Goodman Games

Whoops! -- A Few Observations on The Dragonfiend Pact's Code
Page 1 of 1

Author:  GnomeBoy [ Sat Apr 02, 2011 1:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Whoops! -- A Few Observations on The Dragonfiend Pact's Code

A mere seven years after it's publication, I've stumbled onto some confusion in the code of the clergy of Crypticus, as presented in DCC 11, The Dragonfiend Pact.

If you suppose you're going to find yourself playing in this module, READ NO FURTHER.


The code is said to feature a substitution scheme (one letter standing in for another) with a 10 letter shift. The key to this is the date on the note (May 10). It also gives the example in Area 1-4 where the code is introduced that A is represented by K, Y by an I, and so forth.

To wit:
•                   •
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
(A ten letter shift from A to get K for the coded message)


Comparing the de-coded message on page 7 with the coded version on page 16, you'll find the month of May represented by the letters DRP. If the example from the body of the text were true, 'May' would be coded as 'WKI'. It appears that the entire coded message given in the handouts has not been done according to the guide shown in the text of the module. If A is coded into K, then when you code a message you're using the letter 10 letters *after* the real letter. The system used to create the coded message from the Handouts would have each letter in the message represented by the letter *9* letters before it in the alphabet, so that R represents A. The text and the handout are moving in opposite directions, and not the same number of shifts.

•                 •
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
(A nine letter shift from R to get A for the de-coded message)

Now, as it turns out, the system used 'wrongly' for the handout makes breaking the code easier -- your players may prefer this. De-coding "DRP" into "MAY" just means counting forward through the alphabet to arrive at the correct letter. The problem is that the 'clue' provided -- using the date of the 10th to show how many steps to go, is wrong. Ten steps forward from D is N.

So, you can stick with the coded message as-is, but change the date to the 9th. Or count the letter you're coming from as part of the run (which gets you back to a span of 10, so to speak). Or you could re-code the message using the system from the text in Area 1-4. Personally, I'll be using the 9th as the date.

•• But there is some other strangeness I'd like to see if anyone else can figure out...

At the bottom of the handout is a 'word' that appears to perhaps be part of the coded message. My best deciphering of what it says is this (it is in a harder-to-read script font not used in the rest of the message):


You may notice a rather clear use of the words "stone" and "shaper" there. The dwarves hired for the work mentioned in the coded message are named as The Stoneshaper Masons. But the first six letters of that 'word' defy decoding by either the method from the text and by the 'wrong' method used for the handout. Assuming I have read the letters correctly you get either NTBUTX or MSATAW.

Now look, I've done all this work to point out the corrections needed to run this coded message as intended. Can someone else figure out what DJRKJN means and why it's on there in the first place?

Note: Having thought about it further in creating this post, is the mystery word meant to be the signature of the dwarven boss who signed the contract, and his name is 'Djrkjn'...?

Author:  goodmangames [ Fri Apr 08, 2011 7:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Whoops! -- A Few Observations on The Dragonfiend Pact's

Wow. First of all, I'm impressed you decoded the whole thing. And embarrassed that we missed that in the editing! I would say you might have a future as a professional editor but if it's going to take you 7 years for every assignment, maybe not... :)

As for your question on the "undecipherable" word, I'm not sure offhand. If I can dig up my notes from the original manuscript I'll let you know if I find anything, but I'm not promising anything...I haven't looked at those in a long time...

Author:  GnomeBoy [ Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Whoops! -- A Few Observations on The Dragonfiend Pact's

I just got home from running the first session which included the early encounters of this module -- the guys really seemed to enjoy it and they had fun breaking the code.

Meanwhile, I've also discovered that the timeline for the background is off a bit; it mentions Tarn being cursed over a year ago, and being turned away by Lord Garrick (while alive, obviously), but being approached by Malchor for some SPOILERS that same night he was turned away. It's not a perfect fit, but if you assume Malchor just wanted Tarn in his back pocket in case he became useful, it can work, as is.

I can occasionally get around to things in less than seven years. But don't hold me to that! :mrgreen:

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 8 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group