The Maester’s Path around the web
By Winter Is Coming on in Marketing.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t the only one to receive the first link in the chain of The Maester’s Path, HBO’s marketing initiative for Game of Thrones. Many other bloggers and critics received the box of scrolls and vials. I’ve compiled some of their reactions below. Be sure to visit each link for more photos and, in some cases, videos:

Today I was lucky to receive the “first link in the chain” and it’s incredible.
Tower of the Hand

It’s practically unmitigated awesomeness, and Linda and I feel honored and excited that we’re part of the experience, and can share it with fellow fans!
Westeros

Incredible – this was a total surprise! It’s a perfumer’s kit that takes you into the world, with maps and lore. I’m hooked, and this is just the beginning.
Violet Blue

I grabbed my vidcam and documented what quickly became not only an awesome “unboxing” video, but an amazing — and remarkably unconventional — narrative journey.
J.C. Hutchins

More reactions and photos:
Jace Lacob – Televisionary and The Daily Beast
Adam Serwer – The American Prospect
Jason Denzel – Dragonmount
Kiran Aditham – MediaBistro
Meredith Woerner – io9
CC Chapman – Digital Dads
Matt Fowler – IGN TV
Kristen Nedopak – ThinkHero
Seth Green – Comedian, Writer, Actor
Myles McNutt – Cultural Learnings

There are others who have received it as well, but have yet to give any impressions. We’ll update this post with impressions and unboxings from around the web as they come in.

Oh, I also found this website — TheMaestersPath.com — which was set up by HBO, and it looks like it will tie into the campaign at some point. When it will go live and what content it will contain is anyone’s guess…

UPDATE: Making Game of Thrones has a new post about the unboxing experience with quotes from Elio of Westeros and myself.

The fact that they chose to run the quotes where both Elio and I question if there is more to this box than meets the eye makes me think there is more to this box than meets the eye. I’ve been searching for more clues, invisible ink, a hidden compartment, something, anything… but so far I’ve come up empty. We may have to wait for the next link in the chain for more mysteries to be revealed.


55 Comments

  1. Lex
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Very, very cool.

  2. Blue Bird
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    What a fantastic idea! I wonder if maybe as the series gets going they could offer these to the general public in some way? Raffle prizes maybe?

  3. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    So now we know some of the people to stalk to get hold of one of these boxes…

    (erratum: by ‘stalk’ I of course mean ‘rob’, and by ‘one’ I mean ‘all’ ;-) )

  4. Felagund
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m effin jealous… :|

  5. Mormegil
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many of these were sent out?

    Looking at the different combination of scents people have got I wonder if it was just coincidence that WiC got Winterfell as one of his or was it done on purpose.

    Interesting that with the inclusion of Jason Denzel in the promotion they are angling to get Wheel of Time fans on board.

  6. Zed
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    This is beyond possible.

  7. Tom Hilton
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    This is the coolest promotion since Polyester.

    j/k…still, I couldn’t help thinking of John Waters when I read about this.

  8. Andrija Andrew P
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    My sister was really excited when they did that Fringe outdoor screening and left clues for ppl to solve and get prizes… But this is waaaaaaaay better! And thank you guys for posting it online, I am living it through you :)

  9. Mirax
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    That looks so utterly amazing! I’m envious that you received it, and yet also proud that I’m a lurker (mostly) on a site that was part of the marketing campaign. : ) You guys do such a great job here, you definitely deserve some goodies.

  10. Phantomwriter05
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I love when shows do this … it’s quite awesome.

    I remember that Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles did something like this when it first started it’s media blitz.

    The whole flash drives and media content was really awesome (As was the show).

    But what HBO has done is just to another freakin level and love that about them!

    LOL!

  11. Last Remaining Stark
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    I think it’s very cool, that HBO sent them to the heads of the fansites. They deserve it more than lameass television critics, that didn’t know what Game of Thrones was last year or so.

  12. Winter Is Coming
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Mormegil, yeah, they contacted me to share a little more of my unboxing experience. Interesting that they decided to run the quote where I wonder if there is more to this box than just the scent journey. Same with Elio. Makes me think something is up, but so far I haven’t found anything unusual about the box.

  13. the goat
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Supercool!

    The Dark Knight also had a great viral marketing plan (web-based Joker mysteries/backstory) that lead to some great promo material (cards/posters/Joker masks, etc) or important reveals (1st shot of Heath as Joker, 1st poster, teaser, trailer) to whomever solved the puzzles first. Hopefully “The Maester’s Path” will emulate the idea.

