Writing extra characters for your murder mystery game

Imagine that you are running a murder mystery game and it's full - and at the last minute someone wants to bring a friend....

What do you do?

That's what this page is all about - writing extra characters for a murder mystery game.

Three characters playing a murder mystery party gameAny of these could be an extra character written by the host


This page is in two parts.

The first is some general advice for writing extra murder mystery game characters.

In the second part I explain how I would add an extra character to Death on the Gambia.

Choices, choices

You have broadly three options in adding people to your murder mystery game.

Get someone to help you host

First, you could actually have someone help you host the game - particularly the larger games.

You might assign them a particular duty - so that they deal with telegrams, the library, or the horse-racing or whatever the murder mystery involves.

(Note, however, that this isn't actually adding a new character to the game... But having a second host can be very handy.)

an assistant for an existing character

Second, you could give one of the characters an assistant.

They would probably have similar goals, but you could change them slightly.

Depending on who you gave an assistant, you could also give them a goal to keep an eye on their boss.

(I go into this in a bit more detail below.)

Write a completely new character

Third you could create a completely new character.

In Hollywood Lies this might be an advertising executive trying to get his products placed in as many movies as possible.

If you have time, you should write out their goals and brief background (you don't need to be as detailed as the "proper" characters).

You will also need to tell everyone about the new character as they won't be mentioned on any of the sheets.

Finally, you can just print out some of the abilities and items again for them.

(I wouldn't give them too much money though as you might unbalance the game.)

Incidentally, Freeform Games have already done this - they have a number of optional characters (most written by their customers) for their games.

Background characters

Fourth, if you need to add several characters to your party and you have some guests that don't want to be fully involved (or just want to observe) then you could write some "background" characters.

These are simpler, generic characters that fit in with the party, but don't obstruct the game.

If they decide, during the party, that they want to become more involved, then that's up to them (they can help try to solve the murder).

For example, in Murder at Sea (a murder mystery set aboard an ocean liner), you could have some people play generic First Class passengers or stewards to make the ship more crowded. To give them something to do you could set up a bridge table, and have the stewards serve food and drink. I would also give them each a clue to the murder, so that they are still involved.

adding a character to death on the gambia

Players enjoying Death on the GambiaPlaying Death on the Gambia

I'm now going to talk about writing an extra character for the Death on the Gambia murder mystery party game.

In this particular example, I am adding an assistant to one of the characters. The assistant would be briefed to keep an eye on their boss. (I’ll try and keep it as general as that, for those who haven’t yet played Death on the Gambia.)

(And just to be completely transparent, I wrote Death on the Gambia.)

character background

The first thing you need to do is write a couple of paragraphs of background.

The background needs to answer two simple questions – who are they, and why are they here (ie, wherever the murder mystery game is set).

You should also try and give them a problem – a dilemma of some sort for them to solve.

They might not have enough money to purchase the item they want, or they might be being blackmailed.

You can look at the other characters in the game for examples.

Our assistant, for example, might be present because he (or she) has been assigned to watch their boss.

Their background might state that they are young and ambitious, or maybe old and cynical.

It’s up to you!

Inserting them into the plots

To make your additional character fun to play, you will need to make sure they have some links into some of the plots.

This means you will have to read the other characters to see how you can draw your new character in – perhaps they know a useful clue, or have witnessed an event.

This does mean that you will know the plots – including who the murderer is.

That’s a necessary evil if you’re adding your own character, unfortunately. (Personally, I don’t mind knowing who the murderer is.)

In Death on the Gambia there are three or four main plots that our character can be linked into. (I'm not going to explain them here, for obvious reasons.)

who they know

You should also ensure that the new character knows a few other people – knows something about them (maybe a secret) so that they can strike up conversation.

Knowing a secret about someone gives the character a certain amount of power, which they may then be able to trade to achieve their own goals.

Don’t provide information about every character, just those that your character might know something interesting about.

So in our example, our assistant knows information about three other characters, as well as their boss.

their goals - what do they want?

The goals or objectives section is just a summary of the character’s objectives – what are they trying to achieve over the course of the evening.

Are they trying to acquire an object or win the heart of a good man – or both? They might also want to solve the murder.

The goals/objectives should flow from the rest of the character.

You can write them as single line bullet points, or with a bit more detail on each.

who knows them?

Because you’ve created a new character, the existing characters won’t know anything about them.

To fully integrate them into the party, the other characters should know something about your new character – even if it’s only to get them talking to each other.

This is easiest done by adding a snippet of information about the new character to other characters.

You should think “Who might know this character - and why?” and then tell them what they know.

You might want to keep the new character as a surprise. If so, you can put the information in a sealed envelope with “Do not open until told to” written on it.

Tailoring to your group

One great benefit of writing your own murder mystery character is that you can tailor the character to your own group.

So, you can introduce characters from television and cinema that intellectual property laws prevent the murder mystery companies from including.

Write an extra character for freeform games and get a free murder mystery game!

Freeform Games publish one or more free extra characters for all their games, most of which are written by their customers.

If you write an additional character and Freeform Games like and publish it, they will reward you with a free game!

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Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

New game

Cover for A Purrfect Murder

A Purrfect Murder - a cat-themed murder mystery for 9-12 guests.

Don't know where to start?

Here's my suggested quick route through the site:

Step 1 - Go to Choosing a Game to choose the game that suits your party best.

Step 2 - Review the Tips for Hosts for helpful advice.

Step 3 - If you want to keep up to date with the latest murder mystery game news, click on my What's New page.

Step 4 - Once you've had your party - tell me how it went! Click here to tell me your murder mystery party story.

Got a question? Click here to go to the FAQ.

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