Epistemology Mafia (what had happened was…)

Every so often there is a game in the Play by Post and Roleplaying Games section that is just too cool to pass up talking about and reading about.  What follows here are notes from Cato, who ran the game, and then a few player’s takes on the events of each day.  Each account will often cover similar ground, but I think it’s worth the read because so much was done through Private Messages and even a secret account, that even reading through the original game thread doesn’t do the game justice.  The rules were a bit wacky, and highly confusing, and required a lot of lies, but it was also really creative and interesting, both from the player perspective and an outside perspective once I was out of the game.  It was a really fun game to participate in, and although I died by the end of Night 2, I certainly would join up another game, if only to try and survive just a little longer.




Written by and Run by Cato

A Word From The Gamemaster


I conceptualized this game a couple of months ago. The idea was to create a game where players would have to figure out information not only within the framework of the game, but about the framework of the game. I wanted to make the rules, then have the players to figure out, to decide how the game was to be played. To that end, I told the players only the basic parameters of the game, and created roles that helped the players further understand the game’s structure. I tried to balance the game by making the powers of each faction inversely correlated with the number of people on the faction: the faction with one player has the strongest role, the faction with 4 players has a role with a drawback. Originally, the Silent Prophet, zinger’s role couldn’t speak at all, the Philosopher, and Hello_World’s role, knew which factions corresponded to which powers. This created some synergy, because the philosopher would know that the silent prophet was his ally, and vote with him. In stead of Neosilk’s role, Cato, I had a role called “sophist” who was to be told that he had perfect information on everyone else’s roles and factions, but had random information. I PM’d GobO_Scarlet my original design document, and he suggested that these were really dumb and I should change them. I changed the Silent Prophet to have one word a day, changed the philosopher for balance reasons relating to that change, and changed Sophist to Cato. I made the decision to have a lynchless day first because people wouldn’t have enough information to make meaningful decisions day 1, and I wanted to give people a chance to use their night powers at least once. I made the decision that death would lead to a loss even in the case of a faction victory in part so that I could do the Cato role, and in part because it seemed to fit with the atmosphere of mutual mistrust that I wanted to foster in this game.

I gave the role of Hannibal to Scarlet because he knew the design document, so the only way to keep things fair was to give him the role that already knew the document anyways. Other than that, I used random.org to allocate the roles. Finally, it was game on.


Was I happy with how this game went? Definitely. There was a lot of thought, politics, and intrigue put into the game by the players, and it was fascinating to watch the whole thing unfold, and it the climax of the game, the revenge suicide by mod of Hello World, wasn’t something I’d even considered when I wrote the rules. Do I think it could have been better? Also yes. So let’s take a retrospective and look at the lessons I’ve learned:


1: Don’t use posting restrictions in roles, they’re unfun.
2: Don’t create objectiveless “survivor” roles, like numbers’, the game isn’t any fun without something to do.
3: Have contingency plans for how you’ll handle certain rules (posts after nightfall, rules violations by players, BCCing PMs) and make them clear to the players.


I’m working on a second epistemology mafia game right now. It will have the exact same known “rules”, but different roles and factions. With any luck, it will have all the fun of this game, with none of the hitches.


Each of the following accounts of the game are written by the players:


Day One

15377:  During day 1-2 initially I was going to sit the game out and only comment as an in-game spectator since I had a completely neutral role. But then Niklor irked my goat. Niklor had approached me about securing my vote for my life. After this point KoD started feeding me information on the Persian/Roman alliance and their intention to railroad Squinty, a Greek. I didn’t trust that he was just trying to be inclusive, suspecting that he was merely trying to direct my vote more subtly. I then took it upon myself to make sure that Squinty was equally as informed because I wanted to see what kind of counter offensive he’d muster. After KoD looped me into the counter alliance being almost as strong as the Roman/Persian alliance I pm’d Rag (whom KoD labeled a bit of a spokesperson for the Persian/Roman alliance) and told him about the counter offensive building. I told him he might be able to buy my support and told him to make me an offer, just to see what he’d come up with. He declined, saying it wasn’t necessary. I replied to him saying that the numbers you think you have might not always turn out to be the numbers you actually have, essentially telling him that there was a traitor in his midst, especially given the massive amount of insider information I had at that point. Later down the line HelloWorld pm’d me about voting against Rome or being killed. Gotta say HW, you got no poker face, but seeing Niklor mentioning you did it to him too made me laugh. I liked your gumption so I voted with the counter alliance. That was a pretty satisfying day.

