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Riddle of the Sphinx

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Riddle of the Sphinx
  • Check Status: Three riddles Released
  • Check Status: One riddle promoted to Common
  • Evaluate a Riddle
  • Correctly answer a Common Riddle
  • Correctly answer a Noble Riddle
  • Correctly answer seven Riddles
  • Streak of at least 7 Points
Demonstrated by Numaris, RosieRazor, Injeru, and Casino in Shabbat Ab on 2010-06-23.


Design a stream of factual questions about our land, our people, our society, and our science. Questions are rated both directly by fellow riddle creators, and indirectly by achieving an appropriate difficulty level.

To pass this test, you must create 7 "Noble" riddles. Riddles are submitted, rated, and answered at a Lesser Sphinx (see Sphinx Locations to find one near you).

The overarching goal of this test is to create a living history museum by recording the history of the land, the people, the guilds, the skills, and the technologies.

Submitting Riddles

A riddle has two parts: The question, and the answer. The answer field can contain multiple possible answers if necessary. The wildcards ? and * can be used to represent either one character or zero-or-more characters, respectively. For example, "*stranger" will match "stranger", "the stranger", and "I am the Stranger". "yok?r" will match "yokir" or "yoker". Finally, case does not matter. "Chest" and "chest" are the same.

You can have a maximum of 14 submitted riddles at a time. You can remove a riddle you submitted at any time.

Players must also note that, as of T3, riddles can now be translated into French or German after they were first entered in English. English language is mandatory and must be entered first. If you wish to have your riddles translated, there are players around who might be able to help you (this page might be used as a starting point : Bilingual Players). The more understandable the riddles, the more chance to gain points and "noble riddle" status. As translation, especially of a little bunch of subtle texts, is not an easy task, please be patient and help. Thanks :)

Some advices

by Sabuli except where noted

I'm finding again and again the same problems in the riddles that are being added.

I'm pretty sure that most of the riddles that become noble use wild cards. Otherwise, they are likely to have a lot of additional wrong answers and fail. (And most of the times riddles fail to be noble for too many wrong answers, not for too many right answers. The first 21 answers, when people are "trying to guess" make the difference: 15 wrong ones and the riddle fails. Once a riddle is noble it's likely that a lot of players have already guessed the right answer)

Not sure I agree with this either... I've had more riddles fail because of too many
correct answers than too few. (I don't mean to be argumentative... it's just that there
can be so many differences between designers of riddles that trying to say that "most
riddles are" this or that is sort of meaningless.) --Numaris

Some players use prepositions some other don't. Some give the answer in singular, others in plural.

An answer without wild cards will fail not only when the player doesn't know it, but ALSO when he knows it and writes it not exactly as expected and that is frustrating (and very bad for the riddle)

So, if the answer is supposed to be beetle, please put it as *beetle*, covering also "beetles" and "a beetle". It's not necessary, however (as I've seen a lot of times) to put beetle and Beetle as separated answers because the system is not case sensitive.

I personally disagree with this particular point. Wildcards are useful, but if used carelessly 
can cause problems. Specifically, the practice of beginning and ending every answer
with * can make riddles trivial if the answer can be narrowed down to a list. For example,
if you can tell the answer is a discipline, but don't know which one it is, the answer
"art thought harmony leadership worship architecture body" will be a correct answer
regardless of whether the real answer was *thought*, *harmony*, or any other.

Remember that you can set multiple "correct" answers when designing a riddle by separating
them with a semicolon. I would recommend using that mechanism instead to cover possible
plurals and articles.

Don't be afraid to use wildcards where appropriate, but take a minute to think about what
you really need for each particular riddle, rather than just following a formula of
throwing wildcards at everything.

Of my 4 noble riddles so far, only 1 used wildcards. (Correction: none of my (now 6)
noble riddles used wildcards.) It's perfectly possible to go without if you design the
riddle properly.


Numaris: Obviously you have a point there and I'm not going to deny it, but consider also that this is a test where people answer a lot of riddles, one after another, and answer them fast. It's possible, of course, to put in a line all possible answers like in your example, but not too likely. Generally, due to the time limit, people type short answers. This is empiric but I have seen that generally the riddles I manage to guess appear later as noble, and that means that at least 7 people answered them wrong (even the one with mal* for malapterous or whatever is it spelled). That makes me think that the key is to avoid the unneeded wrong answers because the "normal" ones will come alone. I agree: wild cards are not mandatory, but they help a lot.

For example, I found the riddle "What has to be broken before used?" Not only I'm sure that the answer is egg but I also remember it from the evaluation stage. However, I have tried several answers (like "egg", "an egg", "the egg") and all of them fail. Obviously, the riddle is not using wild cards and I'm answering with the wrong syntax.

