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BootStrapTommy
2015-08-23, 09:00 PM
Puzzles. They are an integral part of any dungeons designed for people who want to do more than just murder stuff.

It occurred to me that good puzzles (difficult but solvable) are hard to come up with. But this is the internet. So here is a thread designed to share puzzles. Leave a puzzle, take a puzzle. Crowdsource some puzzles. Discuss good and bad puzzle design. Talk about past puzzle experiences.

Because puzzles.

The maroon area is some sort of low-friction surface. The circles are pillars. When pushed, they travel in a straight line until they hit an edge or another pillar (though only vertically and horizontally). Players must push the red pillar to the red x, then pull a lever.
http://i.imgur.com/bfpvZtW.jpg

Oberon Kenobi
2015-08-23, 10:28 PM
These days I play games where players have a lot of narrative input, so solutions to any puzzles tend to be subject to quantum uncertainty; if a player proposes something, I'll let 'em roll for it or just have it work if it's not completely insensible (and even then).

If we're talking puzzle design theory, I consider any situation where the players are standing around twiddling their thumbs hoping they can guess what the GM is thinking to be bad puzzle design. If they try a solution and it doesn't work (either because they fail a roll or because it was not the intended solution), and nothing happens as a result of that failure, that is bad GMing, because you are not doing your job to move the game forward like you should.

That said, for a contribution, I did have one puzzle from back before those days that I whipped up from my first dungeon crawl. Nine keys, marked with numbers, and a door with nine keyholes in a 3x3 grid. The solution was to put the keys in the holes in such a way that every row, column and diagonal added up to 3, like so (http://puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/1957/puzzle-of-putting-numbers-1-9-in-3x3-grid-to-add-up-to-15). When a character put a key into the wrong hole and tried to turn it, they would awaken a number of skeletons equal to the number of the key they'd used, and then the party had to fight them.

I think they did this twice before one of the players realized the solution. Rather than making them IRL puzzle out what the arrangement was, we just waived it and said that the characters could figure it out once they knew the score. If I were to do that again, I would do something else with the skeletons, since they don't so much move the story forward as supply a pretty screensaver. Maybe each awakened squad could be holding an... ahem... skeleton key, if the players wanted to brute force their way past the problem. Doing that nine times would be really damned draggy, though, so I'd honestly just hand-wave past that whole process too (they're mooks, they're not really threatening).

goto124
2015-08-23, 10:39 PM
There was a thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?409607-Dungeon-help&p=19148167#post19148167) of a Templs of Statues, and the different statues were puzzles. No fixed solutions, nothing mathematical, all simple and fun.

And another puzzle that was combined with a battle. Something about a floor made of different colored squares, and a golem that made different types of attacks depending on the color of the square it was standing on.

Combat puzzles are even more fun! It's best if figuring out the puzzle is not a requirement, just makes things easier for the PCs.

TheThan
2015-08-23, 10:44 PM
These days I play games where players have a lot of narrative input, so solutions to any puzzles tend to be subject to quantum uncertainty; if a player proposes something, I'll let 'em roll for it or just have it work if it's not completely insensible (and even then).

If we're talking puzzle design theory, I consider any situation where the players are standing around twiddling their thumbs hoping they can guess what the GM is thinking to be bad puzzle design. If they try a solution and it doesn't work (either because they fail a roll or because it was not the intended solution), and nothing happens as a result of that failure, that is bad GMing, because you are not doing your job to move the game forward like you should.

That said, for a contribution, I did have one puzzle from back before those days that I whipped up from my first dungeon crawl. Nine keys, marked with numbers, and a door with nine keyholes in a 3x3 grid. The solution was to put the keys in the holes in such a way that every row, column and diagonal added up to 3, like so (http://puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/1957/puzzle-of-putting-numbers-1-9-in-3x3-grid-to-add-up-to-15). When a character put a key into the wrong hole and tried to turn it, they would awaken a number of skeletons equal to the number of the key they'd used, and then the party had to fight them.

I think they did this twice before one of the players realized the solution. Rather than making them IRL puzzle out what the arrangement was, we just waived it and said that the characters could figure it out once they knew the score. If I were to do that again, I would do something else with the skeletons, since they don't so much move the story forward as supply a pretty screensaver. Maybe each awakened squad could be holding an... ahem... skeleton key, if the players wanted to brute force their way past the problem. Doing that nine times would be really damned draggy, though, so I'd honestly just hand-wave past that whole process too (they're mooks, they're not really threatening).

You are not the only one that feels like this.

Anyway here’s a fun one.
Three doors magically sealed. One button on a pedestal. Each time the button is pressed it unlocks a different door for a short time before it locks again. The Pcs must figure out what order the button unlocks the door.

Alternately, if they’re clever; one character can stand by each door and have the fourth party member press the button, then they all pull on the door and whichever one is at the door that’s supposed to open, opens it up. If they leave the door open when they push the button again, the guy pushing the button gets shocked, all the doors must be closed before using the button again.

goto124
2015-08-23, 10:47 PM
I thought the door would attempt to crush anyone trying to keep it open...

'Roll a Strength check.' -rolls- 'Take 1d6 damage.'

