such. This is obvious.

But what metagaming does is it draws a third party into the game (besides SKs, whom I've avoided because they're too complex and chaotic in themselves for consideration in this wonderfully simplistic model I'm utilizing here) - the mod.

To reference, I draw your attention to Matrix Mafia. Matrix was a perfect game for analyzing how this dynamic works. It was complex, puzzling, aggravating, both in its successes and failures. After that game,
Grakthis (may he rest in 'Tings) made a comment that is particularly important in this kind of discussion. He said: "The mod should NEVER delight in the outcome of a game. If he does, it means he had an active interest in it, which means he messed up." And I commented on this by saying that "Moderators are like artists. They delight most when their art turns out as a masterpiece. While a mod shouldn't favor one side over the other, I think it's perfectly normal if a mod delights in how everything turned out. See: the stealth player at the end of Sin City. Things came together so well in that game, there was no reason why Azrael shouldn't have been pleased."

Well, I'm here to redress that statement a bit.

Over time, as games have become increasingly complicated, more rules have been bent, more people have been left angry, and so on as is the nature of this game, players have found themselves resorting more and more to mod-metagaming. Matrix, again, is a perfect example, with
several lynches on players who didn't know what was going on, like Hvirfilvindr, HAWKEYE7, and myself. And while some of this did fall on analysis of tells (the blatant ones, at least), more often than not, the town made its judgments based purely on a simple question, which defines the entirety of the setup-metagaming issue:

"What are the odds this role exists?" No matter how much this question is used in all games to some degree.

You see what the problem is? As soon as the players decide to play the game by analyzing roles, rather than players, the game becomes less about town vs. scum and more about town vs. scum vs. mod. You see?

And here's where I cast out another loop to fill out when I get to the second part of this. As players' involvement in the game increases, their desire for the "next big thing" increases. I know this phenomenon; I have played this game into a third year now, and I watch games as much for the intrigue as to see what the setup is. The problem, of
course, is that mods are now trapped. To keep players interested, the mod is forced to up the ante; but by doing so, the mod is investing more in the setup. It's less a "doc-cop-vig" kind of thing; the mod is now an active participant. He has to build his setup to combat metagaming. This is his active interest. So when Grak says "mods should never be active participants", it's less about creativity here: it's more about survival, as it were.

So what ought to be done about this (here's the connection)? Well, to be frank, I am unsure. Regrettably, it's something akin to a vicious circle. Players want complicated setups; mods have to work harder to prevent the game from falling apart; players find themselves in a deeper hole and start digging more, thus requiring more from the mods, and so onward. Coming from a mod's perspective, I would say that pushing the bar is natural. Blood Moon Mafia, for example, was a blatant example of me trying to one-up both myself and the specialties
before me (meaning Sin City). Regrettably, this is a systemic flaw. At the same time, based on the difficulty of true analysis, as seen through increasing reliance on the same dozen-or-so players to help the town along, there's no sign of players stopping with metagaming.

Here's my solution. As a sidenote... I do not believe for a moment that this will end metagaming. Indeed, a slight amount of metagaming is important. This is intended to try to address the vicious circle I addressed above.

1) Players - stop blaming mods for "bad/complicated games". Yes, this is hard. Yes, I'm guilty of this as well. But the problem is that this perpetuates both the over-innovation of mods and the subsequent need to move toward playing off the setup that is the bane of the game.

2) Mods - stop throwing blunt objects into your games to combat metagaming (like multiples of power roles). If anything can be learned from games that have done this, like The Greenwood Affair, it's that this doesn't work and
only makes the problem worse. If anything, mods ought to just not assume the players are going to turn on their radar for those kinds of things, but then the game would suffer from an inability for scum to false-claim their way back in.

3) Mods - cut back on investigative roles. Most mods have wizened up to this, but a glut of information, combined with a mass-claim, is going to turn players off to analysis. I'm not so presumptuous as to say we ought to eliminate straight cops altogether, but the thought has crossed my mind, and it would help rectify some of the problems oversaturation of information causes.

4) Players - stop lurking, you lazy bastards. I know you're busy and whatnot, but that's no excuse for signing up for multiple games and playing in none of them to a sufficient degree. Hell, on 'Tings, they play one game at a time and the players (for the most part) play the game religiously. I believe that player inattention probably causes its fair share of metagaming, as players who can't
be bothered to play the game sufficiently probably also can't be bothered to create PBPAs. But I do recognize that this is both a broader concern than the others and one that may be difficult to solve.

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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:04 am

The Pinocchio Problem: When Should a Townie Lie?
By Azrael

Once upon a time, the world of mafia believed implicitly in a golden rule: lynch all liars (LAL). But as time rolled on, rogue analysts and daredevils demonstrated decisively that LAL should not be considered an immutable law. Deceit and cunning are not only the province of the mafia, but sometimes of the town.

But with the knowledge that exceptions to LAL exist, came a troubling question: when should townies lie? And when shouldn’t they?

Examples of townie lies sending the town’s plans awry are increasingly common, and all too often have ended in cataclysmic failure. There have been fake daykills that risked forcing players into claiming unilaterally, false mason claims that cost the town the game, players who false-claimed immunity to NKs only to be vigged,
townies who false-claimed investigations in order to get someone lynched, and townies who tweaked their role claims in order to make them more convincing, only to be caught out in the end and lynched for their deceit.

By contrast, the category of townie lies that have ended in success is more difficult to recall, and seldom have as high a payoff.

Gambits that elicit reactions from other players have been one of the most effective variety…so long as they are contrived carefully enough that you won’t end up being speared at the point of a lynch (see World Dom 2). More often than not, that is precisely what will happen when the town discovers a lie or gambit, and that is precisely as it should be, in general. As a result, it is absolutely necessary that townies consider the consequences of their lie: if it could lead to a player being false-cleared or mislynched it is probably a much better idea to keep things simple and honest.

The best and safest rule is that a townie should only lie
or gambit when there is absolutely nothing to be lost by doing so.

When might that be the case?

Such cases will be rare and far between: and typically they will involve lies or gambit from players who can prove their town alignment, and thereby guarantee that they won’t be lynched. In most cases, a successful townie lie isn’t a bald-faced lie, but simply a gambit that relies on some degree of deceit, on not everything being as simple as it seems. Sometimes, an analyst might feign an activity that will lead players to attack them on a poor, faulty basis. If they have a method of proving that the attacks were baseless, or of proving their alignment definitively, there is a good chance that the town will acquire some useful information.

For instance, in Cartoon Mafia, a mini-game by Aurorasparrow, Cropcircles faked a daykill directed at me; a risky gambit that could easily have backfired. Unbeknownst to him, I was in fact a real townie daykiller, and he had put me in the dilemma of
whether I should in fact fire my own retaliatory daykill back at him before being daykilled. At the time, I was unsure of whether Cropcircles’ kill was legitimate, but he was also one of the town’s prime suspects. I was torn: to kill, or not to kill?

Instead, I opted to feign a daykill of my own at Cropcircles in retaliation. The gambit had several advantages. It did not misrepresent my actual abilities, it could provoke additional reactions, and it had the chance of exposing whether Cropcircles’ kill was real or not before the mod arrived. If I was dead because of Cropcircles’ ability, the gambit would do no harm and the town would learn that I was the town’s true daykiller, not Cropcircles, and lynch him. Or, if it exposed his gambit, the town would gain information on one of its prime suspects and on other players through their reactions. The risk in that case was minimal, but it offered a chance of nabbing scum.

Another example of a pro-town gambit with minimal risk, a fictional situation rather
than an anecdote from an actual game, involves a cop-cleared night communicator role who has the ability to allow two other players (not including himself) to talk during the night for the remainder of the game. In this scenario, the town’s cop has come out and confirmed the alignment of the night communicator, a vanilla townie, and the mafia RBer, who is due to be lynched at the end of the day. But the town’s doctor is dead, and the cop is unlikely to see the light of day again.

With just one or two more successful investigations, the town might be able to clear some of its prime suspects and steal a win from the jaws of defeat. But the cop is very likely to die before she can share any more results.

The night communicator is unclaimed. He decides that his best move will be to target the cop and the vanilla townie the following night, and allow the vanilla townie to learn the cop’s investigation results before the cop is killed.

But in addition to that move, the communicator has another option.
He can false-claim the ability to “counteract” the impending kill on the cop in the coming night. Because he is cop-cleared, this gambit is very unlikely to result in his lynch. It is also a wonderful half-truth, because by giving the cop’s night result to the vanilla townie, he has “counteracted” the power of the kill to prevent the investigation from going through. If he makes this statement convincingly, he may succeed in attracting the mafia’s fire the following night, giving the cop the opportunity to share two more investigation results with the vanilla townie before dying. At worst, the mafia disbelieve him and fire at the cop anyways. At best, the town gets an extra investigation.

Most of the time, opportunities like those above will be rare, the exceptions to the rule, and require creativity and careful thought to fine-tune. In the vast majority of cases, townies should never lie, and use gambits only sparingly. LAL is not an immutable law, but it is a very useful tool, and it is undermined when
players attempt to abuse the new-found leniency in its application.

