From Blood on the Clocktower Wiki
Running Things Smoothly
You can end the game when victory is certain for one team. If all remaining players are evil, then good cannot nominate the Demon, so you can declare that evil wins.
Almost every time there are four players left alive, and the good players execute a non-Demon player, you can end the game there. If you were to continue the game after this execution, with just three players alive, then the Demon would kill one of those players at night, ending the game. There is little point in going through this process, as evil already knows they have won. However, if a Monk or a Soldier is still alive, then the Demon may not end up killing a player that night, leading to another day of executions after all.
Use your best judgment when declaring a game over in this way. If there is any way for the losing team to win—however unlikely it is—then keep the game going.
During the night, confirm players’ choices with a downward finger point. Sometimes, players will point at another player very quickly, or will point from an angle that makes it hard for you to determine which player they want to choose. Instead of guessing their intentions, walk to the player you think they chose and point to them as well, pointing vertically and downwards while your hand is above them. This makes it very clear to the choosing player that you want to confirm their choice. The choosing player nods to you. You nod to the choosing player. You both understand exactly which player is the target.
This practice, or whatever works for you, is a good habit to get into, as it avoids easy misunderstandings.
Moving around unnecessarily at night can put crafty players off your scent. If you always walk to the same part of the circle the first thing each night, and your shoes make noise, then players may be understandably suspicious that the Demon is sitting in that area. If you walk to different areas of the circle at random intervals, any noise you make will not give away what is really happening.
Moving around tokens in the Grimoire is something you may need to do when good players use their abilities, such as the Slayer or the Juggler. When evil players bluff as these characters, pretend to move tokens around the Grimoire in the same manner. Veteran players will not be able to tell by looking at your hand motions whether the player in question is bluffing or not.
Quietly tap the shoulders or knees of the players that need to wake. If your tapping makes noise, neighboring players may hear and get suspicious of the tapped player. If the player is wearing thick clothing and cannot feel light taps, then press noticeably with your hand twice instead.
Keep the Grimoire level when moving about. The high sides of the Grimoire should keep its contents hidden from the players’ view as long as you don't tip the Grimoire at a steep angle. Players may need to be seated below the eye level of the top of the Grimoire in order to avoid accidentally seeing inside.
Hold the Grimoire by the strong center pillar from above or underneath. This way, you can have a free hand to move tokens around. Don’t hold the Grimoire by the left and right edges alone, as this will cause the book to snap closed...which could send tokens flying everywhere!
Transport your Grimoire with the spine facing down. If you put your Grimoire in a bag, having all its weight on the strong spine of the box will help prevent fraying or bending of the box corners, and keep the game in good condition.
Step into the circle, completely or in part, to make sure that you are seen and heard when doing important things like running a vote or saying “Last call for nominations! 3…2…1…”. You don’t want to hog the limelight and demand attention at the expense of the players’ fun, so this visual cue—being in the center of the circle—is an easy way to let the group know you are doing something important.
If you make a mistake, just play on and do your best. Don't try to "balance the game" by giving the opposite team some benefit. This is awkward to do well, and means that the good players can often backtrack and find out what your mistake was by figuring out which team benefitted by your correction and how.
All Storytellers make mistakes at some point. It happens. Maybe you let the Solder be killed by the Demon? Maybe you forgot the Mayor was the Drunk, and declared that good won because of it? Just roll with it. If the mistake benefitted the winning team, then an apology to the losing team might be in order. If the mistake benefitted the losing team, then extra congratulations to the winning team!
It is usually best to tell the group that you made a mistake, but not tell them what the mistake was. This way, they have enough information to work with, but not so much that it is a detriment to the opposing team.
One exception here: If you forget to wake a player that should have woken during the night, you can either temporarily put all players back to sleep in the morning and wake just that player, or you can request a private chat with that player and resolve their ability then. For example, if you forgot to wake the Butler, either put all players to sleep and resolve the Butler’s ability, or just take the Butler aside and ask who they wanted to choose as their Master last night. If you think that you can fix a mistake in this way, go for it.
If you relax and take your time when setting up each night phase, you'll find that mistakes get less and less frequent. If you find that you are being rushed, relax and take your time. If you are confused about something, you guessed it: relax and take your time.
It is often best to answer questions privately. Most players’ questions will be about their character. When talking privately, you can be more candid and responsive. When answering player questions publicly, remember to refer to the name of the player, not their character, and to talk in such a way that does not reveal excess information to the group. For example, if the Empath asks you publicly, "What did the one-finger hand signal mean last night?” and you answer "It meant a one,” then you have publicly confirmed that the Empath is the Empath. Or if a Monk asks, "How many players can I choose at night?” and you say "One,” then you have revealed too much. In private, these conversations can happen much more easily.
