pyx Says Stuff About spruce, grit, and Utter Things

interview
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pyx Says Stuff About spruce, grit, and Utter Things

I usually start these interviews with a short introduction about the player, and some thoughts about how I first learned about them or saw their play. Pyx, a genuine Southern gentleman, took it upon himself to reminisce about his intro to the game and his early days as a player, and as is the case with all his writings, the whimsy and history mix into a delightful puzzle. It’s only in the fullness of time that you realize his Just So story is a faithful recording of the truth, redolent needling balm and finely ground corn.

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Pfft! I’m not really pyx, or at least I’m not only pyx. pyx is just one of the monikers I use for putting out fires, and so when I heard about mafia451 I naturally thought the site might be dedicated to setting the mafia world aflame – that, or maybe the burning embarrassment of mafia haemorrhoids burgeoning with the need of some deep soothing pyx salve. You see, there was this one time… at mafia camp, and all the other wolves went to howling something awful, and I thought, hmmm… must be haemorrhoids. And so I took it uponst myself to become the redolent needling balm of the pack. Oh, and it originated with me at ChristianForums, where pyx is a container used to carry Christ (or more specifically the Eucharist or communion) to the sick, not ordinarilly curing haemorrhoids, ordinarilly. Most internet folk know me as spruce or grit… um, gritsprucelleoni; but who am I is a question for the aged – it’s one we’re all searching for to know who I am – who’s in there who wants to come out and say, “Hey, I’m hungry”. You got to go in deep and pull out that thing like in that movie with the alien that came outta the stomach and ate all those people on that spaceship, may they rest in peace.

I entered the mafia somewhat reluctantly. There were other viable avenues out of the projects in those days and I really had my eyes set on a holier route of becoming a priest.

See, my first foray into internet chat was exclusively on Christian sites. There was a start-up discussion board from Tyndale House publishers, with whom I was loosely affiliated, set up for the fictional endtime series Left Behind, and though I wasn’t a Dispensational Premillinialist I enjoyed the wide-ranging camaraderie among Christian brethren and cistren. LBMB (Left Behind Message Board) became unmanageable for Tyndale (things like banning all members from Straight Dope) and though the largest thing around it closed, giving birth to The King’s Tavern, which then merged into Erwin Loh’s masterpiece of Christian Forums, the largest and most ambitious internet gathering of Christians for a while.

There were ‘outcasts’ from there too, especially some ex-Christians and other sundries at the sub-forum of Schrödinger’s Cathouse. CF also became unmanageable for it’s owner, who sold it (it’s still there, a skeleton of it’s former glory). But in the heat of battle several refugee camps sprang up on other sites. Internet Infidels was one site, TalkRational was another, and then there were the dozen or so somewhat Christian offshoots to where I gravitated. One was formed by CF’s former owner, Dr. Loh, called Online Life (now also defunct – Erwin, who grew to regret selling CF, got involved raising a family and admining for Monash Health in Victoria). That’s where I began my mafia association.

I remember years before when the mafia first infiltrated TR though. There was a birdlady and others who thought it was worth a try. MamaCrow and I had met and worked together a bit at CF. I sported a frawg avi in those days, and the moniker hopper across any site where a member. Anyway, I didn’t think mafia was for me and passed on it for a few years. But when it was brought to OL, by borealis I think, maybe MamaCrow or Teshi or all three graces, I joined in to help get it started there. And the TR crew invited me to TRmafia too, with warning that my ‘fluffy’ playstyle would get me kilt quicker than a Baptist on a Mormon. Anyway, that’s the first mafia game I can remember and still reference.
It was a 21-player Assassin’s Creed themed Teshi game showcasing the brilliant gamecrafting of Teshi and play of MamaCrow. Player teeth! called it “a historic Day 1 for TRTown”. The whole game was somewhat phenomenal, even trend-setting for TR. I had the good-fortune of being masoned up with MamaCrow, the Day-vig. She ploughed through non-town with a vengeance and helped me grow more confident each day. My only claim to fame was Day 3 hinting at being the Day Vig and drawing Night 3 fire away from MamaCrow Vig who stabbed the prostitute and final scum Day 4 for the win. It was a bittersweet moment though, as the last scum was ksen, a fellow Christian Calvinist with whom MamaCrow and I had both worked at CF.

