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D&D 3E
Seeking Help With Puzzles 
14th-Mar-2006 07:18 pm
DrG Don't know me
I would appreciate some help designing puzzles for an upcoming adventure. I'm running a Dungeons and Dragons game in the Iron Kingdoms which, if you are unfamiliar, is a fantasy-meet-Industrial-Revolution-Europe kind of setting, with all the trappings of both.

My players need not read further, or they will find themselves horribly disappointed in the near future.



Without going into too much long-winded detail on my campaign's backstory, I'll get to the point. The player characters are trapped in an NPC's nightmare, which consists of 9 shifting areas. The party must solve puzzles in the first eight rooms in order to get into the ninth room and fix the problem causing their situation. The catch: stuck in there with them are three seperate parties of their enemies: a pack of Devourer-worshipping Trolls, a group of Cryxians with a necromancer, and a unit of Khadorans with a warcaster. These three factions are the main enemies of the party in this campaign, and they've all been attacking each other time and again to get their hands on a certain artifact, and in this adventure, I want to force them to work together to survive.

So here's the setup. They're all stuck in this 9-area nightmare. The first eight areas have puzzles that must be solved, most of which require working together with one or more of the other factions. The areas are all different, some being completely different, and some being horrific, dark versions of previous areas. The first, for example, is a wealthy, ornate sitting room with a cozy fire and a nice view outside (through unbreakable windows). Another is perhaps a small wooded glen, perhaps another is a courtyard, and so on. The only features in common with each area are:

1. A large painting/mirror/carving/sculpture/mosaic/bas-relief/whatever, depicting a scene in history crucial to the backstory of the character having the Nightmare.
2. One or more open, unblocked exits, which appear to lead elsewhere in that specific area but in fact teleport the party into another room.

The variables: When one member of a party attempts to leave the immediate area and explore beyond, the entirety of that party is teleported to another area, randomly rolled on a d8, arriving in predetermined positions specific to the area (sitting in chairs in the sitting room, around a campfire in the glen, etc). Areas can be visited multiple times, and the puzzles do not have to be solved in any particular order. Randomly, different parties of their enemies will warp in as well.

Each area has a puzzle that must be solved, based on the specifics of the area. Some puzzles require that 1 or more of the enemy factions work together with the players.


Now, what I come to you for, is assistance with puzzle design. I've never before attempted something like this, and I have a good bit of time to plan it, and I'd like to get as much help as possible. Any suggestions for good puzzles requiring a motley party and possibly the assistance of a Khadoran Warcaster, a Cryxian Necromancer, and a Troll Warrior-Priest?

x-posted
Comments 
15th-Mar-2006 05:14 am (UTC)
I'm thinking that parts of your goals may conflict; in short, in the adventures that I've run, requiring people to work together is more of a plot point or a strategic decision, and solving puzzles is just the opposite. You don't need more than one person to solve it; sure you might need the resources of several characters, but just like a chess game, only one mind need formulate which and how.

And that's another thing: many spells and abilities that might be useful in problem solving are very flexible (things like stone shape, conjurations, etc.), and therefore might be unpredictable in the ways your party would decide to use them--a bane to designing puzzles with specific solutions. The alternative is to create puzzles that don't require specific abilities, but this defeats the point of having them team up with their enemies to progress.

I suppose it all depends on what abilities those enemies have, and how clearly you want to delineate what a "puzzle" will be (i.e. solving an alphanumeric lock is clear, figuring out how to cross a river of fire is not). Hopefully, the fact that this is inside of a nightmare will allow you to bend some rules and make the contrivances more easily.

But anyway, if I knew more about those three enemy parties, I'd be happy to (attempt to) help.
15th-Mar-2006 05:16 am (UTC)
"And that's another thing: many spells and abilities that might be useful in problem solving are very flexible (things like stone shape, conjurations, etc.), and therefore might be unpredictable in the ways your party would decide to use them--a bane to designing puzzles with specific solutions."

Such is the beautiful thing about a Nightmare reality, in which normal physics and rules need not apply =)

15th-Mar-2006 06:07 am (UTC)
Depending on how cool your group is, you might want to be careful about arbitrarily changing the rules on them. If their abilities and ideas suddenly become useless, they might get a little pissed off.

The problem with "puzzles" is that they often become a challenge for the player rather than the character. So it doesn't matter what your character can do, or has done, or anything if you the player can't figure out the pattern. I'd say rather than puzzles, go with "obstacles" (like the above mentioned river of fire) rather than the classic ideas for puzzles. It's D&D, not a video game.

Obviously it seems that each room should relate to some aspect of the guy's personality. Off the top of my head, I'd maybe make six rooms each reflecting one of the 6 ability scores. LIke for the strength room, if he's weak, maybe here is a room where suddenly strength-based stuff is useless, so the players/npcs have to combine non strength-based abilities to get out. Like maybe they suddenly all find they have a strength of 1 and the floor is falling away or some-thing.

Other ideas:
* having to catch someone running through some kind of maze (maybe in 3D, like super-complex monkey bars the players have to get around)
* Maybe the players are split up and regrouped with their enemies (so one guy from each group) and are forced to "fight" each other in some way.
* Um... you ever watched the Twilight Zone? A lot of that is nightmare-ish; imagine setting the players up in those worlds (like the one where everyone is totally frozen in the middle of whatever they were doing).
* If you're going to mess with the rules, go all out. Have all kinds of things switch around (but don't be arbitrary, plan it out ahead of time), and keep the players on their toes. Perhaps have the nightmare world react to them in some way?

that's all I've got for now. It's too late.
15th-Mar-2006 06:14 am (UTC)
Highbulp, have you taken divine ranks? I wish to sign up as a follower. ;D

Obviously it seems that each room should relate to some aspect of the guy's personality. Off the top of my head, I'd maybe make six rooms each reflecting one of the 6 ability scores. LIke for the strength room, if he's weak, maybe here is a room where suddenly strength-based stuff is useless, so the players/npcs have to combine non strength-based abilities to get out. Like maybe they suddenly all find they have a strength of 1 and the floor is falling away or some-thing.


That is a brilliant idea, and I couldn't have come up with better myself, therefore I bow to you.
15th-Mar-2006 06:46 am (UTC)
Seriously, I was just about to say that myself. I'm slapping my head for now thinking that before. An excellent idea. The specific character with the nightmare is a NG human fighter/blacksmith, and is in fact based very heavily on Cole Blacquesmith from the Steampunk comic series.

This could work very very well.
15th-Mar-2006 01:31 pm (UTC)
Glad I could help :)
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