zMuffinMan Face-Spills
By fferyllt

zMuffinMan avatar

Introduction

The first time I played mafia with zMuffinMan was in a game called Death’s Diner modded by 4nxi3ty. He replaced into a scum slot that was the day 2 likely lynch and argued everyone down in amazing fashion. After that, nobody particularly scumread him for the rest of the game. I was impressed and somewhat leery in the next few games we played, but was also quickly impressed by his town play.

Over the years, it’s been both interesting and confusing to try to figure out his approach to the game, because his approach always seems to vary. When Nachomamma8 suggested interviewing zMuffinMan, I was intrigued by the possibility of gaining some insights about how he approaches the game. I was also not surprised to learn that muffins are indeed greater than cupcakes. Please note: This blurb thingy has not been edited in any way by zMuffinMan and accurately reflects my opinions (and the opinions of everyone else as well).

This interview is HUGE! There’s a payoff for reading it – you’ll find out how the title came about.


On Starting Mafia

fferyllt (F): What was your first mafia game like?

zMuffinMan (zM): I don’t remember. 😕 It’s been too long and while I think I must have enjoyed it, I can’t remember. Lemme go back and find it…

Oh, my first game was off-site on a forum called bored aussie (for a warcraft 3 server that I played DotA on). I need to go through it to remember specifically what I did but according to some post-game comments, apparently I pulled some gambit as a PR that wasn’t necessary.

They gave use aliases to use and there’s no easy way to ego-search. Apparently my alias was TedMosby. I have no idea who Ted Mosby is.

On Game Formats

F: Was it an anonymous game?

zM: No. Technically yes. The way we played on that forum was whoever hosted the game made a whole bunch of aliases specifically for the game and handed them out to people. I’m not sure if it was specifically designed to counter meta (even though it didn’t work well because play styles shine through regardless of aliases, unless someone is deliberately trying to hide it), but I guess that must have been part of it in retrospect.

Post-game, everyone learned who was who, so it wasn’t really anonymous in the long run…

HAHA. OK. I claimed mason just after RVS apparently. (Open setup.) As a different PR. Oh, I was essentially bulletproof. Yeah, I suppose I had a plan… that was incredibly obvious in hind-sight. But what you gonna do? Actually we played some really weird (and unbalanced) setups on that site. On the plus side, I think I found scum at the end of D1 to redeem myself. I think I remember more about my first MS game than I do about my first actual game.

(later)

HAHA. OK, so now that I’ve actually gone back and read my very first game…

I claimed mason on Day 1 (open setup, as bulletproof). I voted an ACTUAL mason because I figured they weren’t vanilla (apparently something they said gave it away) and the odds of them being scum were pretty good. I kept arguing based on inflated odds since I was pretending to be a mason. I wrote lengthy posts where I tried to argue with (in hindsight) some rather flawed logic. Most of the conversation D1 revolved around my claim. People demanded I reveal the other mason. People argued I was stupid for claiming early (lol). I think I must have thought I was a boss strategist, though. Then an actual mason claimed because they were fed up with me. So I claimed my actual role and called him stupid and revealed my brilliant plan to draw the night kill (because I was not being incredibly blatant about my actual role, duh). Then I got lynched Day 1. Fun times.

Maybe I blocked it out of my memory.

Actually, I more vividly remember my first MS game. I drew scum in a newbie. I think the setups back then were really unbalanced; it could either be 2 goons vs doc, 2 goons vs cop, 1 goon 1 roleblocker vs doc and cop OR (drumroll please…) 1 goon 1 roleblocker mountainous.

I was pretty nervous about making mistakes, and I played a very conservative game where I just did things I thought I should do. Most of the player list got replaced. Including two ICs… I forget their names, but the third IC was Thor665, who I think replaced in during LyLo and basically said “I don’t think you’re town but goddammit if you’re scum at least you’re more active than the actual town so it’s on them if we lose.”

I played a fair few newbie games when I first played on MS because I was nervous about larger, closed setups. My home site was pretty much all relatively-small open setups, so I had no experience with what to expect of large, closed setups. I had zero idea what roles to expect, what mechanics to expect, etc. I remember reading a LOT of games before I ever gathered up the courage to actually join a theme game.

Oh right, and my first game on MS was my first exposure to vote count analysis (VCA). Thor665 used the standard rule (on a Day 1 mislynch, at least one scum is on the wagon) and drew incorrect conclusions because it was an entirely town-pushed lynch and the rest of the people on that wagon had flipped town (or were Thor’s previous slot). That’s part of the reason why I’ve never put much faith in VCA - it CAN be a useful tool, but it is not the be-all-end-all and context is extremely important if you are going to use it. Even if you expect to see patterns over the course of the game, context is still important. I think a lot of people who use VCA luck themselves into conclusions that happen to be correct or are correct more often than not or just ignore the times it doesn’t work while remembering the times it does.

F: Nodding vigorously in agreement!

zM: I think my first actual game (the one with my gambit) might also factor into why I am rather conservative when it comes to employing gambits. I still have gambitted (very occasionally), but only when I could see no obvious downsides if something backfired. I strongly advocate against the kind of dumb shit I did in my first game, though!

Mind you, my first game was about a year before I joined MS, so I like to think I shored up the major flaws in my game before I ever played on MS. Trial and error is the tool of champions.

F: What were the game formats like on the bored aussie site, in terms of day/night phase length, lynching rules, etc?

zM: Um, I think it varied a bit (depending on setups and who hosted) but some games had basically 22.5 hour days with 1.5 hour nights (on a forum where everyone was basically Australian with similar schedules, short nights weren’t so much of an issue). Setups usually had fairly common roles (but with fairly uncommon names, usually theme-dependant), and the games were usually open setups.

