A (slightly) in-depth guide for playing well as scum
Original Publication: July 25, 2013 by Mastin2
Revised: August 31, 2016 by Mastin2
Slightly Updated: April 12, 2017 by Mastina
I received a PM from someone, asking for a more in-depth article on scum play. I have created articles and threads touching on scum play previously, but they wanted something a little more detailed, so I whipped this up to try and help.
Let's start with basics.
Know what being scum means. For a start, you are the informed minority--you know things that the town doesn't. Use this knowledge to its maximum value. But far more important: the win condition. You win when players of your faction comprise half of the living playerbase (and this cannot be prevented).
If scum have daychat:
USE IT! I cannot stress this enough; good use of daychat can make or break a mafia game. Talk to your scumbuddies--tell them what you know and think about other players. Let them know what you're planning to do.
Let them see what you have and let them give feedback; it can make stronger posts and allow for MUCH more effective strategizing. You can plan ahead much more effectively and manipulate things to your advantage far easier.
Seriously, almost every single competent scumteam I've encountered or been a part of possessed daytalk. (In fact, nearly half my scum games were victories as a direct result of it.) Using it is what gave them the ability to do as well as they did. It also allows you to get on more friendly terms with your scumbuddies, a vital skill to master.
As an example, in an off-site game, a brand-new player rolled scum, but with someone who knew me. He was able to coach her on how to manipulate me. Without his guidance, she would've stuck out, but with his help, that game was a perfect scum sweep.
If scum don't have daychat:
Maximize the time you DO have. In pregame, tell your scumbuddies who you are, what you're going to do, and a bit about your style. Tell them what you know about the other players. Tell them your role if they don't already know. And come up with a plan. It won't be solid (this is the pregame, after all), but it'll be there, and it'll help give you some goals to achieve.
Love your team!
If you hit it off well with your buddies, you are going to have more motivation, feel more natural, and defend each other better.
You have to treat each other like a family, like a team unit. If you experience dissonance with your scumbuddies, if you argue, I can almost guarantee you're going to fail. Successful scum love and support each other. Successful scum enjoy working together as a team, and have fun together as a unit, destroying the town.
Daychat is one way to immensely propagate this positive behavior, as said above. If you're fighting, you'll be far worse off, as the synergy which creates a successful team will be absent. Working as a team will allow a situation that would otherwise be overwhelming to become easy to handle. The more attachment to your team you feel, the more motivation you have to win for your team, and your performance will increase significantly as a result of this loving family dynamic.
Know your meta!
In particular, town meta, though knowing your scum meta also helps. This is more important the more games you play. If you know your meta, you can manipulate players who try to do meta-research. (As a hint, most players doing meta research do it wrong. Use this to your advantage, because they'll make superficial conclusions from 1-2 games.) It's actually essential if you're up against someone who--rather than being a random player trying--actually does understand your play. Those types of people have actually-legitimate meta-tells on you, and you need to be able to manipulate them.
Think to lylo even on the first day. Remember: it only takes one townie voting a townie in order to win. One thing you'll see COUNTLESS numbers of scum players do is target a specific player and get on their good side. Often, that's all it takes in order to secure that lylo victory. "In lylo as scum, you have a target audience of one."
Don't get cocky!
Plan ahead, don't assume you're ahead. Subtle, but vital, difference; it's the difference between being properly paranoid and anticipating things not going to your plan, and arrogantly thinking your plan is infallible. Part of your plan should be anticipating things not going according to your plan.
You need to get to lylo!
So keep yourself and your team alive. Bussing is overrated, and being the informed minority, you're going to pick up on scumslips from your scumbuddies that a town player would never see. So try to keep them alive; it's much easier than you think.
"A player's tunneling me!"
It happens, but often, it merely requires a change of approach. Try different things. If all else fails, nightkill 'em; NKA is mostly a thing of the past. (It shouldn't be, but it is.) Just make sure it's not obvious they were nightkilled because you couldn't convince them to back down. Meaning, don't over-focus on the player you intend to nightkill. If you put attention on them, match that amount of attention to all other players, so it doesn't stick out.
