How to Run Puzzles in DnD
In DnD 5e, there are 3 pillars of core gameplay : battle, Role-playing, and Exploration. In our article A Guide to Building Encounters we stated that “ an meet is when players experience or are faced with something unmanageable or hostile ” .
In that article, we focused chiefly on Combat encounters, whereas in this article we will be looking at puzzles, which chiefly fall under the Exploration pillar .
Puzzles are a very effective tool to switch things up on your players for two reasons :
- Puzzles and riddles are “metagamey” – Typically when your party encounters a puzzle, the 20 Intelligence Wizard isn’t going to be better or worse than the 6 Intelligence Barbarian. Puzzles give an opportunity to break character and for everyone to contribute.
- Combat and Role-playing are usually resolved via rolling dice but puzzles and riddles are not – It wouldn’t be a very good puzzle if your party could walk into a room, roll a natural 20 and automatically solve the puzzle. The players will have to use their own ingenuity and cooperation to solve the puzzle.
How to Run Puzzles Effectively
Puzzles are hard to get right in DnD 5e. The system gives players so a lot freedom that it is easy for players to get sidetracked on insignificant details. This exemption could besides provide players with the perfective go or ability to bypass the perplex entirely. At Arcane Eye, we have created a organization that will make indisputable you keep your players engaged with your perplex. We call it the 3 Laws of Puzzle Making .
3 Laws of Puzzle Making
The 3 Laws of Puzzle Making are as follows :
- Thou Shalt Make Puzzles Obvious
- Thou Shalt Create Alternatives to Thy Puzzle
- Thou Shalt Not Make Puzzles Reliant On Rolls
Let ’ s interruption these down in more detail :
Thou Shalt Make Puzzles Obvious
Players should know when they are walking into a puzzle. They should besides know which type of puzzle they are walking in to. When creating a puzzle for your party, you should ensure that as the party encounters the puzzle they are aware of what is facing them. This is important because, as mentioned above, puzzles take players outside of their characters so they have to be quick to shift their brain country .
Another matter that will lead to effective puzzle encounters is making the goal of the puzzle obvious. Thinking back to one of the best puzzle dungeons ever created, the ending of Harry Potter and the Philosopher ’ s Stone, is a big framework to reference for this .
Before going into the dungeon, the three have their end finish in beware : stop “ Snape ” from getting the Philosopher ’ s Stone. They besides know that a crowd of teachers have pitched in to help keep the gem hidden .
When it comes to the individual puzzles the goal is obvious : move forward into the future board. however, the means they are presented with each of these puzzles makes the simpleton undertaking of getting into the future room a challenge. They may have to find the veracious samara in a pour of flying keys that tries to attack them, they may have to defeat an enchant chess board, or they might have to solve a logic puzzle. One thing remains constant, they know what the perplex is trying to do and how to progress through the dungeon .
Thou Shalt Create Alternatives to Thy Puzzle
not everybody ’ randomness brain is wired the lapp. Most of the time when you create a twist puzzle based on a thread of logic that you think is obvious, it is going to go right over the players ’ heads .
This could be a major obstacle when you have created a perplex encounter that doesn ’ metric ton let your players progress unless they solve it. There ’ s nothing worse than your players getting thwart and feel helpless because of a position that you created for them .
In order to avoid this, it is best to make puzzles optional. You might be thinking “ but I put therefore much time into creating the puzzle ! I don ’ metric ton want my players to just bypass it. ” While that is a very well steer, DnD is a game based on giving your players option. If your players can ’ thymine figure out the puzzle they have been presented with and they are no longer able to advance in the keep because of it, it ’ randomness going to be a bad meter all around .
rather of making your puzzles mandatary, you can create rewards or consequences based on how your players approach the puzzle. One such situation I created for my players in one of our campaigns would have allowed the party to bypass a number of encounters and get the drop on the dungeon ’ south foreman. unfortunately they took one expression at the puzzle and ran the other way. As I mentioned above, it was a bit frustrating, but in the end DnD is about giving your players the choice to approach the position in the way they want .
Thou Shalt Not Base Puzzles on Rolls
If your players need to succeed on a skill or ability check in order to progress in your puzzle, you ’ rhenium doing it wrong .
When your party encounters the puzzle, you should give them all of the pieces they need in order to complete it. If you ’ re hiding one of the puzzle pieces behind a perception or Insight check and the party fails, they are going to feel cheated. This is because puzzles are meant to test a player ’ mho inventiveness, not how lucky they are .
