WHO KILLED LUCKY?
Players portray guests at the birthday party of Lucky the Cat, a tycoon in both legitimate and criminal enterprises and general scoundrel. The party takes place in and around a fishing cabin in remote woods. During a game of hide and seek, the guests disburse and eventually discover the lifeless body of Lucky, an apparent victim of multiple axe wounds. Players trade clues and help the local police detective identify the murderer in their midst.
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Who Killed Lucky was the first murder mystery game I wrote as a college student. The game was a gift for my friend Timothy Conard who requested the activity for his birthday party in October 1989. Timothy offered his parent’s cabin outside Ottawa, Kansas, as a setting, and provided an invitation list made up mostly of mutual friends from Ottawa University’s theatre department. The murder victim was inspired by an actual cat that managed to crawl into the theater department’s storage shed the previous summer. The cat, unable to get out, eventually died and was discovered by faculty weeks laters when the fall semester began. As a sick joke, several students appointed the dead cat as the theatre department mascot and gave him the name “Lucky.” For the mystery game, I opted to make Lucky an over-the-top villain: mafioso, gambler, industrial thief, smuggler, blackmailer, killer, womanizer. The characterization provided a range of murder motives but also presented a revisionist view of our department mascot with a more exotic lifestyle than anyone could imagine. The colorful cast of suspects included rock star Sidney Chartwell, film star Va Va Glamor, archaeologist Coberland Ankh, garbage collector Dumpice DeBree, and foreign diplomat Grand Duchess Olga Tizzledink. I played the hapless police detective Huxley Err. Detective Err, and members of his family, would be featured in future Ottawa mystery games and became the first of my puzzle personas, a group that would later include characters such as John Ratite and Monsieur Trompe L’Oeil.
In the earlier mystery game Last Night of Arabia our writing committee produced the solution text and divided the text, sentence by sentence, randomly among the players. For this mystery I adapted the clues to fit the characters, i.e. assigning information that would be logically known by the restaurateur, the doctor, etc. Each players was assigned five clues in the categories Character Descriptions, During the Search, Rumors from the Past, Recent Observations, and Questions. Players started the game with their descriptions and then collected the remaining clues in any order at predetermined intervals. A stuffed cat covered with red paint was hidden near the cabin for the players to stumble upon, but the dark woods, while effectively creepy, proved a hindrance for finding corpses and I ultimately coaxed a few people in the right direction to get the game moving. Players who interviewed enough people were able to put together a story involving poet Acrid Nimbus whose wife had an affair with Lucky and was eventually murdered. A majority of players correctly identified Nimbus as the murderer, including Scott Cunningham who played the part.
I created Who Killed Lucky on a network terminal in the university computer lab. I may have had a saved copy on a floppy disk at one time but my only record of this game currently is a dot matrix printout of the clue list.