Thor665 has been playing mafia for about 10 years, and, as a perennial Newbie game player at mafiascum, he has had a profound influence on many mafia players who have begun playing more recently. I knew of Thor before I played any games with him, and was equal parts intimidated and impressed by the time we played our first game. I’ve had the good fortune of only drawing a scum role in a game with Thor665 when he was my scum partner!
However, I did draw cult leader role in a game that had no town factions, but had 6 non-town factions. Majiffy’s bastard game was based on the HBO series, Oz, and one of the players aptly described it as a “game on crack”. I recruited Thor on night 2 because he had almost immediately figured out that the game had no town and every faction was in it for themselves. He, as well as Nacho’s hydra were scary-good at pushing lynches, and of the two, Nacho was more likely to naturally ally with me than try to lynch or kill me, so I recruited Thor that night.
In this post, Thor outlined his understanding of the Oz game, and how he intended to meet his win condition. He became an immediate priority to recruit!
How did you first learn about mafia? Do you remember your first game? What was it like?
My memories are actually pretty vague about how I first learned about Mafia. If I recall correctly heard about it via another forum I was part of in one of those “Other Distractions” type sections that generally lurks near the bottom of any forum. Someone there was expressing interest in running a Mafia game, and it sounded interesting so, as is my wont, I started doing a lot of research into the game theory so I’d be able to play it better. That search brought me to the Mafiascum Wiki and from there I got pulled into signing up for a game on Mafiascum.
I remember my first game pretty well, it was at Mafiascum and I’ve gone back to read it maybe two years ago out of curiosity on how I’ve changed as a player. It ended up being an interesting Newbie as, for quite a while there, it was holding the record as one of the longest Newbies ever on site. It was a very grinding and analytical game mixed with the usual confusion of Newbies in how to react to more experienced players and a lot of oddities (I want to say there were 3 IC replacements in it…). I ended up in the clutch position in lylo and correctly picked the scum after a game that had gone on for months. After that I was pretty much hooked and immediately started signing up for new games.
Does anyone from your first game still play mafia? (that you know of, anyway!)
Oooh, just remembered we had a mod replacement too XD We had a playerlist with a few Mafia-internet famous names on it, I’m pretty sure some of them are still picking up the occasional game. Nachomamma8 is the only one I’m certain is still active now that Yosarian seems to have taken a long enough hiatus to maybe be retired. My first game was long enough ago it’s hard to hang onto people.
How would you describe your playstyle?
I think everyone in the game tends to have very unique playstyles (which is part of the fun) and also people tend to evolve and change in reaction to the meta and their own lifestyles. I used to be very careful and analytical, but that shifted over time and I think I was amongst the early cusp of the ‘wild and wacky’ wave that really hard shifted the site meta (and continues to do so). As currently stands I’m still “wild and wacky” but I’m an old school version, so nowadays I’m probably looking more like an analytical type again.
The core of my scumhunting is Socratic method though - I just pepper people with questions and play (or legit am) dumb while trying to make them explain their stance on something trivial or major a few ways. I look for holes in internal logic and attack them. It works pretty well as a method.
When did the shift in site meta begin?
When did it stop?
Though as a serious answer - Mafiascum used to very much have a rep for long, slow, reason based play. It was the reason I chose MS as my home site over other options at the time because that appealed to me. Nowadays I don’t think the same could really be said about the play at MS, though we are probably still a more ‘long burn’ style than most sites and the length of phases lends to that.
The shift in meta is a constant thing, but I’m pretty sure we all agreed that Fate was the player most responsible for it as he had this sort of ‘scream until listened to’ playstyle. Now, there was a lot more to his playstyle, but that was the obvious part of it, and I (and others) noticed it was actually a pretty functional way to shift the vote counts so we started to emulate it in certain ways, as more people did it then more people noticed it worked and the dominos began to fall, probably around late 2010 to early 2011 I’d say the avalanche was hitting the point that site meta was notably changing. The issue is that Fate was a very good player who had a persona, and some people got that, while others just decided maybe it was good play to be stubborn and shouty and wild.