And that’s maybe a point worth exploring, philosophically, if not too boring. Making the rounds after participating in MafiaUniverse multi-site championships, playing mafia/werewolf on 20 or more sites, I found few Christians and a prevalent philosophy of mafia as a lying game – a game essentially of who’s the best liar, and as such unsuitable for any strong moralists against lying. I’d admit it can be played that way, but I’d instead categorise it as essentially a role-playing psychological adventure bridging the worlds of fantasy and reality, much like theatre, film, and even the news media and the chronicling of history from the paradigm of victors and the enfranchised. I think my formative mafia play with TR, MR (mindromp), Ratskep, AFA (AtheistFoundationAustralis) have framed it as such. Certainly truth and reality are to be distinguished from falsehood and fantasy, but I grew up in the worlds of Tolkien and Lewis, Roddenberry, Bradbury, Jules Verne, Orwell, and the like. These were not divorced from reality, but layered and messaged through fantasy and individual paradigms of reality within certain models, much as what we see in today’s news and history books, every bit as much as with myth or parable. One of the expressed growing concerns worldwide is the advances in video manipulation technology, where a lie can be so virtually compelling as to alter reality.

Mafia, imo, stops short of a lie on several critical criteria. It isn’t meant to wilfully deceive on a real level, but to present an imagined world or worlds from the individual paradigms of the participants – some of which are compatible while others are not. For victory, those incompatible with one’s motivating factors must be eliminated. This has me approach most games as an independent, regardless of assigned alignment, and to sway others toward compatibility with my individual win-con.

Now if that all sounds too serious, it can be. Many have noted how aspects of the GAME can cause real hurt feeling or real euphoria. That’s why it’s essential for participants to navigate the separation of what is real from what is pretence, and to try as best they may to enjoy themselves while doing it. If everyone has a good time the game is a success for me, even if technically I may lose. BUT, I’d be lying if I said I don’t reap lots of enjoyment from meltdowns during games. I’m just very, very hopeful in hindsight or in present a flustered player will see the situation for what it is – an experiment in psychology.

Having said that I’ll admit that most, though not all, of my most memorable games are games I’ve won, and having several early in my mafia career possibly hooked me into a game I might otherwise have slighted. And I think like many I share a penchant with our esteemed for Serial Killer/Vig roles.

My first at MR was another matched role – each player was matched with another into one role, almost like a hydra, but with differences. praying and I started as Town Vig in Adenosine’s Bipolar/Asylum Mafia, but turned into a Serial Killer/Last Man Standing, and won as Mayor on the last vote of dying Scum (http://mindromp.org/forum/showthread.php?t=980).
Another early game at TR was a 15-player Kingmaker variant of mafia hosted by Cthulhu (no, not THE Cthulhu, I don’t think) (http://talkrational.org/showthread.php?t=39550). It was a perfectly orchestrated Scum game, apart from my getting godkilled the last day after inadvertently posting the link to the scum writeboard in a game on another site, LOL. I still say there was no need to kill me, though the GM was also playing the other game. I don’t think it ever dawned on TRTown that once the king was scum we just kept making each other king 'till Town was decimated.
Teshi, who ran the earlier TR game I mentioned also ran a 17-player GOT themed game at MR where I was Vig Drogon the Dragon (http://mindromp.org/forum/showthread.php?t=1491). I went helter-skelter burning most everyone to death, even when I knew they were Town, just for an all-the-marbles showdown with ksen again, the final scum. We killed each other the last night for the Town win. Great fun.

I really like the Le Morte d’Arthur game at the now defunct Theorama, where I got to help gib, Mz, and lh as Town Traitor. And strangely perhaps, though some don’t like games ending in a tie, I really enjoyed the Elder Furthark 2 game also at Theorama, where I think I might have done something weird at the end, making it a tie. I also enjoyed many of the games at RationalSkepticism, where the GMs pour sooooo much effort into the game designs.
And one more mention. After playing in the MU championship (I’ve given it 3 disappointing tries now, playing brilliant in each, imo, if I may say so), I followed most of my fellow players to their home sites. I was most impressed with nolemonplease’s boardgamegeek site, where in my first game (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1388456/let-baal-contend-im-not-going-change-my-mind-i-was) I landed the only indie role in a 33 player werewolf game: “Frank: Once he was nobody. Now he is a nightmare. Powerful. Unpredictable. Brilliant. What can he do? What can he not do? Evolved Human – Frank”. BGG is a marvel of play and complexity, well worth the visit. I’m still not sure but I think I technically lost, but the board was impressed enough with the role play that I somehow shirt-tailed in on a win.

