What to do and NOT do.
Part of Mastin Academy.
This is a subject that I've been wanting to talk about for quite a long while, because running risk-reward analysis is a fundamental piece of my game as both alignments. Everything I do is a calculated risk, with a clear idea of what I will gain. Yet when I look at the stunts other players pull, it becomes obvious that they either have no understanding of the concept at all, or if they do, an incredibly poor grasp of what that really means.
This is not a guide specifically on how to (not) gambit, although gambits make up the vast majority of my risk-reward analysis. Instead, this is a nifty little guide I've made which works well in conjunction with my prior lecture on WIFOM, because it covers much the same subject matter: understanding the players in your game, and crafting your play appropriately to the circumstances at hand. Inherent in risk-reward analysis is a necessity in accurately pinpointing the driving factors behind the game. This is what I dub situational awareness: knowing the gamestate, knowing the players, and knowing your relationship to those two variables and how it will change.
In here, I will cover three aspects of risk-reward analysis:
Let's start with the first.
Manipulating The Gamestate
The art of scumplay is driven by a few simple factors. Know what you are aiming for. In this case, quite simply, you're aiming to achieve the scum wincon. Thus, your goal is to seek the fastest, easiest route to controlling 50% of the town. This is why bussing with reckless abandon is so stupendously stupid--you are delaying your goal (making it take longer), while also making it harder to achieve (making it less likely to happen). Of course, that doesn't mean you can't bus, nor that you can't distance. (In fact I heavily encourage distancing and even voting your scumbuddies...just don't let them get lynched from it. And, yes. You can prevent them from being lynched even when pushing them as scum, through diversionary tactics.)
So the first thing you need to do is establish your endgame early. From day one, you should already have plotted a course where you have a fair idea of your lylo composition and how you will get there. Yes, this will change. That's no excuse for not planning! You should know who you're going to lynch and who you're going to nightkill, not just for the CURRENT phase, but with an outline for ALL phases. Think to the endgame with every move you make. You need to do this, because the question you are asking is: "Does this get me closer to my desired outcome?" If the answer isn't reliably yes...don't do it!
You can subdivide this into a few basic ideas: how you post, who you push, what you intend to roleclaim, and who you want to use your scum-given abilities on. However, they all rely on that same methodology, and that is answering two basic questions in tandem:
"What is the risk this course of action carries? What is the reward this course can give?"
That being, what consequences exist to failure, and what will be achieved with success.
You must think critically and honestly at all times. You can't do something just because it feels like it "should" be done. You can't do something just because it feels obligatory. At all times, ask yourself: "Is it worth it?"
By following this principle, you can make smart, calculated maneuvers. You may make missteps, and that's okay. You're not omniscient. You can't know everything and you can't perfectly predict the courses of action to come. However, you can still reasonably guess at probable outcomes.
Minimize the outcomes where there is little gain; maximize the outcomes where there is much to gain. Low-risk, high-reward. You'll want to avoid at all costs low-reward (unless there's literally no risk); you'll generally want to avoid high-risk ploys unless you've got a lock-solid plan in place for the ploy to hand you the win which can't be reasonably disrupted.
Most of these things, you can do in the shadows. You don't need to push through every mislynch. You don't need to bus. You don't need to avoid killing power roles; you don't need to focus entirely on power roles. You have a great amount of freedom in movement. Simply point the town in a direction where town after town will die.
When To Lie
The answer as town can be summed up as...don't. 90% of the time, be it lie about a read or lie about a role...it's simply not worth it. You're going to do more harm than good with your stunt. However, there are certain circumstances where it may be acceptable to pull a ploy off. An easy one to think of is the macho<->bulletproof switch, claiming one as the other. But more on that in a moment.
Know what Works
Always have a clear idea of what is actually effective. This is why just going loldaykill is so utterly worthless and even detrimental: it's a waste of space because you're not fooling anyone. If you think you are, then I suppose you have...if you count yourself, because literally everyone will see through the stunt. It makes people roll their eyes in a way which you can't get alignment information from. They know how this shit works, and have a stance off of it based on their personality...not alignment.
What Makes It Work?
Always pay attention to the circumstances of what made a gambit effective. So you saw someone fakeclaim in this amazing stunt which helped seal the town's victory! Great! Then you try to do it yourself and you find..."what the fuck, it worked for them, why didn't it work for me?!?" Your answer: they knew what they were doing and had molded their gambit to the gamestate to ensure it would succeed. You just did it because you thought it was fun/cool without regard to this. That is why they succeeded and you did not.
Have A Goal
Know exactly what it is you are aiming to gain. If you don't know what the point of the gambit is, then you're not going to get anything out of it. You have to have a clear, established idea for every possible outcome, and what exactly you gain from each and every one of them.
Gambits Are Temporary
Know when to end a gambit and how to explain your motivation. If your motivation is "because it was fun", expect people to go, "uh huh", roll their eyes, maybe blacklist you, maybe lynch you, almost certainly ignore you, and not take you seriously in any aspect of your play. So I suppose if you're content being utterly ignored that's an okay position to be in, but otherwise...best not to.
