How To Use Shot In The Dark Mysteries Murder Mystery Packages for A Dinner Party
One of the great things about our murder mystery party packages is how flexible they are. You can use our mystery kits for any type of party – including a sit-down dinner party. When you purchase a package, the instructions you get are for the interactive, Mingle Mystery format, designed to be investigated in a cocktail party-style situation. But, any and all of our mystery parties can be used for a multiple course dinner party quite easily, simply by following a different set of instructions. If you would like to host a dinner party murder mystery using one of our packages, simply purchase the mystery of your choice and disregard the Host Guide in your Host Materials. Instead, follow the instructions below!
Thank You For Being A Host
I think that party hosting is a rare art – something that many people don’t do anymore. As our social networks grow, it seems our opportunities to gather friends and loved ones together face-to-face are becoming fewer and fewer.
This fact became startlingly obvious to me recently, when I emailed a “friend” in a different city to ask her how she was and what was new. She replied with, “Hi Leigh! Great to hear from you! To know what’s new with me, just check my Facebook, it’s all current.” Ouch!
Now more than ever it’s so important to pull together people – real people – face-to-face to create memories that will get us through the months we don’t see one another.
You may be using your mystery for a company event, fundraiser, a party in your home or just an excuse to bring together family or friends. Whatever the reason for your party, know that we have designed all of your mystery materials with YOU, the Host, in mind. Pulling people together for some fun is noble, and I think you’re totally rad for doing it.
Yes, You Can Participate Too
So, to answer the # 1 frequently asked question I receive: Yes, you as the host can play too – in fact, I want you to take a character and have fun solving the mystery with everyone else. You deserve it!
All of your materials are designed so that you don’t have to read through the mystery and risk “spoilers”. Your Host Materials are in files completely separate from everything else so you don’t get confused and accidentally open something you shouldn’t.
“The Big Reveal” solution is contained in a separate file. If your mystery came with Audio Files, you will find both Audio Files and the transcript (more on that later) in well-marked files so you can avoid them. Each Suspect receives their own individual Suspect Guide with their character, clues and instructions on how to be a Suspect. Simply attach them to an email and send them to the appropriate guest! You don’t even have to open the files.
Not sure which guest to assign to which role? Our exclusive Character Complexity Rating (found for each character in the Suspect List in your Host Materials folder) will tell you how complicated each role is, so you can better assign roles for your wallflowers, curmudgeons, born actors and everyone in between.
Of course, if you don’t want to participate in your mystery, that’s fine too. Read through anything you want! Some hosts prefer to know what is going to unfold before the party, and that’s cool – it’s all part of your unique hosting style.
The Host Checklist
Your Host Materials include a Host Checklist that you can use if you like to help you get organized before your party, and before the mystery begins. Print off a copy and check off the tasks as you complete them. Also, at the Shot In The Dark Mysteries Website, we offer a free Universal Party Planning Guide with subscription to our free weekly email newsletter, so feel free to sign up and enjoy this 46 page checklist to help with your party preparations!
We Are Here If You Need Help
If you have any questions prior to the event, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We here to help both you and your guests. I often have guests message me to get clarification or help when they are trying to keep the mystery a surprise for their host.
Hire teens – children of friends, your own kids or babysitters you know, to serve you and your guests for the evening so you don’t miss a moment of the action!
About Your Mystery
Your mystery is classified as an interactive dinner party mystery, designed to be experienced over cocktails and three courses: Appetisers, Main Course and Dessert. We have remained true to our unique, best-selling Interactive mystery format in our new line of dinner parties, which means it’s up to the guests to question the Suspects, identify holes in their story and determine who had the motive, means and opportunity to commit murder!
Here are the items you have, and will need, for the mystery:
Suspect Guides – to be delivered to each Suspect before the date of the party, or as soon as they arrive on the day of the event, although we do recommend sending them in advance. The more time your guests have to get familiar with their material and the instructions, the better.