At the end of the day, townies ought to be able to trust their fellow townies. Whenever you come up with a gambit, always make sure that whatever course you are contemplating does not risk destroying that trust, or turning it against the town. When in doubt, play it safe. Discretion is often the better part of valor, and boys with long noses are very prone to find their necks within the noose.

Good luck and happy hunting,
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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:42 pm

Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 1 – Causal Analysis
By Azrael
This is mafia. The entire point of the game is semantics.
How do we get better at playing mafia? At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing: honing our behavioral edge. Role analysis and design speculation only get us so far, especially when the moderator designs his game well. Of course, behavioral analysis can be very difficult. Not only do you have to directly compete against another human being who is trying very hard not be discovered, but we also have to be able sift through the false leads created by our own teammates. We have to be able to distinguish between good evidence, and red herrings.

Gathering Evidence - The Post by Post Analysis

Mafia is a game of information. The town players who are best at generating information, researching information, and then analyzing that information correctly will gain a decisive edge over other players. Perhaps a third of the players in an experienced metagame will put in the effort to reread other players in detail, and these players, often called analysts, will quickly become the foremost threats to the mafia and frequently attract nightkills, because they are recognized as far more significant threats than players who merely read as they go.

When a player first begins mafia, they often look for evidence by simply keeping up with the thread, reading as they go. Many players seldom progress from beyond this method. However, the most effective weapon in a mafia player's arsenal are thread rereads, and post by post analyses, aka PBPAs. This involves looking at every post in a player's history, and reviewing them for scum tells. PBPAs are an efficient way of scoping in on a single player's actions, if you are short on time. However, thread rereads, while less focused, have the advantage of allowing you to read each player's post in their original context, which can often change your read.

On initial read, most players are forming their own thoughts and reactions to ongoing events in the thread. If someone is reading each post carefully, they'll probably be able to spot a number of tells right on the spot. But more typically, a large number of both town and scum tells can be glossed over, lost in the shuffle. And certain tells can only be seen by taking a bird's eye look at a player's history, to identify trends and patterns. Other tells only become evident after sufficient players have died, that their actions can be better understood and connected to the actions of other players. Once you have gathered a sufficient body of evidence through PBPAs and thread rereads, which is simply a matter of effort and time, then the more difficult process of analyzing the evidence can begin.

The Scum Tell Method: Actus Reus

Once an adequate amount of evidence is gathered, however, most players have difficult evaluating which of their evidence is good, and which has little value or weight. Most players track of a list of behaviors that people generally say are mafia tells, generally because doing them causes problems for the town, or looks like someone who is trying to be deceitful. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the activities that players generally view as mafia tells:

Lynching Townies
Defending Scum
Poor or missing voting rationales
Bandwagon voting - Jumping quickly on to others' cases, usually with little explanation or thought
Evasion - Not responding to questions posed by other townies
Fence-sitting - Difficulty coming to decisive opinions on your own, usually weighing two or more alternatives against one another, and expressing uncertainty as to which is correct. Often interpreted as a mafia player who is unsure how best to look like a townie.

The way that most players use this method, is that the more scum tells a person has, the higher they are on your scum scale, and the higher the chance that they’re scum. If a player has a higher level of scum tells than you would expect them to have as a townie, they’re put on the short list for your vote. If they max out their scale high enough, the town eliminates them.

In criminal law terminology, they concentrate on the "actus reus". The actions of their fellow players, and whether those actions help or hurt the town, and whether those actions look like one of the traditional mafia tells. The mens rea element (mental state) is deemphasized.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the scum tell method. It does a fair job of catching inexperienced players who haven’t learned that they need to avoid traditional scum tells at all costs, and can sometimes nab experienced players who slip up and commit one in a moment of weakness. It’s also a good introductory method for newer players, because it teaches beginners to what to look for, and it is very, very simple. You read through the thread, identify behaviors that might be scummy, and cast your vote accordingly. 1,2, 3.

But as times goes on, the weaknesses of this approach have become obvious. For one, may of the activities that were labelled as tells early in the game’s history may not actually be tells at all, or at minimum may be not be anywhere near as strong as we used to believe. Two, this approach is extremely predictable. It gives scum a clear and simple instruction manual of what behaviors to avoid if they don’t want to be lynched. It allows them to hide a guilty mind behind innocent-seeming actions.

But the greatest downside to the scum tell method is that if you choose not to evaluate whether your evidence is reliable, if often wont be. Town players can easily max out a scum scale with activities that have completely innocent and reasonable townie explanations. When that happens, innocent townies become collateral damage, and the scum reap the benefits of pointless and preventable mistakes.

Causation Analysis

The scum tell scale method may be a good technique for beginners, but other methods of analyzing behavior exist. As players become more experienced, they often begin to realize that the game of mafia is more complex than crime and punishment. There is a component of empathy.

Huh? Empathy? What do you mean by that? Are we supposed to feel sorry for the scum?

What I mean by empathy is that we have to be able to step inside the heads of our fellow players. What a player does in public is only one half of the picture. The other half, the more revealing half, is their motive for doing it. We want to figure out the cause of their actions, and their emotions.

But how do we figure that out? None of us are telepathic.

Fortunately, we don’t need to literally step inside anyone’s brain to figure out what they’re thinking. We have their words. Whenever a player writes a post, we can sift through their words and find the unspoken ideas and attitudes that lie behind them. Scum players are increasingly adept at knowing what actions they need to mimic to avoid being caught. But few or none are well-practiced at disguising their thoughts as well as their actions. Here, they’re at their most vulnerable.

In the U.S. criminal system, the courts require not only proof of the actus reus, the criminal act, but also require evidence that the act was taken with the requisite mens rea, a guilty mind. That inquiry is even more useful for mafia, since the town is interested in "bad" actions only when they indicate a guilty mind.

The Anatomy of a Post

1. The effect of the post (likely to help the town, or to hurt it).
2. The motivation for the statement (scum, or townie, true or deceptive, public knowledge or private insight?).
3. The player’s emotions/mood (For example, annoyance at being thrust into the spotlight, or confident that they’re right?).

The effect of a post is the type of analysis that you’ll usually find actus reus analysts concentrating on. If a post is designed to lead to a “bad effect”, it is labelled as a tell. While there is some value to that assumption, you should not conclude that because a post has a bad effect, it must be a scum tell. Likewise, a pro-town post may not be a town tell.

Why not? Motivation. Is there a good reason why a townie would say that Mary is scum? How strong is that reason? Does Johnny Scumsucker's wording sound like his massive PBPAs are more focused on impressing the town, than on serious analysis? We want to ask whether the motivation (if any is provided) reads like a lie. If it is unconvincing, feigned, or dishonest, you have good evidence of scum. If it's
plausible, genuine, and natural, you are probably dealing with a townie.

Lastly, it’s important to consider the player’s emotions or mood. If they’re under attack, how are they dealing with it? With righteous anger, or are they nervous, or bitter? Townies and scum players react to pressure in very different ways, and with experience it becomes possible to identify some of the trends. We’ll have more on that in Chapter Two.

Real Life Application

Now let’s view some actual posts from mafia games. Some will be posts that were used to build a case that a person was town, and others were used to identify a player as scum. See if you can use the same information to figure out their true alignment. The right answer, and the reasoning used to arrive at it, is spoilered. Read carefully.
I really don't see how all of those are scum tells. Ypu say I have two townie posts out of thirty. Looking through your PBPA, I see a good deal more from
my point of view.
The basis of you and Raf's attack against me is the fact that I missed CP's mistake the first time through.
Does this really matter? When I was rereading, after asked to, I spotted it. Mainly because, I was actually looking for a mistake. The first time I saw it, it seemed to me like simply him making a guess about what could happen. When people started to refer to the slip, I could not remember what it was (because at that time I hadn't seen it) and so did not comment on it.
I don't really see any strong points in your argument that I haven't already answered, other that the one addressed above.
I really don't see how all of those are scum tells. Ypu say I have two townie posts out of thirty. Looking through your PBPA, I see a good deal more from my point of view.
The last sentence of this quote is excellent evidence of a genuine disagreement. The player was confident that the analysis against him was slanted,
and seemed to have a number of posts in mind where he knew that he was thinking from a pro-town mindset.
The basis of you and Raf's attack against me is the fact that I missed CP's mistake the first time through.
Does this really matter? When I was rereading, after asked to, I spotted it. Mainly because, I was actually looking for a mistake. The first time I saw it, it seemed to me like simply him making a guess about what could happen. When people started to refer to the slip, I could not remember what it was (because at that time I hadn't seen it) and so did not comment on it.
Note the player’s emotions here. Despite being on the inexperienced side, he’s not nervous. His explanation is calm and assured. He denies that the alleged tell is really a tell, explains step by step his actual thought process at the time (he didn’t read the ‘slip’ as a slip, but as a guess), essentially pointing out that there is not a strong reason to believe that not knowing what the “
slip” was somehow a tell showing scum-like laziness.
I don't really see any strong points in your argument that I haven't already answered, other that the one addressed above.
Again, it's a true statement, and it's precisely what I would expect him to say as a townie. He's not skittish in the slightest, he's fully confident that his position is right, and he thinks your case is weak without resorting to calling it garbage.

