Burns Events Gaming Puzzles Riddles Treasure Hunt

Burning Flipside 2022: Tortuga Treasure Hunt

Multiple folks here at Rogue Signal are Texas burners (as in, people that attend Burning Man, or other regional burn events), and as such frequently attend Texas’s biggest regional burn, Burning Flipside, and are part of a pirate Theme Camp called Tortuga. This year, we decided to create a game for Tortuga in the form of a treasure hunt.

One of the unique challenges about creating a game for an event such as a burn is that many burners, while at the event, do not like to have or use any form of technology, sometimes not even a timepiece! In order to create a game that would be accessible by all, we had to think outside the electronics box a bit and create a game that was entirely physical and did not rely on any form of technology at all.

Another unique challenge of trying to host a game such as this at a burn, is that coordinating with other burners and theme camps can be difficult. Burns are notoriously chaotic and are ephemeral by nature, being completely created on and removed from the land where they exist in a very short time. Once at the event, prior plans can and will change, and quickly, so coordinating anything beforehand like locations of treasure chests and printing materials like maps is a coin toss at best, and completely unreliable at worst. We definitely had to make a few adjustments on-the-fly at the event. Fortunately, our prior printed materials were not affected.

The Map

Tortuga is primarily a pirate theme camp that hosts a bar. The Tortuga tavern, the “Groggin & Floggin” is one of the more popular bars at the event. This is where we began our story… with a map. A treasure map. Patrons to the tavern could pick one up from the bar and take it with them:

Burning Flipside 2022 Tortuga Treasure Map

Each colored X marked a spot. Each spot was a different theme camp, each of which we coordinated with prior to the event to determine the location of a treasure chest that would be located there, along with a clue that would lead Players to the treasure chests once they arrived at the camps. The clues were printed on the back of the map, in the cooresponding colors.

There were in all a total of nine color-coded X’s representing nine treasure chests of corresponding colors. Each treasure chest was colored and decorated by one or more members of the Tortuga theme camp. Inside each treasure chest was a laser-etched wooden false bottom produced by the Tortuga Signage Lead, Puzzle, with part of a phrase etched into them. Players needed to collect (in their mind, or written down) all of the chunks of phrase to reconstruct the phrase and return to the Tavern with it.

Purple Chest

Purple Chest decorated by Puzzle, Crewmate of the Emerald Dawn

The Purple Chest was located somewhere at the Yayborhood theme camp. The Yayborhood consists of a shade structure dance area with a sound system and other interesting sculpture, structures, and signage.

The Map Clue to help Players find the Purple Chest was:

(Sung to the tune of Sponge Bob)
is a big flat thing that no one can read?
Large and white and vacant is he!
It might glow in darkness as hexed by a witch.
Now wait 'til tha darkness and become enriched!

This clue should have led Players to a blank white sign on the side of the Yayborhood’s shade structure. The sign was blank… except for some glow in the dark ink which was stamped in the shape of a diamond multiple times onto the sign. When charged with light at night or viewed under a blacklight, the diamonds would glow and appear to the viewer.

Near the Yayborhood’s shade structure was a large sculpture of a diamond made of metal poles, a structure that people could climb, dance, or play on. At the base of this structure was the Purple Chest:

Inside the Purple Chest was the word:


Silver Chest

Silver Chest decorated by multiple Crewmates

The Silver chest was located somewhere at Burning Glam. Burning Glam is a theme camp that is essentially a clothing swap meet. Burners can drop off clothing and costume items or take them as desired. As such, Burning Glam generally has lots of clothing racks and tables.

The Map Clue to help Players find the Silver Chest was:

Oh, my my my... How the tables have turned!

Hopefully this clue directed Players to look around and under Burning Glam’s tables, where the Silver Chest was mounted, upside-down, to the underside of one of the tables:

Inside the Silver Chest was the word:


Green Chest

Green Chest decorated by Admiral I)ruidian tha Green, Captain of the Emerald Dawn and Commander of the Fleet

The Green Chest was located at Tortuga itself… However, reaching it had a bit of a roadblock.

The Map Clue to help Players find the Green Chest was:

At tha Isle o' Tortuga, ya spend yer coin too yea? Fer tha top shelf be fruitful... Some would even say lootful!

The Green Chest was sitting on the tavern’s Top Shelf, which not any ol’ scallywag can access…

Tortuga camp members distribute gold doubloons (seen in the picture above) to other burners at the event for things like witnessing someone doing a good deed, for creating amazing art, for rocking a dance floor, or any other positive, kind, or generous act that they might witness. This coin allows the recipient to visit the Groggin & Floggin tavern and redeem it for a drink from the Top Shelf… Or for anything else on the Top Shelf.

If a Player secured themselves a doubloon, they could redeem it for a peek inside the Green Chest, where they would find the word:


Orange Chest

Orange Chest decorated by multiple Crewmates

The Orange chest resided at a camp called Snail Tinder Mail, which was a match-making camp where burners could create a profile for themselves and browse other burners profiles hoping to find a match.

The Map Clue to help Players find the Orange Chest was:

Love connection, or booty call?  A salty sea dog's secret admirer's letter should make it clear...

Players needed to browse the profiles to find a profile for one “Sea Wolf” and read their letter, which instructed the Player where to find the Orange Chest, under the Love Seat:

Inside the Orange Chest, the following word could be found:


Gold Chest

Gold Chest decorated by The Bed Pirate Nina, First Mate of the Emerald Dawn

The Gold Chest could be found somewhere at KFLIP, Burning Flipside’s FM radio station, which broadcasts music, commentary, and other rediculousness all throughout the event. Tortuga even hosted a shanty hour!