I have a few traits of weirdness in playstyle and temperament that garner fame. I’m fluff central. I garner more from apparent fluff than most logic-based players do from bare-bones deduction. The game is one of psychology. Psychology taps into the dream-state and Rorschach inkblotery, the subconscious mind. THAT’S where Scum and Town alike usually trip-up. But I realise part of the game is staying alive, so I usually only try enough fluff to hold both teams at bay. Sometimes it works, though I purposefully often wind up as a Day 1 near-miss as lynches go. It’s fun living on the edge, and fun is the core of the game, or should be.
Another quirk that often renders me inscrutable is my constant need for an interpreter – folk often stammer at trying to understand anything I’m saying. I can be the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma of a paradox, somewhere in a Georgia conundrum, way outside of Russia. I often tote borealis around as my universal translator.
I also purposefully conflate my Town and Scum play. I was taught this was advantageous, though I’ve met as many players who would rather one have a few pocketed obvitown tells. It’s been humorously agonising a couple of times when players wrongly assumed to have found one in a correct circumstance or rightly assumed to have found one in a wrong circumstance. Though I don’t pretend to play well enough to avoid slips somewhat routinely. And then there’s other stuff, from the dark web.

One of the interesting things about the Online Life games was Erwin’s ideas for automating the game. As someone who hadn’t played a lot of games, his ideas for what to automate seemed in some cases quixotic. And I as a grumpy veteran game mod didn’t trust things like automatic flips after the deadline. I think my ideas for automating games have evolved since then, but the main thing I think makes games easier for players and mods is an automatic vote counter.

What did you think about his automation ideas?

Wow, I can remember not being entirely thrilled with some of it, but it’s difficult to entirely picture it now. I guess it was a lot like MafiaUniverse is now, except graphically way different. And I think the automated aspects of OL mafia had some of the same setbacks, like getting the bots to recognise various player identifiers in nicknames, abbreviated names, misspellings, and alt names where we real folk still knew who was meant. And I was just in a MU champs game where the auto game mod Mafia Host actually helped our team win by excluding even the showing of votes attempted after Nightfall.

Of course, playing around other sites a good bit since, one can really miss some of the game helps found at sites making the game a priority. Many sites still have manual bolding or colouring of votes instead of automated tags, and some sites I visit don’t even had real life game hosts give vote counts or thread helps for various cycles within a game.

I think some automation is quite helpful, but too much can maybe spoil romantic flavour. Some players prefer cold logic without the complexities and distractions of game flavour or emotional flair, while others thrive on an almost fully-realised rpg phantasy. I’m a bit in-between. I like my robots to have personality, like the old ChisBot alice bot Erwin put in-play elsewhere.

I could be misremembering, but I think Erwin automated voting and unvoting, so that you clicked a button to vote. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

You track votes yourself in great detail. What factors into your decisions whether to share that info with other players?

Yes, automated voting was part of what Erwin coded - I remember the little "x"s.

And, posting vote counts could be an aspect of player play. In fact, I’ve run into trouble a few times as a player when my counts have been inaccurate and so were thought to be purposefully off. It’s maybe easier when a game host posts them, and though that too is subject to error it’s rarely thought nefarious. I originally picked it up from teeth! at TalkRational, with all his colour-coordinated glory and VCA (vote count analysis) comparing EOD (end of days). It initially was a way for me to contribute and seem town as being a genuine help to town, but I’ve always posted them as either alignment and endeavoured to always be accurate with them.

It’s important to remember that VCA is just one element of the game. Particularly as a player’s scum game develops they really shouldn’t be caught by that, but yeah, there have been a few times when I’ve been very hesitant to post a count that says, “HEY! spruce is scum!” Maybe my history with posting counts has improved the VCA part of my game.

The automation now available, with showing movement and timing of votes can actually be quite telling of what a player may be thinking at a given time. But I think all players deserve to know the “score”, like in most other games. Still, those EOD CFDs (Chinese fire drills, which I’m told is racist and should instead be either “Babylonian Teamwork” or as Zeluvia of MR would say, “clusterf*** of death”) can be quite maddening.

You’ve played mafia on a HUGE number of sites. What have you learned about variations - game meta/site meta - along the way? Is it possible to classify sites based on some of the similarities and differences?

