Happy Birthday R.J.

(12 customer reviews)


Happy Birthday R.J. is a 1980s Texan oil family themed murder mystery game for 11 to 15 guests and one host. It is set at Southspoon Ranch and characters include the wealthy Harrington family and their glamorous friends. Written by Lisa Butler. Recommended for ages 18+.


Happy Birthday R.J. is a murder mystery game for 11 to 15 guests and one host. It is set in 1984 Texas, at the height of the oil boom. Characters include the wealthy Harrington family and their glamorous friends.  Download the free introductory pdf file.

Happy Birthday R.J. is a thrilling evening of scheming, double-dealing and big, big shoulder pads. Your guests will be in the middle of the action, and it will be up to them to wheel and deal to get what they want. Will they achieve their goals, keep their secrets hidden, and survive Happy Birthday R.J.?

“…the game and evening was very enjoyable and it worked very well indeed.”
Rob Ivory, Essex, United Kingdom

See stories and pictures from Happy Birthday R.J. Click here to read the Perm Creek Newsletter.

It is 1984 and the height of the oil boom. Harrington Oil is a successful oil company in Texas. The Harringtons are old money, having made their money originally from cattle ranching, and Jack Harrington is a respected pillar of the community.

As he turns 30, R.J. comes into the inheritance his grandfather, Eli, left to him.

And so tonight, we are holding a lavish birthday party for R.J. Harrington. Friends and family gather at his parents’ ranch—SouthSpoon—to wish R.J. well on his 30th birthday.

But all is not well; tension brews and questions need answering. What does Eli Harrington’s will contain? Why are Sue Helen and Billy Joe barely speaking to each other? Why does Dixie alternate between looking ecstatic and miserable? And what is Lucille up to? Find out in Happy Birthday R.J.

Happy Birthday R.J. lasts for about four hours and is suited to an evening. It is often played over a meal – a finger buffet if possible, to allow guests to circulate and talk in private.

“We played Happy Birthday RJ for a 13-year-old’s birthday party (with slight adaptations!). A group of teens who had never done an rpg before had what they described as the best party they’d been to and they are looking forward to the next time. Keep up the good work.”
Pam Everitt-Bronze, Essex, United Kingdom

Processed with VSCO with preset
No combat, no poison.
No combat, no poison.

The free introductory pdf file contains an introduction to the game and a cast list of all the characters.

Cast of characters

  • R.J. Harrington: The birthday boy himself, a slick southern boy with a cheeky look in his eye.
  • Dixie Green: R.J.’s lovely girlfriend, a genuine southern belle.
  • Jack Harrington: R.J.’s dad, suave and sophisticated oil tycoon with old cattle ranching money.
  • Crystal Harrington: Jack’s wife and R.J.’s glamorous stepmom.
  • Bobby Harrington: R.J.’s half-brother, a sweet and caring southern boy. Recently returned from university and started in Harrington Oil.
  • Lucille Harrington: R.J.’s half-sister–butter wouldn’t melt!
  • Ali Fields: Crystal’s sibling, a city lawyer.
  • Billy Joe Butler: Jack’s best friend and neighbor.
  • Sue Helen Butler: Billy Joe’s wife, an expert horsewoman.
  • Sam Bond: Crystal’s friend, Sam works in insurance.
  • Rick Harper: R.J.’s old schoolfriend is a gym instructor and dashing bachelor.
  • Deedee Taylor: Sweet Deedee is Dixie’s best friend.
  • Dolly Douglas: Lucille’s best friend, Dolly works as a hotel receptionist.
  • Drew Morrison: Drew used to be a doctor in Houston and recently moved to town.
  • Randy Coltrane: Bobby’s friend, and the Perm Creek deputy sheriff.

Happy Birthday R.J. is for 11 to 15 guests:

    • 11 guests (5 male, 4 female, 2 any)
    • 12 guests (5 male, 4 female, 3 any)
    • 13 guests (5 male, 5 female, 3 any)
    • 14 guests (6 male, 5 female, 3 any)
    • 15 guests (6 male, 6 female, 3 any)

You also need a host – someone to organize the party and ensure everything runs smoothly.

