I'm really feeling it!

I Built an Artemis Fowl Escape Room Game for My Friend's Christmas Gift

I’ve been very good friends with one of my former classmates for almost 20 years. He’s a massive Artemis Fowl fan (as am I, though I didn’t grow up with it like he did) so, when I found a signed copy of the book for his Christmas gift, I knew I couldn’t just give it to him. He’d have to be Artemis... and steal it.

NOTE: /I/ paid for it. Please don’t steal books, and support your favorite artists. :D
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Not just steal it, steal it from his own past self. Artemis Fowl follows the Doctor Who school of wibbly wobbly timey wimey... stuff.

BUDGET AND MATERIALS

First and foremost, I had just over a week to figure out

  • a) my budget and
  • b) how the puzzles would flow from one to another

Budget wise, I wanted to spend less than $50, which meant I needed to get creative with props. I own a Cricut, so I could make some very professional looking custom textiles, stickers and cards/paper items, and had a massive amount of sticker vinyl already on hand. I work for an electronics company, and do hobbyist Arduino, so I also already have lots of wire, batteries, some modules, and a few completed robots I could cannibalize. Lastly, I also have a large stock of cosplay items (wigs, costumes, fabric, foam) lying around. I know most people wouldn’t have this on hand, but if you’re planning on making an escape room, look at what YOU already have. Maybe you have power tools, or maybe you’re good at designing quick websites. You probably also have more than eight days to come up with an entire escape room game too, but the idea came to me AFTER I found his gift.

Lower Elements Police shirts for my friend’s wife, my friend, and myself of Wing Commander Vinyáya, Extremely Irritating Human Fowl, and Captain Short. Materials cost for all three was between $15 and $25- I have leftover heat vinyl i can use on another project, and a cool new shirt for myself to boot.

As far as things that lock, all I have is a locking mailbox, and a small key locker (like the kind used by some AirBnB to store a key outside a house). None of the doors within my house lock. So, I knew I’d definitely use the mailbox and key locker SOMEHOW, but I also needed something big and safe enough to hold the book.

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Like... a safe. I bought an extremely cheap one on Amazon for $12.

I also spent another $8 on some concentric stacking boxes to start the hunt.

From there, my puzzle flow began writing itself. “Artemis” would need to do two things-

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  • Find the location of the safe.
  • Discover the safe combo.
I’m already building a full jumpsuit out of scuba neoprene and copious amounts of cursing, but for now, this’ll do. Also, yes, I’m aware I wrote it in English and not Gnomish. Sue me.
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Since things tend to go in threes, I split the puzzles into three quest lines, and started filling in the blanks with puzzles.

Lastly, to sweeten the deal, I decided to raid my cosplay drawers (and my heat transfer materials) to make an EXTREMELY low budget Holly Short cosplay (homemade shirt for me, plus my Kino goggles, Elena Fisher thigh pouch, my exercise armband, 13th doctor boots, Dipper/Hiccup wig, and some cheap elf ears), plus shirts for my friend and his wife, above.

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The last thing I did was convince another very close friend (and actor) to call in as tactical support (aka the escape room hint helpline) as the Artemis Fowl books’ equivalent of Q, a very condescending centaur named Foaly. I sent him the full set of puzzles I’d written with solutions (and changed his name in my caller ID), so he could berate “Artemis” and offer hints or solutions should my friend get stuck.


START OF THE HUNT: Open concentric boxes, and get scolded by Artemis Fowl

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I set up three boxes, each smaller than the other, with 3 codes (Gnomish, Centurian, and the Eternity Code) on the inside lid of of each box, nested in each other and wrapped.

The smallest box contains only an invitation to begin the game.

-To Myself:

It has come to my attention that there may be an issue. If you’ve gotten this, that means you’ve lost your memory- and, by extension, MY memory.

For safekeeping of my own mind, I’ve taken great pains to hide pieces of my own memories with friends and various acquaintances. Do yourself a favor and find the original document the People wrote on me those years ago. You’ll know it when you see it.

I hope.

You’re me, which means you’re too smart for me to wish you good luck. Just go and find the high school bags of three of our former friends. They should point you in the right direction.

- A. Fowl Jr.

There’s also a sheet of instructions.

Holly:

I hope this finds you in good health. I’m worried. I’ve had my mind wiped before, and it probably will again in the future. I don’t think you’ll be the ones who do it- you learned last time I’m a bit too smart for you.