Mmmm… it’s still troubling to this old Christian the enmity that exists between people of such common bonds. It’s not to be unexpected, as double-negatives go, but when it comes to killing folk in online gaming one would hope going in that there’d be a certain genteel air of Southern hospitality and an acceptance of eventual death, that comes for us all. Remarkably this is not what I’ve found, nor apparently fostered. The lager and more encompassing the site the more entrenched it seems is the enmity and paranoia that eventually topples a cultural egalitarianism. I don’t know, maybe it’s just an American dynamic.

But, alas, I diverge philosophically; or is it wax philosophical? To wit, mafia seems best to thrive where the game is just that – a game, and where enjoyment of such is maximised – not unlike rats conditioned to reap pleasure from properly operating technical machinery or forum management. But the key is not so much the way the rats run things but the variety of paranoia and death one may encounter along the way – as they say (the terrifying big brother they), “variety is the spice of life”. Apparently that works just as well for death. Elements like game complexity, role madness, maximized mayhem and terror seem to draw ginormous crowds from site to site. Which actually amazes me somewhat that a friend known as Gonzo/Enso hasn’t been more successful with it.

There’s still the need for introductory games and/or smaller games that are easier to digest. Some sites specialize in these, so yes, that’s a classification, but some of the smaller sites don’t have much of a choice. There are great differences too between sites where players know each other rather well and have historic established meta, and sites where there’s more an infusion of fresh blood. I’m from Appalachia, so of course we know all about in-breeding, but we’ve also discovered that allows for creating new oddities or things with enough deformities as to be quite interestingly different, thus meriting attention or curiosity and a certain, “I simply CAN’T look away” factor.

Still, no matter where I’ve ventured in my mafia/werewolf travels, most of the basics seem very much the same, or at least may wisely be filtered down to those. In other words, a very lot can be done to make chicken taste unique, but if one allows oneself to be fooled into thinking it’s something else entirely, well, you’re going to wind up staring at a lot of worm food as the last player left alive by a squad of mafia, and possibly wetting yourself unintentionally.

What do you think is the most unique aspect of you as a player?

I’m told it’s twofold; Inscrutability and fluff. Our wolf team just won in MU champs - almost a perfect win, except that half of us were absent at the crucial moment. Honestly, from the start we choose wolf roles accentuating our personal game strengths, but most everyone said during and after that I was simply inscrutable. I mostly hear that elsewhere too, though more than a few sites gauge inscrutability as a definite wolf trait, and fluff too. I don’t run across many actually who make psychological use of fluff the way I do.

How do you use fluff psychologically?

Both town and mafia tend to enter a game with some special excitement or trepidation. Sometimes even that’s enough to tip their hand. For example there’s often 1 wolf eager to jump right in and maybe a couple of wolves wanting to hold back. Or there’s some weird wolf who wants to lay down a vote or argument with a teammate early on.

LOL, I remember 1 wolf who once bussed her entire team, or maybe got a bit forced there, hoping to ride it to victory. I think she tried it in maybe a few games actually, once spectacularly to victory, and once to epic fail. Anyway, talking fluff can trick the mind into relaxing, but the emotive distraction of being a mafia member is still there subconsciously. Maybe it’s a left-brain / right-brain thing.

So for logic players, fluff naturally frustrates them and maybe their mind overloads a bit and they inadvertently expose themselves. Or, if they’re not overtly logic-based in play style, just the relaxing lull of fluffiness can have one also tip their hand a bit, especially in lingering too long in the fluff zone or slipping a little too conveniently into common mafia tells, which often themselves are of a psychological nature.

That poor wolf! Here’s an example of how you were able to interpret reactions to your fluff as town.

In this game you called out the entire scum team on day 2 based on their reactions to your day 1 play.

How does fluff work as a scum strategy?_

It’s basically the same principle. In fact, most any distraction or a flurry of distractions will do, so long as a player isn’t simply overwhelmed and shuts down. But there’s definitely the advantage to having distractions be fluffy, so the player isn’t thinking too hard. A town fluffer wants scum to be at ease on the surface while conflicted underneath. A scum fluffer already knows who the town are, usually, so they would employ fluff to hunt power roles. That’s a bit more difficult and trickier. One of the worst things to appear to do is power role hunt. And a lot of Game Masters are pretty good at throwing players enough curves to make looking for crumbs from power role players in closed setups even more difficult. But a wee dose of scum fluff (one really ought not use too much) can go a long way, especially if the wolf team suspects a player of being a certain role or crumbing a certain role and wants some slight confirmation through fluff that may somewhat reflect the role in question.

