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The Maester's Path is based around a website which allows fans to play a series of puzzles to unlock rewards, including previews of scenes from the TV series. The puzzles need to be solved using clues provided by HBO to the media, which are then posted on various websites, including TV review blogs and Song of Ice and Fire fan sites.
The Maester's Path site places an emphasis on cooperation, with players encouraged to use social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to 'recruit' helpers and followers, with the ability to report progress along the Path to social media accounts.
On 24 February 2011 a number of prominent bloggers, critics and fan sites, including Westeros.org and Winter is Coming, received a package from HBO, containing a map of Westeros, scrolls and scent jars. Initially this appeared to be an elaborate way of providing backstory and information to reviewers unfamiliar with the books. However, eagle-eyed fans spotted references to the 'Maester's Path' and noted that an unfinished website of that name was registered to HBO. Fans also noted that the scrolls differed from reviewer to reviewer, and contained different symbols.
The first puzzle went live on 28 February 2011. A codewheel was revealed, containing the same symbols as on the scrolls in the promo package. Using screenshots of the scrolls as provided by those fansites, fans were able to 'unlock' the first reward by lining up those symbols referring to Winterfell, the seat of House Stark. The first reward was a two-minute scene from the first episode, depicting Jon Snow giving the sword Needle to his half-sister Arya Stark, an iconic moment from the books.
On 7 March 2011 HBO unveiled the second part of the game. This time around, fans had to visit a representation of the Crossroads Inn, listen in to the smallfolk's conversation, identify "beasts" they mention in conversation (related to great house sigils), and then combine sigils of lesser houses to form the great house they are sworn to in the same pattern as the tables of the Inn. Click for the transcription of the conversations.
The second reward was a scene from a later episode, depicting the troubadour Marillion attempting to win the patronage of Lady Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik Cassel just as Tyrion Lannister arrives at the Crossroads Inn. The scene ends before Tyrion recognizes Catelyn.
The third puzzle went live on 14 March 2011. This puzzle involved a representation of the Wall and casts the player as a member of the Night's Watch on lookout duty. The player has to watch the forest for signs of wildlings and then sound a warning horn before they reach the Wall.
The fourth puzzle was revealed on 21 March 2011. This puzzle involved the player being presented with a number of temperature charts tracking the passing of the months and seasons in Westeros. The player has to arrange the charts in the correct chronological order.
The fifth and final puzzle was released on 28 March 2011. This puzzled involved a marketing exercise where food trucks delivered menus inspired by the books and TV series to passers-by on the streets of New York City. Players had to compare the different menus for the different days (posted on the HBO 'Making Game of Thrones' website) to create a codeword that has to be entered on a screen while wine is being poured.
The fifth reward was a clip showing Robert Baratheon talking to Eddard Stark on their way south to the capital, discussing the demands of their offices and the temptation to leave it all behind, before the discussion turns to the identity of Jon Snow's mother.