Reltzik
2015-08-24, 10:42 AM
I like creating puzzles where I haven't predetermined a solution. I scatter a lot of potentially useful elements around, enough that I'm reasonably sure they can come up with SOMETHING, and then see what the PCs do with it. It's a bit like locking MacGyver up in the tool shed.

But here's a fun one. The PCs are confronted by three doors, and a sign informing them that behind two doors are vicious monsters, while the third one is safe. The first time a PC comes within two feet of a door, a DIFFERENT door (one with a monster behind it, randomly chosen if the PC is near the safe door) goes translucent and the PCs can see the beastie lurking behind it. The fun part comes when one of the players recognizes this as the Monty Hall problem and tries to explain it to everyone else and no one else believes that probability works like that. Cue an hour of debate cut short after three minutes by the barbarian losing patience and kicking in the translucent door for the XPs.

TurboGhast
2015-08-24, 11:50 AM
Xkcd's labyrinth puzzle. (https://xkcd.com/246/)

Subverting the classic ''Knights and Knaves'' puzzle in various ways makes for interesting challenges.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-24, 12:17 PM
These days I play games where players have a lot of narrative input, so solutions to any puzzles tend to be subject to quantum uncertainty; if a player proposes something, I'll let 'em roll for it or just have it work if it's not completely insensible (and even then).

If we're talking puzzle design theory, I consider any situation where the players are standing around twiddling their thumbs hoping they can guess what the GM is thinking to be bad puzzle design. If they try a solution and it doesn't work (either because they fail a roll or because it was not the intended solution), and nothing happens as a result of that failure, that is bad GMing, because you are not doing your job to move the game forward like you should.

That said, for a contribution, I did have one puzzle from back before those days that I whipped up from my first dungeon crawl. Nine keys, marked with numbers, and a door with nine keyholes in a 3x3 grid. The solution was to put the keys in the holes in such a way that every row, column and diagonal added up to 3, like so (http://puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/1957/puzzle-of-putting-numbers-1-9-in-3x3-grid-to-add-up-to-15). When a character put a key into the wrong hole and tried to turn it, they would awaken a number of skeletons equal to the number of the key they'd used, and then the party had to fight them.

I think they did this twice before one of the players realized the solution. Rather than making them IRL puzzle out what the arrangement was, we just waived it and said that the characters could figure it out once they knew the score. If I were to do that again, I would do something else with the skeletons, since they don't so much move the story forward as supply a pretty screensaver. Maybe each awakened squad could be holding an... ahem... skeleton key, if the players wanted to brute force their way past the problem. Doing that nine times would be really damned draggy, though, so I'd honestly just hand-wave past that whole process too (they're mooks, they're not really threatening). No one ever argues that Ocarina of Time was too hard because the dungeons have block pushing puzzles.

If your players can't solve simple puzzles of LoZ level complexity, than it is a surprise they're capable of the basic mathematics required of TTRPGs.

Solving a puzzle is not like a moral dilemma. It does not require reading the GM's mind. It requires problem solving skills.

If your players lack problem solving skills, then you shouldn't put puzzles in your dungeons. Just let them kill stuff.

Oberon Kenobi
2015-08-24, 02:23 PM
1) Ocarina of Time is a game that is largely about solving puzzles. No tabletop game I've ever played is about that.

2) Insulting my players' intelligence isn't earning you any reasonable-debater brownie points.

3) Wanting to solve problems with lateral thinking and have the system reward that is not the same thing as "lacking problem solving skills." The block-pushing puzzles in LoZ start to sound really silly when you remember that Link carries around barrier-busting bombs, no? In a video game that's fine, but in a tabletop game I would call the bombs arbitrarily only working at "secret door spots" bad puzzle design.

4) If my players don't like puzzles, then yes, I'll leave them out of my games. But that's not the same thing as not being able to solve them.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-24, 04:26 PM
2) Insulting my players' intelligence isn't earning you any reasonable-debater brownie points.

3) Wanting to solve problems with lateral thinking and have the system reward that is not the same thing as "lacking problem solving skills." The block-pushing puzzles in LoZ start to sound really silly when you remember that Link carries around barrier-busting bombs, no? In a video game that's fine, but in a tabletop game I would call the bombs arbitrarily only working at "secret door spots" bad puzzle design.

4) If my players don't like puzzles, then yes, I'll leave them out of my games. But that's not the same thing as not being able to solve them. I really don't care about your brownie points. It's not an insult so much as observation. If you can do math, you can solve basic puzzles. Both draw from the same analytic part of the brain. Maybe you have simply been making puzzles too hard, rather than your players finding puzzles too hard? One does not have to be able to read minds to solve a puzzle (barring puzzles reliant on mind reading abilities). You just need to be able to solve them. If your players can't, maybe you made too hard of a puzzle?

Your critique of LoZ bombs is rather flawed, given in TTRPGs bomb-proof puzzles are a GM hand-wave away. Don't get me wrong, if players get close enough or prove surprisingly creative I always reward them. But a puzzle's a puzzle. Doesn't make sense for the dungeon-designer to have bothered with a puzzle if it can just be worked around. I like to think my wizards-who-did-it weren't dumb like Acererak and built in contingencies for mundane
solutions.

If your players can't solve puzzles, puzzles might not be something you should put into a your campaigns.

