If you’re creating a murder mystery then clues as to whodunit are an integral part of it. These can be interwoven into the plot and can either be solved as a group, or individually, depending on how you set up the game. Good riddles help keep the game flowing and normally the only reward necessary for solving them is the satisfaction that you're a step closer to finding out whodunit, however you can also give some other rewards:
- Play money, if that’s part of the game.
- A two minute meeting with a detective working the case (probably the host).
- A delicious edible treat (particularly good for younger players).
The best murder mysteries have a range of clues as part of them, so that players who are visual, good with words, enjoy solving logic puzzles, etc. can all get involved.
Here are 13 ideas for gruesome murder mystery riddles:
1. Last Words
If it’s a player acting the victim, they can shout something before they die (perhaps words intended for a secret lover, or a friend, a request to change their will, or “they were wearing black”). As this will be the first clue in the game, it shouldn’t be anything that identifies the murderer too directly. Everyone should be a potential suspect, particularly at the start of the game.
2. Concealed Clues on the Victim’s Body
Perhaps one of your players is the victim and gets murdered while everyone’s there (then comes back as a different character after a quick change of costume) or perhaps you have a ‘body’ (one option here is to buy a hideous mask from a fancy dress shop, stuff it with something and just have a decapitated head).
Either way, there are various ways that you can leave clues on or under the body. The victim might be carrying something that acts as a clue as to why they were murdered, for instance:
- A message scrawled in the victim's blood.
- A large bundle of money in a pocket (players often don’t search the body without a hint, so this is also a ‘reward’ for someone brave enough to go through the victim’s pockets!
- A note that acts as another clue itself.
- A piece of jewellery (that perhaps one of the players has instructions to try and retrieve in their character description).
- They’re wearing wellington boots (suggesting where they were), a uniform, or some other item of unusual clothing.
- They were drunk (put a small amount of spirits in the head’s mouth to create the smell, if your ‘body’ is an actor, only do this for adults).
- They have a dagger strapped to one leg. However realistic you want to make an adult murder mystery, take safety into account with clues like this and use a toy one. This is particularly important if you allow players the option of murdering another player as part of the game!
3. A Lover’s Note
A lover’s note could be placed on the body, on a mantelpiece, delivered through the front door in an envelope during the game or simply handed out to each player by the host. I recommend creating several copies of clues so that multiple players can look at them simultaneously.
Here is one possibility for a coded lover’s note (only continue reading after the note if you want to see the answer).
To work out the answer, you have to mark which characters are parts of numbers. This gives you:
Anil founder resight thronee
Cone alone flour
Reading just the numbers, you now have:
0483 114 10 18
Reading the characters that remain after the numbers are removed, it gives you:
Anderson, call Anna My Darling!
When players solve the clue, you could create a recorded message which you play, this is Anna’s message to Anderson. If you have a female friend who can’t make it to the murder mystery party, you could even ask them to record a message for you, this way they still have a role to play.
4. Other Coded Notes
There are a myriad of other ways to encode clues as parts of letters, secret notes, or if you’re having a dinner party, even in the menu itself! Here are some ways to encode clues:
- Use the first or last letter of every word or every other word.
- Every time the letter ‘E’ appears, use the letter after it.
- Read every fifth word.
If the way that the clue is encoded isn’t fairly obvious with a bit of trial-and-error deduction, then you also have to think about how you will incorporate the way to encode it into the mystery. One option is to make a few characters a part of a secret society and say on their character sheet that they sometimes communicate with one another using a particular form of encryption. This way, then can guarantee solving the clue, and other players stand some chance of deducing it. Whether you're creating a mystery for adults or children will obviously also affect how easy or difficult your clues are.
If you have any cryptic crossword fans in your party, then you might also want to include a cryptic crossword clue as one of the hints, or even a mini cryptic crossword. If you do, then give the cryptic crossword clue to someone else in the party, with an indication that it's a crossword clue. This way they will need to seek out the crossword solver, making it more interactive.
5. Last Will and Testament
The last will and testament is a standard device in murder mysteries, as anyone who inherits money, property, precious gems, works of art, etc. immediately moves higher up the list of suspects.
Write these in formal English “I revoke my last Will and Testament and declare that in the event of my death, this to be my Will…”
Don’t include too much surplus information, as there can be a lot to take in when solving mysteries, however you can include some comic elements to add a little levity, e.g. “I leave my clown outfit to Mark”.
6. Police Report of the Murder Suspects
Depending on the theme of your party, the police might have been investigating the murder at the same time as the players, in which case you could add a police report halfway through the game.
This can be extremely useful if players are getting stuck and is an opportunity to provide additional information. I like to design murder mysteries so that everyone is a suspect at the start, however this helps to narrow down the potential suspects by ruling out some of the players.
With the police report, you could always choose not to use it if you feel like players are on the right track, or even have 2 versions, one to use if players are really struggling and another to use if they’ve already solved most of the other clues.
Police reports can include information on:
- Fingerprints found on the murder weapon (make sure that there are several sets of fingerprints).
- Summary of video footage from around the time of the murder.
- Information about a large bank transfer.
- Photographic evidence of some description (if you can use actual photos that will be great!)