Ragnarokio: Day 1: Me, Mown, and Niklor claimed to each other. We decided to gather roman and persian players to form a coalition which would then form the majority and win the game. Zinger initiated contact with me under the guise of making general chit-chat about non-game related things. He claimed to be greek and claimed that JaC was carthage. We used mown’s ability as a lie detector to check the alignment of KoD and Fel, and found that both of them were either persian or roman.

Niklor: Upon greeting the day, I promptly moved to tie myself closely with Mown and, not long after, Rag. Using some faulty logic, I presented the case that we should have no reason to lie to each other. Never let it be said you can’t build trust on lies. I found myself in a position where I was certain I could trust Rag because of his riddle that she messaged people with her Sudo account that her role granted her. Essentially, she was obviously Roman and being a Roman I knew that I could trust her no matter what came. Essentially, this made it very simple to also completely trust Mown. Sure, some slight possibility of roles that want specific factions dead was apparent, and well foreseen as it turns out, but I felt the odds were low enough for us to be in a very nice position, unless Mown turned out to be Carthage. Anyway, we quickly determined we could trust each other, discovered Mown had the power to verify the truth of claims made by other players, and set out to find the rest of our faction. Then, we didn’t talk to Zinger about the game at all.

CommanderJim: This was my first forum mafia game in a long time, and I had really played a couple games before ever, so I decided to avoid risks and wait until I had a better idea of what was going on. This led to me having no contacts and close to no information at the end of day one. Night 1, investigated Numbers. Since Numbers claimed to have no faction, I was curious to see if their ability was an alternate win condition.

GobO_Scarlet: When I got my role, I only saw a lot of problems on the way. Knowing the entire design file was powerful indeed, but it usually is because you know what to fake claim with it. In this case though, I read that there was someone else who knew the design file (though he could not talk), there was someone who had all the roles (so a fake claim would never work) and there was someone who knew the amount of people in each faction (so faction fake-claiming was also out of the question). And with the lack of solid NKs in the game I could only hope. I started pretty low-key. I got one PM from Hello World, but I posted in thread saying that people without my alignment would not have to contact me. I missed however that no-one knew other players’ alignment. So I shut myself out of a lot of early discussions. Wanting to make up for that, I messaged squinty_eyes after he gave away his alignment, thinking I could act as if I was the same. I also tried to sow distrust by suggesting people existed with multiple alignments, but I was shot down by Niklor’s role.


Day Two

Ragnarokio: Day 2: Squinty hinted at being greek in thread and we initiated contact with fel and KoD. By this point we had enough knowledge of alignments that we worked out a strong estimate at which players belonged to which factions, which turned out to be correct. The plan was to have the 7-player rome/persian faction dominate the remaining 4 players via a sequence of forced lynches until persia and rome won the game. This backfired when KoD of persia decided he didn’t want an easy win and turned on rome. I was lynched.

Nikor: Anyway, based on some hearsay and thoughts we had, we determined that Fel was likely a Roman. And some dude name Squinty came out in thread and displayed his faction for most everyone to see, which was Greece. We had Mown do a fancy check overnight where he checked Fel and KoD to see if either of them had the faction Greece or Carthage. Turns out, following Zinger’s farewell, neither of them did. Naturally, we took actions to gain both of them. At some point, we also felt it was highly likely that Scarlet was Carthage and Neosilk was probably Roman. All in all, we were in a pretty happy place. Hence, the sad downfall, which perhaps could have been avoided. Within the group, Rag was a little paranoid. She started realizing that I could have had reason to lie about my faction and it was driving her a little crazy. We had more or less decided Mown would check my faction to be certain, but she was a tad jumpy. Well, throughout the course of the day, as Squinty slowly neared certain death due to his own actions the previous day, we contacted several people. Towards the end, perhaps a little consumed by a desire to gloat, I contacted HelloWorld.

