If you’ve never attended a murder mystery before you may be asking yourself how they work. What do you need to do? What are they like? Well, you’ve come to the right place because we will tell you everything you need to know.
Firstly, there’s different types of murder mystery parties. Many companies will run a murder mystery party, often these are corporate events organised and managed by hotels or businesses. While fancy dress is encouraged it’s not compulsory and at these events you don’t have to take on a character yourself. Actors will be hired to play the different characters and you’ll get chance to question the different characters and try and solve the crime. These events can be expensive to attend; the organisation provides a three-course meal or cocktails on arrival and the actors are paid professionals. While fun to attend, they’re not always affordable for some people, which is why many prefer the murder mystery games you can buy and run at home. These games allow everyone to get involved and play a character while also trying to solve the crime.
When you or the person hosting makes the decision to host a murder mystery party the first thing is to choose a game. These can be bought in boxes and mailed directly to you, or they can be purchased and downloaded digitally. These game boxes/packs provide everything that you need, which makes running them much easier.
What’s in the box?
A host guide, detailed instructions for the host, it will tell you about the characters, list all the evidence, give you a step-by-step guide of the different rounds and what you need to prepare.
Audio/video files, these contain dialogue or animation that can be played to the guests at the start of each round. This is the detective who will introduce everyone to the case and explain the details about what’s going on.
Evidence, there’s usually 1 or 2 pieces of evidence that are revealed each round, the game box/pack will contain copies of all evidence that needs to be revealed at various points in the game and the host guide will tell you when to reveal them.
Character booklets, every single character that you can play in the game will have their own character booklet, these booklets contain all the information that they will need to enjoy the party, everything they need to know about their character, it’ll contain a list of questions they can ask other characters and it will give them dialogue to answer the questions they may get asked. These are handed out at the start of the party.
Character list, this will list all the characters and give a brief summary of who they are, with some costume suggestions to give the guests an idea about who they’ll be playing when they arrive.
Before The Party
Once they’ve chosen the game and have decided who they’re inviting, the host will need to have a look at the character list and decide who will be playing each character. A good host will do this before the game, some hosts prefer to let guests choose their own characters, but this can cause some conflict and doesn’t give people any time to prepare for the event. It’s much better to be given your character in advance, if you know who you are, what you’re like and have an idea about the kind of things you’ll need to wear in advance then it makes your preparation much easier. If your host hasn’t assigned, you a character you can always reach out to them and ask them to give you a character or at the very least give you some more context about what you need to do.
You don’t need to learn a script, you’ll be given a booklet when you arrive, so the only thing you need to worry about before the party is what your character will be wearing and if you’re expected to bring any food or drink or whether the host is providing everything. If you’re unsure as to what’s expected of you, then check with your host.
Upon your arrival at the party the host will give you your character booklet, this will contain all the information about your character, who they are, what they think and what they need to say at what point. A well-written character booklet will tell you everything that you need to get you through the event. Murder Mystery parties have different rounds, and your booklet will be split into sections with markers that tell you when to stop reading before each round begins. A good host will also indicate when you should read the information in each section and when you should stop.
Check with your host if you need to arrive ‘in character’ or whether you can arrive as yourself and they will then indicate a ‘time in’ once everyone has arrived. Masters of Mystery games are re-playable, with a different murderer, because of this we recommend allowing people to arrive as themselves and then the host will indicate a ‘time in’ and the game will begin. Once you have your character booklet you can read up on your character and what their connection to the victim was, this will be on the first page of your character booklet. Once you’ve read this bit, stop.
Before the game has begun the host will have written letters or numbers on sheets of paper (according to how many guests there are), folded them up and put them in a box or a hat. Once everyone has arrived the host will ask everyone to pick a number or a letter, making the murderer a completely random selection.
You will need to remember your number or letter as it will indicate the order things are ‘revealed’ at the end of the game. Only the murderer will know who they are. The easiest way to do this as the host is to simply write “murderer” on one of the sheets of paper and put it in with the letters or numbers so it can be chosen at random.
In the character booklets that Masters of Mystery provide, there are 2 different answers your character can give to the questions they’re asked in each section, a “guilty” answer or an “innocent” answer, if you are the murderer you read the ‘guilty’ answers and if you are not the murderer you read the ‘innocent’ answers.
Round One: Introductions, getting to know the players
Once the game has started you need to maintain your character throughout the event. The first round will be getting to know your character and getting to know the other characters. A good host will tell you when to turn the page and read the next bit. The host will then play the first audio/video file, this introduces the characters to the detective and informs everyone that there has been a murder.
Next, each player will introduce themselves to the rest of the guests. Read the scripted introduction in character, when asked to do so (this is usually on the next page after your character description). Those that feel more confident may choose to improvise a little bit, but don’t worry if you’re not confident, all the information you need to deliver is scripted for you.
