Kevin’s Quick Guide to Werewolf-by-email

I’ve been playing board games online for quite a few years now via this great service called Richard’s Play-By-Email Server. If you aren’t familiar with Richard’s PBM server, go check it out – he’s got a lot of classic board games available and it’s a great system for playing online. I started playing Go and Chess there[1], which was VERY nice, since I didn’t have to sit in front of a browser or client for an hour or three to play other people with similar skill levels.

And then one day, word came out that they had implemented “Are You a Werewolf” – And I got hooked.

Now, I know quite a few of the people who read my blog play Werewolf/Mafia, and quite a few people have expressed interest in playing when I mention it on twitter. So I figured I should post a slightly expanded version of the “HOWTO” I usually send to people who want to try it.[2]

Kevin’s Quick Guide to Playing Werewolf on Richard’s PBM (If you already know how to play in person)

The server handles everything by email messages to and from pbmserv(at)gamerz(dot)net. Commands are sent in the subject of the messages. Any message body text is sent as a message to players.

You’ll need an account on the server : signup [username] [password]

Where [username] is the ID you wish to use, and [password] is the password you wish to use. You only have to signup with the server once.

To get a list of games : werewolf list
To join a werewolf game : werewolf join [number] [username] [password] [alias]

Where [number] is the game number you  want to interact with and [alias] is the name you want to use in-game. There is almost always a theme for the aliases in a particular game.

To send a message to the game : Werewolf chat [number] [username] [password]
To vote during the day phase : Werewolf vote [number] [username] [password] [target]

Where [target] is the person you’re voting for.

Werewolves can talk to the other wolves with howl : werewolf howl [number] [username] [password]
Wolves get to kill players at night : werewolf kill [number] [username] [password] [target]
Seers get to find out about a player at night : werewolf info [number] [username] [password] [target]
The Angel gets to protect someone at night : werewolf protect [number] [username] [password] [target]

For a Complete list of commands : werewolf help

Or or you can check out the web page at

The full tutorial for the server is at

Tips and Tricks

  • Please don’t send rich text or MIME messages to the server – it gets converted to flat text, and will show raw code (making people grumpy). For gmail users, this means using the “Plain Text” link in the compose window. For Thunderbird, Mail.App, etc it’s part of the settings. I have that set as my default in ALL my mail clients, including gmail.
  • Any of the “night” moves can be sent during the day and are queued up. When the day ends (that is, when the voting has reached an unbreakable majority), any queued moves are executed. I REALLY recommend night roles (wolves, seers, angels, etc) queue moves to speed up the game a little.
  • The list command will list information about a single game if you use “werewolf list [number]” – that’s useful for seeing what aliases are already in use in a particular game.
  • Aliases came about somewhere prior to game 100, when votes were cast on reasons like “alchemist hasn’t been a werewolf in about 10 games, so statistically, he should be one soon” Themes followed shortly after. Recent themes have included RPG names, Fantasy worlds, and webcomics.
  • There is at least one group of players who ALWAYS play “Medieval Professions” as there theme, and play in character for their alias[3]
  • Don’t use an alias with Underscores, and don’t break theme if you can help it. This has historically lead to an early death.
  • Join the werewolf-users list, where you can find out about new games as they are forming, and updates and changes to the game code and how it’s played. Information on how to do so is at the bottom of the Werewolf page.
  • Be careful with replies! People (myself included) have on occasion sent the join request to werewolf-users (or the main server mail list), which shows the password to the whole list. And then you have to change your password, and everyone will get a good laugh – as well as a couple of “damn, I hate when I do that” messages.

And that’s it. Feel free to send me corrections, additional tips and tricks, and even complaints, so I can keep this page accurate!

[1] User id “alchemist,” and I’m open to a game or two of either…

[2] So now, I can just send the link to this post. Lazy Wins!

[3] In one game I was the Village Idiot and pulled the seer role. THAT was an interesting game when I finally had to express that someone was a werewolf. Although I think my messages that game were some of my finest works to date…

About Kevin Sonney

Kevin Sonney - who, contrary to popular opinion was NOT raised by wolves - grew up in central North Carolina. He fell into the technology field by accident in 1991, when he gave up the wild and crazy lifestyle of an on-air AM radio DJ to become a mundane technical support monkey. The technology industry has never really recovered from this. Kevin has worked for such names as IBM, Red Hat, webslingerZ, and Lulu Technologies (we won't mention the ones that didn't survive the experience). He currently works as a Linux Administrator for Apptio. In his spare time he rescues stray animals and plays video games with his two sons. His wife, we're sad to say, helps him get past the really hard bits. Kevin is still not very mundane, he just got better at hiding it.
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