This poster, Manbearpig, is town.
@iLord: So do you think it's possible that if, for example, red flag was captured, that blue mafia AND blue town could win together?
Floating the idea of the town and the mafia cooperating in order to win. Without any worries or qualifications. Unusual suggestion for a townie.
didn't like your vote because I felt it was too early and was disrupting speculation on the actual game mechanics, which is something I want to know. You do seem town to me though.
The problem with this post isn't that you have an inkling that he's townie, it's that you choose this moment to SAY so. This would be a moment where most people would be having doubts. This would be a moment where most townies would be cautious.

But you take the time to tack that comment on the end. Why? To defuse potential conflict. You don't want a fight.
This bandwagon so far consists of "Meh I'm going with Azrael" CP, "Zomg better target than me" MBP, and "Of Course We Win" Azrael, and nothing of worth has been presented against me at all.
Going negative to discount the attack against him, signaling disdain, contempt.
At the beginning I felt that our win con was indeed ambiguous. When CP said "What if there were no scum?" (paraphrasing) I interpreted it as saying that the possibility was for opposing teams to be 'scum' to each other, which seemed plausible to me, especially as we don't know what the flags are. And I also wanted to listen to more speculation and discussion on it. I did, however, feel that the fact that CP specifically said that there were no scum was a bad communicative stumble, as our town win condition of course does specifically mention scum.
Our town win condition. Of course! Specifically.

The poster, JodoYodo, is scum.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

What was I gonna do there, Yoss? Leave a cliffhanger and come back Day Two hoping I hadn't been lynched?
Good sense of indignation,
pointing out the error of reasoning without stooping to going negative. That's the prototypical townie response to mistaken pressure.

The poster, Pale Mage, is town.
I really don't like this comment. You're obviously familiar with mafia - at the very least you've done a fair bit of reading, and you usually make sense. So when you play the noob card to try and excuse something, it trips an alarm. I guess this is an example of how learning about something is not the same as doing it - now I just need to figure out what exactly you just tipped us off to.
Scum rhetoric of "tripping alarms", playing the "newb card", the type of language they often use to push home a lynch on a vulnerable-seeming player. And the final sentence: he's not thinking through his analysis the way he would in MoC, he's not probing and asking
questions, he's going to "figure out" what his gut is tipping him off to. He's going to invent a rationale, figure out the reasons for his suspicions after the fact.
A lot of what I tagged on read-through as wanting to comment on was re: Pale Mage, so I'm just going to consolidate that into this post. I unvoted PM because I thought his claim provided a convincing enough reason to not kill him immediately. As I said at the time, I wanted there to be additional pressure on the Anons to log in. So, I went to my backup scum.

On thinking about this more overnight, though, I came up with a couple problems with this. The big one is that, if Pale Mage is really scum, I don't want him to have the chance to do a second daykill - one during twilight and then a second tomorrow. That would be an insanely large cocking, and more than overwhelms any advantage we might get from keeping him around. With the added scummy behaviour that he was engaging in earlier,
I'm going to go back to a DIAF: Pale Mage. Tomorrow is soon enough to deal with muse.
Exhibit A: if Pale Mage is "really scum". Why is that word "really" there? You've been fairly confident on him, you culminate this post in a vote that pushes him close to lynch. Why the hesitancy, the skepticism signaled by the word "really"?

Average townie is going to bypass that and say "if Pale is scum", no frills. No "really", no skepticism, involved. A scum, however, knows that Pale is truly townie, or at least not fellow mafia. And people don't like being made to look stupid. To avoid looking stupid, you're going to throw in a "really" there as mafia, to qualify that statement.

And then there's the analysis of the sentence itself, which is complete crap. If Pale is scum, he gets to kill townies twice, once today, and once tomorrow.

You weren't thinking that through in a townie mindset when you
wrote that. First off, you'd be weighing the chances of Pale even surviving today at all, if you were as suspicious of him as you've been signaling while building up to your vote (which took a good long time to arrive). And if he did survive today as scum, why would you as a townie suspect that he was going to waste that grace period by blasting some anonymous townie into oblivion and revealing himself to the thread? And if he did, that'd still be a two for one trade for the town, an easy scum in the bag for us.

That would be an "insanely large cocking": you're making sure the town recognizes the danger of the completely ludicrous hypothetical scenario you just proposed, trying to get us to buy into that theory and punch home the lynch out of paranoia.

And, it "outweighs the possible advantages of keeping him around". ********. If he's town, a mislynch is the last thing we want. We don't play this by analyzing his worth as a role, we play this game by analyzing the likelihood
that he's scum, something that you completely avoid assessing in this post despite the fact that it culminates in a vote! (Again, probably not wanting to look like an idiot tomorrow) Completely backwards thought process here.

And then you throw in that point about Muse. Muse? Seriously? I'm going to take it at face value that you didn't know she was about to die, but Muse was one of the sillier targets you could have chosen. Why try to preview a lynch on Muse going into tomorrow? She's not been tremendously bad this game, but she IS always a vulnerable target.

Scum have a tendency to try to set out agendas in advance for the town, plans that will tend to avoid hitting themselves and their buddies. This smells of that.

You are so totally scum this game.

The player, Robroy, is scum.
So now, when you lynch me and I come up town, you can make yourself look better by refering back to
this argument on how your actions don't make any sense as scum. Not bad. A little too WIFOM for my taste, but a good effort.

Yeah, about that, I'm pretty sure I was suspicious of you first. I FOSed you for your odd handling of the ande case, and then you counterattacked me and in a fairly suspicious way. So, yes, your second suspicious attack has made me even more suspicious of you.

So, you're saying that I was trying to get people to perceive me as town... by doing something that is unthinkable as town? That doesn't make any sense.
Now, if only we had an explanation that made sense... I know! How about the truth? -I tend to ask people questions when I see unusual activity; Net's random assignment of townie points looked odd, therefore, I questioned him on it (my main thoughts being that he might be scum and I had said something in that post which helped him).

-BTW, I'm done defending this case.
The emotion, the frustration and self-
righteousness, is genuine.

There is no scum motivator for the self-righteousness.

He's not doing the town any favors by his hostility and refusal to reply further, but I think the motivations for those are simply a gut-reaction to being attacked.

The player, TheFooFish, is town.
So apparently I'm getting lynched or shot at.

I already said that my official position is that I won't take a position D1. But if you really want to know my train of thought here it is:

First Az post is obviously "Let's not have silly RSV", which I like and gives you town points in my spreadsheet. But then I start saying to myself: "This is Azrael. Scum Azrael could easily do that on purpose to get the aforementioned town points, while making us look into RN with the townie comment". WIFOM. So screw your edgy play, I'm just gonna see how others react to it. So I poke RN.

Then kpaca starts post ping pong with you, and I'm like holy shit is one of them scum, both or none? I said as much and stuck to my plan of watching the others when Dechs scored enough scum points to get a vote.

I still have the gut feeling that you may be town aggressively scum hunting, so I was not about to vote for you,
but at the same time, I had no strong reason to make a case for your towniness once you reached L-1 and were out of it before I could even finish reading all the walls of text.

My vote for Dechs is supposed to be weird but other than you pointing out that his counterclaim is not something that scum would do (which despite being a good point, only raises the question of whether you could be scum buddies) no one has said why those bells I heard are only in my head.

I didn't really know that he's a newbie, so I'm going to review his posts under that light and see whether I was overreacting.
Let me break this down.
So apparently I'm getting lynched or shot at.

I already said that my official position is that I won't take a position D1. But if you really want to know my train of thought here it is:
Subtext: I'm doing you a solid by replying to your unreasonable demand to make my position public. Because I'm tots a good guy.
First Az post is obviously "Let's not have silly RSV", which I like and gives you town points in my spreadsheet. But then I start saying to myself: "This is Azrael. Scum Azrael could easily do that on purpose to get the aforementioned town points, while making us look into RN with the townie comment". WIFOM. So screw your edgy play, I'm just gonna
see how others react to it. So I poke RN.
So, we have a conscious decision to see how other players react to my play before you take an action or stance of your own. That's in line with what I figured your mentality was - and it's the classic scum mentality. Scum often experience great difficulty being decisive when it comes to taking sides on a difficult or potentially controversial behavioral analysis question, because they find it difficult to know how they would perceive the evidence, if they were town.

The natural townie response in such a situation is to be inquisitive, to gather more evidence, ask questions, like Ham was doing, in order to get to the bottom of the situation.

The natural scum response, by contrast, is what GR did. To wait and see how the wind was blowing, and how other players begin to react, and to take his cues on how best to camouflage himself and proceed based on the responses of other players.
Then kpaca starts post ping pong with you, and I'm like holy shit is one of them scum, both or none? I said as much and stuck to my plan of watching the others when Dechs scored enough scum points to get a vote.

I still have the gut feeling that you may be town aggressively scum hunting, so I was not about to vote for you, but at the same time, I had no strong reason to make a case for your towniness once you reached L-1 and were out of it before I could even finish reading all the walls of text.
One of the characteristics of the scum mentality I described above is very evident in this paragraph here, and also in the paragraph above. Scum are very often able to identify multiple competing factors that they ought to weigh (such as my aggressive scum-hunting), or the "possibility that I'm doing it for WIFOM".