Getting players who are in your way lynched (while harder) is much more rewarding. (Just ask the scum of Tales of You!) Nightkilling the bothersome player is easier, but nightkills can be traced back to you, in the rare instance you encounter someone who uses nightkill analysis effectively. Lynches, on the other hand, are far less traceable to you. Yes, people do VCA all the time, but most people are absolutely incompetent at it because they do it in an entirely-arbitrary manner, which limits the effectiveness of the VCA. So while difficult, ultimately lynches are worth it.
Who to lynch:
The players you want to get lynched are players who you can see as realistically being lynched, but (this is key!) are NOT seen as easy mislynches by the town. The LAST thing you want to be accused of is opportunism. So, don't aim for the weakest links. Aim for weak-but-not-weakest links, players who are not the first choices, but make GREAT choices as compromise lynches. Speaking of which...
Compromise lynches are your friend.
Seriously, compromise lynches hit town a disproportionately large percentage of the time. So, if you can work with the town in trying to reach a common name between them, chances are quite high, the common names they'll have in mind are within your target audience--weaker players, but who aren't the weakest.
Early usually > later.
There are a couple of exceptions--if you don't actively push it, and if there's a large wagon on scum at the time you push your wagon. Those factors being absent, being early on a wagon will look better than being late on a wagon, regardless of whether it's on town or scum, because it looks like you're legitimately pushing your read, rather than being opportunistic.
Don't avoid hopping onto a wagon!
Absence from a wagon which you have no reason to be absent from (other than fear of being called out for opportunism) can look even worse than opportunism. If you have a good reason to join, actually join! You can shoot down any accusations of opportunism by pointing out your (truthful!) good reasons for being there.
If people like you, they'll hesitate to lynch you. This is also what I advise doing for the long-run, via that targeting of a specific player to be your audience in lylo. In fact, having multiple people around actually makes things better, so that way your singling out of a player is better masked.
Be the one creating them. Try to have them form early. If you see an all-town bloc form early, you can either try to infiltrate them, or let them be an all-town bloc and later put effort into dismantling them. (Paranoia is your friend!) What you want to do is have an active presence in forcing the townblocs to form or dissolve. You do not want to let the town have time to create one organically and naturally, as such a bloc rarely has scum within it and is incredibly hard to break.
Who to kill:
Whoever the heck you want to. Don't worry about doctor protections and the like unless there is some really damn compelling evidence that they're present. (Paranoia at their presence will harm you far more often than not.) Many moderators have a reluctance to place said protective PRs in their setups, meaning most of the time, you shouldn't fear them interfering with your kill.
That said, keep your long-term objectives in mind. Ultimately, your goal is to reach lylo and have a town player who is going to vote another town player. So your kills should be focused on eliminating players who hinder that objective.
Another tip--keep in mind, a player who's wrong now won't necessarily continue to be wrong, and a player seen as town/scum may not continue to be seen as town/scum and be reversed into being seen as scum/town. So don't kill a player because you think they're obvtown, and don't leave a player alive because you'll think they'll continue to be wrong and/or be mislynched.
Again, kill them because you think they'll be a hindrance to you. If not immediately, then eventually. (This is why, sometimes, leaving confirmed town players alive is done--because an unconfirmed town player poses a greater risk than the confirmed town player. And it's also why confirmed town typically die mid-game: because of the recognition that their status as truly unlynchable is a hindrance in lylo.)
What exactly is killing hindrances?
This is something that will largely vary from game to game, but I can tell you something I often do as scum: I don't kill who the town thinks the scum will fear. I kill who I, personally, fear as a player. As an example, in one of my recently-completed scum games, I nightkilled Klick and then Bacde because I saw them as the largest threats to me, personally.
A general rule of thumb to help: it's not the players who're right that you should fear. It's the players who can convince others they are right. You want to kill sane, open-minded people who have the ability to rally support for their beliefs.
When All Else Fails:
Replacements are notorious for picking up stuff that the town missed the first time. The mist you spread through the thread may very well get pierced by the flashlight of a new set of eyes.
