Explaining the rules

Blood on the Clocktower rules explanation script for Storytellers

Author: Ben Finney <ben+bloodontheclocktower@benfinney.id.au>

This is a comprehensive explanation of the rules players need to know for the social deduction game Blood on the Clocktower.

This text is contrived and certainly is not exactly what I say every time I introduce the game! Rather, this is an idealised, excessively-verbose script that explains all the points that I want players to understand, and the rough order and timing of when I introduce each rule.

If this is useful for anything, I hope it is this: new players should get only the minimum rules up front before beginning play. Especially it is better to explain important rules as they come up in play, not all at once.

If you find this useful, feel free to build on and refine it for your own explanation when you are Storyteller.

Game Explanation

Welcome to the town of Ravenswood Bluff! You, the town council, know that not much ever happens in Ravenswood Bluff. Oh no! There has been a horrible murder: the town Storyteller – that's me – is impaled on the hands of the Clocktower, blood running down the stone. You know this must be of supernatural origin: one of you is an evil Demon, killing by night and taking human form by day.

This is a game of hidden identities. From this bag you will draw a token that names your character, and has a symbol. That symbol shows your team alignment by colour. If the symbol is blue, you are on the Good team. The Good team win the game by killing the Demon: if the Demon is dead (and stays dead!), the Good team wins. If the symbol is red, you are on the Evil team. The Evil team wins the game by destroying the town. If the town is reduced to 2 people left alive, the Evil team wins.

I am your Storyteller, (your name). My job is to make the game run smoothly so everyone has a good time. I am not a player on any team, so if you need to confide your plans or suspicions or to get impartial advice, I'm here for you. Come talk with me during the game, I can help!

We run the game in a night phase and a day phase. During the night phase, everyone closes their eyes to sleep, and I will wake some of you individually and communicate with you. But I must do this silently. I will use these signals:

With all this hidden communication and activity at night, please don't peek or describe what is happening while the night is going on, it will spoil the game.

After the night I will ask everyone to wake up for the day phase. During the day you may talk about what happened previously and you may say any lie or truth or both or neither, in public or private.

The climax of each day is to decide who should be executed, so most of your conversation should lead toward that. I will explain how we nominate and vote on execution when we get to that in the day.

So, the Demon will likely kill someone each night, and the town will likely choose to execute someone each day. That means by the end of the game, most of you will be dead. And that's okay! Death is not the end for you. If you are dead, you may continue to say anything to anyone, just as before. Your character is not revealed, though your ability stops working. You are still on the same team, and you will win or lose with that team. You still have as much to gain by participating after you die!

Character types and changed information

The character reference in your hand shows four different character types. On this chart at your feet you can see that with (e.g. 12) players, the Evil team has 1 Demon and (e.g. 2) Minions, all with powerful abilities. (If there are 7 or more players, say: Because the Evil team is quite outnumbered, on the first night they will also learn who else is Evil, and the Demon will learn some extra information to help them bluff. The Good players will not know who is on which team.) The Good team is made up of Townsfolk, with powerful abilities, and Outsiders, whose ability presents a challenge for the Good team to overcome.

(If there are one or more Travellers in the game, say: (e.g. Dylan) is (joining us late / wanting to leave early) in this game. Because of this, we know they're not the Demon. So I have added them as a different type of character, a Traveller, that is not on your character reference. Dylan's character is the (e.g. Bureaucrat). The Bureaucrat ability is (read the ability text), and that's written here on this separate Travellers reference, which I'll put under the Town Square. Dylan is seated here, and their life token is grey. This reminds us that Dylan is not a resident of the town, but is a Traveller, and so does not count when we check whether the Evil team has won. Also, Dylan can't be nominated or executed; instead, for Travellers there is a very similar process called “exile” that I can explain later.)

I know which character and which team alignment each of you are, because before the game begins I will take back those character tokens and put them into this, the Grimoire. It contains all the secrets and hidden state of the game. Please don't peek, it will spoil the game for everyone.

You can see that many of the abilities will require me to change something, or will require me to give you information. Most of the information I give will be true. But you will see that some of the abilities allow me to give you false information. Also, if you are poisoned or if you are drunk, your ability has no effect and does not work — but I will lie to you and pretend to you that it does! When you are poisoned or drunk, I will wake you when your ability says to wake you, ask for your choices, give you information, and so on, as your ability describes; but while you are poisoned or drunk it will all be a pretense.

