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Smogon is a community that has competitive Pokémon as its first priority. However, as you will notice when taking a closer look at the Socialization in the Empire section of the forums, there are quite a lot of people who do not play Pokémon, either because they used to play it and have since retired, or because they never liked it to begin with. Instead, these are mostly members who stay for the community, because they enjoy talking to the people whom they meet here. Make no mistake though; they often do have something in common with the enormous crowd of Pokémon players: they are competitive. But what do Smogoners play if it is not Pokémon?
The answer is: mafia.
Mafia at its root is defined as a team game (it is often played at parties) between an uninformed majority and an informed minority. The story behind it is that a small group of mafia (or sometimes werewolves, but I will refer to them as mafia), who are disguised as villagers, are infiltrating a village with kindhearted people . This evil group knows exactly who is on their team, but they have a disadvantage in numbers. The villagers (also called “the good people” on occasion) outnumber the mafia, but they do not know whom they can trust. The game proceeds in cycles of two phases called "day" and "night", which are announced by an impartial host who tells the story.
At day, there is a public lynch. The idea behind this lynch is that the villagers decide which player is behaving suspiciously, or, in other words, who is most likely to be aligned with the evil group. Every living person gets to vote on another, and the one with most votes against him is killed. In real life, this is often done by pointing fingers or raising hands, but when playing online players have to post something among the lines of “Voting [username]” The host announces the death of this player, and then the night falls.
At night, the mafia collaborate on which villager to kill. In real life, they have to do this in complete silence with gestures and pointing, but on the forums they can obviously make use of IRC channels, hidden forums hosted outside of Smogon, private messaging, etc.
A player who is lynched or killed is no longer able to participate in the game in any way: be it talking, lynching, or using their role. Talking while you’re dead is referred to as dead talking, and most, if not all, games have a strict policy against this.
In addition, the village may have a few players with powerful roles that help their chances of winning. Traditional roles include:
Over time, infinite amounts of new roles have been invented by players and hosts all over the world, including Smogon members.
This will be both a history lesson and a comparison between Smogon Mafia and normal mafia. I will look briefly at each large Smogon game and show how the game evolved over time. If you want a more detailed explanation of any of the games, I recommend visiting the Game Listing and reading through to get an idea!
There are three points in time where you can say Smogon got into mafia. One was the founding of #fluodome on IRC, where mafia is played using a bot to submit actions. Another was a forum mafia set up by Raikage (at the time known as magicalmaster2001) on a date which no one will remember anymore. But the real start of mafia’s popularity is this thread, where obi indicated that he wanted to host mafia. It was Saw Mafia, to be precise.
The first important thing in Saw Mafia was that it was not simply the village against the mafia. There were actually three proper factions, one being the village (named the Lustful), while there were two evil minorities, which were called the Wrathful and the Betrayers. Each of those factions could only win if the only players alive were of their faction. In addition, this game had a wolf (also called serial killer in mafia slang), whose goal is to be the last player alive. The wolf in this game actually started off as a normal villager, and would only truly become the wolf when a certain event occurred, but this never happened. However, most future games had the wolf start out as aligned with no faction.
Normally in online mafia, outside communication is completely prohibited, probably to stay true to real life where everyone is able to hear everything you say (especially during night time, where complete silence is enforced). Saw Mafia was the first game to ditch this idea, and the change has stayed ever since.
An important consequence of this change was that it allowed the villagers to centralize. Mekkah essentially started the tradition of a “village leader”: a person who claims to be aligned with the village and demands that everyone send their claim of their alignment with the village to him privately. Anyone who does not send this claim or has a more shady claim than others makes for a lynch candidate. This also allows the village to aim their roles efficiently; protection roles such as the bodyguard ensure the village leader or some important role does not perish at night, while harmful roles and inspections are aimed at those who are suspected to be evil.
This change also made it possible to create IRC channels that were solely dedicated to discussing mafia, and not just public discussions. It also allowed the mafia factions to have real time chat without being noticed. Or at least, that was the intention. Unfortunately, the channel owned by the Betrayers, one of the mafia factions had been discovered not once but twice by members of the two opposing factions (the Wrathful and the Lustful). This canceled the game around three days in, but the spirit for playing mafia on Smogon Forums had been kindled.
This game was hosted by Mekkah, a while after Saw was canceled. The factions were Hogwarts (village) versus Ministry of Magic (mafia 1) versus Death Eaters (mafia 2), with Peeves being the wolf. Unfortunately, this game had to be canceled as well, due to how easily Shiv united the village through a semi-loophole that Mekkah exploited in Saw as well. All hope was not lost, however!
