Tips for encouraging your guests to attend - and what you can do if they are early or late.
Myst has a number of tricks to make sure that their guests attend their murder mystery parties:
Since you don't want people to flake out on you, especially for a party that requires so much planning and active participation like this, we get everyone geared up by doing a couple of things.
After working out a definitive guest list, we create a Facebook page and use this to post information about the party. We also ask everyone to send in a picture of them looking mysterious so that we can use those images to create title cards for each character. We try to make all of our correspondence as mysterious/over the top/corny as possible to get everyone in the mood.
I do a bit of graphic design work, so I use photoshop to make up little title cards for each of the characters. You could easily use any word processor program to make up similar graphics.
Each guest receives a "kit" of information at the beginning of the party with their particular image and character's name on it. This helps get everyone into the spirit of the game and gets the guests to know their characters. Depending on the scenario, we even recommend giving out some of the "kits" ahead of time. Again, when your guests see how much planning and work you're putting into the party, they're more likely to come. Plus, they get a taste of how awesome your party will be and will be less likely to flake out on you!
We use all of the images to create tableplace mats also of the entire guest list.
After the party's over we update the placemats with pictures from the actual party; a great memento after the party's over!
In a similar vein, Michael Keeney reports: In order to build excitement and drama our character packs were mailed out about two months before the party date inside small wooden sarcophaguses. You can find both wooden and paper mache' pencil boxes at several different craft stores. We sprayed them gold, then printed hieroglyphs and Egyptian clip art on clear mailing labels, stuck them on and coated it all with a layer of craft sealant/glue.
To mail them, we simply put the addresses on the bottom of each sarcophagus – no outer box, no wrapping, nothing. So that when they received their mail there was an actual doll-sized sarcophagus in their post. All-in-all, I've found that the Post Office is like anyone else, do something different and neat, and they'll do their best to help you along the way. We've never had a single issue with something being lost or damaged.
Inside the sarcophagus was their character information as well as The Cairo Gazette – a full (four page) 1894 newspaper with several articles, display ads and classifieds. The articles and classifieds were pulled from genuine vintage papers found online, but the display advertising we had some creative fun with, using clip art and the like. The paper was printed on both sides of an 11x17 sheet at the local instant copy store.
While at the craft store we picked up a bunch of little plastic "Ancient Egypt" figures that come in a clear plastic tube, that way the museum curator had a few actual pieces as did the various diggers that they could barter/sell/have stolen. The tube include a green scarab beetle so the Jade Scarab was a genuine item.
One of our customers asked: I have a few guests who have to leave the game early but want to play. Which characters do you suggest I cast for those who leave early? And for people who come late (they are coming about 30 min after we begin) do you suggest certain characters for them?
For late arriving guests, it depends on low late you expect them. If they're just going to miss the briefing then you can manage the situation by giving them their character booklet in advance so they can prepare themselves. If, on the other hand, they won't turn up until the game is in full flow then I would tend to give them one of the optional characters (or free extra characters if you are using them). I would also announce that they will be late as part of the host's introductory announcement.
(A real issue that you may have to watch for is where the guests are late but on arriving want to "settle in" and chat to some of their friends before getting into the game. If you think that they might want to do this, I suggest that you explain to them that you don't want them to disrupt the party and there will be plenty of time for conversation afterwards.
As for guests leaving early, you will need to try and avoid any characters who have a plot need to stay until the end. (For example, in Hollywood Lies and Halloween Lies there is a movie-making game that resolves right at the end of the party. So if you had a guest who was leaving early you wouldn't want to give them a character whose main game involves the movie-making plot.) But apart from that, I would tend to give these guests the more optional/free characters rather than the "core" characters.
We have also covered dealing with late guests on our blog.