I noticed earlier this year that you mentioned that you are “going postmodernism” in terms of how you assess scum-tells, and I’ve been curious ever since as to what that means!
It’s my joking way of assessing how playstyle changes for people who’ve been playing as long as I have. When you’ve been in Mafia games on multiple sites for nearly a decade you get to a point where you’ve sort of seen everything. I’ve won games, as Mafia, after openly claiming to be Mafia. I’ve seen town players hammer a player they have openly claimed to town read while casting the vote. I’ve seen scum distance, buddy, ignore, and tunnel themselves and each other. In short, I’ve gotten to a stage where I’ve realized everything is a scum-tell and nothing is a scum-tell and I can describe lucidly and provide examples to support any given comment.
So at that point, what is a scum-tell and how do you scumhunt?
My chosen answer is that…you don’t, you townhunt. I think it’s far more reliable to try to spot people trying to solve and sort the game, and then just kill everybody else - it appears to work with slightly better than random chance odds, which passes my personal litmus test for a good method. However, you are then left with a scum case of “eh, why not?” half the time. I call that Postmodernism scumtelling, where pretty much I’ll just pick any ol’ reason to advance a given scum case. I can present it as scummy, but I have to admit any and everyone disagreeing with me has a valid point - that said, I also equally believe that to be immaterial.
It’s a far cry from when I used to be very convinced of every case I made. I hope that makes sense.
To sum it up shortly - usually people will say to me as I present a scum case ‘that’s not a scum-tell’ and I’ll be both agreeing and disagreeing with them while wanting some sheep.
It does make a lot of sense. It’s the direction my own playstyle has moved toward in the last few years, though I miss the days of feeling certainty, even though it was often illusory.
Does your playstyle involve looking at player meta?
Absolutely, though meta is only part of any assessed read. I always find it interesting when people go negative about meta as though meta is anything different than assessing posts in a given game. You shouldn’t blindly lock yourself to it, but it’s a perfectly fine tool.
When was it everyone got their knickers in a bind about that? I feel like in late 2015 half the site was on a meta train and by 2016 or so suddenly you were a raging nitwit to try to meta anyone.
What do you think makes your playstyle unique?
Probably length of experience with the game is the core cause of most of my “uniqueness” at this stage. I guess one “unique” thing I could claim is I’m at least 50% willing to make the claim that I started the trend of not ‘catching up’ on the game when replacing in. Certainly when I first started doing it I can’t think of anyone else who would have openly admitted they weren’t doing so. Nowadays that habit is far more common (for good or ill) but as a possible progenitor I think I’m allowed to claim uniqueness there. Other than that probably the general Postmodernism is a good claim - I think people need to be playing for 5+ years to even get close to that sort of mindset so it tends to be a select crowd who really start going there.
I think Magua has made ostentatiously not catching up a part of his mafia persona, but yeah, there are quite a few players who don’t.
The first time I replaced into a game with the intention of not catching up, it turned out my slot was a compulsive even night vig. So, I abandoned that idea and did my best to process the prior game days.
For me it was mostly because I find it better to interact with people for my reads than just read walls for them - so the catch ups tended to yield minor stuff, and I also tend to believe people point you to interesting moments anyways.
I can see feeling dicey about that as a Vig though
We lynched the last scum on that game day, so I didn’t have to take a vig shot after all.
Something else that’s unique about my play is that I basically never post a reads list - I think they’re pointless and I hate how people organize them. That’s a pretty aggressive stance to have towards something that I think the average player would consider a pro town behavior, especially considering how I’m so on about communication as a major core component of town play.
Do you frequently get asked for a reads list?
Very rarely - because I do practice what I preach (usually) and am an aggressive communicator. I am generally very clear about who I’d like to see lynched and generally (unless you’re daft) have a group of people I am actively working with or defending which are clearly town reads. However, every now and then, people will make demands for a reads list and I get snarky with them and suddenly it’s a scum-tell that I haven’t weighed in on the five lurkers in the game and ranked them from most to least scummy off their combined fifteen posts.
It makes me weep for the gamestate
Do you have an alignment preference?
I absolutely prefer playing town with every fibre of my being. Playing scum is a service you perform for the community. I appear to be good at that service, but the highs and lows are so much more intense with town it’s not even close.
