Cracking a Kingdom of Loathing code
July 11, 2007 12:42 PM   Subscribe

AskMefi, put on your cryptography hats and help me crack a code...

...and by "help," I mean "Do it for me, because I'm terrible at this stuff." I play Kingdom of Loathing, and one of the new quests includes a diary (a la Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) with this image. (The picture of the bookshelves is irrelevant.)

No one on the KoL forums has yet figured it out (they're trying here, so I thought I'd check in with the older, wiser, sexier, and smarter AskMefites. There are six different symbols on the page, each of which corresponds to symbols found (with the appropriate eyewear equipped) on the labels of dusty bottles of wine. The symbols, however, appear randomly for each player - one will be on the merlot for one player, and on the muscat for another, for example.

One idea that was floated is that the relevant bits are pairs of symbols, which gives you 36 possible values (6^2), which could be 0-9 and A-Z. Didn't get anywhere with that one, though.

Any ideas?
posted by UKnowForKids to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are only six different symbols here which isn't much. Have you considered that this isn't text but rather (I'm guessing because I dont know KoL) a combo to some safe or instructions for arranging wine bottles on some shelf to open some secret door or something like that?
posted by vacapinta at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2007

Seconding vacapinta. There are two instances of the pitchfork symbol appearing three times in a row, which would almost certainly rule out the possibility of this being a single symbol < --> single letter code (at least for English or any romance language).
posted by googly at 1:04 PM on July 11, 2007

Reminds me of the maps we used to see back in the character based days. Assume one of the characters is water and go from there.

Nthing it not being symbol to letter code to form words. The doubling frequency is way too high for most languages. Strings of meaningless letters, on the other hand, is a possibility.
posted by jwells at 1:12 PM on July 11, 2007

The fifth line contains an odd number of symbols, which makes your diglyph hypothesis much less likely.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:18 PM on July 11, 2007

In fact, there's hardly enough entropy for a 2->1 or 3->1 substitution cipher. What's interesting to me is the seemingly less random character count:

posted by bfranklin at 1:22 PM on July 11, 2007

Another map-based possibility is the six symbols standing the four compass points (N,S,E,W) plus "up" and "down."
posted by googly at 1:25 PM on July 11, 2007

if it is something like a map-based code described above, we must still find a use for the blank spaces.
posted by strangememes at 1:41 PM on July 11, 2007

The problem with this being any kind of directions is that ... you end up back where you started. Regardless of what these mean, one or two would stand out greatly in frequency. As it stands the frequency of the 6 symbols is [10,13,9,10,18,19] which is still too close to even.

To get my point, imagine you're giving directions to get from someplace in the southern part of the city to some place northern. You might have to turn-around and do one way streets and all that but you'd still expect a hell of a lot more "go north" than "go south."
posted by vacapinta at 1:54 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: Ah, there is also some more discussion going on here, in the KoL wiki talk page for the quest diary.

The only things (that I know of) that you can do with these bottles of wine are drink them, and pour them down a hole in the area in which they're found (pouring the correct three bottles advances you in the quest). Someone has already tried pouring the corresponding order of bottles down the hole, to no avail.

Someone translated the glyph symbols into numbers (the numbers were chosen from the glyph image names) and came up with this:

146 33261
2245 354452
221 13426
2546 45461

And there is one area of the game that is a text-based adventure in which you can move in six directions. That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure how the wines would tie in.

Thanks for all the thoughts so far! And if you haven't tried this game, I highly recommend it... (I can be found there with the same username)
posted by UKnowForKids at 1:59 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: To clarify, vacapinta, this isn't a Zork-type game with a text interface (except for the one small subquest I mentioned above, in which you read a leaflet and enter a text adventure).
posted by UKnowForKids at 2:00 PM on July 11, 2007

It's possible that it's a telephone cipher, where each symbol stands in for more than one letter and that you must determine which letter each symbol stands for each time it appears.

That is, on a telephone, the word 'telephone' can be coded as 835374663. The decoder, looking at the number, knows that the 8 stands for a T, U or V, and works fromt here.

If each of the six glyphs stands for 4 or 5 letters, but you don't know which letters each glyph stands for, it makes for a very difficult but not unsolveable puzzle.

The reason I suspect this is because the list looks, to me, like the kind of word list I might see in a Cryptolists puzzle -- words of enough length that the puzzle is readily solveable, with a couple of two-word phrases.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:03 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: Excellent idea, solid-one-love - I'll mess around with that for a bit and see what turns up.
posted by UKnowForKids at 2:19 PM on July 11, 2007

Another possibility is that the spaces aren't meaningful, and the symbols are just arranged that way to look pretty. This leaves an even number of symbols, allowing the diglyph thing.
posted by equalpants at 2:41 PM on July 11, 2007

I played KoL long ago and remember those guys as very clever and completely loopy. Is it possible the glyphs are meaningless but the white space is significant? I see a bag or bottle shape in the original image. Is there an inventory object that resembles it?
posted by chairface at 3:08 PM on July 11, 2007

Just noticed: "merlot" and "muscat" have 6 letters each. What are the other bottles named?
posted by chairface at 3:09 PM on July 11, 2007

Removing the spaces and treating each pair as a number from 0 to 35 gives you:

1 15 22 12 28 11 23 7 34 35 28 17 15 8 31 29
4 24 4 17 10 24 3 10 16 25 18 28 31 29 8 11
8 5 35 25 15 31 18 19 23 35

...which only has 23 symbols; assigning letters to them gives you:

a b c d e f g h i j e k b l m n o p o k q p r q s t u e m n l f l v j t b m u w g j

...which has 5 letters repeated 3 times, 9 letters twice, and 9 letters once. Doesn't seem that promising, I guess. I'll bet solid-one-love is right.
posted by equalpants at 3:09 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: chairface: The other wines are zinfandel, port, marsala, and pinot noir. Not much help there, I'm afraid. The shape is interesting, as it's rather symmetrical.

A strike against the telephone cipher, as someone in the KoL forums pointed out, is the long length of the strings (none less than three characters long). It's still the most promising idea that I've heard, though.
posted by UKnowForKids at 3:15 PM on July 11, 2007

What if double symbols equal vowels, and singles are consonants? Just throwing that out there...
posted by misha at 3:36 PM on July 11, 2007

Nevermind, even assuming the spaces mean nothing, that seems unlikely, as you would end up with a seven-letter word with only one vowel.
posted by misha at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2007

Best answer: I hate to spoil the fun, but I'd like to request that, if anyone solves it, you don't post it publicly. Perhaps just email the OP?

The reason is, this puzzle is an experiment we're doing along the lines of spoiler-proofing: The more people that claim the prize, the less valuable the prize becomes for everyone that has it. So obviously, if someone posts it here, the whole thing kinda falls apart.
posted by rifflesby at 5:26 PM on July 11, 2007

I've passed this part of the game. Without spoiling it, I will tell you that getting the right order of bottles doesn't really involve this level of codebreaking. Email me for more info if you want. ffrvscnt at gmail.
posted by judith at 10:44 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas, all - I eventually got it myself. If anyone would like nudges in the right direction, please email me (my address is in my profile). And hi, Riff! Didn't know you were a Mefite.
posted by UKnowForKids at 6:24 AM on July 12, 2007

muscat, merlot, zinfandel, port, marsala, and pinot noir? The second letters of these wines strike me as fruity, with nutty afterthoughts.
posted by flabdablet at 7:27 AM on July 12, 2007

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