One of the projects I want to develop this month for NaGaDeMon was a variant on the parlour game known under various incarnations as "Werewolf", "Mafia", or one of many other names.
I've been familiar with the game idea for a while, but only had the chance to play it and dissect its mechanisms in the wild a few weeks ago. This was done with a group of pre-service teachers on a field trip to the outback, using a variant of the game that had been home-brewed. This version of the game had a colonial Australian feel to it, and it was referred to as "Bunyip".
Roughly a third of the players were "Bunyips", who took the typical Werewolf/Mafia role of awakening each night and choosing a victim to kill.
Having looked through the Icebreaker Article about the game, many of the variant character types had been included under various names. I played the role designated in that article as "The Peeping Tom" during my first game. Other character archetyes included "Cupid" (who could allocate a pair of lovers at the start of play), "The Doctor" who could save a single person, "The Double Voter" (who could add)
I thought it would be relatively easy to reskin the game in some way, but until I read the wikipedia article about the game, I had no idea how heavily trodden the design paths around the game actually were. Mathematical formulae have determined optimal ratios of "mafia" to "innocents", with consideration for variant character types. There have even been optional powers allocated to characters that I would never have thought of.
But I still feel like there is fertile ground to be explored here. Even if we decide that the game is to be purely psychological in it's play, with no die rolling or randomisation elements at all, there is still a lot of variation possible in the archetypes. For example, there are two distinct variants of the "doctor" archetype that I've come across in my initial examinations of the genre, one version has a one-off skill that may be used to automatically heal the first person who might have been injured during the night (by the werewolves/mafia, or by anyone else), a second version can be used every turn but the doctor must target the person who will be the recipient of their healing (and they don't know if this person will be targeted by the werewolves/mafia, so the night's medicine might be wasted). This leaves us with guaranteed one-off abilities, or risky regular-use abilities.
I've also been considering ways to play with the end game, and restructure elements of play in the middle. But the question is how these will look in play, so the skin of the game needs to reflect the underlying mechanisms.
That's where I'll start looking tomorrow.