Monster in the Dark

June 27, 2015 - Game Sketchbook


Monster in the Dark is a tweaked version of the game “Murder in the Dark” in which one person is chosen from a group to be the “monster” who is tasked with the objective of moving through the group and “killing” people by touching them and saying, “You’re dead.” If anyone is killed by the monster, they have to lie down on the ground and wait until someone finds them. The game is played with all the lights in the house turned off and players are free to go anywhere they want. Some players bury themselves in a closet in hopes the monster will pass them over. Other, more daring players, can set an ambush to try to catch the monster in the act of killing. Other than sneaking around pretend-killing people, the monster can recruit one player per game to his/her side by touching them and saying, “Welcome to the dark side.” The round ends when anyone finds a dead player and shouts, “Monster in the Dark.” Everyone then turns the lights on and reconvenes together to, similarly to Mafia and Werewolf, decide who to lynch. If they find the monster, the game is over and everyone wins but the monster. If they do not vote on the monster or the monster has converted another player to become a monster also, the game continues and the lights go out for another round of hunting.

A Legendary Game

So there I was in what was basically the perfect setting for a good game of Monsters: a 300 year old rambling English manor house that could have just stepped out of a game of Clue. There were about 20 of us playing that night. My two favorite elements in any game are (1) minions and (2) schemes, so as soon as the game started and the lights went out I raised my voice and said to the darkened room of milling, excited players, “If anyone wants to win, join Team Andy and meet me in the living room in 30 seconds.” Eight or so brave souls were curious enough to join me in the living room. I laid out my plan.

Since the only way to decisively know if you can trust someone is to remain at their side the entire time the lights are out, I sent them out in pairs to hide near each other. If one of the pair was killed by a monster who stumbled upon them, the mission of the other hidden player was to remain hidden and listen for clues (such as the voice of the monster or what sound their shoes made as they walked away). Then, after the monster had gone away, the hidden half of the pair was to go find their compatriots body and end the round by shouting, “Monster in the dark!” All the players would then gather together in the front hall with the lights on and we would be able to eliminate everyone who had been in a hiding place as innocent and have a few clues as to the identity of the monster. In theory, it was a simple, flawless plan.

Then something went wrong, and yet, so devilishly right.

The last person I sent out what a girl named Paige. Before I could assign her a hiding spot she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Welcome to the dark side.” I was delighted. Paige was the monster and had wisely waited until I had given the other players hiding spots to convert me to her side. The hiding spots that had started as a foolproof spots to spy out the identity of the monster had just become convenient, out-of-the-way niches to keep our victims bodies after Paige and I crept through the darkened house and dispatched them. Which we did silently and quickly.

Afterwards, Paige and I reconvened in the living room to make a game plan. We quickly realized two things:

  • With so many dead bodies lying around it was probably just a matter of seconds before one of them was found and the round ended.
  • If that happened we would quickly by identified as the monsters because everyone who had come into the living room with me had mysteriously ended up dead

There was only one thing to do: go on a rampage and assassinate everyone else as quickly as possible without anyone becoming the wiser.

We divvied up the rooms of the house and ran through them killing everyone we saw without hesitation. I went towards the library and started to hear shocked, startled sounds coming from the front hall (where Paige started her massacre) followed by the sound of chuckling players laying down on the ground and pretending to be dead. Everyone I passed received a quick squeeze and a whispered, “You’re dead.”

In short, it was a legendary game.


  1. Put one Ace in a stack of playing cards and deal them out to all the players. The person who draws the Ace is the monster. (The game can also be played with two monsters if the group is over twenty people, but that will depend on the nature of the space you’re playing in and how easy it is to hide and move around without being noticed.)
  2. The monster kills by touching someone and whispering, “You’re dead.” The monster also has the power to transform one player per game into a monster and can do so by touching that player and saying, “Welcome to the dark side.” The second monster does not have the power to change anyone else into a monster, but is considered a monster in every other respect.
  3. Turn out all the lights so players can disperse throughout the house to hide. The game starts as soon as the lights go out.
  4. If you are killed by a monster, lie down on the ground and stay silent until someone finds you.
  5. Each round ends when any player finds a player who has been killed and shouts, “Monster in the dark!” When that happens everyone should come back together and decide on someone to vote out.
  6. Everyone is trying to determine who the monster is using clues they may have gathered when the lights were out. The monster is trying to not get voted out. If anyone suspects another player to be a monster, they can make a formal accusation and then the accused player has a chance to defend him or herself. If the vote succeeds and the last monster is voted out, everyone else wins. If the last monster is not voted out, a new round begins. If the vote does not succeed, everyone keeps arguing until they can get a vote to succeed or decide to just begin a new round.

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