Daedalian Depths: The Final Answer?

In my last post, I hadn’t yet solved the final riddle of Daedalian Depths. I think I have, now. I’ve definitely solved most of it. There’s an overall pattern to the shortest path through the maze, and there are enough hints about that pattern that once you know what you’re looking for, you can find enough minor details confirming the pattern for it to become a certainty. (I took perhaps longer that I should have to discover this pattern: there’s a pretty blatant hint that went over my head until after I figured it out by other means.)

But it really feels like there should be just one more step. The final riddle asks you to find a set of five legendary artifacts “hidden in plain sight” along the shortest path. The picture of the last room has five pillars set up to receive them. This really feels like it’s a setup for a final metapuzzle, building a five-letter word, or perhaps a five-word phrase. That’s how it would work in a puzzle hunt, where answering the last riddle in text is how you confirm that you’ve won. There’s even a really tempting way to extract a word from the treasures: the shortest path is exactly 25 rooms long — 26, if you include the numberless initial illustration. So if you map each room’s position on that path to a letter in the obvious way, and take the letters of the five rooms containing the artifacts, what do you get? Unpronounceable gibberish. Same for a couple of other mappings I’ve tried. I’m starting to really think that I’m carrying things too far, looking for more hidden meanings when I’ve already wrung the thing dry.

This is especially disappointing because it would have been so easy for the author to place the artifacts in rooms where they do decode to something meaningful! With one exception, they’re not particularly bound to the contents of the rooms where they’re found. If I were in the maze for real, I’d totally move them to rooms where they spell something out, so the next guy could have the satisfaction I was denied, if I could find a way to keep the exit gate open while I did so.

Daedalian Depths

Daedalian Depths is a gamebook in the tradition of Chris Manson’s Maze, where “in the tradition of” is a politer way of saying “that blatantly imitates”. Andrew Plotkin has a review of it here; like him, I got a copy when it was released, but I’m in such a puzzle glut that I didn’t get around to going through it until now. It’s by Rami Hansenne, who also created Codex Enigmatum, which is a lot like Journal 29, which is based on web-based riddle chains like notpron. These are all puzzle-hunt-like things where the solutions of puzzles feed into other puzzles. Journal 29 used a web site as an intermediary between its interlinked puzzles; Codex Enigmatum has an online solution checker, but doesn’t absolutely require it; Daedelian Depths doesn’t have an online component at all. It’s meant to be self-confirming, like a cryptic crossword.

But more importantly, it differs from Codex Enigmatum by the Maze format. Everything is placed in illustrations of rooms, with a page of facing text; clues in each room let you know which exit to take, which is to say, which page to turn to next. CE didn’t have any overarching context other than itself as a book. This makes a tremendous difference to the feel of the thing, making it come off as more of a cohesive whole rather than a mishmash of disparate puzzles, even though that’s really what it is. But it still carries a lot of the CE/J29 feel as well, simply due to the cheap paper and fuzzy, indistinct art style. It’s better than Maze in a lot of ways, but production values are not one of them. (CE and J29 at least had the excuse that you were expected to write on them with pencil.)

I’ll reiterate what Zarf said: The most important innovation this book has over Maze is simply that its riddles are reasonably solvable. Maze had a contest associated with it, so it was expected that most people wouldn’t solve it. DD wants you to win, however much it pretends otherwise. Its second most important innovation is redundancy. Every page has multiple clues indicating which door to take. Sometimes I can’t figure them all out — sometimes I don’t even notice them all. But having multiple clues means I don’t need to. Not only that, multiple clues means that individual clues can afford to be sketchy. This is where the self-confirmation factor gets in: multiple sketchy clues that all point at the same thing add up to good certainty. It’s like science that way.

Let me give a concrete example of what I’m talking about. In one room, there’s a portrait of Beethoven on the wall, showing him standing in front of a large full moon. It’s not the focus of the room or anything, it’s just a detail in the background. But it’s rendered in enough detail to seem important. The juxtaposition of Beethoven and moon suggests the Moonlight Sonata, aka Piano Sonata #14. And indeed the room contains a door labeled “14”. This connection is tenuous enough that it might not convince you on its own that door 14 is the right one, but it’s a strong confirmation.

At any rate, I’m mainly posting about it here as a way to get eyes on my notes. Here they are! If you have the book, you can use this as a source of hints, but what I really want you to do is comment and add to it. Even though I’ve found the correct path through the maze, there are redundant clues that I do not understand, and I want to understand them. To that end, I tried to find an existing forum or wiki, but the results were disappointing, particularly for rooms off the main path; even the author’s own message board had very few comments. So I’m trying to fill that gap.