Shortly after moving to our new location in 2008, I hosted my first ever murder mystery party at the library where I work. The event was held on Friday evening after the library was closed, and I designed an original murder mystery plot that participants could solve.
For this first event, I had sixteen library patrons participate. Creating an unique role for each of them, I developed facts about their characters and gave them objectives to complete during each of the three rounds of play. Some objectives directed players to find clues hidden in our fiction and nonfiction shelves. This also served to help our patrons familiarize themselves with our new library’s set-up.
The plot involved a professor who had been murdered in his mansion. His body, however, disappeared. Each player was either a suspect or witness to the crime. Before the event, I sent out invitations (see images below), and before we began the game, I provided these known details about the crime:
- The professor was found dead in his study by Debra Wingnut, a motorist, around 3:30 pm.
- The police arrived to investigate around 4:00 pm, but the body was gone.
- The gardener, Greenthumb, claims to have heard a loud crack around 3:00 pm.
- The gun and the scarf were found in the study as you see them, and the blank memo pad was on the desk.
- The study window was closed, and the door was found open.
- We are awaiting further details from our crime lab.
As I mentioned, each player also received additional information (and clues) particular to their character. In rounds two and three, additional information and clues were revealed. Then each guest was invited to solve the mystery by answering three questions: Who killed Professor Peabrain? Who killed Chef LaDeeDee? And where is the professor’s body? Yes, we actually had a second murder!
As it’s true that nothing goes off without a hitch or two, it turned out that three of our registered participants were unable to come that night. As a result, three players had to take on dual roles. This did lead to a bit of confusion, but not excessively so. However, I’ve subsequently planned for fewer characters (between nine and thirteen on average) than the number of attendees. That way those who aren’t playing an actual character become known as an “Innocent Bystander,” tasked with solving the mystery so the crime does not besmirch their name.
I’ve given Innocent Bystanders their own set of clues and questions to ask of the suspects. They’re also encouraged to eavesdrop on conversations and sometimes given the opportunity to find their own hidden clues. It all depends on the mystery at hand.
Stay tuned for more about mystery parties I’ve hosted and ones to come.