I'm the murderer!! Zero Prep Murder Mystery LARP idea

edited April 2010 in Story Games
Inspired by the How-To-Host-A-Murder thread, but probably not useful to that thread's goal, I thought about this:

There's been a murder committed. One player is the detective: his job is to 'solve" the murder.

Everyone else plays a suspect: their goal in character is to make the detective declare that they are the murderer. Who actually killed the victim isn't defined until end of play: each person comes up with a motive for their character, and will have the ability to plant clues throughout the game (a limited number, perhaps, or some sort of clue economy where the authority to introduce new clues moves around from player to player).

But in character, the suspects want to avoid being caught. So they can't ever state that they are the murderer, and they need to avoid directly revealing their motive or how they could have done it. (Maybe the clue economy can be used here to avoid people acting too overtly like the murderer.)

After some amount of time, the detective decides that he has enough evidence to solve the case, fingers someone, and tries to explain away any conflicting evidence.



Mainly, I'm thinking about the tension between suspect player and suspect character, and how that tension could be used to produce satisfying gameplay. And if this could be used to create a near zero prep LARP or tabletop game. (For a LARP especially, suspects should have their own interrelations and the clue economy should encourage them to interact away from the detective.) But would this work? Would it crash and burn in some obvious way I'm missing? Any way to make it better?

Comments

  • The murderer had an accomplice. You want your character to be declared the murderer, not the accomplice, which means you need to plant both clues that implicate yourself and that implicate someone else. If you're too obvious in implicating someone else, you run the risk of them being declared the murderer. If you're too obvious in implicating yourself, you run the risk of another player setting themself up as the murderer with you as just the accomplice.
  • Clever. Tell me more....
  • Posted By: Mr. Teapot(Maybe the clue economy can be used here to avoid people acting too overtly like the murderer.)
    This is the key, I think. The clue economy being explicit--controlled by cards or tokens or a whiteboard or something--would help avoid a potential cascade of "AND I am left-handed!" "BUT I am too, AND I have just lost a great deal of money!"

    If you had a big enough player base, you could even split them into factions, and let the whole faction "win" if the detective fingered any one of them. That would allow for more indirect evidence and suspicion. (You could even award faction-points if players came up with intersuspect secrets that the detective then discovered and used to explain away red herrings... but that's probably scope-creeping.)

    This is a cool idea.
  • An useful mechanic in helping players balance their obviousness might be to have there be several detectives or have the detective score the likelyhood of somebody being a murderer on a scale. Then your goal could be to get the most convictions without getting a perfect score, or something similar. This should prevent some of the unwanted tension over what is and what isn't acceptable in-character behaviour, as you wouldn't want your character to be quite too obvious as a suspect.

    In fact, thinking on it further, what you want to do is to have a rote turnaround at the end of the game: have the detective accuse somebody dramatically, but then immediately afterwards have some critical evidence surface that specifically disqualifies the first suspect, leaving the detective to pick on the second-most likely. It fits the genre and ensures that the players will try to get to be second-most suspected instead of first.
  • I think that the game might get away with a rule for acting too overtly that relies on clue tokens: If you act in a way that strongly suggests that you are the murderer, that is itself a clue, so you need to spend a clue token to do so. If you start to do something suspicious, other players can suggest that the action would require a clue token. If you then cannot or do not wish to spend the token, you can do something else instead.


    Another possible idea that might be tied in: each character has an alibi, which the player is trying to poke holes in so that they could have committed the actual murder.
  • Posted By: Eero Tuovinen Then your goal could be to get the most convictions without getting a perfect score, or something similar.
    Doesn't the Valedictorian's Death by Paul Czege work something like that? Did we just accidentally reinvent the game? I wonder if there's anything useful to steal from there.
  • At the end, the detective makes a list of the three most likely suspects, in order of the likelihood that they did it.