Now, I didn’t really do it to gloat, persay, but rather to pretend I was a friend and the other Greeks needed to act if they wanted my faction’s aid. May I congratulate HW for preying on our fears marvelously. He said he needed me to vote Rag or he would kill me tonight. Naturally, this led to a little discussion with my compatriots. The discussion was rather brief, it is sad to say. Rag, a little wild with fear, wanted to instead get rid of HW. Naturally, caring mostly about ensuring internal trust, I went along. Then, we proceeded to gloat. HW may explain more on this himself, but we were jackasses drunk on our own victory and majority vote. We contacted those we were certain were Persian and Roman informing them of what we needed to do.

This is when the great arbitrary KoD seizes power for himself on a whim. It is possible we could have turned it around if we had acted in concert or if everyone who should’ve been allied with us was online, but unfortunately, that is how mafia is. Despite how everyone entering into a mafia game should make a solid effort to be available before deadline, most players don’t. I’m sure there are many reasons and excuses, but let me be frank. If you don’t have the time to play mafia, then don’t play mafia. Anyway, yes, KoD betrayed us, leading to Rag’s execution. Based on poor orders, our one-shot kill continued to aim at Squinty, when we should have redirected at KoD. Well, to be fair, getting rid of Squinty was important, not that we knew it, but without KoD, Jim probably would have followed the remaining Romans and Mown to victory. Given HW had sort of revealed his role was not actively dangerous, we could have proceeded to lynch either Squinty or Scarlet and, even if we lost another member, probably could have come out with the Roman Persian victory we desired.

CommanderJim: Voted squinty, Hello World, Rag. Since squinty basically revealed their faction during Day 1, they were the one person that I knew was in an enemy faction, so I cast my vote. KoD actually asked me via PM if I was in the anti-squinty alliance, but I had no knowledge of this, so KoD was like “Oh, you must not be in my faction, then.” I had no idea there was a very strong and very knowledgeable Rome/Persia alliance at this point. I was completely out of the loop until squinty publicly posted about the existence of a Rome/Persia alliance. Soon after that, I got a message from Niklor, who claimed to be from Carthage and also lied about some other things in order to get me to tell them my faction. In the process, I also admitted that I’d totally betray Rome if I could maneuver things into a position where they were weaker. I didn’t realize at this point the sheer size advantage of the Rome/Persia alliance, but I learned later in the day when Rag PM’d me with an invitation to the alliance and a full (and, as it turned out, 100% accurate) list of everybody’s faction and some of their roles. I went from having barely any information at the start of the day, to knowing like 75% of the setup. I did not expect the game to move that quickly.

I could’ve just followed orders at that point and probably won the game with that alliance, but KoD messaged me about hating Rome and wanting to see it burn. I figured I had two options. I could stick with the alliance, lynching one enemy every day to reach a slow and inevitable victory, or I could keep the game interesting by lynching the Roman leader, ruining all prospects of working with Rome, and hoping to find a way to win from there. Since I didn’t want the game to effectively end on Day 2, I chose Betrayal. Night 2, investigated Scarlet. Since Scarlet was in a one-player faction, I was afraid of how powerful their ability was. I was relieved to learn that it was just omniscience, which seemed fairly inconsequential at this point in the game, considering how much information had already been spread around.

