Writing your own murder mystery game - Part 9 - The Murder Scenarios

We are nearing the end of our guide to writing your own murder mystery game!  In this section, we will be focussing on the Murder Scenarios and Character Movements.

Open up the “Hosts Information File” which you used in the last section to write the character confessions.  Towards the beginning of the Hosts file, you should already have pages titled “If 1 is the murderer”, “If 2 is the murderer”, etc. (up to how many characters you have).  If you are using the Hosts Information file Template I provided in part 6 of this guide, you should also have part of these pages already filled in with Black titles and Blue writing.  The Blue writing is information for the host, instructing them what to do at what time. 

To begin the murder scenarios, go to the page “If 1 is the murderer”.  Check your “ideas” file to remind you who character 1 is and who they killed.  Under the “Preliminary Statement” header, you now need to write a brief introduction to the murder.  Include the name of the character who has been killed, where their body was found, who found it, when it was found and any obvious signs of cause of death.  I also enjoy putting in a little red herring about known criminals amongst the guests or the possibility of a second murder into this heading, just to keep the players guessing what is coming next!

Under the “Additional Information” header, write more details around the murder.  I usually confirm the cause of death, along with any other injuries sustained, confirm the time of death and then put any other significant information.  E.g. “the murder weapon belonged to …. And was found …” Or, “the victim was heard arguing with a man / woman in the room shortly before the murder”, or, “we know there was a history of aggression between the victim and …”.  Some of this significant information should be a red herring, designed to expose another secret surrounding the victim but not actually to do with the murder.  So if the victim was having an affair, but that was not the reason for the killing, they may have been heard arguing with their lover just before the murder, etc.   

The information you give out between the “Preliminary Statement” and “Additional Information” must allow your guests to work out who the killer is (as long as they ask the right questions of the right guests).  However you should not make it too obvious or too easy.  To ensure that your guests can work out who the murderer is, under the header “The Murder – The final Summary”, you need to describe how the police solved the case. 

I usually focus on the Means, Motive and Opportunity.  So, with the means, who had access to the murder weapon, who could have used it (e.g. a frail old person would not be able to beat someone to death with a metal bar), etc.  For motive, talk briefly about who may have had a motive to kill and then finally, opportunity, talk about who was unaccounted for at the time of the murder, who could have been in that area without looking suspicious, etc.  I then sum it up with “So we are looking for someone who ... (listing all the means, motive and opportunity which apply to the murderer).   

You can then write in how you want the killer to reveal themselves.  This is completely up to you.  You may want to ask people to stand up one at a time and announce their innocence or guilt in accordance with their character personality, you may want to just call the guilty party forward immediately, etc.  It is completely up to you.

 And that’s it.  The murder scenario written for character 1!  You now just need to repeat the same for all the characters in your game.  You may find that you need to add in or change certain things within the game as you write the murder scenarios, e.g. you may find solving a certain crime or uncovering a certain secret too easy or too difficult and so may need to change a character’s secret information.  You may find that you need to change a characters motives or movements, etc.  As a rule, if the murder can be solved but is challenging, that is a perfect murder mystery.            

Once you have completed the murder scenarios for all characters, you then need to put in the character movements.  To do this, go back to the individual character packs and go to the very last written page, under the section titled “Question and Answer Round”.  The final part of this section contains information around each characters movement.  It starts “If you are asked where you were during the night, you must admit that you were…”.  You need then to put in the characters movements throughout the night.  So if they met someone at a particular time in a particular place, put the details in here.  If they are the killer though, they can lie about meeting the victim at the location where the murder took place.  At any point where they were not meeting another character they can write in whatever you like.  So for one character in my game “Halloween Horror”, their movements are written as:

If you are asked where you were during the night, you must admit that you were upstairs with Carmen from about 10.45pm until 11.15pm, discussing her and Christian’s upcoming wedding (you were really talking about the affair and the baby).  Whilst going to visit the bathroom at about 11pm, you remember seeing Amanda on the stairs and had a brief discussion with her about Amy.  You then saw Christian on the stairs at about 11.15pm when you were getting some wine from the loft.  You also spoke to Daniel briefly in the garden at about 11.30pm about his work situation.

This allows players to work out who was where and when and to allow them to piece together who was unaccounted for at the time of the murder. 

In our final section, we will be looking at the finishing touches to your murder mystery game – the Additional Information Statements and the Suspect Sheets!