If you love a touch of drama in your life, you’ll find that planning a murder mystery party is even more exciting than attending one! Whether for a team-building event, birthday party, bucks party or just for fun, a murder mystery dinner is a unique celebration that everyone will be talking about.
When hosting a murder mystery party, you have the chance to personalise the story, theme, the number of guests, the venue, costumes, decorations, and even the food. Whether you choose a party kit or craft your own unique adventure, careful (and creative) planning is the key to making sure your party is a smash hit.
With everything prepared ahead of time, all you have to do is hope your participants enjoy the fun and games – and catch the murder culprit red-handed!
This guide is designed to help you host your own murder mystery party in Sydney. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
What Is a Murder Mystery Party?
A murder mystery party is a themed event where each guest plays a character in a real-life detective game. The goal is always to catch the culprit, but whether that occurs relies on your deduction skills, street smarts and teamwork.
As you’d expect, the plot usually involves an unsolved murder, but more family-friendly variants involve a jewel heist, disappearance or other G-rated crime to solve.
Plots can vary in a murder mystery party. Sometimes the murderer secretly knows he did the crime, but other times, he only finds out when the whole crowd does! Usually, the story unfolds as players solve each clue of the murder.
Puzzles and team-building activities can be integrated into the plot, including codes to break or other characters to interrogate.
There are several main types of murder mystery party:
- Scripted murder mystery parties are turn-based games usually held over dinner. Guests are meant to read from a script to drive the story forward, like a play evolving in real-time. This is good for first-timers or to break the ice among colleagues.
- Interactive murder mystery parties revolve around “interactive storytelling” – in other words, they’re more unpredictable! There is one main storyline: the murder, plus other subplots and twists created by the players. Sometimes those plot twists don’t have anything to do with the main arc, but they certainly make the party interesting.
- Online murder mystery parties can play out in forums or via Zoom for a great remote team building event. Scripted mysteries are easiest to coordinate through video conferencing, but events held via Slack or similar collaboration software offer more opportunities to mix things up.
How do you know if a murder mystery party is the right choice for your event? If you (and your guests) enjoy parlour and board games like Clue/Cluedo, Jury Box, Mafia or Werewolf, and Escape Rooms. If the answer is ‘yes’, then a murder mystery party will absolutely pique their interest.
If you’ve ever experienced dinner theatre, a murder mystery party is similar to that – except each guest is one of the characters!
Professional Murder Mystery Hosts in Sydney
If it’s your first time, you might prefer to throw a murder mystery party with the help of professional hosts. For one, you get to enjoy the actual game and don’t have to worry about preparations beforehand.
Hiring an events company can help ease you into the murder mystery party scene. Lucky for you, Sydney has a multitude of professional murder mystery hosts:
Location: Your choice of Sydney venue
Host A Murder has a diverse arsenal of storylines, from a dangerous escape from Germany during World War II in ‘Last Train from Paris’ to the Star Trek-themed ‘In Search Of The Missing Orb Of Knowledge’. To really motivate your guests, Host A Murder even gives winners the chance to win a holiday in Fiji!
- Murder Mystery Fun
Location: Your choice of Sydney venue
Murder Mystery Fun hosts are Sydney actors and comedians, ensuring all guests are marvellously entertained all evening. Inhibitions will indeed be left behind with this option! Their two signature mystery plots transport you to 1930s England (Murder at Deathly Vale Manor) or 1960s Las Vegas (Viva Death Vegas).
Location: Partnered function venues in Sydney (or virtual events available)
Oz Party is an experienced events organiser offering hosted murder mystery dinners. For their interactive murder mystery experience, you get the chance to time travel to the 1920s to solve a scandal. Think Gatsby, but in Sydney, hosted at a range of luxury venues.
Location: Sydney and Melbourne (or virtual events available)
Role-play your way through an Eighties prom (Pandemonium at the Prom 1980s), a diner (Death at the Diner 1950s), the disco dance floor (Murder on the Dance Floor 1970s), a fairy tale woodland (A Fairytale Fiasco), or the red carpet (The Diva’s Demise). Dressing up is highly recommended!
Location: Capital cities across Australia
Applause Entertainment has a passion for performance and events, always aiming to captivate their crowd. Attend a Hollywood party as Brad Pitt or Homer Simpson (Hollywood Scandal) or take a cruise on the fictional high seas (Caribbean Cruise), among many other creative settings.
