A Murder mystery dinner party is a dinner party where the guests play a murder mystery role playing game. The concept draws inspiration from the so-called drawing room mysteries. You and your guests assume the roles of murder mystery characters and try to discover which one of them is the "murderer." Planning a murder party tends to take a lot of effort, and requires everyone involved to be on the same page. But if you do it right, the murder mystery dinner party will be fun and engaging for everyone.
Understanding Murder Mystery Dinner Parties
Murder mystery dinner parties are inspired by drawing room mysteries--murder mystery novels and short stories where all the characters are sequestered in one location, usually for the a party or some other social event. The guests must stay inside that location (or inside a room within that location) until a murderer is found.
At a murder mystery dinner party, you and your guests assume the roles of mystery characters, one of whom acts as the murderer. It is up to you and your guests to discover which person is the murderer using available evidence. The guests eat as they solve the mystery, pausing between courses to examine clues and eliminate suspects. As a host, you will be responsible for running the party and making sure everyone stays on track.
Preparing for a Murder Mystery Dinner Party
The first thing you need to do to prepare for a murder mystery party is figure out the specifics of the murder mystery. The easiest way to do it is to purchase a murder mystery party kit. The kits range from generic murder mystery kits found at your local big box store, to more elaborate adaptations of existing drawing room mysteries, that can be found online and in specialty gaming stores. The kit will include the basic story, character descriptions and a package of clues. It may also include directions for running the party, costume guides, customizable invitations and prizes for your guests.
The food is an important component of any dinner party. You should make sure that there is enough food to last the entire party. While some kits are tailored towards multi-course meals, where most of the mystery-solving takes place between courses, other kits are geared towards cocktail parties and other dining arrangements. If possible, try to make sure that your menu matches the mystery's setting. For example, if your mystery is set in England, find something that belongs to the English cuisine. This adds to the atmosphere and helps your guests get into the game.
Once you received your kit, you can send out invitations to your guests. The invitations should include character descriptions, so that the guests have time to prepare for their roles. You may or may not want your guests to dress up in costumes. Costumes can enhance the atmosphere, especially if the mystery is set in the past. If you want your guests to dress up, make sure to send costume directions. Make sure to tell your guests to RSVP--otherwise, the guest who is supposed to play a murderer may not show up, and the entire party would be ruined.
Keeping the Story Moving
Once the party starts, you will be responsible for narrating the mystery, handing out clue cards and otherwise directing your guests. But ultimately, the success of the party will come down just how much effort your guests are willing to put into their parts. While they don't have to be good actors, they have to be able to stay enthusiastic and they have to be willing to embrace their parts with gusto. A shy guest who is self-conscious about his or her part can bring the entire party to a halt. And while the scripts and character descriptions are useful, you and your guests don't have to stick to them 100% of the time. Encourage your guests to improvise and make sure they have fun.