What they find it difficult to do is figure out which of those factors should be the one that persuades them.

In this case, I think it's even more difficult for GR to fake the
correct mentality b/c there are a couple clues buried in this text that indicate he knows I'm town, and is finding it difficult to present alternatives. The best explanation he has for his confusion isn't that he's focused on the "mistake" I made that everyone else is focused on. Apparently, that's not of concern to him - probably because he knows it for an honest mistake due to his inside knowledge.

No, what he's actually struggling with if you read between the lines here is how to justify still voting for me despite what he's perceiving (a bit more easily than others thanks to the bias of his inside knowledge) as a strong scum-hunting record. Apparently, the idea that I'm capable of faking a strong scum-hunting record is enough to paralyze him in a bout of confusion and inertia? I don't buy that for a second. What he's worrying about is how to justify his vote, when all hell breaks loose in the inevitable counter-analysis wagon that would take place the instant I flip town. That's
what's staying his hand, that has him frozen on the sidelines, waiting for the rest of the town to take positions first.
My vote for Dechs is supposed to be weird but other than you pointing out that his counterclaim is not something that scum would do (which despite being a good point, only raises the question of whether you could be scum buddies) no one has said why those bells I heard are only in my head.

I didn't really know that he's a newbie, so I'm going to review his posts under that light and see whether I was overreacting.
You attempted to crucify him very aggressively for what were nothing more than innocent logic tells. Both the style and substance of the attack were far too bloodthirsty.

Confirm vote.

This player, GR, is scum.
YuanTi is more puzzling. There was the suggestion of waiting a day to lynch Annorax, which would have given the town a greater chance to mislynch. There was also his attempt to clear LG, early on. Definitely not as suspicious as either AoK or Kraj, but if we go through both those players without finding scum it's probably him rather than Nai or Lotus.
Read this through for a moment, especially that last sentence. "But if we go through both those players without finding scum it's probably him rather than Nai or Lotus." I'm going to break down this
sentence to make sure everyone gets the gravity of this.

"But if we go through both those players" This doesn't imply anything. It outright says that it is Azrael's opinion that we should lynch either Kraj or AoK, then, failing that, lynch the other one. He's already stated, in this phrase, that he intends to take one of them out, then the other. Town should never make a plan like this. Reactions to various things, new developments, and all the rest change opinions. No one would do this unless they had information no one else has. Speaking of that, I'll be talking of said information later on in this post.

"without finding scum" Another great phrase. This is another one of those lovely statements that someone can make to sound town. Notice, this statement also includes night actions (like night kills and cops) without completely saying it. He also doesn't say 'without killing scum' or 'without lynching scum'. Those would imply that the lynches of AoK or Kraj would show theyre scum upon their deaths. But 'without finding scum' implies that we could reveal scum anywhere, Kraj and AoK are just the stepping stones to pulling that off.

"it's probably him" Almost done, folks, but this is a doozie. Let's look at the game right now. Kraj, AoK, Lotus, YuanTi, Azrael, me (Nai). Count em up. 6 people alive right now. One is scum (since 3 starting scum is broken in this game). That's a 5:1 ratio, as I said earlier this game day. Now, after two days and nights, past killing Kraj and AoK, 4 people will have died. That is, unless the doc, if we have one, gets lucky. That ends us with a 1:1 ratio. For those that don't remember Mafia rules, a 1:1 ratio means town loses. This is something I don't believe Azrael would miss. It's an innocent little statement unless you recall the numbers. More than that, though, Azrael ignores YuanTi in his sentence. He names the rest of us, but YuanTi isn't included. I wonder why.

"rather than Nai or Lotus." Now, this is where
things are really interesting. The 'rather' in this sentence implies that Lotus and I are actually valid options at this point, even if it wasn't game over at this point anyways. If he left off the part about us, there would have been a little more innocence here. This isn't the case. We're options at this point, even though he calls at least me townie right now.

The player, Azrael, is scum.

In each of the above games, all three of the innocent townies were forced to claim under the scum tell method, despite the causation evidence in their favor. One was also mislynched.

As for the scum, all of the mafia players had previously been flying beneath the radar, undetected by the scum tell method. After being exposed by causal analysis, each was lynched, except for one lucky player who escaped only because the town doubted the strength of its causation analysis and instead relied on claim analysis.

The hard lesson of these experiences is that causal analysis can catch critical details that often slip through the cracks under the scum tell method. Because it refuses to oversimplify the challenges of pegging alignment, causal analysis gives town players a higher degree of accuracy, and having just a few players who apply it can spell the difference between a losing and a winning town.


1. The best way to tell scum from town is to step inside their mindset.
2. Mafia posts have three areas that are useful to analzye. Effect, motivation, and emotion.
3. While effect can be important, motivation and emotion are the most revealing.
4. When analyzing motivation, consider the competing strengths of the town and mafia explanations for their posting, and whether the player’s defense is artificial and feigned, or seems genuine.
5. When analyzing emotion, consider whether the emotions and attitudes you see are more likely to arise from a scum or a townie mindset.
Your overall goal is to figure out the true causes lying behind a player’s words and actions. If you can figure out the cause, you can figure out their alignment.
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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 2 – Evaluating the Strength of Evidence
By Azrael

So, you’ve got a case on a player you think is scum. But how can you tell if you’ve got a rock-solid case, or a crumbling foundation?

There’s a good deal of misinformation floating around about the relative strength of scum tells. It’s certainly not a cut-and-dried field. However, there are a number of tells that seem to have proved their worth over the years, just as there’s a body of tells that have proven shaky at best, and baseless at worst.

For my own purposes, I use four classifications of scum tells to help me evaluate their strength. Universal tells, logic tells, possible tells, and emotional or attitude tells.


Universal tells are the traditional slip-ups that have been identified over years of playing and study. They are activities where the most common explanation of the tell is that the player is scum, and there is a reliable, proven correlation between the behavior and mafia players. A short list of some of the more common examples could include:

-Malicious OMGUS attacks in response to pressure.

-Overaggression in voting patterns.

-Atypical patterns of participation, such as posting only enough to avoid scrutiny, or avoiding certain critical discussions within the town and commenting only on tangential issues.

-Waffling and taking both sides of an issue.


-Poor, unpersuasive, or faked vote rationales.

-Unusual timing of a claim, or role information.

Oftentimes, these tells can be difficult to spot if you’re not paying close attention to a player’s exact wording.

For example, consider this post, ripped from Chapter One:
I didn't like your vote because I felt it was too early and was disrupting speculation on the actual game mechanics,
which is something I want to know. You do seem town to me though.
The last sentence of the post is a clear example of scum-like waffling, taking both sides of an issue. But does that mean that anyone who waffles or examines an issue from two different sides has committed a scum tell? Absolutely not. So how do we tell the difference?

I would suggest that we ought to expand on the causal analysis techniques described in chapter one. What is the cause of this player’s waffling? Is it because it’s a really tough call and the evidence is conflicting? Or is it because the player is mafia, and can’t decide what a townie would actually think? If we can guess the true cause, we can guess the alignment.

With most of the universal tells, it’s easy to see how a scum mindset can be the cause of these behaviors. For example, scum players often fake their vote rationales because they’re inventing them on the spot rather than arriving at them through careful consideration. Through paying close attention to their wording, you should be able to gain a better idea whether players are manufacturing a flimsy justification, or stating what they truly believe.

But be careful. Just because a player commits an action that is considered a universal tell, don’t assume that the scum rationale is the cause. Consider also the possible pro-town causes of the player’s actions. Oftentimes, the pro-town rationales for committing a universal tell can be equally strong or more strong than the scum rationales. In those situations, the behavior you’re looking at should not be counted against them.


Logic tells are errors of argumentation, such as evasion, misrepresentation, OMGUS, and ad hominem. While equally well known to most players as the universal tells, many of us fail to distinguish between the two. Most often, we make the mistake of equating logic tells with universal tells. Sadly, this is not the case, and this failure to acknowledge the differences between the two has led to countless mislynches over the years.

The reason this occurs is that logic tells are frequently caused not by alignment, but by idiosyncrasies of the player. For instance, ManbearPig in one of the examples from Chapter one refused to respond to further attacks after answering them several times, what many players would call a clear-cut evasion tell. But the reason behind the “tell” was that he felt that he had replied to them sufficiently and at length already. While a scum might feel similarly, the existence of a very reasonable townie rationale weakens the argument that his refusual to respond indicated a scum alignment.

It is critically important that townies recognize that the negative effect of an activity, such as ad hom or misrepresentation, is not the best indicator of whether it is a genuine scum tell. The best indicator of whether a tell is genuine is if there is not a more reasonable and more likely townie explanation for the action. For instance, MBP was an inexperienced player, and he was signaling frustration with the debate throughout his posts. Many players ignored these subtle signs and instead assumed that the reason for his evasion was that he was attempting to hide from exposure. However, there was no concrete reason to believe that he was trying to hide as opposed to simply being inexperienced and frustrated. The context of the activity actually supported the townie rationale most strongly.

