Murder Mystery Host Top 10 Tips

As a murder mystery host, you have a lot to take care of! From planning to preparation, invites to decoration, there’s so much to do…that’s why we’ve pooled our experience and come up with these top tips.

After the tips, we’ve got a great FAQ section on being murder mystery party host with links to lots of other resources and a free planning checklist download. Don’t miss it!

Top 10 tips for hosting a murder mystery party

Here are top 10 tips (plus a bonus tip at the end).

1. Preparation fuels anticipation.

Sometimes you don’t have much time to prepare. Perhaps you’re playing the game spontaneously (some games are designed to be playable with almost no preparation) or maybe you’ve been busy getting other things done.

Either way, do your best to plan for at least some preparation time. The more effort you’re able to put in (and share with your invitees), the more effort your guests will put into building on their costumes and preparing for their roles.

This creates a positive feedback loop where everyone gets more and more excited. Then, come game night, the party is almost guaranteed to be a smash hit!

As a murder mystery host, start revving up the anticipation:

  • Create beautiful, engaging invitations and send them to your guests.
  • Start a WhatsApp group for the guests where you encourage rumors, suspicions, and wild speculations!
  • If you’ve started working on your own costume, put up any decorations, planned the menu, or started cooking something—take a photo and send it to the guests! Encourage them to send teaser photos of their own costumes, too!
A murder mystery host supervising the party.

2. Ask your guests for a firm commitment.

When inviting your guests, make them well aware that each of them is playing a crucial role in the evening—and that if someone cancels, it can jeopardize the entire evening! It’s very rare that a game is designed to be playable if someone doesn’t arrive. Most likely you’ll have to postpone. So, be sure to ask your guests to RSVP with a firm and binding commitment!

If you are caught in the unfortunate situation of someone getting sick or cancelling at the last minute, is there a way to save the evening? Check out our article on what to do if someone can’t come or gets sick.

3. The food is important, but the game is more important!

This is especially true if you’re hosting and playing as a character in the game. The food prep time should be really (yes, really) short. Let’s emphasize that point: the food should be super quick to prepare.

A murder mystery host prepares food for the guests.

Imagine the following scenario:

Partway through the game, just as things are getting interesting, you remember you have to boil pasta, cook a tomato sauce, and bake cupcakes. What are your guests supposed to do while you’re in the kitchen?

Take a break? Your guests will get bored, quickly fall out of character, and start talking about work, or their new TV, or the latest antics of their irrepressible cat.

Continue playing without you? Sure—they’ll get deeper and deeper into the mysteries while you’re away, and when you rejoin them, they’ll have to summarize everything for you.

Neither of these are great options.

Instead, do this: pre-cook all the food, so that all you have to do is nip off to heat it up. You can also get your guests involved in serving so there’s no lull in the activities at all!

4. Avoid “extra” or “optional” characters.

Some murder mystery game publishers design their games with a set of essential “main” players and then a number of additional “extra, optional” characters. For example, a game specifically written for 12 players who must be present because the story revolves around them, with up to 8 additional players who don’t impact the story in any significant way.

These extra characters are seldom fun to play and the players can get bored or frustrated because they’re not at the center of the action. It’s best to stick to the core, essential players only and leave out the extra ones. If you’ve got a fixed number of committed guests, then buy a game that’s designed for exactly that number of players.

Be sure to check out our article on how to find the best murder mystery for your group!

5. Put your phones on silent mode!

Fair enough, this one’s subjective, but we’re true believers in the power of building an immersive atmosphere that sweeps your guests away for the evening. It’s extremely annoying when everyone has put so much effort into their costumes, characters, and decorations—and then somebody steps outside to make a phone call, or interrupts the game to text somebody. Either the game stops, or you have to repeat what was discussed while they were on their phone. Not cool!

Don’t we all appreciate those special times when everyone in the room talks to each other face to face without the Internet or some other device getting in the way? This also does wonders to help guests stay in character and really get into their roles.

Finally, immersion. A home murder mystery party is a themed event, and almost always takes place in a world before cell phones even existed: the Roaring ‘20s, a Victorian masquerade, a pirate adventure. Seeing a crusty peg leg pirate pull a phone from his sword belt ruins the whole vibe, no?

A murder mystery host reading out information to his guests.

6. Be brave—be the murder mystery host or hostess!

We’re firm believers that the person hosting should also play with, especially at a home murder mystery. This makes their role a lot of hard work—in addition to preparing their character and costume, they must organize, cook, decorate, and clean up. So, hats off to your amazing host or hostess! As a reward for all this effort, the host gets to bask in the joy and gratitude on their guests’ faces.

7. Start in character.

Be in character from the moment the first guest arrives. Greet your guests by their murder mystery party character name—not their real names—and encourage them to immediately step into their character roles.

Don’t miss our article on how to play as the perfect murderer, inspector, suspect, or victim.

8. Stay in character—at all times!

For tonight, put aside all small talk and friend catch ups…at least until the game is over! Asking personal questions like “how’s your dog doing” disrupts the game and breaks the immersion.

