Usually, there’s some foreplay. When a cop comes to see a private investigator, they make a bit of small talk, accept a drink, maybe speak of old times a while before they stop dancing around and get to the point that they need my help.

They don’t just shove pieces of papyrus parchment into my hands with coordinates on them and tell me to hoof it there, on the double, “a dead female by the University.”

I guess they were shorthanded.

Or maybe they thought it was all one big practical joke.

The dead female was an ewe. A ewe? Whatever. Ovis aries. Of the sheeply species.

The rest of the crime scene was a mess. The wound on the abdomen was clean cut, an incision made by a sharp blade of some sort. Didn’t get lucky enough to find the bloodstained murder weapon.

Plenty of other ways to kill a man, or a sheep, were in evidence though.

A hammer with the name of a neighboring guild etched into the handle. Rubble from some explosion. A broken bottle of wine, labeled with a local vintner’s, sold by a local tavern. Shame about the breakage, I could have used a good long one.

Then there was the rope. Long enough to hang a man with. Woven by flax fibres.

I heard tell that the Clothworking scholars at the University of Harmony had ways of tracing folk by the warp and weave and feel of a cloth as it wound its way through a loom and its makers’ hands. Only Bast knows if they could do their magic for a rope.

As leads went, it wasn’t much. But it was worth a shot.

Next stop, this blacksmith.

The Nile crossing was uneventful. Let’s hope the smith proves as cooperative.

What is it with small town hicks and their obsession with sheep? I suppose the big city’s no better, just more and different vices.

Time for a stop at the tavern. Too bad I swore to remain sober while on a job. Plenty of people already want to give me free cement shoes and a trip to the bottom of the Nile, no point making it any easier for them.

This was going to be a long dry night.

If the sign wasn’t a dead giveaway that I was at the right tavern,  the patrons surely were.

Just like that, in his drunken misery, her ex handed me the vital clue to the murder weapon. Not a hammer, nor rope or explosive shrapnel. A Seven Blade, full of pointy lethality.

And I had a motive. Now I just needed the murderer’s identity.

Seven Blade Tournaments are only entered from one location: A Shrine of Conflict. Checking out the nearest one revealed both his name and likely hiding spot.

Case closed. The cops will sort it out from there. I gave my report, and hopefully, they don’t call me in again for another interview. Not soon, at any rate.

Job’s over. I’ll be at that tavern trading secrets of life with the bartender.

Or at least that was the plan until the bedraggled guy stopped me at the door and started muttering about a “missing art curator” and statues that needed labeling. By Osiris, what now?

This short story was brought to you courtesy of the Murder Ewe-niversity Venery by the author Dreasimy. Embellishments and errors are mine.

One of the more amusing Veneries I’ve ever run. Highly recommended.

I’ve striven to avoid full walkthrough solutions (for this and the future Thought puzzles), so that they will still remain somewhat challenging for those attempting the run. Veneries, though, are generally more fun and short than a brainbursting challenge. They are made so deliberately, so that people will like them and rate them highly for being entertaining and not wasting their time on a long time-consuming scavenger hunt.

Two more Veneries later, one involving finding artistic statues in the local area, and another finding regional landmarks in an area I was not so familiar with, the principles were done and I was one level higher.

ATITD: Next Goal, Four “Easy” Levels

Since Tale 3, A Tale in the Desert also sports a leveling system. Apparently the structure and guided objectives lent a sense of progress and retained players for far longer than they stuck around for a level-less system, so that was that, one more deathblow to a no-levels paradise some people may dream of.

One of the disadvantages of levels is also present in ATITD. You have to earn enough levels to “unlock” certain things (skills, machinery or activities) that you may want to use.

While there’s the social alternative as a s solution for some of it (there have been a few itinerant blacksmiths wandering around as level 0 peasants, they simply borrow/use someone else’s already constructed anvil and tools – which they would not be able to build), ultimately, it’s not terribly practical.

The good news is that though there are 70 maximum levels, past level 42, there is no more in-game significance (skills or technology or tests unlocked) to them. It’s sort of like Guild Wars’ Hall of Monuments – you can reach 50 points, but only 30 give you only any tangible benefit besides a cool title.