Host Guide – you’re reading it right now!
Announcement of Murder (found at the end of this guide)
The Big Reveal – This reveals the killer
Notes Pages with Starter Questions (For your guests to use while sleuthing)
Printing Your Mystery Materials
All of your mystery materials have been custom designed to be visually pleasing to you and your guests, but also designed to keep printing to a minimum. By emailing your Suspects their information, you can considerably cut down on the amount of printing you have to do, which we encourage, because everyone at SHOT is a proud tree-hugging, hippie-type.
Things to Print:
Accusation Forms (1 for each guest attending)
Notes Pages (At least 1 for each guest attending)
Announcement of Murder (Only print if you’re not using the audio files)
The Big Reveal (Only print if you’re not using the audio files)
Suspect Guides (We strongly recommend emailing each Suspect their information pre-party. Please see “How To Use The Suspect Guides” for more options)
Suspect List for Introductions
So, depending on what you choose to print and how many people will be attending, the number of pages you will need to print will be between 10 and 100.
It’s best to have the materials printed at a printer or local stationary store (like Staples or Kinkos). This will ensure quality and save you ink and wear and tear on your own printer. We recommend colour printing on a high quality stock, but what paper and ink you decide to use for your mystery materials is entirely up to you.
What To Expect At Your Mystery Party
This is an overview of how your mystery is designed, but remember that all of Shot In The Dark Mysteries’ packages are designed to be flexible, so that you can integrate them into your vision for your party.
Cocktails/Mingling/Suspect “Introductions” (one-on-one or to the group en masse)
Appetisers & Announcement of Murder, Initial Investigations and Share Information
Main Course/Further Investigations/Questioning
Last Break/One-on-one Investigations
Dessert/Coffee/Tea, Accusations & The Big Reveal
The Killer Doesn’t Know They Are The Killer
Some mysteries inform the guilty party that they are guilty. We don’t do this for two reasons. First, not knowing allows all Suspects to be completely honest with the information they receive. Second, it allows all participants to piece together the mystery equally. With one Suspect not investigating, it quickly becomes clear to the other participants who the culprit is and your mystery ends up ruined. In our experience, your mystery is more successful when the culprit isn’t aware they are the culprit.
Remind your guests to bring reading glasses if they wear them so they can refer to their Suspect Guides and see what they have written on their Notes pages.
How to Use the Suspect List and Character Complexity Ratings
Your Host Materials folder contains a file called “Suspect List”. Below each Suspect is a “Character Complexity Rating”, which gives each character a 3, 4 or 5 rating. These are designed to help you assign characters to your guests based on how “complex” the role is, with 5 being more complicated and three being less complicated. You might assign a 3 role to someone who is shy, apprehensive or worried they might do something to jeopardize the mystery (which is impossible, so don’t worry about that). A 5 rated role could go to someone who loves the spotlight, is outgoing or is really excited about your mystery party. Use the 4 roles for everyone in between. Remember, these are only guidelines. A “5” role is not difficult, there is just more information than a 4 or a 3 character.
Many guests and hosts often think that because a character is a 5, they are probably the killer. I assure you, this is rarely the case. A “3” role is just as likely to be the killer than a 4 or 5 role.
How to Use the Suspect Guides
Suspect Guides are provided in your mystery materials in a separate file for each role. These guides describe the character, their hidden motives, what information they know that can be shared with everyone else and instructions for how to play. The Guides are formatted in individual files so you can easily send the .pdf file to each guest playing a character. Even better, if you, as the host, would like to participate, you don’t have to worry about handling the clues and potentially spoiling the mystery for yourself.
Each guest will receive a Suspect Guide. These guides tell each Suspect what to do and expect… so that you don’t have to!
