DIY Murder Mystery: Wild West 1854

We recently completed our 2nd homemade murder mystery party…hurrah!

Basically, Hayden and I write a scenario, characters and plot line for the evening and get all our friends together to play it out for the night. Our first murder mystery (MM) was set at the end of the Victorian era in Britain and went down a storm so we decided to head across the pond to ‘Merica in 1854.

We plumped for the stereotypical Wild West town setting to make it easy for people to connect with. Some of us in the group are history buffs but it’s unfair to constrain everyone to specific dates and happenings…and it’s no fun either. Our experience with the first MM was that it all got a bit Carry On (oooh matron!) so we softened up the rules and gave everyone the freedom to inject their characters with more personality. If anyone was unsure, it was easy to play on the stereotypes of rootin’ tootin’ cowboys as a safety net.

As a few of us collaborated on the story so we made sure our characters weren’t suspects ‘cos it seemed a bit selfish and it also works better when the writers can help people complete their objectives and move the story along, just like in a professional MM night.

In total we had about 6 strong suspects out of 10 down from the previous night where we had about 9! Fewer suspects is definitely better – people can have initial motives but by giving them alibis to rule them out as the night goes along it makes things much simpler. For this MM our innocent suspects enjoyed looking guilty too much so it all got a bit messy but hey, the aim is to enjoy ourselves.

A few things we lacked were evidence props and music which we’ll be bringing back for the next one. Music is really important for those few opening moments when no one is fully settled in their character and the setting is being established. We haven’t used evidence props yet but I’m really keen to make sure we get some in the next one to help people be able to confidently accuse someone rather than just sussing out motives.

On the whole it was a really enjoyable night and the setting was spot on for character freedom and a little bit of silliness. Costumes are easy to come by for both genders and it’s always funny to hear a room full of dubious stereotypical American accents (US readers is it as fun for you guys to do British accents?)

If anyone has any questions on writing their own MM party we’d be happy to give some pointers and follow our guide to writing your own Murder Mystery party!

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