Planning A Murder Mystery Party
Here’s our checklist of things you’ll need for a murder mystery party:
- Script. For scripted murder mystery parties.
- Character cards or information sheets. If you’re feeling creative, you can even edit the character cards or information sheet with the player’s face!
- Clues. Make sure they’re planted where they need to be if they’re physical clues. If there are clues in the script, read through the pages again to ensure they’re all there.
- Venue. Is the venue booked and ready? Make one last call if you’re renting a venue.
- Decorations. The décor is essential if you’re hosting a themed mystery party. This will set the ambience for guests and ensure everyone gets into character.
- Costumes. You may provide some dress-up items to help participants with the costumes. Don’t forget your costume, too!
- Food and drinks. Of course, a murder mystery dinner centres around the food. If It’s a sit-down scripted game, multi-course meals are preferred. For interactive ones, opt for finger food, canapes, or a buffet.
With so many ingredients to get just right, we’ve prepared a comprehensive how-to guide to help you plan an incredible murder mystery event. Keep reading for all the details!
Choosing a Murder Mystery Game / Kit
If you’re saving yourself the hassle (and thrill) of writing your own murder mystery, you can opt for a murder mystery kit instead. There is a range of prepared storylines and printable content out there, both free and for purchase. But how do you choose the best storyline for you and your party?
First, determine the number of players. There is a recommended number of players for each kit, and you’ll want to make sure there’s a role for everybody.
Next, choose a theme. If you’re playing with friends, get as wild as you want! If you’re planning a corporate team building event, consider your company’s culture and make sure your choice is work-appropriate.
Third, choose between an interactive or scripted game. If you want a more controlled setup, a scripted murder mystery game is ideal. For a bigger or a more experienced group, an interactive murder mystery means maximum fun for everybody.
How to Write Your Own Murder Mystery Game
To begin, pick a theme or setting for your story. Common murder mystery party themes include:
- Period themes: like the rip and roaring 20s or an 80s prom
- Historical or geographical: like ancient Rome or samurai-era Japan
- Parties in High Society: like The Great Gatsby or Hollywood parties and scandals.
- Transportation: like trains (think Murder at the Orient Express) or ships (like luxury cruises)
- Science Fiction: popular fictional settings like Star Wars or Star Trek
- Seasonal: like Christmas (the disappearance of Santa Claus) or Easter (who killed the Easter Bunny?)
- Western: a classic sheriff-and-cowboy showdown
- Fairy Tale and Fantasy: classics like Red Riding Hood or a mystery at Hogwarts
Of course, you can be original – the sky’s the limit! The best stories are the unexpected ones, so your players won’t see your plotline coming.
The next feat is to write your story. At a minimum, you should cover these four things:
- Background. How did the story begin? This will be shared with all the players.
- The main story. This includes milestones that drive the story forward. These can be shared with the players as evidence cards.
- Character cards or information. Where did the character come from? What are their motives and secrets? If a detail is crucial to the main plot, make sure you include it.
- Conclusion. The solution to the murder mystery. This is how your story ends. What evidence leads to the culprit?
Writing the story is the hardest part, but it’s also the most fulfilling, so take your time and enjoy the process.
Murder Mystery Party Venues in Sydney
Some murder mystery party providers include venue and hosting, but others give you the chance to choose your own location. If you want to find the best place to hold your murder mystery dinner, here are some top spots:
Location: 70-72 Campbell St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Many storylines for a murder mystery party are based in a period setting, and this speakeasy venue can bring many of those arcs to life. The lighting and ambience at Soultrap Bar provide a noir mood perfect for sleuthing. The food and cocktail selection on the menu will also take the worry out of catering, leaving you to enjoy all the fun.
Location: 267 Cleveland St, Redfern NSW 2016
Mjølner brings striking Viking and Scandinavian vibes to the table – if dark and moody are what you’re looking for in a venue, this might be the spot for you! Cured meats and canapes are an excellent choice for a medieval or historical themed parlour game.
Location: King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour
If your murder mystery party takes place on a cruise ship, the MV Supercat can be your stunning venue. Up to 300 people can board the vessel for your event, and catering and drinks can all be organised for you.