Ask What's Achieved
Does your gambit actually do anything? If it does, then you need to ask if this thing can/could negatively impact the town. If it doesn't do anything, then you shouldn't be pulling the stunt in the first place because it'd be a waste of space. Gambits ALWAYS should have an impact on the gamestate. If yours does not, then it is a failure.
Further Your Agenda
Ask whether your gambit furthers your agenda. Your agenda as town is establishing accurate reads and lynching scum. It is true that a gambit can be good while not directly fulfilling this objective (for instance, macho-bp switch), but most successful gambits DO. They make scum easier to eliminate.
Gambits Have Consequences
Know them! Know the consequences of your gambit. Every possible outcome of the gambit should be weighed--including the less successful ones. If you're not aware of what negative effects can happen when you run a gambit...don't run that gambit!
Tell as few lies as possible. The best gambits are the ones which heavily utilize the truth: a twist on the actual role which is not harmful to have altered in the way you did. Claiming two-shot when you're either one-shot (draw a nightkill after outing your result) or three-shot (avoid a nightkill after outing two results) can be conductive, as long as immediately following you out your real role and explain why.
Gambits should always gain more than they lose. So when you think about the rewards, also think about the risk. You can't think, "this might vaguely help" when fakeclaiming an innocent result, because you also know (if you're being intellectually honest with yourself) "this could cause significant harm".
Hallmark Of Success
Successful gambits are largely self-evident. You might need to explain your motives anyway, but the results of a good gambit often speak for themselves without you needing to. Think "automatically displayed with a flip", or "can be shown by quickly outing results" as self-evident. Not, "look at that reaction to my obviously fake dayvig, must be scum".
If you gambit every game it aint gonna work. If you gambit almost every game it aint gonna work. If you gambit in so much as a third of your games it's probably still not going to work. If you pull two gambits in a single game it will basically NEVER work. For gambiting to work, you absolutely must foster an environment where it is believable. And if you're known to be a frequent liar, then unsurprisingly, people will see through you when you pull a stunt again.
This is especially critical because sometimes, you'll need to tell the truth. But if you need people to believe you when you tell the truth and you're a known liar...good luck with that. "Boy Who Cried Wolf" is an age-old adage for good reason, and one rather apt for a game which has its alternative title be called Werewolf. Lying will make people distrust you. And distrust will foster an environment where it's easier to mislynch you and it's easier to ignore you when you flip town.
Don't Rely On Gambits!
Don't put too much stock into your gambit. You should always have a play-based/role-based backup to a gambit which can (and should) supersede your gambit should you not obtain your desired results. Never rely on a gambit to give you something; you should already have something without the need to gambit.
Be honest with yourself and critically analyze. If you're not able to have the intellectual honesty to realize any of the above, then you absolutely shouldn't be running a full-blown gambit. Know your limits.
These things are why most gambits don't work out. You need to know that a failed gambit can be costly, and that just because you think a gambit is good does not mean it will go as you fantasized in your head. Unless you can be sure you have crafted something where the cost < benefits, you cannot safely pull off a gambit. They are best used sparsely for good reason. Oversaturation of gambits devalues the good ones and makes it harder to do some genuinely good scumhunting. If people have shown focus on your shitty gambit, that's time focusing on something not scumhunting.
Analyzing Using Risk-Reward
This is rather comparably easy especially when you combine the tips from above. The main thing you're looking for?
Gain vs Loss
Ask what is gained and what is lost. This is above all else the golden rule, and it doesn't just apply to gambits. It applies universally to all aspects of scumhunting, and is what I mean when I say to crossreference this with my prior lecture about things being WIFOM.
Do probability analysis
Ask what is more likely in the given situation. What is more likely to be the case? What makes more sense? What, with everything you know, is the more logical, reasonable conclusion to reach? This is essential in risk-reward analysis.
Mindset Is Key
Get inside the head of players. You need to be thinking like the player you're analyzing. Given who they are, which thoughts are more likely to surface? What plans are they more likely to cook up? What courses of actions are more likely to be taken?
Know Scum Objectives
Because scum can do anything, weigh what scum gain the most FROM doing. You want to ask the question scum should ask themselves: "What is the innate risk a scum player takes with this? What is the potential reward from this?" The action with the lowest risk and the highest reward is often the correct path, as scum should be taking the simplest, most direct route to victory.
Never Be Arbitrary
Don't think scum can't do something/town must do something/etc. Instead, ask what is gained as both alignments. And from that, knowing what is gained from the action and lost from the action, ask which alignment does the action benefit more. The answer could be "neither" (it's not alignment indicative), but you should absolutely not blindly assume one over the other; think about it first.
This is a thing you should know. You need to know the difference between what is a possible scum/town action (literally everything), and what is a probable scum/town action (what you need to figure out). There's no universal standard on these, because they are gamestate dependent. Use situational awareness to figure out what, in the current conditions, makes a player more likely one alignment specifically.
These tips are probably incomplete so I may need to revise this at a later time, but this should at least get people started.
Everything Is WIFOM, the companion article to this.