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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Where do some of you get your ideas for hands on puzzles?

    I would like to run my campaign with 1 non combat encounter for every 2 or 3 combat encounters, so I need lots of ideas (about 1 per week).
    Skill challenges have their place, say, in a courtroom, or gather information in a city to locate the black market, or even to get past the obstacle course before the dungeon caves in. But I do not want to force skill challenges where they do not feel natural.

    I do not like the "computer science" math proof word puzzles (ie smurf hats, measure two gallons with a 4gal and a 5gal bucket, optimization ect).

    I have a color match wheel(5 circles with colored dots you rotate until all sides match the adjacent wheels). And an idea for a set of keys, but instead of unlocking something, when you lay them down next to each other, the teeth will outline a word or number.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    I'm a big fan of physical puzzles. The sort of thing where you provide tools, but no set solution. They don't really work at high tier, but they're fine for heroic.

    Last week I gave my players this one. There's a dude on an earthmote the size of a large draft horse. It's 100 feet up and he's calling for help.

    They tried throwing a javelin with rope tied to it. The rope was too heavy. (At this point I expected them to tie a string (possibly pulled off their clothes) to the javelin instead and use that to hoist up the rope.) Since that didn't work they attached the bard's cloak of many pockets to the javelin and threw that up to the mote. It took several tries. Honestly, the cloak was probably too heavy and not very aerodynamic, but I liked the solution so I let it work. Inside the cloak was a rope and piton, which the guy on the mote used to climb down.

    I also like the idea of giving them an actual puzzle. Make a map. Tear it to shreds. Give out the pieces one at a time. This works best if you can cut it evenly so the shape of the cuts doesn't give it away.

    For a more modern take on the map puzzle, give them google maps. Say that they're hacking someone's computer and they're able to get to the browser's image cache. It has all the pieces of a map of a location their victim was looking at. Possibly at different zoom levels. Give them cutouts of the images. I think this'll be tricky until they realize it's actually two different puzzles.

    Another one I'm planning is a secret message. You know the trick where you write in lemon juice on paper and then heat the paper to reveal the message? The message writer was a little dyslexic so he used melon juice. Now they have to figure out how to extract the message. I'm expecting it to involve ants or other small insects that are attracted to sugar. Oh and I'm also expecting the message itself to suffer from the writer's dyslexia, just to throw off the PCs when they try to read the message back. For some odd reason I don't think they'll expect me to make use of the dyslexic clue twice.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    DwarfFighterGuy

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    I hate puzzles myself. The group is always split between people who enjoy them and will spend however long it takes till the puzzle is solved and people who just want to get to the "fun" parts of the game ASAP and get bitter at the first group after the first 4 hours or so. Not to mention puzzles test player intelligence/creativity as opposed to PC intelligence/creativity.

    So I avoid the Sphinx question type puzzles, but I do what valadil described extensively to make up for it. Usually I don't even have a solution in mind, I just throw the PC's into a difficult (with small chance of being impossible) situation and let them think of any way they want to solve the problem.
    Been there, fought that, died horribly.

    Something fun and flavorful to get your DM throwing books at you: Katana Chucker



  4. - Top - End - #4
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Book of challenges 1 and 2 both have some good puzzles in it

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    I like to weave my puzzles into the gameplay. Imo, it's no point forcing your players to solve a puzzle out of game, and it's metagaming to a certain degree - surely the hyper-intelligent wizard character should be able to solve most of the logic puzzles you give your players, but it's the players themselves who will fail at it.

    What I might do is integrate puzzles into a fight, so the players can feel like they're playing the game while you work their brains a little. Some I might do are:

    1. Battlefield takes place on a terrain that is dangerous in a pattern, like with flame geysers shooting out every couple of turns. The players need to figure out the pattern of the geysers so they don't get caught in them while pushing enemies into the geysers could help. I might also give the enemies push/slide/pull abilities to try to catch the players in the geysers.

    2. The enemy itself is a puzzle. Make the encounter some kind of wizard and his summoned creatures. The encounter is in a summoning chamber of some kind, or there's some kind of magical device. Whenever you kill the summoned creatures, it will "respawn" due to the wizard and the device. The only way to stop them is to break the device or kill the wizard, while the creatures will do their best to occupy the players.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    My favorite puzzles are dungeon based and with more than one solution or no specific solution. If the PCs solve it in a way you didn't expect, you've done well. The simplest example is the secret door. Chasms, rope bridges and a foe with a cutting weapon, Brown Mold and so on could also work. More complicated geared mechanisms with traps, revolving walls, revolving rooms (you're not going the direction you thought you were), rooms that change elevation in a manner that's hard to hear, etc. are also a hoot. But if there's an obvious door with a puzzle lock and no monsters or anything to make the PCs hurry up, IMO the proper solution is always to break the door down and skip the puzzle. This is rpg day not $3 puzzle book day.
    Last edited by ericgrau; 2010-07-26 at 04:05 PM.
    So you never have to interrupt a game to look up a rule again:
    My 3.5e Rules Cheat Sheets: Normal, With Consolidated Skill System
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    Utilities: Magic Item Shop Generator (Req. MS Excel), Balanced Low Magic Item System
    Printable Cardstock Dungeon Tiles and other terrain stuff (100 MB)