We strongly recommend emailing each Suspect their Suspect Guide to reduce printing. Sending them their information ahead of time allows them to get familiar with their information. Some Suspects have a complicated back story, and most guests find it helpful to have time to let all of the information sink in, but ultimately, what you do for your party is entirely up to you. Some hosts like to email the Suspect Guides and then print the vital information (found in the last few pages of the Suspect Guide) for their guests to refer to at the party. Others allow their Suspects to print their own information, and still others print everything to give to the Suspects at the party. Find the option that fits your party, your guests and your hosting style and go with it!
How to Email Suspect Guides to Your Guests
It’s easy to email the Suspect Guides to your guests. Simply attach the Suspect Guides to an email to each guest and click “send”. We use a .pdf format because most computers already have a .pdf reader program, like Adobe Acrobat, making it easier for your guests to use their Suspect guides.
How to Use the Clues (found inside the Suspect Guides)
There are two types of information the Suspects will receive. The first is “Hide” information. This type of information is to be kept secret as much as possible, and not offered freely. If the Suspect is asked directly about the hide information however, they must answer truthfully.
The other type of information is called “Share” information. Share information MUST be shared with others, and includes things like alibis and suspicious things they saw others doing around the time of the murder. The Share information is what the Suspects will use to direct suspicion away from themselves and toward the other Suspects.
All clues are directed at the player (for example, “you saw the culprit running down a dark hallway”). For the sake of getting everyone into the mystery, share clues should be transferred into the first person (for example, “I saw the culprit running down a dark hallway”) and into the player’s own words.
How to Use the Audio Files
Your mystery may have come with audio files. These audio files are optional, and we have also provided the transcripts of these audio files (one at the end of the Host Guide and the other in a file marked “The Big Reveal”), which can be used in the case where you don’t have access to an audio system.
Exclusive to The Sly Mr. Foxx is a third audio file (and transcript) of a phone call. Play this audio file (or read the transcript) after the Announcement of Murder.
How To Use The Notes Pages
While setting up your table, include at least one Notes page for each guest. Some hosts prefer to set these to the right of the plate as part of their dinner place settings, along with a pen. Others will leave the mystery materials on top of the plate, while still others leave it on each guests’ chair. Where you place it is, of course, up to you. The Notes Pages should be folded in half so that your guests can keep their notes private from the people seated next to them.
You may have noticed that you have two versions of the Notes pages in your Host Materials. Both versions provide participants the sample questions from the Announcement of Murder to get them started with their investigations, but the “beginner” version provides a “Motive-Means-Opportunity” chart to allow sleuths to write the names of each Suspect in the appropriate box as they investigate. So, which one should you provide your guests? That depends on whether you want your mystery to be “Beginner” (The “Beginner Notes Pages” ) or “Intermediate” (The “Intermediate Notes Pages”). Pick the one you want and then print off one for each participant.
Be sure to provide enough pens as you will have guests, and that your pens are working so that your guests can focus on chasing down the clues to solve the mystery instead of searching for a writing instrument!
How To Use The Floor Plan
Your mystery kit contains a Floor Plan. This is designed to help each investigator determine where the Suspects were around the time of the murder as they investigate. Each Suspect receives a copy of the floor plan in their Suspect Guide. You will find a file called Floor Plan in your Host Materials. Some hosts choose to print one for them to ensure they have one for reference at the time of the mystery, and leave a copy at each guests’ place setting with their other materials.
If you are serving alcohol at your party, begin the mystery earlier in the evening. In our experience, the longer people drink the less coherent the Suspect information becomes!
The Guests’ Website
The Dinner Party Guests website is a place you can send your guests pre-party to get information about the mystery you’ve chosen. Here they can view the trailer, see the Suspect List, find out what to expect and more. Guests’ Resources are always being expanded, and will vary from mystery to mystery. The Dinner Party Guests site is located here:
Your guests are provided this link within their Suspect Guides, but you will need to advise them which version of the mystery (ie: how many Suspects) they will experience.
