Puzzles


Advice


So, my players are finally at high enough level to face the Big Bad lich that's been the main bad guy of the campaign since very early on. But I've hit a bit of a snag.
The lich is hiding out in a tomb from ancient Nethyr (an Ancient Egypt expy). The Nethyrese are known for filling their tombs with deadly traps and puzzles.
But I'm kinda bad at coming up with puzzles. Part of advancing past the first level of the tomb requires them to find four keys and I want each key to be protected by a puzzle that they have to solve.
Anybody got any ideas?


I'd read the Angry GM's articles on the subject first.
After that, I'd point out that puzzles and mazes are actually ill-suited to tabletop role-playing games. A challenge that can be overcome with the expenditure of nothing but time is not a good challenge. Not on its own, anyway.
You need a way to make the player's choices meaningful and you need a way to punish them for failure.
Maybe there are clues engraved on the walls in hieroglyphics that can be deciphered to help players find the keys. Maybe there's some kind of giant indestructible undead demon snake that they'll have to deal with if they can't find the keys fast enough. Maybe that level of the tomb is slowly filling up with sand.
Another problem with puzzles in tabletop role-playing games is that one single, specific answer is going to be too singular and specific for your players to ever find. The puzzle needs to be just open-ended enough to allow for multiple approaches to the situation. Otherwise, it's no longer about what the character's players are capable of, but what the players themselves can do.

Extremely well hidden keys is honestly probably enough. Add a couple clues for each key's location and you're all set.
If you want to add another element, a complex lock or puzzle box that requires some sort of skill to open. Rolling a d20 multiple times for the same action is usually a terrible idea, but when every attempt takes a minute and the party is keenly aware that they don't have a whole lot of minutes to spare, it can become a very tense and memorable part of the game.


Quixote wrote:
Stuff

Searching online, I found two that I like. One is a room with a mirror that has a riddle engraved on it saying "Use your head to paint me red, inside of thee, you'll find the key."

Coating the mirror in blood causes the mirror to disgorge a duplicate of the person who's blood coats the mirror that attacks them. After killing the duplicate, they have to cut open the corpse to find the key.

The second is a sliding block puzzle that takes a minimum of 10 rounds to solve and simply requires a DC 10 intelligence check each round to determine the correct way to slide the block. The problem is that the puzzle is only raised up when a platform hanging form a chain is weighted down with the equivalent weight of four adult humans. Also, once the platform has been so weighted down, four sarcophagi open and spawn mummies that either try to push people off the platform, or attack the person solving the puzzle. The mummies are weak, but each time a mummy is killed, it respawns in its sarcophagus, and the person solving the riddle must take a full-round action making the intelligence check and then moving the block, meaning they can't take part in the fight. This continues as long as the platform is lowered. The mummies disappear as soon as the platform raises back up. So the players have to weight down the platform (either using their own body, or the equivalent weight in objects) while also protecting the person solving the puzzle.

Those feel right for this kind of place. I still need two more though.


A variant of the sliding block puzzle that requires Dexterity (or Disable Device) instead of Intelligence.

Maybe the tomb is filling up with sand, but one of the puzzles involves letting in even more to get at the key.


Perhaps shadows repeatedly fight a battle in one room of the tomb. To be able to grasp the key you have to join the battle, which makes you a shadow for the duration. You have to get the key during the battle - you revert to normal afterwards - and the key only becomes solid with you if your side loses, which is referred to by some riddling inscription.


This may sound snarky, but I mean well: did you try Googling "riddles"?

You'll have to reframe them in context and provide a way to give clues to your PCs if they get stuck.


Okay, I found some ideas I like. A third puzzle is a room where the players have to walk a path between four statues that point towards a specific tile to reach a key. An inscription reads "To reach the key, you must let yourself be judged. Woe unto he who's beauty lacks."
Anyone with a charisma score lower than 16 (most of them) who tries to cross the path is struck by four consecutive enervation traps when they cross the tile the statues all point to. As a twist, though, once you get the key, you have to walk back through the statues again, but whoever picks up the key is struck by a bestow curse trap (-6 to charisma).
And for the other, there is a series of tiles on the floor, each with different glyphs of warding of varying levels. The glyphs contain spells that range from Inflict Minor Wounds to Energy Drain. To get the key, they have to pick out the path that does the least amount of damage to them.
To make sure the players follow the rules, the tomb has a curator - an enslaved genie - who makes sure they don't do things like fly or teleport across, or try to dispel or disarm the traps. That said, the genie is enslaved and therefore not happy about this, so if they come up with a really clever workaround solution that doesn't involve an obvious cheat, the genie will totally let them do it, obeying the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.

Yeah, these are kind of unfair, but this is an high level party that will include both a cleric and a paladin, so they're good for healing and the puzzles are intended to weaken the players so the lich doesn't have to fight intruders at full strength. And the one thing the puzzles mainly have in common is that they'll do spells that the lich is immune to (negative energy or energy drain), or produce enemies that he can easily command (low level undead), so if he ever has to do his own puzzles for some reason, he himself is under no real threat.