While the main pieces to the puzzle are constantly in plain position, I do like to hide hints behind ability checks. I typically social organization the hint into two tiers :
- If they succeed the DC X ability check, then they receive the more useful hint
- If they fail the check, they are provided with a less helpful, more vague hint
Types of Puzzles
nowadays that we have figured out how to run puzzles effectively, let ’ s take a attend at the unlike types of puzzles that you ’ ll be able to run .
DnD is an matter to game to try to complete puzzles for, as creating ocular assets could require loads of time/talent using design software. Most puzzles I have seen use the typical verbal description, but the more advanced your perplex is, the more time you will have to take to make sure it ’ south apprehensible .
With that in mind, hera are the broad categories your puzzles will fall into :
combat puzzles are a capital way to spice up an encounter with a monster. There are a crowd of ways to run these puzzles but the most coarse scenario is normally : there is a big bad guy that can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be killed unless you figure out his helplessness .
Nintendo loves these types of puzzles. If you have played any games like Ocarina of Time, Metroid Prime or Mario 64 you will find that most bosses typically have 3 similar traits :
- They are more powerful/larger than the players
- They are easily dodged but hit like a truck
- They aren’t able to be damaged until you exploit their weak spot in some way
For some inspiration for your next fight meet, check out www.zeldadungeon.net ’ second wiki of Ocarina of Time Bosses. obviously this contains spoilers for Ocarina of Time, but honestly if you haven ’ triiodothyronine played this game stop doing what you ’ re doing and play it right now .
logic puzzles are puzzles that require the habit of coherent deduction to solve .
Logic puzzles do not rely upon misleading or equivocal statements, or play on words, as do riddles. With logic puzzles, players are presented with facts. From these facts, players must generate hypotheses and test them until they are found to be successful .
An example of a logic perplex would be :
You are in a room with three chests. You know at least one has treasure, and if a thorax has no treasure, it contains a deadly poison .
Each chest of drawers has a message on it, but all the messages are lying .
Left chest : “ The middle chest has treasure. ”
in-between chest : “ All these chests have treasure. ”
good thorax : “ only one of these chests has treasure. ”
Which chests have treasure ?
( brilliant.org )
due to the fact that logic puzzles can be ambiguous and single-solution oriented, they can become quite frustrating for players that become stick. As there is sometimes an component of trial and error involved in logic puzzles, it is a great estimate to come up with a fair consequence each meter the party does not succeed .
Physics Puzzles use the Laws of Physics to create a scenario that can be solved by applying fundamental forces of nature such as gravity, movement, and thermodynamics .
These puzzles are pretty catchy to pull off and require a bonny sum of inquiry before creating, but can be identical reinforce and a bite more straightforward for players .
When looking for examples of physics puzzles, one should look no further than Portal/Portal 2. The Portal Wiki has a great breakdown of all of the levels, their puzzles, and their solutions .
I find that the puzzles are amazing for getting the entire party involved, unlike riddles and logic puzzles .
Riddles are your classic puzzles for DnD. They are the easiest character of puzzle to run, only needing a undefined question that is meant to trick or mislead the recipient .
The offspring with riddles is they typically entirely have one decline answer. If your players barely aren ’ thyroxine on the like wavelength as you, it can be about impossible to solve the riddle they were presented with .
When running riddles, it is best to give your party a choice. They can hear the riddle, but if they get it improper something badly will happen. If they get it correctly, something good will happen. If they do not know, they can walk away and nothing will happen .
This organization has the alone ability to reward ingenuity, discourage rash decision make, and give players a failsafe, all in one situation .
Pattern Guessing may seem like a very simple puzzle to some, but when creating these puzzles you get back what you put in .
DnD has tons of lore that can be used to draw upon when coming up with how your pattern guessing puzzle will function. For model, you can implement facets of Schools of Magic, Planes, Pantheons, or Old Heroes into your design. The list of things you can use to make your radiation pattern guessing puzzles unique and interest is literally inexhaustible.
Need Some Puzzles?
Puzzles are hard to come up with by yourself. not only do they require a lot of working and reworking, but it can be hard to tied think up a concept in the first place !
not to worry, we have curated a tilt of puzzles that will get you started :
Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house.
He is the author of Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and collapse of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the authentic hobo camp of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the generator of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with singular settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter