Monthly Archives: February 2014

Tips for beginners

Our murder mystery games include tips for beginners to help them get started. There are always two tips, each one suggesting that the player go and talk to another player about something.

The body at the foot of the stairs - in Snow BusinessWe include tips for beginners for two primary reasons:

  • First (and most importantly), the tips give a new player some idea of how our games are played. If you’re reading this you probably know that our murder mystery games are very different to others on the market, and if you’ve not played one before then it might not be clear exactly what it is that you’re supposed to do.

  • Second, the Tips for Beginners help lift the party’s energy at the start of the game by giving players a simple, concrete action that they can carry out immediately. That lets players dive straight into the game and start playing.

I can’t remember exactly when we introduced tips for beginners, but they weren’t present in our original games. When we did introduce them, we treated them as optional, with the view that only newcomers to a Freeform Games style of murder mystery would need them.

Then I ran a game (I forget which – possibly the Hollywood Lies playtest) that I hadn’t cast in advance – I was going to cast randomly on the night. The game was going to be played by a mixture of experienced players and beginners, but because I didn’t know who would be playing which character, I put the Tips for Beginners into every character envelope.

I was therefore surprised when I found that the experienced players were as likely to use the tips for beginners as the newcomers. And from that point they became a permanent feature on our character sheets.

We have a few guidelines (rather than strict rules) for writing tips for beginners:

  • The tips tend not to address the character’s main goals. We don’t want key plots being resolved too early, so we try to pick something that’s key to that character, just to get them started.

  • The tips must refer to something that’s already appeared on in the character background or Other People section. We don’t want to introduce something new in the Tips for Beginners.

  • Tips should normally require the player to talk to another player about something specific. Sometimes the tips will direct a player to an absent character (because not all the characters are being used), but that shouldn’t be a problem as there will be another tip that they can use.

Expanding Casino Fatale for 50 guests

Enjoying Casino FataleSometimes we are asked about expanding our murder mysteries to include many more characters than we had originally written.

Now, if you need just one or two extra characters, you can use the free extra characters that we and other customers have written for the games. Or you could write your own (and if you send that character back to us and we like it enough to include it in our list of extra characters, we’ll give you a free game in return).

But what do you do if you want to add 10 or 20 extra characters? If you have 50 guests coming to your Casino Fatale party then you need another 17 characters to write. It’s a lot of work to write another 17 full characters.

So instead, this is what I’d do:

  • I would write the 17 additional characters as minor roles, and I wouldn’t expect to integrate them fully into the murder mystery. Instead, I’d get them doing something else – and in Casino Fatale I’d ensure that there were some real casino games (backjack, roulette, and so on) for them to enjoy rather than getting completely involved in the mystery.

  • Each minor character would get a brief one-paragraph background, along with some simple goals (such as play blackjack or get involved with Casino Fatale’s charity auction).

  • I would give the minor players some clues so that they can interact with the main mystery if they wanted to. (That also gives the main players a reason to interact with them.) As for where I get the clues, I’d take them from the existing characters – in particular their Secrets and Clues.

  • I would be very careful casting. I would want to manage expectations and make sure that everyone playing a minor role was going to be happy doing that, rather than being fully involved. If someone desperately wants to be involved in the Casino Fatale, then I wouldn’t cast them as a minor character.

  • And I would also make sure that I had at least one assistant (preferably two) to help me run a game of this size.

If this has inspired you to expand one of our games, we’d love to hear about it.

Steve Hatherley