How to play werewolf

These rules are based on those at Zarf's werewolf page, and much of this page is, in fact, little more than a shameless rip-off of Zarf's. I have, however, added complete descriptions of all the "extra" roles.

The basics


For a decent, game, you need at least 8 people. 9 is better. The more the merrier, although with more than about 17 the game can become too chaotic.

Choose one person to be the moderator. You can choose this person however you like -- randomly, for example -- but the moderator should always be a fairly experienced player. If you are playing with many people who have never played before, it is best to let the most experienced player be the moderator until the others get the hang of it.

The moderator is not actually a player. She (or he) oversees the game and coordinates the actions of the players. When these rules say "players", they do not mean "players and moderator"; if you have 12 people, one of whom is the moderator, then you have 11 players, not 12.

The basic deal

The game is composed of two teams: werewolves and townsfolk. The objective of the werewolves is to kill off all the villagers without themselves being killed. The objective of the townsfolk is to figure out who the werewolves are and kill them. One of the townsfolk is a seer, who has the ability to tell whether other players are werewolves or not (exactly how this works is described below).

There is also the moderator who, as described above, is not part of either team, but serves as a sort of impartial referee.

During the game, some players will be declared "dead". Dead players are not part of the game and are not allowed to converse, confer, or otherwise commiserate with living players. When the rules say "players", they mean living players only.

The game proceeds in alternating phases of day and night, about which more anon.

Setting up

The moderator should have several cards, one for each player, in this arrangement:

(This is the basic setup; variations will be described later.) You can use the cards I designed, or make your own, or just take some scraps of paper and write "wolf" on 2 of them, "seer" on one, and "villager" on all the rest.

The moderator gives each player one card. Each player should look at her (or his) card but be sure that no one else sees it.

Normally, the moderator should distribute the cards randomly. If the players all know each other, though, it can sometimes be fun if the moderator "stacks the deck" by handing out specific cards to specific people. (This allows the players to get answers to burning questions like "Wow, what would it be like if Brendan and Schuyler were both wolves?")


The game begins with a night phase. It is crucial that all actions by players at night be performed silently, to avoid revealing the identities of the werewolves, seer, or other roles.

At night, the moderator says, "Werewolves, open your eyes." The players who received werewolf cards should silently open their eyes and recognize each other; the moderator should note who the werewolves are. Once the moderator knows who the wolves are, and has made sure that the wolves know each other, the moderator says, "Werewolves, pick someone to kill." The werewolves should silently agree on one person. Both wolves must agree on one victim. Once the moderator understands who the intended victim is, she says, "Werewolves, close your eyes."

Once the wolves have closed their eyes, the moderator says, "Seer, open your eyes." The player who received a seer card should open her eyes. The moderator then says, "Seer, pick someone to identify." The seer should then silently indicate one person. When the moderator understands who has been chosen, she silently indicates to the seer whether that person is a werewolf or not, by giving a thumbs-up signal if the chosen person is indeed a wolf, or a thumbs-down if they are a villager. Once this information has been conveyed, the moderator says, "Seer, close your eyes."

Again, it is vital that the players remain quiet during these maneuvers. If, for example, a werewolf says, "Let's kill him" during the night, the other players (who are sitting there with their eyes closed) will realize the werewolf's identity. It is a good idea for all players to make some "white noise" (tapping feet, "snoring", etc.) during the night so that tiny noises made by the necessary movements of the werewolves and seer will not be heard.

In addition, the moderator should be careful to use gender-neutral pronouns when speaking to the various roles. If, for instance, the moderator says, "The seer can now open his eyes and pick someone", all players will know that the seer is male.


Once the seer has closed her eyes, the moderator says, "It is day, and so-and-so was killed in the night." (indicating the person who was chosen by the werewolves during the night phase). That person is now dead; she immediately gives her card to the moderator, who reveals it to all players, so that everyone knows the role of the dead person.

As mentioned above, dead players are out of the game. When someone is declared dead by the moderator, they must refrain from hobnobbing with those still living -- this means no saying "I know who it is!" or anything like that.

Now the villagers must vote on who to lynch. As soon as a majority of living players are voting for a single player, that player is declared dead and the next night phase begins. In general, the players will engage in heated discussion in an attempt to gather sufficient support for a particular lynch victim.

