Let your guests guide the plotline of the night. With more guests, the plot can be thicker, and based on everyone's interests (or the occasion), some plotlines may be more fun to act out than others.
While you could concoct your own murder tale, and then write the scripts and flesh out the clue files for each "character," it’s a time-consuming process. Thankfully, there are several businesses that offer murder mystery packages. Merri Mysteries has a number of kits with clues and instructions — you just need the costumes, food, and friends. Others, like The Murder Mystery Co., will provide everything, from scripts to real actors in character.
When inviting guests, make sure they’ll participate. "They don’t have to be wonderful actors, just willing to forget their inhibitions and pretend to be somebody else for a few hours," remarks Steve Hatherley of Great Murder Mystery Games.
Send out invites at least three weeks prior to the party, and make sure to collect accurate RSVPs at least a week out, as you’ll need to fill each role ahead of time so that guests can come in character. Hatherley also stresses the importance of keeping characters a secret — even couples should preserve this pact.
Ask guests to arrive in costume, but assure them it doesn’t have to be too elaborate — they can make a costume from items they have at home, or simply pick up an accessory to provoke the right mindset. For example, for a detective character, a trench coat alone will do the trick; although an overly enthusiastic guest may even opt to add a hat, cigar, and notebook.
If you’re lucky you can find a special place, like an old estate or manor, where you can host the mystery party, but any home with multiple rooms will work perfectly. Posting signage to name each space that's utilized in the game works to maintain the theme. For example, if it’s an old English setting, perhaps there is a "Drawing Room," or if the game is aboard a ship, the kitchen can be the "Galley."
For period pieces, Hatherley suggests staying as true to the setting as possible. This can be a challenge when items like computers, printers, and modern appliances are around. Try to conceal or remove some of these items to produce a more authentic atmosphere. Decorating the outside and entrance of your house as well will get guests into the mood from the get-go, and gets the game off to a perfect start.
Create a mystifying tone with a soundtrack that fits the period. For a game that takes place in the 1920s, you might look for a few jazz artists for your playlist, or Middle Eastern music for a game with an Arabian setting.
Where possible, mesh the theme with the menu. Serve lamb meatballs for a party set in the Near East, or complete a speakeasy dining experience with canapés of smoked salmon for a 1920s affair. And be sure to batch the cocktails served with the evening's setting, too.
To keep guests moving during the night, station drinks and a variety of casual finger foods on platters in a few rooms. You don’t want to delay the progress of the investigation by luring the whole group into the kitchen with a serious sit-down spread.
Be sure to capture all the magic with a group photo once everyone has arrived in costume, and the events that follow. Use the Instagram app on your iPhone to transform ordinary pictures and complete the vintage party look.