Let's be honest; it isn't just a giant game of Cluedo. At Masters of Mystery, we get many questions relating to how to host a murder mystery dinner party, especially from first-time hosts. For some people hosting comes naturally; other people like a little more information and guidance – we get that!
Our murder mystery game kits are designed to ensure that the host gets all the correct information and steps to make sure their dinner party goes off without a hitch. But, we thought it would be great to ask some of our veterans and first-time hosts how they host an actual party – murder mystery style!
In this article, we included our hosts' great ideas and a few of our own into these top 10 tips. It is important to note, Masters of Mystery designs interactive murder mystery games, so these great tips are relevant to that particular style of murder mystery dinner games. Some of the suggestions may also be relevant to other types of murder mystery games.
How to host a murder mystery dinner
1. Plan your dinner party
Hosting a murder mystery party needs no big event. The most important thing is that you’re organized. The Masters of Mystery downloadable game kits come with a guide to creating a great atmosphere and mystery party everyone will love!
We recommend planning at least two weeks, especially if you are hosting an in-person murder mystery party.
Characters with different backgrounds, time periods, or fantasy worlds are the most intriguing elements to hosting mystery parties. And it all comes down to choosing the right murder mystery theme from the start!
When you are choosing your theme, make sure you also consider the interests of your entire group. Is your group fans of Harry Potter? Then select a Wizarding-themed murder mystery party. Is this for a Halloween party? Then choose a monster-themed party.
Ensure your entire party revolves around the theme (costumes, decorations, sound effects, food, and acting). There's a variety of choices available.
Decorate your venue
The party decor is essential to creating the ambiance for the party. You plan how your guests will use the space for the game and how to decorate the place. You can do as much as you want!
Pinterest pages are bursting with beautiful ideas and worth seeing! And don't forget to create an area that is the ‘crime scene,’ and it doubles up as clues!
Remember that your decor is all about setting the scene for the murder mystery party. You want to transport your guests to a new world or time. So be sure to plan things like background music, best costume award,
Plan Your Party Food
Some Mystery Murders host like to create formal dinner parties for the evening. For interactive murder mystery games, the best type of food to serve is finger food or spreads. Finger foods allow your guests to mingle and talk while they eat, which is essential for the game style.
Another great idea is to incorporate a potluck that is themed-inspired. This means that your guests alleviate some of the hosting responsibilities from your shoulders and prevents you from cooking at the last minute!
2. Start with a small group of friends
Smaller murder mystery games are easier to manage for first-time hosts. Most virtual boxed sets require a group of 4-8 people, and we think these are perfect for the nervous first-time murder mystery party host.
Once you have one mystery party up your belt, you can move on to hosting larger murder mystery parties and groups.
3. Assign Character Roles Carefully
Assigning characters is important! We recommend sending out your invitations first. Then, make a guest list of confirmed guests, set characters, and finally, suggest costumes.
Playing characters is the most fun for guests when the assigned character is close to their personalities.
Are your best friends drama queens? Give her the movie star role from the character sheet! Is your dad super nosey? Give him the part of the butler. Do you have other guests that are more reserved? Give them other characters from the character sheet that have quieter roles.
You should also be aware that character sheets often list the gender of each character. Certain characters are written for specific genders, while other characters are listed as gender-neutral. It can happen that some females act in a male role while some male males change to female starring roles. This is also fine as long as you made those playing aware.
Take time to think about which of your guests are better suited to each role and avoid the last-minute decision.
Lastly, give you guests the chance to organize their appropriate costume. They also shouldn't be made to wear outfits, but remind them how fun it is and allow them to decide. Remind your guests about this! Use invites to present outfit suggestions.
4. Lay out the details in the invitation
Make your invitation as detailed as possible. Most people send out two invites - one an RSVP and an official invite with assigned characters. In this second invite, you should give your guests all the information for the night and help them get into character:
- Character sheet/ Character information booklet (includes character descriptions, character background, other associates at the party)
- Clue Cards (Many characters have their secrets that can be found in their clue card)
- Good costume recommendations
- Gameplay and rules
5. Make name tags
Either use the name tags from your kit, print and cut them or make your own for the evening. The tags work well as your players can go and search for other players. Remember, your friends may not know who is who, and many have relationships with these people provided to them in their background information.
