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Solving the case with Knox's Decalogue

posted by TomaO2 on - last edited - Viewed by 3.3K users

Judging by chapter 1, this story certainly appears to be a mystery, and many readers seem to think it's a solvable one. If this story is indeed solvable by us, then I submit that it must follow Knox's Decalogue of fair play detective stories. With these commandments, the reader is free from unfair tricks and twists.

For those unfamiliar with the rules, I shall post a modern interpretation of them.

The Knox Decalogue: Umineko version

Knox's 1st: It is forbidden for the culprit to be anyone not mentioned in the early part of the story. (someone from part 1 is the killer. Doesn't need to have a speaking part, and it may even just be part of the background info cards, but we have definitely seen him by now in some form)

Knox's 2nd: It is forbidden for supernatural agencies to be employed as a detective technique. (While this world is undeniably magical there is still no 'I win' button by asking, for instance, a magic mirror to show the location, or identity, of the murderer. The detective, and the detective alone, will solve the case.)

Knox's 3rd: It is forbidden for hidden passages to exist. (no impossible crimes where the only solution is to have the killer pop through a wall wall or teleport into a closed room, also called a locked room mystery, and then sneak away with no traces left behind. Yes, there is magic but that magic is not going to bypass logic, when investigating. All tricks will be discovered during the course of the investigation)

Knox's 4th: It is forbidden for unknown drugs or hard to understand scientific devices to be used. (people can't be killed with some method that is impossible to the reader's viewpoint. Proper explanations are needed for all esoteric murder methods before the case can be resolved)

Knox's 5th: It is forbidden for stereotypical minorities to assist or hinder the detective beyond providing their own conclusions and interpretations, or for said minorities to be the culprit. (having some random butler, or some stereotyped minority, do it is boring and cliché. The killer needs motivation, a history, a background that MUST be exposed in some manner before the reveal)

Knox's 6th: It is forbidden for accident or intuition to be employed as a detective technique. (Bigby isn't going to solve the case by some lucky happenstance or by following a vision from heaven because that would mean he would have access to information that the reader does not, and CAN not, possess. Logic alone must be the key)

Knox's 7th: It is forbidden for the detective to be the culprit. (For Bigby to be the killer, it means he is hiding things from the audience, and therefore is not solvable in a fair way. It goes against everything Knox stands for)

Knox's 8th: It is forbidden for the case to be resolved with clues that are not presented. (a mystery must, MUST, be solvable by the reader before the true culprit is caught)

Knox's 9th: It is permitted for observers to let their own conclusions and interpretations be heard. (remember kids, everyone lies. If someone says they have an airtight alibi, that's probably a lie too. If you are told someone is dead without seeing it with your own eyes, there is a good chance they are alive instead. Trusting people is for saps, every person you meet is likely there to deceive you. There is only two things you can believe in. That is the evidence and the detective)

Knox's 10th: It is forbidden for a character to disguise themselves as another without any clues. (the killer can't disguise himself as, say, an innocent cab driver without leaving a clue to his true identity)

Does this game follow the rules? I do not know. Certainly, looking from episode 1, it appears to follow the rules. We've had 3 investigations so far. All have had clues splattered around the area so that the detective could make some conclusions. There is some problems with the death of Faith's husband, such as the gun issue but I think that was a slip up, not intentional by design.


To all new readers: While it is not conclusive that TellTale is following the Decalogue, there is sufficient evidence, for now, for it to be possible, perhaps probable. Therefore, all theories posted here should do one of two things, either prove one of the commandments has been broken in such a way that it proves that this is not a fair play detective story or craft a theory that doesn't conflict with them. There are plenty of threads where one can create devil's proof arguments. This is not one of them.

Thank you.

    • I have the same question. :P

      • These are the rules that were created back in the early 20th century as a guide for any aspiring mystery writer that wanted to create a fair play whodunit. This style is basically a mystery that is solvable by the reader BEFORE the culprit is revealed by the detective. Ideally, the reader would be able to go back on a reread and be able to see the story in a new light and see it as the culprit being obvious, now that the facts have been revealed.

        Here is a TV tropes listing of various stories of that type:

        Some popular examples. Agatha Christie, who wrote many novels during the golden age of detective stories, typically followed it. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books were also quite fair. Such as leaving many clues as to who was the one that opened the Chamber of Secrets. Her leaving clues all the time got the readers to search the story so carefully that when the letter from R.A.B. was discovered, the writer's identity was spotted pretty much immediately. Also, all Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are deliberately like this... even if some of the "solutions" are less plausible than others.