At the beginning, I think rules were all over the place (because no one was really sure what should or shouldn’t be done) but after a while, it was essentially the same rules as MS

Actually, some of the players on that site played on MS too, and preferred the longer deadlines. That’s what brought me to MS, though I think none of them played on MS anywhere near as much as I went on to play. We eventually adopted MS-esque rulesets because of people being influenced by MS, though we kept much shorter deadlines because there was no need to drag days out for so long when everyone was the same timezone.

F: What kinds of game formats do you prefer to play?

zM: I (usually) only like playing games with an uninformed majority vs a (single) informed minority. I dislike third parties. I dislike multiball. To be anywhere near balanced, the majority of multiball games or games with a serial killer and such need to rely on all three parties working against each other at some point, so it feels like a lot of the outcome of the game is out of your hands. I suppose that’s fun for some people, but if I’m a town player, I prefer the outcome of the game being decided mostly by whether my teammates and I can figure out the logic puzzle rather than, say, whether two scum teams finally go after each other instead of the town.

Same goes for when I’m scum; there’s far too much luck involved in a multiball win and far too little actual manipulation skill in comparison (not that there isn’t skill involved, just that I hate the luck aspect because no matter how well you play, you simply have to rely on PRs and other killing parties playing in a certain way to have a chance and that’s not always going to be the case).

Also I dislike standard implementation of traitor for a similar reason. I dislike not knowing whether interactions that may or may not exist between scum and a traitor do actually exist. If town doesn’t know whether the traitor knew who the scum team was, whether the scum team knew who the traitor was, or whether they both had knowledge of each other (I’ve seen all three implementations and often town is in the dark as to which one it is), it’s impossible to hunt interactions. Any blind guessing is just a shot in the dark.

F: That’s one of the best arguments against multiball I’ve read.

zM: All that said…

When it comes to role madness (which I also love), anything goes. I don’t go into a role madness game expecting anything other than a fun time with wacky interactions. And they’re a great break from the standard logic puzzle vs manipulation games.

I suppose it depends on the mood I’m in when I join a game. I don’t like being blindsided by wacky interactions when I’m not expecting them.

Also I guess UPicks fall under the umbrella of role madness most of the time - I quite like seeing how moderators deal with player suggestions and mold them into different roles.

I liked how dramonic dealt with the pick I sent him in UNI MUM 1.

Welcome to UNI MUM Mafia, zmuffinman. You are that time when you and your friends were having a rather light-hearted conversation and everyone was having a good laugh and then someone mentioned music they like and the conversation turned towards "name some good bands" and you said "nickelback" and there was a very long and awkward pause where they just stared at you for a while and one of them shook their head while still maintaining the stare and after that things just weren't the same

You don't get flavour.

Faction: Agent of Lies

You are Hated Reviving Poisoner. You have the following special abilities:

Passive Abilities: Agents of Lies - You are part of the mafia with BBMolla (Dolphin), tn5421 (Mastin2) and Mass Flop (that moment when you can't decide what to pick in a upick). You may talk at any time with them. Nickelback, really? - You are hated, and you seriously deserve it. You take 1 less vote to lynch. Please die already - Unfortunately, your favourite group just doesn't want to stay dead. Whenever you would die, you come back to life with an extra layer of hatred on you, until your hatred treshold becomes equal or lower than the lynch threshold. This means if it take three to lynch and you revived twice you can't revive anymore.

Active Abilities: Pun death - This is your factionnal kill. Your flavour is "Chose death over... that..." Nightmare Fuel - Nobody wants to hear it. NOBODY. Each night, you may sing to someone. If they've heard your singing before, they'll kill themselves. Alternatively, you can publicly sing to someone during the day (bold a song title and a target, for example Photograph: Dramonic) to reduce their lynch threshold by 1.

Please remember that you can use only one active ability per day/night phase.

Win Condition (Liar): You win when nothing can stop the lies from spreading!

Completely unbalanced role, but obviously it was role madness. Everyone had an unbalanced role. Well, almost everyone. I think some unlucky dude got stuck being the only VT in the game.

I think my goal in that game was to get lynched as many times as I could and that didn’t end up happening for a variety of reasons. Though I think the game got abandoned for some reason (I don’t remember specifically).

F: So, eventually you could start a game day and get autolynched?

zM: Yeah, so with 21 alive and 11 to lynch it takes 10 to lynch me. If I get lynched I come back the next day with say 19 alive, 9 to lynch, it takes 7 to lynch me. And so on… Until I eventually am just out of the game.

That role would have been better suited in lynchbait’s hands, though. Someone who could easily get lynched would love that role.

F: There was a game that Nacho and I hydra’d in where the uPick was MS players. One of our picks was you. The role was an uncoppable gladiator (based on your rap battle with Action Dan in one of GuyinFreezer’s games).

zM: Yeah, whenever a mod tries to come up with something based on flavour like that, it’s generally a fun game.

On Playstyle

F: How would you describe your playstyle?

zM: THERE IS A 2000 CHARACTER LIMIT ON DISCORD! How am I meant to wall-post?

F: Yeah, that’s a pain.

zM: I’ll just write out answers in 1-2 sentence blocks then. Do people play mafia on discord btw? I bet mastina would hate it.