GobO_Scarlet: When Zinger was modkilled overnight it was partly perfect and partly not-so-good. With Zinger and HW both Greek and kind of detrimental to my plans role-wise I hoped to get some information about other factions. However, I contacted Ragnarokio, and underestimated the amount of influence he had gathered with his Pseudonym account. I also heard that Zinger had given information that revealed my intentions. I resigned to my fate. Even more so when people realized that squinty was not-their-alignment and as such was an easy lynch target. As I went to bed thinking it worked out terribly, I woke up to seeing Ragnarokio lynched and a PM from KoD, asking me if I would join him in a crusade against Rome. He shared everything with me that Ragnarokio shared with the Roman/Persian alliance. What Rag got was so eerily accurate I suspected he got it from Zinger and I got a bit peeved, so I joined him.


Day Three

15377: Day 3 started with KoD still dropping updates on the counter alliance, because if Mown didn’t side with the rest of Persia it was apparent he’d need my vote to play the numbers game. HW also pm’d me about continuing to support him. At this point I think my stance to HW was that I’d support a Niklor lynch and beyond that he’d be on his own. When KoD approached me later about supporting his side when Mown support seemed bleak I pretty much told him the same thing, I only had an interest in a Niklor lynch that day. So the wagon swerved over to Niklor (from Fel I believe, KoD desperate to get his hands on that Night Kill). Meanwhile I had been talking to Niklor who had approached me again about siding with Rome. I set him on the almost impossible task of setting up a KoD lynch at that point. I say almost impossible because I didn’t expect Mown to go for it, but you never know how people are gonna do. Had all four of them rallied against KoD it would have been an interesting game, because I would have let them both die in a 4-4 tie. But, alas, they didn’t even really try, just kinda shutting down on the idea when Mown didn’t go for it. Towards the end of this day, I believe, is when HW, Scar, and I started scheming to take down both powerhouse groups, the Persians and Romans.

Ragnarokio: Day 3 onwards: I stopped following as much after I die, but as far as i know KoD essentially continued his lynching spree, cutting down all of rome and also NKing Numbers for good measure. KoD’s role caused him to assume the role of the last person lynched. Neo’s role prevented him from winning if carthage was alive at the end of the game. After Neo was lynched, Hello World, as the last greek, got himself modkilled so that the game would end before the lynch occurred. This resulted in KoD not winning because carthage was still alive. The game ended with a Persia (Mown+Jim) / Carthage (JaC) Victory.

Niklor: I then proceeded to ally everyone and anyone like mad. Mown tried to work on KoD and Jim, but Jim was dutifully following KoD and KoD was a mad tyrant. This led to me being mildly upset with Mown. It essentially went like this: Numbers would vote with us if we voted a Persian and Mown wouldn’t. Counting Numbers, Mown, and the remaining Romans, we had a majority vote. However, neither of them wanted to budge. Mown took the annoying position of doing nothing. He wouldn’t stand with KoD, but neither would he work against him. And I decided I didn’t want to care anymore. I didn’t see a need to intentionally stress myself out any further after I’d ground my teeth for about three hours after Rag’s lynch. Sure, there was some minor chance that if all the Romans voted for a Persian, that Numbers would also do it, and that Mown would stay out, giving us a tie. But I just couldn’t be bothered. So, I tried to hammer myself, as in keeping with my record. I am not sure if I want to bring that back for regular games, but it was certainly a good way to release myself from the burden of this particular game, even if it did fail.

CommanderJim: Voted Fel, Niklor. As Rome continued to go after Greece, we momentarily had an “everybody versus Rome” situation, which worked out well. We originally wanted to lynch Fel in fear of their nightkill ability, but Numbers was being picky, so we switched to Niklor instead. Night 3, investigated Cato. Cato was the only player whose role I had no information on. I was pretty happy to learn it was a downside ability.