Part of the problem with logic tells is their tendency to provoke emotions. When tensions are running high, it becomes easier to begin to see your opponent as an enemy. This, unfortunately, often leads townies to take shortcuts in their arguments. Then, one side may begin to suspect that their opponent isn’t arguing in good faith (and perhaps they are not), at which point they begin to assume that the logic tells are evidence of their opponent’s guilt.

While ad hominem, evasion, and straw-manning are frustrating to encounter, they usually have little or nothing to do with player’s alignment. They can sometimes be indicative of a scum mentality, because there is a weak correlation between sloppy play and scum alignment. But more often than not you will find the weaker, less seasoned members of the town committing these types of activities regardless of their alignment. When these types of tells occur, it is critically important to read between the lines dispassionately. Is the misrepresentation intentional? Is the evasion a function of time, or frustration, or stubbornness, or is it out of fear? Is the ad hom a calculated device, or just pure emotion?

Logic tells should be used to support cases only in rare and exceptional circumstances. They will mislead you more often than they will help you.


The next category, possible tells, differs in one significant way from universal tells. Similarly to logic tells, they rely on assumptions. If such and such is the case, then that player may be committing some universal tell, such as defending a scum buddy for poor reasons. There is an additional logical step involved in believing that it is a true scum tell: we must believe in condition X, in order to think that Y is a scum tell. These assumptions more often than not prove to be false rather than true.

For instance, in the game with Pale Mage, a number of players involved with his lynch pointed to the difference between one of his short, acerbic replies and a longer, more nuanced explanation he offered later, as a sign of his being coached by his fellow mafia players. IF their assumption that he was coached was true, then it would be a scum tell. But if their assumption was false, or ungrounded, then it would be not be a tell at all. Once again, it is absolutely critical that the basis for the assumption is carefully examined. The change in his posting style could easily have come from any other number of variables, and in time that proved to be the case. But because they made that paranoid assumption, something that should never have been considered a scum tell to begin with was used to create a senseless mislynch.

As a general rule, conspiracy theories and complicated alleged gambits rarely turn out to be true. In most cases, what the activity seems to be on its face is exactly what it is in truth. Paranoia is one of the gravest and most common dangers to the town keeping its judgment objective and insightful. Instead, players should concentrate on what is most likely to be true, and not on far-fetched worst case scenarios.


Emotional, Mindset, or Attitude Tells

Unlike the other tells, mindset tells aren’t based on a player’s conduct, but on the more intangible behavioral traits lying behind their posts. Despite being more subjective, they can often be quite useful in determining their alignment, because players tend to exercise less control over them. Just as certain universal tells are usually caused by a scum mindset, the emotions and attitudes players show during the game can be very useful clues to their alignment.

A typical townie mindset could be described as inquisitive, pro-active, confident and decisive, self-righteous under pressure, and unafraid.

Some of the more typical scum fallacies are self-consciousness, contemptuous dismissal of others’ arguments, posting just enough to avoid notice, deceit, manipulation, being prone to faulty logic, showing more concern over plans and irrelevant debates than with finding scum, a tendency to use uncertain language in connection with lynch targets so as not be proved wrong later, a tendency to attack weaker or more inexperienced players, and being nervous or overbold in presenting their role-claim.

Just as with universal tells, however, it is important to consider the context that an emotion or attitude is in. Take Manbearpig’s refusal to continue an argument, for example. While refusing to continue an argument is an extremely anti-town attitude, he had a fairly decent explanation for it. To sum up, mindset tells and universal tells are the type of evidence you most often want to ground your cases on. They still need to be evaluated to make sure that they’re legitimate given the context, but if you can fit those facts and subtle clues into a clear and reasonable picture of what was going on in your suspect’s mind as scum, and show that the townie picture makes no sense, then you have the hallmarks of a very promising case.

In looking for mindset/emotional tells, bear in mind that these tells are often your best way of identifying and clearing fellow townies from consideration. The focus of most scum players is to avoid committing scum tells. Only the very best, most experienced scum are knowledgeable enough, skilled enough, and dedicated enough to consistently seed authentic-seeming false townie positives in their posting - less than one percent of players. As a result, analysts who can are able to detect genuine townie mindsets in other players' posts can be invaluable assets to the town, by clearing wide swathes of the town from consideration and stopping mislynches before they occur. In addition, once you have enough confidence in your abilities, you will be able to use this method to narrow your search of candidates by process of elimination, and lynch those players who have failed to provide any confirmatory town tells. In many games, it may be easier to find the scum by figuring out who the townies are, than by seeking out the scum directly.


1. Universal tells can be strong evidence of guilt. However, it is vitally important to examine the context to see if a reasonable, pro-town rationale exists.

2. Logic tells and possible tells are unreliable and should be used only with extreme caution.

3. Analyzing a player’s emotions and attitude for scum or town patterns can be a good indicator of their alignment.

4. Be alert for townie emotional and minset tells in the players you are analyzing, as this is your best chance to avoid a mislynch and clear players from consideration.
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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:15 pm

Devilry on Stage: MTGS (Specialty) Game Design

(Making Things Blow Up...Responsibly.)
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The grandfather clock sits in the corner, its weathered face watching over the room impassively. Everything is absolutely silent, except for that one inexorable sound. At 4:32 A.M., the sharp report of a gunshot breaks the stillness of the morning.

The grandfather clock continues to tick. Axelrod cautiously pokes his head inside the conference chamber. A few moments later, Rafaelk appears in the doorway.

They stare at each other wordlessly. Seconds crawl by. The grandfather clock ticks.

Day 8 of Sin City Mafia has begun.

With 2 alive, it's two votes to lynch.

Broken down to their essence, the most amazing mafia designs are more
than just games - they're theatrical productions, in which the moderator is producer, part-time referee, and ideally, the author of his own world. But unlike a typical work of fiction, the actors in this drama have minds all their own - and the most important task for a moderator is to understand exactly what those authors need and want for the production to take on a life entirely its own.

Fairness, original mechanics, flavor-writing, staying close to the core of the game: all of these are important design elements that any host worth his salt should strive to master, and we'll discuss each of them in turn in the detail they deserve. But even more importantly than these, is the more intangible and difficult task of making a setup that is not only flavorful, fair, elegant, and original, but is also entertaining, suspenseful - even exhilarating.

A setup can be either a lifeless backdrop, or a dynamic environment, depending on the level of dramatic flair the moderator injects into the setup. It can
be a slow and ponderous parade of drudgery and voting - or it can be an explosive battle for the history books where every breath reveals a new and intriguing twist. Or worst of all: it can disintegrate into a flaming pit of infamy. And it all depends on your design.

Chapter 1: Fairness: It's More than Just Balance

Verse 1: Ye Shall Respect Thy Player's Limited Perspective
Verse 2: Ye Shall Not Be a Bastard Mod

The most important thing you can possibly do as a moderator is make sure the game is fair to the players. This is not the same thing as balance, though many designers tend to mistake the two. Fairness is a larger and more inclusive principle, and it tends to be more important.

The concept of balance revolves around the idea that both sides of a team should have equal levels of "power". If one team has a fairly nifty role, the other side should have its own nifty tricks, and/or a way to counter what the other team is up to.
And no role or disposition of roles should be so overwhelming that the game is a foregone conclusion or a handicap match before the players ever take the stage. Most players and most reviewers who've been around the block a few times, can eyeball a setup for balance if they take their time and avoid careless shortcuts.

But fairness is about more than just giving everyone an equal shot at taking down the game. Fairness is about empowering players to make correct decisions, given the limited information and limited perspective of a single player.

Some of the roles devised in the earlier days of the game run completely counter to this principle. Godfathers, jesters, third-party scum, and traitors: generally speaking, are examples of roles that cannot be reliably detected by the players, and so there is no way for the town to intelligently play against them. Instead of edged weapons in the hands of practiced adversaries, they act as landmines, striking without warning regardless of skill. At the end of
the game, the victims of such roles are left feeling as though they were robbed of the chance to play the game - because the host confounded not just their expectations, but their ability to see the danger coming.

The limitations of the players' knowledge and their expectations are something that good moderator not only takes into account, but should deliberately attempt to respect as a general rule. For instance, in the dawn of the game a "mass-claim" could be an overpowering weapon in the hands of the town, because everyone knew that certain roles belonged on the town, and certain roles belonged to the scum. This required designers to find new ways to break this overly predictable template.

Especially in the past, moderators attempted to defeat mass-claims by placing roles they deemed unusual on one side or another, so as to confound the players and prevent the game from being "broken" by mass-claims and role analysis. Unfortunately, "bastard mod" tactics like these
result in the game being "broken" by the moderator himself instead, which can be even more frustrating and disruptive than a mass-claim.

Finding ways to navigate between the twin pitfalls of over-predictability and vicious ambushes of your players, remains one of the most challenging aspects of game design. Various solutions have been tried:

A. Role Randomization: roles are designed to be balanced on either town or scum, and are randomized before the game. As an additional twist, roles belonging to scum are sometimes given extra, pre-determined powers to help balance them out.