Oberon Kenobi
2015-08-24, 04:32 PM
I think your initial invitation to discuss good and bad puzzle design was made under false pretenses, if you're going to assert that every puzzle should only have a single solution and dismiss my claim that lateral thinking should be rewarded. I never said that bomb-proof cubes couldn't be handwaved away, I'm just saying that doing so is "guess what the designer was thinking" puzzle design–and again, I consider that bad design. Call it bad puzzle design or bad GMing, the difference is pretty minimal. That's not a flawed critique, it's just a critique that differs from yours.

Again, you're also making a kind of hilarious amount of assumptions about my players and their ability to solve puzzles, but whevs. Have a good day, Boots, I'm out. :smallsmile:

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-24, 04:37 PM
I think your initial invitation to discuss good and bad puzzle design was made under false pretenses, if you're going to assert that every puzzle should only have a single solution and dismiss my claim that lateral thinking should be rewarded. I never said that bomb-proof cubes couldn't be handwaved away, I'm just saying that doing so is "guess what the designer was thinking" puzzle design–and again, I consider that bad design. Call it bad puzzle design or bad GMing, the difference is pretty minimal. That's not a flawed critique, it's just a critique that differs from yours. I suppose you have a point. I apologize and stand corrected.

DarkBunny91
2015-08-24, 04:53 PM
Riddles are a pretty solid form of puzzle, fun and rewarding to figure out.
The more of you the less you see.
Darkness.
Each morning I appear at you feet all day. I will follow no matter how fast you run, yet I nearly parish in the mid day sun.
I'm always hungry, I need to be fed. The finger I touch, will soon turn red
Fire.
Always running never walking. Often murmuring never talking. Has a bed but never sleeps. Has a mouth but never eats.
River.
At night come they come without being told. At day they are lost without being stolen.
Stars.
My life can be measured in hours. I serve by being devoured thin, I am quick, fat I am slow, Wind is my foe, What am I?
Candle.
I drive men mad for want of me. I'm easily broken, but never free.
Gold.
The more of these you take, the more you leave behind.
Footsteps.
What is it you must keep, after giving it to someone else.
What is it that's so fragile, even saying the name can break it.
Silence.
What is yours but is used more by others?
I'm found deep in the earth. When beaten and burned I can become a blood thirsty killer.
Iron.

LotR: War in the north

Draconium
2015-08-24, 04:55 PM
Erm... I was taking a look at the puzzle in the OP, in the spoiler... and wouldn't there be an easier solution? As presented, it looks like you could push the red pillar up, then right, where the blue pillar would stop it before the reverse-U area. Then you could punch the red pillar up, left, and down to the red X.

Of course, you could always add another column of squares on the right end, and move the blue and black pillars over one square, and that makes the given solution (adjusted accordingly) viable without being redundant, as it is now. Unless I'm blind, and just seeing Tue design wrong.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-24, 05:05 PM
Erm... I was taking a look at the puzzle in the OP, in the spoiler... and wouldn't there be an easier solution? As presented, it looks like you could push the red pillar up, then right, where the blue pillar would stop it before the reverse-U area. Then you could punch the red pillar up, left, and down to the red X.

Of course, you could always add another column of squares on the right end, and move the blue and black pillars over one square, and that makes the given solution (adjusted accordingly) viable without being redundant, as it is now. Unless I'm blind, and just seeing Tue design wrong. Good eye. Checked my notes, and the puzzle is supposed to have another column.

Draconium
2015-08-24, 05:06 PM
Good eye. Checked my notes, and the puzzle is supposed to have another column.

It doesn't help that, as a player, I quite like solving puzzles. Glad I could help! :smallbiggrin:

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-24, 05:18 PM
It doesn't help that, as a player, I quite like solving puzzles. Glad I could help! :smallbiggrin: Fixed it. Feel free to check the work!

Riddles are a pretty solid form of puzzle, fun and rewarding to figure out.
The more of you the less you see.
Darkness.
Each morning I appear at you feet all day. I will follow no matter how fast you run, yet I nearly parish in the mid day sun.
I'm always hungry, I need to be fed. The finger I touch, will soon turn red
Fire.
Always running never walking. Often murmuring never talking. Has a bed but never sleeps. Has a mouth but never eats.
River.
At night come they come without being told. At day they are lost without being stolen.
Stars.
My life can be measured in hours. I serve by being devoured thin, I am quick, fat I am slow, Wind is my foe, What am I?
Candle.
I drive men mad for want of me. I'm easily broken, but never free.
Gold.
The more of these you take, the more you leave behind.
Footsteps.
What is it you must keep, after giving it to someone else.
What is it that's so fragile, even saying the name can break it.
Silence.
What is yours but is used more by others?
I'm found deep in the earth. When beaten and burned I can become a blood thirsty killer.
Iron.

LotR: War in the north I've played War in the North enough that I basically have those memorized!

ellindsey
2015-08-25, 08:44 AM
Good eye. Checked my notes, and the puzzle is supposed to have another column.

You'll also need to require some magic way to force the pillars to only move orthogonality. Otherwise someone is going to try pushing them around at odd angles to get the solution more easily. Using ropes to restrict the movement of the pillars, or hammering pitons into the floor to stop the pillars sliding, is also things I'd expect to see players try if you actually presented them with one of these video-game puzzles in a tabletop setting.

