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"Purveyor of rare books, sundries and ephemera"
— VillageConnoisseur's Reddit profile information.

VillageConnoisseur's Reddit avatar.

The Merchant's Quest is a 2021 alternate reality game made to promote Resident Evil Village.

History

April 27

Puzzle

A twitter post by @RE_Games was made on April 27, 2021, of a cryptic video and a description reading;[1]

"Can somebody figure out what this means? We’re told it originated from Reddit."
VillageConnoisseur_-_First_Video

VillageConnoisseur - First Video

Solution

The numbers spoken were used as coordinates to locate towns and buildings.

The first letter of each location was used to spell out "uvillageconnoisseur". That combined with the hint it originates from Reddit, the Reddit profile "u/VillageConnoisseur" was discovered which hosted a post containing the same video.[2]

April 28

On April 28, u/VillageConnoisseur posted a message and graphic instructing to "wait until Friday".[3]

VillageConnoisseur message.jpg

That same day Reddit advertisements also went live reading;

"What do cursed dolls, empty tombs & a merchant have in common? Follow u/VillageConnoisseur to find out"

April 29

A second twitter post by @RE_Games was made on April 29, 2021, which prompts users to follow u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit.[4]

VillageConnoisseur_-_Second_Video

VillageConnoisseur - Second Video

April 30

The official name of the ARG was revealed to be "The Merchant's Quest" via r/residentevil's new banner.

r/residentevil's newly added banner

The same day, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post on Reddit:[5]

"Greetings, străini. I am a simple merchant, with limited access to the technology you take for granted. I believe you can help me with a situation I find myself in.

I have books of great value to me, but they have been badly damaged. Some madman has torn out various pages and has written nonsense in the margins. La naiba! What kind of monster would damage a precious book!?

I have an assistant, she tells me the vandalism looks deliberate, like it might mean something to someone. I see only rips and scribbles. Perhaps you can see otherwise. I will share the details with you as I take a closer look at all the damage.

This particular book “only” has a page torn out—no scribbling. There also was something strange stuck in the spine. Please allow me to examine it. If there is further investigation to be done, you will hear from me tomorrow.''"

The image below was attached to the post:

VillageConnoisseur message (2).jpg

A third video was also posted by @RE_Games to remind users to solve the mystery.[6]

VillageConnoisseur_-_Third_Video

VillageConnoisseur - Third Video

May 1

Another video was also posted by @RE_Games.[7]

VillageConnoisseur_-_Fifth_Video

VillageConnoisseur - Fifth Video

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[8]

"Good day to you străini. The device concealed in the spine of the book I shared with you yesterday contained some kind of information. My assistant, who, like you, is a foreigner to me, says you should “play” it. I say she gives me vapors with her foolishness. I do not understand how this will help me find my missing page, but I am trusting that you can make some sense of it."

The video below was attached to the post:

VillageConnoisseur_-_Fourth_Video

VillageConnoisseur - Fourth Video

Within this post, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following comments as pieces of the puzzle were solved:[9][10][11]

"The girl has tried to show me what the device holds, but the assault on my delicate ears is too much. The image of screaming demons dances before my clenched-shut eyes. Perhaps one of you can give it a more thorough analysis."
"The girl, she rambles about images and shows me artwork that is cut into ribbons. Who has carved it up so?"
"The scribbling of the madman on a page torn from the book. At least he could have done us the courtesy to write intelligibly. Clearly his brain was rot."

Solution

By using a spectrogram on the attached video, a scrambled image can be found which must be rearranged in order to show the true image. Once this is done, the letters "qp9c80v4cdz.com" can be seen which leads to a site that hosts another image. This image also has a few letters which read "GUR ZVYYFGBAR".

u/VillageConnoisseur's "Clearly his brain was rot" comment clues into the ROT13 cipher, which can be used to decode the letters into "THE MILLSTONE".

Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following posts:[13][14]

"I know of only one millstone in the village—I will send my assistant there in the morning to see what she can find. It is too late for one such as her to be out alone in the dark. At least now I can see the page. I only hope the original is still out there. Noapte bună, we will talk again tomorrow."
"Day 1: What an interesting predicament I find myself in! A series of rare books has come into my possession, but they are badly damaged by some madman and each has a crucial page missing. My mostly useless assistant has driven me to ask for help from străini here. The first book contained a devious audio puzzle that directed us to search the millstone for the missing page. The girl will go there tomorrow to see what she can find. In the meantime, solving the madman’s puzzle revealed a copy of the stolen sheet, for whatever that is worth."

May 2

Another video was also posted by @RE_Games.[15]

VillageConnoisseur_-_Sixth_Video

VillageConnoisseur - Sixth Video

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[16]

"So we find ourselves here again, străini. My assistant was able to recover the page hidden in the wooden eye that supports the millstone, a small wonder since she cannot seem to find a teapot in the kitchen. No more devices in the spine, just the scribbles. I hope your eyes will see what we cannot."

The image below was attached to the post:

VillageConnoisseur - The Second Book.jpg

Within this post, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following comments as pieces of the puzzle were solved:[17][18][19]

"That’s apeculiardoll.house? What a bizarre thing to say."
"What is this? Some sort of demented children’s tale? Where is the sense in this? The logic escapes me. This madman surely followed a twisted path."
"Again with this gibberish. Something strikes me as different in this scribbled phrase. I wonder if yesterday’s location could contain the key?"

Solution

By running "apeculiardoll house" through a search engine, participants are drawn to a website called apeculiardoll.house.

The text on the main page reads:

"Dolls and clothes and rooms, and oh my what are they doing there?

JENNY is either GNAWING BONES or is wearing the BLOOD RED CAPE.
The boy in the NURSERY is wearing the MOLDY GREEN HAT and is to the left of the room with the doll who is SHARPENING KNIVES.
VICTOR is in the BATHROOM next to LILITH’s room and is also next to the girl in the ITCHY BLACK HAIRSHIRT. None of them are MOPPING BLOODSTAINS.
POPPY is wearing the GREASY BROWN COAT.
ADOLF is to the left of DORIAN; neither is wearing the PURPLE BRUISE VEST.
The doll below the NURSERY is STITCHING SKINS.
The doll in the LIBRARY is SQUISHING ANTS in the room above the BEDROOM.
The doll that is PICKING SCABS is below the HALLWAY, in the room next to the KITCHEN.

The boy wearing TATTERED TARTAN TROUSERS is on the opposite side of the house from the girl in the BLOOD RED CAPE."


This is a logic puzzle, comparable to the chess puzzles in the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake. The participant must decipher the locations of each doll and their respective room by carefully reading the implications of their location. What can be quickly understood is that there are six rooms in the house (Nursery, Bathroom, Library, Bedroom, Hallway and Kitchen) and six dolls (Adolf, Dorian, Victor, Lilith, Poppy and Jenny). The latter confirms that the "B" and "G" letters on the doll's house picture identifies the occupant as a "Boy" or "Girl".

In chart form, the house can now be labelled as:

BOY1 GIRL1 BOY2
GIRL2 BOY3 GIRL3
The doll's house's six rooms, with "B" and "G" changed over as an aide.
BOY1 GIRL1 BOY2
GIRL2 BOY3 GIRL3
  • Jenny, a Girl, wears a red cape and is said to be on the opposite side of the house from a Boy in tartan trousers. This is a clue referring to the sex-determined layout.
  • A Boy is in the Nursery, and to the left of another room. This means the Nursery can only be either the "BOY1" or "BOY3" room pictured above.
  • Victor, a Boy, lives in the Bathroom next to Lilith's room and another girl. Victor must be in the middle of the house, and as such is "BOY3".
    • The Bathroom is confirmed therefore to be downstairs, meaning the Nursery is upstairs on the left.
    • As Jenny is on the opposite side from Adolf, Jenny is on the bottom right.
    • Lilith must be the other girl next to Victor.
    • As Jenny and Lilith are downstairs, Poppy must be upstairs.
  • Adolf is to the "left" of Dorian. This means he must be in the Nursery, and Dorian must be "BOY2".
  • The Library is above the Bedroom. As we know where the Nursery is they cannot be on the left, and as we know the Bathroom is in the middle, the Library and Bedroom must be on the right.
  • A doll lives below the hallway and next to the kitchen. As we know where both the Nursery and Library are, the Hallway must be in the middle. The Kitchen therefore is next to the Bathroom where Lilith is.
The chart, now complete.
Nursery/Adolf Hallway/Poppy Library/Dorian
Kitchen/Lilith Bathroom/Victor Bedroom/Jenny


