or… The Long Over Due Answer…
So, three months ago I put up a puzzle
for the masses to work out. The Primary Wall of Force Puzzle
used the three primary colors (of pigment: blue, red, yellow) as well as the three most basic shapes people learn (circle, square, triangle). In addition to these simple concepts, a combination of levers and walls of force-esque effects to create a simple yet complicated puzzle.
A few brave souls out there tried their hand at solving the puzzle. Some were very close, pretty much solving it the same way I envisioned a party of adventures, while others assumed there was no answer.
So what is the answer?
Well, there are quite a few ways actually. I’ll just list the two most pertinent ones so that there is room for creative juices.
The first way (or, the way it would most likely be solved by a party), is to just have one party member elected to cross the walls as they are dropped and placed back up. Simply put, the other party members man the levers and as one area is clear to pass, the elected member makes the journey. It will be slow going, but hey, it works.
The second way (and this is the most important way) is ad hoc. Wait, what? My intent with creating this puzzle was to show all the DMs and GMs out there that you don’t need extremely over the top puzzles, and you don’t need to corner your players into an unsolvable puzzle (or nearly unsolvable). I mean, extreme challenges are awesome, but they do not need to be your bread and butter. This puzzle was somewhat about a resource to use in your game as well as a lesson to be taught to all those brave souls that run a game.
I know someone out there is going to cry that this is a cop-out. But hear me out. A group of players is almost never going to try to solve a problem the way you expect them to. You can play with the same group for decades, and just when you think you know what they are thinking, they will try something different.
It is okay to let your party fail and beat their heads into the wall a few times. But at some point, you have to decide when they have had enough. Sometimes they will never figure out the right answer. Sometimes there is no right answer. As the storyteller of the game, you have to know when to move the story along for the sake of keeping the story going.
When it comes to puzzles, riddles, and challenges that a party cannot just roll their way over, we need to step out of the game. We need to remember that we will never be exactly like the characters we are trying to portray. The characters and the players are very different people with different abilities. Reward the players when they come up with something ingenious. When the players work together in a fashion that is befitting the characters they play, reward those feats. If the players are close to solving your obstacles, but you find them tripping at the finish line, then learn from what was holding them back. Give them a bye and move on. If they manage to solve a puzzle with ease, well, get over it and learn from that experience as well.
There was another lesson to learn from this puzzle. Where to draw inspiration.
So what was the inspiration for this puzzle? Well, for starters, this short adventure I ran about 13 or 14 years ago, The Last Gods (Amazon affiliate link). The Last Gods was written by Kevin Wilson. It is an amazing, short adventure that had a profound impact on the first world I created, The Prophesytic Realms (the spelling once had meaning…). Sadly, my five years of notes on the world as well as this adventure were stolen from a game store almost 12 years ago. The loss of both impacted me enough to not use my world nor build a new one for another 6 years. Though I only ran the adventure twice, the amount of inspiration I drew from those sixteen pages (yes, only 16 pages), was endless. The Primary Wall of Force Puzzle is loosely based off one of the puzzles found in The Last Gods.
What I want you all to take away from this is really one thing, inspiration. There are some of you out there that don’t think you could ever create something great and memorable. But you are wrong. Seek out inspiration. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Look for things you can build upon or rework. Tabletop roleplaying games are about your imagination. No matter what you create, make it your creation.
Now go make something great for your own adventures!
If you would like more puzzles (with or without life lessons), be sure to let me know!
Have you run or played in an adventure that had a significant impact on you? Please share and let me know. There are tons of great writers and designers out there. I would love to give them credit!