Prelude to a murder

I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a small larp inspired by Agatha Christie murder mysteries, focusing on the prelude: the web of hatred, blackmail and deceit which in those sorts of stories inevitably leads to someone being stabbed in the study with the letter opener in the middle of the night. So, a wealthy 30’s family getting together pre-dinner, sniping at one another, with the game ending either on the dinner gong or when someone goes into the lord’s study, gets his Webley revolve from the safe, and kills someone.

However, there are obvious drawbacks.

  • A 30’s game is pretty hard-gendered, which means it lacks flexibility. The fix for this is droppable characters, but that’s not exactly ideal.
  • the core themes of the game would be bitterness and repressed emotions expressed through family arguments. And that’s something people can get in real life.
  • while I can seed a web of hate, I’m not actually sure there would be enough drama (even subtle drama) during the game.

Any suggestions?

Some character types can be gender neutral

  • Dissolute younger children
  • Interfering older relative (gradnparent, uncle/aunt)
  • Visiting artist

I seem to recall that For the Honour of the Family had some similar themes to it - although that was set after the murder had already taken place, and the family were trying to figure out what to do afterwards.

One thing that seems to be common to just about every murder mystery show (and I’m sure your already aware of) is that EVERY character has some reason to lie to the police after the murder. Usually just because they’re embarrassed, or what they’ve been doing is a minor offence, or it’s actually relatively innocent, but in light of the murder it looks bad. Seems like that would be much of the basis for the web of intrigue to me. More or less, everybody has something they don’t want the police finding out about. The more it potentially conflicts with the rest of the players, the better.

I do agree with you that it would potentially be on the nastier sides of family drama, which people tend to get enough of in real life (often more than they would like). I’m not sure how to deal with that, beyond perhaps giving a few major common talking points, so that the bickering doesn’t necessarily have to come up.

  • The fix for this is droppable characters, but that’s not exactly ideal.

You can write pods - small groups of characters with closely intertwined plot - and add or drop the pod to suit your player base. So… Into The Woods had Wolf/Child pairs; The Bell gathered players around several virtues.


  • Potentially a different game every time;
  • Flexibility to gender and numbers.


  • More writing work;
  • Needs an excuse for each pod to be in that particular space.

Pods are a great idea for games like The Bell, where the characters are largely strangers. I’m not sure they work well for intensely social games where the characters should all know each other.

(Now someone will write a pod-based intensely social game just to prove me wrong :slight_smile:

I’m still writing up a theory thing on Face of Oblivion and Demon Gate, but it seems an interesting premise.

1 Like

When I was doing Larp of the Rings I was trying to have gender be pretty much irrelivent until I added the romance plat, but if players dont care about what the other gender in the relationship is, then it is once again made redundant. Also Tolkien’s work is full of gender neutrality/Equality Sort of anyway, like how Dwarves have almost no discerning differneces between men and women, and like when Eowyn, with the help of Merry, killed the Witch King in RotK, and how Galadriel Co-Ruled in Loth Lorien

or something