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Virtual Murdering Mystery Games

Author: Murder Mystery Games  Date: 06 October 2021


I wanted to say thanks so much for the detailed Zoom instructions on the website about how to host a murder mystery game online - I hosted three online ones in August and found it really helpful! Another one coming up and I'm getting really good at it.

----Charlotte Stranzen----

In these crazy coronavirus times the restriction mean that it can be pretty hard to host a party. Don't let that stop you. Break the tedium of isolation by having a virtual murder mystery party online. The guide on this page will fully explain how to host a virtual murder mystery party on Zoom or any other system. Virtual murder mystery games are born out of the pandemic but people have loved them and the feedback is excellent. You can host your virtual murder mystery party free from the hassle or social distancing all from the comfort of your lounge. Your virtual murder mystery party is here!

How To Host A Virtual Murder Mystery Party Online

What equipment do I need for a virtual murder mystery party online?

  • Do it on a cell phone version:
    • A cell phone.
    • Camera on the phone.
    • Strong and stable internet connection.
    • Headphones with a microphone may be required if you don't have your own quiet space in which to murder.
    • Google Chromecast can make this experience much better by casting your screen.
  • Do it with a laptop, tablet or desktop computer:
    • A webcam either external or built into the laptop or tablet.
    • A microphone built into the webcam or headphones with a built in mic.
    • Headphones or an internal or external speaker.
    • Strong and stable internet connection probably over WiFi or ethernet.
  • Totally awesome version (larger than life):
    • HDMI cable or some type of wireless connection to a TV or data projector from your computer.
    • A laptop plugged into a data projector or large screen TV via HDMI or wireless.
    • A webcam either external or built into the laptop.
    • A microphone built into the webcam or the laptop.
    • Sound through the TV or an external speaker.
    • Strong and stable internet connection probably over WiFi.

What is the best software to use for an online party?

  • Skype (Microsoft):
    • Pros:
      • Maximum active video participants: 50
      • Form: Web browser version, phone app or a computer application
      • Team messaging: Participants can send private messages within Skype
      • Extra features: The computer app allows background blur
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • None
  • Zoom:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 100
      • Cost: Free
      • Maximum of 40 minutes per session, however, each time we have used Zoom they have automatically extended the session to unlimited
      • A premium Zoom monthly membership isn’t expensive and is well worth it for the extra features (e.g. unlimited meeting time, breakout rooms and poll functions) all great for an online murder mystery
    • Cons:
      • Maximum of 40 minutes per session. You have to book multiple sessions for a longer party
      • Form: All users need to download the Zoom software but this isn't hard
  • Facebook Messenger:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants 50 (only 6 faces at once)
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • None
  • Teams (Microsoft):
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants 250
      • Form: Web version or a software application
    • Cons:
      • Cost: Not free although a free version is available
      • Some corporate rules may only allow people internal to the organisation to participate/li>
  • WhatsApp:
    • Pros:
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 16 but voice calls to 32
      • Form: Requires an app on your computer or phone
  • Facetime (Apple):
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 32
    • Cons:
      • Devices: Only available on Apple devices

How do I get organised for my virtual murder mystery party?

  1. Organise a presenter and a techy friend to help
  2. Organise your guest list on the computer
  3. Send invitations out
  4. Collect RSVPs and collate contact details
  5. Choose video conferencing software (see above)
  6. Test the technology
  7. Break your guests up into teams and get them to coordinate (2 to 6 per team)
  8. Presenter prepares
  9. Connect and play

1. Organize a presenter and a techy friend

Presenter - You will need one main person to run and host the online murdering mystery game. We don't suggest that this is the organizer because you are usually too busy. At a virtual online party however you won't be organising food etc. for everyone so you can do it yourself if you wish. The presenter will guide the action and keep everything moving along.

Nerdy tech type - Inevitably you or some of your guests will have technology glitches. It is a good idea to nominate a friend or colleague that is great with troubleshooting technology problems as your tech helper. You can give out their contact details so people can contact them for help. This will keep the presenter free from the challenge of tech support and they can focus on running the game.

2. Organize your guest list

At a face-to-face party you send out invites and people turn up. Due to the remoteness of your guests, a virtual party is a little more difficult to coordinate, especially if you have friends in different time-zones. You will need to maintain a super accurate guest list so you can coordinate everyone.

You will also need this list to sort guests into groups.

3. Send invitations out

You can do this in any way you like but email is probably the easiest method although a Facebook event could work well too. When you send out your invites, keep an eye open for bounce replies and follow up on Facebook etc. to get the latest email address for your guests as these will be essential.