Any living player may say anything she pleases. Lying is allowed in all forms and fashions. It is perfectly legal for a wolf to claim to be the seer, or for a player to intentionally misstate earlier events. The moderator should remain neutral and refrain from interfering in the discussion. It is appropriate, however, for the moderator to truthfully answer direct questions from living players about the number and type of players remaining in the game. (In other words, if someone asks, the moderator should tell them whether both wolves are still alive or one has been killed, or whether the seer was killed, etc.)

It is, however, completely verboten for a living player to actually reveal her card.

The basic strategy is as follows. The wolves are trying to pretend like they're not wolves, because if the villagers realize who the wolves are they will lynch them in short order. The villagers are trying to interpret the actions of other players and deduce who the wolves are. The seer is trying to throw suspicion on the wolves (if he knows who they are) and keep it off players she knows to be innocent -- but she must do this subtly, because if the werewolves figure out who the seer is, they will kill her during the night (since the seer is the biggest threat to the werewolves).

Again, dead players are excluded from this hullabaloo. They can listen all they want, but may not say anything.

A few things that always seem to come up: Yes, a majority of all living players, including the person being voted on; if there are 10 players alive, for example, there must be 6 votes on one player to lynch (5 is not enough). Yes, there must be a lynching every day; no namby-pamby we-don't-wanna-lynch-anybody nonsense in this village.

Also, it is important that the moderator pay close attention to the voting. As soon as a majority of players is voting for a single victim, that victim is immediately dead and night begins. Any last words or pleas for mercy must be given before the majority rules; once the lynch takes place, the lynched person may not say anything more for the rest of the game.

When a player is lynched, the moderator reveals that player's identity to the other players, so they can see whether they have lynched a werewolf (yay), a villager (oh well), or the seer (oops). Night begins immediately; no further discussion is permitted until the following day.

Dead players are permitted to keep their eyes open at all times, and thus see everything that happens at night, but of course they must keep quiet about it so as not to influence the actions of the living players.


If at any time the number of wolves is equal to or greater than the number of non-wolves, the wolves win. If there are no wolves left alive, the villagers win.


Strictly speaking, the wolves are not required to kill someone at night, nor is the seer required to identify anyone. For either role to refrain from taking advantage of its powers, however, is extremely rare, and usually only helpful in games with special additional roles (described below), if at all.

That's it!

Those are the rules of werewolf. The rest of this page just describes extra roles and stuff that you can add on to the basic game.

Additional roles

There are numerous other roles that can included in addition to the werewolves, seer, and villagers. In general, to make use of these extra roles, you must have additional players; too many roles can overwhelm a small game.

It is also possible to vary the numbers, most obviously by including a third werewolf. (This is only advisable with about 17 players or more.) Or you can include two seers (which should be called separately by the moderator), etc. Many of these roles work best when only one of the role is included in the game (Masons are the most notable exception), but experimentation is fun.

Each of these roles "does its thing" at night, along with the rest. For example, if there is a wolfsbane carrier in the game, the moderator should, at some point during the night, say "Wolfsbane carrier, open your eyes" and proceed to let them pick someone to protect (as described below).

When playing with more than the basic roles, it will be necessary for the moderator to use more complex hand signals than thumbs-up and thumbs-down. Everyone involved should agree on a set of unambiguous hand signals so that there is no confusion. Recommended hand signals for each extra role are given below. In addition, I recommend these signals for the standard roles:

It is also important that the moderator know the roles of all players before she allows the seer (or devil) to pick someone to identify. If, for example, the moderator asks the seer to pick before the werewolves, the moderator will not know whether the seer's chosen target is a werewolf or not. So, the moderator should always call the "identifying roles" (seer and devil) last.


The devil has the same powers as the seer (she gets to find out the identity of one person per night), but is on the werewolf team. The devil wins if the werewolves win, and loses otherwise. The devil counts as neither a wolf nor a villager for victory purposes; for example, if there are 6 players left, made up of 2 wolves, 1 devil, and 3 villagers, the game does not end. This also means that the devil loses if all wolves are killed (she can't continue to "represent" the werewolf team by herself).

Also note that the devil does not initially know who the werewolves are, nor do they know who she is. The devil can of course find out who the wolves are if she is lucky enough to identify them. She may then be able to clue them in that she is the devil, by making subtle hints during the day -- or she may not, depending on how sensitive the wolves are to her signals.