In case someone more... unsavory, like that maniac pixie does something to me, I leave instructions on how to help jog my memory.

· In the residence with the People’s files, I’ll leave two clue trials. There will be three clues leading to the location of the People’s file. These will be tied with gold ribbon. And three more, with green, on the actual combination to said safe. Only I will be smart enough to put that information together, and I’ll need all six total to have enough to remember both the location and combination.

· Foaly and you will be indispensable. Please help where you can.

· If a door is closed or locked, unless a clue I’ve left behind specifically says to open it, it can stay closed. The same can be said for drawers and closets. You know me. I don’t like getting my hands dirty more than necessary.

· On that note, if a clue requires any sort of brute force, it’s wrong. I can’t assume Butler will be there to assist. You have my express permission to smack me upside the head of this and remind me I’m a planner; physical activity is hardly my strength.

· I may have seeded the internet (very well, I HAVE seeded it) with my own history lest I forget something like Butler’s first name or other personal information. Remind me to look up things online should I need to be reminded of family history.

· Everything needed to get my memory back is located on-site, but it may not all be indoors.

Thank you, Holly. I trust you to hold this until needed. I only hope that day never comes.

A.F. ii

The next three quests could be done in any order, and involve searching three bags I use for cosplay. I picked characters my friend was familiar with, so, while I do own a really nice Kaede backpack from Danganronpa v3, I didn’t use it, as my friend has only played the first game.

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PERSONA 5 QUESTLINE: First combo lock clue/safe clue

The FIRST of THREE clues to the safe and lock starts with searching JOKER’s bag. A note from the Phantom Thieves is contained within, with the following text:

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Hey, Dullahan (still your code name, right? Skull mentioned you might have had a change of heart). Been a while. You asked us to steal your heart for safekeeping, so we did. We only took a piece, though, so just follow the trail and you’ll be just fine; check the pillowcases; Mona’s always whining I need more sleep. Oh yeah, the first piece of it is in the Recon officer’s hands. Maybe they’re willing to TRADE for it? You might want to POKE them about it. Gotta GO- we’ve got more work to do. Sakurai invited me to some kind of tournament.

-Joker

Trade Pokémon in Pokemon Go

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I have a Pokémon to trade, an Unown. It’s an X, named MarksTheSpot.

Crack Joker’s cipher

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Inside the pillowcase is a dossier, with a puzzle:

xM fW qF xO zJ kO xN cC lR jK xA gR xC xA gH oO eE xS xE rF wV xD oR eE fR oO xT fV eE xH oO rF jG xE tB kE iN oW xH aA xO oM kK oO xU gU oD oR xS qA aV oF nE xE tT oR xW uG oD wE xA nU wE rD nU cC xY nE oF xT fV xO wI kE rD xO jE xE kR fV iN xA oT iF rT xS nV rS xY aE nE oE iF nE xT nG mE oW xO uN eD jR uT xL kX hT nB xO eE qA xO nN jU xT nR kE xW cX bB oS cD nE eF xH sV dE xO eB bR xM jW qN dE kX vY xA iW bE xK dD wB jE xE iW oW xS eW aH cR iF xT lE xH dS lW nO iS xE fF xI jE kR xR yY uR fG xH nE rR xA xL uB uG oK pQ bR xL xM jE bR xA sI aQ zX xS sS bJ iR yG xT wI bU qR xE uD kR xR xL aY zU iJ vR rH xO aN eT xC gW cO lW qI xK rD uG xK kE rD xE oN nF oL wC xY uH uE oG xC qE xO jR fF xM rU gG oN xB wN oF xO oB qJ yB xT iX eQ kW sO sS hE iS xH oK lE xR kR iE fF xE wR qI uH xE iD fS xZ mU sT yE xE uV hY xR jR kN xO gO aN dQ nE xE rD aD xS iG zZ oW nT sS iE xA rR kR xN dR oO xD yX fR oO xA wE oF nU vR xO sE vR xN kR kZ xE

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Finding only the letters with an X before them [X “MarksTheSpot”, remember?] leaves:

M O N A C A S E D T H E H O U S E W A Y T O O E A S Y T O L O O T W H O M A K E S T H E I R H A L L M A S T E R L O C K K E Y C O M B O T H R E E Z E R O E S A N D A O N E

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Or:

Mona cased the house. Way too easy to loot. Who makes their hall masterlock key combo three zeroes and a one?

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The Hall Keypad

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Putting 0001 into the hall keypad will slide open a small lock containing a key to the mailbox outside as well as a folded-up paper.

