Murder mystery parties are a guaranteed hit with any group of people. The trick is to choose the right theme for your type of guests, and host it at the perfect venue. There’s no need to be elaborate to have a good time. These parties are super easy to host.
- Make a Guest List: The first step to any party is to create a guest list. You may decide to invite colleagues from the office, family, or lifelong friends. These three examples will end up being three different types of parties. Therefore, it is important to know the types of guests on your list prior to planning the actual party.
- Choose a Theme: Once you know who is going to receive an invitation, you can choose a theme. If you have a bunch of casual, outgoing guests, choose a theme that will engage them such as a decade theme, Wild West, or maybe a costume ball. If you are going to invite a majority of reserved professionals, stick to the traditional old manor dinner party theme. There are online companies, such as My Mystery Party, that have numerous themes to choose from, and you can purchase instant downloads of the game or boxed sets that are ready to go for you party.
- Choose a Venue: Your budget will dictate the venue. You can host a murder mystery party at home in your living room or backyard. Alternatively, if your budget allows, rent a haunted mansion or a bed & breakfast for the evening. Other options for hosting a murder mystery party would be a city park, recreation center party room, high school gym, private dining area of a restaurant, party bus, party boat / yacht or maybe even a hotel ballroom. Whatever venue you choose, make sure there are restroom facilities and ample parking spaces (or valet service) for your guests.
- Assign Character Roles: Now it is time for the serious planning of your murder mystery party. You have your guest list, you have chosen your venue and murder mystery party theme, so now let’s get the guests involved. You will spend some time viewing the characters in your chosen murder mystery. You can either elect to match personalities/occupations as closely as possible, or try to give your guests a character that is polar opposite to challenge them for the night. Either way, the host is the one that decides which character that each guest will play. Using a murder mystery party invitation, you’ll notify your guests of the theme of the party along with their character information and costume suggestions.
- Invite Guests & Manage RSVPs: Once you send the invitations to the guests, be sure to include some form of RSVP request on your invite. It can be a card to mail back to you or a simple request for a text message to let you know if they are committed to attend. You need to be sure that you have enough guests that RSVP to play your chosen murder mystery party. Most murder mystery parties have about 8-15 guests. However, there are games that start with 5 players and some that can handle over 200 players.
- Plan Your Menu: You should always serve some type of food with any party. Murder mystery parties are flexible, as you can serve appetizers the entire time, or have a formal sit down dinner. Most mystery party games are organized into rounds. Typically, round one would be a cocktail and appetizer hour. Round two would be when you would serve dinner. Round three is a great time for coffee and dessert. You can prepare the food yourself, or have it catered – but either way, be sure it doesn’t interfere with the flow of the mystery party.
- Decorate: Depending upon your theme, you should always decorate the main party area to fit the theme. For example, with a Wild West party, find some hay bales and old wooden signs to place around the party room. Depending if your venue allows, you could scatter some sawdust on the ground for a saloon effect and use cowboy boots for vases containing flowers as the table centerpieces. With the traditional old manor murder mystery parties, spider webs and candelabras are essential for the decor. There is no right-or-wrong to decorating unless you fail to decorate. A party space should engage all of your guests’ senses when they enter the room. There is no need to break the bank with party decor, as candles set a perfect ambiance for a murder mystery party and they are quite inexpensive.
- Round One: As stated above, the murder mystery party is typically separated into rounds. Round one is when the guests mingle with their round one clue cards that give them clues to reveal to other players, as well as information to conceal about their respective characters. Don’t worry, any secret clues that are meant to come out about each character will do so in other players’ cards in later rounds. This is when the motives unravel and each character’s story line starts to build. The tension will be high at the end of this round.
- Round Two: The victim is notified that they are the victim on their round two clue card. There may be a pre-murder section on the card and a post-murder section. Some mysteries may announce the victim at the start of this round. Also, there are mystery parties that are formatted to where the guests know who the victim is prior to the party, and the victim is not a player. The latter can work, but it isn’t as exciting as making one of your guests the victim. The victim player is not typically taken out of the game, but rather plays the starring role in the story. The victim is asked to wear a victim sign and play along as the ghost of his/her former self. This way, the victim can still play along with the rest of the guests. After the victim is unveiled, an investigation round will ensue. Each player essentially becomes an investigator racing the clock to figure out whodunit before the murderer escapes. The players will mingle with the other players using the clues in their round two cards and then formulate their best guess of whodunit at the commencement of this round. There may be some forensic evidence uncovered as well – depending upon the mystery that you are playing.
- Round Three: After a brief accusation round where each guest reveals their guess of whodunit, the host will pass out the solution cards to each player. Each player will read/act out their solution and reveal their involvement, if any, with the murder. The murderer will confess at the finale of the game. At the conclusion of the mystery, the host can then decide if s/he wants to do an award ceremony. Most mystery games will have only about 10-15% of the guests that guess the correct solution to the mystery. There are many awards you can give to your players such as a Super Sleuth, a Slimy Suspect, Best Costume and more.
The mystery party should take about two and a half to three hours from start to finish. You can extend this time by encouraging your guests to mingle at least twice with each character, each round, for more intense investigation parties. Alternatively, you can rush the rounds slightly and get the party done in about two hours if you simply want to host a quick mystery for fun.