Other metaphors for the game of mafia

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popsofctown
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Post Post #0  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:41 pm

This was sparked by a thread ~somewhere~ but this is something I think about a lot anyway. Mountainous mafia's core mechanics are a group with discussion capabilities and a democratic ability to remove another players <discussion capabilities and democratic capability> one at a time in alternation with a secret subset having the ability to undemocratically remove one player's <discussion capabilities and democratic capability>, until all the secret or nonsecret people can't vote. It's not inherently violent. But since removed players remove all abilities they have to speak of, it's not unexpected that death is the metaphor that became popular for that function, it's a common, arguably lazy metaphor adopted by many games for describing that a particular player has lost all influence over the game.

The default metaphor is a village of people who can extrajudicially murder those among them with sufficient democratic consensus, on suspicion of being part of a secret group of people who murder others at night, either as members of organized crime, or a werewolf pack.
The default metaphor sucks a little bit for a few reasons:
1) Some alternatives might fare no better, but they sometimes require some of suspension of disbelief. If the villagers don't care about rule of law anyway, why don't they torture one Mafiosi to learn the others? Why don't they use a jail cell in place of death to keep this option on the table? Heck, why don't they volunteer to sleep in a jail cell if the odds of getting murdered at night is so high? With Werewolves, why not put them in shackles, verify they are werewolves when they transform, then kill them? And why don't multiple werewolves have multiple kills per night? (the mafia is an "organization" and gets somewhat more of a pass, there).
2) Group extrajudicial murder is bad in principle. In practice historically it has been used in accordance with prejudices rather than a tool that punished crimes (with an ultimate punishment that is now controversial or condemned even judicially). Nightly individual murder is also bad, creating a game with no protagonists. "Tragic heroes" in art can be well done, but this is not that.
3) The metaphor poorly reflects the win conditions of the game. It is likely the case that the metaphor accurately reflects the game's older, commonly understood win condition, or even what you can encounter that some casual party game players perceive as the win condition: that only living players can win. Well, now I'm not sure, chicken or the egg, on whether the metaphor leads to that misconception, or a previous conception led to the metaphor. But saying a dead townie has "won" is a bit presumptive about his/her/their moral code, some people are in it for themselves. Similarly, organized criminals often betray loyalty to avoid jail time, let alone death, so it is confusing for a dead Mafiosi to be considered a winner (though, with the level of fanaticism implied by "Cults", this works much better).
4) It's maybe kind of violent. Does everything have to be violent? This one's a bit more subjective.

I like hearing of and thinking about other metaphors for mafia. My last mini theme I ran, I used very different explanations for why each player lost their voice and their vote, and it grew on me pretty rapidly. "Purgatory" has its own metaphor, with less of the details on how the democracy works but a gratifying finality to decisions.

I'm hoping to hear people's ideas and brainstorms for how they've made metaphors that work or fit well (used and unused in game). Most metaphors won't fit perfectly one way or the other, but coming up with ways they can fit the mechanics is fun.
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #1  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:50 pm

Here is the one I thought of:
An extremely talented Broadway company is premiering a brand new show at the end of the year. The company is full of headline actors that make every show the company has performed a success. It's won best show each year for the past five years. In fact, bookies are starting to take bets whether the company wins yet again.
There are whispers that there may be a conspiracy to "throw" the premiere with deliberately substandard acting to abuse the steep odds available in the bets. The show's director is in on it.
The company is unionized, and as a result of collective bargaining is able to discharge other actors for "personality conflicts" but only once per fiscal period. The director's creative control lets him release actors from the show, but since the producer has to pay them anyway he'll only tolerate it once per fiscal period.
All of the actors are so incredible that just one original company member supported by adequate understudies the producer is forced to contract can win the award for the year, preserving the reputation of the company. But if any actor who is part of the conspiracy to ruin the show is still a part of the cast, they will ruin the show, jeopardizing the long term careers of the honest cast members and cashing out bets that set them up for life.
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #2  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:56 pm

so there is this town

known as salem

infiltrated by witches who secretly summon demons by praying silently to kill one person every night

but the only way to tell if one is a witch is by brutally killing them by crushing them rocks and if they are actually a witch they will transform into a BEAST upon death

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Post Post #3  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:57 pm

I think you know that's not what I'm looking for
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #4  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:02 pm

what about a pirate ship setting

like a captain is killed after a large plunder

and so the crew need to find the secret group who are threatening to eliminate the rest of the crew to keep the entirety of the plunder to themselves

its violent but you can add public power mechanics to the game, like getting new captains, powder monkeys, etc.