First Safe Combo Clue (in Gnomish):

The paper contains the following

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THE LARGEST SAFE NUMBER IS EVEN

The Mailbox

The mailbox contains the first safe location clue:

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TO FIND THE SAFE/ THAT YOU MUST CRACK/ ASSEMBLE TWO MORE PAPERS/ AND SEARCH THE LOWEST RACK

Joker’s puzzle line has been completed.

DANGANRONPA QUESTLINE: Second combo lock clue/safe clue

The SECOND of THREE clues to the safe and lock starts with searching MAKOTO’s bag. A note from him is contained within, with the following text:

I HOPE THIS BAG MADE IT OUT OKAY. I THINK STICKING IN A DEACTIVATED MONOKUMA HELPED… WELL, MOSTLY DEACTIVATED. YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK ITS INSIDES, JUST TO BE SURE. AND… UM… DON’T BLOW UP.

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“Deactivate” Monokuma

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A homemade plush Monokuma is in the bag (who also opens his mouth and talks, when squeezed), unzipping the rear compartment is a piece of paper punctured with a You Don’t Know Jack pin and the above message.

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The Mysterious Fourth Player

There’s a Jackbox pin attached to the note, signaling to play the Jackbox game All About You.

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The three of us log in, and it won’t be streamed on twitch. But a fourth player joins, named MONOKUMA (it’s my friend who is playing Foaly, as I discreetly gave him the room code). He answers as normal (or like Monokuma might), but when it comes to the one-truth-one-lie section he lists the following:

Truth: An alien left you a snack in the fridge.

Lie: Artemis will never regain his memory.

This will lead “Artemis” to search the refrigerator, where a Tardis confection will be waiting.

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The Doctor’s Orders

Breaking open the candy TARDIS will have a hastily scrawled note by the Doctor.

I’ve done lots of travel in my day… lots. Grab my screwdriver off the bookshelf (the OLDER one), and go find my old friend Ford’s journal. I know it’s still there. And check out the inside of the back. It’s exposure to the Chameleon Circuit should translate language, but it won’t crack codes in your own. One’s translated then, and the other… well you wrote that code, so good luck.

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Using the 10th doctor’s sonic screwdriver on the last page of Gravity Falls’ Journal 3 (two references my friend IMMEDIATELY groked) will reveal a black light message:

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The Eternity Code

(see above for blacklight image)

THE SAFE COMBINATION HAS NO DUPLICATE NUMBERS

And folded up with it is an “old newsprint article”

Root’s Obituary

IN MEMORY.

Today, thousands gathered to witness Commander Root’s recycling ceremony. The man, a maverick who knew exactly how to take risks, was well known for clanking through Police Plaza hallways, barking orders, louder than a crack of dynamite. From a humble beginning in Haven’s western suburbia all the way to L. E. P. chief commander, the man never did anything halfway, and has been put to rest, having taken in an incredibly lengthy list of most wanted criminals.

He will be sorely missed.

(The bolded words are all board games on my living room shelf rack).

Makoto’s puzzle line has been completed.

RATCHET AND CLANK QUESTLINE: Third combo lock clue/safe clue

The THIRD of THREE clues to the safe and lock starts with searching RATCHET’S bag. A note from him is contained within, with the following text:

Not much I can do from another galaxy, but Clank hacked your computer and left you a fairy hologram, you’ll need some infrared goggles to read it. There’s also some weird folder on your desktop, might be worth a look.

Sorry pal, but you’re on your own this time.

This will lead “Artemis” to check the computer.

Hacking Back

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Two users on the computer, myself and... Artemis. There’s some notes taped to the monitor that might help.

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“Give it up, Foaly. I know you know my password.” and “you can always click the hint, but it’s the family motto...”

The hint lists “Gold is Power”, and the password is Aurum Est Postas, the Fowl family motto and Artemis’s own computer password (until he later changes it to Centaur in Book 6).

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There’s only two things of note when logging in as Artemis, and they lead into finding the final combo lock clue and safe location clue.

For Emergency Use Only

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The Fowl desktop is stark white with a QR code. Running it opens up a Google Drive magic eye document. The file sent by Clank. But that means one would need infrared goggles to read it and where might those...

