Welcome to the "netscape". You are now a "netizen", and are "surfing the net." It's 1999, and Yahoo!
has just purchased a webhosting platform known as GeoCities, originally founded by David Bohnett and John
Rezner in 1994. Originally called Beverly Hills Internet (BHI), it's claim to fame was that it would host 15
entire megabytes of your stuff. It offered free plans (with added advertisements on your website), and was
primarily used for personal websites.
In these days, you wouldn't link someone to your Facebook. You'd show them your GeoCities page. You had to
browse with caution, as each page you visited posed the risk of a seizure, due to the now-defunct blink
HTML tag, which would cause whatever was in that tag to flash rapidly. People who took care of these websites
had called themselves "webmasters", and often took great pride in their horrifying, seizure-inducing, mess of
a creation. Because that was the landscape of the Internet in the 1990s. And it was beautiful.
Years after Yahoo! closed the doors of GeoCities in 2009, Kyle Drake revived the service, this time boasting
a full 1GB of storage. It's here, that the webmasters of the 1990s and early 2000s found themselves a home
again. They could once again freely express themselves in their signature style. This service was called
NeoCities, and webmasters weren't the only group to find a home here. ARG creators also found a home on
What is an ARG? Well, it stands for Alternate Reality Game. Much like an Augmented Reality Game (think Ingress,
or Pokemon Go), Alternate Reality Games blur the lines between what is game, and what is reality, in hopes of
uniting the two worlds. In my first ARG, there was a bomb set to go off in three days, that would wipe out an
entire city. Pretty crazy stuff, but, fairly obviously a game. It was a lot of fun though. 67 sleepless hours
later, the bomb was defused, and, after a short nap, my team of 6 celebrated our success. There were points in
our journey when we weren't entirely certain whether the threat was real or not. There was one particular "side
quest" in the ARG that rattled us. We had just solved one of the codes, and we were given a location, date, time,
and the name of a politician. This politician was meant to give a speech at that exact location, date, and time.
Using previously discovered evidence, we summarized that the terrorist group we were fighting in this ARG was
planning to assassinate this political figure as a "sign of the end of America" was their wording. That was the
point where we weren't entirely certain what was real and what wasn't.
Looking back, this ARG broke a lot of rules. Stunts like that - making threats to assassinate political figures
and not explicitly telling people that they're in a game - that can get federal agents called on you. And it's
happened before. Luckily for the creator, we solved the side quest in time, and didn't call the authorities. The
particular ARG you're in won't be pulling any of that. This is an introduction. Just something to get you used to
thinking like a solver. There won't be much of a story either. We will instead be focusing on the codes and
ciphers themselves. It is my personal goal to make one of these each month, with increasing difficulty. You'll be
able to find them in The King's University Chronicle, as well as posted to my social media. Feel free to contact
me, and let me know what you think of them.
Alright. That's more than enough history. Let's see if you can solve this one. It's an ancient cipher, used to
communicate on the Roman field of battle even prior to 40 B.C. It's a well known, simple cipher - perfect for an
introduction to cryptography. If you're already a pro at cryptography, stay tuned. We'll be getting more advanced
as time goes on. And if you're looking for some kind of intensive to participate, there's prizes for the first
three to solve the ARG. So there ya go. Have fun!
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