Costumes are an important part of a themed mystery party, and for the “themed” mysteries, you will find a discussion about costumes on the PLAY! Site for your particular mystery. We also have costume ideas on our Pinterest boards at:
If Your Mystery is “Costume Casual”
Some mysteries have themes that are obvious (ie: A Flapper Murder at the 1920’s Speakeasy and The Masquerade Murder) and hopefully costume ideas for your guests will be obvious as well. But if you have selected what we call a “Costume Casual” mystery, you will not have costume suggestions, or they will be vague. We do this on purpose so that you, the host, can set a theme as you see fit, and instruct your guests accordingly without having them limited by the restrictions of pre-set costume requirements from us. So, for example, let’s say you are hosting The Getty Affair, The Birthday Party Murder, The Halloween Party Murder or The Christmas Party Murder. These are great examples of mysteries that are designed to fit into YOUR party, not the other way around. You can select costume themes for your guests or experience the mystery as-is, with your guests dressing in their street clothes. If your guests still can’t decide what to wear for a “Costume Casual” mystery, we are always here to help!
When You’re Ready To Begin
Your mystery will be separated into five sections: Cocktails, Appetisers, Main Course, One-On-One Investigations and Dessert. Here is how each course is designed to work with your dinner party mystery.
Before you begin your mystery dinner, have everyone put their cell phones into a basket, switched to vibrate (in case of emergencies). Allow your guests to access their phone only during breaks to keep everyone’s mystery experience authentic and prevent the atmosphere from being disturbed.
As your party begins, your guests will naturally want to mingle and catch-up or get to know one another. Begin your mystery party with cocktails, and use this opportunity to have your guests introduce themselves to one another in character. This is a casual meeting – a time for people to talk to one another outside of the mystery, while still integrating the characters they will play and allowing them to become comfortable with playing their character before the mystery actually begins.
When everyone has arrived and had time to mingle, you will want to transition them to the dining area, and the Suspect Introductions are the perfect way to do this. During the “Cocktails” portion, have each Suspect introduce themselves to the other guests, using the Suspect Description in their Suspect Guide. If they did not bring their Suspect Guide or you have printed their pertinent information for them, you can circulate the Suspect List provided in your Host Materials.
Some hosts and/or guests will prefer a moment before the Suspect Introductions to read through the instructions provided to them in their Suspect Guides with the group, to make sure they understand the process that will unfold. If you, as the host, decide this is a good option for your group of guests, go for it! The best time to review the instructions in the Suspect Guides is during cocktails, before the Suspect Introductions.
Once all of the Suspects have introduced themselves, have your guests take their seat at the dinner table. It’s time for Appetisers!
Once everyone is seated and comfortable, serve the appetisers, and then when you are ready, play or read the Announcement of Murder. Your mystery may come with Audio Files. We encourage you to use the audio files, however they are optional (See “How To Use The Audio Files” section). If you are using the audio files, press “Play” on the “Announcement of Murder” file. If you aren’t, have someone read the transcript of the “Announcement of Murder” (found at the end of this guide).
Over appetisers, the Suspects can begin sharing their “Share” information and/or asking questions. If you want, you can set the example by asking a question of another Suspect or sharing a piece of your Share information.
As people start getting used to the format and begin shedding their inhibitions, the investigation and conversations should flow organically. If they stall or if you prefer, you can always go around the table and ask the Suspects where they were at the time of the murder, or if they saw anything suspicious around the time of the murder.
How the Sleuths Ask Questions
The Announcement of Murder provides some questions that will get the investigators going. These are also provided for quick and easy reference on the Notes pages. Based on what they learn from asking these initial questions, they will naturally come up with questions of their own.
If a sleuth asks something that is not explained in the Suspect information, the Suspects should reply with the answer, “I have nothing to say about that.” This phrase is designed to keep the questions moving along and convey to the person asking the question that they need to change their line of questioning without the interrogator or the Suspect having to break character to explain that there is nothing in their information to answer the question posed. This is explained to the Suspects in their Suspect Guide as well as to the participants in the Announcement of Murder, and is provided on their Notes page for quick and easy reference.
