How to make keys to the altar chest

The concept

  • The keys are transparencies, each with inscrutable markings.
  • When the keys are overlaid so that all nine are in a vertical stack, the markings combine to reveal the combination to the altar treasure chest (Quest for the Altar).
  • When the keys are combined into proper sets of three and overlaid upon a clue from the Quest for the Murderer, the location of the next clue is revealed.

The construction

You can do this with (almost) any graphics program, even MS paint. First, we’ll make a template for our keys; then we’ll make nine copies and modify each one so that they each have only two or three markings.

Step one: use a font that resembles a digital clock to write out the combination to your lock.

I used Digital-7 as my font. My lock’s combination was {right 3, left 11, right 4}, so I wrote 031104 in my digital font.

Step two: create a rectangular outline around your digital number, leaving space on one end for a hole to be punched and on the other end for the insignia of the key’s owner.

(After you print out your nine keys, you’ll cut them out along the outline you just created so that they’ll be easy to line up — remember that you have to stack them all so that they overlay exactly. It’s convenient to punch a hole in one side so that they can all be kept on a ring after they’re discovered.)

Step three: your key template is done; copy and paste your template until you have nine identical keys. Add your insignias representing the Fellowship of the Nine Talents so that each key pairs one unique insignia.

Step four: figure out which lines to retain on each key and which to delete. This is the hard part.

Start by considering your word message which will make use of the keys in the Quest for the Murderer. Recall that each key has space on it for six characters (031104). Splitting the keys into three groups allows you to work with 18 characters.

My entire message was “look beneath the blue blossom before the seat of the yellow-tongued beast.” I decided to disregard white space and hyphens, giving me “yellowtonguedbeast” for 18 characters. For your own message, just pick 18 contiguous characters and type them up using the same digital font that you used to type your combination on the key template.

Overlay your combination (031104) on your 18 characters three times. (If you’re using a program that allows layering, such as the GIMP — it’s free — this will be relatively easy.) Identify which marks are shared between your text characters and numeral characters. Rasterize your text; then remove the shared marks from your text characters.

Tip: I found that using the “snap to grid” feature made this project considerably easier.

We’re still in the hard part. Rasterize your three combinations which are overlaid on the text. Remove marks from each so that (1) no two of the three combinations share any mark and (2) each combination supplies the marks that you deleted from the text beneath it.

Step five: you now have three fragmented combinations. Make three copies of each of these and remove marks for each, as you did before, so that no two of the three (or no two of the nine) share any mark in common.

Step six: arrange all the keys so that you can print them out on one sheet. I used an ordinary laser printer on a transparency that said it was designed for photocopiers. I think it doesn’t make a very big difference what sort of transparency you use. I got a box of them from Staples last year. They’re not cheap, so it’s better if you can just bum one off someone who has many. Ask the resources manager at work if you can just buy a single transparency (or two, in case you screw up the first one).

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