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Thanks for some of the great ideas.
    I might steal the melon juice if you don't mind, valadil.

    I've heard some pretty mix reviews about the books of challenges. Interesting traps but not really puzzles.

    The dangerous/changing terrain sounds like a great mix of puzzle, skill challenge, and with the option of adding combat! Now how to get my battle mat to move....

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Bagelz View Post
    I might steal the melon juice if you don't mind, valadil.
    Be my guest :) If I didn't want it used I wouldn't have posted it.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Retired Mod in the Playground Retired Moderator
     
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    Book of challenges 1 and 2 both have some good puzzles in it
    There's a Book of Challenges 2? Where might I find it? 'Cause I want it.
    Knowledge is power.
    Power corrupts.
    Study hard.
    Be evil.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    A slightly mundane puzzle I gave a low-level group was this: while exploring the house they found a bag of small painted metal rods, 10 total, two of each color. Behind a secret panel in the basement they found a series of 7 holes in a brick that were all the same diameter of the rods.

    If they cast detect magic on the wall they would have seen a seven letter nonsense word appear on the wall above the holes. Each letter corresponded with the first letter of the color rod that went in each hole. So if the letters spelled out RYGYOOB, then they were supposed to put a red rod in the first hole, yellow in the second, and so on.

    Putting the rods in the wrong order set off a trap that did 1d6 sonic nonlethal damage every other round.

    It was a pretty new group and I wanted them to get into the mindset of thinking "in game". It's a pretty well known type of puzzle, but they never thought to cast detect magic on the wall. If they had, then the rest would have been easy. But I wanted to reward them if they thought like their characters would. The wizard had detect magic prepared, and they were in the basement of a wizard's house.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    onthetown's Avatar

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    If you want to torment your players, this is a good one. There's a reason why my players hate it when I take it in my mind to do puzzles. It's a little confusing, so I'll separate the points a lot:

    Let's say that, at some point, the party has made their way onto a platform.

    The platform is situated at least x number of feet above a certain danger that will surely kill them immediately or is near impossible to escape (lava, spikes, endless pit, rabid chickens, etc).

    It is also x number of feet below the escape route (the mouth of the volcano, an opening to another cavern, the top of a pit, a KFC restaurant, etc). Essentially, it's hanging between death and escape. It can be held up by chains, ropes, or magic; whatever.

    Obviously, the way that the party came has to be unfavourable or impossible to get to (otherwise they might not take the bait to get on the platform); or, the way back is completely open but it might not give them a chance to get to where they need to go if they don't use the platform. Anyway, I digress.

    On the platform are 3 switches that are easily activated. They should be clearly different from each other, and a good way to define them for the players is 1, 2, and 3 or left, middle, and right, or even just define them by their colour or if they have a certain symbol on them (like sun, moon, cloud, etc).

    This is where it gets tricky and you should write it down before they get started: each switch has a pattern of going up and down x number of feet. The players will activate the switches and the platform will move according to their pattern; it'll take awhile to get them to the top, and there's a very real possibility that they'll fall to the trap below.

    For example (since I'm even confusing myself on explaining it) :

    The party walks onto a platform held by a pulley chain system. The platform is roughly 50 feet above a gladitorial pit of rabid, starved chickens, and is roughly 50 feet below the entrance to a KFC restaurant. The door of the McDonald's that they came from closes as the party boards the platform, and they have no choice but to explore and to try to find a way to get to the top. It's impossible to climb the walls, and the chain has been too well-greased to shimmy up.

    They discover three altars standing on the center of the platform, and on each of the altars is a push-switch. The switches are individually engraved -- one has a red gem, the second has a blue gem, and the third has a yellow gem.

    The party doesn't know this, but the switches each have a rotation of moving up or down 5 ft each time they are pushed. The pattern for each:

    RED: Up, down, up, down, up, down
    BLUE: Down, up, down, up, down, up
    YELLOW: Up, up, up, down, down, up

    You'll have to test this out before you do it to make sure that there's actually a chance of reaching the top, but they'll basically be pulling their hair out trying to figure what the hell is going on. You can always make up the pattern on the fly, too, just to see them squirm.

