ROLE PLAYING: Deception
Part 2: The Witness
The Witness is to Deception what Merlin is to Resistance: Avalon - the most powerful good player but also the most vulnerable. The Witness will know which two players comprise the bad team (Murderer and Accomplice), without knowing which player is in which role. If the witness is identified at the end of the game, the Murderer and Accomplice will murder the Witness, winning the game despite being caught. I've gotten so good at being the Forensic Scientist that, on the occasions where we do lose, it is because the Witness was identified. Worse, the Criminals are sometimes too confidant in their accusations, indicating that the Witness should be too obvious.
So what strategies should the witness consider? Unlike the Forensic Scientist, there is no one thread to follow, so consider using one (or more) of the following plays, while remembering the following precursors.
DON'T - Stay silent
A common mistake of new Witnesses is to say nothing to avoid getting caught. This is extremely disadvantageous to your team. If the Murderer and Accomplice are doing their job, or if the Forensic Scientist has particularly bad options, your team needs you to provide direction. Your ability to avoid detection means nothing if the Murderer escapes anyway.
DON'T - Immediately name the Murderer a suspect
As a Murderer or Accomplice, I generally get a good idea of who is the Witness one of us has the first card mentioned after the first clue. Rookie mistake, particularly in large player counts. Usually, there will be several cards that correspond to the first clue - if I am a Criminal and I am immediately the first one named as a suspect, it provides me a lot of information. It implies that the Witness looked for matches between my partner and I. Too many times I've heard the Criminal team say that they had a good lead on the Witness within the first 30 seconds, and this is problematic.
DON'T - Target both Criminals, even if it is legitimate
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is one of the best traps the criminals. To be effective, an investigator needs to target around three or less people to be taken seriously. If you include both Criminals among such a small pool, it is extremely suspicious to the Criminal team. Consider waiting until you have sufficient reason to suspect one versus the other. As you will see in my Murderer guide, one of the best things to do is to create overlap with your own Accomplice to see who instantly connects you both, as it is usually the Witness. Don't fall for this trap.
Option #1 - Vindicate the Murderer (at first)
Let the mind game begin. The Criminal team is expecting the Witness to guide their team toward the Murderer, so doing the opposite can create some opportunities. First, it forces a passionate Investigator to work hard to prove the Murderer's guilt, making them look like the Witness. You can always reverse course later and follow everyone else's lead by offering a new insight that helps narrow down the Murderer's cards. You will have insider knowledge as to how to interpret the Forensic Scientists more difficult clues, so why waste your cover on the more obvious ones?
Option #2 - Rationally accuse another suspect
This requires a few investigators to have a scent of the Murderer. Perhaps you guide them initially to a group of people who accuses the Murderer, but when a new clue comes out, change course. Be persistent and logical. You don't have to lie or stretch, just be logical but secretly incorrect. Read the room carefully - if you trust your investigators to figure it out, consider using your badge to "rule out" the person you are accusing. Ordinarily, the Murderer and Accomplice would not expect the Witness to waste their badge. This allows you to direct, misdirect, and then direct again if you pace your revelations carefully. Another bonus is that anyone who attempts to disprove you and still target the Murderer further appears to be the Witness to the Criminals.
Option #3 - Go for the kill
Admittedly, this is very risky, but it works. The Murderer and the Accomplice would not expect the Witness to be the first accuser because it would be too obvious. If you feel that the Criminals would make this assumption, and they know you are an experienced player, consider making the first accusation. While this may backfire, this move works well when another player immediately makes the correct connection, which makes them look like the Witness. This works particularly well when another investigator makes a connection that seems like such a stretch that they had to have had inside information in order to connect those dots.
Option #4: Some combination of the above with some DON'Ts
The problem with writing a strategy guide for a social deduction game is that simply making a strategy known can destroy its usefulness. If you are an advanced player and your opponents know the strategies as well, you need to remain unpredictable. Combining the mistakes with the strategies can allow you to remain undetected while still providing value to your team.
Summary - No one should know you are the Witness.
The end of the game can provide great feedback for a Witness's performance, even when you win. Perhaps you got lucky and your Criminal Team was oblivious. A good metric is that if an Investigator can, at the end of the game, identify that you were the Witness, you were too obvious, regardless of whether or not the Criminals caught you. The Witness revelations should be organic, not forced. Use this feedback as a means to improve your strategy for the next time.