The text on the /help page will randomly post any of a list of phrases. These are throwaway remarks that do not appear relevant:

After the locations of the dolls have been determined, a further look at a search engine will send the participant to more specific pages based on search results:

The following links each give the participant parts of a drawing. Lilith's and Jenny's parts show the code "ULRQIES LAS OVBKKQ". Using a cipher like the previous challenge, the result is "BENEATH THE BRIDGE".

Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post:[20]

"Beneath the bridge—ridicol! That is still much area to search, and the lazy girl has not even made my evening cup of tea yet. She will have to go tomorrow. I trust you will join us here again."

May 3

Another video was also posted by @RE_Games.[21]

VillageConnoisseur_-_May_3_Twitter_Video

VillageConnoisseur - May 3 Twitter Video

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[22]

"So it seems there was a box lashed to a post under the bridge—and on the near side, so my assistant had no need to cross it. A good fortune, as superstitious people in the village believe a witch lives on the other side. Still, I have my page and there is another book for you to consider. What a bloody mess."

The image below was attached to the post:

VillageConnoisseur - I trust this one will get your blood pumping.jpg

Within this post, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following comments:[23][24][25]

"What a strange symbol! Something doesn’t lineup here."
"The girl says that the madman sets up roadblock after roadblock: an unending source of roadblocks. Infuriating. These images perplex me. In the attic of my brain they tap like bats on rafters."
"Another mistreated drawing with rantings scribbled across it. The madman was vigorous, at least."

Solution

The page on the left has lines that make up a barcode, when this code is scanned the following numbers will be found: "104.236.68.252". This is an IP address that leads to a website: http://104.236.68.252/

This website has a ZIP file that can be downloaded called "7sAnfhUhdGqmy7w.zip", it is password protected.

If a user inspects the website's source code, they will find a set of characters hidden within, these are "/92749204". This set of characters can then be placed on top of the already found webpage: http://104.236.68.252/92749204

This leads to a page with a video to be watched. The video in question has multiple dots which make a polybius square, it will specifically lead to "34323315434533113211331544333453" which decrypts to "omnesunamanetnox", this is the password for the ZIP file.

The ZIP file contains one image called "94660217.png", this image has the letters "BFNXTHPK JIMCIU" written at the bottom.

Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post:[27]

"Nothing good will come of rummaging around THAT cellar in the dark—my assistant will have to go look in the morning. It is hard enough to keep your head on in an abattoir in the daylight. Sweet dreams, străini."


May 4

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[28]

"She tells me the abattoir cellar smells bad; I say, what do you expect, fresh flowers? Fată proasta, at least she found the page. This book has many pages stuck together—it will take me some time to pry them apart without tearing the paper. It’s as if someone dropped it in water."

The image below was attached to the post:

Fourth book.


Within this post, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following comments as pieces of the puzzle were solved:[29][30][31]

"Meaningless numbers spattered across and down the page like tears. It is too much."
"After too much, there is yet more: the girl listens to a maddening number of tones over and over, nodding her head as if she is on the verge of understanding. We must address her boastfulness soon, I think."
"I am sure you know what to do with the madman’s scribbles, străini. As for me, I tire of his childish babblings."

Solution

Taking the numbers along the top and the bottom, you approach them in the fashion of a nonogram/picross puzzle. When you solve this puzzle, you will be given a QR code. Thankfully this QR code means you got the correct answer and it leads you to the domain of https://hvsjwr.com/

When you get to this website, you'll be met with a mysterious video. The video in question contains four sets of dial tone frequencies. When run through a DTMF decoder, you'll end up getting a bunch of numbers in a sequence.

66666339999337776663336668877789666844777333377774449933444444899989666*66666339999337776666666633

You then take these numbers and run them through a multitap decoder. You soon get a weird message but one that is sort of literate and leads to another clue.