The moderator should be especially alert when a seer and devil are both present. In this situation, the moderator should first ask the devil to open her eyes but not pick a target, just so that the moderator can ascertain who the devil is. The moderator should then have the devil close her eyes and allow the seer to open her eyes and pick a target. Then the moderator can go back and allow the devil to pick someone to identify. This way, if the seer attempts to identify the devil, or vice versa, the moderator can tell them the correct role.

The recommended signal is making "horns" with the fingers over the head to suggest fiendishness.

Wolfsbane carrier (aka "Baner")

The baner is on the villager team, and has the ability to protect one person from the wolves each night. Each night, the baner chooses one person (she is allowed to choose herself). If, on the same night, the wolves try to kill that same person, then that person will simply not die. (When day begins, the moderator should just say "It is day, and no one was killed last night.")

This protection lasts only for that night; the next night, the baner must choose again (although she may choose the same person). Also, the actual order in which the roles are called is irrelevant; even if the moderator actually tells the wolves to pick someone before the baner chooses someone to protect, the protection still applies that night.

As a variation, the moderator may stipulate that the baner cannot protect herself. Alternatively, she may stipulate that the baner must protect herself -- in other words, rather than choosing someone to protect, she simply has an innate invulnerability to werewolf attacks (although she can still be lynched).

The recommended signal is making an X with the forearms to suggest the baner's negation of the wolf's power.


The fool is on the villager team. There is no separate card for the fool; the fool is a player who is made to believe he is the seer when in fact he is not. The moderator should give the fool, as well as the seer, a seer card. The two cards should be marked so that they can be distinguished, but in a neutral way, such as writing "#1" on one and "#2" on the other.

The moderator should randomly pick one of the cards to be the fool. She should then be sure to call each seer card separately, first by saying "Seer number one, open your eyes" and then, after that player has completed her identification, "Seer number two, open your eyes".

When the real seer is called, the moderator should truthfully identify the chosen person as usual. When the fool is called, however, the moderator should identify the chosen person as a random role chosen from among the roles remaining in the game -- unless the fool attempts to identify the seer, in which case the moderator should indicate to the fool that the person he has chosen is a fool.

In other words, if the fool picks the seer, he should be told that that person is a fool. If the fool picks any other role, he should be given a random answer -- it may be correct, or it may not. The fool thus believes he has access to information when in fact he does not.

As a variation, when a fool or seer dies, the moderator can reveal only that the person was a potential seer, but not reveal whether she was actually the seer or the fool. (In other words, the moderator can say, "So-and-so has died, and she was a seer or fool.") The players then have no way of knowing whether the remaining "seeool" is the seer or the fool.

The recommended signal is making a goofy face, sticking out the tongue, etc., to suggest foolishness.


The vigilante is on the villager team, and has the ability to kill one person at night if she so chooses. She is thus free to act on her own beliefs about who the werewolves are.

The vigilante is "less powerful" than the wolves. If there is only one wolf left, and one vigilante, and the wolf chooses to kill the vigilante, then the vigilante's kill does not take effect. (She is killed before she has a chance to do her own killing.)

The recommended signal is a gun shape made with the thumb and index finger, to suggest a good person gone hog-wild, having lost all reason, out for blood, intent on vengeance.


The Masons are on the villager team. At the beginning of the game (on the first night), the moderator should have the Masons open their eyes and recognize one another. This means the role is essentially meaningless unless at least 2 Masons are included -- a Mason's sole "ability" is her knowledge of the identities of the other Masons. The Masons can not "do" anything special. In other words, they are a group of players who know each other to be innocent (not werewolves).

The recommended signal is a triangle made with the thumbs and index fingers of both hands. This is a rough approximation of the Masonic pyramid symbol found on the reverse of United States one-dollar bills.


The Magistrate is on the villager team, and has the ability to protect one person from being lynched the following day. At night, the moderator should allow the magistrate to pick someone. (The magistrate may choose to protect herself.) When day arrives, the moderator should say, "It is day; so-and-so has been killed, and such-and-such may not be lynched today." The players then proceed as usual, but cannot lynch the protected person.

As with the wolfsbane carrier, the protection lasts only for one day; the next night, the magistrate must choose again (although she may choose the same person).