GobO_Scarlet: Squinty was NK’d. Knowing Hello World was now alone, I contacted him to ask him if he and I could work together to aid the minority, just to make the game a bit more interesting. HW told me he had some lines with Romans and he had told them I had 3 NKs (which was nonsense). However, thanks to that Rome was pretty scared of me thinking I had a weird OP role. From that point on I decided to speak the truth on everything. I told HW about my first encounter with Squinty and came clean about our earlier talk as well. It turned out that HW had contact with numbers as well and through this contact HW, numbers and myself decided to try an intricate scheme. We would balance the amount of people between Rome and Persia, trying to prevent KoD from getting a NK, and if it ended 2/2 between them, HW/myself/numbers could almost always decide the way the lynch would go. Initially I would remain with KoD on the Persian side of things, and HW would stay with the Roman side of things. Around the same time, KoD told me he was a bit scared of the unknown that was numbers. I told him I never had contact with numbers and at the same time signaled numbers about KoD’s fears. Because of this the lynch went to Niklor instead of Fel. Our first step succeeded.


Day Four

15377: Day 4 was pretty bland. I think at this point KoD was afraid of the power I was amassing considering the factions were starting to even out, he started updating less. The plan for the day with me and HW was to start taking down Persian numbers to keep them from amassing too much control, and to keep the NK out of KoD’s hands, because that would almost certainly spell doom for one of us (HW, Scar, or me). Early in the day we approached Fel about switching his vote to Mown with myself and HW for support and then me breaking the tie in Rome’s favor. We could have easily killed KoD, but the worry there would be that Mown would side back up to Rome, and Jim would follow, creating a bigger voting number then we could surmount. Fel dragged his feet on doing this (which I suspect was planned so that we’d feel forced to take KoD out) so Neo backed his KoD vote and disappeared. If luck had swung another way we would have still been successful, but timing was not successful in the matter.

CommanderJim: Voted Fel. We really just got lucky here. With Numbers siding with the Romans, we should’ve lost the vote, but Neo didn’t change in time. Night 4, investigated KoD. At this point, I had information on most player’s roles, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t working with some sort of suicidal maniac. Thankfully KoD’s ability was exactly what they said it was, which allowed them to nightkill our new tiebreaking enemy, Numbers.

GobO_Scarlet: Most of the day played out by PMs. I still told KoD I had every intention of following his plan and I aided in the lynch of Fel. Numbers and HW would wait until the last moment and force a tie between Fel and Mown, getting Mown lynched instead. Both reducing the Persian numbers to 2 and denying KoD the NK. A one-minute glitch in numbers’ connection prevented that however and Fel was lynched.


Day Five

CommanderJim: Voted Neo. As long as Scarlet stuck by our side, we had nothing to fear. We went for Neo first so that KoD wouldn’t end the game with the suicide ability. Night 5, investigated Mown. I knew Mown was some sort of cop variant, but I was curious if they had the same role as me or something different.

GobO_Scarlet: KoD shot Numbers and with 3 Persians, 1 Roman, me and HW left the plan between me, numbers and HW had no chance of succeeding anymore. We said our goodbyes and I continued talking up to KoD, making sure he would not get any second thoughts about me. However, he was convinced everything was all Numbers and I never had to worry about a thing at the end game.


Day Six

CommanderJim: Voted Hello World. Day 6 was pretty dumb, to be totally honest. Mown and KoD were at each other’s throats. I’m sure Mown put some significant work into forming the Rome/Persia alliance, so they were understandably upset about KoD tearing it apart, and KoD really wasn’t giving a single good explanation for why they did it. At this point, I just wanted our votes to get counted quickly so we could lynch Hello and win the game, but then Hello got intentionally modkilled in order to force KoD to suicide. So I won the game, but I was not at all happy about breaking the rules becoming a legitimate strategy. Overall, it was a pretty interesting game, and betraying Rome was actually really exciting, but it seemed like all the mystery of the game went away far too quickly, and the loophole on Day 6 really left a sour taste in my mouth. I think it was an ambitious setup, but a lot of it didn’t quite work out.

GobO_Scarlet: I rode the game to victory with the Persians.



