Author Topic: D&D Puzzle Help  (Read 5770 times)

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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2015, 09:16:37 AM »
Do any of your party have non-combat skills that could be used to solve parts of a puzzle?

Well, it's D&D, so there are non-combat skills. Trouble is, I don't want the entire campaign to be halted because of a bad die roll...

I take it this is not 5th ed?  Anyway, I just tell the character with the most relevant skill that they know this much of a hint.  But if they roll well tell them the same thing with more detail.  That way there is no failure, only super successes.....   >:D

Yeah, it's 5th. I don't really want it to come down to a die roll though.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2015, 09:24:01 AM »
As teleports are a thing try this. Have three *identical* looking floors of each level with three ways up each time. 1A,1B,1C,2A,2B,2C,3A,3B,3C.
Red, green and blue spiral staircase between each floor. Each staircase leads to a different identical room of that level. If the party stays together they won't notice that each level 2 for example is the same. They go from level 1 to 2 using either staircase and it appears they get to the same place. But they don't.
The only way through is to go in a certain sequence, Start at floor 1, RGBBRGGBR. This will take them through each of the 9 rooms once and only once. Going up from the last room of the sequence takes you to the forth floor but only if you have done the sequence correctly. Now at some stage the party will work out that each 2nd floor isn't exactly the same by leaving a person or something behind, or leaving a marking. This is stage 1. The next stage is to work out the correct sequence out of the 186 ways (or something) of doing it. Trial and error could be used but will take a long time and there needs to be some penalty for doing it the hard way. The cleverer way is to find the correct pattern which is hidden in a tapestry on a wall. However there are 9 nearly identical tapestries, only 1 is correct and is the odd one out. The players need to take down the tapestries to get them together to compare. One will be fixed and this will be in Room 1A. Don't make *this* tapestry the correct solution. This is to allow them to work out (guess) that 1A is the starting room for the staircase sequence. Have the tapestries printed out so the players can look at them. They will find 4 pairs of exactly identical tapestries. The useful sequence is found on the odd one out. An example would be to have a pattern around the border in the RGB sequence required with the pair matched errors in a gigantic red herring picture in the main part of the tapestry. (so 4 pairs of tapestry, with wrong borders, one with correct border) Have the red herring part of the tapestry show pictures of the tower with secret doors that don't exist, invisible windows, hidden levers, ropes lowered from ceilings, people tunneling down from the bottom, people shriking. All sorts of crap that isn't there or just bad ideas that don't help. The actual solution is in the sequence of colours around the edge on the unique tapestry.
A benefit here is that you can give the players a tapestry as they enter each room. You take it off them as they leave if they leave it there. This way the red herrings can start causing mayhem straight away because the players will think the tower solution is what they have been primed for in the dodgy tapestries. They may well miss the importance of the tapestry edge colour for quite a while.
If you wanted to add another level of complexity you can add a lever panel on each floor that adjusts the colour of the staircases, only one combination leads to RGB, all others have a yellow or black option, which is wrong.
The players come across the creatures playing with the levers. They have no idea about the tapestries importance at that point until they even realise there are different identical rooms.
Enjoy. (Haven't played D&D for 20 years but I was a DM for 15 years)

That is... amazing. I might have to have another read of this, more carefully. I'd already mapped out the first three floors, but if I can get my head around this I may have to throw that out and start again.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2015, 09:24:49 AM »
"You must taste the blood of the sea to pass."

There are four levers and this cryptic cue. Each lever has a stone attached to it. If the players examine the stones or know anything about such things, they realize that each stone has a different flavor - salt, sour, bitter, sweet. If they pull the lever with the salty stone (the blood of the sea), the door opens. Otherwise, something appropriately gruesome happens.

That's simple and elegant, and I suspect it'll take my players about fifteen seconds to solve. :D
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Offline SkeptiQueer

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2015, 09:25:48 AM »
Do any of your party have non-combat skills that could be used to solve parts of a puzzle?

Well, it's D&D, so there are non-combat skills. Trouble is, I don't want the entire campaign to be halted because of a bad die roll...
Sorry, I meant tailoring a puzzle to your party's skills. One of my favorite puzzles from a 3.5e game required our bard to compose and recite a poem based on the history of the cave, conveniently informed by our wizard's knowledge-lore skill points.

If they have history or knowledge skills, include a riddle that tailors to that. Acrobatics or rope skills? Maybe someone has to climb up to a higher spot to find the lever.

Alternatively, or alongside, if someone has a light or illusion spell that can make light, dark rooms that look different under magical light are fun.
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Offline Anders

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2015, 03:24:54 PM »
"You must taste the blood of the sea to pass."

There are four levers and this cryptic cue. Each lever has a stone attached to it. If the players examine the stones or know anything about such things, they realize that each stone has a different flavor - salt, sour, bitter, sweet. If they pull the lever with the salty stone (the blood of the sea), the door opens. Otherwise, something appropriately gruesome happens.

That's simple and elegant, and I suspect it'll take my players about fifteen seconds to solve. :D

Will they think of tasting the stones?
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Online Harry Black

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2015, 03:32:12 PM »
Some brilliant suggestions here but fwiw this is the game I was referring to
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.T._(video_game)

Its a really short demo for Silent Hills that Konami made for PS4 and then pulled when the creator left.
The demo is hands down the scariest and most intriguing concept Ive ever played. Afaik there are still some videos of the play through on youtube, its quite short.

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2015, 05:31:47 AM »
"You must taste the blood of the sea to pass."

There are four levers and this cryptic cue. Each lever has a stone attached to it. If the players examine the stones or know anything about such things, they realize that each stone has a different flavor - salt, sour, bitter, sweet. If they pull the lever with the salty stone (the blood of the sea), the door opens. Otherwise, something appropriately gruesome happens.

That's simple and elegant, and I suspect it'll take my players about fifteen seconds to solve. :D

Will they think of tasting the stones?

Since it's mentioned in the clue, I think so.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2015, 05:35:38 AM »
Some brilliant suggestions here but fwiw this is the game I was referring to
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.T._(video_game)

Its a really short demo for Silent Hills that Konami made for PS4 and then pulled when the creator left.
The demo is hands down the scariest and most intriguing concept Ive ever played. Afaik there are still some videos of the play through on youtube, its quite short.

Ah. Well, I don't play horror games, and the "jump scare" is the thing that is most likely to make me want to hurl a game into a garbage bin, pour seven different types of flammable liquid on it, jump up and down on it so that I make sure that the liquid splashes all over the room, leave, get in a helicopter, firebomb the entire house from a height of ten thousand feet, then firebomb the helicopter just to make sure.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #23 on: October 23, 2015, 01:56:23 AM »
There is another way to go about this. Don't come up with the solution. At all. Just come up with a weird situation and let the players hash it out.

Here's how it works (and how I discovered this approach).

I set up a puzzle in a post apocalyptic game with ancient tech and modern magic. The players found their way into a NASA-style control centre and needed to unlock the computer to get information for the next stage of the adventure. Ancient knowledge long lost kind of thing.

I'm my notes I meticulously detailed the stuff before and after the puzzle room, but got distracted and totally forgot to come up with the actual puzzle. I found this out when we were an hour in to game night and I turned the page in my book. In faint pencil, my past self left a note saying, "puzzle here" and nothing else. I was screwed.

Since I had finished describing the interface before I turned the page, my players were already brain storming like mad. It was a holographic interface that popped up 60 balls of light that started disappearing once per second.

"Take a picture shut it off!" was the first thing they did. Done.

They toggled it on again to see if it would reset. "Sixty dots," I said, because I had to play for time.

They tossed out a whack if ideas, and I made then roll for all of them. If the roll was good I would try make the idea fit, but would reject anything inconsistent with the game world, plot, or my sense of continuity. Then one of them asked, "What pattern are the balls of light in?" I had no idea, but that was a tasty question.