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Post Post #5  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:07 pm

In post 4, OkaPoka wrote:what about a pirate ship setting

like a captain is killed after a large plunder

and so the crew need to find the secret group who are threatening to eliminate the rest of the crew to keep the entirety of the plunder to themselves

its violent but you can add public power mechanics to the game, like getting new captains, powder monkeys, etc.

and the reason why they dont just torture info out

its a pirate ship, the crew are violent and death is the only justice that can be served to mutineers

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Post Post #6  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:16 pm

Amongst the violent metaphors, I would be most interested in ones where the moral code or allegiance of the deceased entities can make it seem they've still "won". Pirates don't score great in that regard. It explains the missing judiciary institution well, it can be granted that.
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #7  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:22 pm

hmmm

we can take your cult/religious fanaticism and actually take it a step further by giving it some actual historical roots/contexts

although it might be controversial to play, there are plenty of instances where a dominant, conquesting religion "forces" conversions upon the native peoples, who in turn practice their religion in secret and are still willing to die for it

and what ends up happening is that these missionaries discover that people have been secretly worshipping other deities and get outraged and begin holding very sketchy trials to persecute these native peoples

of course, the standard is that the informed minority are the bad guys and in this case i don't know how good of a message it would be to have the so called bad guys be also the persecuted minorities throughout history but its food for thought on making a historically relevant game

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Post Post #8  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:25 pm

Yeah there's no reason the informed minority have to be the bad guys. I like dominant religion/suppressed religion a good bit more.
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #9  (ISO)  » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:31 pm

I think the informed minority should be the bad guys because it allows this fantasy of being a cunning criminal who gets away with crimes with their well-preserved web of lies. And, the majority of players being the good guys is for feel-good, i guess? Like, being the hero and saving your friends by outsmarting the bad guys.

Some of the disbelief could be solved in a number of ways. I'll make up some for a few of the points you mentioned -- They cannot torture mafia because knowing they are a mafia requires them to be dead -- If they have a jail cell to keep people, they likely would like to keep it open for use of the Jailkeeper, who may only allow one person into the jail at a time -- Werewolves are likely strong enough to break confinement when transforming, and given that Cop isn't in the werewolf theme, they probably dont have shackles to begin with -- Multiple werewolves killing at night would increase the chances of them being spotted, and they may only have the time to track the nightime movements of one individual per night for a stealthy kill.

The Lynch works here because having a tool of questionable morality and accuracy fits how players of town and mafia alike are voted up. Historically it represents paranoia and prejudice which also applies here, since innocents are voted up often just for being bad at explaining themselves.

I dont really have any defense for the win condition, though. Its just presumed that the town are willing to die for the town, and vice versa.
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Post Post #10  (ISO)  » Fri Mar 27, 2020 7:55 am

mafia is a game of attrition
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Post Post #11  (ISO)  » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:04 pm

Eh, i mean, the discrepancies are far more than those you just pointed out. Aside from how the sentence is carried out by the people in the village, it's really uneffective to have the villagers hunt for scum without looking at any kind of clue or evidence left by the perpetrators. Even if one isn't a professional investigator, you could still notice traces of blood, footprints, etc that could implicate somebody or clear somebody else. Plus, there's the whole sociological part that includes alibis ("what were you doing at 18 pm in the day the murder happened?") and motives (usually you don't kill random people - it might happen, but it's not common and motive plays a very important part in any judicial system). Ownership/access to the murder weapon is also a crucial element of investigation that games are missing.

If we are willing to set aside the real world elements of a murder investigation, there are a couple settings that might work.

Modern Industry
Moderator is the CEO of a company and he knows there are spies among their employees because there are verifiable data leaks within the systems, but he could not track where it comes from. The company dabbles with barely legal activities regarding finance/hygiene so they don't want the police involved, but they still want to remove the spies. The CEO does not have time to confront each employee directly, so he just asks that they sort it out by themselves and if the things works out good the loyal employess will be rewarded - those who are erroneously fired in the process will be hired again.

