This forum is for playing and discussing the game of Mafia. All of the MTGS Forum Rules apply here, though keep in mind the following notes:
In Mafia games, a short post that looks like spam may not necessarily be spam, depending on the relevancy to the game. Still, true spam will be infracted, and borderline spam may be warned. If you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution.
Even though Mafia involves attacking other players, flaming is still not allowed. Please refrain from insults and ad hominem arguments.
Due to the nature of Mafia, double-posting is allowed *if* the second post contains actual content. Examples of double posts that are not allowed include: saying "sarnath'd" or similar expressions, making a joke, correcting a minor typo that does not affect the essential meaning of your post.
Mod text (bold + red) is no longer allowed for formatting (even though Mafia are usually indicated with red) or for voting and other in-game actions. Use non-bolded red or non-red bold instead.
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.
Seven games of various types are run concurrently in the Mafia Subforum. Whenever one game finishes, a new one will be posting signups within a few days, so check back often if you're waiting to get into a game. New players are advised to play a Newbie game of mafia first, but it's not required that you do so. Newbie games, unlike other types, take signups on a rolling basis. If you want to sign up for the new game, just drop us a line here.
Q. 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.
Also, make sure to pay attention to all rules for the game you are in.
Q. What does FoS mean?
FoS stands for "Finger of Suspicion." It's a way of pointing out who you think is scummy without actually committing a vote.
Q. What does WIFOM mean?
WIFOM stands for "Wine In Front Of Me," a reference to the movie The Princess Bride. An explanation can be found here.
Q. What does OMGUS mean?
This will usually appear in the context of an "OMGUS vote." OMGUS stands for "Oh My God! You Suck!" Basically, an OMGUS refers to voting someone just because they voted for you.
Q. What does PBPA mean?
Post-By-Post Analysis. This is the process of examining all of a player's posts, one at a time, as a means of judging whether or not he/she is Mafia.
Q. What does "lylo" or "LoL" mean?
Both abbreviations refer to a "lynch or lose" game state. This is when the Mafia is close to reaching majority, creating a day situation where the town must correctly lynch a Mafia or else lose.
As another option for playing Mafia, you can visit the MTGS #mafia channel. There, you can play live games with other players, modded either in person or via a Mafia bot.
To join us, connect to IRC through your own client (such as mIRC, Trillian, or Chatzilla) or through the MTGS Java applet tab (labeled 'Chat') at the top of the page. Once you've connected to irc.globalgamerscenter.net, join the #mafia channel (using the command /join #mafia), and you're ready to go!
The MafiaBOT is an automated IRC script for running a Mafia game. It handles signups, role assignments, votes, lynches, role abilities, and ending the game. The most recent version of the bot is hosted by Xyl.
As of the latest update, the following features are available:
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.
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.
What 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.
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
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.
Balancing a Mafia Setup Ripped from a thread by Puzzle
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.). *Note : this does not apply for French mods who stink at writing scenes*
Notes from a Newb: My Favorite Flavor is Vanilla!
One of the most underlooked roles in the game of Mafia is the vanilla role. I mean seriously, they don't have any night actions, they can't kill, they can't protect, and they can't even investigate! What use is that?
Then I got to thinking, how can I make a nilla character fun?
Well, for starters, I realized that as a Vanilla character, I had nothing to lose. I didn't have a valuable role to the town, other than just being another body. I could be aggressive and not have to worry about attracting fire from the mafia.
I thought that was pretty good to start with, but what else could I do?
I soon figured that I could be a catalyst for information. Vanilla townies are stripped down versions of their teammates in theory, but this allows them to concentrate fully on the one weapon that every townie has, but few utilize to its maximum potential: analysis. No one has more motivation to dig up behavioral clues than vanilla townies, because that is the primary weapon at their disposal. You might not receive any bells and whistles, but you are freed from distractions and allowed to concentrate on the fundamentals that make up the core of the game.
All this speculation over a simple role! I had to think about why this plain-jane role was ever created. Wouldn't it just be easier if everyone had roles?
No, it wouldn't. Creative roles are great, but limit the game. The Nilla role allows for creative gamespace. Suppose someone claims Cop in a game. The town agrees that no Cop can be scum and they decide to test his role through night actions. If all roles were like this, then gameplay comes to a halt and game decisions are based on claims and role activity. Now, throw a Nilla in there, and see how everything mixes up!
The more vanilla players enter the game, the more that players will be forced to look at more than just roles and night actions. They force players to look at input and actual gameplay to decide the fate of individuals. A player cannot be called town or scum based off a vanilla claim. The only way to analyze a sea of vanilla claims is through behavior. This makes the game more challenging for the players brings it back to the behavioral psychology that makes up its core essence..
All in all, a Nilla player does many unique things to the game.
1. It allows for a more passionate and aggressive gamestyle
2. It forces player-to-player analysis to the center stage
3. It provides game evolution, as a Nilla player is essentially a blank canvas for the player to work with
4. It avoids simplistic, cookie cutter style gameplay, creating new environments for each game
5. It allows for an overall enjoyable experience for all involved
I haven't played in many games, but I know this: If a player can master the art of a Vanilla character, they may be able to control the game, to some degree. With a combination of skilled analysis, a slight degree of recklessness, and a strong knowledge of the game, Vanilla players can become a force to be reckoned with.
The best way to discover the power and possibilities of the Nilla is to play a Nilla. These theories are not just for Vanilla Townies either. The same dynamic level of play is captured in Vanilla Scum too. Play more games, observe more playstyles, and discover your own tricky way of being an effective Nilla bystander. That's the simple yet diverse magic of Vanilla.
By Xyre 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.
