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Hello friends, this edition we are swapping back to something simple – substitution ciphers. A while back we looked at Symbol Based Ciphers specifically, but this time we look further what we can do with a whole range of ciphers in this style.

What Is A Substitution Cipher?

This is anything that is a straight and simple swap of one value to one letter (in our case with one part of it being English), also called a monoalphabetic cipher. One thing will always equal a set other thing when encoded, so look for A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.
Historical practicality to fictional fancy, there are myriads to choose from when designing puzzles for an Escape Room, and that’s just before you choose to create your own.
From the Enochian and Theban alphabets of the occult, through the Dancing Men cipher as encountered by Sherlock Holmes, all the way to the Wingdings font on your Microsoft Word.

Not A Straight Swap?

Be aware that the designers of the Room you’re in might have made their own variation of an existing cipher. This means that even the most dedicated enthusiast who has become an expert in Semaphore https://eramag.com.au/may-21/#:~:text=for%20larger%20teams.-,Semaphore,-Cipher%5D or Pigpen https://eramag.com.au/sep-21/#:~:text=Nick-,Pigpen,-Cipher%5D will not be able to unfairly speed through ahead of time if the alphabet in the Room has been shuffled up.

Strong Subs or a Basic Bench?

If you are super keen, monoalphabetic ciphers can be cracked even if you don’t find the key or guide to deciphering them. In a future edition we are going to look at how to use frequency analysis to do this (basically find what value = ‘E’ first). But there are other tricky ways of hiding these basic-style codes with an extra step. Remember our our Grilles? https://eramag.com.au/oct-22/#:~:text=com.au)-,Grille,-A%20grille%2C%20also%5D-,Grille,-A%20grille%2C%20also%5D “smartCard-inline”)

Switching Things Up

You might get your symbols substituted to English letters but the text still doesn’t make sense. Maybe your Escape Room designer has thrown in a Caesar Cipher https://eramag.com.au/nov-20/#:~:text=CHECK%20ANSWER%20HERE-,Caesar,-Cipher%5D, shifting the whole alphabet along one or more places.
Let’s shift our alphabet two places, and then change that new text across to a new set of symbols (namely, my favourite 1990s font):

Chasing Challenging Changes

Remember that an Escape Room designer won’t make anything that requires outside knowledge, so start looking for your guide to translate any new code you find.
Don’t assume that:

  • the code is the same as one you have seen before;
  • the code only has one step to it; and
  • there is only one code in use in the Room!

Good luck!

Call Elude