    As I said, my players really hate it when I start thinking about puzzles.

    Also, the chickens are all level 20 templated creatures that will destroy you.
    Last edited by onthetown; 2010-07-26 at 08:53 PM.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    The best puzzles in my opinion, only have one possible answer. Typically, it'll be a legend of zelda style puzzle where you simply work out block positions until something happens. Ones with lasers and mirrors are always fun.

    Hilarity ensued when we were doing one to which I stated "This puzzle is physically, literally impossible." To which the DM replied "No, it should be... No wait, hold on *erase, erase, scribble* OK now do it."

    My other DM uses riddles from time to time, which I hate. I draw little charts with all the semantically possible answers, and ask which one he thought was the only answer. The fact that I'm both the only one that complains about them, and the only one that can solve them irritates him as much as the riddles irritate me.
    Last edited by Yukitsu; 2010-07-26 at 09:19 PM.
    Me: I'd get the paladin to help, but we might end up with a kid that believes in fairy tales.
    DM: aye, and it's not like she's been saved by a mysterious little girl and a band of real live puppets from a bad man and worse step-sister to go live with the faries in the happy land.
    Me: Yeah, a knight in shining armour might just bring her over the edge.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Yukitsu View Post
    My other DM uses riddles from time to time, which I hate. I draw little charts with all the semantically possible answers, and ask which one he thought was the only answer. The fact that I'm both the only one that complains about them, and the only one that can solve them irritates him as much as the riddles irritate me.
    Well the first law of riddles/puzzles in tabletops is that any answer given by the players that is logically sound, but has not been anticipated by the dm is the correct one

    Quote Originally Posted by Savannah View Post
    There's a Book of Challenges 2? Where might I find it? 'Cause I want it.
    Sorry I was confusing traps and treachery 1 and 2 with book of challenges, there is indeed only one (but the book is pretty good, wouldn´t mind a second ^^)
    Last edited by Emmerask; 2010-07-27 at 01:58 AM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Tyndmyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    Well the first law of riddles/puzzles in tabletops is that any answer given by the players that is logically sound, but has not been anticipated by the dm is the correct one
    If you must use riddles or puzzles with multiple answers, then yes. I prefer puzzles with a finite amount of choices, with only one correct answer. For instance, a puzzle I gave to my players a bit ago.

    Four inevitibles, beings of pure law and order, and with infalliable logic, are captured by a sadistic fiend. He strikes a bargain with them, in which if they solve a puzzle correctly, they are freed. If they say anything other than the correct answer, they will all be immediately executed.

    Each is given either a black or white hat. There are two of each color of hat. (I drew a much better image of this on paper), but the letters show the color of hat, and the carats show facing. The ][ is a wall which cannot be seen through. They cannot see their own hat color, but they know the total number of hats of each color. The fiend asks them to guess the color of hat on their own head.

    B>W>B>][<W

    Which one said the correct answer?

    Bonus credit: Why?

    Answer:
    Spoiler
    Show

    Not all of the info above is strictly necessary, but my players asked a lot of questions. Figured it was best to include it all.

    The one second from the left. He knows the guy ahead of him is wearing a black hat. He knows the guy behind him can see his hat, as well as the hat of the guy ahead of him, and would call out the correct answer if they were the same color. Therefore, he knows his hat is white.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    If you must use riddles or puzzles with multiple answers, then yes. I prefer puzzles with a finite amount of choices, with only one correct answer. For instance, a puzzle I gave to my players a bit ago.
    It depends on the purpose of the puzzle. If you're breaking into a wizard's tower and the answer to a riddle is the password to get in, then it makes sense that there's only one solution. If you're crossing an icy river with two dead halflings, a roll of duct tape, and a sphere of annihilation, there are infinite answers. Some puzzles are key based, some are MacGuyver based.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: [DM help] puzzle ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    Four inevitibles, beings of pure law and order, and with infalliable logic, are captured by a sadistic fiend. He strikes a bargain with them, in which if they solve a puzzle correctly, they are freed. If they say anything other than the correct answer, they will all be immediately executed.
    This is exactly what i don't want. I want something the players can work at and make progress on, that they can clearly see, not something that is right or wrong with no "thats closer than you were 5 mins ago". The above type of problem (also known as smurf hats) tends to have the effect that either one of your players if familiar with it, or a similar problem, and poses no challenge, or they are not familiar with it and just sit there frustrated.

    I do like yucca's idea. I will probably steal it, but make the detect magic the safe squares on the map to walk through.
    Last edited by Bagelz; 2010-07-27 at 09:53 AM.

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