Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Puzzles and Traps"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 23- Puzzles and Traps
            One of the books I enjoyed from 3rd edition was the “Book of Challenges”.  Prior to them releasing numerous hard covers with rules, monsters, and encounter locations as part of a great big all in one strategy for their supplements, the emphasis for 3rd edition was soft cover books.
            Soft covers were often targeted either to players (with books made almost entirely of prestige classes, weapons, feats, and spells) and those that were for the GG running things emphasizing NPC’s and adventures.

This is the cover art of  the "Book of Challenges"
            “Book of Challenges” was definitely for the GG in that regard.  Rather than an adventure or a bunch of flexible characters that could be put into the world it was instead a bunch of clever/exotic traps and rooms that could be put into dungeons.  It was super narrow in focus but it did something distinct by showing how the rules of the game could be made into puzzles.
            The first issue of Dragon magazine I ever bought (and read to the point that it started falling apart) was #282 an April Fool's issue that had a substantial section on building puzzles in game… a section I considered nearly unreadable at the time.  The Dragon article was too dense and in need of more practical instances rather than a discussion of theory.  “Book of Challenges” did not have that issue and after more than a year playing (I bought the “Book of Challenges” a good while after it came out) I wanted to see more complex things put into action but wanted the help of people who did it professionally.
This was the cover art of Dragon #282 by Phil Foglio.
            I find it ironic that the magazine article in this instance was the more philosophically dense while the book was the one that had only the limited use practical applications.  Ideally, I think that the article from Dragon should have been a chapter in the “Challenges” though decompressed with some examples of each part (like logic puzzles) being used in the game.  I think Wizards of the Coast and other gaming companies have gotten much better with these sorts of theory and practice couplings in the 15 years since then.

My Favorite “Challenge”
            The “Book of Challenges” gave a variety of encounters, and while I have modified many over the years for different groups one has stood above the others as a positive example and I want to present it here, it is called “Curse of Iron” with a challenge rating of 4.  It is kind of a lame name, the door is iron, but the “curse” is a trap with a disarm switch you have to find.
            The Description reads, “Ahead is a large iron door. It has no features except a
message carved into its face in large letters.”  You are then provided with an image of the door.
Click for full size.
            The idea is that the door has a grid of buttons, each letter of the phrase has its own button and there are numerous blank spaces as well.  One of the buttons opens the door, the rest trigger a shocking grasp trap (or more violent traps should you want to make the challenge for a group of a higher level).  The phrase on the door is a clue to which button should be pressed.
            Feel free to try and solve which button should be pressed and post your answer in the comments (and why), and then maybe suggest other phrases that could be put on a similar door.  Or, just look up the answer because this book is 15+ years old and readily available for pirating online.

My Current Puzzling
            After participating in an escape room I started thinking of my own puzzles and after wringing my brain I got one.
            I invented for my players a new type of puzzle that involves dice with letters on them rather than numbers (I had to make my own with grid paper, color pencils, and tape; which with my huge fingers was a delicate process).  While it is solvable and I gave hints in the rest of the dungeon that would allow it to be solved more easily, it might actually be too clever.
            The dice, when arranged properly form the password to lock.  The lock has slots for each of the dice and based on how the dice are arranged lots of words can be made.  Since the dice effectively scramble the letters over a 3 dimensional space the players have a hard time seeing all of their options for how to arrange the dice into words, often they have to copy down all the letters off of each dice to see the potential jumble.
            There is an indicator about what order the dice go in, but it is not readily apparent, usually 1 of the letters on each die is a different color or written in a noticeably different way, and those marked sides can be arranged in a particular order.  When the dice are in that order, the other letters can then be arranged to form words.

If they look shoddily made, that is because they are.
            I considered it the ideal type of puzzle, one in which each step to solving it being obvious in retrospect, but there being such a chain of steps, and each step being difficult enough that the puzzle is SUPER HARD when put altogether.  In hindsight, I should have introduced the puzzle with only 2 or 3 dice rather than the 6 I used.  Like at an orgy, TOO MANY OPTIONS MAKES THINGS TOO HARD.
            If this were a youtube video I would demonstrate the puzzle but as this is written I will just leave you with this vague description in hopes that enterprising Game Runners will be inspired by what I have said enough to invent their own puzzle from the premise.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to start talking about magic items with the best Cursed Item.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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