In this retry of the previous game, the use of a co-host was introduced. evan helped Mekkah with both night and day hosting duties, writing role PMs, and making decisions as the game went on. This game also introduced the idea of a separated mafia faction; the Ministry of Magic was split up into several small groups, and their leader would have a night role that allowed to him to check if a particular player was allied with the Ministry. If this was the case, they would both get a PM from the hosts with each other’s name and alliance, allowing them to reunite. A similar system was in working for the Hogwarts-aligned Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore’s Army.
Harry Potter Mafia 2 featured Toothache (one of the Weasley twins) as the village leader, who was killed off at some point and replaced by Kira. However, little did the villagers know that Kira was a Death Eater, who, after the death of the last Ministry of Magic member, basically controlled both the day and night kills, and allowed the game to end with a Death Eater win. Harry Potter Mafia 2 was the first Smogon Forum mafia that actually finished.
Hipmonlee and Shiv took it upon themselves to revolutionize the game even more. Mafia Mafia had the humorous twist of having the French Canadian Mafia as the game’s village, while the Italian Mafia and the French Canadian Bureau of Investigation (FCBI) were the two evil factions.
This game brought three revolutionary changes, the first one being the custom win condition. As explained from the beginning, even though your role PM tells you that you are aligned with a team, you are on your own in this game. There were people who won if their own team won, but there were also those who won by surviving, by having their team’s leader killed, by killing the largest amount of players, or even by dying before the game ends. Most of the following games would go back to regular win conditions, until Fire Emblem Mafia.
The second change was that it introduced items. Normally, every person’s abilities would be locked to themselves or their own team, but abilities attached to items could be transferred if the item changed owners. This could be done by giving it, or, obviously, by a thief stealing it. The game’s featured item was the Diamond, which changed the win condition of its holder into “You win if you survive.” The introduction of items also allowed invention for other roles, such as the Scavenger (steals items from dead players) and the Fence (starts with knowledge of items during the game), and obviously the people who started the game with certain items (the Gunman started with the Gun, the Treasurer started with the Diamond, et cetera)
The third large change was that there were no longer ‘generic villagers’, also known as ‘people with no role’. Everyone now had something unique, whether it was starting with an item, or a bit of extra knowledge, or even a night role. This was because people sometimes lost the motivation to participate actively if they did not have something to do at night.
A minor notable change was that this was the first game in which pasting your Role PM was allowed. This also started the trend of faking a Role PM to deceive your fellow players, thus adding more depth and strategy to the game.
There were also many plot twists during the game, such as one member of the French Canadian Mafia finding his way onto the private forums of the FCBI, thus exposing all of their members and roles. This resulted in one of FCBI members, evan, getting his hands on the Diamond and thus he was able to desert his own faction and work with the dominating Italian Mafia.
The game also had a wolf, Sylar, who was able to gain the abilities of the players he killed at night. Unfortunately, the guy who had the role, Jackal, was lynched very early in the game.
A gripe with the previous games was that the people who were perceived as competent were usually killed or lynched first, leaving the rest of the game with less competent people, and thus usually less interesting gameplay. Jackal and BlueKirby brought a solution to this: playing anonymously. They set up a forum outside Smogon, registered as many accounts as there were players, gave them ridiculous usernames, such as Umbrella Umbreon and darck charley. From this, Anonymous Mafia was born. Every player got one account with which to do whatever they wanted. Most of the gameplay would take place on these Anonymous Forums: the day/night updates, the daily lynch, and the sending of PMs for night roles.
The game’s factions were the Courageous (village), the Wise (mafia 1), and the Powerful (mafia 2).
One of the consequences of this was that a player could no longer be held responsible for what he said. Normally, if a player told you he was mafia, you could get him lynched. Now, you would have to know his alias on the anonymous forum for the lynch to take place. This made collaborations between two teams possible, and even allowed the wolf to be a lot more reckless.
Zelda Mafia also introduced the Triforce Pieces, which were essentially items with powerful abilities that could only be transferred if its owner died. If a player held a Triforce Piece while being killed, his killer would obtain it. If a player held a Triforce Piece while being lynched, the person who casted the first vote against him would obtain it. This gave more excitement to the day, as everyone wanted to be the one to obtain it.
The alias system also caused the start of the use of spreadsheets to keep track of a player’s alias, abilities, and items. Generally people used Google Docs for these, as they were not only private, but could also be shared with others if desired.
The game definitely had quite a bit of shifts, with pretty much every faction having a win chance at some point, even the wolf, Earthworm (Dark Link, who had the choice either to kill or to protect himself from all night roles). In the end, the Wise pulled through, despite them having a lot of early losses, mostly because the other factions had been attacking each other.
Doomsday and StrangerDanger responded with this non-anonymous game. It is generally considered the black sheep of all big mafia games, due to somewhat poor balance, the large amount of non-aligned players (generally dubbed "Neutrals"), and the lack of a Postgame thread. A certain issue in one of the host’s lives didn’t help matters either.
