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Ess's Great Grid o' Sliths!


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Recently, Slarty posted a Geneforge-themed puzzle on this board. It’s a really nice puzzle, and I’d suggest you take a look at it if you haven’t already! I’m having fun grappling with it, and it’s inspired me to put together a puzzle of my own in response. My puzzle, however, is geared towards forums-users who are more familiar with the Avernum series!

 

The grid below is made up of the scrambled names of 30 sliths from the Avernum series and, just to keep things interesting, the name of 1 Spiderweb forums member.

 

Sliths are represented from across the entire series of Avernum games. Names have been taken from each one of the core Avernum games, Avernum 1 through to Avernum 6. In addition, names have also been sampled from Blades of Avernum. Don’t worry, though! Names have only been sampled from the four core Blades of Avernum scenarios written by Jeff Vogel (Valley of Dying Things, A Small Rebellion, The Za-Khazi Run, and Diplomacy with the Dead), although not all of those scenarios are represented in the grid.

 

For the record, I made reference to the original Avernum trilogy when sourcing names for Avernum 1 to Avernum 3 – but the names should be identical to those in the more recent remakes.

 

All sliths listed have some important interaction with the player. This may because they are a powerful adversary, or a strong political figure. Alternatively, they may offer useful quests, or provide particularly important services for the party. Fear not, however! You won’t need to scour every last inch of the caves and the surface to find these sliths. Only those who interact meaningfully with the party have been included – we’re not talking sliths hidden in an isolated fort/town with just a few lines of dialogue, or running a generic shop (as helpful as such shops can be!), or found in minor battles.

 

The slith names have been recorded using letters only. All other markings, such as hyphens and apostrophes, have been removed. Full names have been used, but all titles, ranks and other affiliations have been omitted. So, as it happens, none of the slith names in this grid contain any spaces.

 

Here are some examples of some fake slith names, and how they would appear in this grid:

 

Hss-Kess – HSSKESS
Battlemage Thelioss – THELIOSS
Krys’Taless of Cotra – KRYSTALESS

 

Those who’ve browsed the comments on Slarty’s puzzle thread may see the comment that inspired this puzzle of mine. I first plucked the idea and the numbers out of thin air, partly as an example of how a puzzle like this could be put together deliberately badly. However, it turns out that this puzzle is much kinder than I had expected – despite the intent of my original comment, this isn’t a horrible puzzle by any means! In fact, it’s actually quite a lot more doable than it might look at first glance! By coincidence, 30 sliths turns out to be a really good number to choose. Remember, we’re sampling from 7 games here – so that’s only a handful of sliths from each game.

 

So, without further ado, here’s the grid! How many names can you find?

 

ESSSGREATGRIDOSLITHS
SHHVCESLSTTAYSSAASSS
USSIAHAVSSKRSHLSLRSL
ASOOSASSSSAAHYSSAOSV
QASSHHSDGHSSSSSSSEYR
SMSSKNHNAESSTSSSOSSA
DTSSSHVHAARSRZCOPSAA
ISKRSSHSTNEOTGCSLHVA
HASEHEKMEGSSHSSSHOLH
HOISISAMTEGRSLSOTKGK

YUSESSSSKASSSSSAAAAS
SLARTYSTHECAUSEIHEAR
ESSSKAZTKAIATAA

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I'm going to guess that if you include the obviously-placed name "Slarty" as the included forum member, the rest of the names don't line up. I look forward to seeing if this is true. Also, it could be "ADoS". Probably not. 😛

Edited by The Almighty Doer of Stuff
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I still have a hard time believing there are actually 30 sliths who interact that meaningfully with the party.  I have a feeling there will be a few that no one comes up with.  But let's begin.  I don't think it's reasonable to do this one non-comunally.

 

Letter sort:

 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
IIIIIIII
OOOOOOOOOO
UUU
YYYYY

 

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
LLLLLLLLL
MMM
NNN
RRRRRRRRRRR

 

CCCC
DDD
GGGGGGG
KKKKKKKKK
P
Q
TTTTTTTTTTTTTT
VVVVV
ZZ

 

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
 

Ess, clarification please: I assume that "All sliths listed have some important interaction with the player" means Sss-Thoss is excluded -- he's a major figure, but he's dead before X1, so he never interacts with the player.

 

Also, you said you took names from the non-remakes -- does this mean Kyass is excluded?

 

So.  Really obvious sliths to use (I've underlined these letters above):

 

Pathass

Sss-Thsss

Legare

Khrez-Yss

Ghavassa-Oss

Ess-Kalyn

 

Questionable:

Kyass (?)

