The Do's and Don't's of Mafia Moderating

Mr. Danya
Joined: May 28th, 2007, 12:31 pm

May 3rd, 2012, 4:34 pm #1

Hey guys. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how we play Mafia here on SOTF, and it occurred to be that there isn't really any kind of guidance for prospective moderators. Anybody who wants to run a game more or less gets chucked in at the deep end to sink or swim all by themselves, most of the time only having second-hand information (either off site or examining past games) for back up. Well, I figured that it was probably time that we started making a little more support available on the site itself, so I've taken it upon myself to draw up something of a guide for those amongst you who likes the idea of running a game themselves - or even just wants a few tips on how to improve in the future.

I don't claim to be the best Mafia moderator on the board, but I do think I've got a pretty solid claim to being one of the most experienced members here in terms of playing and modding. I've participated in over 25 games, and seen my fair share of alternative set ups, differing ways of doing things, and outright mistakes. I've also modded 7 games of various set ups, varied ways of doing things, and have made my own fair share of mistakes too. So I'm not regarding this as some kind of sage wisdom from on high, just sharing a few things I've learned over my three years or so of playing and modding this game.


DO have prompt vote counts - There's nothing worse than confusion as a result of sporadic vote counts. It doesn't matter if you only posted a vote count yesterday; if there has been a couple new votes in the mean time, then throw up a new vote count. Keep the players appraised of the current situation, and let them know how long they have left in the phase.

DO stick to deadlines - Games can get stalled easily, especially if write ups aren't going up on time. I know you can't be at the computer 24/7, but prepare things ahead of time and make sure that you'll be ready to post the write ups as close to the end of the phase as you can.

DO monitor activity strictly - If people aren't posting in the game thread, you need to come down on them for it. It's fine for people to only post every so often, but the game gets a lot less fun for everyone else if they're trying to get inactive players to speak. It's a lot better to replace them out or modkill them than let them stall out the game, and fairer from a gameplay perspective too. I'm not saying to come down on a ton of bricks on anyone who so much as doesn't post once a day, but if they're missing entire phases, then it's probably time to remove them.

DO give the Mafia/Masons a place to talk - This site is awesome for giving the Mafia a place to chat, and it is CONSIDERABLY less difficult to relay than PMs are - having the added bonuses that there's less of an issue with timezones and that you can keep an eye on the conversations.

DO include vanilla roles - Aww but townies are boring! Except at the same time, they help a lot for game balance. Power roles are fun, but if every member of the town has one, it rapidly becomes unbalanced against the mafia. Basically, don't be afraid to have vanilla townies or goons. They work okay. Besides, it creates more emphasis on the gameplay if there isn't constant reliance on big roles.

DON'T overcomplicate - This can apply in several ways. Don't overcomplicate roles, don't overcomplicate the set up, don't overcomplicate the number of sides. Tread VERY carefully with customised or unconventional roles, as they're usually less balanced than the regular ones. Bear in mind that the more exotic roles you include, the harder you're going to have to try to keep the game balanced, doubly so if you're making up your own. Same goes for third parties and so on. Whilst it's fun to have lots of different sides, you have to try and make sure that everyone has a decent chance of winning, otherwise it isn't going to be any fun. I mean, sure, it's cool if Mr. Hero is a vigilante cop who kills any mafia member he finds, but that isn't very balanced. Equally, it's kinda frustrating for Mafia members Darkheart and Blackguard if they're a two man Mafia and have Master Evil's Cult, Grokthar's second mafia and Miss Headchopper the serial killer to contend with, as well as the town.

DON'T overload with third party roles - For one thing, having too many people that are out for themselves upsets game balance, for another, playing as the vast majority of third party roles is both challenging AND unrewarding. Being a lyncher is an exercise in frustration. Being a survivor puts you in limbo for most of the game. Jesters annoy everyone else. A serial killer is an extra kill each night to take into account (too many unsettles things). I'm not saying don't include them, just... take it easy, okay?

DO include kills in the write-up - Unless you have a no-reveal game, or there are roles at play, the fairest possible expression of a write up is to say which character killed which other character. If Darkheart killed Jimmy, then have some fluff where Darkheart killed Mr. Hero

DON'T include anything else - Not unless it's pure fluff. Don't include attempted kills that were saved. Don't include roleblocks. Don't include any other kind of action. No matter what you do, it's going to be unfair to SOMEBODY. If there are no kills, say "Nothing happened tonight", or words to that effect. For example, if you say "Darkheart tried to kill Jimmy, but failed", it reveals to everyone that Jimmy is most likely town. if you say "Darkheart tried to kill Mr. Hero", it reveals to the mafia that Jimmy is Mr. Hero, and also tells the doctor that Jimmy is Mr. Hero and town.

DON'T reveal unnecessary information - Period. Don't say how the game is set up, don't hint at the size of the mafia, don't tell somebody why their action didn't work (for an exception, see the following heading), don't say who was responsible for the lack of kills. The less you say as a mod, the better it is. Infamously on another site, I once specifically revealed that a mason recruiter died of a failed recruitment - I should have just said that the player died and left everyone else to figure it out, as the failed recruitment was a valuable hint to the town. However, if you do say anything...

DO treat everyone equally - If you tell the cop that he got roleblocked, then you also tell the vanilla townie, then you also tell the godfather. Basically, it doesn't matter what the player's role is, if one player gets told something has happened to them, then you should say the same to every other player, unless the action is completely unique.

DO be consistent - Have an order of resolution for night actions. If a roleblock supersedes a kill on one night, then have roleblocks supersede kills for the entire game. Don't change it from night to night.

DO clarify your mistakes - If you mess up, then say. You don't need to announce it to the whole game, but if, for example, you allow an action to go through when it should have been blocked, notify the roleblocker of it. If you can, compensate in some way (when this happened in one of my games, I gave the roleblocker an extra block to use the following night).

DO calculate worst/best case scenarios - If EVERYTHING goes wrong for the town, how quickly will the game be over? If EVERYTHING goes wrong for the Mafia, how quickly will it end? This type of thing can give you a great indication of what kind of balances you need to put into place. Say... the vigilante, jack of all trades, mafia and serial killer all kill a townie on night one, what does that do to the game? No side should be able to (unless they are alone or start alone) lose within two day and night phases.

DON'T allow quoting of role PMs - Role-PM quoting roleclaims are all but impossible to counter claim, but further to that, they're immensely unfair to the anti-town side. Whilst they can be doctored, it becomes a LOT harder for the mafia to make plausible roleclaims if you're allowing people to directly quote the mod's information. Roleclaiming itself? Occasionally shaky, but okay. Direct excerpts? No. They're not fair.


DO have fun - If you aren't enjoying yourself, then that will transmit to the players. If you're not enthusiastic for the game, you're going to struggle to keep the momentum going. Take it easy and don't stress out, it's tough to mod, but once you get the hang of it, a lot of the time, the games will run themselves. Just do your job and it'll be fine.


Subject to edits and additions. If you have any questions don't hesitate to give me a buzz.

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