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Tabletop Game / Werewolf (1997)

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Werewolf is a social deduction Parlor Game (usually using cards to assign roles when played in person) that is, while commonly played at conventions, also popular online via Play-by-Post or voice/text-based chatrooms. It is a variant of a 1986 game from the Soviet Union called Mafia by psychology student Dimitry Davidoff, who created the game to teach high schoolers about his field of study. It spread among students, and soon to other countries. In 1997, Andrew Plotkin gave the game a werewolf theme and listed the rules online under the new name Werewolf.

A lot of players are needed, with one being the moderator. The rest of the people are all citizens of a village. Depending on how many players there are, one to three people play the role of werewolves. The werewolf's job is to kill all of the villagers. The villagers' role is to survive. One of the villagers is usually the Seer (in other versions, a "cop" or "seeker"), who once a night can "see" whether an individual person is a werewolf. There are many other possible roles and rule variations, depending on the number of players and medium of play, such as defender roles that can protect a person from being eaten at night, "strongmen" who take two attempts to kill, or games where the werewolves can convert a villager to their side.

  • During the "night" phase, everyone must close their eyes, put their head down, and repeatedly slap their thigh or pound the table. GENTLY. This creates enough noise to mask sounds of movement from players responding to the moderator, which can otherwise give away a player's role to sharp-eared neighbors.
  • When the werewolf is called by the moderator, it is his or her job to select who they want to kill by silently pointing to whom he or she desires to be eliminated from the game. If there are multiple werewolves, they must silently come to an agreement on who to kill, without giving themselves away. The moderator will then tell the werewolf/werewolves to go to sleep...
  • ...and call upon the Seer, who will point to a person he or she wants to check that night. The moderator will indicate whether that person is a werewolf or not, usually by a nod/headshake or thumbs up/down. Since the moderator has to see the werewolf/werewolves raise their heads to know who they are, it must be done in this order.
  • Any other special roles the moderator needs to know the identities of or get information from will be called in their turn.
  • When morning comes, the moderator announces who has been killed, usually also revealing their alignment and role (if they had one), and that person remains silent for the rest of the game. It is then time for the villagers to decide who is most likely to be the werewolf, voting every "day" on someone to lynch. Anyone can claim to be the Seer (or any other role, for that matter), as it throws people off and makes the game fun.

This is a simpler version of The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. One Night Ultimate Werewolf by Bézier Games takes this formula and shortens it to a single round. The most common form of this game is Are You A Werewolf?, developed by Looney Labs in 2001. There are various online and app versions of the game. An online version, Town of Salem, was developed by indie company Blank Media Games in 2014. Compare Among Us, which has the similar premise of identifying and executing undercover killers.

Do not confuse with Werewolf: The Apocalypse.

Tropes associated with Werewolf/Mafia:

  • Digital Tabletop Game Adaptation: It can be played on the dedicated MafiaScum forums, as it's a Social Deduction Game that revolves around discussions and simple actions that can be performed by post. Unlike most board game adaptations, MafiaScum requires human moderators to take care of things like PMing people secret information.
  • Driven to Suicide: Certain roles will kill themselves under the wrong circumstances.
    • In some setups, the "Vigilante" role must commit suicide if the target of their wrath is revealed to be pro-Town.
    • The Lovers, chosen either by random card draw or by a Cupid role, are so in love that if one dies the other will immediately kill themself or die of grief.
    • Cultists, in variants which require the Cult Leader to do any recruitment, will commit suicide if their leader is killed, since they would otherwise be stuck in an Unwinnable by Design situation.
    • The "Suicidal" role modifier indicates that whichever player draws that role will die at a specified point.
    • Some version of the jester haunts one of their guilty voters to suicide
  • Evil Versus Evil: "Multiball" games contain multiple anti-town factions — two competing mafias, a mafia team and a werewolf team, or what have you. This complicates the process of finding scum, because in this variant everyone wants to find at least some of the scum, so the town can't rely on finding people who are trying to avoid getting anyone caught. They can rely on scum only finding the other scumteam, but it takes quite some time to confirm this...
  • Hilarity Ensues: Inevitable, once accusations, claims, and counterclaims start flying. Some variants will add even more rules to up the potential chaos.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Given that information is at a premium in this game, figuring out who is on whose side often turns into this. (Is my suspicion on any given player founded in reality, or am I being paranoid? If someone is caught in a lie, are they doing it for a good reason, or are they the enemy? Is the idiot attracting a lot of attention doing it because he's a Jester who wants to get hung or a Scummy scumbag sacrificing himself for his teammates? And so on.)
  • Misère Game: The Jester (AKA the Tanner or Cobbler) is a third-party role that wins if they're eliminated during the day phase. Likewise, the Unjester wins if they're killed during the night phase. Both lose if they survive to the end.
  • Nerf:
    • The oldest known version of the "vigilante" role simply has the ability to kill, once per night. Eventually, due to concerns of being too swingynote , a variant eventually became popular which would die upon shooting a town-aligned player. The precise details of that death are still in flux; they might die alongside their target, or they might die instead of them (potentially confirming them as innocent).
    • The combination of a traditional Cop (can investigate a player to find their alignment) and a traditional Doctor (can protect a player from kills) leads to a breaking strategy where the Cop keeps investigating players while the Doctor keeps protecting them. As a result, both roles often see nerfs:
      • Cops: Several roles explicitly exist to confuse them (such as the Miller, a Townie who appears to be Mafia-aligned if investigated). Many games limit the number of investigations they get, which slows them down enough to ruin the aforementioned breaking strategy. Sometimes a Cop outright has a modifier that keeps the Doctor's protection from working on them. Formerly, it also was common to secretly give Cops a "reliability" modifier that could make their investigations misleading.
      • Doctors: They often have limitations that keep them from protecting the Cop over and over, such as disallowing them from targeting the same player twice in a row (or sometimes twice ever), or just not allowing them to use their power on consecutive nights. Moreover, many games use the Jailkeeper (which protects a player and blocks their power for a night) variation instead.
  • No Unified Ruleset: While there are commercial versions of the game, there's no definitive version of it. What roles are used, and exactly how they work, will usually vary.
  • Player Elimination: As the game largely revolves around characters killing each other, elimination is a major mechanic: during Day phases, the players vote on a player to kill (with the Townie majority hoping to target a Werewolf), and during Night phases, the werewolves get to kill someone. There are also power roles that interact with killing, such as the Doctor being able to protect players from Night kills, and the Vigilante being a Townie who can kill during Night phases. Additionally, some roles can get players killed, such as a Lover dying if the other Lover dies.
  • Shared Fate Ultimatum: One player may be assigned the role of Cupid, and chooses two other players to become Lovers. Regardless of what other roles the Lovers are, if one dies, the other dies with them. This can lead to some interesting possibilities that could ultimately help or hinder the villagers or werewolf team, or just sow chaos.
  • Social Deduction Game: Trope Codifier. Players are assigned various 'civilian' roles (some of whom have special abilities) and there's usually one to three killers, who off one villager during the night each round. During the day, the rest have to figure out who are killers, and can choose to execute someone they suspect is a killer (although the killer(s) can misdirect them as well). The killers win if they bring the villagers down to even numbers with the killers, as there is then no way for the villagers to win; the civilians win if they successfully identify all of the killers.
  • Spot the Imposter: Happens when more people claim to be a role that is stated to exist by the rules of the game. Most Town-aligned players' usual reaction is "hang them all and let the reveal sort it out" unless hanging the wrong person might cost Town the game.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: A suspicious-seeming player who gets killed overnight and flips town is a common twist, especially in games with a vigilante. If the player knows they're suspected, they may hope to get killed so the town doesn't have to spend any more time trying to figure them out — which, of course, is exactly why the scumteam wants to avoid killing scummy-looking townies.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • A feature of some roles is that they will kill anyone who kills them, either directly in self-defense as part of the Night action or after the next Morning's reveal.
    • Any player on any side will often be motivated to cast aspersions on people voting for them. The knee-jerk instinct to vote for someone in retaliation for voting for them is especially prevalent, to the point that "OMG you suck" is a well-known nickname for the behavior in some communities.
  • Vanilla Unit:
    • A vanilla player has no special abilities. They can vote, and they get the appropriate factional ability if there is any, but that's it. The most basic player is the Vanilla Townie, which has no abilities. These vanillas are important because a setup full of power roles is hard to balance.
    • The Named Townie has no abilities. It's a Vanilla Townie in all but name, though the mere fact that it's named makes it easy for the player to confirm themselves as Town.
    • False roles are vanilla players who were told that they had a power.
    • There are a few power roles that interact with vanilla status, e.g. the Neapolitan (who can check if a player is vanilla) and the Vanillaiser (who can forcibly turn someone else into a vanilla player).
  • Vigilante Man: The Vigilante is a common town-aligned role which is able to kill during the night. While they have the same win condition as regular townies (eliminate all scum), they may not have the same judgement... a good vigilante can carry the town to victory singlehandedly, while a bad one can doom them just as easily.
  • Wild Card: The Survivor role wins if and only if it's still alive when the game ends, regardless of how the game ended. This means a Survivor can spend most of the game helping the town find and eliminate scum, then turn around at the critical moment and help the scum win.

Alternative Title(s): Mafia, Werewolf