Killing lurkers is actually a great way to advance your wincon, for a variety of reasons. Lurkers tend to be replaced, and replacements are deadly to scumteams. Even if they aren't replaced...lurkers are notoriously difficult to read the minds of. For all you know, they have you as their number one scumread. They're a huge threat because they're a variable you simply don't have any control over. (Extra Point: they're unlikely to be protected, if you are paranoid about protective PRs.)
Furthermore, if the player lurking is seen as town (and maybe even seen as town because of the lurking), they'll not be an easy mislynch. As an added bonus, killing lurkers prevents connections from being drawn between players, as lurkers will lack notable content. Plus, it's often a great way to nab a hidden PR or two. And finally, more active players tend to go at each others' throats more often than at lurkers' throats, so you can more easily encourage town-on-town fights. It's an all-around flexible, useful kill.
Village Idiots aren't quite the same, but many of the concepts of lurking are applicable to a village idiot as well; VIs tend to be wildcards you can't rely on, are often seen as town despite (or because of) their stupidity and become ridiculously hard to lynch, have virtually zero connections, can be power roles, and will clean the game up.
The kill failed!
Good. Now, instead of paranoia about there being a doctor, you have confirmation of one. That's a trade generally worth making! You can adjust your nightkill strategy accordingly, now that you know there's a doctor and you have an idea of who the doctor will be targeting. Yes, killing a player without thinking about whether they'll be protected or not has the risk of failing, but the reward is generally worth it, and even in failure, there's success.
What if it wasn't a doctor?
If it's a roleblocker, they either stay silent and don't know they had a guilty, or they out you as scum and you can kill them. If it's a jailkeeper, there's ambiguity on whether the kill fails because of being protected or being blocked--this is a double-edged sword you can use to your advantage. If it's because the player is immune to nightkills (even in limited amount), generally, they'll claim this fact in some manner or another. You can always try not killing them again if it's really a big concern of yours.
A scumbuddy's being lynched!
Analyze the situation and think in the long-term. Do a risk-reward analysis. What will losing them do to damage your faction? What will their death give to benefit your faction? Generally, you need to get TWO mislynches GAINED from the lynch of a scumbuddy, so if you do the risk/reward and don't think you'll get it, try to talk the town out of it. It's surprisingly easy to do; don't assume your scumbuddy's a lost cause. (That said, also don't refuse to join. Join when you think it's necessary.)
It's lylo. Now what?
Let the town players destroy themselves. If you followed my advice successfully, one of them will vote the other. Whether you vote first or not is largely dependent on the circumstances, your playstyle, and the playstyle of the other players. But be it them voting first or you voting and them hammering, you should have a town player who's ready and willing to hammer another town player, even if it takes a while to achieve.
Uh. Multiball. Now what?
There's not much of a difference, actually. You want to take that same approach: what gets you to lylo the fastest, in the most advantageous situation? (That is, your faction outnumbers or has completely annihilated the enemy faction.)
In general, though--don't assume the other scumteam will kill who you want them to. They're just as likely to make that assumption about YOUR faction, and as a result, a player you both want dead ends up living because you both thought the other was going to take care of them.
So, again. Kill who you want to. Don't worry about hitting opposite scum, don't worry about hitting the same kill target as the opposite scum. As long as your scumteam isn't at a distinct disadvantage, you have nothing to worry about.
That said...pay attention to the opposite scum faction's kill pattern. If you can pick up on similarities in their kill targets, you might be able to predict who they're killing next, and you can act accordingly.
Don't slip the game's nature!
This is a biggie. Most town players (short of extreme paranoia) are going to assume single-faction unless they have strong evidence to suggest multiscum. It's not as big of a deal as it used to be (far more town players are making this assumption, and some moderators are making it more explicit that games are multiscum), but it's still an issue you need to be aware of.
I can't really give you much more specific advice and have any guarantee on its usefulness. The game of mafia is ever-changing, constantly adapting. Every game's different from the last, so your approach to each game will be different from the last. What works one game may be totally ineffective in the next, and vice-versa. Pay attention to the gamestate, and keep a good head. That's about all I can really recommend to you beyond these.