Think about where your guests are living. If you are running your Zoom virtual party with people all over the globe then the date and time of your party may not be the same in every country or location. You might have to list different country's dates and times so people know their local details.

Collect the following information from your guests - Contact cell phone number with country code e.g. +1, how many people will attend at their location and ask for permission to share email addresses and cell phone numbers with other guests.

Software and hardware - Let people know that you will be using video conferencing software and they will need to be able to access this system. Suggest that people start checking their internet connection, camera, microphone and sound to see if it is all working as it should. You guests need to do this a week early so they have time to fix any issues. Ideally your guests would also get ready to connect to the TV with their laptop.

4. Collect RSVPs and collate all contact details

Collect your list of attendees as your presenter will need an accurate list to work from. Keep a clear record of email addresses and cell phone numbers for each person. Record how many people they think will be at their location on the night.

5. Choose video conferencing software

Select the video conferencing software you will use from the list we have above, or use any of the many other options you may be familiar with. Learn about the software and its features early so you feel really confident. Our recommendation is Skype or Zoom but any of them will all do an excellent job.

6. Test technology

Contact all your guests that have RSVP'd and tell them what video software platform you will use. Give them instructions on how to download/access it and ask them to set it up. Maybe organize to have online drinks with 3 or more of your friends that are coming to the party as a test run. Test all the features and help them to understand where things like messaging etc. is located.

It would be advisable to make a quick online video call to all your guests in the days before your party to make sure that can access the software, connect and that their hardware works properly.

7. Break your guests up into teams and get them to coordinate

There is an age old problem that always exists with murder mystery games. It is easiest if characters and teams are allocated in advance, but this has the obvious pitfall that if people don’t show up on the night it can lead to uneven teams or missing central characters. If you allocate characters in advance then have an option to swap people if central characters can't attend at the last minute. If you will allocated characters on the night then allow more time for this.

On the night of the party your guests will work in virtual teams of 2 to 6. I wouldn't have teams bigger than 6 people so if 24 people are coming to your party, break your guests into 4 to 8 teams. Share the team list and names with all the members of each team. You will need to give them a way to communicate which is why you collected cell phone numbers and email addresses earlier on. It is totally up to you what information you share and how you do this.

At the virtual party, the teams will need a way that they can communicate without the rest of the party knowing. Pick a team leader for each team and they will be the goto person for their team. Team leaders should coordinate with the rest of the team and do a test run of communicating before the party. It would also be a great idea if the teams met up on a video call using the software you have chosen before your event. This will let them iron out any issues early.

    Our suggestions on how teams can communicate:
  1. Use private messaging or break away groups built into the video conference app you have chosen
  2. Email
  3. Cell phone calls
  4. Text messages
  5. Facebook Messenger
  6. WhatsApp
  7. Discord
  8. Any methods of communication you are aware of

8. Presenter prepares

As the presenter you will need to be very prepared in advance so you know how you will manage the party. In your virtual murder mystery game you will have received the Presenter's Handbook and all the game materials. You will prepare these materials to have them ready.

    The main thing the presenter will do in preparation:
  1. Read the Presenter's Handbook and write notes for yourself about the online options and what you have to do
  2. If you are not the party organizer, check in with them to find out about guest numbers and teams and to get access to their list
  3. Make sure you have contact details for the team leaders
  4. You need a way to share name badges, team directions, clues and props on the night. You can prepare them electronically e.g. as a pdf, or you could take a digital photo of each item. These MUST, MUST, MUST be prepared in advance. Do not leave it to the night.
  5. The participants will all need to wear a name badge on the night that can be seen on the camera. This can be a bit tricky to coordinate. You could email name badges early but have a backup plan in case central characters can't make it at short notice. The other option is to ask all the guests to have a large white name badge and a black marker so they can hand write a name badge for themselves.
  6. Sort out your technology and how you will contact guests and pass information
  7. Prepare the introduction you will deliver
  8. Decide how you will facilitate "the murder scene"
  9. Plan how you will manage each stage of the game
  10. Work out how you will manage the accusation sessions
  11. Plan how you will hear each team's final theories
  12. Prepare your delivery of the final story
  13. Decide how will pick a winner
  14. Finally, how will you close the game

9. Connect and play

Notes: THINGS TAKE LONGER ONLINE THAN IN REAL LIFE!! This is the most important thing I have learned from running these parties. You can’t all talk over each other or simply hand out physical clues, instead you need to allow extra time for bantering with guests and sharing things electronically. People get screen fatigue and are keen to book shorter events. Make sure you have bathroom breaks etc. during the game.

