Hosting a Mystery Party for 100+ Players

Posted by Dr. Bon Blossman on Oct 22nd 2016

Hosting a Mystery Party for 100+ Players

Have you been appointed to organize an event for 100+ guests and you need entertainment for 2-3 hours?  Maybe it's a family reunion, a class reunion, wedding shower, corporate holiday party - whatever your premise - we can find the right mystery for you. 

Here are my tips for hosting a large group murder mystery party: 

#1: Find the perfect venue. 

With your budget in mind, the first thing to do is to scout out the perfect location. Be cautious not to go beyond what you've allotted. You can make any space festive with the right decor. Even inexpensive decor can go a long way -  a $1 bag of spider webbing can transform a space. It is optimal to check out local hotels and see what the ballroom rates are. These vary tremendously by the calendar, so I can't give much help on what you should expect, but many will have a food & beverage minimum and let you rent the room for free. If your event date competes with blushing June brides, avoid hotel ballrooms, as they will be overpriced during this month.

#2: Figure out what to serve

Second largest item on your list is food.  You cannot host a party without food of some kind.  No food, party's over. Your budget dictates whether you go the chip/dip route - or have a seated, formal dinner.  If you are not providing a meal - you need to put a line in your invitation that only snacks/appetizers will be served. That way,  your guests don't arrive famished and knock out the offerings in the first hour. 

On the other hand, if you want to feed your guests a nice dinner, I suggest contacting your favorite restaurants to see if they do catering - you may be surprised at how reasonable the prices are. There are probably local caterers that specialize in events, or even private chefs for hire.  Barbecue joints typically have reasonable rates for large parties. Sandwich places will have trays you can put out, or even go for a Chick Fila chicken nugget tray. Last, if you are a good cook and will have absolutely nothing else to do the day of the party - feel free to cater the event yourself - but you've been warned. Have your ducks in a row and duties assigned. I'm not real sure what having 'ducks in a row' actually means, but just make that happen. 

#3: Nail down your entertainment: which mystery party will you choose?

Well, you're reading this blog because of the title - so that's what you are here for so let's get to the meat of the pineapple.  Mystery parties are intriguing.  Everybody gets excited about them, and your invite list tends to grow once word gets out. My point? You don't have to sell it - the guests are already sold on doing a mystery party.  That's the easy part.

A large guest list can be daunting.  But first, let's get a few things straight: 

- Not everybody can be in the limelight.  I know as a planner; you want to be fair for all.  However, with numbers this large, I can bet there are about 40-60% of your guests who do not want to be a spectacle. Yes, I've pulled that 'stat' out of a hat, but you get my point.  I was a professor for many years with large classes of 250+ students, and there were only a handful of people who truly wanted attention while in a large group.  With that said, you're not doing everybody favors by trying to force a unique character role for each player in your game.  Secondary roles (see below) will be appreciated by most. 

- Large groups can turn chaotic. You have to maintain control and present yourself as a well-oiled machine. As soon as you show weakness or that you don't know what you're doing - the group will lose confidence and start focusing on the negatives about the party. Don't wait to read the host instructions for your game the day of the party, or you may be in for a party apocalypse. Exude confidence as the host - at least while your guests can see you. You can throw fits about the small things in another room when you are alone.  There hasn't been one event I've hosted or been to that didn't have something go wrong. The key to being an excellent host is to hide those things from your guests so nobody knows the difference. Maybe a person forgets to light the candles of the centerpieces of your tables before the guests are seated. Maybe this soft, glowing light would have a made the world of a difference for the ambiance. However, if you don't make it an issue, it's a moot point. 

- Get the 'scripts' and 'actors' out of your thoughts. I've been hosting murder mystery parties for a long time - I don't want to say how long because that gives away my age - but a long time.  I've also done my research and attended the scripted plays during dinner.  Interaction and intrigue are what will captivate your guests - I mean this.  A clue-based, task oriented game is the most successful format.  Can people have fun at 'a show' during dinner?  Sure. But they'll never have a blast or talk about it past Tuesday.  Plus, you'll have to hire professional actors ($$) and have rehearsals. Time and money for less of an experience. No, thank you. 