I try not to stick to one sort of playstyle when I play mafia, mostly because I like experimenting with different approaches and seeing how they do or do not work and then applying what does work to future games where possible. Also it just adds a bit of personal amusement for me to mix things up in different ways (albeit it maybe at the expense of the enjoyment of others sometimes…)

So for example, I’ve done all sorts of gimmicks, from wall-posting to games where I write just one-liners to games where I’ve done lots of questioning but not much in the way of putting forth my own content to games where I’ve done annoying things like quoting and responding to every single post in the game… while being 50 pages behind… Actually, I think that was your game maybe? Tarot?

F: You responded to every…single…post during Day 1 of the Tarot game. You even commented on the scumminess of my vote counts. It was great!

zM: I’ve also tried games where I’ve been a sort of co-operative mediator, trying to get people to get along with each other and see eye to eye. I’ve played games where I’ve tried forming town blocks and games where I’ve pretty much refused to compromise on anything. I’ve played games where I’ve basically done nothing but sheep people and occasionally answer questions. And I’ve of course played games where I mixed all sorts of different styles into one.

I think, though, as town the playstyle that suits me most is one where I’m roguish and argumentative, to put it bluntly. I do my own thing and form my own reads while trying to extract as much information as possible from others. I try to ask a lot of questions and force people to commit to things at various points in the game such that I can go back to it later in the game when I see inconsistencies and ask more questions and get more committal stances. And I tend to like arguing people down when I don’t see eye to eye with them because the more I can see eye to eye with someone, the better I can read them (I think). I’m not so concerned with, say, the [Nacho playstyle of actively seeking co-operation][nacho-interview-playstyle]. If I do what I do correctly, then either people will see my points, listen and follow me, or I’ll see theirs and work with them. I am not one to prioritize working with others over seeking truth and I tend not to compromise. If I don’t feel strongly that someone’s scum, I won’t vote them - simple as that.

I do think co-operation and teamwork and whatnot is an important element of being town, but, it’s secondary to following my heart, if that makes sense. I like figuring out the game and trying to convince others of my point of view (or being convinced to change my point of view) more than I like working with others to achieve a lynch.

F: Your description very familiar to me. In one of my favorite games that we played together, I hydra’d with GuyinFreezer. You were intent on getting my reads into the game fairly early on Day 1 and not pleased that I wouldn’t vote before GiF was caught up. That was the Cash Cabd mini normal. You were an odd night cop, I think.

zM: Oh yeah I remember that game. I think I was playing as Rail Tracer in that game. I got a guilty on Nati Night 1.

F: You didn’t claim it, but you were able to force the lynch.

zM: I tried to be subtle about it but I think I ended up being too blatant in the end. Nati pretty much figured out that I was a cop but I’m not sure the rest of the scum team did.

F: I neighborized Nacho (who was the doctor) at the end of day 1. Once we sorted each other for town, we spent a long Night 3 discussing who to protect, and decided you were a cop. That made the protect decision easy. Your Night 1 guilty result plus Cephrir’s hider guilty on on another scum on Night 2 put the town way ahead in that game. Then on Night 3 you investigated the obvious Day 4 mislynch. It was one of those games when the early day play wasn’t that great, but the night actions were decisive.

zM: Oh yeah, that reminds me. A lot of my playstyle revolves around having a good memory for key events in games, which I guess isn’t as big a thing for other people. As scum, I remember who I read as what when and why. As town, I make mental notes of the key reads of others, key reasons for those reads, etc. So when I do make it to later stages of play, a lot of my playstyle involves looking for inconsistencies and then interrogating people about them.

F: Do you find that scum are more inconsistent than town? Sometimes I catch scum because they’re too consistent: perfect trajectories, every stance change telegraphed in advance, etc.

zM: Mm, a lack of inconsistencies is potentially a good indicator of someone playing too robotically, but being inconsistent isn’t a scum-tell and I didn’t meant to imply that. A person isn’t more likely to be scum just because their reads are inconsistent, but I do think the way someone justifies inconsistencies can be incredibly telling of their alignment. There’s no hard and fast rule about this, either. It varies from person to person. For one person, saying “I dunno” in response to changing their mind might be enough for me to put them in the obvtown category (I’d like to say I’m exaggerating, but I think I’ve done this).

Also, while perfect trajectories can be somewhat indicative of someone who isn’t thinking like town (which is why I sometimes like just doubling back on reads for no reason as scum - like, just reverse a read and say “yeah, nah, changed my mind” if I think I can get away with it), I think inconsistency is more playstyle-indicative than anything tbh. It’s not a solid tell either way and certain people tend to be VERY inconsistent while others are less so.

On Alignment Preference

F: Do you have an alignment preference?

zM: Town. For sure. I actually don’t like playing scum that much (and every time I mention this, I feel like someone’s jaw drops) - it can be fun and certainly I’ve had a lot of fun games as scum, but it’s also hard to get rid of the pangs of guilt you feel when you destroy the hopes and dreams of an innocent townie who’s just trying to get along in life. I think I need to work on being a better sociopath.

Actually, I just really like the problem-solving aspect of being town more than anything. It’s like an advanced form of logic puzzles where you’ve got to look at the clues and try to piece together what makes the most sense and the amount of variance in how different people approach the game and how their approaches change over time makes this a constant challenge.

It’s somewhat dependent on the playerlist, though. If I’m scum with people I really like playing with, then the amount of fun I have in a game is probably going to be far higher than if I were town in a player list of prod dodgers and low-content players.

I guess it’s also dependent on my mood at the time as well. Sometimes I feel like trying out certain manipulation techniques or I might just not feel like putting much effort into solving games. And you get the occasional towns where there’s just absolutely no cohesion in player lists and everyone is having their own little in-fights and games like that can be a drag. I say this as one of the main people contributing to problems like that, though, so I can’t really speak… But let’s just pretend that’s not the case and I’m an innocent bystander being drowned out by the likes of bad-tempered argumentative players like Nacho.

