Armchair Treasure Hunt YKTTW Discussion

Armchair Treasure Hunt
A contest contained within and played through a book, film, game, and so on
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(permanent link) added: 2013-03-27 16:58:56 sponsor: MaxWest edited by: Arivne (last reply: 2015-04-12 08:44:15)

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The Armchair Treasure Hunt involves some sort of valuable prize that can be won. How do you get it? The clues and Treasure Map that lead to the prize are usually contained within a book, a movie, a video game, and so on. It's up to you to figure out the puzzles, riddles and challenges contained therein to solve it all and claim your prize.

They can be quite a lot of fun, but they can cause headaches too if the contest and/or source material isn't planned out properly - see some of the below examples.


Comic Books
  • Whodunnit was a short-lived mystery comic book from the mid 1980s. Each issue had a mystery, and the first person who wrote in with the correct solution won $1,000. It only lasted three issues, so only one solution ever got published.

  • Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse was released both as a book and as a movie, available on VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc, and RCA Selectavision Videodisc. The premise involved a golden horse statuette and clues contained within the film and book on how to find it. Things went wrong however as in the above Masquerade example. It was thought that those who helped work on the film knew the location of the golden horse so it was dug up and moved elsewhere. Unfortunately, the book and film were never updated accordingly. The contest officially ended on May 26, 1989 and the golden horse was donated to charity.
  • Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link was a video released in 1984 where the winner could get US$100,000. The video started off with an introduction explaining the rules and giving a few hints. The rest of the video involved a film noir detective story with a private eye named Cash Hunt who had to solve the same puzzle. The solution involved the name of a USA city & state, a safe deposit box, and a telephone number which had to be called once the correct solution was deduced.

Interactive Fiction
  • Pimania had a £6000 golden sundial as a prize for the first player to solve the clues leading to a specific time and place.

  • Kit Williams' Masquerade was/is probably the best known example of this trope. Illustrator Kit Williams did the book and made a contest to find a golden figurine of a hare somewhere in the British Isles. The book itself had many clues contained within its story on how to find the hare. These involved symbols, wordplay and some arithmetic to figure it all out. However, the winner of this contest won through inside information.
  • A few years later, Kit Williams put out a second picture book along the lines of Masquerade simply dubbed "The Bee Book" or "The Book With No Name". The challenge this time didn't involve going to dig anywhere; it was to find out the true name of the book. The solution involved bees, the changing of the seasons, and Kit's illustrations throughout the book to figure out the title. There was also a deadline involved as the answer was to be revealed A Year and a Day after the book's release. More information on that book can be found here.
  • The 39 Clues
  • Secrets of the Alchemist Dar by Michael Stadther. This book involved clues that would lead you to 100 rings, valued at US$2 million. However, the author's publishing company went out of business and it's unlikely any of the prizes were claimed. See the entry on the Other Wiki for more details.
  • Ready Player One. The author of the book set up a contest that required reading the book, finding an Easter Egg and being the first to beat three video game challenges. The winner Craig Queen received a 1981 DeLorean automobile.
  • The Merlin Mystery written by Jonathan Gunson and illustrated by Gunson and Marten Coombe. The prize was £75,000, as well as Merlin's Magic Wand, decorative alchemy symbols, and a vial of gold nuggets. To claim them, you worked out what the spell to free Merlin was, and sent it to the publisher. When no-one solved it by the deadline, the money was given to charity. It's not clear what happened to the wand etc.
  • The Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth by Tim Dedopulos, in which people who solved the puzzle by the deadline were put in a prize draw for 50,000 Euros.
  • Toxic Panda by Adam Adams. It's a unique book written entirely without the letter "E", where readers who solved the puzzles within could win sums of money, though these amounts were smaller than some of the other examples in this trope.
  • Edgar Wallace's 1905 mystery novel The Four Just Men, published as a Serial Novel, offered a high prize to the reader who could guess the solution to the mystery before the publication of the final chapter. The contest was an utter disaster—for one, Wallace never really predicted that there could be more than one winner.

