The Adventures of Biff Schwanstein #1: Rutilant Roles

Three weeks ago:

radio static
Is this thing on?

Of course it isn’t. Pah. Not worth my time.
Unless…there was maybe a way to creatively solve the problem I’m having?
That’d be ridiculous though.
It’s not like there is anything specific I can do to solve this. I should just call up ‘The Good Twenties’. They’ll know how to get out of this.

Present day, Jim Hoffenheimer’s Counseling Office:

…And that’s the sum of my problems
I just freeze up when I go into situations like that
Ironically, I don’t know how to cool down
Mr. Schwanstein, what appears to ail you is the most terrible of mental trappings. You find yourself scratching your head on how to come up with a solution to your problems. Maybe it is due to not having experience solving such things, but I believe it may be due to your lack of cross-application. Here, read this.

Expanding your Mind with Role Theory

Befuddling even the greatest of scholars, the greatest issue of man finds that it rears its ugly head oh so often to all who would listen. Do not be like those in the cave who only mimic what they are told to consider. Expand your mind and understand the true essence of that which you study!

Roles are, as a certain fighting game developer would call them, ‘just functions’. The expanse of the mechanics of roles have always found themselves trending toward the more implausible over time. Consider the strategist. This role swaps roles…but how does that make sense? Can you causally change people’s aptitudes? Why is it not a regional manager with an absurd ego?

In any case, they are dynamic functions that change how the entire game is played on a fundamental level. This can be seen no better than with our boys in blue. People tell me ACAB occasionally. Now, I do find myself agreeing. Alignment Cops are bad for your game. But these same people turn around and decide that roles like Motion Detector and Tracker are perfectly healthy roles when the results from those in these games will often cause even more frustration. At least you know that a Cop will cap your entire team if it does not go down. You could even be one of the best in the world, in the championship itself…only to get shot down drive-by from a Motion Detector. And why is the Motion Detector even there? Why does it hold these mystic powers over life and death without a suitable counterbalance? Why can’t an average Joe just have his own life and stand for just his own name? Do you need to be able to do things, or can you just be content to be a cog in the wheel that accomplishes the low end of potential outcomes but not the top?

A bit of a tangent, I apologize. I’ve seen a lot of things in my time, and I can say that I’m sick of a few specific things. Perhaps it’d help you to consider all things as functions. Maybe it doesn’t. An interesting idea will forever be good when properly tuned, but a lazy inclusion will hurt forever.

  1. Roles gain entirely different functions depending on the setup

It is almost impossible to have a distilled role that works the same in every instance. A jailkeeper, for example, becomes more powerful the fewer players are in the game because it can turn into a powerful investigative if there is only one member of the mafia alive. In a larger game, the jailkeeper is almost always played as a doctor. The strength of the jailkeeper in the smaller game is that it has multiple powerful use cases. Its doctor ability stays perennially useful as long as there are kills to stop.
Perhaps the most obvious instance of roles gaining entirely different functions can be seen with Neighborizers between open and closed setups. I bet you can figure this out.
Understanding this will help you to cross-apply role concepts to different setups, opening up a breadth of options on how to tune your game to engage in maximum degeneracy.

  1. ‘Strong but with counterplay’

I bet you’ve all seen it at one point.
Roles that have incredibly powerful effects that bust their games open. The classic PGO/PGOiser has endangered some and even completely bricked others. This isn’t to say that such a design can’t work, though. Powerful roles with these conditional effects have existed and have worked for a long time. A claim-vigilante as an example has the potential to do incredible things, but is almost always held back by giving away the knowledge of its existence to other players either in the OP or at the start of the game.
The power of these roles should come from how you can exploit the day phase in order to maximize the carnage they can pull off, right?
Such a design philosophy can be applied to almost any role. The best roles are often named as such purely because they carry the potential to do incredible things when wielded by the right pair of hands. If you understand the height of what it can do, and what the least it can do, you can tune its aspects to satisfy a range of outcomes that you can work with.
Understanding this will help you to conceptualize how to design non-traditional roles in setups that are traditionally inhospitable to them.

  1. If Roles are like Functions, Role Archetypes are like Quotas

‘I think we need more investigative power. I think we need more roleblocks. I think we need more protectives.’
I see a lot of new setup hosts, after they design the initial roles that made them want to design the setup, go back to tick boxes for the remainder of their time spent on designing the town. As you can probably imagine, I despise this approach to role design. By boxes I mean ‘investigative/protective/manipulative/etc’. It is an approach that makes sense when designing something like a mash since, outside of special mechanics unique to each mash, most setups will turn out roughly the same with some variance here and there. But newer hosts often apply it to smaller setups, which leads to the most common reason I deny their setups. It has too much stuff without enough focus, leading to wildly too strong roles on one side versus the other.
Ask yourself the question: what do you want the town to have? What do I want to happen in this game?
You can intentionally design the setup in such a way that certain roles have higher potency. Through synergy or through having no especially strong mafia counter to the role existing, certain roles can be bolstered up to do powerful things without being frustrating to deal with.
Understanding this may yield a new perspective on how to examine individual parts of setups. In knowing the small, you can create a solid base that can help hosts who are lacking the experience of running countless games. Theory can only get you so far, however. Be creative and don’t fear making a setup that does not work initially. There are people who can help you.