The Map Clue to help Players find the Gold Chest was:

KFLIP 100.5 FM

This simple call sign and frequency should have clued Players in to listening to the radio broadcast, where every so often a Tortuga commercial would be played:

This prompt hopefully brought people around to KFLIP to request a sea shanty, at which point the DJ would show them the Gold Chest sitting behind the DJ booth:

Upon looking inside, the Gold Chest would reveal the word:


Yellow Chest

Yellow Chest decorated by Puzzle, Crewmate of the Emerald Dawn

The Yellow Chest was a gift box you could find at Birthday Camp. Birthday Camp is themed with lots of birthday things like a giant wrapped gift shaped structure, a giant birthday cake, a ball pit, a photo booth, and more!

The Map Clue to help Players find the Yellow Chest was:

The best gifts are memories...

Searching around the photo booth and huge birthday cake structure, the Yellow Chest could be found:

The gift that the Yellow Chest had for Players was the word:


Red Chest

Red Chest decorated by Puzzle, Crewmate of the Emerald Dawn

The Red Chest naturally was found at Red Camp. Red Camp is… you guessed it… red. LOTS of red. Literally everything there is RED. A perfect place for a Red Chest to hide relatively unseen…

The Map Clue to help Players find the Red Chest was:

"Venture Onward! Dome Kicks Ass.
Be Aware. Red!"

A bit cryptic, this is not how Humans, or even Pirates, speak. Hopefully the poor grammar and gratuitious capitalization alerted Players to the capital letters in this clue which spelled “VODKA BAR”. At Red Camp, the bar in their dome has a wide selection of infused vodkas… and a Red Chest to peek inside.

The words that the Red Chest would yeild was:

a bad

Blue Chest

Blue Chest decorated by Sky, a.k.a. Meowstress, a.k.a. Captain QueerBeard of the Tempest

The Blue Chest could be found in the watery depths of the Aquanaughties camp. Aquanaughties is an ocean and aquatic themed camp with a number of various surfaces under which a Blue Chest could be lurking…

The Map Clue to help Players find the Blue Chest was:

The ghost in the shell has secrets to tell.

One of the attractions at Aquanaughties was an aquarium tank full of sea shells for people to take as burn souveniers. Buried underneath the top layer of shells was the Blue Chest. After finding and opening the Blue Chest, the following word could be read:


Black Chest

Black Chest decorated by Allison, Crewmate of the Emerald Dawn.

The Black Chest was the only Chest not located at a theme camp, but inside the effigy itself! Burns get their namesake from an event that generally takes place toward the end of them, the burning of a large wooden effigy. This year’s effigy, entitled “Stairway to Heaven” after many lost lives during the pandemic, provided an opportunity to hide the Black Chest somewhere among the multitude of stairs and platforms that made up the structure.

The Map Clue to help Players find the Black Chest was:

"On your relative journey to Heaven,
Follow in the footsteps of Escher & Jareth."

Hopefully Players understood this clue referencing M.C. Escher and Jareth from the classic fantasy film Labrynth to instruct them to look at the flipside, or the underside of the Stairway to Heaven. Mounted upside down beneath one of the steps, the Black Chest could be found:

Players needed to find this one before Sunday night, because it burned along with the effigy. Players that did find it in time could read the following word:

- Blackbeard

Putting it all Together

Once Players had collected all of the words from all of the Chests, they should have been able to reconstruct a quote from Blackbeard the pirate.

Clues to the order of the words included the leading and trailing quote characters, the double word Chest containing “a bad” which lends a clue to word placement in the grammar, and the trailing “- Blackbeard” indicating that this is a quote attributed to Blackbeard. The full quote reads:

“A good dream is better than a bad reality.”


The Booty!

Bringing the Blackbeard quote back to the Groggin & Floggin tavern and speaking it to the bartender would award the Player with a Blue Gem! This Gem afforded the Player with Top Shelf access to the bar for the remainder of the event.

Oh, but what’s this? The tavern’s exchange sign seems to indicate the existence of THREE colored gems…

Which can then be exchanged for a silver doubloon, or TOP SHELF ACCESS FOR LIFE!? I wonder what we’ll be up to next year…

One Final Note in a Bottle

For us, the treasure really was the friends we made along the way. We’d like to thank everyone from the Yayborhood, Burning Glam, Snail Tinder Mail, KFLIP, Birthday Camp, Red Camp, Aquanaughties, and the DaFT effigy build team for enthusiastically collaborating with us on providing this this treasure hunt experience to our fellow burners. Organizing and executing something this complicated at a burn is no small feat, but we pulled it off with your gracious help. THANK YOU!!!

I)ruid & all the pirates of Tortuga

By Dustin D. Trammell

Dustin D. Trammell is the founder of both the annual BodyHacking Convention (BDYHAX) as well as the monthly BHAT COLONY (BodyHackers of Austin Texas) meetup. Dustin has also founded many other successful hacker and technology groups and events such as the InfoSec Southwest (ISSW) hacker conference and the long-running Austin Hackers Anonymous (AHA!) meeting which just recently celebrated it’s first decade and has spawned dozens of “*HA!” offshoot meetings all across the country. Dustin is also a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, hacker, information security research scientist, events producer, party host, gamer, game designer, and puzzlecrafter. Dustin further self-identifies as a bodyhacker through aesthetic body modification, wearable technology, health and nutritional supplementation, and quantified self practices.

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