How Freeform Games murder mystery games work

Happy Birthday R.J. is unlike other murder mystery games – it doesn’t start with a murder to solve (although one is likely to be committed during the game). Instead, plenty of other plots and secrets will keep everyone busy, as each character has several objectives they must try to accomplish. Happy Birthday R.J. isn’t scripted, and lets the players decide how to achieve their goals and thwart their enemies.

Happy Birthday R.J. was a thoroughly good night’s entertainment for all. Young and old!”
A Customer, United Kingdom

On the evening of the game the guests are met by the organizer.

They then receive their detailed backgrounds – including dark secrets, objectives and money. When everyone has arrived, Jack Harrington welcomes the guests to his dear son’s birthday party. The fun then begins as everyone questions, bribes and blackmails each other. As the evening progresses they may even try to murder one another!

Along the way they may uncover some of the Harrington family secrets. What is contained in Eli Harrington’s will? Why are Sue Helen and Billy Joe barely speaking to each other? Why does Dixie alternate between looking ecstatic and miserable?

And what is Lucille up to? Finally, the party draws to a close and everyone finds out how they did, and what secrets everyone else was concealing.

Recommended for ages 18+

We recommend Happy Birthday R.J. for those aged 15+ as it includes references to infidelity and homosexuality.

Extra characters

Sometimes you have too many guests and need more characters. Happy Birthday R.J. comes with free extra characters (written by us or previous hosts) that are included in the download when you purchase the game.

  • ‘Ginger’ Roberts – freelance reporter in search of the Big Story. (Any)
    (by Freeform Games)
  • Robin Brown – gym instructor. (M)
    (by Emma Margrett)

Please note that we haven’t always tested these – and they may not tie in exactly with our games.

“Thank you for a great site, fantastic games, good service and very quick reply. Keep up the good work.” Ole Martin Brodwall, Norway

Cast Iron Guarantee

We offer a Cast Iron Guarantee on all our murder mystery games. If you’re not completely satisfied with Happy Birthday R.J. then please let us know within 30 days and we will refund you. See our full terms and conditions, and our refund policy.

Trouble downloading? If you have trouble downloading the game files, please first check your spam folder. If you still can’t find the download email, drop us a line at info@freeformgames.com with the name of the game and the email address you used to purchase it, and we’ll resend it.

12 reviews for Happy Birthday R.J.

  1. Terry W. (verified owner)

    This is our 4th Freeform game. Is was easy. It was not our favorite.

    Image #1 from Terry W.
    Image #2 from Terry W.
    Image #3 from Terry W.
  2. Josh Mountain (verified owner)


  3. Jeremy Gustafson (store manager)

    We hosted Happy Birthday RJ this Saturday and it was a blast! Since it was also my real-life birthday party, Alissa encouraged me to play a character so I could interact with my friends more than if I were a host. Naturally Alissa cast me as RJ the birthday boy himself 🙂 I cannot tell you how much fun I and all of our guests had.

  4. Elizabeth Phillips (store manager)

    I hosted Happy Birthday R.J. in 2005. The murderer being determined by me (the host), was awesome. I had several potential characters that I could have pulled aside and told they were the murderer, but I ended up picking the one who seemed to be playing out her motive the strongest, and it worked out beautifully! This was the first Dinner and a Murder I ever did, and to date was the best one – mainly because of that aspect! I have since done 3 more – and am planning my next one for next Spring.

  5. Darren (store manager)

    I hosted Happy Birthday R.J. at Bellamy Manor & Gardens Bed and Breakfast in Enfield NC this past Saturday April 14th 2012. We had 14 people in attendance. All went smoothly and all had a great time. I was surprised that even though people had 2 pages of notes to read and understand (plus a 2 page introduction the night before) – everyone got into character and had fun with it.