Again like the wolfsbane carrier, the role may be varied by not allowing the magistrate to protect herself. (Allowing the magistrate to protect only herself is fairly silly, since all players will instantly know who the magistrate is when the unlynchable person is revealed on the first day.)

The recommended signal is a hand around the throat, to suggest the magistrate's power over lynching.


The mafia are members of a separate team, in opposition to the werewolves as well as to the villagers. The mafia have the same powers as the wolves and should be handled the same way by the moderator (but of course the wolves should not be allowed to see who the mafia are, nor vice versa).

The mafia are "less powerful" than the wolves. If there is only one mafia left, and only one wolf, and the wolf chooses to kill the mafia, then the mafia's kill does not take effect. (She is killed before she has a chance to do her own killing.) The mafia are more powerful than the vigilante, however, so a mafia kill takes priority over a vigilante kill. (ifMUD denizens may be interested to know that this is not the priority in thumper's Floyd version of werewolf; it is just the arrangement I personally think makes the most sense.)

This pecking order also applies with regard to victory conditions. For the wolves to win, the number of wolves must be equal to or greater than the total number of non-wolves (including mafia but excluding devil and spy). For the mafia to win, the number of mafia must be equal to or greater than the total number of non-mafia (including werewolves but excluding devil and spy). If there are equal numbers of wolves and mafia left, and no other roles (or only devils and spies), the werewolves win.

The recommended signal is brushing the cheek with the backs of the fingers, in imitation of Marlon Brando's Don Vito Corleone from The Godfather.


The archangel is on the villager team. She acts exactly like a wolfsbane carrier, but protects against mafia attack rather than werewolf attack.

The recommended signal is a circle with both hands, held over the head, to suggest a halo.


The spy is on the mafia team. She acts exactly like the devil, but wins if the mafia win. (Like the devil, the spy does not count for any team in victory calculations.) As with the devil, the moderator should exercise care when calling the spy (i.e., have the spy open her eyes but not choose a target, then come back to her after the other identifying roles have gone).

(ifMUD denizens will note that this is not a role present in the current version of werewolf on Floyd. The role has been suggested to me by players who sought a counterpart to the devil in order to make the werewolf and mafia teams more symmetric.)

The recommended hand signal is the arm curled around the face, with the elbow over the nose and the hand on the opposite shoulder, to suggest a spy shrouded in his cloak.

Other variations

These are ways to vary the game globally, rather than by adding new roles.

Don't reveal identities of dead players

In this variation, when a player dies, the moderator does not reveal that player's role. The moderator will only stop the game when one side wins. Thus the villagers may not know whether they lynched a wolf, whether the seer was killed last night, etc.

This can be tweaked. For example, perhaps the identities of players killed at night could be revealed, but not the identities of players lynched during the day -- or vice versa. Or the moderator can reveal when a wolf is killed, but not do so for other roles, so that the villagers do not know whether the seer is alive or not, etc.

When using this variation, needless to say, the moderator should not comply with requests for the distribution of remaining roles in the game (as she normally would). It is even possible for the moderator to not reveal what roles are in the game at the outset, although this can leave players feeling somewhat aimless.

Reveal identified players

There are two different (and, for all sane purposes, mutually exclusive) ways to do this. One is for the moderator to reveal, at the beginning of each day, which person was identified by the seer the previous night (but not reveal what their role is). In other words, say, "It is day; so-and-so was killed, and such-and-such was identified by the seer."

The other way is to reveal the role of the identified player to all players, but not reveal who was identified. To do this, when the seer picks someone at night, the moderator can say out loud, "That is a werewolf" or "That is a villager" and so forth. (Gender-neutral pronouns are especially important here.)

This can be extended to other roles; for example, the moderator can reveal who the devil identified, who the wolfsbane carrier protected, etc.

Begin with day

This can be handled a few different ways. The moderator can simply allow the game to begin with a day phase immediately; the wolves will not even know who each other are, and the villagers will be forced to lynch someone based on zero information. Or, the moderator can have a fake night phase just to let the wolves recognize each other, and then proceed right to daytime without a kill -- he can let the seer identify someone on this fake night, or, alternatively, not.

Disallow lying

This variation is recommended for people who want to sit around for an entire evening, staring at each other like idiots.

Lying is the essence of werewolf! Bwa-ha-haaaa!

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