  14. the goat
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming:
    Mormegil, yeah, they contacted me to share a little more of my unboxing experience. Interesting that they decided to run the quote where I wonder if there is more to this box than just the scent journey. Same with Elio. Makes me think something is up, but so far I haven’t found anything unusual about the box.

    We need an MRI of that box, posthaste!

  15. zep243
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    (…duplicate of my post from the previous thread….)

    Winter–After reading the post on the MakingOfGOT site, I started wondering what the hidden clue could be (if anything). So after examining your snapshots more closely, I noticed that certain letters in the “Scent” scrolls were highlighted at the beginning of some sentences but not others. Could this be a clue? So far from Winterfell we have

    NDAA (and W if you count the first word, Winterfell.)

    From Dothraki Sea we have:

    HT (and A if you count the first word)

    I may be grasping at straws here (or a Red Herring), but as we all know this group enjoys a good puzzle. Therefore I suggest that you post pics of all the documents included and we should try to acquire pics from the other location scrolls. Maybe we can find a hidden clue (if there is one)

  16. Jordan Healey
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Have you checked for a false bottom and a hidden note ;)

  17. loco73
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    I for one am glad to read the positive reactions! Of course I continue to be jealous of all these people, but by the looks of it they all seem to be more than pleased, they are quite taken by the effort!

    Now, if only HBO would put the same thought and effort in hiring a real composer and firing Djawadi (or whatever the hell his name is)! All would be well with the world again!

  18. Chris
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Starz showed the first episode of Camelot tonight as a sneak preview, anyone else catch it?

    It was pretty good, better than I thought it would be for sure. Definitely a different beast than GoT and I am sure there will be some people who would prefer it over GoT. That said, I don’t think it will be able to hold a candle to GoT when all is said and done.

  19. Ax0r
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    the goat,
    “We need an MRI of that box, posthaste!”

    Not unless you’ve got a few million in your back pocket to replace the machine when your metal-bound boxlodges itself deep within the machine’s internals.
    Remember – M stands for Magnetic.

    Hi-res CT scan is what we need!

  20. Quiet Wolf
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    What about hidden messages. That was a lot of parchement, maybe some one has some invisible ink message or something.
    LOL…really nothing to do right now!

  21. marzman
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    oh wow… this is so amazing. don’t know if what I say here makes any sense now but I kinda feel flattered (sorry.. not a native english speaker, so I am missing the words) because HBO puts so much effort and love into this show. It feels good that fantasy as a genre is taken seriously. and the way HBO promotes the show with this box, tells me that they got what GoT is all about. can’t wait for more to come.

  22. Winter Is Coming
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    zep243, this is as good a guess as any. So I went through and checked all the scrolls and discovered there are different levels of highlighting. The weakest highlighting seems to be the most random, the middle only comes at the beginning of a sentence after one of the hypens, and then the strongest is the large letter at the beginning of each scroll. Not sure what it all means, if anything, but I compiled them all here anyway:

    Weak – Normal
    Middle – Italic
    Strong – Bold

    Pentos – T | S
    Crossroads Inn – F | T
    King’s Landing – R | T | T
    Winterfell – NDA | A | W
    Dothraki Sea – H | T | A

    Weak – RNDAH
    Middle – TFTAT
    Strong – STTWA

    Any guesses?

  23. Winter Is Coming
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Jordan Healey, yeah, I checked for any hidden compartments but the box is solid all the way around.

  24. rorschach-
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    I absolutely love the idea of this expanding into a global ARG promo campaign. I have been part of solving puzzles in Bungies Halo ARG and Valves Portal ARG and also followed many others and I have to say that they have always been exeptionally awesome. Fingers crossed.

  25. Peeter Talvistu
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    re: Camelot

    Just watched it. Looked a bit on the cheap side (what’s up with stone fences every time they ride around?) and the story was too straightforward for my liking. Also, the Flashforward guy as Merlin was a really bad mis-cast (I still haven’t decided on the others, but Eva Green seems to be good). That said, I will probably check out the second episode to see where it’s going (they seem to diverge from the original myth enough to make it at least somewhat interesting). But it does seem that they don’t actually have a contender against GoT (as if I was expecting that).

