Father Leofwine is Dead

a Mystery / Puzzle by pugpup1

Commended by mizal on 8/23/2019 10:50:16 PM

Player Rating6.32/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 22 ratings since 08/17/2019
played 401 times (finished 23)

Story Difficulty7/8

"wade in shark infested water"

Play Length6/8

"It'll be a while, better grab a Snickers®"

Maturity Level6/8

"I'll need to see some identification"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 16. If this were a movie, it would probably between PG-13 and R.

Someone cut the wise old priest's throat, and everyone at court is a suspect. Who murdered him, and how will King Alfred fight the Danes without his right hand man?

Written for Mizal's 2019 Lone Hero contest.

Player Comments

After reading “The Bard’s Tale” and “The Daemonologists,” “Father Leofwine is Dead” has really convinced me that Pugpup is an author who should be kept on my radar permanently.
Now, I’ll try not to spoil anything in my review for you who read reviews before you read stories.

“Father Leofwine is Dead” is very probably the best mystery story I have read on CYS. The format, the writing style, and the setting all help to create an engaging mystery that made me genuinely curious about the answer.

The story got my interest from the start with the historical setting; Anglo-Saxon England is pretty hard to make uninteresting, to be fair. It was fun to see the real people and places mixed in with everything in a way that didn’t seem awkward too.
The mystery part of the story was very interesting. I definitely did not suspect the actual murderer until the page before it was revealed. So that was fun.
Since I played as two characters alternatively, I do think it would have been interesting to see what else happened afterward when one died. After all, the story isn’t over for the other main character at that point. Even just a page saying they failed could have been good.
The writing itself was very good, and I didn’t see any mechanical errors that were worth remembering either. I didn’t really care too much about the one character’s hots for the one chick, and it seemed a bit out of place, but someone else see it as adding more to his character.

The structure of the story is gauntlet, which suits the nature of it well. After all, if there is a very specific goal, it is hard to have extensive and well done branching that doesn’t just loop back to it. There was a choice near the beginning that I am pretty sure was totally pointless though, and that is something that annoys me. Other than that, I thought the story structure fine and a good fit.
I also appreciated how on the death choices, it would continue righting the path out in the same detail until the end, which both led me to believe my choice was right when it wasn’t sometimes and eliminated the impression of laziness that it is easy to get from gauntlet stories when they do not put care into the death endings.

Overall, this is a very good story that deserves its featured spot for sure. I recommend it highly to anyone who likes mysteries, this sort of historical setting, or are just looking for a good story of any sort.

-- Cricket on 8/31/2019 11:46:04 PM with a score of 0
Once again you manage to blow me away Pugpup. Another fantastic story.

So this is a beautifully written story. The world truly feels alive with detailed descriptions and well written characters. We change perspective throughout the story from our "lone hero" Wulf and the king's councilor Cynehelm. These transitions flow very well and feel extremely natural. Such transitions can be very difficult to write, often feeling jarring, so I was pleasantly surprised by how natural it felt. Wulf is more skilled and experienced when it comes to skulking and sneaking, while Cynehelm was more timid and inexperienced, but still capable when the need arises. This change in perspective was really interesting, as we essentially had two characters working towards the same goal but with different information and experiences. The spelling and grammar were also very good with only a few mistakes here and there.

So basically, Father Leofwine has been murdered and the king wants Cynehelm to find the killer. Or find someone to help him find the killer. Which is where Wulf comes in. The story is full of intrigue, mystery, and by the end is essentially a big Medieval game of Clue. We explore old Roman tunnels, find heretics, survive attempted poisonings, interrogations, etc. It really is a fascinating story. And I was completely surprised by the killer. I mean, I had no idea. But when you look back on it all, and you have all the information, it makes sense. And that is what makes it a satisfying reveal.

All of the characters felt unique. They had their own motivations and reasoning. Each had a backstory and felt like real characters. And each felt like they had a purpose. They moved the plot forward, or provided exposition, or even misdirection. It really didn't feel like a character was just added in there for no reason.

Now, I did have something of a complaint. And that is a somewhat similar one to that of The Daemonologists. The story does tend to feel a bit linear at times. Now, you did provide many more options this time, each with literal paragraphs of writing, but most ended with a game over. There are many times just one correct answer. Now, that really isn't a problem if your looking for a story over a game, but you might run into some people who aren't a fan of that linearity. But the game over scenes were all fun reads and I actually tended to go back and seek them out. So I really can't complain much.

