Our murder mystery games are different from many others in many ways, one of which is that our games need a dedicated host. Instead of playing a detective or a suspect along with everyone else, our hosts oversee play and coordinate events and the rules.
I know that some people would like to be able to host their game and play in it, but our games really do need a separate host. We didn’t have to write them that way – so why did we?
With our background in tabletop roleplaying games, it was perhaps inevitable that Mo and I would write games that require a “gamesmaster” role in our games. But that’s because the kind of games and events that we want to write about require such a thing. They can’t easily be done without a dedicated host.
So here, in no particular order, are just some of the reasons our games require a dedicated host:
There’s no need to worry about inadvertently reading a game secret when you print out the game. If the host is also a player, then they have to be very careful about what they read, just in case they find out the identity or the murderer or some other piece of key information. (And that’s assuming they resist the temptation to cheat.)
A dedicated host allows us to introduce rules that require a neutral referee, such as combat and pickpocketing. If we didn’t have a neutral referee we wouldn’t include these rules.
It’s easier to cast your players if you can see the characters first. The host usually knows most of the players, and can cast accordingly.
A host can focus on making sure that the party is an overall success, and won’t be distracted by trying to achieve their in-character objectives.
They can adjudicate on any of the wild and wacky ideas that the players may dream up. This is perhaps one of the most important roles of the host, as our murder mystery games give the players considerable flexibility in how they achieve their goals. Instead of endless, overly complicated rules, the host oversees the game and adjudicates on player requests to ensure that everyone has a good time.
Having said all that, we’ve written before with tips for playing a character and being the host.
But if you want to both host and play our games, then the best solution may be to host one game, and then get a friend to host the next.