The three golden rules for hosting a murder mystery game

I talked a couple of posts back about helping to run Cafe Casablanca, but what I didn’t talk about is how I used our “three golden rules” to guide my decisions during the game.

As our hosts know, we have three golden rules when it comes to hosting a murder mystery game:

  1. Is it fun?
  2. Will it spoil the game for anyone else?
  3. Make it up!
Chocolate needed for Cafe Casablanca
The fourth golden rule we don’t like to admit to – make sure you have lots of chocolate to hand!

So I thought I’d explain how I used these rules, with an example from Cafe Casablanca. (It’s useful to use Cafe Casablanca as an example as I am in no danger of giving out any of our game secrets!)

So, to set the scene, the first scene I ran in Cafe Casablanca is low tide at Casablanca’s long pier. At the long pier, players were gathering to try and recover a suspiciously heavy bag that had been thrown into the water. At low tide, when the mudflats were revealed, the bag could be recovered.

(Note that this is not a normal situation for a Freeform Games murder mystery. Our games don’t have discrete scenes like this, but hopefully that won’t spoil it as an example.)

Two players, Harry and Eddie, arrived at the long pier before everyone else. They had a boat and a diving suit and wanted to get the bag before anyone else arrived. I used the three golden rules to decide whether they were successful or not:

  • Is it fun? Well, not really. More importantly, I felt that denying the opportunity for a scene full of conflict (as would happen when the other players turned up) would be less fun.
  • Will it spoil the game for anyone else? No, after all, someone had to get the bag.
  • Make it up! As I decided that it would be more fun to wait until the other players arrived, I delayed Harry and Eddie just long enough to allow the other players turn up.

Delaying the recovery of the bag meant that at least a dozen other characters were involved, some of whom were spectators. The bag did end up in Harry and Eddie’s possession (along with a third character), and created some interesting scenes later in the game.

Was it the right decision? I don’t know – we certainly had an interesting scene as a result of me not allowing Harry and Eddie to get the bag, but as I don’t know what would have happened had I allowed them, I can’t say whether it was strictly the right decision. I do know, however, that I’d make the same decision again.

A minor caveat on spoiling the game for others – I don’t mind one player doing something that gives them an advantage over another, but if they’re trying to do something that is likely to upset lots of other players, that’s when I become cautious. That wasn’t really an issue in this case, though – I just wanted to delay Harry and Eddie because I thought it would be more interesting for the scene if there were more players present. And it was.

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About Steve Hatherley

Steve is one half of Freeform Games and wrote Death on the Gambia, The Roswell Incident, Hollywood Lies (and its seasonal variants Halloween Lies and Christmas Lies). He has edited many, many others. He lives in Yorkshire, England with his wife, daughter and dog.

One thought on “The three golden rules for hosting a murder mystery game

  1. Pingback: Two more golden rules | Freeform Games murder mystery blog

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