The Code in 'Running the Gauntlet' (The Screaming Spectre)

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The Code in 'Running the Gauntlet' (The Screaming Spectre)


As a kind of prelude to the review of the Corgi Books HeroQuest novels I've been meaning to do, here's something I know many HeroQuest players will find useful.

Warning! This post contains spoilers

do not read on if you intend to play a Hero in this Quest!

+Some code perhaps?+

If you've ever run or played the Solo-Quest 'Running the Gauntlet' from the Hero Quest novel entitled  The Screaming Spectre you will have certainly come across the mysterious inscriptions in room A - 'VXU' carved on the West wall, 'VJSII'  carved on the South wall and 'UPI' carved on the East wall.
And you will probably have come across the presumably related chiselled inscription ' Port Pux - Starboard Mevis' on a flagstone in the corridor to the south.

In the not-too distant past I ran this adventure (scaled up slightly for a party of 5 adventures) and of course included this puzzle. As you may or may not know the adventure notes text doesn’t have a answer in it (and nor does the rest of the book)

Now I've never been very good with word puzzles and the like, so I assumed the solution was something fairly obvious that my players would get although I didn't - but as it turned out my players couldn't figure it out either and it drove them crazy for whole game.
What was worse for them is when after the game they asked me what the solution was and I had no answer for them … the book was passed round and subject to careful reading, still no one could work it out.

So we headed to the next logical port of call for information - Google!
And after reading the posts on a few other forums we found that a considerable number of other HeroQuest players didn't have the solution either

So - Was it a mistake? Was it a 'red herring'? Some kind of misprint? something the quest designer forgot to develop further?

Many was the evening there after which I sat down with a pen and paper trying to figure out what this code was, of if indeed it really was a code at all, when finally I gave up and tried the one last source of the answer I could think of

Since I was planning a review of the HeroQuest novels and I had other questions about them (mostly about the setting), I decided to contact the author himself, Dave Morris and ask him.

And here is the answer:

  The code isn't very cryptic. I suspect people have been looking for much more complex solutions than are actually there. The first room codes are:

UPI = one
VXU = two
VJSII = three

Using that substitution in the later two inscriptions gives us:

PUX = now
MEVIS = **ter

at which point there'd be no prizes for guessing the two missing letters ( l and a) but a codebreaker will quickly see that it's a transposition code with vowels and consonants treated independently. So H = g, J = h, K = j and so on. Hence MEVIS = later, and that inscription is saying to take the right-hand door now and come back and do the left-hand door later. Not that it's going to kill anybody if they didn't crack the code - it's just there for flavour, and the Cabiri didn't design their underworld to be fair, after all!

and I'm sure if you're anything like me you are now kicking yourself for not being able to spot that!

A big thank you not only to Dave Morris for finding time to answer my questions but also to Jonathan Green for helping me contact Dave Morris 
~The ravings of a single mad Goblin is bad enough, but such a power-hungry, malice-filled creature as Mortis can never hope to be understood~