F: Add me to the jaw-dropped.

zM: Well…

I mean, there’s a lot of fun that can be had as scum. It’s certainly fun to see what you can get away with. There’s always a challenge against, say, meta players like you where I’ve got to constantly take my game to another level because I know that you know that I know that you know that we both know that I played like this in that game and that I am not doing it in this other game and that maybe I’m doing that intentionally and so on and so forth. That part of the game is fun.

But outside of the guilty feelings that arise when you’re crushing a townie’s ambitions (and you can almost see their tear-stained face as you do it… it’s heart-breaking), I think a lot of my issue with scum might be to do with the fact that optimal play essentially means getting rid of competent players and keeping around less competent players (or at least those who aren’t reading that particular game as well as they could). In a strong player list, this isn’t so much of a problem, but in most games (where that’s not the case), I can pretty much plan out from D1 or D2 how an entire game is going to play out – I know who I’ve got to kill and who I’ve got to keep alive to optimise my chances of winning and the rest of it is just playing out the game.

So essentially after the one or two days, I know whether I’ve won or lost a game most of the time (you get the occasional ones where someone throws a curveball and it messes up everything you’ve been planning, but they’re rarely game-breaking).

As town, however… You can never really know until the final day (and even then, a lot of the time you can never be certain). The suspense makes it more fun.

F: That makes sense. It’s sort of overwhelming to think about, as a scum player who flails around and tries not to drown during the day phases.

zM: Well, there are exceptional circumstances so that’s not an always-the-case sort of thing (for example, games like that Touhou one with the rap battle where by all rights I should have been dead on D2 or games like The Wire where I replaced into a game and thought I was dead in the water but eventually saw glimmers of hope). Funny thing about that game… ToastyToast counted a whole bunch of votes wrong that led to an incorrect lynch of the scum traitor (DrippingGoofball) when most of the town wanted to lynch BooKitty instead, who I replaced overnight. Getting out of that mess was fun… I think my first priority in that game was spreading as much confusion and false associations as possible followed by trying to actually get out of my lynch. I don’t think I was ever in the clear that game and could have very well lost at any time.

I think as scum, you ideally want to be able to plan out how a game is going to play out - essentially, see the road to victory. And it’s too easy to do sometimes (a lot of the time, really). There’s less surprises as scum.

F: Or Death’s Diner, where you fought down a near-certain lynch wagon, and then never came under significant suspicion again.

zM: Well, not so much that game.

Games where you’re under suspicion for a short amount of time but after that you see an easy road to victory (e.g. if I kill certain players and leave certain other players alive and just play consistently then I’ll win) fit more under the category of games I have a probem with. Death’s Diner, for example, I was under heavy suspicion immediately after replacing in but… after that? I don’t remember being under any real suspicion except minor suspicion from one or two players. So in that game, there was a clear path to victory - kill the reasonable players, leave the lynchable players alive.

That’s not to say that there was no challenge in that game and I’m not trying to come across as arrogant or anything, but that’s the sort of game where after you overcome initial hurdles, the rest of it is going to play out rather smoothly (with maybe a little boat-rocking here or there but nothing so major as to fully change the course of the game).

Actually, Death’s Diner was an example of needing to tread a fine line, but I think I always had a plan for the course of the game in that (i.e. there were JUST enough people to mislynch that I could see the victory ahead).

I think I’m someone who very easily reads the undercurrents of a game (maybe more so than other people) so I can visualise, with decent accuracy, exactly what’s going to happen in a game. I know who I can count on to vote who, in general. And I guess part of reading the undercurrent is knowing who to manipulate at each point to keep the course of the game on track, so it rarely deviates. I very much prefer games where I’m fighting an uphill battle or a battle where I’m not certain of the outcome, and that happens a lot more as town than as scum, I think.

I’m not sure how much of what I’ve said makes sense to other players and how much of it is me just sounding like I think I’m the greatest thing since sliced private topics. I guess this all somewhat ties back into what I was saying about my playstyle as scum - I’m very calculative.

On Being Unknown in a Playerlist

F: Nacho had a question he was hoping you’d expound upon: “I think it’d be interesting to see Muffin’s thoughts on how to approach a game as someone who is unknown/doesn’t have a reputation as either alignment”

zM: That’s a rather complex question. It depends a lot on the player list, someone’s personality, someone’s personal playstyle and someone’s alignment.

If given free rein, I think the best thing you can do as scum is standard “town-seeming” things. Ask questions with some depth to them, give reads with some substance to them, don’t be too under the radar but don’t try to stand out too much (you don’t want someone questioning how you made it to end-game). And inject humour! (Humour is the ultimate form of buddying – it makes people like you but they don’t think you’re scummy for it!) Also, avoid making fluff posts (except when it’s an accepted thing to do because then maybe you actually want to fluff-post so you don’t stand out.

Ultimately, it’s about determining what you can get away with – you want to fit into the precepts other players have about what town would do. That may take a bit of feeling out the other players.

I guess playing as scum in a playerlist where you’re unknown is easier though, since nobody has expectations of you. All you need to do is slowly push your agenda without getting lynched. I guess some form of charisma is important too, if the player list is the sort to have a bias against players they’re unfamiliar with. That’s why this question is rather complex to answer.

As town, though, charisma is going to play a large factor. I think the way I’d approach the game is essentially try to make people understand I’m someone who should be listened to (someone whose opinions matter). The best way to do that is I guess to be active and sociable while doing your standard scum-hunting approach. It’s too easy for people to ignore someone they’re unfamiliar with if they don’t click with them.

But again, it’s highly dependent on the player list. A player list with a bunch of Cupcakes is probably not going to appreciate a generic approach to scum hunting and a player list with more rigid old-school players is probably not going to appreciate a Cupcake approach.

Cupcake being Katsuki of course!

I think playing a wait-and-see, feel-the-player-list-out sort of game is going to be important. Then you can determine the best course of action from there.

Horses for courses, etc.

F: Charisma is a challenge when you’re an unknown quantity. I found this out in a recent hidden alt game I played. My play style isn’t recognizably mine when my name isn’t attached to my posts.

zM: Arguably in a player list with more “serious” players, charisma will be more about how persuasive you are in terms of arguments – someone like Regfan [(who can break things down logically and persuade others to do his evil bidding by logicking them into submission)][regfan-interview-playstyle] might thrive more in that sort of environment. Whereas in a game with people who post lots of one-liners, charisma can mean being more sociable and funny.

On Enjoyable Games

F: What do you look for in player lists when you join or replace into games?

zM: In general, I look for people I know and like playing with. Super-controversial opinion, I know!

When replacing, people I think I can joke around with while being behind or who I know will probably appreciate the thoughts I have to give if I do catch up and provide a new perspective. An active playerlist (people who aren’t dodging prods every other post), but not too active (dear god, nightmares like Fire Emblem - Awakening and other games like that). People who will actually post stuff that I could get reads off as town or play off as scum. As much as I think an unorthodox player like Cupcake can be enjoyable to play with, it’s the kind of thing that’s good in small doses.

Actually, I’m pretty flexible when it comes to playerlists, as long as there aren’t TOO many people who I’d rather avoid. The overall package of a game is probably more important to me. I might play a game with a completely unknown playerlist (or even players who I’d rather avoid) if I like the theme and moderator of the game. I’d probably always be willing to play a FakeGod Touhou UPick, for example, because I’m going to find it enjoyable regardless of the player list. There’s probably some bottom line where I’d say, “yeah, nah, fuck it, not touching that with a ten-foot pole”, but still… I am not as concerned with a player list because the other players are only part of the way I can derive enjoyment from a game.

F: What would you say your most memorable game so far has been? What made it stand out?

zM: I’m not sure. A few games are quite memorable for different reasons. The rap battle one, for example, is memorable because I got investigated by a cop on Night 1 (as scum) and… then somehow made it to end-game, despite all three heads of the hydra who was the cop (bork, mollie, majiffy) crumbing it. I thought I was pretty screwed, actually. But I claimed tracker early (hoping that there wouldn’t be some sort of counter-claim) after our ninja flipped and combined with the possibility of shedding doubt on the crumbs plus role WIFOM (plus some help from Nacho!), I somehow managed to escape the lynch.

The end-game was 2 scum, 2 town, 1 SK. We tried to kill the SK twice before that but both times failed so we figured he was bulletproof and couldn’t night kill him (he was, but only two-shot). The serial killer openly claimed (thinking he wouldn’t be lynched - both he and us knew he would win in a 1:1:1 scenario) and basically outed me as scum. I considered bullshitting for a while but ended up just claiming, too. Nacho declared a rap battle would decide the game, I initiated it, but ActionDan (the SK) never showed up to the battle. Left waiting at the altar, Nacho disappointedly voted ActionDan to end the game.

NACHO, BEAT ME OFF AGAIN I MEAN, GIVE ME ANOTHER BEAT

...

Aya's kinda bored now since there's nothing to report, Wiping the floor with you is easy when you can barely retort

'coz what you might not know about me is I'm a lyrical mastermind, And humiliating you like this is just a way to pass the time

You're run of the mill, Lack any real skill, You tried taking me on but you're getting drilled, When you fuck with the best, you're gonna get messed, 'coz I'm in it to win it, and so I will, When I go for the kill, You're standing still, Too scared to move and feeling a bit ill, You don't stand a chance, now you're shitting your pants, but beating chumps like you is how I get my thrills

I outplayed you in this game and now I'm crushing you in this battle, It's not your fault, though, you're just another branded cattle

I'm like Putin and you're Crimea. Shiver! 'coz you're my bitch, now go and cry me a river

Thinking Mima could win this game is almost insane, And after embarrassing you like this, all your efforts are in vain, You can try coming back, but I'll bring you down again and again, And you know what? I won't even remember you in a week; just another nobody I've slain

That said, other games that come to mind as being memorable include ones like FakeGod’s Touhou Upick 3 (where I was a town tree stump and just got to stay around spouting opinions without a care in the world). I don’t remember if that was a perfect victory but I think it was close if it wasn’t. There’s also games like NY169 where I tried a strategy of being low-content and low-energy as scum as a sort of meta manipulation which would have worked out fine except for the fact that the town JailKeeper (which we knew of because we rolecopped him) got replaced and the replacement arbitrarily decided to jail the most town-looking scum player (who we got to perform the kill) and all of our planning came undone and… we were essentially fucked. I was scum with Nacho in that game, I think.

F: I was in NY169, too. Nati and I hydraed in that game. It was pretty close.

zM: It would have been quite close had that one jailkeep not happened.

BROseidon was the original jailkeeper. We had rolecopped BRO on Night 1, I think. We knew what he was but figured he wouldn’t Jailkeep us based on his suspicions, but if he did he would jailkeep one of me or Nacho.

Unfortunately he got replaced that same night I think and we didn’t factor that in. And…we got screwed.

