View Full Version : Need help making a puzzle table

2015-09-30, 04:17 AM
Hello I am trying to create a random puzzle table to aid me in deciding what puzzles to create for my party to solve. I am using generic puzzle types to fill the table. The following is what I have so far but it feels very incomplete and was hoping for more puzzle types to finish filling it out. Any suggestions would be appreiciated, thank you.

1. Riddles. (roll subtable)
a.Object Riddle. (Where the riddle gives hints on how to operate an object in a way for a solution.)
b.Map Riddle. (Where the riddle masks a location the party needs to go.)
c.Pass Riddle (Where the riddle solution is a password of some kind.)

2. Pattern Recognition Puzzle (roll subtable)
a. Look and say number sequence (See pattern, say pattern write out result of speech, repeat)
b. (Color,shape, object) arrangement puzzle.

3. Math Puzzles (roll subtable)
a. Arithmetic puzzle (The party must reach a certain number. Such as with a typical weight balance puzzle)

4. Perception Conundrums (roll subtable)
a. spot something that should be there.
b. Perceive something that shouldn't be.

5. Floor puzzle.
a. Floor Maze (The party must find a specific path through the floor.)
b. Shifting floor puzzle (Objects or the floor itself change as they move through. Blocking ways and opening new ones are moving the characters around.)

6. Cryptograms (roll subtable)
a. Letter substitution
b. Word Substition

7. Word Puzzles (roll subtable)
b. Word Mix up.

8. Collection Conundrum (Party must collect scattered targets and bring them together for a solution. Thiis includes typical jigsaw puzzles)

9. Sacrifice Conundrum (The party must sacrifice something to achieve the solution. Such as if a player needing to hold a pain bar while the rest of the party attempt an obstacle course to reach the goal. The conundrum is in trying to reduce the sacrifice.)

2015-09-30, 05:38 AM
Honestly, I do not think that this is a great idea (unless your whole party loves riddles and puzzles of all types AND you have discussed this with them beforehand).

Any type of riddle or puzzle should fit to the place it appears in, otherwise you seriously risk the suspension of disbelief of your players and the versimilitude of your world.
In my opinion, puzzles should be used sparingly, if possible in conjunction with some other kind of encounter (hold the monster at bay until you manage to open the door) and always because there is some specific reason for THIS puzzle to be in THAT place.

In addition, it is extremely easy for puzzles to devolve into "guess what the DM is thinking". If you have to improvise the puzzle or riddle based on a random roll, this will get so much harder and very likely lead to frustration both for you and your players.

If you absolutely have to use a random table to choose a puzzle, write down a list of concrete puzzles (instead of vague concepts) and add a few variations to each so that you can adapt it to the locale at hand.
For example:
1. Riddle: What walks on four legs in the morning, two during the afternoon [... and so on, you know the puzzle anyway]
Possible locations: (Magical) writing on a door, asked by an NPC
Variations: Vary number of legs for different creatures (butterflies use none in the morning (larvae), dont move at all later and have six legs in their mature form)

2015-09-30, 07:05 AM
Agreed - a puzzle should fit with the area it's placed in, the design ethos of the original builders, or the mind set of the person setting it.

As for ideas, look at puzzle books (9 coins of 9 different denominations on a 9x9 board is a sudoku puzzle by another name, a slitherlink could be some kind of wiring puzzle), tv shows like The Crystal Maze or Fort Boyard, various movies and so on.

Senshi Akai
2015-09-30, 07:10 AM
I agree with Surpriser; puzzles are generally a bad idea unless everyone (or at least the majority of the party) are into it. You should talk to your players about that, ask them if they want puzzles or some of the sort.

Luckly, I DM for a group that asked me to make a puzzle, because they really like them. You could adapt and use it, if you like. I think this puzzle is a mix of word puzzle and pattern recognition.

(Sorry if anything is obtuse. I translated this from portuguese)

The party was exploring a Temple of Fire, and knew of a rite called “The Path of Flame”, that would test their very souls with fire and blaze if they chose to do that. There were plenty of warnings about a mental test and the consequences of failing such test (death).

They finally entered a room empty, besides a single feature. Before them stood a stone table, totally flat. Scattered through the room they fond the following gems/stones:

Agate, Alexandrite, Amber, Beryl, Coral, Diamond, Emerald, Feldspar, Garnet, Idocrase, Jade, Kunzite, Morganite, Onyx, Quartz, Ruby, Serpentine, Sunstone, Tourmaline, Zircon.

There was only one of each of these gems or stones, and all of them are the same size: the size of a common human fist. In the wall above the stone table, they could read worn words, carved in the stone:

“The holiest things in life are: fire, ember, blaze and flame.
Could the gems of the earth name one of these things?
Maybe arranged in the correct order.”

A second set of worn words were on the wall to the right of the stone table. There, it could be read:

“The stones cannot name?
They are impure!
But if a part of them were cut,
Maybe this would cut part of their names.”

Finally, a final set of words were on the wall to the left of the stone table:

“The fire still rises?
Cut one from behind, but none from the front,
For each cut you add
Cut one more time;
And thus the holy name will be revealed.”

They have to form one of the following words: Fire, Ember, Blaze, Flame. It is needed only one, no more.

They will form the chosen word with the names of the gems/stones. But there is a catch: the order of the letters in the names they will form need to be the same as the names of the gems.

So, if they want to form FIRE, they would need:

Feldspar, as its first letter is F (FIRE);
Diamond, as its second letter is I (FIRE);
Morganite, as its third letter is R (FIRE), you could also use garnet, coral or serpentine;
Amber, as its fourth letter is E (FIRE), you could also use Jade.

The same logic is valid for the other words.

The first hint tells about that the gems need to be in order, the second that they use a part of the gem's name (a letter), and finally, the last tells that they need to remove an additional part (letter) from the left for each new letter of the holy name.

The room does divine fire magic per defined time (I used an hourglass of 3 minutes, and 15 fire damage). If they get a gem correctly, the gem will glow green, but only after they try to form a whole word. This should be rewarded as a CR 9 encounter (in D&D 3.5).

Once they solve the puzzle, they can have the gems not used as treasure.

My players solved this in 15 minutes (they were in six people), but all of them LOVE puzzles, and most of them work as software developers/engeineers, só they are used to think in a logical way. You should take that in account too, and adjust the time/damage as needed.

The big problem with puzzles (in my opinion) is that you have to know your players very well. Do they like them? Do they think in a logical way? Could they perceive an abstract thinking? For example, my players uncover answers to logical puzzles extremely quickly, but they can get stuck for hours because of a riddle.

Finally, remember that most of the puzzles don't challenge the character, but the player. That can break the immersion, especially if the puzzle is frustrating or take to long to solve.

2015-10-06, 03:12 PM
My party does like puzzles, does like variety and I ask for vague concepts specifically so it always does fit the theme. I just want to finish filling out this table, thats what I want, thats what I need.

Sorry about the slow response but it took me a bit to get over my anger at your replies.