ONEZEROFOUR TWOTHRFDSIX EIITYTWO ONEZEROONE

This can be inferred as some sort of IP if looked at a bit and leads towards http://104.236.82.101/

This address has another page and another message, TIE UHOB UQGV. This code is able to be cracked using the answer from May 3, ABATTOIRCELLAR, as a Viginere cipher key. This then leads towards the answer, THE BOAT DOCK. This being the location the assistant of u/VillageConnoisseur should be visiting next.

Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post:[32]

"Bah, there are at least two boat docks that I know of. I will have to send her to both. This will take some time, so best if you come back tomorrow. I have also to find some boots for those slow-moving planks she calls feet. Docks are wet and slippery, and sometimes it’s not water. But enough of dark things--I must commend you all for your helpful and clever comments here today. It warms my heart to see you work together to aid me in my quest. Please continue to do so!"

May 5

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[33]

"My assistant came back to me drenched, angry like a cat who has been caught out in the rain—hissing and spitting but with my page, at least. What to do with a girl who complains so bitterly about every simple task? I shall think about it over my tea. This book seems different, no? I am not so good with English, but even I can see the trouble here."

The image below was attached to the post:

Fifth Book

Within this post, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following comment as pieces of the puzzle were solved:[34]

"Now we must read fairy tales. Poorly spelled fairy tales, at that. Even my fractured command of the language is better than this. There is a vast difference between that which is written and that which reads true."

Solution

In the image, the left page will have altered letters. You take the corrected letters and look at the difference between the altered and corrected letters, shifting them by one.

It comes out as "Pages are mine, heartbreak is yours. Ciao, old fool. - The girl"


Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post:[35]

"Fată rea! She has fooled us all! And she has stolen my page and replaced it with this...this gunoi! La naiba! She kept a room in a house in the village, I must go there to see what I can find. Perhaps she hasn’t gotten away with everything quite yet."

May 6

Puzzle

A clue was posted by u/VillageConnoisseur on Reddit:[36]

"The girl is gone, along with my pages. I found this scrap of paper in the grate in her room. Does it mean anything? I will search more."

The image below was attached to the post:

u/VillageConnoisseur then posted three more times, each containing a separate piece of paper:[37][38][39]

"Torn pages from a book are a pain, but the wretched girl has torn up the torn page, and my heart along with it. What peculiar handwriting this madman had. Could he not pick a consistent case, one or the other?"

The images below are attached to the posts:

Solution

Combining the four torn sheets creates a string that can be put into sets of eight characters. Soon you turn that into a Baconian cipher. That will now come out as:

BAAAB BABAB BBAAA BABBB ABBAA BABBA BABBA BBAAA BABBA BBAAA ABBBA ABABB ABBAA BAABA ABABA BAAAB ABBBB ABABB ABABB AAAAB BABAB AABAB AABAA AABAA AABAA AAAAA BAABA BBAAB BABBA AABAB AABAB BAABA AAABA AABAA AABAA ABBBB ABABA AABAB AAAAA AABAB ABBBB BABBA

Which translates into RVYXMWWYWYOLMSKRPLLBVFEEEASZWFFSCEEPKFAFPW

This contains a Vigenère cipher which involves having to use a key again, the key being from the previous set of book pages.

On the scraps their appear to be tea stains. These stains begin to line up perfectly with the circular symbols at the corners of the previous four pages that were uncovered. Aligning the scraps behind the other pages using this as a guide, letters begin showing through the holes, which reveals a message.

"The Bell Tolls For All"

Which is the key.

So at the final stretch you use the decrypted baconian text, then input it through Vigenère using the key. The final solution for this step is

YOUWILLFINDTHETREASUREATTHEOLDCEMETERYWELL

The merchant than said:[40]

"Although nothing may fill the hole in my heart the girl has left, the lessons we’ve learned along the way, străini, have served me well. I hope you are able to put the pieces together and see what I have seen. The old cemetery well. I know that domain completely."

Which is a clue that leads to

https://theoldcemeterywell.com/ which contained a sweepstakes giveaway.

The images used:

Aftermath

After the puzzle was solved by Reddit users, u/VillageConnoisseur made the following post:[41]

"After all that we have gone through together this week, I believe you are no longer străini to me—I shall call you fraților! That is all the pieces, I believe. Be well."