And there’s that one time that town broke an open setup that was supposedly scum-sided too, causing the open setup to require changing. That was fun (for town at least). It was literally a perfect victory (as in… no town dead via lynching or night kill). It was Open 316 (Hard Boiled) before the setup changed. Hoopla decided to join the game because she thought she could break the setup. It wasn’t completely broken, but it gave town an overwhelming advantage that shouldn’t have existed essentially by requiring a sort of mass-claim on Day 1, and then scum-hunting based on process of elimination and being able to co-ordinate roles etc. Unfortunately, scum were basically blindsided in this and one of them not-so-smartly claimed vigilante and got vig-killed by the actual vig. Then their kill got blocked. And I think I investigated the remaining scum as well or he claimed something silly in a hopeless situation. So… 3 scum dead on Day 2 with all town alive. Prior to that game, the setup had never been won by town (or had only been won once out of many iterations, I can’t remember the specifics).

F: I played Hardboiled after the breaking strategy was known, but before the setup was changed. The scum team had one player make it to 3 player LYLO that time. It was close.

zM: Town still had to scumhunt with the old setup post breaking strategy, but mass claiming on Day 1 narrowed the suspect list quite a bit.

Oh, a couple newbie games are memorable for reasons that include how the game played out as well as just who was in the game. I got to know Regfan first in Newbie 1078 (followed by an Open multiball game where we were opposing factions. We knew each other were the other factions after a couple day phases). Hashing things out in the game thread with him was fun (even though I replaced in D2 and we spent most of the day arguing against each other about who was the best lynch between two players who were both scum in the end and I think I ended up losing that pissing contest pretty badly). And it’s fun to play with players that are usually on at the same times of day you are.

There was one newbie game where I replaced into a slot under heavy suspicion and then derailed two L-1 wagons (on myself and on another person) before leading town to victory (though we still mislynched someone else Day 1!), by way of bribing people like BBMolla with hand-drawn pictures if he voted with me and whatnot (one of the more convincing arguments I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself).

I remember most of the games I’ve played, to be fair. Some stand out for good reasons, others for bad ones.

MarketPlace Mafia III (by Magua) was also a fun game. I was scum with Nacho in that, too. Actually I’ve been scum with Nacho a lot now that I think about it.

F: I was in that one too! I obviously played too many games that year.

zM: That was the game where I was cross-game meta-manipulating you and pienyan, I think. Nacho and I were also scum together in another game at the same time but it ended before Marketplace.

F: That game featured one scum team divided into two groups that didn’t know the other group members’ identities.

zM: Yeah that was hilariously fun because we were also messing with the other scum team at the time. Well, the other side of our scum team.

F: That game really punished town for cooperating, but it was a lot of fun to watch after we were dead.

zM: I think the mechanics of the game were mostly fine, but it was probably scum-sided. Many of the scum were looking a lot more town than the town, though.

I remember that game specifically because I wrote one REALLY heartfelt-seeming post to pienyan that made pienyan stop suspecting me… And I don’t think she ever forgot it after that and pretty much would never give me the benefit of the doubt for anything (though maybe she got over it eventually).

We also bid on stuff the other team were bidding on (suboptimal play in that setup), even though we knew who the other team were and expected that they were going to bid on those items – all just to fuck with them. Oh, and I used investigation immunity when we knew the other scum team had powers and were likely going to use it on us (because they wanted to confirm who the other side of their team was by copping me). Mina’s reaction to that was priceless.

Fun times.

(later)

Oh. I probably had specific tells but they might have been masked in some games because of intentional playstyle changes. Or I might have done some things with the intention of having them thought of as tells or something. I was usually pretty aware of things I was doing as scum and how certain posts would come across. That said, I blundered a fair bit as well. The good thing about being scum though is that your blunders usually go unnoticed.

I wouldn’t say I did it often per se, but there are certainly a lot of times I remember thinking “oh shit, I fucked up” after posting something only to have it go completely unnoticed.

F: I remember when you and Nacho thought you were quickhammering in the Marketplace game.

zM: HAHA! That was the biggest mistake I’ve ever done in a game I think. We were so co-ordinated too. “USE THIS WEBSITE. WHEN THE CLOCK HITS X, WE BOTH POST AND HAMMER!”

F: Your and Nacho’s attempted quickhammer in this game when Voided_Mafia was at L-3, not L-2.

zM: Reading the other scum QT from that game was hilarious.

Mina: “I’m kind of thinking it’s a Muffin-Garuda team, but in that case, I’m confused by what the hell happened at the end of the day. I think Muffin and Nacho would have been much more careful about the votecount as scum together.”

Oh, Mina…

The chatlog Faraday posted was hilarious to me too (the real-time reaction to our awful not-really-hammer). But yeah, that’s the single biggest mistake I’ve ever made as scum and I’ve never done anything close to that in another game that I can recall (or… at least I hope I haven’t).

On How Mafia Has Changed

F: Do you feel that the game has evolved since you first started playing mafia?

zM: Evolved isn’t the word I’d use, necessarily. There are certainly a lot of changes, including how people perceive different roles, different setups, different ways of moderating, different expectations of what players should and shouldn’t do, different ideas about things like voting, expressing suspicion, etc. But, I wouldn’t classify all of those changes as the game evolving so much as people learning and adapting to what does or doesn’t work (and this can be cyclical – something may work one day, not work the next, but work again at some point in the future). You can see the same thing in basically any other game over time, too. Meta changes and that’s more on the people playing the game than the game itself.

There are differences in how different players approach the game. Games are certainly a LOT faster-paced than they used to be on a site like MS, for example. Ever since the 2013+ join dates came in and made every other large game 690 pages long.

