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 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.