I just ran my very first LARP: Murder at Highgarden, a murder mystery dinnear theatre, written for the occasion by one Jacqueline Bryk. Highgarden is the name of the mansion sharehouse I live in in Brooklyn, and Jax is someone you may know of if you are involved in the LARP scene in this corner of the world. In spite of my constantly being overwhelmed floundering to stay on top of things, it went quite well. While running it, I had an idea for how I would like to run another game in the future, which I am entitling Murder Most Foul. The following is a write up of that idea, which in its current form incorporates none of the rules used in Murder at Highgarden.
There are two important roles in the game: the Guests and the Host. The Host is the person organizing the event, and is the victim of the eponymous murder. They should provide the house to play in, provide the Guests with their roles, explain the rules, set up the props, make the food, and take the money if this is being charged for, which I plan to, because groceries and time are not free. The Guests are not involved in the setup at all.
Each Guest wants to kill the Host. Each player is given a character sheet describing their Guest, including a reason that you wish to kill the Host, and a few things you know about some of the other characters. (knowing a few of these, but not having to know everyone’s, should give you any given person’s motivation). At the beginning of the evening, each Guest flips a coin. On a heads, they decide to kill the Host. On a Tails, they chicken out and decide to delay their vengeance.
There are a number of different weapons, think the variety of the Clue traditional ones (knife, candlestick, lead pipe, revolver, wrench – one blade, three bludgeons, one gun, interesting), strewn throughout the house. They are marked by having something obvious, like a big ribbon tied around them. Anyone can pick these up and hide them however they wish. In order to kill someone, you simply get them alone in a room, reveal your weapon, and inform them that you have murdered them. If they also have a weapon, you rock-paper-scissors to see who kills whom. Guests may kill the Host, and may kill each other.
At the end of the game, each living Guest makes a single guess as to who the Killer of the Host is. If you are the Killer, unless you are guessed by the plurality of voters (including yourself), you Escape. Regardless of whether you Escape, everyone who guesses you Catches you.
Scoring: The Host lives: all Guests lose.
You killed the Host: +1 Point.
You Escape (only possible if you kill the Host): + 2 Points.
You Catch the killer: +2 Points.
The incentive structure here is such that all the Guests want somebody to kill the Host, even if it’s not themselves, but nobody wants to get caught doing it. I’m hoping that will incentivize people to leave enough room for the Host to get himself murdered, yet still have a good chance of figuring out whodunnit. The Host should pretty much be trying to get himself murdered, and should definitely not act strategically to try to stay alive. Bumbles their way out of danger, perhaps, but they ought to end up dead.
And that’s it! I’m really curious what sorts of behavior will arise from these incentives. I am now putting this out there to get feedback from you, my dear reader, and then I shall revise it and then, at my next dinner party, there shall be a Murder Most Foul.