If you’ve ever been to a murder mystery party, you know they’re a ton of fun. But have you ever wondered how to go about planning a game from scratch? Well, wonder no longer: below is a brief guide to planning a murder mystery party. So, if you’re one of those mystical-magical college students who actually has free time, planning a murder mystery party might be a really fun use for it.
Be creative. And when I say “be creative,” I’m not kindly pushing you to “use your imagination.” I mean you better be BORN creative, baby. Planning an entire murder mystery party from scratch requires building a world, crafting characters and constructing some pretty intricate scenarios. If you don’t think you can handle that (which is totally okay), you should probably purchase a premade murder mystery party game. Some inexpensive options can be found on Amazon and Etsy. But for those brave, creative souls who want to continue down the DIY path: feel free to carry on to step 2.
Get people to commit. Ideally get them to commit two weeks in advance. It’s difficult to tell a story without knowing who the characters are. So planning a murder mystery party requires knowing exactly who’s going to be in attendance. Hassle your friends. Give them a deadline. Tell them there will be free food, even if that’s a lie. Just get them to commit to coming.
Concoct a story. Start with the basic details: where does this story take place, and what is the mysterious thread running through the tale? When it comes to choosing a setting, “dinner party at a mansion” is a classic backdrop for a murder mystery party because it gives guests an excuse to dress up and allows for plenty of flexibility when creating characters. But the setting can be as crazy as you want it to be: an enchanted forest, a space station, a medieval castle, a high school reunion — whatever you want. What’s more important is the mysterious reason that drew characters to the setting. Did the guests receive an invitation from an unknown host? Was someone murdered on the property 20 years ago by a killer who was never caught? It’s up to you. (Make sure you’re typing all of this information up in a Word document).
Create characters. Characters can be as realistic or as cartoonish as you desire, and can be tailored to fit the individual. Kooky is usually more fun for the attendees, though. When creating character descriptions, include a name, a profession, a general description and their relationship to a few other people in the game (old friends, siblings, mortal enemies, etc.). Make sure to give a few characters a secret, too. Keep the information organized and brief — you want the party attendees to have specific details to latch onto, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with information. Feel free to create a character for yourself, as well. (The downside to planning a murder mystery party is you know everything that’s going to happen, so you can’t truly be “in” the game. But you can have a character that’s just kind of there.)
Decide on a twist. Write the ending before you write the beginning; plot the story around how it’s going to end. Twists are integral to murder mystery parties. Perhaps some of the guests are ghosts? Or the host’s imaginary friends were actually his murderous quintuplet siblings? Maybe there’s a cult of murderous pranksters? Have fun with it.
Plot the order of events. Start by introducing the game to the guests (during which you’ll explain the setting, the plot, the murder that happened 20 years ago, etc.) and give them the character descriptions you’ve prepared for them. Then have the guests mingle with one another, explaining who they are to each other and divulging choice pieces of information. From there, big events need to happen: characters need to die, clues need to be found, discussions must be had and a conclusion will need to be reached.
Plant clues. Hide little clues here-and-there for guests to find every time a character is killed. (This might involve asking guests to close their eyes while you hide a clue.) Make sure each clue is relevant to the overall plot. It’s helpful to label the clues with a big note that reads “CLUE” so guests know when they’ve found something.
Write dialogue. When a clue is found, allow the guests to have their own discussion for a few minutes. But to push the story in the appropriate direction, have some specific pieces of dialogue pre-written that can be handed to the guests to move the story along.
Have hard copies of all of the information. Just because you wrote the game doesn’t mean you’ll remember every little detail. Especially when the game features a dozen different characters moving through a story full of false leads, strange clues and unexpected twists.
When planning a murder mystery party, you are essentially writing the skeleton of a play and making sure people adhere to the major plot points. As the person in charge, it’s your job to guide the guests from one part of the story to the other and keep everyone on track. You’ll have a lot of fun and, if you tell a cool story, so will everyone at the party.