Furthermore, when you check the levels and skills pages of the wiki, levels which give any real practical benefit are the lower levels and top off around 29-32. At level 29, is the last level of Cooking (assuming you had any interest in that activity) and at level 32, Detonation, a technology which uses explosives to make gravel quickly in a detonation pit – but one can always make gravel without the risk of blowing oneself up by hitting stones with a sledgehammer.

Further extra stuff is nice to have, but not mission critical. (In Tale 4, I targeted level 28 for Silkworm Farming, but I note in Tale 5 and Tale 6, they have cut the requirement down to level 19, even easier to achieve.)

In a way, this is also good, because higher levels are also exponentially harder to achieve in ATITD. I believe only one person has ever reached the maximum level before a Telling ended.

Levels are gained as follows:

  • 1 for Citizenship
  • 1 for each of the seven Principles of the disciplines. (7)
  • 1 for each Test principle (49)
  • 1 for each Title prefix change (7) (Student of… through Oracle of…). Note that this does not mean one level per test passed.
  • 1 for each extra Oracleship you receive (6)

That’s essentially from easiest to hardest. Citizenship is the ATITD tutorial, basically. The first seven initiations (or principles of the disciplines – Architecture, Art & Music, Body, Harmony, Leadership, Thought and Worship) start out easy and get a little bit trickier.

Test Principles range in difficulty, but are the primary way to get levels. Doing Principles simply mean fulfilling a list of tasks that introduce you to the Test, and are usually a partial demonstration of what the Test is about. This qualifies you for a level.

For more challenged-inclined folks, they can aim to pass the Test itself. This usually involves significantly more effort, competition with others, and possibly long-term time investment. If they do pass the Test, and if the Test gives them a change of prefix title, then they get a level. If not, they just get the prestige and satisfaction of having passed it.

Title prefixes are changed by passing 1-7 Tests in a particular discipline. Passing all seven in one discipline means you become an Oracle of that discipline. Naturally, not easy.

And if you have an extra Oracleship, comes the final bonus levels. (I don’t even want to consider how much effort that would be.)

Fortunately, I have much lower aspirations. I will quite happily settle for around the lvl 29-32 mark eventually. Since I took a couple months off, my characters were lvl 16 and 18 respectively, and that’s still slightly too low to unlock several skills and techs and tests and I want.

Amidst the horde of panels indicating “yet-to-do” Principles, each of which is worth one level if I can conceivably complete them (and some are distinctly not easy to), I noted a few that were.

The Thought Principles of the Venery, the Pathmaker, and the Bijou (whose principles I had yet to get from the University in the screenshot below), along with the Harmony Principle of Reason.

The Discipline of Thought is all about minigame puzzles. Minigame puzzles that involve Thought (naturally) and that are player-created, player-solved and rated.

Like all good sandboxes, ATITD offers a number of different ways to get the same principle done. After all, what is the point of shoddy puzzles built by people who just want the level, and aren’t interested in making a good puzzle to pass the Test with?

So you can:

1) Build the puzzle, following the suggested principles list

and then a) Have 7 people do the puzzle and judge it, ie. give it a rating

or b) If you cannot wait or attract 7 people to have any interest in it, you could also tear it down

Naturally, tearing it down wastes the materials, and means you cannot pass the Test since you don’t have a puzzle any more, but if you’re looking for just the level off the Principles, it is an option – essentially “spending” or “paying” the materials cost without the aggravation of waiting for people’s judgments.

Or you can 2) Play and solve 3 recent winning puzzles.

These are Test passing puzzles that win weekly based on the best aggregated player rating. These are guaranteed to be at least somewhat good or hard puzzles, representative of what Egypt thinks is a “good” puzzle for that particular Test.

That second option is what I’m aiming for.

Because spending the time and materials to build these things is not particularly what I want to do, nor do I have present plans to pass any Thought Tests (I would have to build them later if I did). Take the Venery as an example:


for the minimum size Venery with 7 lockboxes. Not as bad as a Raeli Oven, but still, quite a lot of gems to cut, and costly when you consider I’ll have to do it twice for my two characters. I’ll do it for a Test pass, but not for a level. And a level is what we’re aiming for here.

So a quick check of the ATITD System log for the last 28 days or so of Test Passes, a quick ctrl+F “Find” of the keywords Venery, Pathmaker and Bijou, and I had my target locations to trek to for the most recent winning puzzles.