Even following this system, some riddles will fail anyway, so have a good reserve. Submit the 14 riddles allowed and, as soon as a riddle fails, replace it (the replacement could be an improved version of the same riddle)

This is not a competitive test. A lot of people could pass it (and very fast). But, please, follow these simple rules to improve your chances.

And about rating... Like in orchestra, Good is negative and Great is zero. You are only approving a riddle when you give it exceptional or more. When you say it is "Good" you are disapproving it, and when you say it is "Great" you are neutral about it.

Rating Riddles

Anyone who has signed up for the test may rate a riddle by visiting a Sphinx (all Sphinxes draw from the same set of riddles, so it doesn't matter which one).

Things To Consider When Rating

  1. Consider the accuracy of the riddle. Is the answer given correct? A "Rate Later" button is available if you need to do some research first.
  2. Consider the possible responses. When answering a riddle regarding clearcutting?, a person could type either "clearcutting" or "clear cutting". If the riddle is "I come in a bowl. What am I?", a person could type either "a tadpole" or "tadpoles". Has the author taken this into account and formatted it correctly? (See the section on wildcards above)
  3. Consider the relevance of the riddle. Does it involve the history, society, people, guilds, or culture of this tale? "I was the first master of Acrobatics. Who was I?" would be relevant, while "What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?" would not be.
  4. The difficulty of the riddle should not necessarily be considered when rating in most cases. After a riddle has been rated, its difficulty will be tested by those who answer it. (See "Answering Riddles" below)
  5. Consider the language of the riddle. You should be presented with the riddle in your interface language. If you play in English and get a riddle in French or German it means the person who entered it didn't fill in the mandatory English section first. If you play in French or German and get a riddle only in English, it means the person who entered it did not get their riddle translated. Unfortunately there is no way to see if a riddle was translated into any other language for the purpose of evaluation, but you might want to consider whether it is in your interface language when scoring.

Riddle States

  • Evaluation Riddle - Starting state for all riddles. Fourteen ratings are required to move out of evaluation status.
  • Common Riddle - Riddles that receive a high enough score during evaluation are promoted to Common Riddle and become available to be answered.
  • Noble Riddle - A Common Riddle is promoted to Noble Riddle if it is answered correctly between 7 and 14 times in the first 21 attempts.
  • Fallen Riddle - A riddle can "fall" in two ways:
    1. An Evaluation Riddle will be marked as Fallen if it does not receive a high enough evaluation score.
    2. A Common Riddle will be marked as Fallen if it is too easy (more than 14 correct out of first 21 attempts) or too hard (less than 7 correct out of first 21 attempts).
Possible bug, or just poor design: Riddles appear to be marked as "Fallen at evaluation"
even if they actually failed after making it to Common (for being to easy or too hard).
This makes it that much more difficult to figure out what to do to improve them...

Answering Riddles

  • All citizens may attempt to answer a riddle, regardless of their status in the discipline of Thought.
  • You have only one attempt to answer a riddle, and there is a time limit.
  • If you are one of the first N to answer a Noble riddle correctly, you will have 7 points added to your current streak.
  • After those first N, each correct Noble riddle adds 3 points.
  • Answering a Common riddle correctly adds 1 point. There is no penalty for missing a Common riddle (your streak is not ended).
  • The points of the longest streak will be the score for the Test of Reason.

Passing The Test

To pass this test you need to create 7 Noble riddles. A riddle which is not noble will not allow you to pass. A riddle that is too easy or too hard will not allow you to pass. You will have to remove the weak riddles and replace them with new ones until you pass. I hope you have a Sphinx in your camp.

Technical Notes

This section probably has the most potential for change between tellings. Consider it historical information.

This information may not be 100% accurate, but it summarizes what we know about the way a Sphinx selects questions based on the information provided so far by Teppy, et al.

Two sets of pools exist. One set is for unrated riddles, the other for unanswered riddles. There are 32 pools in each set. Once a pool has floor(1000/32) (i.e. 31) riddles in it, it will be considered active. When you ask to either rate or answer a riddle, the sphinx randomly checks up to 10 pools until it finds an active one, then presents a random riddle from that pool to you. If it fails to find an active pool, you will recieve a message saying "The Sphinx was unable to provide you with a question."

  • This is incorrect for T3. There is only one pool of questions (though there are evaluation riddles and riddles that are ready to answer) in this telling (confirmed by Teppy). If you get the "The Sphinx was unable to provide you with a question." you should dev call because its a bug. - Spicy

Public Sphinx Locations

A Lesser Sphinx is a community project. You do not need to build your own in order to participate. You can visit any of the following Sphinxes to create or answer riddles.

Region Coordinates Notes
Shabbat Ab 1480, 1815 Just over the hill behind the CS
Meroe 830, -3610 A few steps north from CS
Stillwater 1688, 3698 Just south of the CS