Missing character? Don’t let that ruin your murder mystery party!

You’ve spent ages planning and organizing this murder mystery party: your guest list is finalized, everyone has RSVP’d yes, and all the characters are assigned. Finally, everything is ready to go. Then one of your guests calls you: “Sorry, I’m sick. The doctor ordered me to stay home. So…I won’t make it tonight.” What now? How can you host the game with a missing character!?

A wave of despair hits you. Just breathe! This is no reason to panic. But it is a reason to take some rapid action!

Don’t just leave out the missing character – it can break the murder mystery game

This is vitally important. The missing character might be the murderer or might have the crucial piece of evidence you need to catch the killer.

If you simply carry on without your AWOL guest, there’s a good chance you’ll ruin the game mechanics. Murder mysteries are very carefully written for a specific number of people – every single person’s role is essential for the game to work.

Consider adding the missing character virtually

All kinds of situations can cause one of your guests to miss your party. Getting sick is always a risk. But there are two kinds of sick: one where you’re bedridden, medicated, and sleeping. Another where you don’t feel great, but you’re still able to function. Likewise, someone might have to stay home to supervise renovations, or because there’s a blizzard, etc. This doesn’t have to stop the party!

If your guest is stuck at home but still eager to join the game, you can set up a virtual meeting (over Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.). This works well if it’s a small event (4 to 8 people), but in bigger events it might become difficult to follow the conversation. The internet connection might drop now and then, but the minor inconvenience is way better than calling off the entire party! What’s more, the missing guest will appreciate everyone accommodating them.

Check for advice in your game materials

Perhaps the game you’ve bought already caters for a sick or missing character?

Scan through the documentation that came with the game. Perhaps the publisher has some advice for exactly this situation, tailored to this game. If so, try to follow it!

Call or write customer service

Most murder mystery companies have good customer service. Ask them for advice.

Is the missing character an “optional” character?

Some games are written for a range of roles, some which might not be crucial to game mechanics. We’re not usually fans of optional characters, especially for smaller events. An optional role usually translates to being uninvolved in the game, plus their clues and motives are often weak. That said, in this case, dropping an optional character can be a lifesaver when a guest can’t come.

So, if your AWOL guest is playing an optional character, you can safely leave them out.

In all the games I’ve played, it’s always possible to leave out an optional role. Let’s say there are 3 optional roles. Now one of them gets sick. You don’t need to swap the optional roles with each other, regardless of their order of importance. The game will still work smoothly.

If an “essential character” can’t make it, you can swap the missing character with an “optional” character

Here’s the situation: one of your guests is assigned an optional character. Another guest, assigned one of the essential characters, is suddenly stuck at a work crisis and cancels on you. Now what? Quickly swap the roles and give your optional player a field promotion to the role of the missing essential character. Sure, they’ll have to improvise and think on their feet, but they’ll be a hero for saving the game!

If there are several optional characters, you might be able to swap to make things fit better – if your guests have already prepared their costumes, you might want to choose a character that can wear a similar costume to what they’ve already prepared.(If this simply isn’t possible, see if you can come up with a humorous reason why they’re dressed so oddly. If there’s no way to make it fit, simply don’t worry about it too much. The most important thing is that the game goes on!)

Buy the version of the game for one less character and ask for your original purchase to be refunded

Companies like Mysterando ensure you’re always covered – they have a policy that if one of your guests can’t make it, you can simply buy the smaller version (for example, 7 instead of 8 people) and ask for them to refund your first purchase. You can immediately download the new game – it’s accessible the moment your payment is processed. This can be a lifesaver over the weekend or when time is short. Mysterando will then refund you as soon as they’re back in the office.

There’s still a chance you’ll have to swap one character. However, the character descriptions won’t change much, if at all. The clues and the game solution, however, will be totally different. You’d best print them out and make sure you use these new ones instead of the old ones.

If you can’t implement any of the above: One person plays two roles

Once, our friend’s car broke down on the way to the murder mystery party. We had no other choice: we assigned two roles to a player who’d played before. Turns out we still had a great night!

If all the options we’ve discussed so far don’t work, you can still play the game. To do so, assign two roles to one of your players. Who, though? Seeing as the host has some extra responsibilities (like keeping an eye on the food), we suggest you nominate your most experienced player.

Explain the situation to your guests at the beginning of the party. They’ll understand, and hopefully also congratulate you on your problem-solving skills. Then encourage the person who is taking on two roles to play a little quicker. The game’s going to be bumpy, but anything is better than cancelling!

With these tips, your game should be safe from unexpectedly AWOL players! If you found this article useful, you might enjoy some of our other articles: