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Mystery Hunt 2017: Other thoughts [Jan. 16th, 2017|06:10 pm]
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Writing a Mystery Hunt that could be finished in 15 and a half hours was a bit of a construction failure. But it was a tolerable one. Some people who expected to join Death & Mayhem or Palindrome on Saturday afternoon for puzzling arrived to find their teams already finished. Other than that, though, people had fun, just for less time than they expected. And a whole lot more teams actually managed to finish a Mystery Hunt than in any past hunt, so in that way it was a success. We probably don't want Hunts this short every year, but they are better, by far, than the kind that rolls into Monday still in search of a winner.

While planning the 2016 hunt, we had a D&D/RPG theme proposal with structure suggestions that made it very much like the actual theme this year, including:

  • "Teams will have a party of characters that they will level and get to role-play in person throughout the Hunt."

  • "Teams will put together a band of questers, go on a map-based quest with novel unlocking mechanisms (not just puzzles+time begets more puzzles), and ultimately find the coin."

  • Quest puzzles, but imagined rather differently from what 2017 saw. They were metapuzzles but the puzzles they linked would be found elsewhere on the map. So more like the suspect metas in 2008's hunt or the Civilization round in the video game hunt.

There were other aspects that differed. Teams would have actions to spend that they could use to explore the map, speak to NPCs who might give them quests, or do other things, and they would receive these actions periodically throughout the hunt. This might have made it more like the 2004 hunt where all teams did not get the puzzles in the same order. This complication might be a reason the theme did not get selected.

When Charles wanted to submit backsolved answers from the Cleric round for puzzles that we didn't have open yet, I told him to forget it, that my team tried something similar back in the Monopoly hunt and that was Setec also. I've told that story privately but I wasn't blogging Hunts back then so here it is for everybody else:

In the Monopoly (2002) Mystery Hunt, there were 8 rounds of move puzzles each with a roll of two dice serving as the puzzle number. The first round had a full set of 2 through 11, the second round had 6, and subsequent rounds had decreasing numbers of puzzles. We were told explicitly every one of these puzzles corresponded with a board space and when we found the puzzles corresponding to a complete monopoly we could call in those puzzles to unlock that monopoly's house and hotel puzzles, even if we had not solved those puzzles yet.

My team figured out that you could order the puzzles in each round so that the die rolls took you to the corresponding spaces. Since each puzzle corresponded to a different space, this meant we were doing a perfect tour of the Monopoly board, hitting each space once. After figuring out the monopolies for 3 or 4 rounds (each round of board puzzles opening up one more monopoly), my team somehow determined which monopoly the next round was forced to give, and tried calling in that set of puzzles using the round and puzzle number (which, remember, was the dice roll) for the puzzle they did not have yet in the following round. This resulted in a rebuke from HQ, who admitted that they almost gave the puzzles to us before realizing we couldn't have the puzzle we cited yet. We were free to call in the monopoly as soon as we had the round of board puzzles, but no sooner.