I don’t remember when I last hosted a birthday party (and my 22nd/surprise/engagement one doesn’t count) so to celebrate turning an extra year older, I figured why not. And whlie we’re at it – let’s do something entirely different. So we went and hosted a Murder Mystery party filled with gossip, goals, objectives, friends, dress-up, awards, and well – murder. I think it went down really well(if I say so myself). It was so much fun, and everyone really came to the party (excuse the awful pun) when it came to playing their parts and acting in character.
If you’d like to find out how we went about it, I suggest you continue reading.
1. Decide on the number of guests
Murder mysteries can accommodate a number of people, ranging from small parties of 8 – 10 people to larger ones of 25. You need to know how many people you’ll be having so that you can pick an appropriate mystery, and this really is one of the ways that actually helped me narrow down my options. If need be, having a limit will also help you get a bit ruthless in cutting down when your numbers seem to get a bit bigger than you can actually handle/afford.
2. Buy an awesome kit
You need to give up on finding a good quality Murder Mystery online for free (well, I tried and came out empty handed). The ones I found were mostly in a similar price range, which I was happy to pay – it just came down to choosing the best and most professionally put together piece. I found Playing with Murder on one of my many google searches and am so impressed with what I found. They have so many different mysteries to choose from that you can really lose track of time going through each sample pack (I spent a lot of time debating between a zombie and Manhattan theme).
The file comes with a 160+ page document which includes how to run the mystery, all the character sheets (which gives a character description and goals and objectives for each half of the game), name tags, clues and even certificates for you to print out. Also – you get audio files to use. Ours came with babbling cocktails party sounds (background chatter) and of course, the piercing shriek of the murder itself.
I must mention how incredibly helpful they were as well via email. I literally sent one saying “I can’t decide on a Murder Mystery, please help be choose from the following” (not quite in those words) and they responded shortly after with an explanation of the different games and how each could be suited to what you’re looking for. Any time I had a question I sent it through and was answered very quickly. You wouldn’t quite think of this as a service, but that’s exactly what it was, and they really excelled.
As an added extra, they have a really awesome pinterest account which can help you with ideas for decor, food etc according to your chosen Murder Mystery. And as an extra extra, if you like their Facebook page you can also get a 10% discount (which with our poor currency, means a lot!)
3. Decide on a host
I’m sure if it’s your birthday you’ll be the host of the party, but if you’re me and not the greatest in terms of hosting (beyond setting up and making food) you might want to grab a wonderful +1 (such as my own Greg) who is wonderfully funny and warm to run the game. We also decided he would be the host so that I could actually take part in the game. While I did know who the murderer was (it’s preferable that only the host knows) because I did a lot of the other grunt work, I didn’t know where he had hidden the clues, so I got to partake in that as well. I must be honest I found it quite difficult to play the game and actually be literal hostess for the night. While I tried to scramble to read my character sheet and interact, I was also constantly worried that everyone was eating and the food was out and ready.
4. Read through the 160+ page document. Seriously.
You really need to know how the game works, especially if you’re going to be running it. The game is split into 2 halves: the first, where everyone mingled in character, fulfilling certain goals and objectives and trying to find out certain information from other characters. During this half you can also serve food (I recommend finger food as I mention below). Then the lights go out, and the murder happens. Then there’s a short break where everyone is handed out their character sheets for Act Two, with another sheet of goals and objectives. During this half characters are also sent on a sort of scavenger hunt to search for the clues.
We stuck each envelope on the wall when each clue was found, and then we all sat around waiting for the evidence to be revealed. One by one the envelopes were opened and someone presented the different evidence before putting it up on the wall for review. There was some time for questions, theories and accusations, which was really fun, especially because each character had gleaned a different piece of information regarding the murder. Then there was a vote – voting sheets were passed out and the results were tallied before we handing out awards!
The document really explains things so well and simply. So read it.
5. Assign characters
One of the suggested options for this party is to let guests choose their character on a first-come-first-serve basis when you initially email them. You could also go about this the random way, but I felt I wanted to try take into account people’s personality types. You should email people first to see if they will be available on your selected date, and only once everyone has verified their attendance sit down and assign characters.
I wouldn’t put a painfully shy person as a very prominent character. I started by assigning randomly as a guideline, and then went ahead to make sure people’s characters were relatively suitable. I have friends that struggle with reading lots of text, so made sure to give them characters with fewer goals and objectives. I tried to give prominent characters to bigger personalities where I didn’t want quieter friends to be overwhelmed with big roles (especially as there was dressing up involved).
I must be honest – people sure can surprise you! Some quieter people really took the whole experience very seriously and really took their character to heart. Some came dressed up, did their thing and hung out “out of character” for some parts, which was perfectly ok too. Others didn’t as much where I thought they would, so you can’t get the character profiling 100%, but as long as guests have fun, that’s really whats important.
6. Party food
Because there was going to be a lot of interacting and conversation going on, especially in the first half where people would be referring to their character sheets, I wanted to try finger food. We settled on soup out of little mini cups, mini mac & cheese and pizza. Also mini salads skewered onto toothpicks. I think they all went well. The soup was a huge hit. The mini pastas – word of advice – don’t use spaghetti, it won’t hold as well and will fall apart. I used screw noodles and they held quite well I guess. Thanks pinterest. The pizza was delicious, (wholewheat of course, and so was the pasta) and Greg as the “Head Caterer” character went around bringing it to people. It became a bit complicated logistically as obviously you want the pizza to come out hot from the oven and then to serve, but the oven can only take 2 pizzas at a time… so I think you can understand why I was pretty focused on making sure the food was ok. Truth be told, everyone was so busy in character it seemed like the food was somewhat of an afterthought to the evening. But hey, what is a Jewish host without trying to overfeed her guests.
7. Any extra prep
Print out all the character sheets and put them in envelopes for each half (85 pages and 20+ envelopes later). Set up your playing area (for us it meant moving some things around to widen the playing area/s). Make sure your food is ready to go. Our game also involved clues and a bit of a scavenger hunt, so that meant cutting up the clues, putting them in envelopes and hiding them sneakily away. I also strongly suggest you read your character sheet. I was so caught up in preparing for the party, I kinda ran out of time to really prepare for my character.
Let the good times roll!
The night was so much fun. I think it was everyone’s first Murder Mystery party. We’d all heard of them, but never been to one. I am so glad that everyone had such a good time and really took their character to heart – and oh, the dressing up! I’m really glad to have such great sports for friends.