He failed a roll, so I said "sort of spherical?" There was a general piling on of suggestions then, with attendant rolls. When someone said hypercube and made their roll, it turned out to be a hypersphere.

Off to the races again. They were braining up a storm. The cycle repeated five or six times, until I figured they had had enough. All told it took them the better part of an hour to unlock the computer. They had no idea they were inventing the puzzle as they solved it.

For years they described that as the best puzzle they ever encountered - the most fun, challenging and engaging. Not surprising, given the collective intelligence and imagination of that group far exceeded mine.

All that joy ended when I told them my secret method. They felt betrayed for a while, and I could never do another puzzle room again.

Instead I started to develop scenarios that were independent of the players. The people who built the dungeon had a motive to build it. What was it's purpose? Barriers and challenges and traps make more sense then, and skill rolls feel more satisfying. I started coming up with security systems, and they had to become hackers.

It is still very effective.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 02:00:48 AM by brilligtove »
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #24 on: October 23, 2015, 04:22:42 AM »
I've done things like that before - not quite to that level of detail, but I agree it can be extremely effective. It gives the players the impression that you know what you're doing. :D

I consider such techniques as aft-shadowing and hidden retcon to be essential elements to a DM's toolbox - especially in a sandbox campaign. Aft-shadowing is when you introduce something and your players relate it to something that happened in a previous session, regardless of whether you intended it that way or not. Always accept the aft-shadowing when it happens, as it makes you look like a god. Hidden retconning is similar, though it relies on your players misremembering something that happened before. Usually they misremember it in a way that is better or more fun, because players' minds work like that. It is the art of applying the "ah, so that's why that happened before!". Again, it is almost always best to accept the hidden retcon rather than correct it, because it saves you having to later explain how it really happened.
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Offline brilligtove

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2015, 07:16:02 AM »
I didn't know parts of this had names. Cool.
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Offline Zytheran

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #26 on: October 23, 2015, 09:06:02 AM »
As teleports are a thing try this. Have three *identical* looking floors of each level with three ways up each time. 1A,1B,1C,2A,2B,2C,3A,3B,3C.
Red, green and blue spiral staircase between each floor. Each staircase leads to a different identical room of that level. If the party stays together they won't notice that each level 2 for example is the same. They go from level 1 to 2 using either staircase and it appears they get to the same place. But they don't.
The only way through is to go in a certain sequence, Start at floor 1, RGBBRGGBR. This will take them through each of the 9 rooms once and only once. Going up from the last room of the sequence takes you to the forth floor but only if you have done the sequence correctly. Now at some stage the party will work out that each 2nd floor isn't exactly the same by leaving a person or something behind, or leaving a marking. This is stage 1. The next stage is to work out the correct sequence out of the 186 ways (or something) of doing it. Trial and error could be used but will take a long time and there needs to be some penalty for doing it the hard way. The cleverer way is to find the correct pattern which is hidden in a tapestry on a wall. However there are 9 nearly identical tapestries, only 1 is correct and is the odd one out. The players need to take down the tapestries to get them together to compare. One will be fixed and this will be in Room 1A. Don't make *this* tapestry the correct solution. This is to allow them to work out (guess) that 1A is the starting room for the staircase sequence. Have the tapestries printed out so the players can look at them. They will find 4 pairs of exactly identical tapestries. The useful sequence is found on the odd one out. An example would be to have a pattern around the border in the RGB sequence required with the pair matched errors in a gigantic red herring picture in the main part of the tapestry. (so 4 pairs of tapestry, with wrong borders, one with correct border) Have the red herring part of the tapestry show pictures of the tower with secret doors that don't exist, invisible windows, hidden levers, ropes lowered from ceilings, people tunneling down from the bottom, people shriking. All sorts of crap that isn't there or just bad ideas that don't help. The actual solution is in the sequence of colours around the edge on the unique tapestry.
A benefit here is that you can give the players a tapestry as they enter each room. You take it off them as they leave if they leave it there. This way the red herrings can start causing mayhem straight away because the players will think the tower solution is what they have been primed for in the dodgy tapestries. They may well miss the importance of the tapestry edge colour for quite a while.
If you wanted to add another level of complexity you can add a lever panel on each floor that adjusts the colour of the staircases, only one combination leads to RGB, all others have a yellow or black option, which is wrong.
The players come across the creatures playing with the levers. They have no idea about the tapestries importance at that point until they even realise there are different identical rooms.
Enjoy. (Haven't played D&D for 20 years but I was a DM for 15 years)