So, each day the employees gather in the cafeteria and try to identify who's a spy, producing a file for the CEO who will immediately fire the accused person. The company will notice if the data leak sources have been reduced or not, which is proof of the fired guy's alignment. During offtime, the spies gather and attempt to delete the hiring contract of one of the loyal employees to sabotage the system. They cannot remove too many otherwise the company will collapse before they could steal all the relevant data, but their first and foremost priority is not getting caught so they will have to react accordingly to the ongoing crisis. The spies will complete their mission once they have gathered enough data to send to their contractors and have enough presence in the company to take it over, which occurs when the spy population reaches 50% or more of the company workforce.

All of the involved people are human and civilized, none of them want to involve the police, so they wouldn't resort to more efferate crimes to achieve their objectives.

New Religion
A group of people is trying to found a new church, in direct opposition to the already existing religions. People in the village do not accept that, so they run to the moderator (the pope or something) and ask him to solve their problem. Pope could not give a damn about it, but he has a duty to listen to his subjects otherwise they would revolt. He asks the villagers to find who is a member of the new religion so that he can exile him at the end of the day. The pope will run an investigation of the exiled person activities to determine his alignment, but other villagers do not trust the guy anymore so he will not be called back until the problem is solved. During the night, the insurgent fanatics kidnap a villager and try to brainwash him privately, but they still need him alive or he won't be a worshipper of the new true god.

If the new religion becomes predominant, a new church is publicly founded and the village is officially converted. Exiled worshippers are called back and have their share of the victory. If the new religion is eradicated, exiled loyal followers of the pope are called back instead.



This is the best i could come up with so far, it's hard to create a consistent system where common logic can be safely ignored - such as why the good guys cannot investigate first and kill later, or why the bad guys cannot kill more than once per night - as well as letting players enjoy their victory, instead of having to die to see their wincon fulfilled and therefore leading to the paradox of "winning posthumously", i mean, technically if you died you can no longer win anything, even if your faction achieves your wincon later.
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Post Post #12  (ISO)  » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:18 pm

I liked both of those
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #13  (ISO)  » Tue Mar 31, 2020 11:59 pm

Imo “winning posthumously” is a morale victory, as you (generally) contributed to the win with your death.
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Post Post #14  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 1:58 pm

So, metaphor here would be what I would call a theme.

Mafia/werevolf are the "normal" themes in the sense of most common, historic theme to the game.

I've played a number of pirate themed game, and I'm sure if this game could as easily be called Pirates, the party game.

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Post Post #15  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:00 pm

I've seen theme games where the assumptions about the players' goals make sense, especially when the "town" is the "bad guys." E.g., a Stardust Crusaders game I saw on Something Awful where the "town" is Dio's minions and the "scum" are Jotaro's allies. It makes sense that Enya and N'Doul are willing to die if they can take Dio's enemies down with them, that Kakyoin and Polnareff are willing to die to take down Dio, that Steely Dan is willing to kill Enya first and ask questions later, and so forth. It even makes sense that the "townies" don't know each others' identities if they're cut off from communication with Dio.

But in general, yeah, the premise of Mafia makes no sense. The corporate metaphor proposed in this thread works better, although the part about the spies deleting the contracts is rather silly.

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Post Post #16  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:23 pm

One idea I had for a near-normal game was actually an inversion of the typical flavor. Instead of the mafia invading a town, it’s a group of undercover cops trying to break up a mafia syndicate. I never fully fleshed this out before, but the nightkill would be the equivalent of the mafia arresting one of the members. I had the idea to run this in the normal queue itself but this sort of permutation isn’t allowed apparently.
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Post Post #17  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:32 pm

I vaguely wondered about, what if the minority were the good guys, but that's a more developed version of the idea that I didn't arrive at. That works pretty well. Did you have something other than death for the lynch flavor?
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #18  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:35 pm

Creature ran a really good newbie one:

Town is an illegal death cult suicide pact blood ritual conspiracy summoning an apocylypse
Mafia is FBI agents who are neutralizing them before they can all kill each other and summon the apocylpse

Lynches are blood sacrifice
Nightkills are FBI arrests

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Post Post #19  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:40 pm

I like that one
"Let us say that you are right and there are two worlds. How much, then, is this 'other world' worth to you? What do you have there that you do not have here? Money? Power? Something worth causing the prince so much pain for?'"
"Well, I..."
"What? Nothing? You would make the prince suffer over... nothing?"

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Post Post #20  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:43 pm

It's a good metaphor and it really works out but its a bit intense to run it more than once in a blue moon

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Post Post #21  (ISO)  » Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:49 pm

More setups with good metaphors include safehouse mafia and Extradition mafia.


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