Segev
2015-08-25, 12:18 PM
The biggest problem, for me, with puzzles in RPGs is that they're very difficult to make satisfying while respecting the "RP" part of the acronym.

Puzzles are satisfying because they're a test of the player's mental agility. That removes the "RP" element, making it a challenge for the player directly. His character has no real role in it.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-25, 12:26 PM
You'll also need to require some magic way to force the pillars to only move orthogonality. Otherwise someone is going to try pushing them around at odd angles to get the solution more easily. Using ropes to restrict the movement of the pillars, or hammering pitons into the floor to stop the pillars sliding, is also things I'd expect to see players try if you actually presented them with one of these video-game puzzles in a tabletop setting. In an RP such restrictions are but a GM-handwave away.

The biggest problem, for me, with puzzles in RPGs is that they're very difficult to make satisfying while respecting the "RP" part of the acronym.

Puzzles are satisfying because they're a test of the player's mental agility. That removes the "RP" element, making it a challenge for the player directly. His character has no real role in it. I like to give players in-game options. If a player is struggling but playing a high intelligence character, I give them the chance to roll for hints.

If they're low intelligence characters, I'll loosen restrictions on guessing-and-checking, so they can roleplay that one good idea (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DumbassHasAPoint).

MrZJunior
2015-08-25, 02:43 PM
I had a game where there was a locked door puzzle. The door had four locks on it and the party had found a key earlier. Any of the locks could easily be rotated counter clockwise, but there was nothing indicating whether an individual lock was open or closed. The middle two locks were unlocked while the top and bottom lock were locked.

In all honesty not a very good puzzle because it does not give the player's enough information to solve it other than by random chance. However, I still think it is an interesting puzzle because you expect locks to be locked. Incorporating unlocked locks subverts that expectation.

Reltzik
2015-08-25, 04:40 PM
....

I'm depressed by how few of these puzzles can stop a barbarian with a short attention span and a sturdy boot.

goto124
2015-08-25, 08:49 PM
It can be a good thing though. Puzzles should not stop PCs entirely, in case they can't solve it. The puzzle must be worthwhile for some reason however, so... perhaps kicking down the door attracts the attention of nearby monsters, or activates a trap?

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-27, 06:49 PM
....

I'm depressed by how few of these puzzles can stop a barbarian with a short attention span and a sturdy boot. I'm depressed how few puzzles have actually been posted.

TurboGhast
2015-08-27, 08:41 PM
One PC is in a room full of switches and buttons that aren't adequately labeled, and everyone else is in a room that is affected by these buttons. The PC in the room has to mess about with the buttons to try to accomplish something (probably reuniting the party) and general chaos ensues. Buttons might release enemies for extra effect.

In fact, most of the stock video game puzzles (don't get lost!) (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StockVideoGamePuzzle) can be used with minor modifications. Not all of them work, a Rube Goldberg delivery will probably be simply short circuited, and a waiting puzzle doesn't add much to the adventure since you solve it via timeskipping.

Sir Chuckles
2015-08-28, 05:20 AM
I once mulled about with a color puzzle boss.

Throughout the dungeon there were wall murals all of which depicted in some manner three people. An Archer, wearing green, a Warrior, wearing red, and a Wizard, wearing blue. The murals all depicted them killing various enemies, saving the day, or whatever good deeds are stock in your world. However, later on, it shows things like the archer attacking unimportant enemies and going about on his own, the Wizard demanding the other two protect him at all costs, and the warrior rushing in and kicking down things to the whole party's detriment, such as activating traps or starting fights with the wrong people.

The last few murals show the trio entering a dungeon, suspiciously lain out like the one the party is. Similar enemies and traps in the same order as the party's journey through the dungeon. In each of these images, a strange, pure-white man beast is shown somewhere is the picture, usually hiding in a corner or behind a barrel, like a Where's Waldo. Then, it shows the three heroes fighting the beast, but now it is pure black. All three warrior attack it in tandem, but the beast is unfazed. The next shows the beast as red, and the wizard casting a spell, but it doing nothing to harm the beast. The beast is then green, and the warrior strikes, but the weapon is broken. Then the beast is blue, and the archer attacks, only to waste his arrows.

The final mural before an arena area is the three warrior dead and defeated by the beast.

It's a fairly simple puzzle to figure out, that striking in melee when it's red, using magic when it's blue, and using ranged combat when it's green. Black for when it's immune, white when it's cowering and fleeing.

How, exactly, you modify it and stat the monster is dependant on the setting. For 3.5, I had been rolling it's color randomly each round, and giving it separate hp amounts and different minor abilities for each color. When one color is reduced to 0, it could no longer become that color.

Not terrible complicated to set up, not terrible to run, and moderately entertaining. I always figured it as a good one-off dungeon for a group of new players.
It doesn't wholly remove any one player from participating in the event ("But I killed the blue, I'm a Wizard!" "Drink the Bull's Strength and beat it with your quarterstaff!"), especially if you count alchemical items or similar as "magic".