Apart from those special cases where a character ability permits me to lie to you, everything I tell you about the game must be true. My job here is to stay neutral and make the game go smoothly. If you have any questions: what is the rule for this? what just happened at night? what's happening now? what does my character ability do? what does this other character ability do? what do I do if I want to pretend to be this other character? Please ask me during the day any of these or anything else about the game you want to know, and if it's not secret I will try to answer.

(If there are any abilities that react to Madness, say: Some abilities mention whether you are mad about some claim. To “be mad about” some factual claim, is to actively try to convince the town of that fact. For example, if you sincerely try to convince the town that Blake is the Demon, you are “mad about Blake being the Demon”. If you sincerely try to convince the town that you voted yesterday, you are “mad that you voted yesterday”. The fact might be true or false or unknown; Madness only describes your behaviour. Madness is never imposed on you, though some abilities describe a consequence of being mad about, or not mad about, a particular fact. You still choose what to say at any time. You may say nothing, then you are not being mad about anything; you may contradict some fact, or even say a fact but try to hint that you are not being sincere, then you are not being mad about that fact. Whether what you are doing counts as being mad about some fact is a judgement made by the Storyteller (me). Feel free to ask me during the game and I'll explain more.)


With all the information flowing around from abilities and from other players, and all the rules in the game, you might feel overwhelmed. Let me boil it down to these 4 things to keep in mind:

  1. You may speak truth, lies, or anything between. During the day you may say whatever you want to anyone at any time, to the whole group or in a whisper across the circle.
  2. My communication at night, and the Grimoire, are secrets. The Grimoire is where I keep track of what everyone's character is and the effects of their abilities. Night time is when I communicate secretly with some players. Please don't peek, it will spoil the fun.
  3. Ask me any questions about anything you need to. It's okay if you're confused or overwhelmed or forget something, and it's fine for players on either team to want secret conversation with the Storyteller. If something is written or something happens that you don't understand, or if you need some advice on your character ability or even general strategy: please ask me any time during the day.
  4. Play nice. As part of the game, we kill one another and call for execution and accuse each other of being murderers and liars. When this happens, please treat the real people around you with respect and consideration. Kill with grace, and die with dignity.

Game setup

In this bag is one character token for each of you; each is a different character from the character sheet. When the bag comes to you, take it then reach in without looking and draw out one token. They have soft felt on the back, so you can draw it from the bag the right way without showing anyone.

Look at your token secretly; remember which is your team alignment and your character name. Then, I will take them from you and you won't have them on you for the rest of the game. This means you cannot simply prove who you are! Anything written on the token is also written on the character sheet you have, so don't worry about memorising anything else, just the name and team alignment.

Thank you, I now have all those tokens back. I need a minute or two to set up the game, after that we will begin the game with the First Night.

First night

The game starts now! We begin with the First Night. Remember, you will stay seated and may talk freely to the group or to your neighbours about most things, but not about choices or secret communications during the night.

If I tap you twice on the shoulder or the knee, open your eyes to look at me. Otherwise, everyone please close your eyes now.

First day

Everyone please open your eyes, it is now day.

Thank you for your patience, the First Night is typically the longest because a lot of things happened. Now it's the day phase; you may discuss what happened with each other to decide who should be executed today.

If you need private conversation you may stand up and step across the circle to whisper with that player. You may tell the truth, you may tell half-truth, you may be vague or specific, you may lie.

Those of you who are new to this game or who don't know yet how your character ability fits in, try to determine what your “job” could be in this town. Evil players need to protect the Demon at all costs; Good players need to find who they can trust and narrow down who is the Demon. How can your ability hinder or help your team? Come and speak with me privately if you want some advice on this.

I spoke earlier of bluffing. There are many characters who have reason to avoid being totally open about who they are. If you are on the Evil team, of course you will need to lie about who you are! But many Good players will also have reason to mislead the town about who they are, at least for a while.

Don't expect to just say nothing and get away with it: you will need to use your voice and try to convince people of something specific. On the other hand, if you suspect someone is being untruthful, confronting them openly might not be as useful as asking to whisper with them to find out what's going on. Maybe supporting their bluff can help your team, and if not, you may have a better chance to catch partial truths spoken in private.

In contrast with all that, the Good team will likely lose if you cannot overcome the initial distrust. Try to find a way to trust some people and start to figure out who is on which team. Get into conversations with each other to share at least some of your information, to narrow down what could be happening.