  6. Jennie Dixon (store manager)

    I played Happy Birthday R.J. for my own 25th Birthday last weekend, and all of my friends are still going on about it!
    Everyone got involved in the Texan accents, and we can’t wait to try out the next Freeform game!! Thanks so much for a flawless evening 🙂

  7. A Customer (store manager)

    Fun. Happy Birthday R.J. was an entertaining evening that is unique, something our friends look forward to every year.
    We enjoy these games and choose them based on the number of people that we have to play (for an annual party that we’ve played for the last 5 years).
    I like the flexibility that people have with their characters (to tell the truth or not), mingling during a buffet dinner and the twists that are in each game

  8. Louie Rinaldi (store manager)

    Over the years I’ve had many murder mystery parties, and once I found Freeform Games
    I never went back. I played Happy Birthday R.J. last year for my 17th birthday party and
    I think it was one of my favorites. Freeform makes it so easy to have fun. My friends and
    I are actors, so we love to dress up and improv, but anyone can do it. (I had my uncle, and
    my 9 year old cousin in it too) It’s so fun, and my friends and I look forward to it
    every year. I’m planning on having another one next month for my 18th birthday!

  9. Mae (store manager)

    We played Happy Birthday R.J. for our daughter’s 16th birthday. She invited 14 of her closest friends and they had a blast. Many of the girls played male characters but that just made it interesting and they had fun hamming it up. None of the girls had been to a murder mystery party before so it took them a minute to get going but when they did anything went. It was a night that they all will remember and we hope to have another this summer just for the fun of it. Thank you so much.

  10. Matt Clifford (store manager)

    Last night I played your murder mystery Happy Birthday R.J. with some friends from university. I just want to thank you for having created such a wonderfully fun and engrossing game. Each of my guests said they had had a fantastic time and I had just as much fun as the host. I’ve played several ‘scripted’ Murder Mysteries in the past, but I have to say that yours was vastly superior and I’ll certainly return to Freeform Games in the future.

  11. F Grover (store manager)

    Ran Happy Birthday RJ last weekend. Excellent – everybody enjoyed it. I had to add the additional character (i.e. Ginger) and to add to the enjoyment, I provided him with a gold pen which was stolen by one of the characters at the party. The whole evening went down very well and after I’ve given my wife time to recuperate I will purchase another mystery from you.

  12. Sue Morrison (store manager)

    Just a short note to let you know we held our Murder Mystery [Happy Birthday RJ — below] last night and everyone had a ball. This morning I have had all my guests ring me without exception, to tell me what fabulous party it was last night and that they had never had so much fun at a party. So, thanks guys for the game. I have already had people ask me where I got it from, so I have given out your web site. Thanks again.

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Q & A

How soon will I get my game? asked on 30 June 2020

You can download your game immediately after making your purchase. We will also send you an email message containing a download link and password so you can download your game later.

answered on 29 June 2020 store manager
(0) (0)
Where's my password? asked on 28 June 2020

Please check your email (including your junk folder). If you're sure you haven't received it, then please get in touch. It helps us if you tell us when you purchased the game and what email address you used.

answered on 27 June 2020 store manager
(0) (0)
How do freeform murder mystery games work? asked on 26 June 2020

Most of our games have an impartial host who organizes the party. Hosts don't solve the murder with everyone else – they have already read the game and instead watch the game unfolding.

Guests use their wits and negotiate, scheme, and plot with other guests to get what they want. Nobody needs to learn complicated backgrounds or memorize lines – character backgrounds are little more than a side or two of paper – which can be kept to hand for reference during the game.

answered on 25 June 2020 store manager
(0) (0)
Have you got any games for beginners? asked on 24 June 2020

Yes! If this is your first time hosting a Freeform Games murder mystery, we suggest choosing one of our more straightforward games. Click here for our 'games for beginners' page.

answered on 23 June 2020 store manager
(0) (0)
Do you have any games suitable for all-male or all-female groups? asked on 22 June 2020

Yes! We have several games where all the characters are ungendered and can be played by anyone. Click here to see our ungendered games.

answered on 21 June 2020 store manager
(0) (0)

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