I think over time people come to appreciate both your whimsy and your skill.

Do you have a preferred alignment?

I think for me, playing town is more a challenge, 'cause one has to seek out more information, but I love the freedom being a vanilla town gives one. Being mafia forces a more intimate alliance of critical cooperation, and one never knows what one is going to get in terms of teammates. But I really love being Third Party / Indie.

It’s somewhat strange perhaps that as any alignment I immediate fantasise about being innocent ‘true town’. Thus, regardless of assigned alignment I am always town - either godlike independent (ranging on a spectrum of benevolent patron to antisocial schizophrenic) whose responsibility is the conditioning of all players, misunderstood outcast whose small similar-minded band are tasked with similarly overpowering players for their own good, or yeah, a majority of true believers in need of purging out the bad seed.

So, OK, my preferred alignment is a good guy, maybe even the hero of the story.

Do you have a favorite role?

I like being either a lone Serial Killer or the Town Vig (who’s a Lone Serial Killer). Putting people out of their misery is really what the game is all about, and it’s a pleasure to be of service to humanity.

Town-compatible SK and vig used to be my favorite roles. Then I got a neighborizer role in this one game.

What’s the most memorable event from a game you played or modded?

Well, I’m a Calvinist, and as destiny would have it I’ve had a few death matches with fellow Calvinist ksen. My first game at TalkRational was a marvellous one of those, but my favourite was A Teshi GMed “Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones)” game at mindromp. Town won and I was MVP, but ksen came out of it even more famous as scum MVP, playing the Vanilla Scum Joffrey of House Lannister the entire game as a self-created fake-claim of Hodor, with the fake post-restriction of only being able to post “Hodor”. I was Town Vig (and elected Mayor (with an added .5 voting strength)) Drogon the Dragon of House Targaryen. Anyway, we lynched 2 scum days 2 & 3 and I burnt to death 2 scum nights 2 & 3. And somewhere in there I realised what ksen was up to. But, LOL, we did our dance for 3 more days, lynching town and with me purposefully burning known townies to death, with everyone having great fun. And so ksen and I killed each other together night 6, squeaking out a town victory. Good times that.

Another etched memory was my GMing an experimental kidnapping game borealis had suggested at mindromp - B.C. Comic Mafia. Scum & a solo Indie Third Party won, but to this day it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of players who remember “The Cave”. We don’t speak of it really (yes we do). Mostly the experiment failed, but we had a very gifted female player (let’s call her dg) returning to our site and most excited with her role as Town Masoned together with another gifted GM we had borrowed from AFA (Atheists Foundation of Australia). She was Dookie Bird from the comic strip, and her partner was John the Turtle. Well, poor John got kidnapped Day 0, and somewhere around Day 2 dg had a complete meltdown (somewhat of a trademark of hers to that point), even deleting their shared writeboard. She was livid! I… I had to… godkill (modkill) her. And poor ol’ spruce, I couldn’t tell if the meltdown was real or not, but it was real. We soon resolved things though and now are very supportive of each others mafia play. At least one of us looks back fondly on the experience and laughs.

I think I’ve heard the Hodor story before.

Do you have a favorite game of all time?

I think my favourite would indeed be the Hodor game.

What kinds of setups do you prefer to play?

I prefer a game pretty close to actual time, like 24/12. I know it’s with what I’ve been most familiar, but I’ve really tried other formats and they just don’t have the same appeal. And some of the untimed that last for months and have such high player turnover, those can be agonising. But say this side of 72/36 I enjoy most of the variety there is.

A lot’s to be said for uncomplicated games with mafia basics in place or maybe just a role or two that’s weird or one guiding element that’s unusual, 'cause one can unfetter the mind with the mechanics a bit and concentrate on reading players. The same with mountainous vanilla games where the town has no ‘cheats’ to help them out, just pure talk.

There are several sites that go the other way entirely. FlashFlashRevolution, Naruto Forums, Oro Jackson, and especial Board Game Geeks are particularly rich with role madness and mechanical twists and turns. Most all the BBG games have like 1 hour nights, if I remember correctly. And that complexity of play can be fun too. Strangely perhaps, the waiting time in sign-ups on those sites can be a bit of a bear. I’m not used to signing up and then checking back 3 months later to see if the game started yet. It somehow seems related, even when sites carry on several games at once. Maybe I’m just a bit bipolar when it comes to death and mayhem.

