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These are the rules of my homebrew of The Thing, a party game based off the 1981 film John Carpenter's The Thing.

There are other variations of rules online, (the main one being this thread from 2008) but these are the homebrew rules I've developed over numerous times of playing the game.

My main goal was to create an improved version of the popular party game Werewolf (also commonly known as Mafia) and I think I've created a game that fixes many of the problems the original game has. It's not vital that the players of The Thing are familar with Werewolf, but it certainly helps.

advantages over werewolf/mafia

  • Can be played with a smaller range of players.

  • No early deaths: Every player who dies in The Thing has typically already been involved in the game and won't feel cheated when they die.

  • Easier to understand: I think this game (at least the base version) is easier to play for first-timers.

  • More players involved for more time: Rather than the average death of two players per round in Werewolf, in this game players are slowly killed off and more players are involved in the finale of the game.

  • More satisfying finale: Instead of the game simply ending after a vote due to the werewolves outnumbering villagers, The Thing ends with an exciting finale.

  • Better overall player experience: I believe the advantages above gives the average player a higher enjoyment of the game, as many of the complaints a Werewolf player can have is fixed in this version.

  • basic gameplay

    Here are some very basic rules of The Thing, more details follow below, but if you're familiar with Werewolf this is mostly what you'll need to get started and begin to understand the core differences in this game.

    The Thing consists of the players (5 - ∞) and the Gamemaster (GM). The GM can be called many different things; "God, Leader, John Carpenter, Kurt Russell," but in these rules I'll refer to him as the GM.

    The game switches between the two times of play; DAY and NIGHT. During NIGHT the majority of the players are asleep (sitting with their eyes closed and silent.) During DAY the players are awake and can talk freely to each other.

    On the first NIGHT of the game the GM will secretly select one player to become INFECTED. The INFECTED player will then immediately select another player to infect. (This is the key difference from Werewolf/Mafia. Instead of killing off other players, the INFECTED choose players to join them.)

    All players who are not INFECTED are INNOCENT.

    During the DAY the players select a player to be tested. If the player they select is INFECTED, that player is then killed off and leaves the game. However if that player is not, they then get to simply return to the game. If the players succesfully kill an INFECTED, they get to test another player. If they tested an INNOCENT player, the game returns to NIGHT.

    Gameplay continues like this until the INFECTED that are aware (I'll explain this later) outnumber the INNOCENT, At that point the finale takes place.

    setup/ first night

    The players should be seated in a circle, on the floor or in seats if available. The GM needs to be able to walk 360 around the group.

    The game begins in NIGHT with the players' eyes closed. The GM should setup the story and rules here. Even if the players are familiar a quick refresher never hurts.

    The GM then selects a player to be the first INFECTED by tapping them on the head. This player then chooses the next INFECTED player by pointing at someone else in the group.

    The newly selected player is tapped on the head by the GM, making them aware they are also INFECTED, but at this point they have no idea which player has infected them.

    In the base game the first night ends here. If you've decided on more player modes, other selections are made here.


    The players all awake as the GM announces DAY has arrived.

    Some discussion should happen now. The players may start this by themselves or the GM may need to lead them into conversation.

    After some amount of discussion has happened, the voting process can begin. The GM can choose any player to vote first (oldest player/ first name in the alphabet/ etc,) but the next day the vote should begin with the next player to the left, so throughout the game each player gets to be the first to vote.

    The players vote on who they believe to be INFECTED. They may only say the name or the GM might press them for a reason. Once everyone has voted the player with the most votes is selected for testing.

    There are two options for a tie.

      1: Neither player is selected and the game immediately launches into night.
      2: The two players close their eyes and everyone else must vote between the two players.

    The selected player is then tested. There are also a number of ways to do this depending on the group you're playing with.

      1: The GM announces whether the player was INFECTED or INNOCENT.
      2: The player announces whether they were INFECTED or INNOCENT.
      3: For the more dramatic/roleplay crowd, one of the other players volunteers to test the selected player. The volunteer taps the player on the head. If the selected player was INFECTED, they act the motions of turning into a deformed alien and dying. If they were INNOCENT they simply sit there with a smug look on their face.

    If the player was proven INNOCENT they remain in the game, however the players won't trust them for long as they may become infected in the next round.

    If the player was proven INFECTED then they are eliminated from the game and can cheer on the surviving INFECTED from the sideline. The players now get to test another player. This cycle can continue on until all INFECTED have been killed. However I recommend only allowing one test on the first day, to make sure the game doesn't end after one night (however I have yet to play a game where the players succesfully tested any INFECTED on the first day.)

    the game continues

    The game now launches back into NIGHT and the actions repeat. As the INFECTED players awake the newly selected player will learn the identities of the others. They will then choose another player to infect.

    The cycle continues between DAY and NIGHT until...


    There are 2 ways for the game to end.

    1. The INFECTED are killed: This ending happens once there are no more INFECTED players left. The players should be constantly aware of how many INFECTED players remaining so they will be instantly aware when they win. The players will naturally always need to test at least 2 INFECTED players in a row to win, as there will always be a minimum of 2 INFECTED at the beginning of the day.

    2. The INFECTED outnumber the INNOCENT: On the DAY after half or the majority of the remaining players are INFECTED, (4/8, 4/9, 5/10, etc) the group must successfully test an INFECTED person. (This is only possible on the basis that the newly INFECTED player will accidentally vote for one of their own, since at this point they won't be aware of who's who.)

    If the players succesfully kill an INFECTED then the game continues as normal.

    If they don't then the game enters finale mode. It's now up to the player who was tested (and the only player all players know is INNOCENT) to end the game. They must stand up and walk around the circle, tapping the players who they believe to be INFECTED.

    If they tap any INNOCENT, then the INFECTED win the game. If they succesfully tap all of the INFECTED, the INNOCENT win.

    tips for GMs

  • Always ask any player who you've tapped on the head during the NIGHT to give you a signal that they're aware they've been selected.

  • If there's a lightswitch nearby and you're playing late at night, turning the lights off during the NIGHT and on during the DAY adds another atmospheric layer to the game.

  • If you're group comes from an RPG or drama background, build up the story as much as possible. You can base this off the film and have them be arctic researchers surrounded by snow, or make up your own. Ask the players "What did you spend the morning doing?" Have events happen during the game, "A shipment of letters from your home came today. Who did you all get letters from?"

  • If there is an easy way to do it, make a visual tally of INFECTED to INNOCENT players left. Whiteboard, cards (switching between red and black), any visual representation will help the players be aware.

  • Ask your group on how to do things. The game has so many small options of play, ask them their decision on adding in gamemodes, the limit of tests, etc.

  • other gamemodes

  • The Immune: Another player is selected who is immune to being infected. If the player is chosen by the INFECTED they will not be tapped on the head or made aware. The INFECTED will become aware when the GM announces: "The infected have selected an immune player." It's up to the GM or playgroup to decide whether the player themselves is made aware. Also during the second ending this player could instead be the one who has to eliminate all INFECTED.

  • The Doctor: Another player is selected who is called the doctor. At the beginning of the night (only starting on the second night) the doctor gets to select a player to be cured. If they select the player that was newly infected the night before then that player is no longer INFECTED and does not wake up with the rest. The doctor is allowed to cure himself, but during the day before he can cure himself he can be killed if he's tested.The INFECTED are not allowed to choose the player that has just been cured.

  • Sick: Another player who is selected on the first night. This is a player who will be killed by the test whether they are INFECTED or not. This player is made aware can choose to tell the rest of the group about this fact or wait until they need it as a defense. Multiple players may end up claiming they are the sick.

  • last updated on the 4th of september, 2018