Location: 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria NSW 2015
The Grounds is a fun contender for a woodland-themed murder mystery party. The venue is well-known for its garden or rustic-themed events. There are different function spaces available within The Grounds: The Linseed House, The Garden, The Atrium, and The Patio.
Location: 24 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point NSW 2011
The Wonderland Bar is a magical place to hold a themed party. They have four function rooms: a Wild West Saloon, a playful Candyland, and two rooms dedicated to Alice in Wonderland. If you have a Western-themed scripted murder mystery game, book the Saloon 24 and role-play your heart out. As for the other three rooms, they’re an ideal playground for whimsical Alice-themed mysteries.
Murder Mystery Party Decorations
The decorations are one of the most essential elements of your murder mystery party! The décor can make or break the ambience (and your players’ appetite for improv).
To have you worrying less about decorations, scout for a suitable venue with the vibe you’re going for. That way, you already have the main setting pinned down. When you’ve chosen a good venue, you simply have to plant some items, like the clues, for the finishing touch.
Always buy your decorations with the theme in mind. You can pick up new dinnerware to suit the era or add a table centrepiece that hints at your story’s setting. Op shops can be a treasure trove of vintage-themed bits and pieces to kit out your party on a limited budget.
If you’re adapting a fairly plain venue, consider wall decorations, like metallic paper (à la 80s prom) or themed paintings (like a painting of a noble who’s about to be murdered).
Apart from the venue decorations, how you stage the murder is also important. What is the murder weapon? You can pick up a toy knife or a gun at a local toy store (especially if the weapon is also a ‘clue’) and fake blood at costume or novelty shops.
If the guests are arriving at the crime scene as detectives, you can opt to cordon your murder scene with yellow Do Not Cross ribbons to add authenticity.
Murder Mystery Party Food Ideas
The food you serve for your murder mystery dinner party can vary depending on the type of game you’re playing (scripted or interactive) and your theme.
Period-based Mystery Menu
Period-based murder mystery party meals can be nostalgic and add to the ambience. For a 20s Gatsby-inspired dinner, opt for hors d’oeuvres like devilled eggs or oysters. For the entrée, you can serve chicken or duck with potatoes and fruits and nuts can be added as fancy finger foods. Check out Forte Catering and Events for a fun Gatsby themed catering option.
Historical or Geographical Mystery Menu
For samurai-era Japan, how about husked rice, grilled fish, and some green tea or sake? Conversely, you can serve sushi as finger food. For a French murder mystery dinner party, you can have a grazing table or a charcuterie board with bread, olives, hummus, cut veggies, different kinds of cheeses, and some deli meats.
Fairy Tale & Fantasy Mystery Menu
For a fairy tale or woodland-themed party, think organic and floral themed food. Salad, berries, nuts, fruits, rainbow cupcakes, cocktails and mocktails with cucumber or edible flowers (like hibiscus or rose) can work. Colourful is a good starting point when planning your menu. Check out Chapa for unique themed event catering options in Sydney!
If it’s a medieval fantasy murder mystery party, think Nordic or Lord of the Rings with large poultry or steak with roasted veggies and potatoes. Rustic canapes and set course catering options are available at Mjolner.
Your dishes can be standard for a futuristic style dinner table, but you can make your presentation sci-fi inspired: dry ice for the ambience and beakers and test tubes for your cocktail glasses.
Halloween Mystery Menu
If you’re doing this on Halloween, you can prepare themed sweet treats like ghost lollipops, spider cupcakes, and decapitated gingerbread men. Though these treats are usually finger food, weigh your decision as they may not work well with your theme or the guests. Flavours Catering and Events offers a spooky Halloween themed drop-off catering range that will add a fun element to your party.
Conversely, getting a venue with delectable dishes can mean less worrying about party food ideas. Bars and event spaces like Soultrap can provide nibbles and beverages to keep the whole crowd satisfied.
Where to Buy Murder Mystery Party Costumes in Sydney
Dressing up is one of the best aspects of a murder mystery party, but without the right tips and tricks, it can also be challenging.
There are some themes in which a regular wardrobe with additional accents can work. For instance, for a 20s Gatsby-themed event, simply wear your glitziest dress and add a headdress with feathers, or get dressed up in your tux and a fedora.