F: The infamous 2013ers: the original hyperposters. I was one of them.

zM: I suppose I wouldn’t use the word “evolved” because how the game is played could easily swing back the other way if a different set of players comes along with different ideas about how to play.

F: Fire Emblem: Awakening, with its planned playerlist growth was a behemoth, and several players didn’t start until day 2, after the game thread had already blown up.

zM: At least as the game is played on MS, it’s not so easy to replace into larger games anymore. Before maybe 2014, you’d rarely see games that went for more than 100 pages. Now, it’s strange for one to go less than that (and it’s not strange for Day 1 to be more than that or thereabouts).

That said, there are probably much older players that think the idea of a game going more than 30 pages was ridiculous, so what do I know? Plus I became one of the people contributing to the problem, but when in Rome…

F: There’s always the “not reading a single page” replace-in philosophy (better known as the “Magua replace-in”).

zM: I don’t so much agree with that (even though I’ve used it myself). It’s a bit lazy and it feels like you’re doing the game a disservice…

But it depends on how much value you put on needing to put things into context and how confident you are you can just replace in and figure things out without prior reading.

The stage of the game is also obviously important. It’s much easier to do that kind of replace-in on Day 1 than, say, nearing LyLo.

F: When I replaced into a large normal game intending to try it out, I inherited a vig slot and there was probably only 1 scum left.

I wound up efforting after all.

zM: I guess it also depends on your role. A vig wouldn’t want to join a game and blindly shoot whoever they feel did the least in the short amount of time they were in the game. With very few exceptions (e.g. vig-killing Cupcake is the right choice 110% of the time).

Well it must work for Magua. I tend to want to know everything about a game, I guess. That said, if I were replacing into a 100+ page game, I might just do the Magua approach.

It’s probably not worth the time and effort to read all of the content, especially when a LOT of it is going to be face-spilling wastes of posts.

space-filling even…

Don’t even know how I mixed that up…

F: Face-spilling should be a thing.

zM: I guess it could be described as face-spilling when someone just blurts out whatever comes to mind without regard for how much of what they’re saying actually matters.

It’s also space-filling.

F: That’s along the lines of what I thought you meant.

zM: Well, let’s just pretend I did then. It makes me look smarter if I coined a new term.

Advice for New Players

F: Do you have any advice for new players?

zM: Hmm, I have a kind of do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do attitude when giving advice.

The game is, at its core, about having fun. Ideally (and this is mostly talking about forum mafia - face to face mafia you probably don’t have to play with complete strangers), you want to be able to joke around or have interesting conversations with other players, while still taking the game somewhat seriously. If you’re not having fun, you’re probably doing it wrong. And if you don’t feel like you’re able to have fun and interesting conversations with other players (about the game, but not necessarily exclusively about the game so long as you’re not… ahem… face-spilling too much), you’re probably doing it wrong.

It’s important to strike a balance between playing the game as it should be played (actively participating in questioning and answering others while solving - or appearing to be solving - the game) and having fun with the other players. I think people sometimes forget it’s a game.

Apart from that, it’s important to realise that there’s no one way of playing the game - there are a ton of different ways to approach it and they all have their different pros and cons (well, most of them have pros). There’s very few things you can do in a game that are absolutely always bad play. It’s good to have guidelines for the DOs and DONTs of mafia, but you need to realise those guidelines are just that - they’re not laws, they’re guides. It’s good to learn hard and fast ‘rules’ like “don’t ever claim a Power Role as a Vanilla Town (or as a different PR that might be counter-claimed)” and “don’t ever self-vote”. They are good rules and should, most of the time, be obeyed. But, it’s also important to realise that these aren’t universal laws that must be adhered to no matter what. There can be exceptional circumstances sometimes.

Oh, and the other thing that comes from acknowledging there’s different approaches to the game is that it’s important to realise that when finding scum, it’s not about what YOU would do, but what OTHERS would do. Just because you’d never do something as town, doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t.

Ultimately, figuring out your own playstyle is about finding what approach works best for you and this may mean just accumulating experience and reflecting on what does or doesn’t work, as well as perhaps adopting things that other players do.

And don’t feel too down if you get things wrong! Even if it happens often! Everyone gets things wrong.

F: Is there a question I should have asked you and didn’t?

zM: Does that count?

F: heh

zM: I don’t know what questions you should have asked me, so uh… What questions did Nacho get? Let me have a look.

Favorite Roles

F: One question I haven’t asked you is what your favorite role is as town/scum.

zM: Favourite role depends on the player list and the game.

If I’m town in a player list where I’m pretty confident the rest of the town can pull their own weight, Vanilla Townie. It gives me the most freedom and lets me get away with being as aggressive and domineering as I want to be without a worry as to whether I attract the night kill.

If I’m in a player list of unknown players, probably a role that requires a bit of forethought but that can be utilised to great effect if wielded correctly (e.g. roleblocking roles or protective roles for standard examples).

If I’m scum, I don’t really care tbh – having a PR as scum is just an added bonus and it makes very little difference to me whether I have one or not. It doesn’t really increase or decrease my enjoyment most of the time (except in role madness games, but that’s a different matter altogether).

In terms of role madness, anything that’s incredibly broken is good for me. I just want to be the single most overpowered role in the game so I can get that feeling of superiority as I look down on the mere mortals surrounding me with their pathetic-by-comparison powers.

On Hydras

F: You don’t hydra a lot, but your hydra with Nati, Rancid Broderick Drake is memorable. One of my favorites to play with.

zM: I’ve been in a few hydras, but… not with a high frequency of games. RBD was probably the one I played the most games in.