Beware The Tight-Lipper
There can be one Suspect at the party who wants to appear to be the guilty party and will try to bait people to interrogate them harder by not giving any of their share information away.
After serious psychoanalysis, we have determined this person craves attention, be it positive or negative. But since we’re not throwing a mystery party to deal with people’s personal issues, let’s just say this person is not cool. Don’t fret though, because all Suspects are advised in their Suspect guide that they have to share their “Share” information. If you have a tight-lipped Suspect who still insists on being evasive to the point of party-wrecking, gently remind them that the Share information needs to be shared or they’ll ruin everyone’s good time.
Once everyone has finished their appetisers, it’s time to take a break. Naturally, as the host, you will need breaks worked in so that you can perform host duties and serve food and drinks. Your guests will also need breaks to use the washroom, check in with the kids or Tweet about what an awesome host you are. Go ahead and tell your guests that the investigations will pause for a break, and that the mystery will continue once again following the break.
While we have worked two breaks into your dinner party mystery format, you may need more in order to perform your host duties, or your guests may need washroom breaks, so feel free to declare a break whenever it fits your individual party!
Choose a signal, like a timer on your Smartphone or music that will signal your guests to return to their seat.
The main course is the opportunity for your Suspects to really shine. While they enjoy your main course, they will have the opportunity to really question one another about the Share information that was divulged during the appetisers. There is some strategy involved, as the Suspects won’t want the others to catch on to their theories about the killer, but they will still be asking questions about the information, getting clarification about where everyone was at the time of the murder and learning more about each Suspect’s hidden motives. Most sleuths will form their questions tactfully, as they need more information to decide who to question, and what, specifically, to ask about during the one-on-one investigations during the next break.
If at all possible, try to clear the table while the end of this questioning is taking place so that you can fully participate in the one-on-one investigations during the Last Break.
The Last Break gives the Suspects a chance to question each other one-on-one, without everyone listening. This gives each Sleuth the opportunity to follow a lead and get clarification on a theory they had during the Appetisers and Main Course without exposing their theory to the other guests.
Have your guests get up from the table and go to an area where they can mingle. Set a short amount of time on this final break (we recommend 15 minutes) and then have everyone return to the table – no exceptions!
The Dessert course is when your guests will cast their accusations against the Suspect they think is the killer. Once everyone has returned to the table, serve dessert and coffee or tea. You may have to make them wait as you organize your dessert, but that’s okay. It’s not uncommon to have guests whispering with one another or trying to gather last-second information, so this short waiting time while dessert and coffee/tea are being served actually gives your guests one last chance to get an answer or gather information they may need. If you chose to play a Suspect, you may even find that you have guests who have followed you to the kitchen offering to “help” in order to pry more information out of you in private. Put them to work!
With dessert, deliver each guest an Accusation Form. Have each person write down their name and the name of the person they accuse. Once everyone has written down their accusation, have everyone share the name of the person they accuse and the reasons why with the group en masse. The purpose of writing down the accusation before casting it is so that no one can change their mind after hearing the others’ accusations and reasons behind their accusation.
When everyone has cast their accusation, it’s time for The Big Reveal!
The Big Reveal
The end of the mystery is marked by The Big Reveal. Once everyone has cast their accusations against the killer, it’s time to reveal the guilty party!
The Big Reveal is included in a separate file so you can print it on its own without the worry of stumbling across it as you view the rest of your Host Materials. You can use the audio file titled “The Big Reveal” or read the transcript called “The Big Reveal”, included in your Host Materials.
If, after reading this guide you still have questions before the party, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We will do everything in our power to ensure your mystery runs smoothly. Having said that, hosting one of our mysteries is easy – just relax and have fun!