Now, talk among yourselves; I will be back in a few minutes or so, to call for an execution.

Before the first nomination

You've now had some discussion. I am about to open nominations for execution. Anyone alive can nominate another player to be executed, by name. So if Alex wants to nominate Cameron, Alex you would first explain why you want this, then point to them and say “I nominate Cameron”. When I confirm this, with “Alex has nominated Cameron for execution”, we will be voting on whether the town should execute Cameron.

Keep the discussion going now. Anyone who has said enough can then nominate someone for execution.

Immediately after first nomination

(example names) Alex has nominated Cameron for execution. I assume you have already explained why when you discussed it.

Cameron, what do you say in your defense? (allow a good interval for Cameron's response; politely silence any interruptions or side discussions, sternly saying “I need to hear Cameron, please give them the space to respond a bit longer”)

We will now vote on whether to execute Cameron. If there are votes numbering half or more of the alive players, the vote will pass for Cameron's execution. We have (e.g. 11) players alive, so that means (e.g. 6) or more votes. Fewer than that, and Cameron will be safe from execution today.

I will count votes by sweeping my hand around the circle like the hand of a clock (demonstrate this at normal speed). If you want Cameron executed, your hand must be confidently above your head when my hand gets to you. If your hand is down, I won't count it. If your hand is up too late, I won't count it. If your hand is not held up but is semi-confident, you're leaving it up to me. You're not waving to a distant friend, you are calling for their death! Make your vote with a confident hand above your head if you want it counted.

I am starting my hand here, so Cameron will be the last person I sweep past. Counting votes to execute Cameron, with your hand above your head, starting... now!

The first time a nomination fails to get enough votes

(e.g. 4) votes is not half or more of the living players. Cameron, that means you won't be executed and no-one can nominate you again today. Alex, your nomination for today is done.

Nominations are still open, and anyone can vote again today whether you already voted or not. If there are no other nominations we will execute no-one and go to night, when the Demon might kill again. Are there further nominations?

The first time a nomination gets enough votes

(e.g. 7) votes is enough, Cameron is about to be executed. But I will still hear further nominations, and if someone gets enough votes we won't execute Cameron.

If someone else is nominated and receives more than (e.g. 7) votes, Cameron will then be safe and instead that player will be about to be executed. Further nominations can happen after that, and so on until there is a clear decision of whom to execute today.

Or, someone could tie the vote by getting equal highest number of votes. If no nominations after that get more votes, I will declare the town is too indecisive and we will go to night with no execution.

Nominations are still open, and anyone who voted can keep on voting as many times as you like. Anyone alive who has not nominated today, and that includes you Cameron, can nominate someone else, to try to get enough votes and prevent this execution. Are there any further nominations?

The first time a player is executed

The town has decided: Cameron, you will now be executed.

(optionally: How would you like to die? briefly and lightly describe the death chosen)

(if this is the first death: also explain The first time a player dies)

With the execution done, the day now ends; everyone please close your eyes for the night phase.

The first time a player dies

Cameron is now dead. Please turn that life token over to show the black side.

When a player is dead, this means a few things at once. Cameron's ability stops working. Whatever the ability on the character sheet describes, now stops happening — unless it's one of the abilities that says it happens after death.

Cameron is still participating in the game, as a ghost. You still close your eyes at night, you still have your hidden identity and team alignment, you still will win or lose with your team, you still can say anything to anyone during the day.

As a ghost though, you are reduced to only one vote ever for the rest of the game. Please put that vote token onto Cameron's life token. When you use that one vote, it is gone for the game. And from now on you may not nominate anyone for execution. You have to convince the living players to do that instead. The town steadily fills up with opinionated dead people trying to manipulate the living to make the right executions!

When the day begins with four or fewer players alive

(after normal announcements of who died)

There are now only (e.g. 4) players alive. If you execute someone today and it is not the Demon, the day will end with 3 players alive. At night, the Demon may kill someone else, leaving 2 players alive, including the Demon. That would make the game end in a victory for the Evil team!

That means today's execution might be your last chance to kill the Demon. Please talk about it now, the stakes are high!

End of the game

(After declaring the victorious team)

(curtain call) (explain important events) (show the Grimoire)

That was the (edition name) edition of Blood on the Clocktower. My name is (your name), thank you all for playing!