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Reading another meta post (Handling puzzles with multiple steps and the posting of partial answers) got me wondering if it would be okay to post a multi-step puzzle as multiple puzzles. I've been wanting to make some sort of scavenger hunt puzzle that goes across multiple questions, but I am unsure whether it's acceptable to post a series of questions at the same time that rely on the answers of each other to solve a final puzzle.

I feel like this would solve the problem from the linked meta post of having a very long puzzle for people to solve and everyone either keeping their answer to part of it to themselves or piggybacking off someone to get the final answer easier. Assuming that each of the puzzles have enough content to be a puzzle on their own, is it okay to post a series all at once, or should the later puzzles only be posted when the previous one is solved?

Here's an example:

Question 1:
Requires solving of 2 Vigenere ciphers with different keys.

Question 2:
Get a secret message from an image using an anagram of the keys from question 1

(Insert some more questions with other types of encryptions)

Final Question:
Rotate the keys on all the previous questions and use it to solve a large string of letters into a final sentence.

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I don't think we have a fully-decided situation here - opinions vary. Things to consider:

Contra-ultra-long

  • requires partial answers or will appear to be "dead" for a rather long time
  • decreases likelihood people will attempt it

Contra-causal-linked

  • If posted simultaneously, can not be solved out-of-order. So some puzzles appear "broken".
  • If posted sequentially, not different from separate puzzles as each "starting point" is already known (accepted solution of previous)

If you're aiming for a sequential puzzle where you confirm each step individually, then you could as well make it into a series of independent puzzles. There is no value gained by having them dependent on others. You can still link the puzzles to be themed in a group via text-links for story. I do this in my puzzles like here for example. I also "group" them via a link to a common search-query, taking up the excellent suggestion Xnor had for this.

Alternatively:

If you're aiming for a long puzzles where all should (ideally) be solved at once, splitting does not seem to be a very good idea to me. During "solving" it makes things harder to follow, and once the "total" solution is found there is zero-value in having it split. In my opinion, a "long" puzzle is preferred that way. I do think, however, that long puzzles need more editing by the author to keep all "nice and tidy" over time and particular once it is solved. One way of doing this would be to create a community-answer which collects (with spoiler tags) all already solved steps so that everyone can "step into" it. Once it is completely solved, there is a nice question-solution pair for keepsake.Not saying it's the best solution, but that's how I've handled it in my multi-step puzzles like here for example.

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Here's the way I see it. Although you have a logical grouping for the questions that make up your hunt, the connection won't be as easy to see for someone who comes along months later and wasn't around during the hunt. In particular, it is possible for someone to stumble onto your final puzzle without having ever seen any of the puzzles leading up to it (or even being aware that they exist). If they see your final puzzle, and can only tell that it is a metapuzzle by looking at the answers, then their experience with the question isn't going to be very good.

With that in mind, as long as it is clear in the "question body" that the final puzzle is a metapuzzle (and the previous puzzles of the hunt are easily accessible), it ultimately won't matter as much whether or not the other puzzles have been solved before it was posted.

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    $\begingroup$ That being said, here's something that Len already noted on another puzzle that's already been posted: "...In addition, puzzles should not be linked. Each puzzle should contain sufficient information so it can be solved by itself.", so assuming that's being enforced as a hard rule, then any sort of metapuzzle-type thing would have to pull in the necessary bits itself (and not make the user do it) $\endgroup$ May 22 '15 at 4:56
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If it is possible to write a single long puzzle 1 that is interesting, I would personally advice you do that. Such questions do earn more rep, and also hold people's attention. A person who solves the first part of a puzzle is invariably going to try solving the second.

However, if it is not possible or if your series is too long, it would be best to make the puzzles independent of each other, and such that each part is interesting by itself. Then you can post them one-by-one as the previous one gets solved. You could still give some kind of umbrella name to them, for example the Alice and Bob puzzles or the Professor Halfbrain puzzles. Such a series could run infinitely as and when you (or someone else) gets more new ideas.

If neither is possible, you possibly could post them one-by-one, each being a sequel of the previous. However, this only works if your puzzle type is quite interesting. Moreover, even a couple of boring sequels will cause people to lose interest in the series. However, if your puzzle sequence is very interesting (adding a story would help), it is possible to make an indefinite number of similar puzzles in series. I have not come across any such series recently, though.

Note
1. This also gives you the option of making a , though be vary of doing so. Not only does this mean you have to be regularly available online, but you might be asked in the future to convert your puzzle into a proper one (if semi-interactive is deemed off-topic).

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