Expandable Games: Now that we have the rules in play, let's discuss details. I'll focus on a 100 player game - which is essentially the same for anything up to about 250 players.  I'll discuss the best way to handle 250+ players afterward. 

-   Head over to My Mystery Party and find a jumbo group game. Here's our selection of 50+ player games for co-ed groups, adult: Jumbo Mysteries Under the 'other details' section of each game page, we tell you how big this game can go.  I'm going to choose my game 'Factions' as the example of how to host a 100 player game - but this game can go 200+ players. 

- Assign your most outgoing and 'most likely to attend' guests to the unique player roles. This game has a minimum of eight players, and up to 36 unique players including the three expansion packs. That means, out of your 100 players, you will have 36 people playing the actual characters with story lines and motives, etc.  Once the victim is revealed, you have 35 suspects to investigate. That's a lot of information to filter through - but I rule out many suspects quickly with evidence to narrow it down to a manageable list.  With that said, you would never want all 100 players having a unique story with a motive, etc. unless you have 6 or more hours.  Even then, who can endure anything for 6 hours?  No. Not going to happen. That's why I haven't seen the Hobbit movie, and I'm a Lord of the Rings fan! It's too long! Well, and the ratings weren't stellar, but that's another point.

- What about the other 64 people? Won't they be bored because they're not a character? Won't they feel slighted or less important?  The answer is no. If you've carefully considered your invite list and assigned the 'most' outgoing people to the unique players, in a group this size, the others will thank you for not putting them in a spotlight role. It's human nature. Many people fear public speaking more than death - I've taken this into consideration when I created these roles for guests.  With that said, nobody will be angry with you for placing them in a secondary role - it's a game, everybody gets to investigate and guess whodunit, and that's the heart of the reason you have come together.  

- Assign your expandable teams. With Factions, there are four expandable roles included in expansion pack #3 within the vampire, sorcerer, werewolf and human groups. Some games have more expandable players and others have less - it varies.  

The expandable team roles are simple - the leaders are unique characters who have a team with them of players who are in secondary roles. A secondary role is a player who plays the game just like everybody else - they have a name tag, they get an envelope each round containing a clue card,  they mingle about and discuss the stories, they investigate, they guess whodunit.  Therefore, they are included in the game and have a role. 

The only difference with these duplicate team players is that they don't have a unique character. They have the information about their team leader on their cards. They have duplicate information to each other - but this won't matter in the least - they are provided with information to mingle with others each round. 

Let me put this into perspective with real life. I've been invited to an event. I know the other guests (obviously). I decide to invite my staff members.  Etiquette aside, that's what I've done. My staff members don't know the other guests. What will my staff members be able to 'break the ice' with when they get to the party and speak to my friends? Me! I'm the mutual friend. I'm what these two players have in common. Therefore, all of my staff members mingle about and discuss things related to my story with the other guests. It's gossiping - that's what people do at parties. 

Since I've chosen Factions as my example, let's continue with our invite list.  I've decided upon the 36 unique players first. With these 64 players in the secondary roles, I will divide them into the four groups as equally as possible. 64/4=16, so I will assign 16 players to each group. 

Esme Willow – invite 16 Vampire players as the employees of her Planetary Defense Coordination Office

Plague Redwood – invite 16 Sorcerer players as the members of his rogue group of rebel Sorcerers.

Kestrel Lynx – invite 16 Werewolf players as the members of the Greenland Werewolf Clan.

Holly Nox – invite 16 Human players as the members of her rocket scientist team at NASA

Using our free, printable invitations and the guest pregame site - when I assign character roles to these folks, I give the exact role as it's written.  Example: for the team under Esme Willow, I say 'You will play the role of an Employee of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.'  This role is included on the character list and is given a character description and suggested attire - just like everybody else. 