 

Thissa

Ssschah

 

Sss-Schai

Sss-Bahss

Sss-Voss

Assotho

Ahsoth

 

Aktitoss

Shath

Gleth-Sss

Malachite

Hossiko

Pelin-Ath

Gless-Thsss

Seleeass

General Zhavress

Hrramen-Drayssa

Breck-Drayssa
 

I don't have my dumps of the scenarios or later games anymore, so I probably missed a bunch there.

 

Also, my money is firmly on Kelandon being the SW member Ess has chosen to include.  But we'll see.

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18 hours ago, Sealing Librarian said:

I assume that "All sliths listed have some important interaction with the player" means Sss-Thoss is excluded -- he's a major figure, but he's dead before X1, so he never interacts with the player.

 

Ah, I meant to elaborate on that point in my original explanation, but it slipped my mind. Sorry to be forgetful!

 

To be clear about this, all sliths included in the grid appear physically in the games in some way. No sliths that are mentioned solely in history or myth, or only in slith lore more widely, are included. So you’re quite right: the Sss-Thoss mentioned in Avernum 1 is a historical/mythological figure, and therefore does not qualify for inclusion in the grid.

 

18 hours ago, Sealing Librarian said:

Also, you said you took names from the non-remakes -- does this mean Kyass is excluded?

 

All sliths who only appear in the modern remakes of the first trilogy do not appear in this grid. That’s a shame, since it means missing out on some nice characters, but I think it was a practical choice for several reasons.

 

Firstly, there are more online resources relating to the first trilogy, so it’s a little easier to look things up! But, perhaps more importantly, the modern remakes added a large number of named sliths in minor battles. This increases the raw number of slith names in the trilogy quite significantly. Including all of those names as possibilities would, I think, have made this puzzle a little too daunting!

 

Incidentally, you’re not talking about the Kyass of Avernum 1, are you? Because that particular Kyass isn’t actually a slith .... Are you perhaps thinking of Evysss, the slith sage the party meets in the Freehold of Kyass? She’s one figure I would have quite happily included in this grid, not least because the useful spells she sells distinguish her. Unfortunately, she only appears in the modern remakes, and therefore does not qualify for inclusion in this grid. Otherwise, I might well have included her. Sorry, Evysss!

 

So, discounting your inclusion of Kyass – which seems fair – you have provided me with 25 names, Slarty. That’s a pretty good haul! Out of these 25 names, 17 are correct. That’s a great start, and shows that you’re working along the right sorts of lines, I think! If you can weed out the dodgy names, that puts you over 50% of the way there. It’s tempting to provide some more hints, but I’ll hold off for the moment ...

 

I have two more comments. Firstly, if General Zhavress is one of the sliths included in the grid, he would only be listed as ‘Zhavress’. Secondly, besides the potential problem with Kyass, there is another person on your list of sliths who isn’t a slith at all ...

 

Also, ADoS and TriRodent, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t appraise your suggestions! I think it would be a little too easy if I said yay-or-nay to single names. If you provide me with a few more names in a list, I’ll let you know how you’re doing ...

 

Incidentally, here’s a note for anyone reading who is more familiar with Exile! Since some of these names are taken from the early Avernum games, and a fair proportion of the sliths in the first trilogy were simply translated over from Exile, a good chunk of names in this list also appear in the Exile games – that is, Exile 1 to Exile 3 and Blades of Exile. So don’t let a lack of familiarity with Avernum put you off from suggesting names!

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No, I was talking about non-Slith Kyass.  It's been a while since I've played, and I remembered that Kyass was pro-nonhumans, but I guess the slith-sounding name did me in.

 

Honestly, Ess, I think this one is borderline impossible.  You could give me a curated list of every Slith in the games and I still would find it borderline impossible.  The standard for who gets included is simply... very, very low.  I can see arguments for or against this random quest-giver or that craftmaster or that slightly-more-memorable-than-most dungeon boss.  But beyond the obvious ones, I don't know how to even attempt to reason out which ones are and aren't included.  And there's too much of an overlap in letters to eliminate names with any confidence.  And 30 is just a large number.  Take away the 10 most obvious (which I'm not even sure is easy to agree on; the 6 most, maybe), and you're still left with a massive pool of sliths and a massive pile of letters.

 

I think you're going to need to give some more clues.  x political figures, x quest-givers, x mages, x from a particular game, I dunno.

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21 hours ago, Sealing Librarian said:

Honestly, Ess, I think this one is borderline impossible.

 

*The slith grins*

 

You see, this is what I think is particularly interesting about this puzzle. The original idea stemmed from a quick, casual comment, one in which I tried to come up with a deliberately obnoxious and unreasonably difficult puzzle concept.

 

And the result certainly sounds like it should be largely impossible. After all, this grid contains a huge number of names, and many of those names are constructed in quite similar ways, using lots of very similar letters. Doing anything with that should be a nightmare. At least, when the puzzle is presented this way ...

 

However, I maintain that this puzzle is more reasonable than it might first appear. I was quite surprised to come to that conclusion, in fact, when I put it together.