A kindred spirit!
Do you have an opinion about hydras? I’ve only seen you play in one hydra (with Nacho).
Well, Nacho is my bae so we had to combine at some point
I’ve participated in a small handful of hydras. Usually I find that they just add confusion and communication issues to the slot both playing as and playing against. In short, I think they tend to make excellent tools for scum and are usually pretty ‘meh’ for town. As such I’ve drifted away from them as a habit. I understand the allure of them, and do think they have some really neat benefits as a teaching tool and way to get to know how someone else plays. That said, if they were banned from the site tomorrow I wouldn’t even feel my eyes moisten.
I think you’ve played the Mafia Universe championship games a couple of times in the past. What did you think of it?
I like it because it gives you exposure to other sites and other people who are good at the game. It’s often a little bit of a cluster initially though as lots of sites have different meta so people tend to get awkward initial pushes going based off tells (example #6281 why everything and nothing is a scum-tell). But I think it’s healthy for anyone who loves the game to play at other sites in other ways. I stay at Mafiascum because I like the vibe there the best (my schedule very much lends itself to long phases) but I’ve always enjoyed trying out new experiences and styles and the championship game is a great way to do that in a very accelerated method!
Do you do anything to prepare for the championship games?
Nothing at all XD! Every game is going to be different, and there are too many styles to try to sort them all, so I just prepare to leap into the game and suss it out as it comes at me.
In your experiences with play on other sites and with players from other sites, have you found that there are universal aspects of mafia gameplay?
That’s a really good question. The answer is blatantly; yes.
At the end of the day all Mafia games are about an uninformed majority vs. an informed minority. As such, cooperation and communication remain universal realities of good town play, while for scum the ability to blend in and steer town will always be good scum play.
I think the aspect most players (myself assuredly included) need to work on more is the cooperation part. It’s tough though because it’s so hard to not see your own cases and reads as most viable half the time.
This really just ties back into my core stance that all tells mean nothing and everything all at the same time. Anyone who thinks a tell is a tell hasn’t really interacted with enough human beings. Binary output is not a valid solution for human behavior.
I used to make a distinction between “relative” and “absolute” tells. Absolute tells were the ones I couldn’t really understand. “This is scum behavior always, at every point during a game, and by any player regardless of experience on their part and familiarity on mine”.
I simplify, and make a bit of a caricature there, but it’s something I never could grasp.
Yeah, those worry me too.
It’s not that much of a caricature - I’ve absolutely seen people make pretty much that statement in games before. It’s like; have you played more than two games, mate?
Sometimes in games, everything seems to revolve around one or two players. Everything becomes about figuring them out. Have you ever been that person that everyone focuses on figuring out?
I will offer the short answer of “yes”. My longer answer is that the situation arising is generally a bad one based on the other players. The idea that sorting two people who are having a disagreement will help solve the game is true…but, frankly, sorting any random two players in a game will help solve the game. All you have with the stereotypical two active posters are two people providing content and thoughts, which gives you more to solve with them than with some of those lazy lurkers now suggesting that the game can be solved by sorting the active folks. Sure, the active ones may be in a tunnel, but I find that de-tunneling them is usually more helpful than opting to lynch one of them on a meaningless belief it’s more helpful than lynching anyone else. To a certain extent I’m almost wanting to legit advance the idea that town should do nothing but lynch the lowest post count person (barring spammers, who need adjusted numbers) every game phase. I think it would generally work in their favor.
We’ve talked a little bit about how site meta changes over time. What do you think is the biggest difference between how the game was played in your earliest games and how it’s played today?
The number of people complaining about walls.
Nowadays I don’t think you can get away with posting two paragraphs without someone claiming it’s a wall that they’re not going to read (because they weren’t anticipating reading as part of ongoing game play in a text based game…?).
Back in the day people would have been almost offended if you didn’t post a wall once a week. I’m actually generally mildly mystified to watch people offer a read on someone with three posts.
Have you ever developed a read on page 1 of a game? Like within 25 or so posts of the game’s start?