Discourage players from talking about their characters before the first night begins. You may even want to ban this behavior. If players consistently reveal their characters before the Demon has received its three not-in-play characters to bluff as, then that pressures the Demon to reveal who they are before they are ready. Even though it goes against the "You may say whatever you want at any time" rule, stopping good players from using this strategy may be necessary. Most players understand that the game has not really begun until the first night begins, and will not do this. However, if it becomes an issue, either ask players to not do it, or put the Hell's Librarian, one of the Fabled (page XX), into play.
You may have to do the same thing if players continually talk about their abilities during the night while they are using them. If players narrate their own abilities during the night—saying things like "I am waking now. I am learning that the executed player was the Soldier."—then it can be extremely difficult for evil players to bluff, as they would have to narrate actions during the night while they are actually asleep. Instinctually, most players realize that the night phase is a time to stay silent, or at least not to talk about their own actions until morning. However, if it becomes an issue, either ask players to not do it or put the Hell's Librarian into play.
It is best to keep the players in the circle while they are playing. This prevents players from wandering all over the place, which causes difficulty getting everyone together when nominations are called. Keeping players within the circle also encourages veterans to talk to newer players and for newer players to talk to each other. The last thing that you want is your veterans wandering off in ones and twos, leaving a new player sitting in the circle alone.
This also encourages players to leave their seats to talk in private to players on the opposite side of the circle, as everybody is close together. Players having private conversations with each other can be a huge part of some games, and is something that really adds new levels of strategy to both good and evil's arsenal of tricks.
If you have spare moments during the day phase, you can read the text on the in-play character tokens. This will help you learn exactly how each character works and how they interact with the other characters in play. This is surprisingly useful when running a new edition for the first time. Some character text is subtle, and you may not notice everything on first reading. After all, you only need to know how the in-play characters work. All other characters on the character sheet have little or no bearing on the game.
Making Things Fun
You can ask, "How would you like to die?" to a player just before they are executed. Doing this in public allows the dying player to come up with all sorts of interesting and amusing ways that they would like to be executed. Some players will want to take a long walk off a cliff, while many will request death by more pleasurable means.
If you like, you can narrate the details of their death in response. If you do so, it is best to keep things short, funny, and lighthearted. Don't make it awkward. For example, if a player answers, "I die by getting stabbed in the back, at a banquet in my honor," you can narrate this death by saying something like "Well...the Townsfolk all gather together and hold a big feast, and while you’re giving a speech, somebody stabs you in the back with a cake fork, but you had already died of boredom from the speeches earlier in the night." If you instead respond with a detailed description of which bones and muscles tear and how painful it is, this will simply gross people out and make them uncomfortable in continuing to play your games in the future. Keep the vibe fun and frivolous if you can. Say nothing at all if you can't. Remember that people may have all sorts of things they are squeamish talking about in public, particularly anything sexual or too personal. This kind of witty banter with the group requires a good feeling for what is and is not appropriate for your group.
You can narrate as much or as little of the game as you wish. When the game begins, setting the scene with a little flair, such as "It was a dark and stormy night…" can add suspense and tone to your game. Also, giving context and story to a player's death at night, or adding little verbal touches to the gathering of the Townsfolk during the day can set your game up as something special. This requires some skill with words as well as creativity and an ability to think on your feet. Thankfully, it is entirely unnecessary. If you are uncomfortable, then skip this. A mostly silent Storyteller can still create perfectly functional and exciting games. The players themselves will create most of their own fun.
Don't break the rules. Even if it seems like it might be exciting to do so. Don't simply decide that players should die instead of remain alive, or put in more or fewer Minions or Outsiders. The good players are relying on all the information available to win. If they base their logic on incorrect information, but they have no way of knowing that their information is incorrect, then they are simply guessing, and it will not be fun for them. Even if you think it might be wacky to secretly not put a Demon in play, to add a Drunk out of the blue, or to alter some other important rule, the players will probably not appreciate this, as they will feel like a victory was not fairly won, or a loss unfairly thrust upon them.
There are over 200 characters in the complete Blood on the Clocktower collection, and one of them will do that crazy thing you want to do, in a way that is fun and fair.