That is... amazing. I might have to have another read of this, more carefully. I'd already mapped out the first three floors, but if I can get my head around this I may have to throw that out and start again.

Clarifying points: There are three staircases in each up to each floor "above". For example if on level 2, red might take you to 3B, blue to 3A and green to 3C. If you went up each staircase in turn you would see level 3. You would not notice they are 3 identical rooms unless you left something behind in say room 3B and then went down and up the green staircase from level 2 again and saw it wasn't there... because you are in 3C.
Tapestries are V1,V2,W1,W2,X1,X2,Y1,Y2 and Z. Z being the odd one out with the corrected RGB pattern around edge.
One example layout would be
Room 1A: Red->2A; Green->2C; Blue->2B. Room 2A has tapestry W1, Room 2B has tapestry X2, Room 2C has tapestry Z.
Room 1B: Red->2C; Green->2A; Blue->2B.
Room 1C: Red->2A;Green->2B; Blue->2C.
and then something similar for other 6 rooms, remembering those on level 3 go to level 1.
You could have subtle differences in each of three rooms that can be found but mean nothing. (Apart from the subtle difference in the tapestries)

Lever explanation: L1,L2,L3,L4,L5. Up or down. L1U, L2D,L3D,L4D,L5U gives a red, black and yellow staircase,  L1D, L2D,L3U,L4D,L5U gives a red, green and green staircase. Use Excel or dice to generate all the fake combinations then pick one to give Red,Green, Blue. You can make it so is only combination of RGB but 2 or more of other combinations. Hint again is odd one out.

If players want hints, pre-work out some hints you can give them if those characters with high wisdom or int make the rolls. Tell the players that these rolls represent say 10 minutes of game time so they have to make the choice between running the clock out and having to think. Choose penalty for running clock out or players taking too long by using exhaustive search, maybe teleport in creature from local nest/swarm every x minutes/turns. Creature appears (teleports) in adjacent room and then enters via staircase. Creatures entrance is accompanied with door slamming, metal grate sounds, stone wall sliding sounds etc. Just a teleport side effect to mess with the players.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 09:12:37 AM by Zytheran »

Offline brilligtove

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2015, 07:06:56 PM »
Why does the puzzle exist? Is it like a spare key for the mage? Why are there clues? Should there be hints, or are there flaws in the security protocol that could be noticed? Perhaps a sound gets louder when you're getting closer to the right combo (analogous to tumblers) or a scent talk can be followed, or dust is a different flavor and the wizards have trodden...
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2015, 04:18:00 AM »
Why does the puzzle exist? Is it like a spare key for the mage? Why are there clues? Should there be hints, or are there flaws in the security protocol that could be noticed? Perhaps a sound gets louder when you're getting closer to the right combo (analogous to tumblers) or a scent talk can be followed, or dust is a different flavor and the wizards have trodden...

It's not the mage's spare key, it's his key. It's how he gets (actually, got - he's long dead) into his tower while keeping others out.

The clues are the spare key, perhaps.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: D&D Puzzle Help
« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2015, 04:23:12 AM »
And Zyth - kudos for your idea, but if it's too complicated for me to understand, I can't hope to be able to run it for a party. Sorry. :(
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