 

I would be quite happy to provide further hints. After all, what’s the use of a puzzle like this if no-one is having fun with it? However, I think it might be more interesting if I provided some prompts first, rather than some outright hints. Still, let me say this now: if these prompts aren’t enough, let me know.

 

If you ask me again for hints, Slarty, I shall provide them.

 

I think there are two reasons why this puzzle might come across as more difficult that it actually is.

 

Firstly, this puzzle is presented in a very similar manner to Slarty’s Geneforge puzzle. This implies that the manner of the solution might be the same. However, is there any reason to suppose that this is actually the case? Good riddles, after all, often work by encouraging the audience down lines of reasoning that end in dead-ends, so that they miss a more simple solution.

 

At its core, at least as I understand it, Slarty’s Geneforge puzzle involves selecting a small group of characters from a slightly larger pool of names. The puzzle is, in essence, trying to figure out which elements in a small list to include, and which to discard. In this respect, the grid of letters is vital, since it’s the primary means to tease out which characters have been included, and which have been discounted.

 

But, as Slarty rightly points out, that approach doesn’t seem to work for the Grid o’ Sliths. There are too many names to choose from, and too many of those names are so similar that it’s hard to tell them apart from letter distributions alone. Is this because the puzzle is poorly designed? Or is it, perhaps, because the writer intended the puzzle to be looked at from a different angle?

 

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this is a different sort of puzzle. What if the puzzle here is not selecting a small list of characters from a slightly larger list, bur rather determining the properties of the list itself? What if I produced a set of rubrics, one that happened to produce a list of about 30 sliths? The problem then would be to determine what the rubrics are, using the obvious results and what other names can be gleaned from the special letters in the grid. Then the list could be largely generated directly from only a few names.

 

Just a thought.

 

I want to reply to your comments specifically, Slarty. I think you’re casting the net far too widely. In my original post, I mentioned that sliths only qualify if their interactions with the party are important in some way – and I made a point to stress that random shopkeepers and minor bosses don’t qualify. If you remove all these minor sliths, there aren’t that many major ones to choose between.

 

As for what qualifies a ‘minor boss’, here’s an example. I would consider the denizens of Angierach to be ‘important’ figures. The location is an important one from the point of view of the game’s story/lore, and the figures are powerful. But I wouldn’t consider, say, the named soldiers in the Unfinished Fort as being important – the location is a minor one, and the characters are not especially powerful.

 

Also, I think you’re missing a few more obvious names. There is a little more you can do with just the letters. For instance, you’ve got a nice tasty Q sitting there. You’ve not yet included any characters from BoA. And there’s one character from the original trilogy I’m surprised you’ve not touched on, given what I know of how you play.

 

Here’s one more oblique comment. I was quite deliberate in how I described the possible slith names in my first post. There are hints in there, if you look carefully.

 

21 hours ago, Sealing Librarian said:

You could give me a curated list of every Slith in the games ...

 

I suggest you take a look at Encyclopedia Ermarian’s page on the slithzerikai. You might find something there to help you on your way :)

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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
IIIIIIII
OOOOOOOOOO
UUU
YYYYY

 

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
LLLLLLLLL
MMM
NNN
RRRRRRRRRRR

 

CCCC
DDD
GGGGGGG
KKKKKKKKK
P
Q
TTTTTTTTTTTTTT
VVVVV
ZZ

 

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

 

Pathass (1)

Sss-Thsss (1)

Legare (1)

Khrez-Yss (6)

Ghavassa-Oss (6)

Ess-Kalyn (6)

Thissa (2)

Ssschah (2)

Quessik-Drayssa (6)

Zhavress (6)

 

Ahsoth (3)

Hsska (3)

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You know, with the way I intended this puzzle to be solved, it’s probably not a bad idea to start with a small list of names and work up from there. After all, since the intent was for a core list of names to suggest further names in the grid, it stands to reason that you’d want to be confident about the more obvious names before going any further!

 

In this new list, you have provided me with 12 names. Out of these 12 names, 9 are correct.

 

I’ve been thinking about this, and my method of solution, and I think I might have expected a few too many intuitive leaps from people in solving this puzzle. So I think it’s only fair that I give you a little more information about what you have right and wrong here – otherwise, generating any further names would probably be far too difficult! I think I should be taking your difficult assessment a little more seriously, Slarty ...

 

There are 3 wrong names on your new list. One name is wrong because that Slith only features in Exile, not in Avernum. Another name is wrong because it does not meet the requirements I mentioned in the first post – that slith, strictly speaking, does not interact with the party. The third name is wrong because they do not meet the rubric requirements for an enemy slith.

 

If you would like any further hints, do let me know! The last thing I want is for this puzzle to be frustrating, unsolvable or, worse, both!

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