So all in all this was another great story from you. I am still shocked you managed to produce this story in such a short amount of time. Great work Pugpup, and I hope to see more from you in the future.
-- TurnipBandit on 8/20/2019 7:57:30 PM with a score of 0
This is an outstanding story, and I happily rated it an 8/8. The writing is confident, the characters are well defined, and the setting is intriguing. There was quite a bit of information to digest in the first few pages, but once Wulf began his investigation, I found myself engrossed for several hours in this remarkable story.

I won't comment on the plot, as this is essentially a traditional whodunnit that just happens to be set a long time ago in post-Roman England. As the title explains, Father Leofwine is dead -- murdered, actually -- and a trusted member of the king's court is tasked with figuring out who. And since this was submitted as part of a "lone hero" contest, a mysterious man dressed in black shows up out of nowhere and offers to help. These aren't spoilers, just a summary of the first two pages of the story!

As you read the story, you are presented with quite a few choices. However, from what I could tell, the branching structure seems to be best described as a "gauntlet", meaning most of the choices are of an advance-or-die nature. I didn't explore every single branch, but only once did I encounter a false branch that gave me one additional choice before getting killed in both instances. But I didn't mind this, as the main plot was so intriguing (and long) that I didn't want to get led too far astray from it anyway.

If I had any criticisms, it was that some of the choices were too obviously poor ("Why would anyone choose to do THAT?") or the consequences weren't what I expected. In the latter category, there were at least two places where a decision seemed sound, but the actual execution of that decision turned out to be more drastic than I thought the situation called for -- and of course these led to death endings.

And there were a few places where perhaps a detail was missed. Most notably, an encounter between two characters in a dark tunnel, one of them is known to possess a certain object, but the other person produces it and gives it back. It's a key scene resulting in a case of mistaken identity, but I had to re-read several paragraphs to confirm I was not going crazy, and that exactly how this item went from one person to the other had not been mentioned. I therefore developed the theory that Person A dropped it in the dark, and Person B found it and presumed Person A was an ally. But for a story with 33,000 words created within a short amount of time for a contest, this really is a minor quibble.

On the other hand, there were plenty of other details that I really liked, and that I though were very original (at least, they were to me). Most importantly was the description of the castle, which was no stone Elsinore. It was a structure that had been built and expanded over time, beginning with a Roman fort from several centuries prior. Like the people who inhabited it, this setting had a distinct character.

Bottom line: this is a well-executed story, and you should drop what you're doing and read it at once.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 8/18/2019 11:19:30 AM with a score of 0
Very good story. The choices were clever and deceiving. I managed to make almost all of the wrong choices before finally reaching the true ending. 6/8 because of the lack of branching. As far as I can tell, there’s only one path other than instant deaths.
-- Victim on 9/28/2019 1:49:06 AM with a score of 0
Firstly, this was an enjoyable read. The mystery is compelling, the setting is credible, and the protagonists - Cynehelm and Wulf - invite interest. At a technical level, the writing is well-controlled. Dialogue is incisive. As a submission to the Lone Hero Contest, which only ran for about a month, these are commendable merits. Congratulations on the win.

There are ways to improve, however. I think the most important avenue is to privilege character and introspection. All of the supporting characters - and, to an extent, even the protagonists - would benefit from stronger characterisation. Examples that come to mind are Ecgbald, Grimbold, Aldric, Queen Ealhswith, Osfrid. Two of them were killed off before we really grasped their personalities and motivations; I think this was premature, and we would have benefited from being encouraged to empathise with them. The severity of the situation (both characters seemed incidental to the mystery) was lost on me. Yes, it's bad news that they're getting picked off. But why should we care? We're told that they are valuable members of the king's council. In the plot, they merely discuss the murder of Leofwine. They pose no new information, and don't embody a role to play in the investigation. Their untimely deaths serve only to introduce a separate mystery to the plot. And that would be fine - although I'd like to, at least, get to know the two better - if that whole debacle didn't jeopardise the credibility of the other characters.

