It is 31 December 1919 and the party at Weatherby Manor is in full swing. The guests exchange furtive whispers of intrigue, blackmail and forbidden love. At midnight, a glass of poisoned champagne shatters, dropped from a dying hand. The family has to find – or frame – the killer before the police start looking too closely into their secrets.
Arsenic & Lies is a 3 hour larp (what's that?) for 5-10 players inspired by Downton Abbey and Agatha Christie novels. Rather than being a classical whodunnit, it focuses on the emotions, relationships and secrets of the characters involved: solving the murder might be less important to the characters than pursuing their clandestine affairs, arranging marriages of convenience or blackmailing their enemies.
Arsenic & Lies is a larp (short for Live Action Roleplay), a social activity where a group of people pretend for several hours to be fictional characters in a dramatic situation. Here is how you can look at it.
Arsenic & Lies is like a tabletop roleplaying game (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons) in that each of the players will control a fictional character. The difference is that instead of sitting around a table and taking turns to describe the actions of your character, you all simultaneously pretend to be them. E.g. instead of saying, “Emily glares at Richard and exclaims, ‘I demand an explanation!’” you will, acting as Emily, do the glaring and exclaiming. Also, in A&L there are no dice, no numbers, and no concept of winning or losing.
Arsenic & Lies is like a murder mystery dinner party, but infinitely replayable: every time you play, the characters, their secrets and relationships will change, and both the victim and the culprit will be different. A&L doesn’t need a host and requires little preparation. The focus isn’t on figuring out whodunnit, but on the drama of being slightly larger than life characters with intense relationships.
Arsenic & Lies is like improv theatre, but you will be your own audience. The workshop before the game will provide you with characters and relationships, so you won’t have to invent things from scratch. Also, the tone is drama rather than comedy.
Playing Arsenic and Lies was a fun and enjoyable experience. I ran it for some members of my extended family, who were mostly new to Live action role playing and everyone had a great time. The character, relationship, and secret cards provide useful prompts for developing your character and story but you are free to use your imagination and embellish all the details.
I've played Arsenic & Lies twice and it was such a blast! A great interpretative murder mystery for any party. Totally recommended.
Playing Arsenic & Lies was great fun! The simple set-up mechanics gave us a web of relationships that was charged with drama and very entertaining to play.
Arsenic and Lies is a unique take on the murder mystery genre. It isn't about who did it - it's about making sure that your secrets come out in an explosive manner as possible while trying to save the people you care about and your family reputation. This game is lots of fun and very accessible. It's easy to run and get a sense of your character and the method for creating relationships ensures that you'll have a lot of play. This is a game for experienced larpers and non larpers alike.
A physical copy of Arsenic & Lies + a free digital print-and-play copy.
Sadly the game is currently out of stock in Europe, sorry! Please register your interest in the form below and we will contact you when we launch our planned Kickstarter campaign to fund a reprint this Autumn.
I hugely appreciate any feedback on Arsenic & Lies! If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know and I will try to answer as soon as possible. Thanks!
My name is Karolina Soltys and I'm a software engineer moonlighting as a game designer. I am dreaming of someday making game design my full-time job. Larps are my passion verging on obsession, and with Arsenic & Lies I am hoping to introduce larping to people who haven't tried it before. I co-organise The Immersivist Club, a group regularly playing larps in London, and The Smoke – a larp festival taking place in London every January. I've also designed and organised a couple of weekend larps: Our Last Year and The Castle, and co-organised the 2019 UK run of Just A Little Lovin'.
Arsenic & Lies is inspired by some great games: Unheroes by Joanna Piancastelli and Fairweather Manor by Dziobak Studios – I do recommend you check these out, they are a great introduction to larps. And, of course, my teenage love for Agatha Christie novels, and more recent binging on Downton Abbey.
The artwork on cards is public domain; the cover artwork was created by myself with touch-ups by Oliver Nøglebæk. The larp is in no way endorsed by Downton Abbey or the Agatha Christie estate and does not use any content from these works – they are just inspiration.
I would like to thank The Game Kitchen, a London-based larp design meetup group, and London Indie RPG Meetup Group for being a very supportive enviroment to playtest Arsenic & Lies, and all my playtesters: (in chronological order) David, Patrik, Simon, Andrew, Laura, Kate, Bez, Richard, Mo, Tom, Simon, Warren, Max, Ann, Tom, Ela, Dante, Craig, Joanna, Elina, Nadja, Steve, Mirella, Maria, Algiel, Jose, Sesquipedality, Penny, Mark, Roderick, Sti, Martin, DT, Jenny, Leila, Hamish, Carsten, Dave, Marloes, Julie, John, Mike, Sue, Sara, Patrick, Linn, Vida, Agnes, Arne, Carsten, Franzi, Andreas, Mantas, Andrius, Jurgita, Samuelis, Ruth, Sam, Hattie, Christine, Rachel, Chris, Dave, Ida, Mary, Johannes, Jose, and Flora. A million thanks to David Owen for all his unrelenting support, and for help with web design.