The Factions and Roles


Rome: 4 players
Legionnaire: During any night, the legionnaire can choose a player to kill, but can only use this ability once. Played by Felbatista
Mathematician: Knows the number of players on each faction at any given time, but not their identities. Played by Niklor
Pseudonymous Author: Is given an alternate account named “pseudonym” which they can use in addition to their main account to PM other players or post in the mafia thread. Is allowed to reveal their identity (or lie about it) through PM, but is not allowed to use information from outside the game to prove their identity. Played by Ragnarokio
Cato: If the game ends without the Carthage faction being eliminated, must commit suicide. Played by Neosilk

Persia: 3 players
Spy: Can investigate one player every night to determine their identity and powers. Played by CommanderJim
Scientist: Can ask me once per night to verify or contradict a claim made by another player in the main thread or via PM. Played by Mown
Grave Robber: Whenever a player is lynched, until the next lynching, the Grave Robber gains all of that player’s powers. Played by KingofDominaria

Greece: 3 players
Spartan: During the 3rd nighttime, the spartan chooses a player to kill. During each subsequent nighttime, the spartan may choose to kill a player, but if they do, they die at the end of the next day. Played by squinty_eyes
Philosopher: Knows all of the powers available to the players, but does not know which powers belong to which players. Played by Hello World
Silent Prophet: Knows the factions and roles of every other player, but cannot communicate via PM or post anything in the thread besides their vote for who to lynch, and a single word in the thread per in-game day. Played by Zinger2099
Carthage: 1 player
Hannibal: Knows the identity and powers of each player. Played by GobO_Scarlet

No faction: 1 player
Merchant: Hand of the Market: decides who to lynch in the case of a tied vote. Played by 15377


The Summary by Cato


First off, Scarlet tried to sow discord by positing the existence of multi-faction players, which he knew didn’t exist. Numbers told everyone that he was neutral, and people actually believed him. Hello World, the philosopher, came up with some weird plan for communicating with Zinger within his posting restriction, but Zinger repeatedly broke the restrictions of his role, even after being warned, and got modkilled. Squinty made the mistake of letting a bunch of people know he wasn’t in their faction, starting a lynchwagon against him. Meanwhile, Rag used his pseudonymous author power to probe for contacts and form a Rome-Persian alliance, which he subsequently used to try to push a lynch onto squinty, and when changed focus hello_world when he defended his Greek ally. Meanwhile, however, KoD decided to push a counterlynch onto Rag, for… reasons? Numbers at this point felt that his safety was guaranteed by his factionless status, and decided to join the push for a counterlynch on Rag, which succeeded. During the night, felbatista used his one shot nightkill on squinty.

What followed was a war between Rome+Mown, who saw a Roman-Persian alliance as the easiest route to victory and sought to kill off the Greeks, and everyone else, led by KoD, who were afraid of Rome. Niklor was the first casualty of this, at which point Numbers joined the Roman side followed by Fel, which gave KoD the nightkill ability, which he used on numbers. At some point during this time, someone, Scarlet I think, told everyone that he had a triple nightkill ability. Finally, Neosilk, the last of the Romans, fell, leaving all of Persia, Hello World from Greece, and Scarlet from Carthage. Neosilk’s role, Cato, which forced him to commit suicide in the case of a Carthage victory, passed to KoD for a turn. Recognizing that the end was nigh, Hello World used his dying breath to avenge Numbers by intentionally breaking the rule about posting screenshots of PMs to get himself modkilled by me, forcing a Carthage victory while KoD still had the role, forcing him to commit suicide.


Zinger2099 – Modkilled during night 1
Ragnarokio – Lynched day 2
squinty_eyes – Night Killed during night 2
Niklor – Lynched day 3
felbatista – Lynched day 4
15377 – Nightkilled during night 4
Neosilk – Lynched day 5
Hello World – Suicide by Mod, day 6
KingofDominaria – Compulsory suicide, day 6
Mown – Winner!
GobO_Scarlet – Winner!
CommanderJim – Winner!


Thanks for joining us for a recap of the game, and if you’re interested in joining the next Mafia game, please head down to the Setup Zone, where new games are always being recruited for.  Also, check out the Gamefinder on the Front Page to see all of the currently recruiting games.

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