The only issue is how to handle "Black". I've had it so that it turns to tone when reduced to only that color, I've had a friend suggest that it should remain immune, but especially vulnerable to combat maneuvers and with much lower saves.

Corey
2015-08-28, 08:02 AM
Elder Scrolls Online has various crypts and temples with puzzles.

The simplest ones want you to choose from a few statues or bas-reliefs in sequence, and then leave clues lying around (e.g. fragments of poetry) as to what those sequences should be. That can actually work for explorers.

Another group is of the vein that if you activate a switch or pressure panel or whatever, several lights change color, change binary state from on to off, or whatever. It's usually pretty easy to figure out what the desired state is; if not, then the puzzle is bad. Once that's figured out, it's an easy math puzzle to have the correct effect.

An amusing puzzle would be to have every try seem like a failure that spawns an attacking enemy, except the enemy leaves behind a part after it's defeated that you stick somewhere to assemble a giant "key". That could be spun as a test of one's worthiness to enter the next chamber.

You could do a version of "Get the wolf, goat and cabbage across the river without any of them being eaten" kind of puzzle that wasn't even created by anybody, but seems "genuine". At least, I think you could. Probably for very low levels, who truly have to row the small boat rather than being able to, say, fly. (But beware of barbarians throwing goats.)

Another potentially natural one could be to balance the giant seesaw, or something like that. The problem is that this would be hard to set up without weights that are a lot heavier than the PCs themselves and, if things are that heavy, how do the PCs move them?

You could probably justify Towers of Hanoi -- but why bother?

You might be able to set up Bridges of Koenigsberg and have it make some kind of sense.

smcmike
2015-08-28, 09:39 AM
But here's a fun one. The PCs are confronted by three doors, and a sign informing them that behind two doors are vicious monsters, while the third one is safe. The first time a PC comes within two feet of a door, a DIFFERENT door (one with a monster behind it, randomly chosen if the PC is near the safe door) goes translucent and the PCs can see the beastie lurking behind it. The fun part comes when one of the players recognizes this as the Monty Hall problem and tries to explain it to everyone else and no one else believes that probability works like that. Cue an hour of debate cut short after three minutes by the barbarian losing patience and kicking in the translucent door for the XPs.

This only works if the party knows something about why the door went translucent, actually. If you just randomly open an unselected door and it happens to have a monster behind it, rather than opening a door with the purpose of showing a monster, it doesn't change the odds. In other words, to make this work you probably need an evil Monty Hall tormenting the party.

Spartakus
2015-08-28, 10:26 AM
Ooooo, a puzzle thread! Really looking forward to this one. To my mind every dungeon needs at least one puzzle and i've rarely found promising ones online. My biggest problem is that my group has some students of physics or mathematics who aren't challenged a bit by logic-puzzles.

If I want an non-plot-critical puzzles it is either used to give access to interesting treasure or to bypass an obvious trap. So the players can always decide to skip the treasure or just take whatever the trap does to them. On the other hand my players have until now always taken the time to solve it.

Some of my creations, feel free to use/modify them as you like:

There is some kind of transparent violet door blocking the way. A skeleton lies on the other side. items can be thrown through it without any effect. If a living person moves through it they are overwhelmed with negative energy (Use a level-dependent effect like inflict light wounds, slay living or energy drain)
A successfull spellcraft check shows that that the door is powered by negative energy. If confronted with positive energy (e.g. CLW or turn undead) supresses its effects long enough that the group may pass

In a crypt a zombie-Wyvern patroles the corridors. For my level 2 party this was an encounter to run from. The fighter was the only one that could hit it with anything short of a natural 20Take advantage from the fact that zombies are increadibly stupid. Either observe its patroling path with a sneaky char to avoud it or use aid another, buffs and flanking to give the tank the power to slay it.

The way down to the next level seem to be endless. After hours of walking down corridors and stairs nothing indicates that there even IS another level.The way is actually quite short. But after a while the group is running through an invisible teleportation circle that ports them back most of the way. The players have to:
1. Find out that thare is some effect that throws them back every time. This could be something they left behind like ashes from their torches.
2. Find the exact location of the teleporter (let them be creative here)
3. Disable it somehow (disable device, dispell)

I normally don't like RPG-puzzles that need real world knowledge to solve. But I've asked my players what they wanted and they wanted the puzzle. So here it is:
A chamber has a massive antimagic door. in the room before the chamber there are 4 niches intended for pictureframes and a lever. If the correct 4 pictures are put in the correct niches and the lever is pulled the door opens. In the niches themselfes there are stonecarvings (pictures themselves) indicating wich pictures needs to be put in it. Underneath every niche there is a magical crystal triggering a nasty effect (in my case meteor swarm) if the wrong picture (or none at all) is in the niche when the lever is pulled. The pictures themselve can be found elswhere in the dungeon (it was a really big one, place them wherever fits your campaign). Each one has a title written on a copper-plate on its frame.

The carvings:
1: A battlefield, everyone is dead besides a single fighter who is deadly wounded and rises a human skull into the air.
2: A woman and a donkey, kissing each other.
3: A crypt. A young couple lying dead on its floor. The woman holds an empty bottle in her hand.
4: A group of young men with daggers surrounding an old man with deadly wounds from the daggers.