This paper, meanwhile, I smudged on purpose. Pretty much every tech genius I know has absolutely illegible penmanship.
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Not-so hidden among the wafers, wire, magnifying lenses, and sensors is a pair of ‘infrared’ goggles (Also other than the ‘infrared’ goggles, the rest of the items are all real tech, plus my magnification ring, as I’m legally blind and loathe to carry a larger magnifying glass)

“Artemis” solving the QR code cipher.
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The Final Safe Code Clue

Wearing the goggles, ‘Artemis’ will now be able to read the image, which is in Centurian.

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THE NUMBERS ADD TO TEN AND ARE ORDERED FROM SMALLEST TO LARGEST.

The Mysterious Computer Folder

There was something else Ratchet said was on the computer, wasn’t there?

Leads on Finding..../the Safe seems a good place to start.

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Opening the folder is five photographs of people in nón lá (leaf hat), otherwise known as Vietnamese conical straw hats.

I did a semester abroad in Sapa, Vietnam, so not only did I take the photos, I also just so happen to have my own nón lá hanging up in my bedroom (I lost my baseball cap the first week I moved there, and my host mother insisted I get one to protect myself from the sun).

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If you’re at all familiar, the Artemis Fowl series begins with Artemis tracking down a fairy begging on the streets of Ho Chi Minh city, so the hat’s my little nod to that.

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Searching the hat leads to a simple note...

Face where Man acquires sustenance and it is sinister.

Face where Fairy acquires sustenance and it is right.

It’s wrapped in a gold bow, like the other two safe location clues.

Ratchet’s (and Foaly’s :D) puzzle line has been completed.

All minor puzzles are complete; it’s now time to find and open the safe..

FIGURING OUT THE SAFE LOCATION:

Clue one tells you its on the bottom rack.

Clue two tells you a bunch of board games.

And clue three says its on the left (sinister) when looking at where humans get food, or on the right on where fairies get food.

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It’s hidden on the bottom shelf of the board game cabinet. When facing outside, it’s the right most cubby, and when facing inside (towards the kitchen) it’s the left most one.

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FIGURING OUT THE COMBO

THE LARGEST SAFE NUMBER IS EVEN

THE SAFE COMBINATION HAS NO DUPLICATE NUMBERS

THE NUMBERS ADD TO TEN AND ARE ORDERED FROM SMALLEST TO LARGEST.

From here, we know the third digit must be even, as it’s the largest number. The dials only go from 0-9, so the third digit must be 2,4,6, or 8. The numbers must add to ten, with no duplicates, so the third number cannot be 8. It also can’t be 2 (1,1,2 is invalid).

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So the third number must be 4 or 6.

But even the next largest numbers (2 and 3) only add to 9 with 4. (2, 3,4) so 4 cannot be the final digit.

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The last digit must be 6.

If 6 is the last digit, the other two numbers must add to 4 to make 10. There are only two valid combinations to make this possible (without violating the no duplicate rule)

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Well, this is unexpected....

The combo is either 0, 4, 6

Or

1, 3, 6

(the combo is 1, 3, 6).

With this information, Artemis can find and open the safe.

When he does, a folded note saying STOP! is inside. It contains the following.

You’ve come quite close, me, congratulations are in order.

But there is one final test for you, my old friend. Through these trials, you might have jogged a hair of your-my-OUR memory. I hope you have, because if you’ve done this wrong, this box is set to blow.

Under your old L.E.P. contractor’s shirt are two identically sized items. One of them is the files the People wrote on you so many years ago. The other… is a block of C4. Don’t bother pulling at them, but touch the spines all you like so long as you don’t yank it out. They’re designed to be identical, but only one is meant for you.

Foaly, Captain Short, and Wing Commander Vinyáya can’t help you here.

Think on it, and, when you’re sure you know the answer, pull it out and rip it open.

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Diffuse the Safe Bomb

WARNING! THIS WILL SPOIL THE FINAL PUZZLE.

I’ll wait.

Waiting.

Last chance to try and figure this one out yourself.

Good? Good.


Bomb diffusal
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And here is where I pull an Artemis Fowl myself, and I play the biggest con-slash-bluff of the hunt.

There are two books inside, both wrapped, with wires coming out of the paper (they don’t actually lead anywhere). No matter which one “Artemis” takes, there is a signed copy of Artemis Fowl inside (the other copy is mine), plus the home-made shirt. Neither “Foaly” nor I will help him; he’s welcome to hem and haw at his old clues all he wishes. It’s entirely up to his gut on this one. There is no wrong answer.

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One for each of us. I had to do a lot of running around to find them both.

 Merry Christmas, old friend. 

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