The theme was a war between the Supervillains (village), Boy Scouts (mafia 1), and Badasses (mafia 2). However, the flavor of the game was quite amazing, and it did end successfully with a Boy Scout win (plus six victorious neutrals).
Brain and Shiv picked this one up where Zelda Mafia left off: an anonymous game, but this time with Simpsons characters as the alias theme. The story is one of a war between the Mortals (village), the Olympians (mafia 1), and the Abominations (mafia 2). Items were present again, though the Triforce system was not. This game also introduced the use of NPCs (Non-Player Characters): aliases that had no users behind them. They were used to make certain roles work more effectively.
The early stage of the game was dominated by the Mortals, as they had a fairly successful reunion with no moles (mafioso or wolves posing as villagers to gain info), though later the game took an interesting turn.
It turned out that Jackal, with the role Charles Dickens, had been pulling the strings behind the scene. His role allowed him to disguise others and himself as Charles Dickens characters upon inspection. He cooperated with evan (the Martenser Brothers, one of this game’s two wolves, who could kill zero, one, or two people depending on chance; he also owned two aliases instead of the usual one) and Obi (Cthulhu, the other wolf, who could recruit other players as his minion) and in the end came out victorious and caused the first Wolf win in Smogon Mafia history, with himself, Obi, evan (converted to a Cthulhu minion), Mekkah, and matamato as the only survivors.
thunda and GTS were up next, with one of the most chaotic games in history. It featured the battle between the Z-Warriors (village) against the King Cold Coalition (mafia 1) and the Red Ribbon Army (mafia 2). Besides the regular items, a Triforce-like system reappeared in the form of three Dragonballs, which could be used to make a wish to one of the neutral dragons, either Shenron or Porunga.
Brain managed to unite the Z-Warriors almost instantly, which also got him the help of the numerous neutrals in the game. This included AvatarST (Cell, one of this game’s wolves), who had to consume the androids of the Red Ribbon Army to become more powerful. Another neutral who was helping out Brain was Gmax (Dabura), who, through his abilities to deadtalk, learned the abilities of nearly every mafia-aligned player in the game.
As the game went on, more and more deaths on each side occurred, but, in the end, AvatarST and his only teammate Raikage (Cell Jr), as well as neutral Shiv (Shenron, later the Joker thanks to his own Dragonballs), managed to kill off the remnants of the three main factions, and provided Smogon with yet another Wolf win. There were only two other winners: GreenPikachu (Babidi), whose goal was to have Dabura killed, and matamato (Broly), whose goal was to kill a role with Saiyan blood by posting GIGANTIC METEOR in bolded, underlined, all caps, large red letters right after one. The poor victim of this was StrangerDanger, who had the role of Future Trunks.
Earthworm and jumpluff hosted this anonymous game. It didn’t really have a lot of new inventions; the main theme of the game seemed to be to have an extraordinarily high amount of items, and a lot of people had mixtures of multiple roles seen in mafia games. The story was confusing to the Townspeople (villagers) at first, since the mafia group’s names were not revealed, but later they turned out to be Mr. Burns and the Springfield Mafia. thunda was this game’s wolf, with as role Sideshow Bob, who had several items at his disposal to dish out kills with, including a Nuke that was said to blow up every player targeting the holder (even indirectly) when it was used, but it turned out this item was never meant to work.
The game had to be abandoned a few days in due to a disagreement within the dominating mafia group of Mr. Burns, which caused one of its members to release their spreadsheet to the public.
Mekkah’s game was up next, with Simpsons co-host, jumpluff, assisting. It featured the Greil Mercenaries (villagers) against the Lopt Sect (mafia 1) and the Begnion Senate (mafia 2). To make the game easier for people unfamiliar with Fire Emblem, there were a handful of roles in the game that had nothing to do with the series at all, such as "Bill Gates" and "the Telemarketer". Once again it was played in an anonymous setting, but with quite a few experiments to spice up the game.
One of the additions was the use of money and a shop, which replaced the Scavenger role as the solution to what happens to items when their holder dies. These items would end up in the shop, and during the day they would be auctioned privately. Another was a change to the deadtalking rule, which stated you were allowed to dead talk to your own team as a mafia member, and, if granted permission by the host, you could as a villager as well. Then there was the comeback of custom win conditions, this time represented by a point scale from zero to twenty. Every player gained ten points if their team won, and could earn up to ten more by fulfilling custom goals, which usually involved surviving, successfully using their role (for example a thief stealing items, or a bodyguard preventing a kill), or posting in a certain way.
The game had several neutrals, including two wolves, one of which (Jackal, in the role of Sephiran) started as a Begnion Senator. However, he could change with the use of an item (Lehran’s Medallion) that started out in the hands of Mist, a villager role. The other wolf was Tibarn, with the odd combination of having three aliases (representing Tibarn and two of his minions, Ulki and Janaff) and two players behind them (Fishin and Flounder). Players eventually figured out Tibarn's identities, but Sephiran had a shot at winning, since his identity was unknown.