Have you ever seen town win a mountainous game?

Hmm… that’s a stumper. I recently ran one at MR where scum won, and Majiffy has run a couple there both won by scum. But Sybil (Imp & nostrum) ran a weird sort of double mountainous of 2 parallel universe games that town won… twice. It was 12-4 with one Town godkilled (modkilled) Day 3.

It does put a lot more pressure on town to deliver the goods without gimmicks, but I think it’s pretty balanced. It’s a curiosity though, that some models vary somewhat widely between 8-2 to 11-2 as a balanced ideal for a basic mountainous. Some of that may come from how well established is player meta. On sites like MR where we’ve mostly known each other for years an 8-2 or 9-2 could very well be won by town I think. On a game between strangers one would likely have to have a 10-2 or 11-2 for it to balance.

I’ve never seen a mountainous game won by town. I think the stats run close to 80% scum wins. Vanilla Nightless is probably a little more balanced. But you’re probably right that games where people are familiar with each others’ meta may be a little easier for town.

Is there a game flavor you’ve always wanted to design but haven’t, yet?

I think I’ve exclusively stuck to GMing at MR, so that currently puts us at about 12 players and less for most games. One can still do a lot with that, and as more experimentally receptive than some sites it has given opportunity to try some strange things. I recently ran a game using werewolf format and roles, for example, mostly taken from BoardGameGeek. And we’ve often thrown in some of the weird stuff wandering around mafiascum. MU has some strange stuff, esp. in their Anniversary games, and most of the other large sites. I think as game flavour goes my taste for blood is somewhere between sated and slaked, until maybe there’s a full moon.

I think over time people come to appreciate both your whimsy and your skill.

Do you have a preferred alignment?

I think for me, playing town is more a challenge, 'cause one has to seek out more information, but I love the freedom being a vanilla town gives one. Being mafia forces a more intimate alliance of critical cooperation, and one never knows what one is going to get in terms of teammates. But I really love being Third Party / Indie.

It’s somewhat strange perhaps that as any alignment I immediate fantasise about being innocent ‘true town’. Thus, regardless of assigned alignment I am always town - either godlike independent (ranging on a spectrum of benevolent patron to antisocial schizophrenic) whose responsibility is the conditioning of all players, misunderstood outcast whose small similar-minded band are tasked with similarly overpowering players for their own good, or yeah, a majority of true believers in need of purging out the bad seed.

So, OK, my preferred alignment is a good guy, maybe even the hero of the story.

Do you have a favorite role?

I like being either a lone Serial Killer or the Town Vig (who’s a Lone Serial Killer). Putting people out of their misery is really what the game is all about, and it’s a pleasure to be of service to humanity.

Town-compatible SK and vig used to be my favorite roles. Then I got a neighborizer role in this one game.

What’s the most memorable event from a game you played or modded?

Well, I’m a Calvinist, and as destiny would have it I’ve had a few death matches with fellow Calvinist ksen. My first game at TalkRational was a marvellous one of those, but my favourite was A Teshi GMed “Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones)” game at mindromp. Town won and I was MVP, but ksen came out of it even more famous as scum MVP, playing the Vanilla Scum Joffrey of House Lannister the entire game as a self-created fake-claim of Hodor, with the fake post-restriction of only being able to post “Hodor”. I was Town Vig (and elected Mayor (with an added .5 voting strength)) Drogon the Dragon of House Targaryen. Anyway, we lynched 2 scum days 2 & 3 and I burnt to death 2 scum nights 2 & 3. And somewhere in there I realised what ksen was up to. But, LOL, we did our dance for 3 more days, lynching town and with me purposefully burning known townies to death, with everyone having great fun. And so ksen and I killed each other together night 6, squeaking out a town victory. Good times that.

