Two Game Control folks gave us an overview of the game. We were going to Camelot, where we would learn of a number of quests. We could fulfil these in any order. At some point, we would learn of a quest to find the Holy Grail. If we completed that quest, we were done. Oh, we weren't at Camelot now. Our first batch of puzzles would tell us how to get there.
They announced that there would be prizes in four categories: Best Hardcore Team (teams taking no hints), Best Mellow Team (teams taking hints), Best pair of aluminum-foil armor knights, and best coat-of-arms. I raised my hand to ask which of these teams was karmically obliged to run the next BANG. The GC folks said they didn't necessarily hold with that policy. They asked how many folks had played in at least 3 BANGs. A lot of hands went up. They then asked that folks who had not yet hosted a BANG put their hands down. At this point, there were maybe two or three hands up, one of them mine. Great, I'd played a bunch of BANGs, each time with a different group of people. By this group's figuring, I was now on the hook to run a BANG by myself. While tinkering with puzzle ideas for the Pirate BATH game, I'd figured out: I would like to be part of a group running a small game like a BANG; any game in which I came up with all of the puzzles would be monotonous. I decided to ignore GC's exhortations.
The folks from GC had one last announcement: we could open up our first batch of puzzles... now.
Soon we were standing back around our shady ledge at the edge of the lawn, looking at four puzzles, a map of the UC campus, and a plastic overlay. I barked out questions, distributing puzzles. "OK, here's a paper folding puzzle, who wants that?" Smart Pete wanted that. "How about a crossword?" "Who'll take this word search?" "That leaves us with a 'paint by numbers'" "Hey, I don't have a puzzle, who could use some help?"
Paul wanted some help with the paint-by-numbers; he'd never seen one before, so it was pretty mysterious. But he caught on quickly--he was finishing my sentences for me as I explained the basics and I was still talking pretty fast. We started filling in the puzzle.
Smart Pete had finished with the folding paper puzzle. Now he was holding it up next to the map overlay, noticing some interesting things. Now that the paper was folded, some shapes printed on the paper fitted together nicely: they formed a little compass rose. It was the same size as the compass rose on our map overlay. Aligning the overlay over the folded paper was interesting--there were exactly two asterisk shapes printed on the folded paper. Looking at the overlay map, one of those asterisks was at our current location, and the other was by the entrance to a sports field.
It wasn't clear what we'd do with the other puzzles we had. (Each of the other puzzles had a little compass rose in one corner of the page. I hadn't noticed this at the time.) Maybe if we went to the stadium entrance, it would become obvious what to do with one of our other puzzles? We packed up, we walked over. We saw some teams... but no sign of anyone from Game Control, any extra information. So we went back to our puzzles.
Someone with sharp eyes noticed the compass roses on all of our pages. Perhaps each puzzle somehow solved to a map-line, like the paper-folding puzzle had? Maybe the intersection of those lines was our goal? Folks working on the word search pointed out that there was an unusual word: CHICKENTIKKAMASALA was a long word that stretched most of the way across the grid. We drew that on the map. Where did this line intersect the folding-puzzle map line? They intersected... off the map. Hmm.
Folks working on the crossword puzzle had a problem: there were some clues with obvious answers that didn't quite fit in the grid. Someone with more experience with tricky crosswords pointed out that some squares might contain more than one letter, probably somehow fitting with the puzzle's theme. The puzzle's title was "Squirrel in Winter", and cramming the word "NUT" into a couple of squares let the puzzle work. We drew a line from NUT to NUT, and laid the map over it. We now had three not-quite parallel lines.
We finished off the paint-by-numbers. This gave us a line which connected nicely with one of the other lines. Maybe these lines didn't all converge on one spot. Maybe they formed a path? Folks had gone back to looking at the word search and noticed that there weren't many places where words intersected. Well, there were only two. Many many words crossed at those two places, though. Rubbing out the CHICKENTIKKAMASALA line and drawing in the new line connecting the word-intersection points... gave us a nice path on the map, ending at the big lawn in front of Doe Library.
We packed up, we walked over. I was in a good mood. We'd hit some stumbling blocks but we hadn't bogged down. When things had seemed strange, folks had looked at the word search again even though we'd "solved" it--and they'd found something new. Maybe it was OK that my brain was fried. Maybe there were still enough functional brains to go around.
There were several people on the lawn in front of Doe. Some of them appeared to be taking part in some silly activity which involved standing in a circle... but none of those people looked like Gamers. That was just something else going on in Berkeley. There was a sign urging folks to gather to paint the giant C... but again, that was just some other unrelated activity.
Finally someone on the team spotted Kenny Easwaran dressed up like a king in front of Doe Library's northern book return drop. He gave us a new map which would fit together with our campus map overlay. This was a sort of stylized map of England with some points of interest marked on it: "Lady of the Lake", "Black Knight". Another piece of paper gave short descriptions of each of these points of interest. No doubt these places we should go for puzzles.
Most of the team set about marking up our map overlay so that we wouldn't need to fumble with so many pieces of paper to find our way around. I ran into the library to refill my water bottle, using my library stack pass so I could get access to the book stacks--where the better water fountain was. So you see, scholarship can help a lot during these events. By the time I had emerged, the rest of the team had marked up the map and figured out where to go first: the Lady of the Lake, a little fountain which looked like it was just down the hill from our current location.
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