Some people favour secondhand shops for costumes, but you’ll need more than a little luck to find the right outfit there. If you’re looking for real costume shops in Sydney, here are your options:
Location: U5/1015 Old Princes Hwy, Engadine NSW 2233
Sydney Costume Shop can cover your dress-up needs with period, animal, seasonal, and character costumes. They also have accessories and balloons for your other party needs, so you can pick up some decorations at the same time.
Location: 324 Kingsway, Caringbah NSW 2229
At Jester Fancy Dress, you have a selection of themed costumes from the 20s and 60s to superheroes and other famous characters (Where’s Wally? Here’s Wally!). You’ll even find a selection of toys and accessories, like coloured contact lenses and wigs, to finish your look.
Location: Shop 5/546 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
Costume Party has costumes from the 50s, 70s, and 80s. Onesies, leotards, military, Hawaiian, cowboy, and superhero outfits are also available here. They offer accessories such as wigs, beards, gloves, masks, and swords, and even have face paint and special effects makeup.
Location: 73-75 Victoria Rd, Drummoyne NSW 2047
Party People Mega Store has costumes, fancy dresses, and accessories. You can find uniforms, period costumes, country-based costumes, Halloween costumes, animals, and TV and movie character costumes. Even better, they have costumes for kids and plus-size options so that everyone can participate.
Location: 10 Hart St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Snog the Frog is another well-known Sydney costume and fancy dress store where you can find your period, animal, country-based, religious, seasonal, and book character apparel. They believe that dressing up is “silly and that’s OK” – we love that philosophy!
Location: 312A High St, Chatswood NSW 2067
The Wardrobe has been in the dress-up business for over 50 years. They have a range of costumes from period to character ensembles. They also offer head-to-toe styling and even wig styling for the whole package.
Hosting a Murder Mystery Party: What to Expect on the Night
On the night of the murder (mystery party, that is!) you can welcome your guests in character (if you’re playing one, like the Chief Inspector or the Banquet Host). Conversely, you can also just be yourself and officially start the game later on, giving everyone a chance to get settled first.
You can then give a short introduction of what’s happening for the night and encourage mingling. Orientation might be necessary for big groups or a game with strangers or acquaintances.
Alternatively, you can surprise the guests with the shocking ‘murder’ when they least expect it! If you’ve already briefed everyone in the invitation, then you can try the latter and ensure the news of the murder stirs an exciting ruckus. That will be the cue for everyone to put on their thinking caps.
For scripted games, meals are served, which can be the cue for the beginning of the game. Scripted murder mysteries usually go around the table for turn-taking. For interactive murder mysteries, you can begin with a casual meal and a dramatic lights-off to signify that a murder has occurred. Or, you can do a narration at the beginning and play act one, take a break for meals, and resume for act two (as is the case in Murder Mystery Fun’s events).
The game then plays out as planned, whether you role-play a turn-based murder mystery over several courses, or players move around and mingle to do some sleuthing.
The game ends with the capture of the culprit (hopefully!). For an intimate murder mystery party with friends, you will likely hang out afterwards. Expect some debriefing with ‘I knew its’ and ‘I never knews’ – and a lot of laughter as everyone relaxes out of character.
Some formal events (like corporate team building or engagement parties) can end with a speech from the organiser. Alternatively, if everyone’s still in costume, a photoshoot or opening the photo booth can also be a nice end to a murder mystery game night.
Make sure you take plenty of photos during the event – after all, this is one night you’ll always want to remember.
Murder Mystery Party FAQs
How Much Does It Cost to Host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party?
A murder mystery party kit can cost you anywhere from around $20 to $255 – then you’ll need to consider the venue, decorations, and catering expenses.
If you’re looking for professionals to host your murder mystery dinner party, the cost is around $75 to $159 per head. Some of those prices already include the food, the host, and the game materials, but typically the venue costs will be extra.
How Many People Can Participate in a Murder Mystery Party?
A murder mystery party can work with as fewsix as 6 players or as many as 400 guests. Murder mystery party games can work equally well at intimate dinners with friends as at corporate team building events.
If it’s your first time hosting or participating in one, a smaller event can make it easier to coordinate, and ensure nobody feels left out.
What Ages Are Murder Mystery Games Appropriate For?
Most hosted games and mystery game kits usually have individual age recommendations. Since murder mystery games can have violent themes, they’re probably not ideal for children below the age of 12. Of course, each child is different, and some already understand that a murder mystery is just pretend. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to confirm with the organiser or check your game kit.