Another etched memory was my GMing an experimental kidnapping game borealis had suggested at mindromp - B.C. Comic Mafia. Scum & a solo Indie Third Party won, but to this day it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of players who remember “The Cave”. We don’t speak of it really (yes we do). Mostly the experiment failed, but we had a very gifted female player (let’s call her dg) returning to our site and most excited with her role as Town Masoned together with another gifted GM we had borrowed from AFA (Atheists Foundation of Australia). She was Dookie Bird from the comic strip, and her partner was John the Turtle. Well, poor John got kidnapped Day 0, and somewhere around Day 2 dg had a complete meltdown (somewhat of a trademark of hers to that point), even deleting their shared writeboard. She was livid! I… I had to… godkill (modkill) her. And poor ol’ spruce, I couldn’t tell if the meltdown was real or not, but it was real. We soon resolved things though and now are very supportive of each others mafia play. At least one of us looks back fondly on the experience and laughs.

What do you think makes the difference between a good (strong) player and a terrifying one?

Usually their intent toward killing me. But, really, a lot is to be said for maintaining one’s calm. It helps at times to mimic fear for dramatic effect, or anger, or frustration, or any number of other emotive tells sometimes thought of townish hue; but it’s important to never actually panic nor resign. It doesn’t mean one doesn’t come across the scary point blank performance.

Yes, some players have a remarkably advanced gift at the game, and so are routinely strong, with a usual reputation of it. That usually means a developed gift of reading people through posts and presence, an innate awareness of both associative and personal slips, and a detailed awareness of both game strategies and conversational ambience. Logic and knowledge of such can also often be strong factor, but leaning on that too much can also be a trap, for most people are naturally illogical regardless of alignment.

A player often becomes terrifying through unknown factors which can’t be precisely quantified. For example, one can be dancing along with a perceived control of the game when out of the wings there pounces a lurker with rational solutions and suspicions. I’ve seen several players most excellent at that; Martin, charlou, OmicronPersei8, Bilirubin, Amok, to name a few. They don’t usually have a strong game presence, rarely anywhere close to top posters, but they can drop like a bomb and immediately alter a game dynamic. Other strong players can sometimes control a whole game, but those drop-in players can indeed be terrifying.

True, getting ambushed midstride by a seemingly lurky player is pretty terrifying!

Do you do any sort of preparation for the MU Championship games?

LOL. My first one I did. I looked at player sites and games and such. But we had 2 last minute substitutions, and I don’t think much of the research was helpful to me anyway.

Last year I was only a sub to start, and really thought the primary was gung-ho for the game. I didn’t sub in until half-way through Day 4, so no, no prep. I managed to almost single-handedly pull off a win the last day, so I did get a wildcard game after, but it was an unmitigated disaster of inadvertent player cheating and lack of any mod accountability. divagreen and I were in it together, both asking to be let out half way through, along with a few other players. IMO, the game should have been re-rand, but the champs scheduling doesn’t allow for that.

This year I was actually ready to boycott again, as we did season 3, but Lissa was hard-pressed to complete the lineup for game 7 and needed someone right away. So I only got notice 5 hours before game start. A lot was made there this year about practice games at the site prior. I think the jury even gave some preference in wildcard selections to players who had toned their skills or site adjustment in practice games, saying more players should have taken advantage of those.

Do you have any advice for newer players?

I was a new player once, and was told then and have frequently seen others told since to just jump into the conversation. That’s maybe a lot better than relying on role conversations in private, like say a Mason, a Neighbour, or being part of a mafia team. Those for sure can be a great introduction, even as a non-player ride-along. But there too I’ve seen too many new players interested in the game scared away by the challenges of it. I fear that even having a mentor can sometimes be intimidating, because it isn’t natural to the game and it divides a player’s attention. No, I think it becomes incumbent on fellow players in the game thread to take the measures necessary to be both welcoming and instructive, to put themselves in newbie shoes. Several sites insist on beginner games for newbies, which can be good for basics, but then there are new challenges at advanced play. Better maybe to “let the newbie in” but to ease them into game stuff with non-game conversation within the game.

So maybe for newbies, some basic questions they can ask of players:

Are all you guys from Australia? What do you think of Canadians?
What is a vote tag, is that like a skin tag you put vinegar on?
What does it mean when my role says I’m bulletproof?
Why is borealis being so mean to everyone, does that mean she’s on the evil team?
Why is catspur always posting poetry and talking about eating babies?
I know a lot has been said and I’ve been kind of quiet, but are we serious about lynching spruce? Why?
Do you think fferyllt would be talking about avatars as a wolf?
Who should I vote for?
Is it OK if I change my mind later about who seems good or evil?
What time do we take a bathroom break or stop for lunch?

