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Murder Party

A Solo Journaling TTRPG

By Tom BakerPublished 2 months ago 5 min read

It is a dark, stormy night. (Sound familiar?) Rain and wind are howling across the moors. Outside, the thunderclap and flashes of lightning illuminate the darkened souls assembled in the decrepit old manse. Around the study, which had been locked, the assembled guests stare in nervous fear. On the floor, a body lies cold and lifeless. It is not apparent, immediately, what was the cause of death. You walk slowly around the darkened room, pausing by the fireplace to examine your notes. Then, You stride up to a seated woman, her hands in her lap, her fingers intertwining nervously. You open your notebook, and begin to question her.

"Murder Nite" is a "game" (purely mental with no provided game mechanics) in the book The Top Ten Games You Can Play in Your Head, By Yourself, by Theophrastus J. Bartholomew, Sam Gorski, and D.F. Lovett. It just lays out the material and allows you to imagine "playing" the game in your head (as in every other chapter in the book. This is a great book, and it has good content within, at least as inspiration for other micro roleplaying games, soloists, journalists, etc. The setup for "Murder Nite" is that YOU'RE an assassin who goes to a creepy mansion, and is let in by a cloaked, hooded figure with a ratty beard (who later reveals himself to be "Lord Kitteridge Bloodington," the host of this "Murder Party"), and then you are introduced to various characters illustrated with old Victorian pics, one of whom is a bearded woman. They each have little paragraph-long backgrounds, one of them being a whisky for guns" runner to the Irish, another a magician who kills off her stage assistants by "accident", and yet another being a tycoon. There are a couple of curious, almost xenophobic, Victorian depictions of Oriental characters, and the whole thing seems weirdly, blackly humorous.

There is a point where the "game mechanic" of "coming clean," or confessing to being the assassin Lord Bloodingtom called them all together to avoid. Or something. The rub is that due to YOU losing the "Assassin's Scroll," you don't know who your intended target is, only that if you don't strike at midnight, YOU'LL be the one your bosses are going to come gunning for. So you, I suppose, will have to question all the "suspects" (kind of a locked room murder mystery in reverse).

Now you could play it this way, and do it all in your head. Or, you could also be the investigator of a murder that has already taken place in a haunted old English mansion, on a "dark and stormy night," like something from a grainy old, black-and-white British thriller film from the Thirties. Maybe the phone lines are down. Certainly, the roads are washed out. No one gets out of here. Alive.

An adaptation of the game is easy enough, using only playing cards and journaling.

Create eight "suspects." They don't have to be fully formed characters yet. You've found a body in a locked room, just like in Clue. Was it Suspect 1 with the rope?

Take a deck of standard fifty-two card playing cards. Shuffle, cut into threes, deal them out in eight piles until you come to the final card. Without looking at it, hide it, or stuff it in an envelope. Take the eight piles of cards, put each in an envelope, and then rearrange the envelopes. Take them back out and lay them back in two rows of four. Then, for each pile of cards, tear out a slip of paper (unless using a dry-erase game grid board), and label the first four piles after the four card suits: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs. The last four piles will be labeled after the "face cards": King, Queen, Jack, Ace.

Then, grab your journal, and start "interrogating" the suspects. Overturn the first card from the first pile, first from second pile, first from third pile, etc. Each card will correspond to a prompt for the table below (courtesy of ChatGPT):

| | Hearts | Diamonds | Clubs | Spades |


| 2 | Victim | Weapon | Location | Clue

| 3 | Suspect | Motive | Alibi | Evidence

| 4 | Secret | Witness | Plot | Red Herring

| 5 | Detective | Crime Scene | Suspicion | Revelation

| 6 | Intrigue | Money | Object | Threat

| 7 | Betrayal | Love | Lying | Power

| 8 | Jealousy | Greed | Betrayal | Obsession

| 9 | Revenge | Blackmail | Distraction | Fear

| 10 | Confrontation | Forgiveness | Discovery | Manipulation

| J | Accomplice | Conspiracy | Deception | Scheme

| Q | Rivalry | Envy | Opportunity | Revenge

| K | Mastermind | Cover-up | Revelation | Manipulation

| A | Murderer | Accusation | Mystery | Revelation

For example: ask a question. Turn over a card for one of the suspects. If the card you turn over is, for example, Seven of Clubs, you get the prompt "lying." Now, YOU, as the solo RPG player, must interpret this. You can do this by journaling a full sentence if you want. Alternately, you could lay over all the cards for the pile, and create a 'confession" or narrative out of the prompts on the table. If in doubt, use an "Oracle" method to determine an answer. Pull two cards. Red means "yes," and black means "no." The higher value wins. If both values are identical, you could imagine an "unexpected event" or piece of information. You could pretend you're going a "round" of questioning for each suspect. Journal in as detailed as a manner as you can, and write down "clues" in your journal.

The game "ends" when you feel ready to name a suspect. You can either ask the Oracle if you are on the right track, and correct (if not, you could just keep playing), or you could reveal the card in the secret envelope. Depending on the card suit, or if it is one of the face cards or an ace, that suit or face card is represented by one of the piles already labeled. Voila! You've found the killer!

Sound like a fun game for a "dark and stormy night?"

table toprpg

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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Comments (2)

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock2 months ago

    Brilliant game of Solitaire Clue, Tom. Also a good way to get the creative juices going for a murder mystery.

  • This solo journaling TTRPG's "Murder Nite" premise piques curiosity and provides a creative outlet for narrative and inquiry inside one's own mind.

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