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Happily Ever After, Revisited

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Original Publication: Prior to January 31, 2007 by mith


Several years ago, I wrote the article ...and_they_all_lived_happily_ever_after to point out an interesting fact about the probabilities involved in Mafia. The issue is that there can be situations where it is in neither side's interest to kill.

This article asks "What should the Moderator do in such a situation?"

Forcing the Town to eliminate


Many players and moderators (and I could usually be included in this group) consider No Elimination to be against the spirit of the game. After all, the Town is supposed to be a bloodthirsty mob, not sitting around waiting for someone to win the game for them. Many might choose to force the Town to eliminate based on this.

In addition, it could be argued that the Town has more incentive to get rid of all the Mafia than the other way around. After all, the Mafia has been murdering innocents; justice demands that they be found.


Is that fair, though? After all, the debate against No Elimination is more about the early game situation where some players don't want to eliminate anyone without "evidence"; that style of play isn't an issue in this type of endgame. Also, is it not just as much against the spirit of the game for the Mafia to No Kill?

Forcing the Mafia to kill


In scumchat when this was brought up, it was suggested that this is the normal course of action. I don't believe I have ever seen an endgame where the Mafia refused to kill, so I don't know how true this is.

Why might it be preferred? For one, it is much easier to enforce. It's hard enough to get players to agree on someone to eliminate when it's good play; when it's against the Town's interest, a Moderator would have a very hard time getting them to eliminate anyone without putting an extreme deadline elimination situation in place. With the Mafia, you simply have to get them to pick a player.

It was also brought up that it is much more likely overall that the Town might want to No Eliminate. While there are times the Mafia might want to take the night off, they are quite rare, and most players would kill anyway. However...


There are still scenarios other than these where the Mafia might want to No kill. Prohibiting No Kill while allowing No Elimination seems arbitrary, both in general and in this specific case.

Alright, let's call it a draw?


Draws do happen in Mafia games on occasion, so this wouldn't make for a screwy ending, yet it might also convince players on either side to do something. In addition, this decision would avoid having to make an arbitrary ruling in favor of either side...


Or would it? In any endgame situation where parity is a factor, the Mafia is probably ahead. For example, in the 1 Mafia, 3 Townie situation, the Mafia will win 75% of the time if the Town has to eliminate, and 67% of the time if the Mafia has to kill. If we consider a draw to be worth half a win, a draw is actually in the Town's favor, even more than the Mafia being forced to kill. The Moderator threatening a draw would be the same as forcing the Mafia to kill, and so is no less arbitrary in reality.

Pros, revisited

But what about situations popping up earlier in the game? They aren't nearly as likely, as Vanilla Mafia games are quite rare these days, but in a theoretical 1 Mafia, 7 Townie game, the Town actually has a slight advantage if the Mafia is forced to kill, while the Mafia has an advantage if the Town is forced to eliminate. A draw threat here makes perfect sense, as it's fair from a percentage standpoint, while players will probably do something to avoid the shame of drawing with 8 players left. As the game gets larger, a draw swings to the Mafia's favor. Overall, the draw pushes the percentage towards the middle; whichever side has the advantage gives a small bit of that advantage up.

Cons, revisited

As mentioned, this scenario popping up where the Town is ahead is extremely unlikely. It would require a large number of Townies, the death of virtually any other role, and a small number of remaining Mafia. Calling it a draw must still be considered to be in the Town's favor. The Moderator may as well force the Mafia to kill outright.


So, what have we learned? Perhaps what we have learned is that there is no truly compelling reason to go with any option. While I have come to a slight preference for forcing the Mafia to kill in writing this article, the important thing for the reader is to keep this and other issues in mind, and preferably to come to your own conclusion before you run your next game. You may not have a strong reason for your choice, but by deciding on a policy on as many possible situations as you can think of before your game starts, you reduce the chance that an endgame decision will adversely affect the outcome.