6. Introduce people who should know each other
Another task that is important for the host to do is to introduce a character to others. In some murder mystery party games, there are married couples in the game.
Sometimes your guests will arrive at the party and not know who played with the other party member. It is a great idea to try and bring them together early. Sometimes this information is in the invite you sent prior, but avoid any confusion, make introductions early.
7. Repeat the rules before the game starts “officially”
Typical for most of our games, the killer finds out who they are at the beginning. It is best practice to re-read the players the rules reminding everyone that the Murderer is the only person allowed to lie; everyone else is instructed to bluster, change the subject, and so on, but always tell the truth.
The rest of the gameplay is this:
- The killer is made aware, and the game starts;
- The host will read aloud or play the detective's speech;
- All the guests then have 30 minutes to chat;
- This repeats for two more rounds throughout the evening;
- The game ends with the detective’s closing speech;
- Players then decide on the suspects and vote;
- The results are revealed, and awards are handed out.
Related: Murder Mystery Game Elements 101
8. Give Murder Mystery Party Game Awards
Many party hosts like to award prizes and awards at the end of the game. It is not essential, but many agree it is a great way to conclude the mystery party. A great tip is to give your guests the contest categories before they arrive. This promotes a little competition and flare, especially in the costume and acting department. Here are some other suggestions for awards:
- Best detective (first person to name the Murderer and motive)
- Best Liar (for the Murderer, if no one guessed the solution)
- Most Likely to Commit a Crime (as noted by the host, for someone who was not guilty but named on many ballots)
- Best Costume (as voted by the players)
- Best Performer (as voted by the players)
A brilliant hosting a murder mystery party tip is to place a ballot box on a table and let your guests vote for the awards. This saves you from picking the winner and makes it more fun!
Some good prizes include:
- Chocolate or sweets
- Themed Knick knacks or joke products
- Detective equipment – hat, spyglass, magnifying glass, pen, and notepads
Another top tip might be to award the "Best Detective" or "Best Murderer" of the night a gift card towards purchasing their own murder mystery game. You share the hosting duties, and your group can experience a whole new murder mystery game and theme! Double win!
9. Facilitate and Host the Party, but Have Fun
Part of being the host is that you need to facilitate the evening gameplay. Of course, you can play along too and act a little bit, but your role is to make sure that people talk to each other and follow the game.
Feel free to use timers for the 30 minutes of interactive discussion and have a central gathering place at the murder mystery party.
Remember, you don't have to play hostess the entire time. You have a character and a role to play too. Make sure you are talking with guests, learning clues, and, most importantly, having fun!
10. Co-Host for your first-time
Organizing a murder mystery party is fun, but it can be challenging the first time around. Hosting as a couple can make things easier as you share the responsibilities. The other option is to enlist one of the other guests to help with the administrative stuff - such as counting votes or gathering the group. This way, they are still playing, but you get a little extra support.
Masters of Mystery Murder Mystery Games
Masters of Mystery are the murder mystery kings and queens and offer fun and easy to host murder mystery game kits that come in a range of themes:
- Monster-themed "The Haunting of Monster Mansion"
- Sherlock Holmes -themed "Murder at Moorbourne Manor."
- Wild West-themed "High Noon at Dead Man's Saloon."
- Wizarding themed "Mystery at Toadwart School."
- James Bond-themed "From Monte Carlo with Murder."
- The Greatest Showman-themed "Murder at the Big Top"
- Game of Thrones-themed "Lord of the Throne: The Hydrock Massacre"
- Roaring 1920's "The Great Glitersby Murder."
- 1940's themed "A 1940's Murder."
- 80s Hollywood "Murder in the 1980s."
- Carnival-themed "A Masquerade Murder."
- Christmas Capers "Christmas Mashup Murder."
Our kits are incredibly versatile and can be played in real life or Zoom virtual murder mystery games. We love all things mystery and know that you will love our games too!