Example: “Good evening, well not a particularly good evening, is it? Awful business all of this isn't it? I was just hoping for a quiet trip through Europe, some much needed rest and recreation before returning home and re-joining the military. I cannot say I was particularly fond of the victim, he had an attitude about him and I thought he was shifty. But disliking someone and murdering someone are very different things.”
As the introductions can be very quick, Masters of Mystery have added a rumour round into their games, this is a little extra thing players do after they’ve introduced themselves, where the characters spread some gossip they’ve heard about another character. This gives the rest of the players a chance to learn something about another character and points suspicion off your character and onto someone else’s. Again, you can improvise if you feel you can, or simply stick to what’s written.
Example: “I thought I read somewhere that the Colonel was MIA, his plane went down somewhere in Switzerland, and no one found any trace of him until after the war ended.
This is usually a good time to serve drinks or canapé’s while everyone relaxes into their roles. It can be time to mingle and gossip, in character if you want or simply reflect on your character and what you’ve heard.
Round Two: First round of questioning
After the introductions and rumours have been circulated it’s time for the first round of questioning. The host will play the next bit of the detective’s audio/video where the first piece or pieces of evidence will be revealed and you will learn something more about the victim. A good host will then tell you to tun the page and read the next bit.
Each character gets to ask one question to one other character. A list of questions and who to ask are given on the page.
Example: You were overheard arguing with someone earlier, what was the argument about?
When your character is asked a question you have 2 options. If you are the murderer you will read the answer at the bottom of the page in the “guilty” box, if you are not the murderer you will read the answer in the “innocent” box. There are subtle differences between the answers to hint to the others about whether you are guilty or not.
Once everyone has had a chance to ask a question and answer a question, the round comes to an end. If you are playing this game as a dinner party, now is a good time to serve the starters or first course and/or pause and reflect on what you’ve learnt so far, make some notes if you like.
Round Three: Second round of questioning
The second round of questioning will begin with the host playing the next bit of audio/video from the detective, you will learn a little bit more about the case and the detective will reveal some new evidence, this of course influences the questions that get asked.
Once again, each character will get a chance to ask a question to another character and they will be asked a question themselves. The same format as the previous round, if you are the murderer you will read the answer in the “guilty” box, if you are not the murderer you will read the answer in the “innocent” box.
After everyone has asked a question and answered a question then it’s a good time to serve the second course or the main meal and/or use the time to update your notes. If you are feeling more confident by this point (which we hope you are) it’s a great time to chat in character with the others, maybe ask them to repeat information if there’s anything you were unsure of or just have some improvised fun, but don’t worry if you’re not.
Round Four: third round of questioning
It’s now time for the final round of questioning. The host will play the next piece of the detective’s audio/video and reveal the final piece of evidence. It’s now time to ask the final questions. You will get to ask one question to a character and answer one final question, reading the ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ section.
Once this is complete, it’s a good time to review your notes, examine the evidence again if you need to, get clarification on anything you’re unsure of that the other characters have said and/or have your final course/ dessert.
Conclusions and final statements
Well done, you’re nearly there. All the evidence has been revealed and all the questions have been asked, it’s now time to make your accusations. There are a few ways to do this. The host can simply have everyone do a show of hands and make a note of numbers or you can all write your accusations down on a sheet of paper the host will then collect them in and go through them with you all.
It’s time to find out whodunit, this is where your numbers/ letters from the start of the game come in. At the back of your character booklets there will be a closing statement, in the same format as the questions in the previous round you will have 2 statements a ‘guilty’ statement and an ‘innocent’ statement. Starting from the person has ‘1’ or ‘A’ written on their piece of paper you go around the room and take it in turns to read out your ‘innocent’ statement. This is also a good time to have a bit of fun and in character mock the people that thought it was you.
The last person to deliver their closing statement will be the murderer. If this if you it’s a great time to make a big deal about it, to read your ‘guilty’ statement with passion and fury about why you did it, why you think they deserve it and laugh about it. Will you make a getaway? Or will you go quietly? The host may have a plan for how they want the game to end so go along with it and above all have fun with it. Did anyone think it was you? Or did you get away with it?
After the Game
Once the game is over, the murderer has been revealed and they’ve either escaped or been arrested you can drop character, now is a great time to just chill out, have a drink and chat about the game and how you felt it went.
Sometimes people like to hold a little bit of an award ceremony. It’s a good time to give out certificates, medals, trophies or even just fun little prizes to people. Did the murderer win? Did they convincingly manage to avoid people finding them guilty? Who was the best sleuth? did anyone guess correctly who the murderer was?
- Who looked the guiltiest? Who got the most votes for being the murderer who wasn’t actually the murderer?
- Who was the best at staying in character? Who was the most confident and believable?
- Who had the best costume of the night?
You can come up with all sorts of different awards, a good host will try and make sure everyone has had a good time and everyone feels like they’ve achieved something. Remember that Masters of Mystery games are re-playable, so as the host you can always run this event again and have different characters and a different murderer. You can also view our wide selection of games and themes. Happy sleuthing!