Taking a break from IF, here are some more fun games that I’ve been trying out with my group of kids. This one that I’ll be outlining has been a sure-fire success at camp. It’s simple, adaptable, and fun. In fact it’s been popular enough with my regular group that they complain when I make them try out new games, instead of the old favorites.
The Case of the Stolen Diamond
This is a variation on the basic model for murder-mysteries, with a more nonviolent approach. And no-one gets murdered, so maybe that’s not a good comparison. Anyway, here’s how you play –
- Start by explaining to the group that you’ll be acting out a mystery story. One player will role-play a detective, the rest will be potential suspects. You, as the facilitator, will be a maitre d’ at a fancy hotel, and help run the game. The story goes that a large and valuable diamond was recently stolen from the city museum (I am fond of calling it “the Montenegrin Diamond“). The thief was nearly caught escaping from the museum, and is believed to be hiding in the hotel (usually the Grand Ritz). All the suspects staying at the hotel have been locked in at the ballroom, to be interviewed by a detective.
- This game requires the facilitator to write up “secrets” for each suspect, which should be written on little scraps of paper, easily concealed. These secrets are really just guidelines for role-playing, and are designed to make everyone look as shifty as possible. One of them will of course say, “You stole the Diamond!” The rest should encourage them to be behave in a strange or suspicious way. I start off the game by choosing the detective, then I pass out the secrets randomly (although you may want to hand them out based on who you think fits the secret best). Here are some secrets I commonly use –
- You enjoy lying to strangers, just for the thrill of it.
- You didn’t steal the diamond, but you did recently rob a bank.
- You are a vampire. Blah!
- You hate police, and you refuse to say a word to them.
- You are a Russian spy, and you don’t want to blow your cover!
- You are just a really grouchy, mean person.
3. (Optional) If you have time, and you think it would be fun, have every player come up with a name for their characters (or cover identities), a basic description of who they are, and what they do.
4. With everyone initially seated, explain the story, and introduce the detective. Explain that they will ask everyone a series of questions, and ultimately arrest the one they think is the culprit. The suspects’ only job is to act their secrets out as best as they can. Have everyone stand, and socialize!
5. For most of the game, the players stand around the room and chat in-character. The detective must speak to everyone, and ask them basic questions, such as: “Where were you were at the time? How long have you been staying at the hotel? Do do you like cats or dogs better?” And so on. The maitre d’ should keep everyone talking and roleplaying.
6. Occasionally, the maitre d’ can shut off the lights, and pretend to get a phone call from the police chief, delivering some clues to help identify the thief. Assuming you know who the thief actually is, you should include some vague details about his or her physical appearance, like “they had brown hair!” Or “they were wearing blue!” It should be ambiguous enough that you don’t eliminate too many suspects, but not so specific that the detective will guess it right away.
7. The game ends when the detective decides to sit everyone down and make their accusation. He or she should go through each suspect, and briefly explain why they are not the thief. When they arrive at their actual suspect, they can dramatically point a finger and send the suspect to prison. The maitre d’ should then shut off the lights, explain that the game has ended, and that the suspect is now in prison. The thief should then reveal themselves (whether they were accused or not).
That’s it, have fun with it! I find that for immersion, it helps to serve actual snacks or juice during the game (you wouldn’t want the hotel guests to be uncomfortable after all). Music is also very helpful, I particularly favor Angelo Badalamenti, of Twin Peaks fame.
See you next time!
Image from the Library of Congress, no known copyright restrictions.