Is there a question you wish I would ask you?

Did we talk about replacement players or substitutions? I know I’ve touched on that at several sites, and several sites have a variety of rules and guidelines concerning those or even talking about it within an ongoing game. It ruined a championship game for me last year over at MU. They’ve tried to nullify any alignment aspect of player substitutions, but it’s a thing.

Personally, I hate substitutions, but I know it’s actually a large part of the game, especially longer games. It’s always best if GMs have a pre-game selection of possible replacement players, though this isn’t always probable or even possible.

But I think when integrating subs into a game it should be almost automatic as opposed to eliminating that spot by a modkill. And it should be perfectly fair and not thought as angle-shooting to talk about any relative alignment thoughts regarding subs and substituting. I consider it part of the game. Now, there are things I agree are out of line, like gauging a players alignment by online status or presence elsewhere on the internet. But even there, if that’s knowledge a player has, that player is going to weigh it as a factor as part of game-play.

Mafia ethics has maybe always been a delicate aspect of the game. I’ve run into quite the variation on things like zombie play, post editing, quoting the GM or PMs, and other standard rule violations. There have been many a game where I’ve disagreed on whether or not the game was broken, or whether having a GM eliminate a player over breaking rules was warranted. It’s often a quandary as to what to do in certain situations, and I sometimes wish there was more an openness to simply re-rand a game and start over, though in closed formats that’s perhaps seldom possible.

I think too, one aspect of the variety of game cultures one encounters is the variation in roles and what’s thought standard or allowed in role usage. I remember Teshi used to always present a detailed list of possible game roles in closed setups, with maybe only a fifth of them in actual use, That’s likely not always possible, but as maybe a bit of GM or site advice (and for some sites role usage varies by GM) having a standard expectation for say, whether or not a Jailer can jail himself, or a Doc can target themselves or consecutively, and the same with a Roleblocker - those such clarifications at game start can go a long way toward keeping the mob happy.

Replacements are difficult to account for as a moderator and hard for players to ignore. I’ve seen what I think is a trend of sites or individual moderators to adopt MafiaUniverse’s rule about not discussing replacements, and I don’t think I’d agree with that rule as a moderator.

Is there someone you’d particularly like to see interviewed in this format? Is there a question/questions that you’d like to ask them?

I know I’m also looking forward to the Ellibereth interview. I’m not sure I know enough of the other members besides catspur and Smilodon, either of which would be an interesting read. I saw on Discord that Quick is new? Quick and I were in champs together this year, and I’ve run into him once or twice elsewhere, like at the Personality Café. He’d have some unique things to say I bet. Might be interesting to hear more from one who’s big time into spreadsheets. And Mafia451 sent a rep this year, yeah? Chesskid. I know I’ve played with him elsewhere too and I know he’s good and would be an interesting read, but maybe that’s set for a special MU Champs feedback thing? We at MR have had a bitter pill on the whole MU champ experience.

But, yeah, you likely have a variety of player-types you’re aiming at, like I know you’ve tried to mix something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, so…

Of people who don’t play at mafia451, hey_monkey from my MU champs game and slated for our upcoming wildcard game would be good. Getting into her homesite was a bear for for me, so maybe catch her at MU. She’s got the spreadsheets. Dixie, from last year’s MU champ would be great too, but I think she’s Dutch, 'cause her homesite of WeerwolvenvanWakkerdam.nl is Dutch. Jamie, also from last years champs, actually won our game last year. He’s at Zelda Dungeon. NoLynches/Visorslash was with me in Season 2 of champs. He’s loaded full of awards at MU as Visorslash, but has sporadically played with us at MR in a pinch. And Dr. White of this year’s MU champs and the Naruto Forums would be a good interview I think.

Do you have a question(s) you’d particularly want to ask them?

They’re all pretty prolific posters in games, so something about that. Are they just quick with a keyboard? And monkey particularly on all the work she puts into it with spreadsheets and such. Is it just a natural flow?

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Many thanks to Pyx for this detailed peek inside his unique approach to the game of Mafia!

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(fairlylit) pinned globally #2
#3

Great read.

#4

What is MR?

(fairlylit) #5

It’s a small site called MindRomp. Not sure how many mafia players are there, but they have a mafia forum. I think they’ve had a representative in all of the Championship games, starting back at the 2+2 forum prior to MU being launched.

(fairlylit) unpinned #6