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.

We 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 suggested first moves 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 suggested first moves (originally called 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 suggested first moves into every character envelope (back then they were a separate card, not incorporated within the character booklet as they are now).

I was therefore surprised when I found that the experienced players were as likely to use the suggested first moves as the newcomers. And from that point they became a permanent feature.

We have a few guidelines (rather than strict rules) for writing suggested first moves:

  • They don’t usually 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.
  • They 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.
  • They 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 they can use.
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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 “Tips for beginners

  1. Mo

    It was as far back as 2003 that we introduced them – it was Tracy’s idea originally, based on her own experience as a newcomer in the All at Sea playtest that we ran.


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