  26. Kai Alexis Price
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I wonder what sort of bonus material will be included in the bluray/DVD sets whenever they come out…

  27. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    Different levels of highlighting would seem to hint at some hidden message(s) indeed, but no idea at what… The letters as they are can’t be directly related toASoIaF (at least not with my feeble knowledge of Westeros), so maybe we need to combine the letters of the different places with those symbols on the respective bottles? The parallel between mixing scents or letters to find the smell or hidden message of a given place would add a really nice touch to this marketing campaign!

  28. marzman
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I was trying to see whether there are more webpages on the maester’s path site which are not hyperlinked. I tried names like penots.html, winterfell.html, kingslanding.html and some of the scents (leather.html etc.).
    so far I only managed to get one hit… winteriscoming.html.. unfortunately that is the same page as the frontpage. so looks like a dead end to me. maybe some of you can come up with something I haven’t thought of myself.

  29. marzman
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    oh yeah… I also had a look at the source code. nothing hidden there.

  30. zep243
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Good work, Winter. I’m not seeing any patterns yet. There are too few vowels to suggest an anagram but there could be some other puzzle key.

    I wish we could post this on Tanga.com. Those people are scary good at puzzles and codebreaking. :)

  31. OneTooFree
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    i like the idea of hidden messages, but i’m thinking that maybe each of these boxes is supposed to be a “link” in the chain. other than the the scents provided, are there any differences between the boxes sent to each recipient? what about the boxes themselves?

  32. OneTooFree
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    oh and only 50 days!!

  33. Steve Hugh Westenra
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    The “strong” one is an anagram of “twats.”

  34. Steve Hugh Westenra
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Maybe some of it is Dothraki….

  35. Mormegil
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    The link to Matt Fowlers reaction in the original article goes to the Makingof GoT website.

  36. purplejilly
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I am probably in the minority but I am getting really annoyed at HBO and tired of hearing about the “Maester’s Path” boxes. I know HBO sent them out to reviewers and critics, to get buzz and enthusiasm going amongst the reviewers, who would theoretically then transfer that enthusiasm to the fans, but instead I feel like it’s made a gulf widen between me and the ‘elite’ reviewers. There’s no way I can get a box if I wanted one at this point, and the main attraction of the box, the scents, is the one thing that CAN’T be shared with the regular potential viewer over email, message boards, twitter, etc. They can tell me what the scents smell like, but it’s not the same. I thought social media and viral marketing was supposed to bring the fans closer with the production, the artists, the stars, and the ultimate product. Instead I feel sort of left out and stratified. And yes, of course its petty jealousy! But it’s just how it made me feel, and I wanted to share that.

  37. the goat
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Ax0r:
    the goat,
    “We need an MRI of that box, posthaste!”

    Not unless you’ve got a few million in your back pocket to replace the machine when your metal-bound boxlodges itself deep within the machine’s internals.
    Remember – M stands for Magnetic.

    Hi-res CT scan is what we need!

    Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor! Not a box…figuring out…type guy.

    What if we reverse the polarity of the dilithium crystals? That always seemed to work before.

    Winter Is Coming:
    zep243, this is as good a guess as any. So I went through and checked all the scrolls and discovered there are different levels of highlighting. The weakest highlighting seems to be the most random, the middle only comes at the beginning of a sentence after one of the hypens, and then the strongest is the large letter at the beginning of each scroll. Not sure what it all means, if anything, but I compiled them all here anyway:

    Weak – Normal
    Middle – Italic
    Strong – Bold

    Pentos – T | S
    Crossroads Inn – F | T
    King’s Landing – R | T | T
    Winterfell – NDA | A | W
    Dothraki Sea – H | T | A

    Weak – RNDAH
    Middle – TFTAT
    Strong – STTWA

    Any guesses?

    Is there an R+L=J hidden anywhere in there?

  38. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    purplejilly,

    Yeah, I kinda agree with you. Also, it seems odd to me that HBO instead of widening their marketing campaign to the general public, they are seemingly narrowing it down to a few critics/bloggers and us hardcore fans… Truly, if one wasn’t into the story already, how would some boxes of scents that some blogger got attract you to the series??

    I sound a bit negative now and want to stress (to HBO if they read along) that this idea with the boxes was really cool, but it won’t attract newcomers to the series…

  39. Lex
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    purplejilly,

    Annoyed? Consider yourself lucky to be living in the internet age, otherwise you wouldn’t even know about these boxes at all. They’re for the critics, not us, but the things like the internet have totally changed this type of experience into something that can be shared with the fans. Complaining about this comes across as incredibly spoiled/entitled in my opinion.