Now, as I said above - if you have 250 guests at your party, you'll just do some quick math and make the adjustments. You'll still have 36 unique roles, so you have 214 extra people. 214/4=53.5. You'll assign 53-54 people to each of the four expandable teams. It's that simple. 

Team Leader Games: If you are hosting a game for 100+ players and want a game that was 'written' for 100+ players, I have an option for you.  The expandable games I discussed above can be played with as little as 8 players and they expand on up to 250.  However, if you will be in a ballroom for a formal event and have tables, I have just the game for you. Murder at the Plaza Ritz Hotel

This game was designed with 50-300 guests in mind. Yes, you could expand this to over 300, but beyond that, you'd need another expansion pack, and I can do that for you with custom characters (a service where I write in more characters for your party).  But let's focus on the main game. There are ten team leaders (they are CEOs of fictional corporations). You assign your most outgoing guests to these team leaders, and they have the unique roles in the game. The rest of your guests are employees of these fictional corporations. This game is designed for the team leaders to remain stationary at their table (with exceptions for when / if they are asked to perform tasks). The remainder of the guests (the employees) mingle about and speak to the other CEOs (between courses, of course) and then report back to their table and discuss while dining on a course (salad, entree, dessert). 

Inviting is easy - you assign the remaining 90 players into the 10 teams (so nine on each). They are seated accordingly, so you should have tables with 10 chairs each.  If you only have tables with eight chairs, you'll have to arrange a table for the overflow players - and this is fine - during mingling, they can still speak with their CEO and report their findings. Or you can add the expansion pack, which gives you another five CEO team leaders. In this game, you do need to play all CEOs in the expansion pack.  Therefore, if you add the expansion pack(s) and are only playing 100 guests, you'll have 15 as CEOs, and you will divide the remaining 85 players into the teams.  85/15 CEOs = 5-6 players on each team.  You'll need to have six-top tables in this scenario to be optimal. 

Hosting an event for more than 250 players: my first piece of advice is don't do this alone.  You need a team, STAT. You can be the #1 in charge, but you need a few #2s and a couple of #3s. Let me make this easy - if you have more than 250 guests on your list. Do exactly as I've described above in either scenario with the expandable team games or the Plaza Ritz game (I'll have more themes like Plaza Ritz in 2018-19).  However, what you will do is color code the name tags and play simultaneous games.  

For example, if you have 500 guests (Lord help you and give you strength), and you are in a large ballroom with ~ 50 tables for a seated dinner with 10 guests at each table. You can divide these guests into two teams and play the Plaza Ritz game. Blue name tags on the right and red name tags on the left (use badge holder ribbons to designate colors). Make an announcement for the guests only to mingle with players of the same badge color. You will also seat them accordingly. They play the game at the same time.  You can also make a challenge for the group who has the most people guess correctly of whodunit - is declared the overall winner for the night. 

So that's how you will host a large group mystery party. My final advice is to stay calm during the planning process as you're not the one creating the wheel.  Many hosts have paved the road ahead of you, and all will go smoothly as long as you stay organized and plan ahead. The host instructions for your murder mystery party tell you exactly what to do - so please read them and follow them. On the flip side - don't add anything that isn't in the instructions. You'll be what we lovingly call an 'over-doer.' While admirable that you're trying to go the extra mile, you can cause problems if you do something that isn't in the instructions and goes against the story line. 

The only way you'll fail (besides a natural disaster) - is by not reading & following the instructions.  Now that you have your homework - get to planning the event that everybody will talk about for years to come! 

The last gift I give is the instructional videos that My Mystery Party staff have put together for you. You are walked through step by step on how to host a mystery party.  This is the general format for ~ 90% of our games. Factions and all other expandable team games would be under this umbrella. However, Plaza Ritz is a unique game and will vary on format but I've explained how above. 

I have some other formats coming soon in 2018-19 and even some four player mysteries you'll be able to enjoy, like Zombie Escape.  Exciting times are coming at! I hope you have a blessed holiday season with your friends and family!

Bon Blossman