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Murdery Mystery Party Ideas

Updated on December 17, 2007

Have Fun With A Killer Dinner Party!

A murder mystery party is a great way to spend time with friends.  I've hosted many murder mystery games over the years, and seen how much fun everyone has.  Many people are initially unsure about attending or hosting one, but afterward rave about how much fun it was.

This lens should help to dispel some of the uncertainty about murder mystery games, and hopefully encourage you to try hosting one yourself.  My focus is on explaining what happens and what's expected in the style of murder mystery games I like to play and host.


The Basics

The term "murder mystery party" is well known these days, even if you don't know exactly what goes on at one. And even if you've been to one, you probably don't know what goes on at different types of murder mystery parties.

In all murder mystery parties you take on the role of a character in a murder mystery. You may be the killer, the detective, or the upstairs maid. All the characters have secrets and information.

Limited knowledge games are those where you are given envelopes to open at certain times during the evening. Each envelope gives you a little more information about what your character knows. In this sort of game, you may be the murderer and not know it until the last envelope is opened! The focus here is on everyone getting a chance to solve the mystery.

Full knowledge games are those where you know everything your character knows up front. So if you are the murderer, you start out knowing that. The focus here is on having fun playing your role and accomplishing the goals set forth for your character.

I far prefer the full knowledge games myself, but will talk more about both types.

How To Host A Murder Games

The How To Host A Murder games are the best known of the murder mystery games. These are limited knowledge games, and most suitable for someone who wants to try a murder mystery party, but isn't sure they'll know what to do.

Everything is fairly structured in these games, with envelopes you open after each round of questioning. You're limited in what you can tell other people based on what's in your envelope.

While the clues in each round point to who the murderer is, you won't know for sure if it's you until the last envelope is opened! This allows you to participate in the mystery solving process even if you're the murderer.

These games are typically played sitting around a table while eating, or just after eating. Like all murder mystery games, they can take place in any time period.

Where to Get How To Host A Murder Games

Here's a selection of How To Host A Murder games available on

Decipher How to Host a Murder: Class of 54 Tin
Decipher How to Host a Murder: Class of 54 Tin

Set in 1954 at a five year high school reunion, can you figure out who done it?


Freeform Games

The term "freeform games" refers to both a style of murder mystery games and to a specific company that publishes games in that style.

In a freeform game, you are given full knowledge of what your character knows, including whether you're the murderer or not.

Each character also has specific goals. Some characters will have the goal of solving the murder, while others will have more important tasks (at least, more important to themselves).

Within the rules of the game, you're free to lie, cheat, steal, and generally do whatever you need to do to accomplish your goals.

These sorts of games are played while mingling at a party. The food involved is usually finger food that people can put on plates while they mingle. Talking to other characters is your only way to get the information you'll need to accomplish your goals.

Generally you have abilities of some sort. For example, your character may be able to pick pockets. Each game uses different rules, but a common technique is that you must spend a few minutes talking to a person before you can pick their pocket. Once you've spent the time, go to the host and tell them whose pocket you picked.

Other abilities may include the ability to trick other characters into revealing their secrets. Again, you talk to a person for a given amount of time, and then reveal your ability. They must then reveal their secret.

Freeform games are a bit like improvisational acting, but only if the acting is primarily making smalltalk while pretending you're someone else. Everyone else is doing the same thing, so no one person is under the spotlight.

A common apprehension about freeform games is being afraid that you can't pretend to be someone else. I've seen the shyest people do well and have a blast playing freeform games, so I know from experience that it's possible if you give yourself a chance.

I far prefer freeform games to limited knowledge games for the freedom they offer. People generally have fun at the limited knowledge games I've run, but always rave about the freeform games afterward.

More About Me

If you enjoyed this lens, you might also enjoy Who Is Jay Shaffstall?, my lens about myself, which also contains links to other lenses and blogs I've written.

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Had fun at a murder mystery party?

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    • JayShaffstall LM profile imageAUTHOR

      JayShaffstall LM 

      9 years ago

      Hi Riri, all these games have clues you have to figure out. But yes, they do involve a lot of talking to other people (how else are you going to find the clues?)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      aww poop. i wanted a party with like actual clues and stuff, not just sitting around a table and talking.

    • TheLostDutchman1 profile image


      10 years ago

      A great lens you have here! Wrote and produced myself some murder and mystery games, and it's really fun to get them online!

    • JayShaffstall LM profile imageAUTHOR

      JayShaffstall LM 

      10 years ago

      The Businessman looks interesting. I played in a game once that took a similar approach, and it worked out well. Quite different from other murdery mystery games, though. Let us know how it works out!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      my friend and i recently wrote a murder mystery that we are trying to get some feedback on-- i was hoping any readers on this site could take a look.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Really cool site on murder mystery games.well done, keep it up.Recently i have got through a site that has got good information on mystery.

    • JayShaffstall LM profile imageAUTHOR

      JayShaffstall LM 

      11 years ago

      That would be very cool!

    • oniyagi profile image


      11 years ago

      Great stuff 5* for sure. I would love to see a Steampunk freeform done.


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