Enter the Madman

A while back I came up with a new character: the Madman. The trick is that he’s a regular Villager, but thinks he’s a Werewolf. (Indeed, his card looks just like a Werewolf card.) The character ended up teaching a deeper lesson about moderating a game of Werewolf.

The real Werewolves know which one of them is the Madman. I numbered the Werewolf cards, and after the initial “Werewolves wake up” phase, I woke them each up individually and pointed to another Werewolf ā€” the Madman. To the Madman I just point to one of the real Werewolves, so he thinks that one is the mad villager.

As it turns out, the mechanics work out pretty well, except… it’s not actually fun. It ended up being anticlimactic because the Villagers lynched the second-to-last Werewolf, and the game was suddenly over because that last Werewolf was actually the Madman. Meh. Okay. There’s another possibility where he might figure out he’s the Madman, and now you have a regular Villager who knows who all the Werewolves are. Game over.

There are a few things this brought to mind. Years ago I read a book in which the author referred to <famous comedian> as “clever, but not funny”. And he was right ā€” the comedian in question was extremely quick-witted, but somehow more exhausting than entertaining. I was in turn reminded of the 1996 “Doctor Who” TV movie. Great special effects, a solid lead actor, but (…and I didn’t figure this out until I had the 2005 series to compare it to…) it forgot to be fun.

Which is why a good moderator experiments. Try new things. Some of them, like the Madman, will just not work; but others will be successful ā€” and now you’ve come up with something new that possibly no other moderator has.

In doing so, pay attention to what elements constitute the very core of the game, and what elements are ripe for modification. How do you keep the game balanced? One of the most important questions to ask is: How will this change affect player behavior? And THE most important question: Will it be fun for the players?

‘Cuz if you mess that one up, all the clever in the world won’t save you.

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