Sometimes games and sessions can become stale and monotonous. All the skill checks, hacking and slashing through enemies that don’t measure up to min-maxed characters— you name it, sometimes you’ll get bored with it.
So how can you create a challenge without creating an arms race? Today’s GM Tip is all about showing you how you can make simple puzzles that seem challenging. Sometimes just by making a simple puzzle seem complicated, it can stump your players for a period of time.
The best part, characters can still use their rolls to aid them, but there is no auto-success. What this means is that you aren’t trying to blunt off the head of a nuke (somewhat pointless).
Let’s dive right into a quick puzzle and so you can get a better idea.
Primary Wall of Force Puzzle
|Primary Wall of Force RPG Puzzle
This puzzle works at any level. The puzzle itself is a made up of six different magic items (one for each color and symbol). Doesn’t seem so scary? So what are the rules to the puzzle?
Well, you can set different rules. One variation is as follows.
The party enters from a door to the north. An object they desire (or some kind of reward) sits within the central most portion of the puzzle. Colorful walls of force (-like enchantments, more on this later) stretch up to the top of the ceiling and surround the object. The other three walls each contain five levers. Four levers on each wall are marked with two symbols and/or colors, one of which always is scratched across. The fifth lever on each is simply painted a single color. A pulled lever reverts back to starting position after being pulled. Pulling the lever again activates the magic in the same order every time. The levers are found below. I have numbered the levers for convenience. Most levers turn something off and something else on (or reverse order). These are always two separate actions, so make sure to have the actions occur in order. Assume “OFF” denotes a scratched out color or symbol.
*Objective: To reach the object, at least one character must get past all six barriers. Some barriers overlap; such as, the blue square and the smaller blue circles attached. In the case of overlapping sections, each effect must be turned off (i.e. to get inside the yellow triangle, both the yellow triangle and the attached yellow squares must be turned off). All barriers in any section must be turned off before a character can safely pass.
1. Blues Off – Circles On
2. Yellows Off- Squares On
3. Triangles Off – Squares On
4. Squares Off – Circles On
5. *Painted Blue: If any red symbol is on, turn off all blues. If no red symbols are turned on, turn on all reds
6. Reds Off – Triangles On
7. Circles Off – Triangle On
8. Blues On – Yellows Off
9. Yellows On – Reds Off
10. *Painted Yellow – If any blue symbol is on, turn off all yellows. If no blue symbols are on, turn on all blues.
11. Reds On- Blues Off
12. Circles On- Yellows Off
13. Triangles On – Blues Off
14. Squares On – Reds Off
15. *Painted Red- If any yellow symbol is on, turn off all reds, If no yellow symbol is on, turn on all yellows.
Characters can choose to power their way through the puzzle, but they will have to dispel each wall (six total counting shapes and colors themselves). That can be a substantial amount of magic. Even Mage’s Disjunction or a similar high-level spell is pretty pricey. But you know how your party manages their resources better than I.
If players become stumped you can allow skill or ability checks to drop hints; such as:
Intelligence Check (DC 11) – A scratched out symbol or color most likely is turned off by pulling the corresponding lever.
Intelligence Check (DC 15) – The painted levers might function differently than the others because they do not have the same markings.
Don’t be afraid to get creative in the information they can obtain, but be careful of giving away too much and answering it for them!
So how do you solve it? Is there more than one way? I’ll let you work through it and I’ll put up the answer on the next post. In the continuation, we are going to raise the stakes with this same puzzle.
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