        On the other hand, Sherlock Homes stories do not tend to be strictly fair since we are not normally looking at the story through the eyes of the detective. Watson does not generally give us the information needed to solve various mysteries before Homes does.

        The rules of Knox are not a be all, end all, but if TellTale is playing fair with us readers and is honestly allowing us the opportunity to figure out the culprit before the story ends, then it follows some variation and we can call upon Knox to help us weed out idle speculations that don't go anywhere.

        Speculations like

        • the killer could be someone we haven't met yet (although among those we have met, ANYONE could be the culprit).
        • ghosts did it
        • an unknown twin brother of a character did it.
        • sentient Nano machines did the killing.
        • Bigby did the murders.

        Stuff like that, this is a tool one can use to weed out the more idle speculations and to prevent yourself from getting caught up with endless "what ifs".

  • I knew the Knox rules.

    The biggest question is: did TT followed them? Or they were scared someone can solve the game before the 5th episode?

    Puzzlebox, or someone else, can you reassure us that the rules are observed and that we're not wasting our times trying to solve an unfair game?


  • I definitely respect the attempt to use these fair-play whodunnit rules as a tool for reaching conclusions about the killer and avoiding endless speculation... But I have to say, I'm skeptical that Telltale will go this route. Murder-mystery appreciators are incredibly savvy these days; chances are that many have seen these fair-play rules at work before and know what possibilities to consider.

    A trend I see with most media today, (such as Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, etc) is an interest in surprising the modern consumer in every way they can. Based on the events of Episode 1 I feel that TWAU is, more than anything, trying to accomplish the same. It can most effectively do that if nothing is off-limits. For that reason I suspect Telltale is working on a jaw-dropping, completely unexpected ending that nobody sees coming, though I could certainly be wrong in thinking that.

    I appreciate fair-play whodunnits and anything-goes mysteries equally, myself. The Moonstone, one of my favourite novels, is one of the latter... And also one of the most respected titles in the mystery genre. I'm fine no matter which way TWAU chooses to go, but given its current reliance on shock value and plenty of magic in its gameworld, I really do expect a fat, unpredictable twist ending.

    Also, if #10 really specifies "characters" rather than "the killer", doesn't the idea of glamour kind of violate that rule?

    • Interesting question.

      It's clear that a glamour is an effective disguise. In theory, yes, you should be able to use them to pretend you are someone else. Either by impersonating someone the players have met or by creating a completely false identity. Even so, the use of a body double disguise is not considered unfair, per say. It's specifically that you can't use a disguise without CLUES.

      • Clue, voices stay the same.
      • Clue, a glamour appears to only remove the monstrous features of a fairy tale citizen. If you look closely, there are some features that remain the same, such as Grendal's arm wound.
      • .

      I could be wrong on the limitations of this ability, so if someone with more knowledge of the source material wishes to rebut me on my assumption, then they should feel free.

      It's impossible to say if TellTale is giving us a fair play whodunit at this early stage, with absolute certainty. However, looking over the episode, everything says this is EXACTLY what they are doing. We are given 3 crimes where we can figure out basically what happened by searching the area. There is an issue with the likely murder weapon not having been used recently in the third but that could be a glitch on their part due to story branching. Other then that one aspect, it all fits.

      We are even given a suspect that was in the background, never really talked, and whose name we weren't told. Yet, through carefully looking over the episode, we can determine him to be the most suspicious person of the entire story, thus far. Why would TellTale allow us these clues if they were not making a fair play whodunit? Anyone could have made the connection if they had spent some time really going over the story. To think otherwise, is really a bit insulting to the creators of the game. Even I noticed that guy as being suspicious. I just never bothered really trying to spot every place he showed up.

      With episodes being 1-2 months apart, there is no way TellTale didn't expect us to find the connection. Why allow us to do this, if it's not a fair play whodunit?

      Even if this isn't the case, even if all the clues are simply a massive troll on the players, what is the alternative, assuming you don't want to give up? Everyone is trying to figure out the killer. We are assuming this case is solvable. This is only possible if it's a fair play whodunit. If you wish to solve the case, and truly believe that doing so is possible, then learning about the Decalogue and knowing what sort of theories are not really likely, is critical.

