Murder Mystery Game Elements 101

Are you thinking of hosting your own murder mystery dinner party? Whether you are creating your own murder mystery game or in the market for a game kit, you might wonder what components make a great game. There are 6 essential elements to a murder mystery game. Let us take you through them.  

The elements of a good murder mystery game are:

  • Theme
  • Characters
  • Storyline – Setting the murder scene
  • Clues and Evidence
  • Voting and the Solution
  • Prizes and Awards

These elements intertwine throughout your game and will ensure that your murder mystery dinner party is a success. Keep reading as we look at each element in more detail.    

 Themes

A murder mystery theme underlies your party's overall mood and inspires the rest of the game elements. It is the first step of making a murder mystery dinner party. The first thing that you should do when planning a murder mystery party is to pick your theme.

When choosing a theme, think about your guests and your collective interests, the season, and the type of event: corporate, end of year breakup, birthday party, etc. For inspiration, we recommend listing your ideas - favorite movies, TV shows, books, favorite fashion decades, sports, and geographical locations.  

As the murder mystery host, you are the one in complete control of creating your theme; however, we have found that themes that link to your guests' common interests are the most enjoyable. The theme will also impact your storyline, characters, preparation, costumes, decoration, and dining choices. Creating your own murder mystery game or using a murder mystery game kit, we recommend having a clear vision from the start.

Some popular themes right now are:

 

Storyline

A huge advantage to using murder mystery game kits is the supply of a fully developed script. At Masters of Mystery, we offer this script in a written form or video form. Instead of reading it like a narrative, we try to feed into the real-life mystery game and provide detective speeches to be immersed in the storyline.  

If you consider doing a DIY murder mystery game, then murder mystery stories are available online and will cut down your preparation time. However, if you want to try your hand at writing the storyline from scratch, that is perfectly fine and a creative experience.  

There are two types of storylines: scripted and interactive or free play. In a scripted murder mystery game, players read their lines you have prepared, or your kit has provided. It is a more quick-paced game, but it requires more work on your part.

With interactive murder mystery games and the free play script, there is no set script. There is generally an outline and context for the mystery, but for the most part, your guests are free to interact with each other without scripts.

Our experience at Masters of Mystery experience shows us that the interactive murder mystery games are more fluid and allow your guests some creative freedom to impact the game and motivate them to solve the mystery or escape into their character's persona – the ultimate escapism.  

Murder Mystery stories can be as detail or simple. Importantly,  all storyline additions must be purposeful and point towards exposing the villain. It is a classic mystery plot (whodunnit). Avoid games with misleading information or props that deter guests from solving the case - simplicity and brevity are crucial. At Masters of Mystery, our gameplay advocates for all guests to play truthfully, except our villain – establish this guide from the start.

Introduction to the murder is read or played on-screen before your characters are introduced and mingle. It merely provides the context and essential information for the characters to begin their sleuthing. Your murder mystery dinner must start here.  

1920s Gatsby murder mystery game introduction and trailer.  

Characters 

Each player receives a character booklet that outlines their character's occupation, personality, connection to other characters, and any additional skeletons in their closest. We recommend sending these booklets before the party: you can choose to send them with the invitations or after your guests' RSVP.   

Harry potter murder mystery game character

One of your hosting responsibilities is to assign your characters to the guest list. Consider major characters that are integral to the plot are often better suited to extroverted guests. Remember, you want a little dramatic flair for lead roles. Introverted guests are very welcome and can be assigned less integral parts.

A nice touch might be to include costume suggestions for each of the characters. But make sure that you keep track of your guest list and reassign guests if needed to ensure your mystery can play out as expected.

In some games, the murderer may not know their guilt and discover their identity at the end of the game with all your other guests. In our experience, it is fun when the murder knows their responsibility and employs deception and deceit. As you introduce the storyline, make sure to advise your murderer of their part.

Clues and Evidence 

The clues and evidence are filtered through to the guests throughout the night. The most important clues to give your guests are motive and method. We have found that this is best delivered in rounds. Our murder mystery games consist of 3 rounds before the voting and reveal, which typically last between 30-45 minutes.

 The first round consists of the introduction video or speech and the mingling of the guests. The guests use questions and information in the character booklets designed to point them in the right direction.

 Our second round is designed to flush out our murder's motive. A new detective speech frames the round. New evidence and clues are revealed to the players. Once again, there is time for guests to do their own investigating, using the questions in their character booklets as guides.

The final round considers the murder's method. It follows a similar format as the last two: the detective's speech, analyze new evidence related to the method, player interaction using questions and information from their booklets. You must encourage your guests to speak to all the players. The round ends with the closing detective's speech either read aloud or played.

Some people like to create murder mysteries with no evidence at all and rely solely on character insight. It depends on how you want to host and design the game. We design ours based on experience and feedback from players.

For more information on our particular game play visit our website.

 Voting and Solution 

This voting and solution are two separate stages, but they both rely on each other. Often the Host will want to look over the votes separately, especially if they plan to assign awards and prizes. The solution should be reasonably easy to deduce for your guests, but each of the Master of Mystery's game kits come with varying difficulties.

Players need some time to fill out Game Ballots, which are provided for in the kits or easy to make for DIY enthusiasts. The game ballots are the player's guess who the murderer is. We recommend marking the time, then put the ballots someplace where they cannot be changed. You can't reveal the murderer until everyone has voted.  

The solution or the reveal is entertaining when it is made dramatic. You will need everyone together. We recommend that you select 2 or 3 players to make accusations; great for the game's dramatics! If any innocent players are accused, instruct them to provide an alibi. If your murder mystery Villain is revealed, make them confess. Of course, if no one identifies the Villain and motive, the detective's accusation will be read or played.

 Prizes and Awards

Awarding prizes is not an essential component of a murder mystery game, but we feel like it is a great way to end your game, and your guests will love it. You may wish to player input and can use the ballots to help you collect this information. Some ideas for prizes are:

  •  Best detective (first person to name the Murderer and motive)
  • Best Liar (for the Villain, 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)

We recommend offering some sort of takeaway prize. These can be small or big and are entirely up to you.

Some good prizes include:

  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate or sweets
  • Themed goody bags
  • Knick knacks that relate to your theme
  • Detective equipment – hat, spyglass, magnifying glass, pen, and notepads

 

All these elements are important to making sure your murder mystery dinner party is successful and fun. However, don't forget the most important part of making your party the best murder mystery party possible is to ensure you and your guests enjoy yourself with the theme, food, game, or party antics!