    #1 on the detective's list goes to jail and is the LOSER of the evening
    #2 on the detective's list is the WINNER of the evening
    #3 on the detective's list is the runner-up
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: BrendanThe clue economy being explicit--controlled by cards or tokens or a whiteboard or something--would help avoid a potential cascade of "AND I am left-handed!" "BUT I am too, AND I have just lost a great deal of money!"
    Actually, THAT game sounds super funny.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenIn fact, thinking on it further, what you want to do is to have a rote turnaround at the end of the game: have the detective accuse somebody dramatically, but then immediately afterwards have some critical evidence surface that specifically disqualifies the first suspect, leaving the detective to pick on the second-most likely.
    At risk of piling everyhting onto an as-yet-undefined system, I wonder if you couldn't tie that into the clue economy as well. If you reach the end of the game, and aren't picked as the suspect but have more clues remaining than anyone else, perhaps you can reject the detective's choice (but also eliminate yourself as a suspect?).
  • Not being a real fan of systems as such, but far more into playing a role, my take on it is a bit different.
    Love. Someone's been murdered and everyone wants to take the fall for the killer. As a twist, so does the one everyone's trying to protect because he or she doesn't want anyone else to take the fall. Another possible twist would be that the person everyone's trying to protect isn't really the killer at all, and the real killer goes on the confession wagon along with everyone else, hoping to confuse the issue or possibly shift the blame.

    Hmmm....

    I think I'll have to write that scenario...
  • Couple ideas:

    1) Maybe to help balance the weight of evidence against being too obviously against you, there is some kind of reward for trying to accuse others of being the murderer in character (ie. trying to spin the evidence against someone else). It seems like it would be fun if this counter-weight involved some kind of cooperative element to the game. Like, on the one hand, you want to cooperate in character with the rest of the group and find the bastard, but OOC, you want to plant clues that will eventually point to you so that all the others gang up on you.

    2) Or what if you want to be the murderer, but not be found out? In other words, you want to have the group decide that someone else is the murderer, but an examination of the clues afterward shows that it was really you and that you got away with it? So like, you want to get caught, but not until after you get away. Sounds difficult, though.

    -- John M.
  • Ooh, another idea, kind of a reverse murder scenario

    The detective has one goal, everyone else has a different goal.

    - The detective's goal is to PIN the CORRECT murderer (being defined by the mountain of evidence at the end of the game). If this happens, everyone else loses.
    - Everyone else's goal is to BE the murderer, but lead the detective to PIN the wrong person. That player is the winner, and everyone else loses.

    So it's a reverse scenario from a meta sense, because it's kind of a detective versus everyone game (but everyone else is only working together just until they can steal the win from the other guy).

    -- John M.
  • Posted By: Big J Money
    1) Maybe to help balance the weight of evidence against being too obviously against you, there is some kind of reward for trying to accuse others of being the murderer in character (ie. trying to spin the evidence against someone else). It seems like it would be fun if this counter-weight involved some kind of cooperative element to the game. Like, on the one hand, you want to cooperate in character with the rest of the group and find the bastard, but OOC, you want to plant clues that will eventually point to you so that all the others gang up on you.
    Hmm... something like cooperating gives you the resources you spend to plant clues, which let you finger yourself as the murderer. Each time you apply a clue to someone who didn't establish it, another player can give you a clue token, or some such. Use it to reward creativity and fun ideas in play, at the discretion of the other players.

    Posted By: Big J Money- The detective's goal is to PIN the CORRECT murderer (being defined by the mountain of evidence at the end of the game). If this happens, everyone else loses.
    - Everyone else's goal is to BE the murderer, but lead the detective to PIN the wrong person. That player is the winner, and everyone else loses.
    I guess you'd have to have the suspect players vote for who the murderer is, and have the detective declare who the murderer is without knowing the result of the vote (perhaps he decides and writes it down before the vote). So the detective is trying to pick the same as the vote goes, but the suspects are trying to be chosen by vote but not fingered by the detective. That gives you some tension right there, though I don't know how well balanced that would be.
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