B. Dual-purpose roles: roles that are fairly effective under either alignment. However, an element of "gaming the mod" can still intrude, resulting in the players matching wits with the moderator instead of one another in applying role analysis, or bastard mod countermeasures that handicap the participants.

C. Vanilla roles - a limited number of vanilla roles can permit the scum to camouflage their
true, anti-town capabilities with an innocuous claim. However, vanilla roles are often rather unfun for those who receive them, and scum claiming vanilla often come under additional suspicion anyways, which reduces their value as camouflage for the scum team.

D. Original mechanics - if the roles in the game defy players preexisting expectations of what a scum role or town role ought to look like, there's little risk of the players being misled.

E. Hints, instructions, and flavor - sometimes, the moderator will choose to give clues to the town or scum as to what they're facing, and who they're looking for, often through the use of flavor. Flavor clues have the advantage of rewarding studious players, who take the time to faithfully read mod-posts. Explicit explanations of the disposition of scum teams, and/or surprising and novel mechanics, are also an excellent way to provide guidance to the players and potentially defuse game-ruining landmines. However, moderators relying too heavily on cryptic
or obscure flavor hints to balance a game, can expect toxic fallout. In addition, a moderator should never count on his players acting exactly how he would expect them to act, in order to balance out a role. If there is a golden rule in mafia, it is that you should plan for the unexpected.

At the end of the day, the objective is to be the very opposite of a "bastard mod". Instead of going out of your way to emplace hidden traps for the unwary, for one your own enjoyment, a good moderator seeks to empower the players to reasonably understand the setup, eventually - or at least see the dorsal fin of the shark coming at them.

Chapter 2: Originality: Shiny New Toys

Verse 1: Ye Shall Reward Thy Players with the Shiny (Individual Role Design)

The limits of game design have come a long way from the basic mafia setup of yore. While the core of a mafia game should always revolve around behavioral analysis and voting, most of the players who
join more advanced game types are looking for a high-stakes thrill ride that gives them the chance to be wicked to the enemy. A vanilla role? Pfft. Like any actor, they're after leading roles that are fresh and interesting, and have the potential to play a decisive role in the outcome.

Oftentimes, that may wind up meaning you're out to find ways to pour old wine into new and weirdly-shaped bottles. Investigations, kills, roleblocking, protection, information, communication, roleblocking, redirecting, voting: there are virtually endless ways to tweak the traditional categories of mafia roles into permutations that no one's quite seen before.

It's also quite possible to create whole new categories whatsoever. For instance, roles that change the rule structure of the game, blink in and out of existence, gimmick accounts, backup or triggered roles, lynch thresholds, post-count mechanics, "time travel/post erasure", or the infamous hidden player from Sin City's endgame. With a little
creativity and willingness to break design conventions, there's no limit on what an intrepid designer can come up with.

But aside from simple newness, and the ability to be decisive in the outcome, there are other factors affecting the shininess level of any given role: such as the surprised reactions of other players, and/or a role's dramatic flair. For instance, the ability to daykill another player is a classic "dramatic" role (Loran16: Plan on giving any content, CC? *CC Daykills Loran16*). Other examples of dramatic roles would be the "vote machine gun" of World Domination 2, which gained an extra vote every time the user posted on a multiple of 40 - resulting in extreme hijinks. Interesting post restrictions are another popular method. Which leads us to our next point.

Verse 2: Let's Give 'Em Something To Talk About (Individual and Mechanics Design)

This principle of design goes beyond just individual role design, to have implications for
mechanics design as well. If mafia is a game of drama - and it feeds on the conversation and involvement of its players. In a game where there's nothing particularly special or interesting to talk about, the momentum of the game can flag, and the players can become bored or restless. Alternately, in a few rare exceptions, the setup can become such a convoluted monster that the players are overwhelmed by everything that's going on, and unable to tackle the information overload.

However, generally speaking, most designers err on the side of insufficient conversation pieces. Roles or mechanics that raise players' eyebrows not only are fun for the player in question, but they're fun for the town to figure out, and aid the ability of the town to formulate wagons and read the other players.

Of course, a good storyteller knows not to put all his cards on the table right away. If every surprise is presented to the town at the beginning of the game, the players at the mid-game or end-game may run out of
new things to talk about, and there may be far less suspense as the game approaches its climax. In that respect, a role such as the hidden player in Sin City, or DesCoures' escaping role in Inheritance Mafia, or the "red button" in Inheritance Mafia, are examples of how to space out flashpoints throughout the course of a game.

Verse 3: Ye Shall Present a Cunning Puzzle - But Not a Giant Headache (Mechanics Design)

Central mechanics, for those games that use them, are the meat and potatoes that determine much of the tone of the game, and so a good central mechanic can either carry a game on its back, or break its back.

Typically, a strong central mechanic is one that presents the town with an intriguing strategic choice of how to use it. Common examples are "resource management" or "resource coordination" type setups, such as tradeable items or cash/points-based systems. Others seek to reinforce the game's central mechanics, by having the
town choose to reward or punish certain players in various ways.

Sometimes, however, a mechanic may wind up being more of a whimper than a bang, in execution. Alternate win conditions, for example, are notoriously hard to balance, and typically wind up being next to impossible to achieve. Or, if the mechanic simply makes more work for the town, or encourages/fails to prevent convoluted schemes to abuse the mechanic (devising a communications system based on sending points, or a resource-claiming/allocation plan), it may wind up being more parts trouble than fun for the participants.

Chapter 3: Flavor-Writing

Verse 1: Ye shall write intriguing and detailed flavor, and possibly allow the flavor to have in-game application, for this makes the game more fun for the participants and adds to the suspense.

Occasionally, a game comes along where the flavor alone makes the game epic and memorable. MTGS Mafia Redux, for instance. While the roles
themselves could have gone into any given game and been fairly unremarkable, Arimnaes seamlessly integrated many of the site's most notorious or hilarious moments into role design and into flavored vote-counts.

Even where flavor isn't the only attraction of the game, it's hard to underestimate the impact that good flavor can have on the player's perceptions. It can add to the suspense, drama, and mystery, or make the players smile - or simply be so beautifully crafted that players sit up and take notice. Many moderators also enjoy hosting precisely for the opportunity it gives them to bust out their writing chops for an appreciative audience. Whether or not that's your cup of tea, dedicating time and thought to flavor is an excellent way to push a game over the top.

Chapter 4: Elegance And Idiot-Proofing

You know that game where the megalomaniac with a vig role completely tossed the game out the window for the town? A lot of the blame for that goes on the Aezwolger.
But it's also the kind of problem that the designer should take into account.

There are a number of core principles to the game, such behavioral analysis, and teamwork, that a good designer can reinforce through his design choices. If you want to emphasize teamwork on the part of the town, a good way to go about that might be to put the brakes on an individual vigilante going on a power trip by using a mechanic like the red-button from Inheritance, distributing vig power evenly throughout the town, or requiring individuals to work together to complete a kill.

One example of an "elegant" setup that sought to reinforce the core of the game was Ghost Town mafia, a setup in which players could continue to speak after death, where alignments were not revealed on death, but players could vote to investigate the alignment of dead players each day. It had a few conceptual flaws - the town would almost always want to reveal the alignment of its lynches, and it cut down on information flow, while
increasing the level of "noise" from dead players, and side-lining them from decision-making power. It also disfavored the mafia, by preventing them from removing troublesome analysts. Still, it was an uncommon instance of a host consciously seeking to reinforce some of the game's core principles.


Fairness, elegance, creativity, and detailed flavor are all important aspects of good design. But for a design that truly stands out from the crowd, hosts should look beyond these bywords to seek to understand the reasons why they're important: to improve the game experience for the players. The surest road to making a great experience is to keep your audience in mind at all times, and deliberately design for the x-factor, the human element.

That's all for now, folks. Happy designing!

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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:16 pm

Mafiascum's Guide to Mafia Design and Hosting:

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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:18 pm

Three Games Within the Game
By Sir Mu from mtgsalvation

The following ideas are from the standpoints of a simple town-mafia game of Mafia:

Mafia is actually three games rolled into one;

The Thinking Game

The Social Game

The Game Game


The Thinking Game

As town, your role in The Thinking Game is to figure out who scum is. You read and consider posts, ask yourself and possibly the poster the reasons behind the post, and make a decision based on these factors as to the alignment of the poster. You may analyze anything you can get your hands on, but that doesn't always mean you should. In old and new players alike, this is considered the most important aspect of a game of Mafia; without your own opinion, you will inevitably either
thoughtlessly barn, or be a dead-weight. Along with the simple reading of behavior, The Thinking Game also includes mod, meta, and flavor gaming. They're not the most reliable methods of gathering information, but they are options. Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of The Thinking Game is considering what is not there as much as what is; a complete picture includes empty space.

The Thinking Game is a lot less important for scum; you already know who's who and, as such, you don't have to actually analyze alignments. You have to look like you do, mind you, but that's more of The Social Game. It's still useful for trying to figure out power-roles of the town, however; looking for slight language tells such as "Whoever the doctor chooses to target" vs "Whatever the doctor chooses" can tell you a whole lot about who's going to be on the receiving end of your sniper rifle during the night.

The Social Game[/size:

Many townspeople don't give as much thought into The Social Game as they do The Thinking Game. This is a mistake; it's foolish to expect the other townspeople to come to the same conclusion as you given the same information, as they have different Mafia experiences and ways of processing information. This is where The Social Game comes in; after you have played The Thinking Game and have a person you absolutely know is scum, it's important that you be able to convince others of it; short of being a vig or likewise role, your opinion alone isn't going to get someone killed. It takes the votes of many. Also of key note is the image you let off; too many times does a townsperson do or say whatever they want and expect the virtue of their rolepm carry them away from lynchville, population 'a few scum and thousands of innocents'. Hint: Unless someone has copped you, they're not going to know your alignment for certain. While the other person should
be playing The Thinking Game and be figuring out you're town, it's up to you to give the pieces to the puzzle. Otherwise you're going to end up dead with a few frustrated fellow townies sighing about how scummy you were. And a few scum, too, which brings me to the next part;

The Social Game is the most important Game for a member of the mafia. The dribbling simpletons may not be able to match your vast intellect and resources, but if you go around snacking on babies, the town is going to put two and two together, which equals your lynch. 90% of a scum game is making it look like you're not playing a scum game. Not only do you need to mask your alignment, but you need to mask your mask. Even the newest of scum aren't green enough to announce their mafiahood, and the town knows this, so what they typically look for is not the man with fangs, but the man who never opens his mouth. On top of the already stressful situation of concealing your concealment, you must disguise
the daises as thornbushes; you must get townspeople to believe that one of their own is actually a baby snacking monster. Many of the convenient paths for doing so, such as jumping on the first town wagon to pass by, or playing off a particular player's distrust for another, have a nasty habit of revealing your intentions. Instead, you have to do it just like a townie would; grab some quotes, do some questioning, and go to town. Perhaps less mentioned, although still important, is The Social Game with your scum buddies; assuming they play The Social Game well and haven't died horribly, you get to chat with them at night. You need to work with them so you can all come to an agreement as to the kill target, other abilities, and the plan for the next day; if you don't work together, you're throwing away a good chunk of the mafia's advantage.

The Game Game

So you have an ability; congratulations! It is now up to
you to use this ability to its fullest potential. Say you're a doctor. When you're selecting who gets to assuredly wake up in the morning breathing, you've a few things to consider. Is this person likely to be a target? Is this person scum? How much information will be provided if I successfully save them? To answer these questions is the heart of The Game Game, and as such is similar to The Thinking Game. Unlike The Thinking Game, however, these questions don't concern as you vanilla town, plus The Thinking Game tends to take longer and have a lot less concrete answers; The Game Game can be figured out fairly well in a few days.

The Game Game for scum blends into The Thinking Game. A lot. It includes the kill, plus any unique ability you may have. You must consider the best target; is this person a strong player, are they likely to be protected, are they a power role, - this is where it overlaps with The Thinking Game - and what information will the town gleam from the
kill choice? Will you choose to make the 'best' kill and eliminate the six year mafia player veteran with a 80% town win rate who thinks you're scum, or will you serve up the wine and kill the newbie who thinks the scum is a random townie? After you consider these important questions, it's imperative that you play The Social Game and discuss it with your scumbuddies.
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Postby Manders » Sun Sep 23, 2012 4:27 pm

Advanced Setup Design
By Kraj

This article is intended for designers who have a firm grasp of the basics, perhaps even have run a game or two, and are interested in trying more complicated setups and innovative roles. I’ve split this article into four sections: Core Elements of Mafia, Evaluating Individual Roles, Balance vs. Swinginess, and General Tips and Guidelines. I also follow up with some advice for how to be a good game moderator. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest reading Puzzle’s basics of game design. I also suggest reading Mark Rosewater’s column on WotC’s website, as many of the underlying concepts that make good Magic design also apply to Mafia.

I’d like to start by reiterating and expanding on Puzzle’s #
1 point:
You are making a setup for your players to have fun, not for you. The lesser your presence is felt, the best the game will be for the players.
This is something designers often lose sight of when creating a complex game, not because they’re not trying to make the game fun for the players but because unfun mechanics are not always obvious. The first step to understanding what is fun for players is understanding the core elements of a Mafia game, i.e., what makes the game what it is and how that translates into fun.

Core Elements of Mafia
A. Informed Minority vs. Uninformed Majority
B. Voting, and the Majority Lynch
C. Night Period When the Mafia Gets to Kill

These three mechanical elements are the fundamental aspects that make the game what it is. It’s very difficult to change one of these elements and still have it feel and play like a game of Mafia. Some setups have successfully done so, but most that try end up failing in
some way. As a rule of thumb, if you are going to alter the basic mechanics of the game, change only one and keep the rest intact. Take, for example, the Kingmaker variant. This variant is successful at changing the way voting and lynching is handled, but rarely if ever will you see a Kingmaker with untraditional alignment groups, daykill, lack of night period, etc.

It is important to understand, however, that these mechanical elements aren’t inherently fun, it’s the gameplay that emerges from them that’s fun. This distinction is important because when thinking about innovative mechanics to try, you need to evaluate whether the fundamental gameplay is preserved. The fundamental mechanics with corresponding gameplay looks like this:

A. Informed Minority vs. Uninformed Majority (Behavioral Analysis)
B. Voting, and the Majority Lynch (Persuasive argument)
C. Night Period When the Mafia Gets to Kill (Strategic choices)

So the point is, if you’re trying a setup that alters the
night period somehow, you should make sure that strategizing – particularly for the mafia – is still relevant to the game. If you’re going to alter how lynching works, you need to make sure persuasive argument is still important. And so on. For example, the variant of having two mafia groups in competition with each other in addition to the town can be reasonably well-balanced and seem fun. However, this effectively destroys the town’s ability to analyze behavior because the two mafia groups are much more similar to the town in terms of information and motivation. Therefore if you implement this variant you need to find a way to reintroduce behavior difference for the town to analyze.

This concept gets especially tricky, though, when you also consider that adjusting these fundamental mechanics not only affect their corresponding gameplay but also the gameplay of other mechanics. For example, night abilities add variety to the game and ensure that no two games will have all the same strategic choices.
However, too many night abilities or too powerful night abilities diminishes the focus on behavior and the relevance of persuasive argument. To illustrate my point, imagine a setup where every townie is a cop and every mafia is a roleblocker. The result of this game would depend 100% on night actions and have nothing whatsoever to do with argument, votes, analysis, or persuasion. Obviously this is an unrealistic extreme, but the relationship holds true: the more powerful and the higher the number of abilities, the less relevant behavior analysis and persuasive argument becomes. So while just about any setup can and should be enhanced by interesting night abilities, too much of a good thing can kill the fun.

Understanding the core mechanics and why they make the game fun is the most important thing you can learn about designing Mafia setups.

Evaluating Individual Roles

The most important technique for creating a new mechanic or role, or for deciding how well an
established role fits your setup, is considering how the role might be played. This means stop thinking about the role as the moderator (in terms of the entire setup) and think about it from the player’s perspective (who only has that information, or that and his or her mafia partners’). Remind yourself that as a townie you won’t know for sure whether you can trust a certain player; an obvious interaction between players might be less obvious when you can’t be sure of the other’s alignment, etc. Think about what is a logical action under normal circumstances. What other roles might this mechanic interact with in a significant way? What information might change how the role is played? Thinking about how you might play a role can help you realize when a role isn’t fun.

However, there is a pitfall here to watch out for: while it’s important to have an idea of how a role might play out, it is dangerous to expect a role to play out a certain way, especially if your expectation affects the game balance. While
it’s out of your control if a player does something completely off the hook – like a cop who just doesn’t bother to investigate anyone – thinking along the lines of “if this player claims the cop is sure to investigate him” is almost sure to be proven wrong. Do not balance roles on the expectation of it being played a certain way.

