SILENCE OF THE LAMPS
Players portray guests at the 20-year reunion party of the “Lava Lamplighters,” a college organization active in the mid-1970s. The party attracts a colorful assortment of faculty and alumni including Huxley Err, now a mediocre police detective. When onetime cheerleader Veronica Framingham is discovered dead outside the lakefront lodge hosting that functions as the reunion setting the remaining guests must help Detective Err solve the murder.
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The drama club at Ottawa University was particularly active in the late 1990s and the membership strove to fill the gaps between the theater department’s main stage productions with social activities. Someone associated with the club remembered my Who Killed Lucky game from 1989 and the club commissioned me to write a new murder mystery for the current students. I was living close to the university and still participating in theater department functions, and I agreed to come up with a game for the club.
As with Lucky, I decided to set the mystery in the literal time and place — 1996 Ottawa, Kansas — to take advantage of inside references to the university. The reunion theme seemed like a good way to integrate character relationships in both the past and present, and also provided an opportunity to play with ’70s popular culture. The structure of the game was the same as with Lucky: each character had clues in the categories of DURING THE PARTY, RECOLLECTIONS, and RUMORS OF THE PRESENT, and players collected these clues in their chosen order at regular intervals during the party. I revived my Huxley Err character from Lucky and functioned as the detective/moderator.
The party was held in November at the university’s Lake Pomona lodge several miles from the campus. As with the Lucky fishing cabin, this was a perfect, remote location for a mystery party. About forty students signed up for characters and all made thoughtful choices for costumes based on the character descriptions they had received. The lodge was decked out with streamers and a mirrored ball, and some of the guests set up a sound system for playing Billboard hits from the disco era. About an hour into the party I went to the player portraying Veronica and discreetly handed her instructions to go outside the lodge, scream loudly, and collapse to the ground. She acceded and the other guests quickly gathered around her body looking for clues. We returned inside and I began distributing clue envelopes. Veronica also participated as a ghost who could communicate with the other guests when in the company of the clairvoyant Philippina Cartouche who was conveniently in attendance. After another ninety minutes players filled out solution slips and the murder victim (“through” Philippina) read the solution aloud. Players were eligible for a prize if they correctly deduced that mousy florist Carrie Storch, in love with Senator Thurston Pageboy, mistook Veronica for the Senator’s wife and stabbed her with a poisoned pin. I would write two more mystery parties for the Ottawa University drama club in 1997 and 1998.