Absolutely. I do believe that reads can form from a single post and I’ve had some truly brilliant quick reads, and some monstrously disastrous ones as well. I recall one game where I just found a given interaction really ugly and ended up calling out 2/3 of the scum team in my second post of the game (I was killed Night 1, oddly enough…)
I also, always, offer an aggressive read right at the start of the game (whether I fully buy into it or not) because I massively believe that RVS sucks, and that a great core way to get out of RVS effectively is to obligate people to make a stance on a valid read as soon as possible.
I think we mentioned how I’ve been in “we must sort these two players” situations before…
I’m not sure how to ask this question. Games have a sort of life cycle, and within a game day there are usually phases, too. Is there a particular part or time period in mafia games that you most like?
That’s an interesting one. I would say that, to a certain extent, my favorite period of a game is really the day when things matter the most - so whenever mylo or lylo hit and the cards are on the table and both teams really can’t be dicking around anymore if they have any respect for themselves or their fellow players. Those are the moments when even some lazy players will go back and do research and post a wall. Those are the moments when even aggressive and blasé voters will sit quietly and not want to put a vote in play. Those are the moments when everyone feels most tense about a game that they have generally spent days, weeks, or months on at this stage and it really makes you want to win it.
You also usually have less lurking and less mindless gambits, so it helps on the noise-to-content ratio a lot, which I always appreciate.
What would be your favorite internal day phase? I know for me that terrible mid day where people have made up their minds but aren’t willing to put someone in hammer range for some damn reason is the one I loathe the most - but I’m not sure what I’d call a favorite of an internal day phase.
I really enjoy the first 2-3 days to a week of the first game day. Everything is fresh and new, and other players tend to be in a good mood. There’s a lot of data related to how people decide to enter the game. Although I don’t “do” RVS, the info that comes out as RVS starts to break up into serious stances can be pretty significant.
I absolutely can agree with that - honestly I think dealing with the doldrums you start to get mid Day 1 (going from the lustre of early game into that phase also seems to coincide with most flake outs in my opinion).
RVS is a great phase, if used appropriately, the big issue is too many players seem to think the R should really mean ‘random’ without understanding the true meaning behind the phrase.
Yeah, that’s my perception regarding mid-day-1 doldrums, too. It’s one of the points in the game where replace-outs/flake-outs increase.
What do you like about Newbie games?
In a very mild sense, I actually just love the setup.
That said, I really like the idea of getting to grab ahold of Newbies before they become too entrenched in Mafia dogma and just ask them questions like ‘why is that scummy?’ or ‘how do you think that will help town?’ I want to have the ability to approach the game beyond the usual first year or so of play skill and accelerate that experience, to get them to look at the logic behind the surface level behavior and words. I enjoy answering their theory questions with multiple answers and arguing each one reasonably to help them understand that their are multiple viewpoints to consider the game from and all can be valid (my personal ones are the ‘right’ ones though, natch )
If I get even one of the Newbies in any given game to open their eyes to understanding that tells are simply tools/observations and not tells then I feel my time in that game has been served massively well.
Do you have a favorite role?
Slightly funny question for me there - in short my answer would be, yes, Vanilla Townie is my favorite role because I really just like to be town and focus on scumhunting. That said, despite the number of games I’ve played in, I actually don’t have a lot of experience with roles because generally I seem to get Goon or Vt as my role. I’ve been a Vig a few times (with great results) and had Doc and Jailkeeper a decent handful. I think I’ve been a tracker once or twice. I’ve only been a cop like three times in my entire mafia career, and one of those had me killed after only one phase of day play. So…maybe some of the other roles would excite me more, but I basically have no experience with them.
What are your favorite game formats?
Probably my single favorite is Mountainous as it’s, in my opinion, the purest test of real quality town and scum play. After that my interests become pretty wide. I’m a fan of Open, Semi-Open, and Closed setups, with a preference on Semi-Open as I like gamesolving but like to also know things aren’t too role madness like. I tend to prefer games with 13 or less players in them, as I find that most Large setups tend to rely too heavy on swing from role mechanics and you tend to need to just grit your teeth and slog through a few game days till enough people are dead to even begin to manage to have real conversations (possibly just my introversion coming out there, but I find Day 1 in a Large pretty miserable on the whole). Generally speaking I’m up for almost anything outside of Bastard setups (yeah, I know some people enjoy it, it just tends towards a style of gameplay I feel moves away from skill and favors luck) and my general openness to setups and themes I suspect has a lot to do with why I’m always so willing to go to other sites and play there - at the end of the day what I like to do is play Mafia, live or online, and find most setups to hold the core enjoyment of the game for me regardless.
