That’s right: your first murder mystery party. We’ve all heard of them, but no one quite understand them until they’ve attended one. That’s why I’m helping you learn how to host a murder mystery party.
Well, or until they’ve thrown one themselves. I took this task on my first time without knowing really what a murder mystery party was or how to host a murder mystery party. But I had a mentor who had done it before to help me through it so, without further ado:
Meet you mentor. It’s me! Hello, I’m Tanea. I’m going to walk you through how to host a murder mystery party. You’re going to throw the best murder mystery party of all time, and your friends are going to beg you to make it an annual thing. Seriously.
Here’s how to throw a murder mystery party:
1: First, invite people and see how many people RSVP back to you.
(Typically, I think it’s better to start off with a small party. I’m thinking 12 characters or less.) Keep in mind that when you assign characters, if a major character backs out last minute you will need someone to fill that role. I always have a few people in the back of my mind that can be my backups: people that don’t prefer to play a character but still want to come and watch.
2: Then, you find a script.
You can find them online relatively easy, and they usually cost somewhere between $30 and $60. If you don’t need a script for a ton of 1. , you can usually find one pretty cheap. Here are some general tips for finding the best script for you:
- Typically, scripts will allow you to download sample materials before you commit to buying. Read through all of these sample materials and that should tell you if this is a good fit for your party.
- I recommend starting with a theme in mind. There has to be a theme idea that gets you excited, and I’m sure there is a script out there for that theme. For example, a couple years ago I wanted to throw a Christmas party, so I found a Christmas themed murder mystery script and it was seriously so much fun.
- There are differentiating difficulty levels between various scripts. If this is your first time, make sure you pick a script that is easier to follow. For example, if you can do things in your script like murder each other, not just the main character.. it might be a bit too complex for your first time. Read your crowd: are your guests seasoned vets of role playing games or are they new to it?
- This is my go-to site for finding murder mystery party scripts: click here. It has difficulty levels posted, which is super important. They are very straight forward scripts and you know exactly what you are getting before you purchase.
3: Then, you print all your materials.
You’ll probably need a lot of paper and printer ink. Like a lot a lot.
4: Familiarize yourself with the plot and characters, and then assign character roles.
- I have done this two ways: by manipulating it myself 100%, and by going 100% random with assigning characters. For me, the best way I’ve found is to manipulate the character as much as you think you need to. In other words, assign the murder to someone who you know can handle it. If there is a person who is a great actor, will play the role well, and will really get into, by all means… that person should be your murderer.
- It also helps to assign important characters (the murderer, the hero, the person who gets killed, etc.) to people you are 100% sure will end up showing up. Having your murderer cancel last minute will kill you.
- It is important to encourage people to really get into their character. What helps: if you can promise that other people there are going all out. Is your best friend coming? Your mom? Force them to go all out on their costume and then you’ll know that you can guarantee at least one other person is. It creates a vibe for the night that is really important for all the characters.
5: Prepare yourself for if someone or multiple someones cancel.
It is wise to have someone or a few someones coming just to watch and, if necessary, to play roles if you need them to last minute. While they might not have enough time to throw and elaborate costume together and study their part, it’s better to have their part covered than not at all.
6: Give each person their character information well in advance of the party, so that they have plenty of time to prepare a costume.
7: Finish character envelopes well before the party.
Typically, each script requires you to hand the guests script materials as soon as they arrive at your house for the party. Things like items, more plot points, information about characters, etc. I call these the character envelopes, and they take a few hours worth of work, usually. I try to get these done at least a week or two before the party, just so that they are out of the way.
8: Prepare for the party next: decorations, food, etc.
9: Close to the day of the party, you want to go over every character, plot line, and sub plot in detail so you thoroughly understand everything the characters at your party could ask you.
This will make your first party much, much smoother. If you understand the plot, there’s not too much they can hit you with that will confuse you.
Here are some general tips when it comes to the day of your party:
- Review your plot/script pretty close to the party so you’re fresh.
- Get everything out of the way that you possibly can before the day of. Leave the day of to dealing with stuff like decorations and preparing food, handling cancellations (hopefully not on the day of the party but people are fickle), and having all the details in place.
- Make sure to dress yourself up as well! Even if you don’t have a part, you should fit the theme of your party. It will help everyone else get into it even more.
- Themed snacks and decoration are essential. Try to put your characters into the environment you want them to be in the whole evening.
- Some scripts try to help the hosts avoid spoilers, which will allow them to play a character part in the party. I never recommend this, especially if this is the first time hosting a murder mystery party. Usually, it is best to let your guests play all the characters and leave yourself up for questions and guidance throughout the night. Trust me, you’ll be busier than you think and it’ll still be fun!
Here are some ideas for extras:
Have a drink bar of some sort. Alcohol really helps people loosen up and get into character.
During my first murder mystery party at home, I had an adult hot chocolate bar (it was Christmas/North Pole themed). My next party was a superhero themed party. I had 4 signature cocktails (the hammered hulk, black widow’s bite, etc.). I asked my dad to be our mock bartender for the night. Side note: he loved being a bartender. Most people would enjoy to help you with that part.
Out of the many murder mystery parties I’ve hosted, the ones that people remember the best are ones where there were prizes at the end. At my parties, I have people submit one and only one formal accusation of who they think is the killer throughout the night, whenever they are ready. All they have to do is write me a note and hand it in or tell me in secret. The first person to guess the correct killer gets a prize at the end of the night.
I also like to hold a vote at the end of the night. All the characters can vote on best dressed, best actor/actress, and most money. This gives people a reason to really participate with their character goals and costumes.
Encourage your guests to stick around for a little while after the party and discuss the script with you. What did they like? What didn’t they like? When you throw your next murder mystery party, it will be essential to us their critiques.
Now that I’ve shown you how to host a murder mystery party, I have one more piece of advice: take some pictures!
I always forget to take pictures and get really sad when I remember that at the end of the night, when everyone is out of costume and gone.
If you’re nervous and/or have more questions, reach out. I’d love to answer any questions and help you along your party planning journey.