Combining two characters in a murder mystery party game
This page gives some advice for expert hosts and players on combining two characters into one - for those occasions when you haven't quite got enough players for your game.
Playing two characters at once
I recently played in an interactive game that didn’t have enough players for all the characters.
As there weren’t enough people, some of the players (myself included) played two characters, alternating between the two as needed.
(I should point out that this was an unusual weekend-long interactive freeform-style event for about 60 people. I’m not talking about one of the murder mystery games on this site, although I’m hoping that the theory might apply.)
I found the experience very enjoyable - if a bit crazy at times. But that’s crazy in an enjoyable way.
As a result, it’s occurred to me that if you really want to run one of the larger murder mystery games and you don’t have enough players, then you might consider giving one or more players two characters to play.
tips for combining characters
So based on my (admittedly limited) experience, here are some tips for combining characters:
- Consult with them first. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of playing two characters at the same time, so get your player’s agreement first. (In the game I played, I offered to play two characters as I thought it would be an interesting challenge. It was.)
- Plan for it. Whoever is going to take on two characters will probably need plenty of preparation. So if you have a player drop out at the last minute I would be looking for other solutions first.
- I would only do this with one or two players - certainly no more. Even in our large game we only had about five players playing two characters.
- It helps if the characters can be clearly distinguished. One of my characters was a baseball player, so when I was playing him I put on my baseball hat. When I was playing the other character, I took off the hat and that made it easy for other players to see who I was playing.
- Money and items: Think about how to keep the money and items for each character apart. At one point in the game I got a bit confused over a leather jacket that one character had got that the other wanted. (Or just don't worry about it! It may not be the end of the world.)
- Keeping plots separate: Pick characters who are reasonably separate in terms of plot and don’t have much overlap so that they can’t solve each other’s plot easily.
- On the edge: Playing two characters works better with characters that aren’t in the centre of the action otherwise they will have too much to do.
- Tell everyone at the start! Announce at the start of the game who is playing two characters and suggest that they will make either player available as required.
You could also try this even if you have the minimum number of players but you want to use some of the optional murder mystery characters.
Merging two characters
Another idea (and I’ve yet to try this) is that if you have some characters left over after casting, then you "merge" two characters into a single character.
That removes the need for different costumes, swapping namebadges and worrying about keeping items and money apart.
Here’s how I’d choose the characters:
- Pick two characters that are fairly remote from each other in terms of plot. I’d particularly avoid characters who are rivals or are opposing each other.
- Basic checks: Make sure that the combined character didn’t end up with two wives, or two fathers. (Multiple sons and daughters isn’t such a problem.)
- Wealth: Check that their relative wealth was roughly the same rather than merge a poor character with a rich one.
- Gender: Ideally the two characters would be the same gender.
And here’s what I’d then do:
- Check for clashing plots: I’d look for any obviously contradictory plot issues and try to resolve them (probably by just crossing out the appropriate section on one of the character sheets).
- Envelope stuffing: Put both sets of character information into a single envelope - so the character gets two backgrounds, two sets of goals, and so on.
- Namebadges: I’d ask the player to wear both namebadges.
- Announcements: At the start of the party I’d tell everyone that the two characters have been merged into one. If anyone needs to talk to either of the original characters then they they should talk to the player playing the two merged characters.
If I had lots of time I’d merge the characters properly - I’d create a single name badge and edit everyone's character sheet to refer to the new character. However, it’s much more likely that I won’t have time for that!
Tell me how it goes
All this is very experimental - I’ve not tried either of these ideas (yet) with a “regular” murder mystery game so I’m very interested if you do try it.
Click here to tell me all about it via the “your stories” form on this page.
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