So far, we have been focusing on the characters and by now, each individual character’s background, personality and secrets should be complete. We now need to begin tying everything together with “Conversation Starters”. However before we move onto that, we need to think about “Setting the Scene”.
Setting the Scene
As the author of the game, in your mind you know where and when your game is going to take place, e.g. Halloween, Christmas, a Casino, the Wild West, the 1960’s, etc. However the people playing the game need to know and understand your vision. Think of Setting the Scene as an introduction for the players. Below you can see the introduction from my game “Murder at Ewe Tree Hall”
“The famous millionaire businessman, Rudolph Rams-Bottom, was preparing to celebrate his 80th Birthday at his luxurious country home, Ewe Tree Hall. His close family and friends were looking forward to celebrating with him but were shocked by the sudden announcement that he planned to step down as head of the family business. The whole house was alive with rumours as Rudolph promised to announce his successor by the end of the night. A few hours later and several miles away, a local detective was preparing to go home for the night when the call came through. A body had been found at the Rams-Bottoms home and it appeared to be murder! The detective was on the scene within minutes and held everyone at Ewe Tree Hall, pending the investigation. What guilty secrets were people hiding, who would resort to murder to keep those secrets hidden and most importantly, can the killer be brought to justice?”
This introduction tells the players where the game is set, who the focal character is and a main theme running through the game. It also alludes to dark secrets and a sense of mystery. Just by reading that one paragraph, your guests will have an idea of what is happening and hopefully leave them excited and looking forward to playing the game.
So have a go at writing your own now. As always, write it on your “Ideas” sheet for now. Setting the Scene doesn’t have to be perfect straight away as you can always go back and change it if you feel it’s necessary.
The conversation starters are where you begin to tie things together. In the game, the conversation starters are read out at the very beginning, just after the character introductions and before the murder has taken place. They are there so that each player can find out more about their fellow characters and potentially pick up on information which will be useful later in the game.
To go about writing the conversation starters, go to your ideas sheet where you have all of your character profiles written down. Starting with your first character, read through their secrets once again to refresh your memory and then write 5 or 6 statements about that character. Now these statements shouldn’t necessary reveal any secrets but could allude to things. So if you had a character, Mr. A, who was having an affair, one of the conversation starters could be “Mr. A always seems to be working late these days. I know he works hard to provide for the family, but it would be nice to see him before midnight”.
In the conversation starter round, this then allows other players to know that Mr. A is always “working late” and that Mrs. A is upset about this. The more cunning players may then wonder if he is actually working late or possibly having an affair. When it then comes to later in the game where people are being questioned over the murder, they can then explore this idea further to find out if the secret may be connected to the murder at all.
Once you have written 5 or 6 conversation starters for the first character, you can then allocate who is going to say them. So in the statement above, you could allocate this to Mr. A’s wife or another family member.
To help you further, I have pasted the conversation starters from one of the characters in “Murder at Ewe Tree Hall”. As you can see, these conversation starters raise many questions but without giving any actual secrets away:
- My father would be wise to leave the business to me. I think that he is starting to take too many risks in his old age. I know that gambling in the markets have paid off in the past, but recently, it appears he has lost a lot of money and hasn’t even had the guts to tell me about it. Things will run much better if I am in charge, don’t you think?
- My mother, Gwendolyn, keeps on at me to get rid of Petunia. Apparently, Petunia always treats my parents like they are senile and as you can imagine, they don’t like that! I would love to see the looks on their faces when she tucks them in at night or talks to them like they are babies! I am not going to get rid of Petunia, no matter what they say. She is cheap, reliable and has the experience of looking after them and Elizabeth’s baby. My mother has threatened to get rid of Petunia herself, but I can’t see how she could manage that, do you?
- Bertie is very close to his sister, Elizabeth. To be honest, I think that she is the only one in the family that he listens to. He has even taken on the role of the doting uncle with her new baby. It is inevitable that when Elizabeth and Walter get married, that they will look for a place of their own. I know Bertie would miss her terribly and he has talked about finding a place near them when they move, but I don’t think that he really means it. He knows that he is too well off here surrounded by the family business and money and lawyers like Margaret who will always get him out of trouble.
- Elizabeth used to really love her grandfather, Rudolph, when she was younger, but when she was 16, she had a massive falling out with him and didn’t speak to him for over a year. Even now, they are not that close. She has never told anyone what the falling out was about and Rudolph always tells us to mind our own business if we ask. All that my mother, Gwendolyn, ever says is that she fully supports Rudolph with what happened.
- Walter will make a great asset to this family and the business. He has come up with some good ideas for increasing our sales and decreasing our costs. He doesn’t mind spending time with his future in laws. He loves coming hunting with my father, Hubert and I. When I am out of town for a few days I know that I can rely on Walter to keep my wife, Felicity entertained. She constantly goes on about what a good listener he is. I just hope Elizabeth realises what a good man she has there
So have a go for yourself now. Write 5 or 6 conversation starters for each character and then allocate them to the person you want to say them in the game.
Next time, we are going to begin putting the character packs together and looking at the structure of the game!