I wrote a pirate mystery game for a women in the US recently, who did her backyard up as a giant pirate ship and hid treasure throughout the yard for the guests to find. Conversely, I spoke to a woman at a recent game I facilitated (The Pool Hall Pummeling) who said she had so much fun, as the last murder mystery game she attended all they did was sit around a table and read clues.
Sure, both methods work, but really, which party would you rather attend? There’s no need to go all out like the woman with the pirate mystery game (unless you want to, of course), however there is something to be said for adding in little extras to make your party special. Here are some ideas I like to include when I facilitate or host my own murder mystery game party.
– Create pamphlets with the pictures of each suspect.
I love this idea because there is so much potential to stir up some fun. In a recent game I facilitated for a family member’s 60th birthday party, I created pamphlets in Paint, including pictures of each of the suspects. Only, instead of including nice pictures of my family members, I sifted through years of photo albums and selected the most menacing pictures of each person I could find. I distributed the pamphlets as everyone arrived, and the room was instantly filled with laughter over the photos. Cries of “where did you get this picture?” were accompanied with shrieks of joy, and even those not playing a suspect had a good time making fun of everyone’s most murderous looking profile pics.
– Set up a mock murder scene
When playing a murder mystery game, nothing matters more than having a good imagination. Help your guests along by setting up a mock crime scene. I wrote a custom mystery for a baby shower of over 50 guests in which the nanny was stabbed. The hostess set up her spare bedroom as a crime scene and, as everyone entered, they were showed through the crime scene. That detail was listed as her guest’s favorite moment of the party! How does one do this? Well, first you need to read ahead a bit in your Game Kit (not too far or you’ll spoil the mystery) until you find the crime scene description. For this reason, Shot In The Dark Mystery Games always feature the crime scene description within the first few pages, usually as a Chapter One introduction. Once you have the details, set up a corner of the room or a whole room as the murder scene. You can use a dummy for the body, or simply lay out a chalk outline. This gives your visitors a visual, and something to talk about as they mingle before the murder mystery game begins.
– Give your visitors notebooks
The cheapest and easiest way of doing this is to visit a dollar store. Dollar stores have lots of stationary in all sizes, and the small notebooks (3″x5″ will do) are inexpensive. You could even go so far as to have the notebooks specially printed if you chose! The notebooks serve as a great way for suspects and extra guests to keep track of clues as the murder mystery game unfolds and is a great keepsake for after the party. Don’t forget to provide pens!
– Put the murder weapon in a Ziploc “Evidence” bag
At The Pool Hall Pummeling event I recently facilitated, I went to a billiard supply store and asked them for a single cue ball. They were happy to oblige and gave me many used cue balls to choose from. I picked the oldest, most worn cue ball, and they became curious why I picked that one. I told them it was to be used as a murder weapon. Through strange looks, they told me just to take it, that I didn’t have to pay for it. I went home, squirted some red paint on my Halloween pumpkin and pummeled away! It made a great prop for the party, and as the Detective read the opening clues, he passed around the “bloody” cue ball in a Ziploc bag for everyone to view part of the evidence.
– Print off “I Accuse” sheets
The end of your murder mystery game contains a section where everyone gets to accuse a suspect and explain why they think that person was the murderer. Printing of “I accuse” forms allows everyone to write down their vote (a la Survivor) and then, when it comes their turn to accuse, flip their sheet over and show everyone who they think is the killer.
– Encourage your guests to dress their character
Characters come with descriptions, and using that description it’s not hard to imagine what each character might wear. For extra characters, they can follow the theme. For example, while playing Murder on the Mound, have the suspects dress their character. The extra guests can come dressed as ball players, or even fans sporting foam fingers!
– Create Nametags
It’s a common school of thought these days that name tags at a party are a pretty lame idea (think Ross from Friends as he threw the party in his new apartment). The only time it IS acceptable to have nametags is when hosting a murder mystery game party. At first, while guests are getting to know the suspects, the nametags will come in handy. Of course, you are not labeling these nametags with their real names, but the names of the character they play. Nametags can be as simple as the sticky “Hello My Name Is” ones available in stationary stores the world over, or as complex as tags you have made yourself on your computer, to professionally made name tags.
– Create forensic props
This prop idea works especially well for the Death Scene Investigation games, where forensics are the main focus of the game. But forensic props can be added to any murder mystery game you choose. The best place to find forensic game props are, believe it or not, toy stores. Forensic Labs, Handwriting Analysis Kits and DNA Laboratories are common in toy stores or any store that has a game section. I recently picked up a Fingerprint Examination Kit, which came with evidence bags, an alternate light source, fingerprinting brush and dust, crime scene tape and more. Whenever I facilitate a game, everyone oohs and aahs over my evidence bags and ALS. I don’t tell them where I got it, but I’ll tell you if you promise to keep it between us.
If you have a clever idea you’re adding to your own Shot In The Dark Mysteries Game, please share it with us! And don’t forget to send us pictures of your event for our upcoming picture gallery!