Probably the two most important characters in your murder mystery are your murderer and detective. Although both characters play very different roles their jobs are essentially the same – to drive guests to discover the potential motives of others.
The Detective is the anchor of justice in a room of suspected killers, one of their roles (pretty obviously) is to determine from the evidence they can gather who committed the murder. However, they also have to help keep the night progressing as they represent the main authority figure of the night.
When choosing your detective its more about the actual person than the character, you will need to consider the following:
- The detective has to be proactive, get involved and not be shy about pressing the other characters
- One of the key roles of the detective is to press people for information and spread this around to other characters appropriately
- It is more than likely that the detective is the authority here, therefore it is usually their job to determine when it is appropriate to progress the night from stage to stage
- The detective does not have to get it right! Remember that the idea is to have fun, although the detective has a job to do they don’t have to be all straight faced and serious about it
In some cases you may find it a good idea to play the detective yourself if you are writing the Murder Mystery. Knowing the motives and killer already you will be in a better position to encourage other guests to reveal certain information or rumours about other suspects, you will also be in a better position to guide the night should you start to find some guests are getting confused or have run out of things to do.
Lastly it is important that the detective appears relatively neutral until the end of the night. If the detective appears to be suspecting one character over all the other ones it becomes quite easy for the other guests to simply go along with what they are saying, especially the murderer if the detective has got it wrong!
Choosing which character is the murderer might seem like a daunting task but as you’re writing your characters and their potential motives for murder you’ll find that some just sit better than others. Although you might have 6/10 characters with substantial cause to kill only 4 of those might be believable and simple enough for others to discover through talk only.
When choosing who dunnit consider a few things:
- How the victim was killed and whether or not the Murderer could have convincingly committed the crime in that manner e.g. could a sweet little old lady really have caved in a man’s head with a chamber pot?
- How can you give clues away to help people point the finger at this character?
- Does this character & motive stand up against the other strongest of the others?
- What’s the evidence – given via gossip, knowledge or physical props?
Most of all, would a character unconnected to the Murderer believe they are the killer?
If Yes, congratulations – you’re one step closer to completing your party!
If No, you might need to go back and look at the others you have on the table,* are there simple details that can be tweaked or small character traits you can incorporate?
The Murderer in the room
The Murderer should be suspicious but not too shady and should be able to help spread gossip about other guests to help them talk to each other. Where the Detective is ordering people to look at everyone as suspects the Murderer should be encouraging guests to look to certain individuals, you can control who via the objectives cards.
- Don’t neglect the back stories of these characters, although they both have a defined roll they need to have other things to go on to act through the night and enjoy themselves.
- Don’t give either character too much of the starring role – remember you have a whole other cast of misfits!
- The Detective can ask for help from other guests, make sure they mingle with the others.