By now your characters should be coming on well and all have secrets and personalities written for them. To finish off your characters, you now need to create costume suggestions, character names, secret tasks and character introductions, all of which we are going to be covering in this section.
As before, write all your character information in your “Ideas” file for the time being. This keeps everything all in one place, allowing you to check information and change different aspects of each character easily and quickly.
This is where you can have a bit of fun. Using each characters personality profile and background information as a guide, come up with a brief costume for them. For example, if a character was a top lawyer who was confident to the point of arrogant, you may suggest a suit and tie, black shoes and carrying a briefcase. Maybe they even wear a pair of sunglasses. However if they were an unemployed hippy, you may go for a wacky coloured shirt with shorts and sandals. If you are theming the party around anything in particular, e.g. Halloween, you may want to make all the costumes fancy dress.
With the costume suggestions, you can let your imagination run wild as long as the costume goes with the characters personality profile.
We’ve already briefly touched on character names. By this point, you will probably have many names already in mind. Any names are perfectly fine, however I always suggest funny and memorable names that have something to do with your theme. E.g. If you have an Egyptian theme, you may want names such as Cleo Patra or Prya Mid, or a mother with the nickname Mummy, etc.
You may want to have names with have relevance to the characters profession or life, e.g. one of the characters in my game “Crisis at the College” is a teacher called Theobold Teachalot or a character in “Bumped off at the BBQ” is called Paul Queue (who happens to be an excellent snooker and pool player!).
As with the costume suggestions, you can have a great time with character names. Come up with things unusual, original and unique, something which will make people laugh and something they will remember for a long time!
The secret tasks are one of the unique elements in my games. They are there to add a bit of fun and a new dimension to the party. As their name suggests, the secret tasks must be kept secret by each player. They should only reveal them at the very end of the game when instructed to by the host (more details to come in future posts about the hosts duties).
The secret tasks should not be connected to the murder in any way but should be connected somehow to the characters personality or lifestyle. The secret tasks should be made as funny and entertaining as possible but not to the point of embarrassing or humiliating any of your guests.
For example, if you have a character who is a magician, they may want to show magic tricks during the party which always go wrong in some funny way. You may have a top businessman who gives everyone bizarre and funny tips to other players on how to make themselves more of a success. Or you may have a fashion expert who tries to give weird and funny fashion advice to people.
One of my favourites is to have one character who can never be the murderer and to set them the secret task of making other players suspect them without actually admitting to it, e.g. by being hesitant, looking nervous, etc. The more people who then accuse them of murder, the better they do.
If you are stuck for secret tasks, I sometimes like to bring fake money into the game (especially if the theme of the game revolves around gambling, etc.). Give people a certain amount of fake money at the beginning of the game. You can then set three or four characters the same secret task of making as much money as they can off the other players. This may be asking for donations for a fake charity, seeking investors for an unusual business idea, through bribery, theft, etc. Again, whatever way they try and get the money must stay in the bounds of the character personality profile you wrote for them.
At the end of the murder mystery party, once the host has asked everyone to reveal their secret task, prizes can then be awarded to the person or people who have performed the best.
At the beginning of the murder mystery party, each player needs to give a few lines of introduction to their character. This is purely so that the other players know who they are and a little about what they do and who they’re related to. It is entirely up to you how you introduce each character. It should reflect their personality and may highlight any characters they particularly like / dislike but apart from that, you have free reign. Below I have pasted two examples from my game “Halloween Horror”.
“Hello, I am Adam from next door and I have been friends with Kelly and Samuel ever since they moved here about five years ago. I work for myself as a property developer and enjoy being my own boss. Being divorced as well, I can work when I like, take holidays when I like and not have to answer to anyone. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to come tonight, but Kelly managed to persuade me, like she always does (wink at Kelly).”
“Okay let’s get this over with, I am Amy, Samuel and Kelly’s 16 year old daughter. Well, I don’t really have to say a lot, I’m sure my parents will fill you in on what a disappointment I am to them. Still, at least I have a few mates who I like hanging around with, one of them, Amanda is here tonight. My parents don’t like Amanda, but that makes me like her even more. I wonder what we can do tonight to annoy my parents!”
Your “Ideas” Sheet
In your “ideas” Microsoft word file, you should now have written down your theme / setting for your murder mystery party and then each characters details. We are almost ready to transfer the character detail across to the individual character packs and just need to add in the “Conversation Starters” which we will look at in Part 4 of these blog posts.
Before that however, we just need to review and rearrange the information in the “ideas” file so far. So go through your Ideas sheet and rearrange the information so that you have:
Keep going in this format for all your characters. Now review all of your character information to make sure that it all makes sense. Pay particular attention to the Character Secrets. As we discussed in the last post, each characters secrets must be known by at least one other character otherwise it can never be discovered. Once you have reviewed each character and rearranged everything as per the above order, we are ready to move on!
In Part 4, we will be looking at “Setting the theme” and “Conversation Starters”. As always, if you have any questions or anything you are not sure about, please get in touch!