Incidentally, what’s your favorite setup? There are so many awesome ones to choose from!
A good player list trumps my setup preferences. I like closed theme games a lot. I like to see the creativity that game designers come up with. My favorite open setup is Perpetual MYLO. In open or semi-open games I like unusual mechanics. Trying to guess how the mechanics would affect how different alignments approach the game is an interesting puzzle. I’ve enjoyed the bastard games I played, but don’t seek that kind of game out - it’s dependent on the game designers and the player lists.
Do you find that a too ‘stacked’ player list skews things sometimes? Occasionally when I’m in those all star type lineups it’s almost like there are too many chiefs and not enough wildcard catalysts to react to.
Yeah, that sometimes happens. I’ve had a couple of games where every player was one of my favorite people to play mafia with, but the mix of styles and personalities led to an unpleasant game.
Yeah, I’ve had that happen too often for comfort - it’s strange how that works out sometimes. Conversely some of my favorite games ever have included brand new players trying very unconventional things or even behaving ‘badly’ while still trying to win the game. It’s one of the many aspects that makes me love the game.
What do you look for when you think about replacing into a game?
Honestly? Usually when I’m replacing in I’m just doing it because I have a Mafia itch I want to scratch right then. I tend to maybe glance at the setup, and scan the player list to make sure I don’t loathe anyone and that’s about it. I find replacing in to be really fun as you get to be a brand new catalyst and really shake up the game state usually. I don’t tend to sweat setups or look for particular people (though I’ll admit to replacing in more eagerly if I see a name I like!). Also, since, as mentioned, I tend not to really bother with catchups I tend to not care about game length (which can be very helpful for some mods caught in a bind).
I’m also usually flattered when people ask me to please replace in - so usually that gets me to join right away too
Heh! I’ll remember to flatter you next time I need a replacement!
What advice would you give a new player about the game?
I think the most important thing to remember about the game is; it’s a game, you’re supposed to be having fun. People seem to lose track of that sometimes, and too often linger on in games through some sort of sense of duty or something when they’re dragging down everyone’s energy with their own negativity.
The other advice would be - it’s a really fun game. I’ve been playing it for a while now, and it never ceases to intrigue me with how interesting and psychological it is. You get to feel like a dolt one day and a Machiavellian mastermind the next. It’s all worth it when you’re there to hammer in that last vote in lylo for your team to get the win though, and that’s the sort of excitement that makes it easy to keep coming back to a game that’s constantly going to be vastly different every time so it will basically never grow stale. It’s a wonderful investment of time if you enjoy it.
Has playing mafia honed any real-life skills and/or instincts for you?
I think that what Mafia has really done for me is I tend to be a little more aware of when people are avoiding issues when I’m talking to them. I’ve caught myself actually saying things to other people like “I feel like you’re frustrated by something but aren’t discussing it” and other observations like that. It’s really interesting and I’d say it has helped me out in some social interactions with my family and loved ones because it’s helped stuff come out and get sorted that might otherwise not have been, which is really awesome.
Probably in a broad conceptual sense it has helped me in my skills of debate, but I always sort of loved wordplay and debate, so it’s not as noticeable of a change.
Given how forum mafia has evolved over the last 10 years, what do you think the game will be like in 5 years?
There have been a lot of games coming out loosely or directly based on the Mafia concept (informed minority vs. uninformed majority) and I kind of expect the sexier GUI options to lure some folks who might otherwise play forum Mafia towards those types of games. That makes me think we’re probably going to start seeing a shift back towards the slower play/wall post types who will be the type of people more naturally drawn towards forums as a venue for play.
Have you played an online mafia-like game before?
