Preparing a murder mystery party
As I write this, I'm in the middle of preparing for The Final Curtain as I am running it for a few friends this weekend. As it's fresh in my mind, I thought I would include a few tips on preparation this month.
Preparation Time: Perhaps the most important tip I can suggest is to give yourself enough preparation time. I started printing out and stuffing envelopes (with character sheets, cast list, background, money, and so on) a full two weeks before the evening itself. That's so if there are any problems, I have time to fix them. Luckily, everything has gone smoothly.
Casting: Casting has been interesting as I only know three of the people at the evening - I've been given a list of names, but little else. I believe that most of the guests will be in their mid-thirties, but I'm not sure.
Ideally, you should try to find out as much as possible about your players - particularly their ages. For example, in The Final Curtain one character is the daughter of another, and if you don't know who you're casting for you could end up with a 20 year old playing the mother, and a 50 year old playing the daughter! (I've got my fingers crossed!)
Of course, if everyone plays their role properly, it shouldn't matter.
I've cast this a good two weeks in advance to give everyone time to get a costume. The game is set in the 1920s, so a little warning is essential.
Printing: I've had to print out quite a bit for The Final Curtain. I've printed 14 copies of the background information and cast list (one for each player), plus their character sheets, plus assorted paper props and ten copies of the script. I've put all of this in envelopes to keep it all organised.
I've also created my own name badge labels. Rather than use the ones in the game, I've typed the names onto stickers, which I find easier to manage.
Catering: Luckily I haven't had to organise the catering - the person whose house we are playing in is sorting that out. The Final Curtain timetable is set around a dinner meal, and I think we're having a chinese banquet takeaway - so I will need to fiddle the timings, but I'll have to do that on the evening itself.
(This happens in many games, I find. There's usually something that doesn't quite go as the authors have envisaged and some ad-libbing on my part is necessary. So remember - you'll need to be flexible.)
The murderer: Unfortunately, I know who the murderer is. Although it's mentioned only on the character sheet and the solution, I wasn't careful enough and I know. I don't really mind knowing as it means I can concentrate on other things, but it just shows that it can be difficult. (It's possible - you just have to be more careful than I was!)
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Article by Steve Hatherley. Find out more about hosting interactive murder mystery games for your friends and family at http://www.great-murder-mystery-games.com.