Due to a (in hindsight) pretty broken item called the "Impressive CV", the Lopt Sect managed to establish a mole among the Greil Mercenaries extremely successfully. The Begnion Senate got a mole (Raikage) in as well, but he was found out and lynched. The Lopt Sect was looking pretty good the moment the game ended prematurely, due to unfortunate real life circumstances that prevented both hosts from doing their duties.
This game involved GreenPikachu executing one of Brain’s many mafia ideas. Every player who signed up sent in their top three characters of choice, and GreenPikachu fit these characters into a mostly pre-designed balance. This made for a game that had the easiest false claim potential in history. The factions were the Sometimes Big-Boned (village) facing the threat of the Milkmen (mafia 1) and the ACME Cooperation (mafia 2). There were no items in this anonymous game.
The village reunited decently, but, since the Milkmen were put into a great position early on, both ACME and village took fairly heavy losses. Then, around midgame, the Milkmen started losing members extremely quickly, courtesy of the behind-the-scenes wolves, Shiv and Jackal, who had four aliases total, each one being an alt of GGFan. They were helped by the only other neutral in the game, dak, until he was murdered by the Milkmen. Jackal looked completely set-up to control the village, since he managed to get one of his alts inspected at a night it was being disguised by a role with similar workings as Charles Dickens from Apocalypse mafia, until at one point late in the game it was lynched by a combination of leftover Milkmen and ACME members, and exposed as a wolf.
Nonetheless, none of the leftover groups managed to kill any of the other three alts of GGFan, perhaps because the most important one of them all, the one who had a killing role, had been successfully disguised as a NPC.
Jackal and dak promised us a whole different kind of mafia game, and they delivered. Viva la Mafia used the Godfather for most of its storyline, where four equal factions start with three starting members each and have to recruit members of the Freelancer group for their cause. The factions were the Batista Régime (Gmax, Earthworm, and Flounder), the Corleone Family (AvatarST, Kannon, and matamato), Movimento 27 de Julio (Shiv, Mr. 378, and StrangerDanger,) and MI6 (Mekkah, Fishin, and Shade). Each faction started with the abilities to kill, recruit, and inspect, as well as a one-time announcement and two wildcards (a one-time ability and an item).
These two new elements, free-for-all and the freelancer system, required players to communicate and negotiate much more than usual. It was almost always up for grabs what would happen during the day lynch, and not just because of the four factions. One freelancer, imperfectluck, took it upon himself to cause as much chaos as possible with a makeshift freelancer alliance, consisting of several players who willingly gave him (or his alter ego, MYSTERIOUS VOICE) their roles and alliance so they would control the vote together. However, imperfectluck was lynched fairly early, and the freelancers ended up in other factions, mostly in Movimento 27 de Julio, often referred to as “Castro”.
The other factor was the wolf of this game, Outlaw, in the role of Nietzsche. His role was similar to Zelda Mafia’s Dark Link: either kill at night, or idle and become immune to every night role. He was also permitted to recruit one player, and he obtained the aid of Rev (Clarence Darrow), who could protect him or herself against lynches by having them put in jail for a short timeframe.
Outlaw had another ally in moi, though they did not find each other until a bit later. moi was Frank Serpico, and was meant to infiltrate every faction’s forum. He could be “recruited” like every Freelancer, except his winning condition would remain “you win if you are recruited into all four factions, and none of them win”. Despite the immense power of the role, he could not manage to prevent Serenity’s early death, and Outlaw followed fairly quickly thereafter.
After most freelancers were recruited, the game became one about negotiations, trying to convince other factions to kill one of the others. The Corleone Family had all but given up at this point, due to a trick which a member of the Batista Regime pulled on them that revealed nearly all of their members. MI6, Castro, and Batista fought for control throughout the middle, with heavy casualties for each of them at different points. Near the end, the Corleone Family got back in the race simply due to how busy the other factions were with taking each other down. MI6 was the first faction to be eliminated, and the end was a standoff between Jedil (Corleone), cyzir visheen (Batista) and Mr. 378 (Castro). Jedil managed to grab the win at the end, providing Viva la Mafia with a major comeback, as his faction had been the weak link pretty much all game long.
That’s it for Smogon Mafia history, when it comes to big games. Of course, there are also numerous small games in the Circus Maximus subforum that you might want to check out if you’re interested.
Some Smogon users are almost as, if not more, dedicated to mafia compared to Pokémon. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that large games have the interest of at least 60 players; there is always room for more. So if you haven’t tried it out yet, now would be a good time to start. Start signing up for small games, talking to well known mafia players, and, last but not at least, stay tuned for more mafia related articles in The Smog. In the future, you can expect them to be more about strategy, common roles, and trends which you will encounter when playing.
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