I have, I’ve done Town of Salem and Werewolves Within. Salem is a little bit more akin to the forum experience while Werewolves Within is much closer to a live action experience (though without body language cues). Both were fun, though neither is quite as captivating as live or forum play for me.
I’ve been thinking about trying out Town of Salem or Throne of Lies someday.
Do you have a forum game that you feel was particularly memorable? What made it special?
Probably one of my favorite game memories is due to a habit I have that came into play - on Mafiascum it’s possible to hide your ‘last visited’ activity and many (most) players do so. I have been asked occasionally why I don’t, and my basic answer is - “because I don’t need the crutch of lurking to win as scum”.
So, keep that in mind and here’s the game setup; I’m sitting in a 5 player standoff with one last surviving scum (or one caught scum was assured lynch that day, I forget which). I have a job coming up and have to take a v/la, so I announce it, place my vote and final thoughts, and head out to the job.A few days later I come back to discover that town did a blitz lynch in order to test if I was final scum. So we’re now in lylo, with both of the other players crossvoting and pleading with me to lynch the other one since they could both see I hadn’t logged on at any time during the night phase and thus I was assured town.
I immediately vote one of them to hammer the win for a scum victory - since I was the last scum. See, knowing my v/la and also knowing it could game with town, I’d left the mod a fairly clear breakdown of “if this lynch, than this kill” flowchart for him to follow if the game went to night before I got back. It was immense fun to watch a gambit turn on them so viciously like that.
I do have some fondness for a number of games I’ve played in, from declaring scum as scum and still winning, to a game I used logic to out a Godfather and forced town to lynch him before an obvious outed scum because I knew if I died they might let him slide past, had a great time once as my first game on a new site where some people questioned the quality of my play and I proceeded to lead three scum lynches in a row (for a massive ego boost I’m probably still riding high off of) Really there are just too many great moments, there’s a reason I’m still loving and playing the game so many years after my first one and it’s because I often have a great time!
I’ve noticed a pattern in myself and in other players, and I think your memorable game kinda fits it. Although you prefer being town by a vast amount, scum games are often highly memorable. Especially scum wins.
You tend to have a lot more individual control as scum - it’s much easier to solo that win than it is to do as town.
The first game I played with you was a newbie game. You were scum and I replaced into your partner’s slot. I remember in lylo a town player voted town, and we posted a fair bit of conversation, waiting to see if she’d go away for a little while so we could safely 1-2 hammer. After about a half-hour or so of testing, she unvoted. We got our chance a few hours later. It’s one of the few games where I didn’t at least discuss lylo-hammer signals on the night before lylo.
It was this game, and this was the post where we started circling like sharks looking for a chance to double-hammer.
Your postgame thoughts in the game were characteristically thorough, charitable and helpful, too!
I tend to be bad at hammer signals anyway. There are a couple scum QTs just filled with my partners screaming for me to show up and post!
The last time I needed to hammer-signal, my dog was sleeping in my lap and I was tablet-posting. I have a near-religious appreciation for naps, so I wasn’t about to push my dog off and grab my laptop. The signal was delayed a bit!
Have you ever seen (or had) a quickhammer go awry in a game?
Dear gawd yes, I’ve spent a few years working as an IC so I see them fairly regular.
I’ve been in a Newbie more than once where the town ended up quickhammering a Cop on Day 1 (and then usually I get shot Night 1, and then the person who did the hammer - who is invariably town - gets quicklynched Day 2…) It’s painful. I love a quick wagon as much as the next guy, but claims are a thing for a reason.
Is there a mafia player that you wish you could read their interview? Is there a question you’d particularly like them to answer?
Probably I’d love to see a Dripping Goofball interview just to watch you ask her to explain her playstyle. She is pretty much #1 on the list of players I policy lynch just because I admit I’ll never be able to get a read I’m satisfied with on them. And she does that while also being good at the game and not a ponce. It’s very aggravating.
Heh! I think I’ve only played with town DGB.
She’s also like me, clearly unafraid to go anywhere and play anyone - I respect that a lot.
Many thanks to Thor665 for this interview! I, for one, am intensely curious to see if Thor has called it in terms of where forum mafia will be in another 5 years!