Discussion from the old wiki
PolarBoy: I tend to view all games as existing on a set of continua as far as classification is concerned. One of which is normal vs. themed. Basically, the less has to be explained in advance, the more normal, and therefore the less themed a game is. Basically, if you can say "This is a mafia game" and not have to go any further for others to understand, then that game is perfectly normal. If one has to say "This game has altered voting rules", that would be less normal and therefore more themed. If players are required to read a 10 page rule book, the game is extremely themed. Notice that there is no such thing as a perfectly themed, and therefore totally abnormal, game. Such a game would cease to be mafia (see also Mafia Mutation).
This leaves only the question of where on this continuum a game ceases to be normal and becomes themed. As yet this is decided entirely by consensus opinion, and the dividing line has definitely moved more toward the themed side of the continuum since it was defined.
- ralphmerridew: I'll disagree on that; I view themedness as a degree to which the game is related to some outside topic. Most of the games in Theme Park have minimal changes to the rules, if any.
- I did not say themedness necessarily had anything to do with rule changes. Merely that it had to do with additional background necessary for the game. Extending my original comment to themes in the sense of named Roles, specially written Death Scenes, etc., one would say something akin to "A normal mafia game, except the roles are based on fiction/stereotype X." In this case the background information is not fully explained by the moderator, because he is expecting to attract players already familiar with the background. This does not, however mean that there is no additional background information. For Calvin and Hobbes Mafia, for instance, there are 10 years of comic strips. That is consensually (is that a word?) considered themed enough to cease being a Normal Game.
- And rulechanges (private or public) are a different continuum, right? But it's more of a continuum of simplicity in the spirit of Mafia that does it; it could be argued that a simple Open Setup game is more normal than a closed setup game of equal role complexity.
- While we're at it, we could start questioning why the normal/theme distinction even exists in the first place. The theme games are generally less restricted (at least on MafiaScum), which suggests to me that the biggest reason is that normal games are supposed to be more or less interchangeable. (only one Mini Normal is open, for instance – now two) Hence the nothing has to be explained definition - before a normal game, all one really needs to know is "This is a normal game." The thing is that the players always know more (at the very least the identity of the mod), making the interchangeability less so. (and it breaks more with the games that were classified as normal but shouldn't have been). For example, several people signed up for Internet Mafia while Sugar was second on the mod list because she was a more experienced and/or respected mod than whoever was first on the mod list for that time. That annoyed people, myself included, even though the same thing could've been done in practice by just not signing up. I suppose this paragraph tries to explain why. --Norinel