Designing setups that make players want to join
In most essays, people would cite the numerous particulars about how to make your setup work in a fun and interesting way. “The game must be entirely balanced, and all roles must be individually interesting.” The problem is that this perspective is fundamentally flawed. You need to play to you audience more than anything else.
When I say I want to make a bastard game, you bet your ass that I’m going to go all in.
But I’m not going to do it in a way that is going to frustrate people. They dedicate a lot of time by joining this game, and many play FM to cool down from their daily lives.
I do this by increasing the uncertainty of interactions and what abilities actually do to such an extent that anything happening is hilarious.
I know you’re not here to read about how I create a bastard game though.
You’re here to hear about me screeching about math.
And I can do that.
Every role that has mechanical impact on the game has an expected value (or EV).
Every role has a category in which they impact as well.
These categories are:
Killing (removing players from the game)
Investigative (determining alignments)
Protective (hard counter to killing powers, either by stopping kills or by reducing their impact)
Disruption (interfering with other roles)
JOAT (crossover powers that don’t fit into other categories)
Power (absurdly strong roles that warp the setup around them. Prince is the best example for something that crazy)
In these, you need to calculate the value per night, or VPN if you think you’re funny.
A cop can check 1 player per night.
This will determine their alignment.
This has an EV of 1 since they are able to mechanically determine as many alignments as there are nights in the game.
For most roles, this is how the averages work out. There are two important points to divert from though:
Limited roles simply follow the EV calculator. These include limited shot roles, odd/even restrictions, etc. Conditionals are very hard to calculate with this and generally are just eyeballed.
There are x nights, and this role can act for y of those nights
y/x = EV for that role
Weaker roles are roles like bodyguard (guards player -> if they would die then you will die instead), tracker, and suicide bombers.
These roles are dependent on the setup itself to determine their usefulness.
In a setup with two extremely powerful town PRs, a bodyguard would be useful to enable those roles to last an additional night if they outed.