Recently, many players were alerted to a series of puzzles that were hidden in plain sight – puzzles that ultimately revealed a shiny new tool called Labyrinth. This tidy, no-nonsense program is maintained, designed, and implemented by the Karetao group.

Although the Labyrinth tool itself is straightforward and organizationally versatile, we thought we’d provide a couple of short tutorials for you. It seemed only natural to approach the Labyrinth launch puzzle itself, and use it as a means to display some of the basic features of the program.

Let’s get started, shall we?

We have a trailhead, found in a known puppetmaster’s personal website. The indication here, in a comment code, turns out to be a pointer to a sub-directory on the site named ‘thisisnotanarg.’ So, we’ll call it that!

We open the Labyrinth application, and use the project properties to set the name of our mini-puzzle: ‘This Is Not An ARG’.


Since this does not appear to be a story-based game, our plot elements aren’t going to be characters and locations; they’re going to be the individual pages we come across. Later on, it becomes apparent to us that the pages lead to one another, so for purposes of clarity with this tutorial, we’ll use the term ‘stage.’ We create a new element for the first stage.


The element is created and opened for us automatically.

But wait, there’s more!

To store the information about the puzzle, we add an annotation to the element (a simple text annotation; there are other types available, but this will do for our purposes).


We can add another to contain the text.


So there’s the text of the page, but clearly the important bit is the cipher at the end. We add a second annotation for that.


All well and good, but now we need to transliterate it. Letter frequency analysis suggests it might be a Vigenère cipher, but a Vigenère requires a key. A closer inspection of the picture provides the answer: ‘illumination’. Let’s add that information to our project so we don’t forget it. We can do this in many ways: we could edit one of our existing annotations, or add a new annotation specifically to hold this piece of information; we might even choose to create an entirely new plot element for it. For now, we’ll just edit the cipher annotation, because that’s where it seems the most appropriate.


Using ‘illumination’ as the key to the Vigenère seems to work: the cipher translates as ‘begin at the ancient home of a king who paid dearly for his refusal to kill an animal’. Before we try to decipher this, let’s add it to the project.


Now that we have this, let’s find the answer to the riddle. The words ‘ancient king’ imply that we should be looking at mythology, and we find a suitable candidate in King Minos of Crete. Since the riddle specifies the king’s home, we try various combinations of using Crete as a filename and as a directory, but without any luck. Our next tack is to use the city King Minos lived in: Knossos. Using this as a subdirectory takes us to the second stage of the puzzle. We create a new plot element for the new page. (Another handy tip for larger ARGs and research purposes is to create an additional notation with the URL cited for your findings. One player may get stuck trying thisisnotanarg/crete, …/minos, etc., but when another player opens the Labyrinth file and surfs to the websites in the annotation, Knossos may be the lightbulb moment that gets the players moving again. Additionally, as is often employed in ARGs, particular elements of source material may come back at a later time, so these URL annotations are a handy way to keep things ‘bookmarked’ according to its element relevance.)


Before we add the puzzle information to this new plot element, we can show how we are working through the game. Selecting the ‘structures’ tab on the explorer, we add a new structure to the project.


Once the structure is created, we drag our two plot elements onto it, and create a link between them using the ‘Add Link’ button on the structure toolbar.


Which gives us the following structure:


Going back to the Knossos page, we add the information on the puzzle as before.


As before, this is a Vigenère cipher, and the key is hidden in the image: ‘purgation’, which gives another riddle: ‘head northwest to the home of the preaurelian carnutes’.

A little digging on the web provides us with the answer: before Emperor Aurelian, the Carnute capital was the city which is now known as Chartres. As before, this gives us another subdirectory, and another part of the puzzle.

We add the Chartres section as a new plot element, and add it to the Trail structure we created previously.


A nagging thought occurs to us now. Illumination and purgation are odd words to use as keywords, so perhaps there is some hidden meaning behind them? Similarly, why the choice of Knossos and Chartres? We can flag these thoughts for later by clicking on the Tasks button on the toolbar and adding a task for each of these.


The Chartres section looks like it is solved in a similar way to the previous two, so let’s add the puzzle information to the project. (This is perhaps the point where you can start thinking of the puzzle in stages. Because of this tutorial, you had the benefit of this structure before, but your elements and notes can always change and be re-named to your liking as you approach new ARGs and puzzles.)


As before, this is a Vigenère cipher, and the key is hidden in the image: ‘union’, which gives another riddle: ‘FINALLY CROSS TO THE HOME OF A UNIVERSITY FOUNDED IN THE SAME YEAR AS ITS COUNTRY’S CONSTITUTION’.

The answer to this riddle is Georgetown, so we add it as a new plot element, and add it to the Trail structure.


This seems to be the end of the puzzle, as the Georgetown page contains only a link to the Labyrinth homepage.

Now, with hindsight, we can investigate the items on our to-do list. A cursory search on the terms illumination, purgation and union provides a reinforcement that we have found the correct solution to the puzzle; they all appear on a site devoted to labyrinths. Similarly, Knossos was the site of Daedalus’ original Labyrinth, the cathedral at Chartres contains a very famous labyrinth and Georgetown University has a research project named Labyrinth. How handy.

Stay tuned for further tutorials and walkthroughs for the use and application of Labyrinth. Soon to be loved and revered by players and puppetmasters alike, Labyrinth is also useful for role-playing enthusiasts, academics, and professional writers, as an organizational and archival tool.

(this article was written by Andy Aiken and Krystyn Wells.)