If you want to shorten your event you could consider distributing the round 1 clues before the event. Alternatively you could split the round 2 clues and give half with round 1 and half with round 3.

Preparing clues before the event

Before the game you need to work out how you will supply clues to your guests. The clues come in PDF format and this gives you a number of options. You can share the clues via breakout rooms but only put them on the screen for a short time so people have to write them, take a photo or a screenshot etc. You could separate out the pages of the PDF and send different pages to different people. You can take photos of the screen with your phone and then SMS or email the clues. You can use any screen capture or snapshot tools you have available to break up the clues the way you want. You can type the clues into the chat box or you can read them out verbally.

Whatever you decide, you need a way, with the technology you have available to send different clues to each group. They can then share those clues with each other in their group and other groups. You want groups to share and collaborate but you don't want all groups to get all clues.

    As the presenter you will guide and coordinate the game:
  1. Log into the video conferencing software about 1 hour early to make sure everything works.
  2. It is great to ask guests to log in 15-30 mins before the official party starts if characters and teams are not pre-allocated.
  3. Log in but have audio and video switched off (have a photo of your host character showing) rather than having to be ‘on’ in hosting mode while managing all the admin stuff.
  4. Send out character and team allocations via the chat function.
  5. Set up breakout rooms on your software in advance and allocate guests to those rooms at the start of the party.
  6. Guests can chat and socialise during this time (it helps to pick who will be a great victim, murderer etc.).
  7. It is handy to make team leaders (or potentially every guest) co-hosts so they can move between breakout rooms to swap clues
  8. At the start, welcome everyone and thank them for coming.
  9. Make sure everyone is wearing a name badge and ask people to change their display name on the video software to their character name. Something like "Ruth Less (Sue Smith)" could work well and is lots of fun.
  10. If you have less that 15 guests don't worry about having multiple badges. Your guests can wear 1, 3 or no name badges and they will play the game exactly the same way.
  11. If you don't have too many guests, get each person to introduce their character and read out the short bio on their name badge. If you have too many guests have team leaders introduce their team members.
  12. Send a message out with information about the teams. You may also wish to send the team leader's contact details.
  13. Remind everyone who the tech support person is if they are having any technology issues.
  14. Deliver your introduction.
  15. Facilitate the live murder.
  16. Explain how this changes things e.g. "We were going to party, but now..."
  17. You can send the team directions out to all guests or just the team leaders.
  18. With some software, when sending out team directions, props, clues etc. to guests via the chat function, they need to open the document before moving rooms or they won't be able to access that doc any longer.
  19. Give guests time to read through the team directions.
  20. Now you as the presenter read the team directions and clarify any rules.
  21. Explain that this is a competition and everyone wants to win.
  22. You have the option of playing a game, holding a quiz etc. to give out clues or just sending clues directly to team leaders.
  23. Team leaders now share the clues with their team.
  24. Team members discuss the clues with each other.
  25. Using the video software, teams should offer to swap clues with other teams and it is totally up to teams how they negotiate to do this.
  26. Distributing clues via an image, Word Document or PDF works well, and the team leader can screen share so the team can see them. If another team’s leader drops into the breakout room, they have to be quick at hiding it! This is like the equivalent of eavesdropping at a real party.
  27. Clues are swapped electronically.
  28. You call an end to swapping and ask teams to discuss their own clues with each other.
  29. Talk to each team and ask them to pick a spokesperson.
  30. Coordinate each team to share an initial theory or to accuse other characters.
  31. With lots of teams, you can speed up accusations by using a poll function. The poll must be set up before the meeting and could name the most common suspects for the theme.
  32. With very small groups where people are participating in couples/households, you can make each household a team and there’s no need to bother with breakout rooms as each team can simply mute themselves in the main room and discuss clues with their partner. Swapping happens via the chat function or by unmuting and asking everyone if they’d like to swap.
  33. Facilitate Prop 1. The presenter or another guest can read it, you can hold it up to the camera and/or send it around to the teams.
  34. Repeat the process above with the round 2 clues and prop 3.
  35. After the round 2 accusations facilitate prop 2.
  36. Repeat with the round 3 clues but remind the guests that this will be the last lot of information to go out.
  37. Teams have a final chance to swap clues.
  38. Teams should come to a decision about the killer and what happened.
  39. Each team presents their theory and identifies the murderer.
  40. The presenter tells the actual story.
  41. Certificates are handed out and the winner is announced.
  42. The event is closed (the cameras can stay on) and the party can continue.

So if you want a Zoom murder mystery party free from the hassles associated with coronavirus you don't need to hesitate. Your Zoom murder mystery party online will be an awesome adventure.

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