Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Puzzling Locations

We're back to talking about locations for the Campaign Mastery blog carnival, and today I want to talk about puzzling locations!

I love logic puzzles, and as a GM, I love working puzzles into my game, and location-based puzzles can really add a sense of magic, danger or novelty to an encounter. Wrestling with a good brain bender can also be a nice change from a dungeon's hack-and-slash grind. You might worry that coming up with good puzzle encounters is something only some sort of mad genius puzzlemancer could achieve... Not so, my friend!

I have a simple trick for making location-based puzzles that I have used several times to good effect, and I'mma share it with you now.

Step 1. Figure out the basics of the encounter. Where do you want it to be? What are the PCs trying to achieve?

Step 2. Find a standard, off-the-shelf logic puzzle that you think might fit well within the situation.

Step 3. Convert the logic puzzle to work with elements of your location.

Step 4. (optional) Add a twist for a greater challenge or flair.

Here are a couple examples that I have used in my game.

Example 1. The Gates of the Forest

A Map I did for this encounter.

Step 1. The encounter took place at the entrance to a sacred druid grove. My players were trying to gain entrance.

Step 2. I wanted to make them solve a puzzle to get past the gate. After some searching, I settled on the classic frog hopping puzzle.

Step 3. I presented the puzzle as a set of stone frogs and birds, which appeared within a glowing aura on a pedestal outside the gate.

Step 4. In order to add a bit of challenge and to ensure that more than one player would be involved, I added a second pedestal high up in a tree above the gate. Only half of the pieces could be controlled from each pedestal. This meant one or more of the players had to get up the tree to the other set, and then communicate back and forth to move the pieces in the proper sequence.

Example 2. Across the Chasm

For those who don't know, this is a beholder. -by LIKA--Elvennight1999
Step 1. My players were pursuing a lesser beholder back to its lair. Because it levitates, it naturally chose to sequester itself across a massive underground canyon in a spot where land-bound creatures couldn't harrass it.

Step 2. I wanted to make getting to the lair a puzzle challenge. I selected an unblocking puzzle to serve as the challenge.

Step 3. Since the players were trying to fly across a canyon, I converted the blocks into magic floating platforms. Only one platform was lined up to properly fly across the canyon, and it was blocked in by all the others. The players moved the blocks by hopping onto them. Once they got the right block free, it carried them across the canyon.

Step 4. I didn't really add much of a twist to this one.

Example 3. Rigged to blow

The Seven Bridges of Koenigsberg is the grandfather of Euler puzzles.

Step 1. My players were returning to a hobgoblin-infested mine that they had previously raided. I thought the hobs would probably have laid a trap at the access point to deter any further intrusions.

Step 2. I wanted the trap to be a full encounter, and not just something for the rogue to solve with a single roll. After some thought, I decided to use an Euler puzzle (a path-tracing puzzle) to represent the sequence of triggers in the trap.

Step 3. I presented the paths as fuses along which a magical charge ran between clusters of blast globes (intersections) that were rigged to collapse the room. To prevent the charges from going off, the players had to smack the igniters just as the charge was arriving and send it down an alternate path. As each path was crossed, that particular fuse burned out, preventing its further use. The players needed to burn out all the fuses without letting three charges go off or the room would collapse.

Step 4. To ensure everyone would participate, I picked a pattern with the same number of intersections as players, and arranged them on platforms scattered around the room. I actually had two players miss their attack rolls to hit the igniter as the sequence reached them, blowing them off their respective platforms. It made for a very tense encounter, and got everybody involved in what could easily have been a rogue and a roll encounter.

So, those are just some examples of ways you can convert classic logic puzzles into location-based puzzle encounters. Now, if you would like to try this in your game, or just want to solve some logic puzzles, here are some places to look!

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