The sweepstakes

https://theoldcemeterywell.com/ contained a sweepstakes giveaway with entry through signing up with an email, with drawing down around May 12, 2021. For entering, users were allowed access to three animated desktop gifs based on Resident Evil Village.

The prizes as descried by the official rules;

"Grand Prizes(10):Each grand prize is a Resident Evil Village collector’s edition video game(each a “Grand Prize”).No more than ten (10) Grand Prizes will be available in the Sweepstakes. The ARV of each Grand Prize is $220B.
First Prizes (5): Each first prize is Resident Evil Village branded hyper X headset (each a “First Prize”). No more than five (5) FirstPrizes will be available in the Sweepstakes. The ARV of each First Prize is $99.C.
Second Prizes(5):Each secondprize is a Resident Evil Village branded water bottle(each a “Second Prize”). No more than five (5) Second Prizes will be available in the Sweepstakes. The ARV of each Second Prize is $15.
"

Sources

  1. Resident Evil on Twitter: "Can somebody figure out what this means? We’re told it originated from Reddit." / Twitter
  2. My assistant says somehow these numbers relate to me. Admittedly, I have a head for numbers, but not ones like these... : VillageConnoisseur
  3. Called away on urgent business. I’d refer you to my assistant, but you’d be better off waiting until I return. : VillageConnoisseur
  4. Resident Evil on Twitter: "#ResidentEvilVillage is almost here. Meanwhile, a puzzling set of challenges awaits. Follow reddit.com/user/villageconnoisseur for an immersive new experience." / Twitter
  5. Greetings, străini. Seeking help. : VillageConnoisseur
  6. Resident Evil on Twitter: "What will it take to unravel the clues in this new Resident Evil challenge? Visit reddit.com/user/villageconnoisseur to solve the mystery. #themerchantsquest" / Twitter
  7. Resident Evil on Twitter: "Wanted: Sharp thinkers to decode the scribblings of a deranged man and reveal the answers hidden within. Accept this mission at reddit.com/user/villageconnoisseur. #themerchantsquest " / Twitter
  8. This baffling information was on the device. What can you make of it? : VillageConnoisseur
  9. This baffling information was on the device. What can you make of it? : VillageConnoisseur
  10. This baffling information was on the device. What can you make of it? : VillageConnoisseur
  11. This baffling information was on the device. What can you make of it? : VillageConnoisseur
  12. 12.0 12.1 YankeeWhiteARG comments on This baffling information was on the device. What can you make of it?
  13. A millstone around my neck : VillageConnoisseur
  14. The Story So Far : VillageConnoisseur
  15. Resident Evil on Twitter: "A village merchant has issued a call for help. Can you assist him on his quest? Join the adventure at http://reddit.com/u/villageconnoisseur…. #themerchantsquest / Twitter
  16. Eureka! Let’s see if lightning can strike twice. : VillageConnoisseur
  17. Eureka! Let’s see if lightning can strike twice. : VillageConnoisseur
  18. Eureka! Let’s see if lightning can strike twice. : VillageConnoisseur
  19. Eureka! Let’s see if lightning can strike twice. : VillageConnoisseur
  20. Bridge to nowhere : u/VillageConnoisseur
  21. Resident Evil on Twitter: "What do a lake full of skeletons, an enchanted doll and a curious merchant have in common? Visit http://reddit.com/u/villageconnoisseur…. to unravel this riddle. #themerchantsquest" / Twitter
  22. I trust this one will get your blood pumping. : VillageConnoisseur
  23. I trust this one will get your blood pumping. : VillageConnoisseur
  24. I trust this one will get your blood pumping. : VillageConnoisseur
  25. I trust this one will get your blood pumping. : VillageConnoisseur
  26. I trust this one will get your blood pumping. : VillageConnoisseur
  27. Now I lay me down to sleep : u/VillageConnoisseur
  28. [1]
  29. [2]
  30. [3]
  31. [4]
  32. [5]
  33. [6]
  34. [7]
  35. [8]
  36. [9]
  37. [10]
  38. [11]
  39. [12]
  40. [13]
  41. [14]

External links

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