None of them are propelled to change in reaction. The entire castle should be in outrage - there's a bloody crisis in leadership! But the soldiers remain mostly ambivalent. The common fold do, however, express some trepidation and anxiety. But when it comes to the inner circle, they only react with some fear and disgust. There isn't a sense of intense desperation and urgency (if I was Cynehelm, I'd be haunted by paranoia - and would demonstrate that by being unable to sleep, prone to lashing out etc. etc.). No one has an (imo appropriate) outburst of grievance, or mourning, and they aren't really altered by the ordeal. Most of all, King Alfred doesn't seem to waver in his emotional steadiness. In fact, nothing seems to faze him - and if we're supposed to see his restraint as a virtue, then it should be evident that there is some conflicting force within him: righteous fury, or hysteria. I think this was a missed opportunity, which also detracted from the believability of the characters.

Other examples of missed opportunities...
The motivation for the perpetrator, of the two later murders, is chalked up to ambition. There isn't really any extension of that. Why choose political murder? If King Alfred is so strong as a ruler, would this really be the best way to enhance your own prospects and increase your influence? Was there a dispute between these advisers that could only be resolved in this way? It's not clear as to why this was his plan - which is confusing because this character is otherwise portrayed as intelligent.

The role of the queen could also do with greater 'explanation' of motive. Is religious fervour really the only way to rationalise her actions, when we begin to consider the ideological influence Leofwine possessed over her as mentor and confessor?

All these issues with character can be summed up: they are not well-defined. Wulf, who is supposed to be this deliciously badass lone hero, is met with death for every misstep. He seems to have a tenuous hold on life - and we can't really demonstrate his resourcefulness throughout the story. Cynehelm is perhaps the most interesting character. He isn't one to be courageous, but demonstrates bravery at times. If this internal tension was privileged to a greater extent, he would be more compelling.

In essence, there should be more elaboration on cause and effect, by clearly depicting the mental state of each character through the detailing of their actions.

6/8, despite the criticisms I am happy to have read Father Leofwine is Dead. Thank you pugpup1 for the story.
-- Ozoni on 9/24/2019 2:42:58 AM with a score of 0
The pacing was good and it was very interesting! The characters were all fairly good and memorable. I did not have trouble keeping track of who everyone was, even when a lot were introduced quickly. The story made sense without being painfully predictable, and had some awesome twists. The only complaint I had (although minor) is that a few of the choices seemed like random death choices. I do not mind using the back button, and even the failure pages from a wrong choice were well written though! A great read that fit the theme of the story well. The ending I got also would lend its self well to a sequel.
-- Shadowdrake27 on 8/26/2019 2:25:53 AM with a score of 0
It put a smile on my face to see this win the lone hero contest and get the recognition it deserves. Almost everything about it was executed extraordinarily well, especially considering it was written in the span of a month and a half. From the very start it had me hooked, jumping right into the meat of the story by telling us of the murder of father Leofwine. I certainly didn't expect to be drawn in so quickly, but I was.

The story is written in third person, a style not often seen in storygames, and what's more, it switches between two different point-of-view characters throughout. This seems like it wouldn't turn out all that well, after all, the idea of these stories is usually to become the main character. Many writers would likely wind up breaking the reader's immersion by attempting this, but somehow, Pugpup manages to pull it off in such a way that the story becomes more engaging, rather than less. The transitions were seamless, and I had no trouble switching between characters, in part because each one was so distinct.

All of the characters, even the more minor ones such as the cook, had an impressive depth to them. I especially liked the complexity of the Queen, as even before I got to meet her, I could tell exactly the kind of person she was by the way people talked about her. I also liked how all of the members of the kings council felt like reasonable suspects. I found myself going back and forth quite a bit as to who I thought was the killer, which is what exactly what a good mystery should do.

Good mysteries are also quite complex, and this story is no exception. Many plot elements introduced throughout are tied to the central mystery in unexpected ways. Quite a few times, I thought something might turn out to be a red herring, when in fact it had a completely different meaning than what I thought it might. This intricacy made for some rather well made choices. The very first set of options I was presented with had me staring at my screen, contemplating what to do for quite some time. I felt it might just have a drastic effect on my entire play through.

Buuuuuut... it turns out it didn't. My one gripe about this game is that almost all of the choices lead to death. I know, because I checked every single link. There was little branching, with the only set of choices with even the slightest effect on the ending, (again, other than those leading to death), was at the very end. And even that didn't change things all that much.

Other than that though, it's an amazing story that deserves a good play through. Congratulations again on your win, pugpup. You've certainly earned it.
-- jster02 on 8/24/2019 1:49:11 AM with a score of 0
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