      That is why it is important for all would be sleuths to know about Knox and to use his Decalogue to aid their efforts.

      Otherwise, you will just be running in circles spitting out Devil's Proof theories, which have no place in a fair play whodunit mystery.

      Devil's proof (noun) 1.A legal requirement to achieve an impossible proof. Remedies are reversing the burden of proof, or giving additional rights to the individual faced with this requirement.

      • I would argue that the two clues you listed are conditional. If we suppose that the killer appears in the game in both his true and glamoured form, he could still avoid giving away clues as to his true identity by remaining silent and having mild enough "tells" on his glamoured form that they wouldn't necessarily give him away, (ie. not arm wounds or milky irises).

        And glamoured individuals who are introduced to the player in this form give no clues as to their true identity simply because we haven't encountered that true identity yet, and know nothing of its nature.

        In the example you gave, you spoke of the red-headed stranger disguising himself as the cabby. That example features obvious clues; hair colour, distinctive hairstyle (with the curl in the back), etc. That's a fair-play disguise. He isn't shapeshifting when he masquerades as the cabby... He's just dressing up, and is fundamentally relatable to his crook-tied self. Glamour can make a being look entirely different, to the point where you could see a fable and its glamoured form in separate scenes and still have no chance of tying them together

        I don't believe that successfully solving a few crime scenes in Episode 1 has any bearing on whether the overarching story follows the 10 tenets or not. Solving crime scenes is a staple of all games in which you play a detective, and those games still maintain the potential to be fair-play or anything-goes when it comes to the full scope of the narrative.

        I agree, the red-headed guy is suspicious. But the killer? Not necessarily. He could simply be the errand boy of the true killer, or of an entire host of conspirators. The tenets put forward by Knox seem to apply almost universally to the actions of the detective and the story's main antagonist, so if the red-headed guy is an important lead rather than the killer, it still makes total sense for Telltale to draw attention to him while making TWAU an anything-goes mystery.

        I'd say a fair-play whodunnit must adhere to all the rules you give at all times to be worthy of the label. If even one is violated at any time, even if every petty crime or puzzle leading up to the final revelation can be solved beforehand through analysis by perceptive players, the narrative can still be anything-goes even if it's only the conclusion that is a total blindside. That's why it's hard to convincingly bet on TWAU being fair-play at this stage when only one episode has dropped so far; its current pattern of everything being solvable (which I wouldn't say is entirely consistent so far) could be bucked at any time.

        And, as I continue to believe, I think the concept of glamour alone breaks one of those rules straight off.

        • I think you are misunderstanding the point of this thread, Retneug. While it is not conclusive that TellTale is following the Decalogue, there is sufficient evidence, for now, for it to be possible, perhaps probable. Therefore, all theories posted here should do one of two things, either prove one of the commandments has been broken or craft a theory that doesn't conflict with them. There are plenty of threads where one can create devil's proof arguments. This is not one of them.

          • Argument: Knox's 10th has been broken due to use of glamour. It's suspected that it has ability to create false identities with no clues to discern the real self.
          • Rebuttal: While possible, and a logical extrapolation of the abilities we have seen from it so far, there is no evidence that convincingly shows that to be the case. Until such evidence is shown, Knox's 10th will be assumed to still be in effect.
          • .

          If you do not have any further evidence that one of Knox's Rules is being broken, please try and work under the assumption that it is.

          • Theory: The suspicious person in the background is not the killer, rather he is an accomplice.
          • Rebuttal: No Laws broken. No objections. Theory is effective.
          • I understand perfectly well what the point of this thread is. When I initially posted, I questioned the viability of relying on Knox's laws to reach a sound conclusion (which is quite related to the topic, even if I don't embrace the usage of the laws themselves) , and began to make a case for the 10th rule being invalidated by glamour. Everything I posted beyond that were simply rebuttals to your own statements.

            As for providing evidence for the 10th being explicitly broken, I am of course incapable of doing that... Because if both a fable and his glamoured form have shown up in Episode 1 without any clues as to their connection, it would be impossible to prove because the situation is defined by an utter lack of evidence. The revelation of this could only come out through witnessing the transformation or the fable's own admission, which of course don't constitute clues... Hence why I tried to argue for this potentially being the case in Episode 1; because if it were happening, we would have no knowledge of it yet.

            In suggesting that the red-headed man could be an accomplice rather than the killer, I was trying to show how the attention being drawn to him wasn't necessarily evidence of the narrative being fair-play; I wasn't trying to invalidate one of the rules.

