by Scott Bullock
With the completion of Please Party, Thank You, we began work on our next event: a send-up of murder mystery dinner theater and exploration of the life and death of a character central to the background of the LUX Universe, Paulbert Filius Pontifex III, Esq. As the creator of LUXos and last human head of LUX before his untimely demise, Paulbert’s history, foibles, and personality have always had an outsized impact on our content, and this event leaned into that heavily.
The core conceit was that after years of denying that Paulbert was dead, LUX was finally ready to admit he was no longer around when it found his Last Will and Testament buried somewhere in an old warehouse. A significant part of the will centered around demands for Paulbert’s funeral and instructions on how to dispose of his estate. and LUXos dutifully carried out both to the best of of its abilities.
A Death Well Died was thus intended to be a celebration of Paulbert’s life, with all of his friends, acquaintances, and enemies in attendance. Since a massive pile of LUX stuff was up for grabs, the Usual Suspects of Cyberpunks, Cultists, and Conspiracy Theorists lied their way in.
Of course everything immediately went wrong when the will reading was rudely interrupted by the murder of the robot reading it, and Detective Ace McGruff arrived on the scene to find the culprit. With the event thrown into disarray one of Paulbert’s many contingency plans activated, prompting the initiation of the Last Will and Tournament. This Da Vinci Code-styled competition asked the audience to solve the many puzzles hidden within his displayed belongings to decide who was going to receive his estate and solve the mystery of who stabbed the robot.
Unlike our previous event, A Death Well Died was heavily information focused. Finding clues, solving puzzles, and wheedling answers out of characters were the primary means of progressing through the night. Photo albums with hidden numbers that could be put together into a phone number which, if called, gave you a passphrase, 8 hand-written journals hiding a message that could only be unlocked via cipher, a flight itinerary and annotated map that spelled out a secret message, and a singing fish that witnessed the murder and spoke only in limerick were just some of the elements standing between the audience and total completion.
At the end of the night, the results were announced. The Conspiracy Theorists won the night and made off with the LUX estate (which they promptly burned), and the head of the cult was accused and arrested, hauled off by robots. The status quo shifted again, and everyone went home stuffed to the brim with champagne and canapes.
People had a good time, but we discovered quickly upon debrief that of the 5 major puzzle chains, few people managed to solve more than a single one, and many never even managed that. Bottlenecking at specific props, traffic flow through the venue, puzzle difficulty and accessibility, and the distractions amply provided by the rest of the event made making progress a challenge, and that’s before factoring in the champagne.
We took this to heart in our future events. While we would return to some puzzle elements, they would by and large not require interacting with a specific prop or location for a significant amount of time, and their difficulty would be judged more realistically. In addition, we committed to additional testing for any element that might demand an intuitive leap or application of problem solving.
But we were left with a lingering question: What happened to the cult leader that LUX hauled away for the destruction of their PR robot in what could only be called an extra-judicial kidnapping? We would find the answer a month later, in the Trial of Usher Randall.