Live-Action TV
  • The Ben Affleck-produced TV series Push, Nevada had a $1,000,000 prize for the first person to figure out all the clues. And then it got cancelled before the planned end of the series, so they had to scramble to shove a bunch of clues in all at once towards the end. The last clue was actually aired during a Monday Night Football commercial break.

New Media
  • Gold Rush, a contest devised by AOL and CBS, had participants correctly complete a series of tasks on AOL.comís Gold Rush hub in order to stockpile virtual gold bars. Many of these tasks consisted of pop culture trivia challenges. Clues to help solve each of the challenges were found in CBS Television programs and commercials, magazines, radio, song lyrics, and on AOL. In each round, the first three players to complete the challenges and collect 12 virtual gold bars were taken to a location somewhere in the United States where they will compete on-camera in a head-to-head, reality-style competition (the "Gold Competition") for a chance to win $100,000 in gold. In the Finale Round of Gold Rush, the 12 previous $100,000 winners return, joined by 6 new contestants, to vie for the $1 million grand prize.
  • TimeHunt, a website around 2002 or so with a Clock Punk feel to it. The prize was a mechanism supposedly created by John Dee, and to claim it you needed to visit the nine planets and solve puzzles concealed in stories by various well-known writers, thereby accessing mini-games which enabled you to access other planets and solve further puzzles... Sadly, the site went down for some reason before anyone completed it.

Tabletop Games
  • Metagaming had two of these.
    • MicroQuest #4 Treasure of the Silver Dragon. The game had clues to the location of a 31 troy ounce silver dragon hidden somewhere in the U.S. The dragon was found by Thomas Davidson, who was also awarded a $10,000 check in addition to the dragon.
    • MicroQuest #6 Treasure of Unicorn Gold. This game had clues that would lead to a small gold unicorn. Unfortunately Metagaming folded before the location was found, and it's unclear what happened to the statue.

Video Games
  • The Sword Quest series from Atari for the Atari 2600. A total of four games were planned, but only three were released. Each game came with a comic book and the goal was to find five words which would qualify the player for the national tournament. These words were hidden in the comic book, and clues to their location were given by the cartridge for solving various puzzles. If the player found all five words, he was given a certificate of merit and his name was entered in the drawing for the tournament. The national tournament consisted of a handful of other finalists competing against each other in a special "tournament" version of the game. Those who won the tournaments could get really fantastic prizes of gold and jewels. Sounds like fun? It wasn't - the games were lousy and confusing and involved more of luck rather than skill. The entries on the Atari Protos page describes each game in detail, the contest, the prizes, and their problems:
  • Wolfenstein 3D had the "Aardwolf" contest organized by Apogee Software: by finding deep in a secret area a sign saying "Call Apogee Say Aardwolf", and following its instruction, the players could win a prize. The contest was abandoned, however, since cheat programs popped up within days of the game's release, allowing anyone to see the sign without effort. Similarly, the three-letter code that appears after beating the game without cheating was planned to be part of a contest to achieve the highest score.

Western Animation
  • In-Universe example: Played with in Spongebob Squarepants. In one episode Mr. Krabs takes Spongebob and Patrick in a treasure-hunting trip, playing pirates. For some reason Krabs doesn't allow S & P to read his map. When Krabs is sleeping S & P took their time to investigate the map... and reveals that it's just the pirate-styled board game they played days ago. But just as Krabs is going to punish them for looking at the map, they find the X and consequently the treasure beneath it.

Real Life
  • Similar to the above tropes: Diana Dors (1931-1984), English actress and sex symbol, was said to have put away 2 million British pounds in banks across Europe for safekeeping. Her son and heir Mark Dawson was then given a code that would lead him to the inheritance. Her widower Alan Lake had the key that would solve the code, but ended up killing himself five months after Dors died. In spite of the heir's best efforts, use of professional cryptographers, and even a TV documentary, the money has yet to be found.

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