            If I were trying to do that in earnest, I'd simply bring up Knox's 2nd and the fact that it's explicitly broken in the first episode. Just because your interpretation of the rule necessitates that the detective must use supernatural means to somehow identify the murderer for it to be broken does not make it so.

            The law states; "Supernatural agencies can not be employed as a detective technique". Detective techniques are, as one would guess, techniques employed by the detective to bring him closer to resolution of the investigation... At any point in the investigation. Therefore, by relying on the magic mirror to provide new leads for his case, Bigby employs it as a detective technique and nullifies the rule.

            • I rather think that by simply making that statement, that you are actually trying to do so in earnest.


              Very well. Since the point has been raised, we may as well examine it.

              • Argument: Knox's 2nd has been broken due to the mirror being used to identify people and providing new leads.
              • Rebuttal: The mirror has shown the locations of various people of interest. However, none of these viewings have provided new leads or even provided information that could not be found in a mundane manner. On other words, the mirror is mainly ascetics. Visiting Lawrence was planned already. Faith's Father died some time ago and should be listed as such. The only new information that would have actually aided the case would have been the mirror showing the rest of Faith's body, or the identity of the killer, which it didn't do because doing that would break Knox's 2nd, AS I HAVE ALREADY STATED IN THE OP.
              • .

              This isn't a new argument. The mirror is an acceptable tool, as long as it doesn't show something that is impossible to verify by mundane means (without having used the mirror first, naturally). Since you are interested in this rule, lets me discuss it more in depth.

              This variation on the rule does not explicitly state that the supernatural is not allowed in the story. No, there is certainly room for the existence of magic. If there was not, then Knox's second would be completely useless and my foundation for using Knox's Decalogue would fall apart. This is precisely why I use the Umineko variation instead of the original, because the original version outright forbids any form of magic or the supernatural in a proper fair play detective story.

              Rather than serving as a tool to solve a mystery by eliminating possibilities that could not be eliminated by any other means, Knox’s 2nd simply serves the purpose of stopping the detective of using the knowledge or level of truth he does not and can not find out himself at this point in time. (you can think of it as a spoiler)

              By putting these restrictions it destroys any easy sure-win methods. It makes the game fairer where truth can only be achieved by putting the pieces together using clues and hints provided by the mystery. One most reasonable commandment that only applies to the detective of the story.

              • Certainly, I'm trying in earnest now. What else am I supposed to do when you politely invite me to either post a theory that abides by your rules, provide evidence that invalidates one of them, or get out?

                I, too, am following the Umineko variation of the rules, as my last post will attest. The original list is hardly serviceable, seeing as it excludes "chinamen" from so much as existing in a fair-play whodunnit.

                The Umineko version of rule #2 explicitly states; "It is forbidden for supernatural agencies to be employed as a detective technique". It doesn't say "It's totally cool as long as the same information could be arrived at through mundane means". Regardless of whether Bigby could gather the information he acquired from the mirror elsewhere, he chooses to rely on the supernatural instead, and it helps with his investigative process.

                When he sees the state of Faith's father, he even says; "Well, I guess we can cross him off the suspect list." That's proof positive that it Bigby utilised the information provided by the mirror as a detective technique to limit the number of potential suspects.

                Your assertion that this information could have been gathered elsewhere is pure conjecture, especially considering Bigby had just finished reading Donkeyskin's fable, (seemingly the end-all and be-all of recorded information about fables in Fabletown) and it made no mention of her father's death.

                I agree that there is room for the existence of magic in a fair-play whodunnit, so long as it is peripheral to the detective's investigative techniques; essentially, so long as he isn't aided by it in his pursuit of the case's resolution. But as I've just explained, he is. So I would argue that the rule is violated in Episode 1.

                • Having the mirror to ascertain whether or not Faith's Father is alive absolutely is peripheral to the investigation. This is made clear by witnessing what happened after Faith's identity was revealed. When that happened, her identity was opened up on a registry roster and she was given a stamp on it that marked her as being deceased.

                  This is clearly standard procedure, which means that every Fable that dies gets a similar marking. If Faith was in the book then, logically, her father was as well (since it's cannon that all Fables have entries in the archives). Yet, when the mirror revealed that her father was dead, the book was not opened to mark that down on his entry. It is logical to assume that he was already marked down, as he's been dead for quite some time.