Well, I sort of get this. So I have to start small and build up, right?
Mr. Schwanstein, I’m afraid I must be Frank with you.
What do you mean?
Mr. Schwanstein, most ideas are derivative. We don’t engage in fantastical creations too often. Sometimes…we see what people enjoy and we remix it with certain things tacked on. Think tropes in a medium. Saves a boatload of time and they’ve been tested by time. What you have to do is understand the essence of those tropes…why they are there, what they mean, and how to use them to build your own masterpiece. It’s rare to come up with anything truly original. So while treasuring the moments you do is all well and good, you should not sweat over being the next Picasso.

Hello, constituents. Welcome to a grand collection of my various ramblings on setup, role, and game theory as it pertains to Social Deduction games, especially FM and its immediate adjacents. Feel free to make use of them as you will. I’m mainly using this just so I can point people here when I want to bring up a point without having to explain it in detail every time during review.



stop trying to make good games

make fun games

the objectiveness of the quality of your setup doesn’t mean shit if everyone is bored to tears by your game

people don’t care about a quality game, they want a memorable game

now of course, when you’re designing your first game you shouldn’t shoot for the stars cause you’ll just make a boring and bad mess

be patient, check in with ideally multiple reviewers, have memorable flavour and bada bing bada boom you don’t need any hosting talent for people to have a good time


perfection can only be achieved by God and in his existence he already is perfect.

From the Sin Of Adam we are all permanently unclean, perfection requires ignorance. We are cursed to be wise. And in this we recognize the imperfect.

To become joyous one must accept you have to roll around in pig-shit, accept your uncleanliness, accept your filth. Then you will become one with God.

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eli why are you liking my posts when it’s obvious that in the time you read them and I posted them you didn’t have time to actually read them

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see, ignoring the weird part where god was inserted in there, i agree with the sentiment but not with the advice there, Mr. Deck Down In Dallas In All Capitals, which basically comes down to this (and you can apparently take my advice seriously since most of my setups are?? good??? wild but):

obviously the creation of perfect setups is ludicrous, don’t bother, but the creation of good setups, setups that work more often than not, and have some level of balance… that’s very much feasible. and unfortunately some level of perfectionism, editing, drafting and such, you just can’t get bogged down at a certain point

really, the reason perfection isn’t acheivable in mafia is actually relatively different to the reason it can’t be acheived in most other things- Mafia as a game has relatively “mathematical” forms, if that makes sense, defined logical outcomes, etc., the game is deterministic, but because it can’t be run without being played by humans, you basically just have to expect a deep fuzz to fall over the game. balance is nebulous as fuck.

basically, what i’m saying is that you shouldn’t just slap a game together and try to cover it up with good presentation. you should concentrate and make a pretty good game with a creative idea at its core! then cover it up with good presentation


Ah, but you see…Perfect games do exist. Well, relativistically anyway. Legends say that if you you achieve the 3 pieces of Nahrabulla (Fun Setup, Memorable Moments, and Good Players) you can unleash their collective power to destroy the omniverse with sheer setup meme power.

Or your setup can be a meme like Marson and be automatically considered good in spite of realistically being terrible. Take advantage of the DNA of the soul.

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why did u use a different font. ew

Separating serious and non-serious stuff by which font I use is something I consider sort of important
Also because making a wack comment in comic sans is hilarious

ok but marson is a flawless setup
strictly speaking marson has zero flaws. its doing what it wants to be perfect
it just happens that its specific form of perfection sucks ass

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We can’t find the perfectly good setup but can we find the perfectly terrible setup?

this is what the ideal setup looks like
you may not like it, but this is peak performance

Alright I know what the joke™ for this series of articles will be now

Well that already exists

We call it Short Fuse

according to GH he created Marson to be the setup that sucked the most to play as both alignments while looking like a normal and reasonable setup


trusting a sorceress on matters up to god is a fool’s errand

in the end the only thing that makes a game good is the players and the setup’s ability to generate memes

you all insult marson, you insult the meme king because you dont understand they ask you how you are, and you just have to say that you’re fine, when you’re not really fine, but you just can’t get into it because they would never understand.

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you know what i am trying to say and that i am correct

Wasn’t GGhana’s first ever FM game a Marson game?
He was born in that setup. Molded by it.



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I use it as an example
It’s not an individually good design but it’s the ubiquitous ‘conditional’ high power role