But I’ve also hydrad with players like mollie, a couple of people from my home site and there was a three-headed abomination with Nacho and pienyan that I think none of us have talked about since.

F: I think 3 and 3+ headed hydras are exponentially more chaotic than 2-headed ones.

zM: Well… Actually, the issue with that hydra was that none of us were particularly active at the time and I think all of us expected the other heads to do all the work…

I do like playing in hydras though. Playing with mollie was pretty fun and I think it helped me get along with her a lot better (prior to that, we had a fair few misunderstandings and there were times where we weren’t particularly amiable to each other, to put it lightly) and I think it helped us both get a good perspective on how the other person played. I’d seen mollie be somewhat haphazard with thought processes in some games, but it wasn’t until actually talking with her in real time about her thoughts on the game that I got a chance to understand the inner workings behind it.

Actually playing with mollie was a lot of fun because her thought processes were like a million miles an hour whereas I’m more someone who lays out what I’m thinking and assesses the likelihood of actions coming from either alignment. I’m not a gut player, per se (even though I do have gut reactions to things, I go back and assess why those reactions occurred and whether I should give any weight to them). Plus playing in a hydra is just fun a lot of the time. Having another player to bounce reads off aside, it’s good to just be able to joke around with someone about a game in a way that you normally couldn’t with other players.

Oh… You didn’t ask me the question you asked Nacho about how I mediate and catch up with quote-strips.

My answer would be “I don’t do that. I think you have me confused for someone else.”

On Experimenting in Games

F: I had the impression in a couple games that you were trying to see how much you could influence the day with minimal content posts. It was interesting to watch other players reactions to that.

zM: I did something like that in Kagami’s Neuroscience game. I thought Nati was scum off her first post and sat on that vote for the entire day doing little more than bantering and asking people to vote Nati. It… somehow worked. I was a mason in that game, so I wasn’t particularly interested in playing a protown game so to speak and I decided to see whether I could get Nati lynched without actually explaining the read (for shits and giggles, of course).

I’ve done similar things in a few games. It’s interesting to practice influencing others in different sorts of ways. And you can have fun doing other things at the same time. There was that one Xeno-something-or-other game where I swore fealty to Nacho and gave him my vote for the rest of the game because I was wrong about a D1 read… But I still continued to argue with him that I shouldn’t be voting player X, I should be voting player Y and trying to get him (and others) to see the logic behind it.

It’s fun to see if you can just shift the course of a game with simple comments here and good questions there. Cut the spam, get directly to the point. That said… Other times, I’ve done some really round-about things or written incredibly long-winded posts that most people ignored. Eh, you see what works and what doesn’t.

F: That was Xenosaga. And I was along for the ride in Sangres that game. It was strange being followed-by-proxy.

zM: Oh yeah, I remember that. But I generally associate that game with Nacho because of the bet. I think mollie was the scum I was trying to convince you two of.

F: She was. And I was on board actually. Nacho thought she was town until it was too late (for us, anyway).

zM: I wonder if Nacho would have seriously done the opposite had he lost. Probably not. I think I’ve made similar bets with Nacho in other games. I think we did it as scum once, too.

F: The Sabotage game had something sort of like that. We were going to give the mod our reads lists at the end of Day 1 and see who was more accurate later.

zM: The sabotage game was kind of weird. I was doing something different than I’d normally do there because I had a gut feeling I’d die early and I was trying to maximise the use of my role.

So I was pretending, for example, to scum read mastina (who I gave my role to) while actually having her as solid town.

mastina was a VT who I bestowed all my powers to (and it should have been obvious from my flip that it happened, so I wasn’t worried about someone going back and looking at my mastina read and thinking I’d actually read her as scum).

I died N1 though so I didn’t have to deal with any of the aftermath. Go me!

F: In 4P MyLo, mastina was one of the four. She hammered.

zM: Yeah… Well, I can’t be held responsible for that. Sorry. At a certain point, it’s out of my hands.

F: She hammered scum though, so all was well.

zM: Oh. Then actually all the credit belongs to me. I’m a genius.

F: Is there a mafia player that you wish you could read their interview? Is there a question you’d particularly like them to answer?

zM: I feel like you’re going to be disappointed if I just answer that with a “nope”. Now I feel like I have to think of someone…

Um…

I would say maybe mastina but I feel like you’d crash Discourse while attempting to copy paste any of the extremely lengthy answers mastin gives into a post (not completely hypocritical of me at all, btw). As for a specific question, perhaps something like “why do you idolise muffin and think he is the greatest player of all time, hands down, no questions asked (except this one)?” Or I dunno… Maybe some specific mafia theory questions. mastina is probably someone far more suitable to talk about the changes in how mafia has played out over time than I am, at the very least.

Or someone like Thor, for much the same reason. Maybe ask Thor how he grows such a manly beard while you’re at it.

Pretty much anyone who has been around for a long time and consistently played for a substantial portion of that time is going to provide some interesting insights.

F: Thor has recently talked about this being the postmodern era of mafia. I’ve been thinking that would be interesting to explore.

zM: Yeah, like I said, Thor or even mastina would have some interesting insights on changes in meta and other things over time, as well as some interesting thoughts on mafia theory in general. Anyone who’s been playing consistently for the better portion of the last 10 years is going to be the same, but I can’t really think of many players who are still active and would fit into that category.

Actually, I’d suggest maybe someone like GreyIce as well? Is he still active? I don’t even know. But GreyIce was always someone I’ve thought highly of in terms of how he approaches scum hunting and thinks about the game.

It is a huge pleasure to see zMuffinMan playing mafia games again. I’m looking forward to them, and you should, too!


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