The pictures:
A: A wizard commanding a goup of warriors with magic. Title: Lord, what fools these mortals be!
B: A vampire sleeping in his coffin. Title: The rest is silence!
C: A Dragon admiring it's beautiful lair. Title: O serpent heart hid with a flowering face! Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave?
D: A proud warrior giving a warcry. Title: Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!

The pictures themselves are unimportant. But there is a connection between the carvings and the title. They are quotes/scenes from Shakespear plays:
1B: Hamlet
2A: A midsummernights dream
3C: Romeo and Juliet
4D: Julius Ceasar

I also have two chess-based riddles, but i have to make a picture of the board and upload it. I will gladly present them if desired when i figured out how to do this:smallamused:

Freelance GM
2015-08-28, 10:50 AM
Puzzles. They are an integral part of any dungeons designed for people who want to do more than just murder stuff.

It occurred to me that good puzzles (difficult but solvable) are hard to come up with. But this is the internet. So here is a thread designed to share puzzles. Leave a puzzle, take a puzzle. Crowdsource some puzzles. Discuss good and bad puzzle design. Talk about past puzzle experiences.

Because puzzles.

I LOVE putting logic puzzles in my game. If the players have to work for each hint, it keeps all of the players engaged and alleviates Bored Barbarian Breaking Boot Bypass Syndrome. Hide one hint at the top of a pillar the barbarian has to break down, and put the other at the end of a trap-filled corridor the rogue must bypass. If the hints are far enough apart, solving the puzzle could be its own adventure. Or campaign.

Here's one I used in a text-based adventure I wrote for a class (long story there). A guardian is, well, guarding the only bridge over a boiling underground lake. He challenges the player, but lets the player choose the nature of the challenge. One option is a Battle of Wits, which leads to the following dialogue:

"A battle of wits? I accept!" The Guardian growls, and slowly begins crossing the bridge towards you.

"Four adventurers came here before you. Their names were Scarlet, Lavender, Jet, and Moss. In a bit of fun, each of them wore one of those four colors, but none of them wore the color they were named after. Scarlet never wore anything red. Lavender didn't wear purple and Jet never wore black. Moss didn't wear anything green."

The guardian smirks. "Moss didn't wear anything red, either. He stole something from the one wearing black, and got thrown into this very lake when he was caught."

"The one in black and the one in green didn't get along with Lavender, and she wound up leaving the dungeon without them."

"Now..." The guardian pauses for effect. His face hovers only a foot away from your own. "Can you tell me what color Jet was wearing?"

None of them wore the colors they were named after, but they all wore colors named after one of their friends. The Guardian said Moss didn't wear red or green, and he stole from the one in black, therefore he had to be the one wearing lavender colors.

The one in black and the one in green didn't get along with Lavender, so she wasn't wearing black or green, but she wouldn't have worn lavender either. Therefore, Lavender must have been wearing scarlet.

You know that Moss wore lavender, and Lavender wore scarlet, so Jet must have been wearing black or green. But, Jet wouldn't wear black, therefore, Scarlet wore black and Jet must have been the one wearing green.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-28, 01:43 PM
Now we're talking!

I also have two chess-based riddles, but i have to make a picture of the board and upload it. I will gladly present them if desired when i figured out how to do this:smallamused: Yes, please, and thank you!

In other words, to make this work you probably need an evil Monty Hall tormenting the party. I've always thought puzzles only make sense in a dungeon where the adventurers are being tested, rather than crypts whose owner wishes to keep people out (that's what traps and guards are for).

An Evil Monty Hall? That would be wonderful. A crypt whose owner was a sadistic jerk, but who is willing to give up his resting place's treasure to anyone smart enough or lucky enough to make it through his twisted games...

smcmike
2015-08-28, 02:12 PM
I've always thought puzzles only make sense in a dungeon where the adventurers are being tested, rather than crypts whose owner wishes to keep people out (that's what traps and guards are for).

And Evil Monty Hall? That would be wonderful. A crypt whose owner was a sadistic jerk, but who is willing to give up his resting place's treasure to anyone smart enough or lucky enough to make it through his twisted games...

Agreed. In this case, my point is that the Monty Hall problem really relies upon some knowledge beyond what was presented by the previous poster. As presented, it didn't sound like the weird Monty Hall probability would kick in at all. They party really needs to know that no matter what door the they initially picked, the Puzzler would respond by showing them a monster behind another door.

I love logic puzzles, but my favorites are almost impossible to translate into this setting, and are too hard to work out quickly unless you already know them or are much smarter than I am.

The blue eyed islander puzzle is my favorite one that I consider reasonably solvable. Doesn't really work I game unless you are literally just asking riddles.

inuyasha
2015-08-28, 02:13 PM
I recently came up with a riddle that I'll be using in an upcoming game:

Breaking some bonds like acid on metal
A wonderful substance that dwarves like to peddle
Making relations with this stuff is easy
Don't have too much though or you'll start to feel queasy
Alcohol
It's kind of an easy riddle but I think it'll do it's job well in my dungeon

WrittenInBlood
2015-08-28, 02:15 PM
Here's some of mine:

1. Coded passwords (might not work well, because of various pronouncing of "clues" depending on accent). Players need alphanumeric code of set lenght (7 digits), and only thing they can find is note with some sentences written on the last page:
a) I want you to see the end; b) You force heaven to be empty; c) Night in jail for two elves
a) I1U2CDN; b) U472BMT; c) 19J412S

2. Coloured guardians. Three inactive constructs - green, blue, and red - are standing in the chamber. There's inscription on the floor: "One of them can only lie; one of them speaks only truth; one of them doesn't tell all the truth; one of them holds the only one key." When interacted, they speak. Green: "I have the key and the blue one lies". Blue: "I dont have key and the red one doesn't tell all the truth". Red: I don't have key and the green lies". This riddle can also be just smashed through, if players get bored and feel strong enough to fight all three powerful constructs.

