Telling lies in our murder mystery games

In some murder mystery party games you are instructed not to lie about the details in your background. This is because to solve the murder everyone needs all the clues – but unfortunately my experience is that some people can’t just help themselves, and they don’t always tell the truth.

We, on the other hand, are absolutely fine with people lying and fibbing in a Freeform Games murder mystery party. We tell our players up front what awful deeds their characters have committed and we don’t expect them to tell the complete truth in front of the other players.

Of course we do realize that if everyone lied all the time, that would cause problems for other people trying to fulfill their goals. That’s why we include in the game Information/Clues and Secrets. These can’t be lied about, because they’re printed. If another player uses an Ability to make you reveal your Information/Clue or Secret, then you must do so. Then the other player can see written down in black and white something that you might otherwise have wanted to lie about.

A Secret
Secrets – not lies!

The other balancing mechanism we use is that each player has incentives to be honest and open with at least some of the other players, if they’re to try and get their own goals achieved. So in general, you’ll tell the truth to your friends and allies, but might be dishonest to your enemies. Then by making connections, third-party characters will be able to piece the clues together.

Note that there’s a difference between your character telling a lie (which is fine) and you as a player lying (which absolutely isn’t). So for example, if someone asks you “Did you murder so-and-so?”, you’re quite free to say “No I didn’t.” But if they use an Ability to make you show your Secret, you mustn’t lie and say that you don’t have a Secret to show. It might sound like a subtle distinction when written down like this, but in practice players are able to understand that they must be honest ‘as players’ even if their characters aren’t always honest.

2 thoughts on “Telling lies in our murder mystery games

  1. debbi eyler

    Hi, writing this just to give an opinion. My friends and I have been playing murder mystery games over 20 years. We’ve played all kinds over the years. We used to play the boxed sets that had play books and set rounds. About 7 years ago we found out about freeform type games. Started playing this style and loved it. So much more fun!

    The only thing we don’t like about your games is the ability cards and having to do rock, paper, scissors with the host to be able to do something in the game. We’ve never used them until the last game we just played “The Karma Club”. I’m usually in charge and I decided maybe we should try them.

    The reality of why we never used ability cards etc. before came to light while playing this game. No one wants to walk around and carry these things with them. Very inconvenient. No one did. We ended up playing without them again, and had a blast. I would love one of your games written without these. We played another companies free form game a few years back and they didn’t have these. Just a thought for a future game. Thanks, Debbi

    1. Steve Hatherley Post author

      Hi Debbi,

      Thanks for your feedback – it’s really good to hear that you are enjoying our murder mysteries, with or without the ability cards. As you point out, it’s entirely possible to play our games without the abilities – they’re mainly there for players that need a bit of help.

      Feedback from our customers is that, generally, they like the abilities. But if that should change, then I would expect us to drop abilities from future games – or at least make them more explicitly optional.



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