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Basic Information

The Mafia is a Sicilian crime society, established in the late 19th Century. It later spread to other areas, including the United States and Australia. It is organized into several groups (known as families, clans, or cosca) that each have their own territory. Also known as The Mob, Cosa Nostra, or the grammatically incorrect La Cosa Nostra. The term Mafia often used to apply to Organized Crime in general, or other groups that are not technically part of the Mafia.

Interestingly, a significant part of the Mafia's strength is - or at least was - that it descended from the historically fiercely independant feudal aristocracy and gentry of Sicilly. The Mafia didn't so much form in the 19th Century, as move from being the establishment to being organised crime. This also helps to explain the rigid formality, codes of honour and status-conciousness with which they are afflicted and why it proved so hard to de-legitimise them.

Code of Conduct:

The following list of "10 commandments" were found in the hideout of a mob boss in Sicily in 2007:

  1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
  2. Never look at the wives of friends.
  3. Never be seen with cops.
  4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
  5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife is about to give birth.
  6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
  7. Wives must be treated with respect.
  8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
  9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
  10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

The Mafia has a code of silence, called the Omertá, which puts a death penalty on any mafioso who cooperates with the police.

It is very common for the initiation trial to become a mafioso soldier to involve committing a murder for the family.

Characters and Ranks:

  • capo di tutti capi - Boss of Bosses, mostly a fictitious position and certainly a dangerous one to claim.
  • capofamiglia - Boss (literally "head of the family")
  • consigliere - Advisor to the Boss (literally "counsellor"), cinematically almost always a lawyer.
  • sotto cappo - Underboss or Second-In-Command
  • capodecina or caporegime - leaders of "squads" of about 10 soldiers.
  • Soldiers - the rank and file of Mafia criminals, known as "made men".
  • Associates - allies, friends, tools, or property of the Mafia (see also Gun Moll, Shill, Protection Racket, etc.) - the rank "man of honour" is sometimes used for either prospective made men, or valued associates who lack the necessary Italian blood to be "made".

Related / Similar Crime Organizations:

(Although the latter two organisations lack some of the aristocratic origins of the others).


Game and Story Use

  • The tried and proven classic, The Mafia can be the heavies in a variety of settings.
  • Some settings may allow or encourage players to be the criminals. Reading up on the mafia will help capture the right feel for such a game, and the correct level of honor among thieves.
  • Placing the mafia on the back foot can also be used to illustrate the ferocity of an invading gang - usually the Triads, Organizatia or Turks.
  • Given the right conditions, American organisations like The Bowery Boys might have developed into a "native" equivalent of the mafia. The same probably could not be said of the native London firms - the sort of social mobility necessary for London gangsters to make it into the upper echelons came to England too late to save them from being eclipsed by foreign organised crime.
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