A while ago, I had a minor but amusing incident on a road near my house. I detailed this event in a previous post, part of my series entitled I’m Gonna Use That in a Story Someday… (seems like I haven’t written one of those in a while).
But just in the interest of being a completist, I wanted to mention here that I eventually did in fact use that idea in a story!
The story is called The Incident at Edmuss Rise, and it’s an interactive murder mystery party game. You know these games? They used to be sort of trendy but you don’t really see them being sold anymore. You and seven or so other friends would get together and dress up as cowboys or gangsters or whatever, and get given character information with silly pun-filled names (in the first one I played, I was Rick C. Alcitrent – guess what my dominant personality quirk was?) and then read off of information that you were given over a few hours, attempting to make sense out of the information to solve a murder.
I’ve written a a few of these, although my approach was always a little different. In those games that I’d bought, you never really knew as much as your character did, and were left equally confused by your own actions as you were by those of the others. I put more emphasis on trying to make mine narratively satisfying – that the player could experience the story unfold in the same way that the character did.
The practical outworking of this is that my games tend to be a bit longer than the published ones I’ve played, as well as more elaborate, but somehow clearer from a story perspective. (I remember playing a Star Trek: The Next Generation one once in which the mystery hinged on being able to keep track of where and when each different crew member had been seen by someone walking around holding a different colored sack, for example – very confusing and not engaging from a story perspective).
Anyway, The Incident at Edmuss Rise is my latest. It was actually completed in the middle of last year (I put most of the finishing touches in between shoots on a project I did in Nepal), and since then it’s been played twice. I think it’s really turned out to be one of my most successful efforts–not necessarily my very best mystery, but the best designed interactive story experience.
I’ve tried but can’t really think of an effective way to convert the game (or any of these games) into something I can easily share on my blog or over the internet. I started actually writing it in book form, but I haven’t worked on that for a while and something tells me that I won’t get to it very often. I’ve got enough going on trying to write stuff like The Hanna Jo Stories and The Adventures of Captain Strong. Plus, you know, life and stuff.
But I thought I could at least share the introduction of the game here, the opening page which all the players get which sets the stage for the mystery. It goes a little something like this:
On the morning of Sunday, August 18, you woke up in the morning, like you always do, in your house on Edmuss Rise. But this time, you had an idea – to take care of one of those pesky household chores that had been sitting around for a while. Something bulky, and soft, which had been sitting around waiting for too long for you to get rid of it. Well, today, you decided, was the day to do it.
So you got your vehicle, and squeezed in the offending materials as best you could, and started the slow drive out of the neighbourhood. It was early on a Sunday, so you’d expected the roads to be more or less deserted. But that wasn’t the case. As you drove along through the cul-de-sac of Edmuss Rise, a startling sight greeted your eyes.
There were others, several others – all neighbours of yours – who were also on the road. And more than that…each one of them had something stuffed into or onto their vehicle – something soft and bulky, just like you.
And curiousity gave way to enquiry, it became clear that everyone had a perfectly good reason for being on the road. Everyone had a pesky household chore that needed taking care of. And all of you had chosen that morning to do it.
How could this be? Could it really have been a coincidence that all of you decided that morning to do something so similar? And if it isn’t a coincidence, than what was it? Some sort of conspiracy? How would anybody arrange something like that? And why would they, considering how very dull the activity that each of you were engaged in?
To try to answer that question, you have gathered together on Monday evening, in the presence of a special researcher from the Department of Unusually Mundane Phenomena (DUMP) who is attempting to assist you in discovering the answer behind the mystery of the Very Mundane Incident at Edmuss Rise
And that’s it. Or that’s how the story begins. As a player, you then take on the role of either one of six residents of Edmuss Rise, or the special researcher who is investigating the Incident, or the employee from the power company who witnessed the Incident (it did take place the morning after a blackout, after all) from atop an electrical pole. And you start engaging with each other, alternatively discovering and revealing information as you go along, until the mystery is solved and the story resolved.
Other than that, there’s not much I can say here. Unless you want to play sometime. If so, get together with seven good friends (preferably four guys and four girls) and let’s see what we can work out.