Because I’m not done. Oh, no, I am far from done.
The puzzles covered before are the sorts of things you can plonk into a dungeon. They are there to slow down or reward the players as their characters delve deeper into abandoned dungeons or evil temples. They are the second room of the 5 Room Dungeon.
But maybe you don’t want that. Maybe your players love to feel smart (“maybe”?). Maybe the mystery should run a little deeper. Maybe the puzzle should be the entire dungeon.
I won’t claim that I’m blurring the lines between dungeons and puzzles. What I will do is demonstrate that you can have puzzles that are more than just a way to lock a door or seal the princess’ cage – what you can have are puzzles that permeate an entire quest, filling its every dark corner with its noodle-scratching delightfulness.
Reginald Enderplatt – Dungeon Architect
The PCs enter an abandon dungeon, having found the secret entrance and/or defeated the monster guarding the doorway. They quickly find a large, circular chamber. Several corridors lead off in different directions. On the walls of this chamber are 15 ornate, unlit torches fixed securely at equal intervals. One of these torches sits above a simple plague with the word FLY engraved in it. The other torches look like they had plaques at one point that are now missing.
Buried in the dust of this chamber is another plague (FLAME) – lining up the holes in the plaque to those on the wall, this plague sits below the torch to the left of the FLY one.
These plaques are treasured by the dungeon’s denizens as trophies and currency – as the PCs explore the rest of the dungeon, they are able to steal, buy or loot all 15 plaques. It is simple to assign them to their corresponding torches – each has holes that line up with only one set of holes in the wall, and the words are in alphabetical order starting from directly across from the entrance:
These plaques are not the only treasures of the dungeon – there is also the body of an unknown adventurer (maybe make it someone connected to the PCs, because why not). The adventurer had some cool gear, most treasured of which is his book. Whoever owns the book gloats about it – it’s not worth anything but the owner had to kill to steal it, as did the former owner, and so forth.
The book is, among other things, a diary. The adventurer wrote:
“I recognise a few of the features of this dungeon – the style of Reginald Endersplatt is distinctive. I wonder what treasure was worth hiring R.E. to protect. That dungeon architect was a genius, but an ass. Impossible to work with and incredibly arrogant… which, of course, is the answer to the torches chamber. He incorporated his own name by”
The page ends abruptly.
The solution is to light torches 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and no others – these are words that when his initials, RE, are added to the front make new words. Lighting the wrong torch extinguishes the flames and summons a fire elemental. Lighting all correct torches causes a secret door to open.
Arranged in A-flat
In the centre of the Serpent God’s temple, the PCs stumble upon an alcove. In the alcove are three jars, each containing a different snake preserved in liquid. The left snake is flecked with red, the middle has bands of yellow and the right snake has dark purple swirls with a black tail. On the wall below this shelf reads:
OUR GREATEST WEAPON, ARRANGED IN A-FLAT
These snakes are exotic. They are clearly prized possessions of the snake cultists. This makes the PCs having knowledge about them unlikely. However, this information is scattered throughout the temple in books, murals, prayer sheets, etc:
- The left snake, the red one, is a Firetongue. Its bite causes immense pain.
- The middle snake, the yellow one, is a Wicked Serpent. Its bite causes temporary insanity.
- The right snake, the purple one, is a Darktail. Its bite causes death.
The solution is to move or smash the Darktail’s jar – ‘A-flat’ arranged is ‘fatal’, which is what the greatest snake’s weapon is. Moving either of the other jars inflicts that snake’s venom on the unfortunate PC. Moving the Darktail’s jar requires bravery in the face of deadly serpents, and so opens up a hidden door to the inner sanctum.
The Moon Tower
This shrine to the moon glistens in the starlight, its polished stone and glass surfaces catching what little light there is. It towers over the thin trees as if aspiring to the heavens, as if the worshippers treasured every metre closer their monument brought them…
The treasures of the Moon Tower reveal themselves when moonlight reaches the shrine. There are two problems: one, the shrine is in the bottom floor of the tower’s basement; two, the new residents of the abandoned tower have sealed the skylights in each floor/ceiling. The only way moonlight can reach the shrine is if the adventurers open each skylight, exposing the basement to the night sky.
How tall the tower is and how the skylights are sealed is up to you. If monsters have built their nests across them then a little brute force will do the job. Or maybe the skylights are sealed by tricky locks for your rogue, or tricky spells for your wizard. Of course, if your party loves puzzles and you have a few up your sleeve, a small puzzle could protect each skylight.
It’s a good thing you know where to look if you want more puzzles…