                  • Argument: Knox's 2nd has been broken due to the mirror showing the corpse of Faith's Father, which removed him from the suspect list.
                  • Rebuttal: Every citizen of Fable Town is listed in the archives. Every time a Fable dies, it is marked in the books. Therefore, Faith's father, and his subsequent demise, must have been listed in the book.
                  • .

                  Having the mirror show his corpse was simply a more dynamic method of showing his death, as opposed to having his status being shown in the book. It offered nothing that could not be discovered in a similar amount of time, since there is a book right in the room that lists every single Fable and their living status.

                  • If the mirror's information was used by the detective to rule out Faith's father as a suspect, it is pertinent to the investigation. Period.

                    I'm not concerned with whether Bigby could have acquired that information another way. As I said in my last post:

                    "The Umineko version of rule #2 explicitly states; "It is forbidden for supernatural agencies to be employed as a detective technique". It doesn't say "It's totally cool as long as the same information could be arrived at through mundane means". Regardless of whether Bigby could gather the information he acquired from the mirror elsewhere, he chooses to rely on the supernatural instead, and it helps with his investigative process."

                    It's a fact that Bigby relies on the mirror as an investigative technique. It's a fact that ruling out suspects is inexorably tied to pursuing the resolution of the case. Therefore, the detective relies on the supernatural to make progress in his case, which invalidates Knox's 2nd.

                    • Okay, SOMEONE just down voted every single post I made in this thread. Including posts I made less then half an hour ago. They also up-voted most of Retneug's posts in this discussion chain. In including his most recent, which was less then half an hour ago. Of course, an account can't upvote his own posts... Then again, this account has only been online for less then a week so it wouldn't be surprising if there was another one that you had.

                      The timing is extremely suspicious. I would really hope you are not so petty a person as to do something like that, Retneug.

                      Anyway, while it's true that the mirror breaks the strict letter of the law, it does not break the spirit, and I don't consider your truth to be damaging enough that it smashes the idea that this is a fair play mystery.

                      I'm done arguing the matter since we have both stated our positions.

                      If you believe that the Knox rules are broken enough by the Mirror argument, then please feel free to avoid this thread from now on. If you wish to continue though, I would ask you drop the matter. No good can come out of continuing this.

                      If you like, however, you can try reword Knox's 2nd so that it's not broken by the mirror and I'll consider adding it. Otherwise, I would hope for you to drop this manner and try to enjoy the thread by posing some other theory/argument.

                      • Not that you'll believe me, but I only downvote posts that are insulting or that threaten physical harm. I've never made an alt account in my life, much less used one to support my statements. I'm conceited enough to think that my arguments don't require external support. As for the newness of my account, I purchased TWAU about a week ago with the money left over from my Black Friday spending spree on XBL. I joined this community as soon as I recognised its excellence, and it's not a decision that I regret because the community is quite friendly and respectful, including yourself.

                        I acknowledge that I've drawn your ire, and I apologise for that. I was really just playing devil's advocate at first, not really expecting that it would turn into a serious debate... But your suggestion that I abide by your rules, break them, or stop posting rubbed me the wrong way, and I continue to pursue the argument doggedly for that reason. And so, without further ado, I will give my last statements and be entirely out of your hair should you choose not to address them.

                        Firstly, it's easy for the spirit of a law not to be broken when the "spirit" is nothing more than an interpretation one stubbornly latches on to for personal reasons... Like maintaining the validity of a forum thread in the face of contrary evidence, for example.

                        Secondly, telling me to "feel free to avoid your thread" is exactly the kind of passive-aggressive jibe that encouraged me to argue so persistently in the first place. That, and the fact that you literally invited me to argue against the validity of Knox's rules, (only to become upset with me when I did just that, I might add).

                        And finally, I think I'll take a pass on rewording Umineko's rewording of Knox's rules to fit the narrative they're supposed to be abiding by. To my mind, that sort of defeats the point of applying the rules to TWAU in the first place.

                        I wish you luck in reaching a solid conclusion as to the killer's identity via the theories posed in this thread. Should that become the case and I remember this thread at the time of completing Episode 5, I'll post again in the form of a congratulatory message. Have a good night.

  • 6 is out of the question when it comes to Bigby's intuition mixed with knowledge. We have to think similarly to Bigby to solve the case according to everything else in the Decalogue. A lot of people in doing so miss the chance to solve logically what went on at Lawrence's house.

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