  40. purplejilly
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Lex: purplejilly, Annoyed? Consider yourself lucky to be living in the internet age, otherwise you wouldn’t even know about these boxes at all. They’re for the critics, not us, but the things like the internet have totally changed this type of experience into something that can be shared with the fans. Complaining about this comes across as incredibly spoiled/entitled in my opinion.

    I will proudly claim the incredibly spoiled/entitled label! My poor husband would agree with you 100% (lol) Let me just re-emphasize that I am NOT upset with WIC or any of the box recipients, my whine was not directed at them in any way, and I enjoy reading their blogs and reviews, I am mad at HBO Marketing.

  41. purplejilly
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Tar Kidho,

    I think it’s okay to be a bit negative. HBO marketing should be thinking of a way to involve/include the normal fans too, instead they’ve isolated us. In fact they missed out on an opportunity, since i’m a fan excited about the show, I probably would have happily ordered one of these boxes for fun if they had priced it around the $20-$40 range. Especially if, as people are now speculating, there is some crypto stuff involved in the box. And if there isn’t, then I think HBO blew a second opportunity..

  42. purplejilly
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Tar Kidho,

    When shall we meet forour secret planning meetings? I’ll bring the rope. You always need a good piece of rope!

  43. Chris
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    purplejilly,

    This is pretty much a very creative and impressive press release, not something directed at the fans. It’s intended to intrigue and familiarize as many critics, bloggers, publications, etc as they can. Through them, HBO will be able to reach many more fans and in a much more effective way then they ever could dream of on their own. It sucks to not be a part of it, but it’s really awesome how above and beyond they went because it will really help the show to gain a strong voice. (As long as it doesn’t suck…) You can bet that anyone who received that box was impressed and intrigued and will probably pay a close eye to the show when it airs.

    There will definitely be marketing directed towards us fans and I’m sure it is right around the corner. They may even do something really creative and interactive with the fans as well, who knows what they have up their sleeve.

  44. purplejilly
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Chris,

    If they have something as nice planned for my fan experience I will be happy. right now, I just feel sad….

  45. Romulocks
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    I’m so incredibly jealous right now.
    I’m about to go launch my own Game of Thrones website so I can get in on this badassness.
    Give me my maesters chain!!!

  46. Maester Tcost
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    If no one has thought of this yet, the box, the map, and all of the parchments should be examined underneath a black light.

  47. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    purplejilly:
    Tar Kidho,

    When shall we meet forour secret planning meetings? I’ll bring the rope. You always need a good piece of rope!

    Great! And I, having grown up with McGyver, will bring the duct tape! :-) Now we must also first device a secret script so that WiC doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we plan our Quest of the Boxes.

  48. purplejilly
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Tar Kidho: Great! And I, having grown up with McGyver, will bring the duct tape! Now we must also first device a secret script so that WiC doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we plan our Quest of the Boxes.

    Okay- first memorize this poem.
    “”And Shepherds we shall be

    For thee, my Lord, for thee.

    Power hath descended forth from Thy hand

    Our feet may swiftly carry out Thy commands.

    So we shall flow a river forth to Thee

    And teeming with souls shall it ever be.

    In Nomeni Patri Et Fili Spiritus Sancti.”

  49. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    purplejilly,

    I fear you’ve lost me already… :-)

  50. purplejilly
    Posted February 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Tar Kidho,

    The rope comment and the poem were a joke referencing the movie the Boondock Saints, but I fear you have not seen it, If you ever watch it one day, now you will know the rope joke, and the poem. :)

  51. Blackfyre
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Just brilliant! HBO is on another playing field…

    I can’t put into words the mixed emotions of envy and jealousy that I am feeling.

  52. Tar Kidho
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    purplejilly,

    No, I never saw that movie, but now I feel like I should :-)

  53. Mormegil
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Mormegil: I wonder how many of these were sent out?

    About 80 it seems.

    http://jchutchins.net/site/2011/02/25/winter-is-coming-a-transmedia-fiction-experience-with-j-c/comment-page-1/#comment-8534

    1) HBO sent it to JC on my recommendation from a list of a couple hundred potential recipients I submitted (which they reduced to about 80),

  1. [...] commentor zep243 noticed in the last thread that certain sentences on the location scrolls have bold letters. There [...]


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