ANSWER: Assumption: Green lies. SO ->G doesn't have the key and B speaks true. SO -> R is true about G (he lies, as assumed), and has to lie about key. SO-> R has the key.
All other possibilities are excluded - there's either two keys or none, or guardians contradict each other, or themselves.

halcyonforever
2015-08-28, 02:55 PM
Puzzles are a major challenge to incorporate.

Intellect puzzles I have come to avoid because it needs to be the intellect of the character not the player. That and they slow the pace down to much and just break immersion unless it reaaaaly fits the narrative. I like to place clues for those around. Notes left by a previous adventurer or some such.

I'm also a big fan of ephemera so puzzles will often have a solution in a handout somewhere.

I like to use puzzle traps that separate the party to give them each some solo challenge. My favorite was a trap that required someone to sacrifice themselves for the good of the party. The group left, hired a beggar, gave him a night on the town with the agreement that he would throw himself into the theoretical volcano (don't remember the actual trap mechanic). Just to spite them for doing something rather despicable I had it bestow all sorts of blessings on the one who was willing to sacrifice themselves for others and a deadly prize for those that continued on.

smcmike
2015-08-28, 03:11 PM
A labyrinth idea, though not fully fleshed out:

Enter via a stairwell to the center of a room with five equal sides, each with a door opening into another, identical room with five equal sides. This should either tip off your savvy players that it's a magical labyrinth, or frustrate the map drawers for a bit.

Above each door, there's a phrase, such as "Abandon all hope" or "Who wants ice cream!" You can change these to fit your setting. The key is that only the first letter really matters, and that the correct path spells out some password the party acquired earlier. Straying from the proper path summons demons, perhaps corresponding to the phrase the party entered under - oh, no, it's the ice cream man!

In every incorrect room, there's a door which leads to the first correct room, so it is possible to brute force it, but very time consuming.

The real trick is to bury the password deep in their notes, or to make the wrong phrases seem responsive to the password or other otherwise attractive. Once they get it, it's a breeze to walk through. It should be possible to hide more paths in the maze, though, which could make it interesting.

Spartakus
2015-08-28, 05:13 PM
Chess based riddles: In my campaign chess was a recurring theme. I had the head of two opposing tribes (frost giants and treants) play against each other and delivering their moves via messengers. The giant elder had big figures made of ice moved by slaves and when a figure was captured he smashed it with his hammer. The treants had a board made of different coloured grass the pieces represented by little trees and bushes that were just ordered to move by the treant-king.
The chars had access to a book containing the rules, so I allowed the players to read the wikipedia-article via smartphone. This allowed me to avoid obscure knowledge-checks to get hints.
But enough about flavour, here are the puzzles.

Setting: A dungeon build around a portal to Limbo to keep the caotic inhabitants inside. So the dungeon was build by lawful creatures and the puzzle was intended as a way to ensure that only lawful-minded creatures could enter certain areas. At one point there was a statue sitting in front of a chess-board stretching out his left hand (something can be put in his hand) and ponting his right index finger at the pace of the second player. If a person sits in the other chair it could move his own pieces (and the opposing ones that can be captured if a piece is picked up). By giving the statue the correct piece it triggers a door opening. The wrong piece or an illegal move triggers a nasty spell from the finger.

Here is the board :
http://www.schachforum.at/diagramme/00k000LD0bsb00s0t000d0000000B00000L0B00BtBSlB0B0B0 B0000000K0000T.gif
Text in front of the board: "Give me what disturbs the order!"
White has two bishops on light squares, but still all pawns. There is no way this situation could ever come up. Just give the statue one of your own bishops without capturing any other piece.

similar setting to the one above. Cant remember how exactly i did this, but the mechanics where the same.
http://www.schachforum.at/diagramme/00000000000000000k0L000000bB00000SB000000S00L0BbB0 000B0BtT0000K0.gif
Text in front of the board: "He, who knows the past can slay me!"
There are two types of moves in chess, that require information about earlier moves. Castling and En passant. If blacks last move was to put his pawn from C7 to C5, the white pawn can capture it by moving to C6. Checkmate.

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-29, 11:16 AM
Oh, wow. I feel a bit like those require you to really know your chess...

Spartakus
2015-08-29, 12:04 PM
Oh, wow. I feel a bit like those require you to really know your chess...

Well, the players should know the rules, but they don't need to be good at it since no tactical knowledge is needed for the puzzles. My group solved the first one in the first try, and the second one after they searched for a chess-rulebook ingame. But they stopped simple try and error solutions after the third Energy Drain that hit them:smallamused:
If your group really knows their chess you can even hit them when they touch a piece and then try to move another.