Some other general things to watch out for when designing roles (some of these are reiterated from Puzzle’s aforementioned article):
  • Too much certainty kills the game. Roles that pump a lot of reliable information into the game should be minimized. Mafia commonly devolves into a process-of-elimination game, which is the antithesis of the core mechanics, due to too much ability-based information in the game. Roles that provide potentially useful information depending on how it is used are a good compromise. Roles that allow the mafia room to lie, misdirect, and disrupt the town are often essential.
  • On the flip side, the wrong kind of uncertainty can ruin a role. A player should have the relevant information needed to play the role correctly. You can hide things from a player, but they shouldn’t be things that not knowing will potentially screw that player over. An ambiguous win condition is the perfect example of bad uncertainty.
  • Risk/reward tension is a good tool for roles and abilities, particularly in townies. When an ability has the potential to both help or hurt your faction, or when it could be very helpful but only in the right situation, etc., it creates interesting decisions. Sometimes, though, tension is pushed into the territory of being forced to play directly contradictory to your main win condition, such as having a win condition that a member of your faction dies. This is almost always a bad thing.
Players should be making relevant decisions, not arbitrary decisions. There are lots of ways to mess this up:
  • [
    *]Passiveness. Whenever you design a role with a passive (i.e., always in effect) ability, consider whether it could be done as an activated ability, or passive but only under certain circumstances. Letting players make decisions about when and how to use an ability is more interesting than simply having an ability and waiting for it to do something. Many abilities do make the most sense as passive, though, so I’m not suggesting no ability should ever be passive. Along those same lines, one-shot abilities are often more fun than repeatable abilities because there is a decision of when to use it instead of automatically using it every night.
  • Randomness. When applied correctly, randomness can be an interesting tool, but blunt mechanics like a random chance of success for an ability are generally unfun. All-or-nothing randomness tends to leave players never knowing when or whether they should use an ability. “Good” randomness should add some uncertainty to a role without
    affecting how the role should be played too much. For example, a role that gains one of three pre-determined abilities at random at the beginning of the night would be interesting. But a role that asks a player to choose a target and afterwards the ability is selected is probably bad.
  • Narrowness. When an ability has “one right way” to play it, it’s less fun. Consider this role: “Each night you may either prevent all kill attempts made on target player, or learn target player’s role name. You win if Billy survives to the end of the game.” This role presents the player with limited decisions because they essentially have to name cop until they find Billy, then protect him or her once they do. There’s no strategy involved, no real decisions to make. You should instead design roles that give the player tools that can be used in a variety of ways.
  • Misdirection. Red herring abilities (ones that trick players into thinking they are relevant) should be
    rarely and carefully used. It’s incredibly frustrating for players to discover at the end of the game that they put thought and effort into decisions that actually didn’t matter.
  • Extraneous abilities or clauses. Abilities so weak in comparison to a player’s other abilities that they’d never logically use them are pointless clutter. Special clauses that interact with other roles in a very narrow set of circumstances add complication to the game without adding play value.
In summary, to evaluate a role try to put yourself in the player’s shoes and imagine how it might be played without the benefit of additional information. Design roles that have relevant decisions to make and encourage strategic thinking.

Balance vs. Swinginess

When balancing your setup there are two main factors to consider: balance, and swinginess.
Balance, put simply, is the chance each faction has of winning the game. The goal is to give
the mafia and town an equal chance to win, with neutrals having a lesser but reasonable chance. The first step to balancing a setup is to start with Axelrod’s pointing method to assign each role points and make sure both factions have roughly equal totals. Having an idea of how a new role might be played is crucial to determining an accurate point assignment. From there you need to consider other factors that can affect the outcome, like special information a faction may have, the likely effect of a mass claim on both the town and mafia, how much time the town is expected to have until lylo, and interactions between roles. Every setup should strive to be as balanced as possible.

Swinginess is the degree to which individual roles affect the outcome of the game. In its most basic form, Mafia is one lynch each day and one kill each night. The higher potential the game has to deviate from that, the swingier it is. This means that a certain degree of swinginess is desirable, since the game would quickly become
dull and repetitive without cops to find scum, vigs to shoot players, SKs to thin the field, and so on. Swingy roles can also benefit games by buffering against a landslide victory by a faction, the Serial Killer being an excellent example. The trick is to make a setup swingy enough to be interesting but not so swingy that behavior analysis and night kill strategy become unimportant compared to abilities. There’s no clear line the sand to be drawn that says “too swingy” or “not swingy enough” since different players have different preferences. Some players prefer games with minimal swinginess, while other players enjoy setups with extremely powerful roles. However, the more swingy elements are in a game the more difficult it tends to be to balance. Therefore less-experienced designers should strive to minimize swinginess, and as you gain more experience then fiddle with swingier design space.

Some methods to avoid swinginess include:
  • An overall lower power level/ higher ratio
    of vanilla roles to power roles.
  • Spreading abilities out among as many roles as possible, rather than having fewer but more powerful roles. For example, two one-shot vigs in a game are generally less swingy than one full vig.
  • Backup roles act as buffers by keeping relevant abilities in play when the original owner dies. Along the same lines, sometimes a mafia faction will have group abilities any one of them can use, such as a roleblock, rather than risk an important ability being lost too early in the game.
  • 1-Shot abilities are a good way to have powerful abilities like cop investigations, vig shots, mass roleblocks, resurrection, etc., in the game while being less swingy than if they could be used every night.
One quick note for clarity: In this context I’m using the term “swingy” to describe an attribute a role or setup may have without any judgment of good or bad. In most discussions,
the term “swingy” is used to describe a role or setup that is undesirably swingy.

General Tips and Guidelines

There are various lessons I’ve learned about setup design that don’t really fit into a larger category. Here they are:

Every setup should have a goal in mind before you start designing, a definition of what you want the setup to do. It can be exploring a certain design space, implementing a particular mechanic idea, crafting a game around a certain flavor, fixing a problem you’ve identified with other setups, and so on. If you have a goal it gives the setup focus and direction, which makes the design process easier and usually results in a stronger end result.

Often a setup will feature a gimmick or have a special theme. You want to make sure every role or almost every role connects to that in a fun, meaningful way. You don’t want only a handful of roles to feature it and the rest don’t at all, or only loosely relate to it. When the moderator presents a
mechanical theme, players expect the role to have that theme and will be disappointed and confused if they don’t. This is especially true for a game selected by the FTQ or PCQ. A good example of this mistake is Tales of the Fantastic.

Given the long times moderators have to wait before getting to run their games, there’s a strong temptation to fit as many cool ideas into one setup that you can. This usually results in chaotic, confusing setups that don’t play very well. Pick one idea, or maybe one major idea and one minor idea, and do it well. Focus on roles that interact with that idea in interesting ways, explore the space, etc. Don’t try to do too much at once. Also, don’t feel compelled to have as large a number of players as possible. The larger the game the longer it goes, the harder it is on players, the harder it is to find replacements, etc. Rather than start with 24 slots to fill as the default, try starting with 20 and then only add more slots if the balance or mechanics warrant it.

more roles than you have room for. If you’ve got a 20 player game and you designed 20 roles, your game has bad roles. By the time you’re done, you should have at least a couple roles that you decided had some flaw or that you just don’t like as much as some others that you’ve cut.

Complexity vs. Depth –The more mechanics you add to a game the more complex it becomes. There’s a fuzzy line between complex enough to be interesting and so complex it’s confusing and frustrating, but you want to avoid crossing that line. Depth refers to the impact a mechanic has on the game in terms of how interesting it is to play, what interactions it has, what decisions it creates, etc. There is a concept in game design called elegance that, in a nutshell, means maximizing depth while minimizing complexity. Elegance is difficult to achieve but is an excellent goal. When you add a mechanic to the game or to a role, consider what it adds to the gameplay. Does it create meaningful decisions? Does it encourage strategizing? Does
it have cool interactions? Is it just plain fun? If you’re adding something to the setup that doesn’t really add much to the gameplay experience then take it out. For example, let’s say your setup’s flavor has lots of robots and ninjas. You decide that every role has a “type” of robot or ninja. Then you have one role in the game that repairs robots, but that’s the only mechanic that actually cares about the “type”. You’ve added a layer of complexity to the game without really adding any gameplay elements. Either remove the “type”, or commit to it by making it a central theme and creating more roles and interactions that care about robots and ninjas.

Along that same line, when designing a game around a certain flavor there’s a tendency to design roles that mechanically interpret the flavor as literally as possible. These type of designs tend to get clunky and have complexity without depth. For these roles, try to get to the core of what you want the role to “do” in the game and make that mechanic happen.
Trim off anything that doesn’t add to the role.

How to Be a Good Moderator

So you’ve finished your game design and your players are going to love it. Well, you’re not done yet. Now you actually have to run it, and that requires and entirely different set of skills. These are some tips and suggestions I’ve picked up along the way:

Be attentive. If you want players to be active and engaged in your game, then you should be too. Provide regular votecounts, prod players who haven’t posted, be available to answer questions, etc.

Be clear. When you write up your role PMs, pay attention to the language you use and try to anticipate where players might be confused, or identify any ambiguity on how an ability functions.

Be organized. Spreadsheets are a great way to keep track of vote counts and abilities used. Mistakes will happen and that’s ok, but you should try to minimize them.

Know before the game starts in what order abilities resolve, whether roleblocked players
will be informed, whether roleblocking a 1-shot ability uses up the shot or not, etc. Identify strange interactions between abilities and corner cases and know ahead of time how to handle the situation rather than figuring it out at the time it comes up.

Avoid game-relevant flavor in night actions. Everyone likes a flavorful PM instead of “You saw that Bobby was targeted by Sally last night”, but be careful about including details that hint towards game-relevant information. A doctor, for example, shouldn’t get flavorful clues as to the identity of the killer if s/he blocks a kill. Try to make flavor interesting but as ambiguous as possible. Rule of thumb: if you think players will interpret your flavor in a certain way, they won’t.

This last point is controversial and many mods will disagree, but I suggest you do not be afraid to modkill players for inactivity. Modkills over inactivity are generally avoided because the moderator’s judgment is influencing the outcome of the game, but in my experience
roles that have multiple replacements during the game hurt the gameplay and drag the overall experience down for everyone. Usually replacing is the right thing to do, but sometimes the best and most fair way to move the game forward is to modkill.
Don't hate me 'cause I'm cuter than you are! - :mh:

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