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After the morning and afternoon programming at ArgFest-O-Con 2009 we had the Fest Quest. This comprised a set of four or five teams of people given a set of instructions encoded in puzzles, leading to different places.

For my team I was the "local guy" who could confirm or deny stuff.

We walked our asses off in 88+ weather in downtown portland.
First to the Alder Hotel, then to the Elk statue, then the smallest park in the world, then to the mast of the Arizona, then to the Skidmore fountain, then to Backspace Coffee, and there we apparently found our kidnap victim and exchanged him COMPLETELY failed to get back to our victim before it was too late to exchange him for pictures of the lot of us acting like utter goofs at each site.

I have borderline heat-stroke and am drinking a strong, very bitter coffee of doom.

I greatly fear the walk back to the hotel. It's now 6:18. ITALIAN FOOD starts sometime after 7pm.


So here's the answer to some of the confusion.

Our story was that in order to pay the bills, the convention chair (?I think?) had been kidnapped and was going to be shanghaied. (There are several cities along the west coast which claim the dubious honor of inventing this practice, the kidnapping and impressing of sailors from dives and bars in port cities who are then forced into service as sailors on the freight route to Shanghai, China, but Portland claims to be the first. But so does San Francisco and so does Seattle.)

We had to go from place to place as revealed by clues and take pictures of ourselves, or gather other clues.

Since the captors valued the pictures of goofness (see earlier) we could, if we could find our way to the rendezvous point, trade those pictures for our missing leader, and still pay the bills.

There were five groups. There were six goals for each group. Most goals were simply puzzles that revealed location information. There were some target locations that showed up in different orders in more than one pattern.
One group ("Blue Hearts" or "Red Diamonds" - I forget what it was, Cobie will correct me though cause he was in that group) got a more complex question/task which was in four parts and required about an hour before they had solved it, though having the answere quickly made it possible to finish other parts. They got a cache of money and more info from their drop box because they had to buy a bottle of a particular microbrew (Scarlet Tart, I think.)

On finishing we all ended up at the Backspace Coffee Shop which is like a lan party, coffee, and videogame arcade with free wifi. There was a final clue which we were supposed to get by ordering a particular kind of coffee, but until the fifth group came straggling in around 6:30, we didn't have enough information to know we needed more; they had to order "Civet Ass Coffee" - a particularly nasty sounding coffee made by feeding coffee cherries to Civet Cats and collecting the partially digested beans from the civet poop, rinsing (I HOPE) and roasting them, then brewing coffee from the resulting grind.

On ordering that coffee, they received an envelope with the final information, but it was nearly 7pm.

I didn't know there was still something to figure out but I'd pretty much had a mild case of heat-stroke by then. Walking several miles in 89+ degree weather, even with a nice breeze, still pretty darn exhausting.

So we were five minutes too late to collect our guy.


So there'll be more to come later for reflections about this ARG thing. But it was really a different and tremendously intriguing concept, and I did get an evil moustache for asking the last evil question of the morning meetings.