Let players make their own decisions. During the night, players will sometimes seem to make odd choices. The Fortune Teller may choose the same players each night. A Monk may protect a dead player. The Demon may attack a revealed Ravenkeeper. The Poisoner may poison the Demon. You never know what the player in question might be thinking, and it is best to not nudge them toward choosing what you think is best. In the above examples, the Fortune Teller may be testing to see if they are drunk, the Monk may want a death tonight so that three players remain alive for a Mayor victory, the Demon may want to get the Ravenkeeper out of the way early, and the Poisoner may be about to bluff as the Soldier and use the fact that no death occurred as evidence. If you let the players make their own choices, they may not be the best choices, but they own them.
Dealing with negative behavior is something you may have to do sooner or later.
As is the case with all social gatherings, sometimes a player will speak in a disrespectful tone to another player. Blood on the Clocktower is a social game, which means social tools are useful in playing it. There are good, fun ones like charm or humor, but one or two players may get a little caught up in the excitement and revert to some of the more negative social tools, such as shouting, bullying, or emotional blackmail. Any player behavior that is unpleasant or otherwise destructive to the good vibe of the game should be nipped in the bud. This type of behavior is not acceptable, as other players may feel uncomfortable at best or argumentative and victimized at worst. Every player deserves to be in an environment where they feel accepted, respected, and able to make their own decisions.
If you encounter negative behavior, take the player aside for a private chat. Explain to them that their tone and behavior might be unpleasant to one or more players. Stress that the problem is not the person, but the behavior. Most players will immediately change how they interact with others, as they hadn’t realized how heated they were getting. They probably saw their actions as enthusiastic or intense, and will appreciate that you took them aside to let them know otherwise.
Players that verbally justify their own bullying or aggression and put the blame on others should not be welcome at any future games you run until they can overcome this tendency. Similarly, players that feign offense and hurt feelings might be using negative social tools. For example, if a player pretends to be really annoyed, hurt, or angry at being nominated for execution, that can cause a bad vibe for the game. An upbeat, fun, and respectful mood is more important than either team winning or losing. Period.
More importantly, you need to know whether any in-game expression of distress is genuine, so that you can act appropriately and compassionately to help resolve a situation. If a player abuses that trust by pretending to be genuinely upset when they are not, you should have a quiet word with that player to encourage them not to do so again.
Judging what is and isn't offensive or unpleasant can be tricky, so use your best judgment. Censoring certain topics of conversation rarely goes well, as it is usually a player’s tone, not their words, that are problematic to others. Swearing, smack-talking, or vulgar or contentious subjects might be fine depending on your group. Personal attacks, insults, or anything that makes a player feel unsafe, hurt, or unheard are not.
Taboo subjects or subjects perceived as taboo—such as death, sexuality, gender, and the occult—may be a barrier for some people to play. Similarly, particular characters may offend some people or make others uncomfortable with playing. Whilst those uncomfortable with games involving taboo subjects in general may be better off finding a different game to play, you can cater to players with strong dislikes for particular characters by making your own character lists, with exactly the characters you want in play and none that you don't. For more on this, read “The Script” (page XX).
Shy players, paradoxically, tend to very much enjoy the intense social interaction of Clocktower. Many will stay silent and simply listen, taking part every so often by revealing information and putting their vote to good use. However, they may let other players interrupt them when trying to talk, or their voice may simply not be loud and dominant enough to get the group's attention.
If you notice a player in this situation, give them the floor every so often. Silence the rest of the group and allow the shy player to say what they wish to say uninterrupted. Never demand that the shy player speak—simply ask if they wish to. The best time to do this is when the shy player has been nominated, as this is when the group’s attention is mostly on them anyway. Even saying "You have been nominated. What do you have to say?" can be the prompt they need to talk and be listened to, without you needing to silence the rest of the group at all.
Gradually, over several games, you will probably find that the previously shy player gains a sense of confidence and begins to participate more.
Talkative players. Don’t silence a player unless the rest of the group is silenced too. Telling a talkative player to be quiet while letting everyone else speak will lead that player to feel they are being treated unfairly, which they have been. Clocktower is a game about talking, after all. If you need to silence a notorious chatterbox so that you can be heard, or so a shy player can be heard, then silence the rest of the group as well.
Get the game to last until the final day if you can. Games of Clocktower are at their most exciting when there are just three or four players alive, and a right or wrong execution can mean victory or defeat. Games that end at this point tend to have more tension, more drama, and a bigger cheer for the victorious team. So…how do you help the game get to the final day?
Help the weaker team as much as possible. As the Storyteller, you are not exempt from the rules, but there are many places where you can decide to give the weaker team an invisible stroke of luck.
