E. Feingold, Esq.
Last Saturday I put on another murder mystery party, this one with a Wild West theme. These are something of a tradition amongst my friends, which got started two years ago when I asked Maggie and Mac to throw me a murder mystery themed birthday party. Since then, several of our friends have taken turns writing and/or hosting these parties - we've done Sci-Fi fantasy, Greek gods and goddesses, 20's gangsters and Vegas casino themed parties. They're always a blast, and we keep improving the format with each iteration.
Typically, the writer (me!) plays the victim and then comes back as a minor character. This time, I divided the rest of the cast into five categories: Detective, Suspects, Allies, Adversaries, and Observers. The role of the Detective is to to actively solve the mystery (and finish the story). Suspects put the "who" in "whodunit" - they are the main characters. Allies and Adversaries are more like minor characters - they participate in the story by either helping or hindering the Detective. Finally, the Supporting Cast can just sit back and watch the shenanigans. I usually ask people what role they are willing to play, and assign parts accordingly. This is what the final cast list looked like:
- Marshall Frederick (Mike) is a Federal Marshall fresh out of training. He is on a routine visit to one of the small towns in hisjurisdiction, Grisly Gulch. The banker, Ephraim Feingold (Sri), invites you to a party where he plans to make a "big announcement. When Feingold is suddenly murdered, it's up to Marshall Frederick to solve the case!
- Barry Cade (Zach) is the mayor of Grisly Gulch. He is a notorious flirt, but his wife keeps him on a pretty short leash. He is up for re-election this year, and will probably use this party as an opportunity to campaign.
- Miss Sugar (Maggie) is the madam of the town brothel, the Heart of Gold. Everyone knows that the banker, Ephraim Feingold, has been mooning after her for years. But she considers herself married to her work, and is fiercely proud of what she’s built.
- Powell P. Lay (Chris) is a successful rancher. Currently, he is attempting to buy out several other smaller ranchers. He is an influential man in Grisly Gulch.
- Cassie Cade (Lauren) is the wife of the Mayor, Barry Cade, and is an avid missionary. She frequently makes proselytizing trips to the nearby Indian reservation, plans fundraisers for starving orphans, and leads the Women's Bible Study group.
- Charles "Sleepy" Knapp (Mac) is the sheriff of Grisly Gulch. While he excels at breaking up barroom brawls and chasing down train robbers, he's never had to deal with something as complex as drawing-room murder.
- Suzanna Spice (Sri) is a saloon girl at The Heart of Gold, and a voracious reader of the Old Sleuth dime novels.
- Anita Lay (Priya) is the daughter of influential rancher, Powell P. Lay. Her father's connections got her the job of schoolmarm, and he never lets her forget it. Also, he is constantly trying to marry her off.
- Growling Bear (Chuck) is the Chief of the local American Indian tribe. He is openly dismissive of the authority of the White Man.
- She-That-Is-Pleasant (Amy) is the sister of Chief Growling Bear. She is much friendlier than her brother.
- Fast Fanny (Carly) is a female gunslinger with a chip on her shoulder.
- Ian Briate (Alex) is the town preacher who loves his communion wine
- Kitten Kaboodle (Katja) is a traveling entertainer, whose song and dance routine is being hosted at the Heart of Gold brothel.
- Vani Singh (Nalini) is a vaudeville magician.
- Ranch Hands (Mike and Monique) just stopped by for the free booze.
I hoped the physical evidence I planted would exonerate two of the suspects, but I'm afraid I fell into the trap of, "Well, I don't want to make it too obvious!" I always have these big revelations about how I should've written these things as soon as we're done solving them. Which, I suppose, is how we can keep improving the model... Anyway, the most important thing was that people had fun!