Try the adventure path set in Osirion for varying levels of puzzle traps?


RJ Dalton 89 wrote:

Okay, I found some ideas I like. A third puzzle is a room where the players have to walk a path between four statues that point towards a specific tile to reach a key. An inscription reads "To reach the key, you must let yourself be judged. Woe unto he who's beauty lacks."

Anyone with a charisma score lower than 16 (most of them) who tries to cross the path is struck by four consecutive enervation traps when they cross the tile the statues all point to. As a twist, though, once you get the key, you have to walk back through the statues again, but whoever picks up the key is struck by a bestow curse trap (-6 to charisma).

To make the above less unfair, how about using this variation:

Rather than Enervation, use a ray form of Touch of Idiocy, or better yet a Charisma form of Ray of Enfeeblement. While the penalties won't stack, the worst one will apply. This can cause their effective beauty to drop. The spells Eagle’s Splendor and Tap Inner Beauty can mitigate the effects. Dispel magic can also deal with the penalty, but would need to be applied to each spell. The curse should be only for those who fail the judgement. If they pass, a panel on the ceiling opens, and the key drops onto the character. DC 10 Reflex save to catch it.

/cevh


Bumping

Dark Archive

Puzzles are difficult to get to work in this game, because it's something that technically they might not ever solve, or solve too quickly.

The best puzzle I ever made was a reskinned Mastermind game. Ever played it?

The party was presented with a square room with 4 doors, one on each wall. The door they walked in from, a door painted black, a door painted white, and directly in front of them, a door with a combination lock. The combo lock has 4 dials, each with numbers ranging 1-6. As soon as a player attempted to try a combination the door behind them closes, locks and the room begins filling up with toxic gas, a quick intelligence or knowledge roll tells them they have 20 turns to solve the combination.
Each time a combination is attempted (a standard action, with a cooldown of one full round), the black and white doors open releasing a number of skeletons, painted the colors of their respective doors, into the room. The number of skeletons released corresponds to the rules of the Mastermind game. For each of the 4 numbers chosen in the combo attempt, it is rather the correct number in the correct position (black) or the correct number in the wrong position (white), or flat out wrong (nothing). But as with Mastermind they have no way to know which dials caused which skeletons to enter. They have to figure that part out through playing the game.

The players don't know any of these rules, unless they recognize the game immediately, so they need to figure it out, all while battle skeletons, and the clock.

I've run this puzzle at 4 different tables now, they've all solved it, usually within 12 turns, and they all had a great time.
You are welcome to use it if you'd like :)


I've done two puzzles that I found worked really well.

One was a rotating tiles or Pipe Dream type puzzle, where they had to set a path for energy to travel to the other end. However they were fighting large-sized regenerating golems the entire time, that could not easily be permanently shut down. When the golems were standing on a tile, they could not rotate that tile.

The other actually had no incorrect answer - It has three correct answers, each with different secondary results, all of which open the door to the next room. A platinum coin on a grid on a pedestal, with a plaque saying "Show me the path to the greatest wealth". They can:

1) Take the coin, which transforms into a gem worth X gold.
2) Slide the coin to the next grid point, which doubles the coin - go for as long as it can without repeating a space, or off the table.
3) Place more coins, making a path to the edge of the table, at which point the coins all become the next highest level of coin.

I wanted a fourth solution for this one, but I could not come up with one. If anyone happens to have an idea, I'll take it for the next time I use this puzzle.

Dark Archive

Kiesman wrote:

I've done two puzzles that I found worked really well.

One was a rotating tiles or Pipe Dream type puzzle, where they had to set a path for energy to travel to the other end. However they were fighting large-sized regenerating golems the entire time, that could not easily be permanently shut down. When the golems were standing on a tile, they could not rotate that tile.

The other actually had no incorrect answer - It has three correct answers, each with different secondary results, all of which open the door to the next room. A platinum coin on a grid on a pedestal, with a plaque saying "Show me the path to the greatest wealth". They can:

1) Take the coin, which transforms into a gem worth X gold.
2) Slide the coin to the next grid point, which doubles the coin - go for as long as it can without repeating a space, or off the table.
3) Place more coins, making a path to the edge of the table, at which point the coins all become the next highest level of coin.

I wanted a fourth solution for this one, but I could not come up with one. If anyone happens to have an idea, I'll take it for the next time I use this puzzle.

4) The Buddhist path to the greatest wealth:

There's a slot somewhere in the grid. Putting the coin into the slot, essentially "giving the coin away" grants you 1xp. For every coin they put in they gain 1 more xp.


That Crazy Alchemist wrote:

4) The Buddhist path to the greatest wealth:

There's a slot somewhere in the grid. Putting the coin into the slot, essentially "giving the coin away" grants you 1xp. For every coin they put in they gain 1 more xp.

I like it, but I only ever do milestone leveling.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Puzzles All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.