Is evil absolutely stomping good? You can give the drunk Empath correct information some nights, or make the Spy that is executed register as the Spy to the Undertaker. Maybe when the Mayor is attacked at night, you could kill a Minion instead of a Townsfolk?
Is good absolutely demolishing evil? Think carefully about what information you give to drunk or poisoned Townsfolk. The wrong information at the right time can swing the fate of a game dramatically.
It is almost never a good idea to flat-out decide the winning team by exploiting a game rule. It’s pretty unfair to end the game by killing the Tinker or by having an attacked Mayor kill the last evil player alive, for instance. However, a player that has been told to be mad by the Cerenovus can end the game by being executed, because that's a player’s choice much more than your choice. Do what will create the most interesting game and the most climactic finish that the players feel they earned themselves.
Listen to the bluffs of the evil players and run your game accordingly. If the Imp is claiming to be the Slayer and wants to use their ability, make sure it looks like their ability just didn't work. Put in the same effort as if they were actually the Slayer! If the Spy is claiming to be the Fortune Teller, and is chosen by the Ravenkeeper, then choose the Fortune Teller to be the good character that the Spy registers as.
Evil players rely on you every so often to help make their lies sound like the truth. Help them out wherever you can.
For example, if an evil player is claiming to be the Virgin and is nominated, nothing will happen. To make it look like the evil player was actually the Virgin, you can move your hands around the Grimoire to make it look like you are putting the Virgin's "No ability" reminder token by the character token. After all, if the real Virgin was nominated, this is what you would be doing. Beginner players won't pick up on this subtlety, but veterans might.
To encourage a big and exultant celebration at the end of the game, declare the victory with some flair. Simply saying "evil wins" in a quiet voice out of the blue doesn't really encourage the evil team to jump up and start high-fiving each other. Giving the announcement some dramatic pause, getting the group’s attention before speaking in an authoritative voice, or telling the players that high-fives and hugs are acceptable can all be great ways to allow your
winning team to celebrate in the way they’d like. It's their victory. They've earned it. And once you have experienced the thrill of winning as the Demon in a 15+ player game, you'll know how cathartic it can be to cut loose in celebration at this point. Even an unexpected loss after a game this size will be remembered for months to come.
Allow creative and unexpected strategies. Clocktower is a game that can be extremely fun when a player goes beyond what is normally accepted in a social deduction game. Maybe your evil players start texting each other during the game? That's fine. Maybe good players keep lying through their teeth about who is who, in order to put evil off the scent? That's great! Maybe players come back from talking to you in private, and tell the group something different from what you said to them? Super! Maybe the Spy took a photo of the Grimoire? Crafty! The more creative your players get, the better.
The exceptions to this rule are obvious. Bullying and shaming are never acceptable, and the rules of the game must be followed. Also, deals that involve factors outside of the game should always be discouraged. A player offering real money for votes, or promising some service after the game ends, is not fun. Keep the vibe friendly and you'll have no problems. Basically, if the behavior is unorthodox and creative and makes the game more interesting, allow it. If you think that a behavior will make the game worse if it is continued, feel free to disallow it.
Waking the Demon and the Minions together at the same time at start of the game can be fun for the evil players to learn who each other are. They get to make eye contact and share a moment of devilish camaraderie.
Instead of waking the Minions and pointing to the Demon, then waking the Demon and pointing to the Minions, just wake everyone together. You will still need to show the "This is the Demon" and "These are your Minions" info tokens, so that the players know who the Demon is. You will also need to put the Minions back to sleep before showing the Demon the three not-in-play character tokens as bluffs. So yeah—it is a little tricky.
The Minions and Demon are normally woken separately to allow for characters such as the Lunatic, Mole, and Magician to function, and to ensure that the Minions do not see the Demon’s character bluffs. If your script does not have these characters, you can experiment with which method works best for you.
Your role is to create a fun and engaging game. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Are you messing with the players in the service of fun, or indulging yourself at their expense? Just because you can make the Recluse register as the Demon when the Imp kills themself during the night, that doesn’t mean it will be fun or balanced. Just because you can wake the drunk Snake Charmer and tell them they are now the Demon, that doesn’t mean the player will have a good time. Maybe they will? Maybe they won’t. You can give completely useless information to the Savant, but interesting and unique information is better.
Each game, as the Storyteller, you will have a lot of interesting decisions to make. Each decision should be made for the good of the game and for the fun of the group. This will usually mean that you are creating as much confusion as possible and leading the good team astray, because that makes a fun game for all. But please keep the fairness of the game as a whole in mind—you are there for the players’ enjoyment.