- Scientific analysis (e.g. the poison used for the murder is only available from 3 chemical processing facilities).
As mentioned above, the primary purpose of a police report is to narrow the list of suspects. Players may assume that the police are corrupt, someone is being framed, evidence has been planted, etc. and indeed one or more of these might be the scenario you choose for your game!
If you have a large garden, or other outdoor space (which could include a street if you live somewhere quiet), then including directions to where another clue might be hidden, or even literally buried could be fun.
This could be in the form of “take 15 steps South and 30 steps West”, or be specific directions like “under the blue flowerpot”.
Instead of another clue, this could also lead to buried treasure or a weapon.
8. Whodunit Riddles
I co-created a board game called The Da Vinci Game with 800 rhyming riddles a few years back and some of these could be used as whodunit riddles within a murder mystery, either to give directions to another clue, or to use as a password to open a file on a computer, for example.
Another alternative is that you have a room that has a bouncer who demands a password to get past, or simply that players have to give you the answer to a riddle to access some new piece of information.
Some examples of riddles that could potentially reveal the location of an actual object are:
I wave my hands on your hand, day and night,
If I wave too slow, I’ll soon be put right.
T is at my start, T is at my end,
I contain more T when you meet a friend.
A red head turns into a hot head, then,
A black head, then is never used again.
Perhaps the murderer has left a trail of clues for the investigators to follow (like in The Da Vinci Code). If this idea appeals to you, check out our treasure hunt clues.
The answers to the riddles are watch, teapot and match (You could hide a small clue or code under a watch on the body, put a clue in a teapot, or in a matchbox).
Riddles are often quite hard to solve for an individual player, however when a group tackle one, someone is bound to have that leap of intuition.
9. Number Codes
Having a locked box with the murder weapon, photos, a letter, etc. is another potential clue and padlocks with 3, 4 or 5 digits on them are cheap and add a great dynamic to a murder mystery.
Some ways that you could encode the number are:
- A passage of text from a book where players have to find the corresponding page number (this takes a while to solve, so I’d recommend choosing a passage of text that appears right at the start of the page or pages and having at least two copies of the book in obvious places).
- A word you have to convert to numbers (A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc.)
- A year or date (perhaps the year of birth of the victim, the year they started a band, or formed a company, etc.)
- A piece of paper with numbers written all over it apparently at random and another piece of paper with holes cut in it. The only way to solve the riddle is to put the paper with holes over the paper with the numbers on it (can also be done with letters using a page in a book). You might even give 2 or more different players clues at the start of the game, and they have to decide who they trust to work with to solve the mystery.
10. Number Riddles
It’s also possible to use riddles to generate numbers:
- MIC is Roman (You have to use Roman numerals to solve this one)
- LIVE is 6829. What is EVIL? (L = 6, etc.)
- What are the odds that someone is born on the 29th February, 1 in … ?
Photos can be used in a range of ways:
- To show more details of the murder itself, e.g. a hand in a picture that you have to work out who it belongs to, or the murder weapon, even if it’s only there innocuously.
- Indications that the victim was having an affair with someone, or was friends with someone, or that they'd visited a specific location at an unknown date.
- A photo of a room, which when studied carefully reveals that there’s a piece of furniture that’s been moved. If you look under the piece of furniture you find a blood stain, the murder weapon, etc. (Children, make sure you ask an adult before spreading fake blood all over the carpet!)
- An easy hint as to where to find something else.
While the objective of a murder mystery is normally to find out whodunit, you could also ask players to say what the murder weapon was and where they thought the murder took place, if this isn’t immediately obvious from the evidence provided at the start of the game.
12. Musical Notes
You’re limited to the letters A – G with musical notes, unless you cheat and add some writing to them. With just 7 letters you can still spell certain phrases, however, and if you happen to have a piano or electric keyboard, you can always place a musical score on it, perhaps with something strange about it to draw attention to it, like the example below:
This spells ‘A BAD DAD’.
Some other clues you might want to use are:
DECAF - Hide a full clue in the decaf coffee.
CAGE BAD DAD - A hint that the 'bad dad' should go to jail.
ACE BADGE - Wear a badge with an ace of spades on it and a clue on the back. If someone asks to see it, they get the next clue.
13. Clues given at the start of the Murder Mystery
As well as the myriad of different types of clue that you can give as the murder mystery unfolds, you can also give specific bits of information to different characters at the start of the game in uncoded format, for example each character will know:
- Where they were when the murder took place (unless they were drugged, drunk, suffer memory loss, or perhaps were asleep in the back of a vehicle).
- Their relationship with the victim.
- Any secrets or suspicions that the victim shared with them.
- Their relationship with some of the other characters.
- Various other events of interest that happened before the murder.
The riddles you create should add to the suspense, however you're not designing an escape room, so it's important to remember that an integral part of any murder mystery is the interaction between the different characters as the players attempt to unravel the story.
See our full guide to creating a murder mystery party.
You're welcome to use any of the above clues in any non-commercial game, however please credit indigoextra.com if you do, and include a link to us after the game if you mention it on a website, or social media page. If you'd like help writing or designing your own riddles, please contact us.
We hope you enjoy creating your own murder mystery!