In conclusion, I appreciate your time, and expect to see you signing up for The Fiasco Corporation, coming soon. /plug
The Pinocchio Problem: When Should a Townie Lie?
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.
Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 1 – Causal Analysis By Azrael
Quote from Nai »
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 white noise and false leads created by our own teammates. We want to be able to tell the difference between the white noise, and the black scum of real tells.
The Scum-Tell Scale Method
But there is a common tendency among players not to approach the problem this way. Most players try to avoid having to sift through evidence, by using what I would call a “scum-tell scale”. You keep track of a list of behaviors that people generally say are mafia tells. Evasion, appeals to emotion, defending scum, snacking on babies, and so on. We can call these “general mafia tells”. The more general mafia 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.Now, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the scum-tell scale method. It does a fair job of catching inexperienced players who haven’t learned that they need to avoid these general mafia 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, 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 increasingly 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. But the greatest disadvantage to the scum scale method is that when you’re not sifting through the white noise and the black scum, you’re going to wind up with a lot of useless or misleading white noise in your bucket. Players can easily max out a scum scale with nothing but activities that have completely innocent and reasonable townie explanations. When that happens, innocent townies become collateral damage, and the scum reap the benefits of a pointless and preventable mistake.
An Alternative- Causation Analysis
Can we avoid this outcome? Absolutely. The scum tell scale method may be a good technique for beginners, but it is not the only option at our disposal. As players become more experienced, they 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, it is possible to parse their sentences and find the unspoken ideas and attitudes that lie behind them. Scum players are increasingly adept at knowing what actions they need to mimick 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.So, how do we get inside their mindset? We do an autopsy on their posts, and break them down. I would argue that there are four relevant parts in the anatomy of a post’s content. Obvious intent (the plain meaning of the post), its effect (anti-town, pro-town), its motivation (scum, or townie, true or untrue), and the player’s emotions/mood (example: afraid of being caught, or confident that they’re right?). When you synthesize all four, you can take a fairly educated guess what their overall mindset was. We needn’t worry much about obvious intent. Anyone can figure the plain meaning of a post (i.e., I think jim-bob is mafia, vote jim-bob).The effect is the type of analysis that you’ll usually find scum-tell-scale analysts concentrating on. If a post is designed to lead to a “bad effect”, it is labelled as a tell. There’s some value to that assumption. However, you don’t want to conclude that simply because a post has a bad effect, it must be a scum tell. Why? This is where we need to bring in the third and most important element. Motivation. Is there a good reason why a townie would say that jim-bob is scum? Does that reason make sense? Also, why would a scum want to say that jim-bob is scum? Would either be more likely than the other to say so, or would they probably say the same thing? To sum up, we want to compare the strengths of the town and the scum rationales for making the post. (Otherwise, we would be ignoring whether the player was aiming for a strong, pro-town effect.)We would also ask whether the motivation (if any is provided) reads like a lie. Is it unconvincing, feigned, or dishonest? If so, let the hunting commence. 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.
Quote from V »
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.
Quote from suspect »
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.
Quote from suspect »
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.
Quote from suspect »
I don't really see any strong points in your argument that I haven't already answered, other that the one addressed above.
Quote from Analyst from game »
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.
Quote from W »
@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?
Quote from W »
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.
Quote from W »
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.
Quote from W »
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.
Quote from Analysis of first post »
Floating the idea of the town and the mafia cooperating in order to win. Without any worries or qualifications. Unusual suggestion for a townie.
Quote from Analysis of second post »
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.
Quote from Analysis of third post »
Going negative to discount the attack against him, signaling disdain, contempt.
Quote from Analysis of fourth post »
Our town win condition. Of course! Specifically.
The poster, JodoYodo, is scum.
Quote from X »
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
What was I gonna do there, Yoss? Leave a cliffhanger and come back Day Two hoping I hadn't been lynched?
Quote from Analysis »
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.
Quote from Y »
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.
Quote from Y »
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.
Quote from Analysis of first post »
[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.
Quote from Analysis of second post »
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.
Quote from Z »
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.
Quote from Analysis of Post »
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.
Quote from Final Example »
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.
Quote from Analysis by Nai »
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 they're 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 poster, Azrael, is scum.
In each of the above games, all three of the innocent townies were forced to claim under the scum-tell scale method, despite the causation evidence in their favor. One was mislynched. Causation analysis could have saved all three.
As for the scum, all of the mafia players had previously been flying beneath the radar, undetected by the scum-tell-scale method. Without causal-analysis techniques to pinpoint them, they would have remained undercover. Each was lynched, except for one player who escaped only because the town doubted the strength of its causation analysis and instead relied on claim analysis.
The bottom line? Causal analysis can fill in the gaps where scum-tell scale analysis falls short. In the hands of experienced players it has 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. Posts can be divided into four parts. Plain meaning, effect, motivation, and emotion.
3. While effect can be important, motivation and emotion are the most useful for figuring out the true cause of a player’s actions.
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.
6. 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.
Behavioral Analysis, Chapter 2 – Evaluating the Strength of Evidence
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 three classifications of scum tells to help me evaluate their strength. Universal tells, logic tells, and possible 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:-Venomous OMGUS attacks in response to pressure.
-Over-aggression 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 is not good evidence of guilt.
Logic tells are an entirely different breed of tells. They 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, 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 indicates 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. But 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, 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 experienced 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 ought to concentrate on what is most likely to be true, not on 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.
1. Universal tells can be strong evidence of guilt. However, it is vitally important to consider the context in which the tell occurs to check if a good pro-town rationale exists.
2. Logic tells and possible tells are unreliable and should be used only with extreme caution.
3. Like universal tells, analyzing a player’s emotions and attitude can be a good indicator of their alignment.