Remember that your group always has the advantage of having multiple minds working together for a solution.

Reltzik
2015-08-29, 08:36 PM
Well, the players should know the rules, but they don't need to be good at it since no tactical knowledge is needed for the puzzles. My group solved the first one in the first try, and the second one after they searched for a chess-rulebook ingame. But they stopped simple try and error solutions after the third Energy Drain that hit them:smallamused:
If your group really knows their chess you can even hit them when they touch a piece and then try to move another.

Remember that your group always has the advantage of having multiple minds working together for a solution.

PersonMan
2015-08-30, 06:49 AM
2. Coloured guardians. Three inactive constructs - green, blue, and red - are standing in the chamber. There's inscription on the floor: "One of them can only lie; one of them speaks only truth; one of them doesn't tell all the truth; one of them holds the only one key." When interacted, they speak. Green: "I have the key and the blue one lies". Blue: "I dont have key and the red one doesn't tell all the truth". Red: I don't have key and the green lies". This riddle can also be just smashed through, if players get bored and feel strong enough to fight all three powerful constructs.

I always feel like this kind of puzzle has issues in a game where you can do more than 'hit X to interact'.

So, you solved the puzzle. Now what? You know which one has the key, how do you get it? If they respond to anything with something other than their opening line, can't you just ask a couple questions to figure it out more easily? If not, how does knowing which one has the key help you? Do you need a specific phrase to make them cough up the key? Why not just do that from the start, then? Or do they all attack if you say it more than once?

---

Personally, I'm a fan of 'anti-puzzles', or puzzles that subvert normal restrictions.

One idea I had is a sliding-thing puzzle. There's an energy field around the side, and inside is a key. You can reach in and move it around, to get it to the exit, where you push it out, then can put it into the nearby lock. Things in the box move easily if moved by a living being, but not if touched by nonliving matter.

http://i.imgur.com/yxu9TjJ.png

http://i.imgur.com/i5KIsLr.png

EDIT: Woops. This one has a mistake - shift the one in the middle down for a more accurate positioning, my bad.

Now you can see there's an 'intended' solution. But the other, much faster, method is to simply say 'no' to the puzzle and take the key out of the box, then put it into the lock.

Similarly, some kind of two-guardian or three-guardian door puzzle, with the puzzle conditions written on a note or similar. The trick is...

-[Optional] The instructions are written by a lying guardian and are utter BS.
-Complex questions and such provoke aggression.
-The guardians aren't necessarily a threat - you just need information from one to continue.

So, fairly similar to a standard guardian-truth/lie thing, I think (without the optional twist). The solution, though, is as simple as asking one or two questions to figure out if the guardian in question lies or not - 'Will it damage you if I attack?' -> 'No' -> *Attack damages* 'Alright this one lies', for example.

goto124
2015-08-30, 07:33 AM
The last one... there's an OotS comic strip about it.

PersonMan
2015-08-30, 07:57 AM
Yeah, I wanted to mention it, but had forgotten the details and didn't want to look it up again (I was going to say 'similar to Haley's shooting the guards').

BootStrapTommy
2015-08-31, 05:22 PM
Successfully used my OC puzzle this last session. Party came up with a creative solution after some guess and check (and lots of failed Dex saves). They loved it.

Planning on an optional fight with a Shield Guardian at the end of this dungeon, determined by the party's success or failure at a variation on FreelanceGM's logic puzzle.

Freelance GM
2015-09-01, 01:53 PM
Planning on an optional fight with a Shield Guardian at the end of this dungeon, determined by the party's success or failure at a variation on FreelanceGM's logic puzzle.

Amphetryon
2015-09-01, 04:02 PM
No one ever argues that Ocarina of Time was too hard because the dungeons have block pushing puzzles.

If your players can't solve simple puzzles of LoZ level complexity, than it is a surprise they're capable of the basic mathematics required of TTRPGs.

Solving a puzzle is not like a moral dilemma. It does not require reading the GM's mind. It requires problem solving skills.

If your players lack problem solving skills, then you shouldn't put puzzles in your dungeons. Just let them kill stuff.

If your puzzles are challenging your Players' problem-solving skills, rather than the problem-solving skills of their Characters, then you're generally engaging them in a different game than the TTRPG which they thought they'd come to play. Their Characters almost certainly have a different set of skills than the Players do, unless you know that your Players can restore damaged IQ points, or accurately fire a laser cannon at an oncoming spacecraft, or play an instrument well enough to bring a charging band of berserkers to a halt (and to tears). . . et cetera. Exceptions for Self-Insert Character concepts may exist.

BootStrapTommy
2015-09-01, 04:50 PM
Any instance in that statement of "player" is easily applicable to "character". If your players are playing a party of idiots, why are you putting puzzles in your games? There might be a trope for that (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DumbassHasAPoint), but is it a good design choice to be making? And if your players are idiots, why are you putting puzzles in your games? Is that a good design choice to be making? Or might other challenges be more suitable for them?

Puzzle designs which are the most widely accessible (like those in LoZ) tend to be the safest and most applicable by design. Because they're a bit easier to excuse when the line between player and character becomes blurred, barring outlyers.