We’re all just humans though, and chances are a player or two starts chatting about something outside the game. If you notice players slipping from their roles, seamlessly and tactfully bring them back into their role by asking them something about their character, their costume, or for a speculation on the latest clue.

9. Greet guests with a welcome drink.

Make sure you’ve prepared your welcome drinks and glasses. Ideally, position the drinks on a table near the entrance so you can easily welcome your guests with a drink. This adds a touch of class and helps break the ice. Clink glasses, say cheers, and remember to keep it in character!

10. Play at the right speed.

Keep an eye on the speed of the game. You’re aiming for a “good” speed—not too fast and not too slow. What do we mean by that? You’ll know when you’re playing. Don’t rush, but don’t drag. Carefully consider the clues and evidence, discuss them with all the players, but understand that some things are supposed to be unclear at the start and will only come together in the later game rounds.

If you get stuck in the first round, you might run out of time towards the end when the crucial puzzle pieces start to be uncovered. You also don’t want the game to run wildly over time, either. Just keep an eye on things, you’ll figure out a “good” speed if you’re paying attention.

With this said, each group is different, each round of discussions varies in its depth of intrigue, and you can expect a murder mystery will last anywhere between 2 and 5 hours.

(Bonus) What about whoopsies?

Talk your guests through the following scenario:

What if you accidentally discover who the murderer is midway through the game? Perhaps they let it slip during a private conversation, or perhaps you accidentally see their information sheet as you slide past them on the way to the bathroom. Well, that sucks! The mystery is now spoiled—but only for you. There’s no need to spoil it for anyone else!

This is your chance to be a secret and considerate hero.

The trick is to keep the other players in mind and remember how much effort went into the night. Then, simply carry on as if nothing happened. Do your very best not to spoil the night for everyone else. When the game concludes, you’ll have the secret pleasure of seeing everyone enjoying a successful night and know inside that you played a crucial role.

Murder mystery host FAQ

Before we wrap things up, browse these frequently asked questions about being a murder mystery host.

A murder mystery host taping the outline around the murder victim.

Can the host in a murder mystery party play?

It depends on the game in question. Some companies design their games specifically so that the host can play with and be as much in the dark as all the other players. Sometimes the host can play, but only in a limited capacity because they already know who the murderer is. Sometimes the host is more like a narrator, and not a player at all.

The following table lists several prominent murder mystery party companies and what role the host can play.

CompanyHost’s role
MysterandoPlays along as a character
My Mystery PartyPlays along, but knows more than the others
Night of MysteryPlays along as a character
Shot in the Dark MysteriesPlays along as a character
Playing With MurderNarrator, not a player
Freeform GamesNot a player, but can have a minor role

What does the host do in a murder mystery party?

A murder mystery host has several key responsibilities:

  • Organizing the event.
  • Inviting guests.
  • Choosing a venue.
  • Decorating the venue.
  • Choosing ambient/background music.
  • Cooking or arranging food for everyone.
  • Explaining the game rules.
  • Printing and preparing all the game materials such as name tags, clues, evidence, props, and the solution/resolution document.
  • Monitoring the flow of the game and moving play between the different game rounds.
  • At the end of the night, the host reads out the solution/resolution revealing who the murderer was and how they did it.
  • Depending on the game, the host also plays with as one of the characters!

We’ve created a free resource to help you keep track of all this! Simply click this link to download our murder mystery host checklist.

How do you host a perfect murder mystery party?

Glad you asked! In addition to following the 10 tips we’ve outlined here, also check out our article dedicated to hosting the perfect murder mystery party!

What are the 3 roles in murder mystery games?

Typically, there’s one murderer, one inspector/detective, and everyone else is a suspect.

The murder mystery host usually plays with, and can play as any one of these three roles (but sometimes the host is required to be a totally separate, non-player role).

Sometimes the victim is one of the suspects at the start of the game, then gets murdered during the game. They can then usually rejoin the game as a special investigator or some other new role (like a ghost).

We’ve written a handy guide for playing each of these roles.

How does a murder mystery party work?

There are many variations on the basic formula, but each murder mystery game publisher uses some version of the following game mechanics:

  • Invite a fixed number of guests to a themed event.
  • Decorate the venue and prepare a meal for the group.
  • On game night, the guests arrive dressed up as the unique characters they’re playing as.
  • There’s a murder, of course. It might happen before the game, or it might happen during the game.
  • Guests receive clues and/or evidence. They discuss the information available and try to find out who among them is the murderer.
  • At the end of the game, everyone votes for who they think the murderer is. This is often called the “accusation round”.
  • Finally, the host reads the “solution” which explains who the murderer was and how they committed their dastardly deed.

We’ve got plenty more details for you here:

In conclusion…

There’s no magic formula for hosting a successful, fun murder mystery party—or for being the best murder mystery host. However, following the advice we’ve laid out here is a great foundation. Anticipation, preparation, and pre-cooking the food are strong fundamentals. Ultimately, immersion is the key factor. Limiting distractions and staying in character at all times will do wonders for the experience!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for hosting a successful home murder mystery party. If you’re looking for a great murder mystery game, check out our lists of recommendations in these articles: