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Dumbledore lives
2012-05-20, 08:11 AM
Fairly soon I plan to send my players into the world of the Fae, and one of the guardians to that world is a grandfather plaque, from the Dragon Compendium if anyone recognizes it, and wanted something interesting for them to think about and get an answer to.

The only problem is most riddles are binary, as in you either get them right or wrong, there is no real challenge involved and some people just really dislike them or aren't good at them, making it much less fun for them. So what I'm looking for is something that is based off of wordplay or a puzzle which is entirely verbal, something that has more than one answer or way of going about it.

I will of course giving them the option of just busting through the door, but they'll be damaged and feel unsatisfied for bypassing it, so I figure they will try for a decent amount of time first. I considered something like "Why is a raven like a writing desk" but I figured it would too well known to work well.

prufock
2012-05-20, 08:53 AM
One easy way to create a non-binary puzzle is to make it a decision with multiple possible answers. For instance, a 3 (or more) way intersection. There is an answer inscribed on each tunnel. A programmed image appears when they enter, and tells them a story, then asks a question. They choose a hallway based on their answer. You could do a similar thing with a mechanical puzzle instead of verbal - each solution leads down a different path.

What you do with the hallways is up to you. The hallways may all lead to the same place, but with different challenge levels - one hallway is easy (group level -2), one is moderate (group level), one is difficult (group level +2). Or, if they're looking for a MacGuffin, one has the real one, another has a fake, and the third has some unrelated item (or nothing).

Here's an idea: arrange these stones in order. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Once you arrange them, a door appears, but each arrangement puts a different magical trap on the door. There are a number of ways to arrange these "correctly," and perhaps there is no "right" answer. For instance, you could arrange them by wavelength (order of the rainbow), alphabetically, by number of letters, randomly/arbitrarily; and you can do any of them in reverse. You could even have mixed messages regarding the "right" order - rings around the stone slots in order of colour, with the first letter of each inside the slot.

This type of puzzle has no correct answer. Each arrangement will lead to the same place - the only difference is the effect. Of course you could make it that any arrangement other than the obvious ones make the door appear with no trap at all.

Anyway, these are just a couple ideas to maybe get the ball rolling.

EDIT: Another idea came to me. How about a "moral/ethical" puzzle. You present a problem which can have multiple solutions (for example, the King Solomon "cut the baby in half" problem), and ask the characters which would be the best solution - maybe give them a limited number of answers in multiple choice form, but this isn't necessary if can improvise well. Each answer should be judged on a good-neutral-evil axis and/or a lawful-neutral-chaotic axis. This gives you 9 possible outcomes, and thus 9 possible threads through to the next plot point.

The hard part about non-binary puzzles is making each decision/solution important and distinct without compromising the integrity of the plot. If all options lead to the same end, it isn't a distinct or important choice; if some options lead to the desired end and others don't, you're still really working in a binary (succeed or fail) system.

Amphetryon
2012-05-20, 09:23 AM
The other hard part about riddles/puzzles is that they either test Player ability instead of Character ability, or they can be entirely ignored 'in world' by "I roll Disable Device." You need the right play group to get any real enjoyment from this sort of encounter, else you've simply spent a bunch of time on details that don't enrich the game and may actively impede some of the fun of your Players.

Kolonel
2012-05-20, 10:07 AM
A riddle from Star Wars KotOR came to my mind.

On the lowlands of planet Kashyyyk, there is a computer protecting the Star Map (MacGuffin) which says that it needs to identify you.
It asks three questions to determine if you act like the previous person who opened the Star Map (who was a sith general).
But there are no A,B,C solutions, (well, the game gives you six, but it's a computer game, so it had to do it, but according to the story) the players can answer what they want.
If the player doesn't answer like the sith general would, (s)he has to fight several droids to disable the computer.

You could use a similar method in a temple/vault like this:
A deep voice comes from the statue nearby:
'Only the righteous can wield the weapons of the ancients!
And it asks them some questions about how they would deal with some problematic situations.
If they prove to be righteous, they get the sacred weapon (it also depends on their answers, whether they get the sword, the shield or the spear).
If they have brutal or evil answers, celestial beings are summoned (or the statue comes to life) to attack them.
If they are somewhere in-between, they are left with nothing.

The questions should not be straightforward, but a little tricky, otherwise the players will be able to easily fool the statue.
In KotOR the questions were:

1. You and your companion are both captured. It looks like you are both going to get a year of imprisonment. However, if you confess your "crime", your partner gets 7 years but you walk away free. However, if your partner (who's being offered the same deal) confesses too, you both get 3 years. You have no way to communicate with your partner. What do you do?

2. You are a general in a war, and your enemy has greater numbers but a deadly plague hit their soldiers. If you battle them now, you'll lose, if you wait four months, you win. But waiting four months means you'll have to let them capture (and wreak havoc in) the city you are currently protecting. What do you do?

(I can't remember the third one.)

Amphetryon
2012-05-20, 10:28 AM
A riddle from Star Wars KotOR came to my mind.

On the lowlands of planet Kashyyyk, there is a computer protecting the Star Map (MacGuffin) which says that it needs to identify you.
It asks three questions to determine if you act like the previous person who opened the Star Map (who was a sith general).
But there are no A,B,C solutions, (well, the game gives you six, but it's a computer game, so it had to do it, but according to the story) the players can answer what they want.
If the player doesn't answer like the sith general would, (s)he has to fight several droids to disable the computer.

You could use a similar method in a temple/vault like this:
A deep voice comes from the statue nearby:
'Only the righteous can wield the weapons of the ancients!
And it asks them some questions about how they would deal with some problematic situations.
If they prove to be righteous, they get the sacred weapon (it also depends on their answers, whether they get the sword, the shield or the spear).
If they have brutal or evil answers, celestial beings are summoned (or the statue comes to life) to attack them.
If they are somewhere in-between, they are left with nothing.

The questions should not be straightforward, but a little tricky, otherwise the players will be able to easily fool the statue.
In KotOR the questions were:

1. You and your companion are both captured. It looks like you are both going to get a year of imprisonment. However, if you confess your "crime", your partner gets 7 years but you walk away free. However, if your partner (who's being offered the same deal) confesses too, you both get 3 years. You have no way to communicate with your partner. What do you do?

2. You are a general in a war, and your enemy has greater numbers but a deadly plague hit their soldiers. If you battle them now, you'll lose, if you wait four months, you win. But waiting four months means you'll have to let them capture (and wreak havoc in) the city you are currently protecting. What do you do?

(I can't remember the third one.)Both of these questions can be deeply problematic, as they have "Alignment" components to them, and nothing causes divisiveness at the table quite like Alignment concerns. What one person considers the "righteous" answer could well be an "in-between" answer - or even an "evil" answer! - to another person based on justification and personal baggage.

JoshuaZ
2012-05-20, 10:56 AM
1. You and your companion are both captured. It looks like you are both going to get a year of imprisonment. However, if you confess your "crime", your partner gets 7 years but you walk away free. However, if your partner (who's being offered the same deal) confesses too, you both get 3 years. You have no way to communicate with your partner. What do you do?

This is a variation of the prisoners dilemma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma). It is nice to see that level of sophistication in a computer game.

vartan
2012-05-20, 09:38 PM
Lewis Caroll put a riddle in Alice and Wonderland that had no answer, but since then there.have been several proposed answers that are pretty good actually. In that vein you could make a riddle so bizarre that it has multiple answers depending on how convincing of an argument one can make. In this case, the riddle was "How is a raven like a desk?"

Rorrik
2012-05-20, 10:16 PM
1. You and your companion are both captured. It looks like you are both going to get a year of imprisonment. However, if you confess your "crime", your partner gets 7 years but you walk away free. However, if your partner (who's being offered the same deal) confesses too, you both get 3 years. You have no way to communicate with your partner. What do you do?

You could have the outcome of this be very varied, whether putting each member in a different room and they have to answer and don't know whether their partner is a party member or a DM character. The years they get can be converted to a number of enemies added to the combat pot on the other side of the door.

Here's one I've always liked:

A young lady's father is in debt to a loan shark and the day to pay has come. The loan shark fancies the lady and offers to absolve the farmer of all his debt in return for the girl's hand in marriage. After more negotiation, they agree to put two stones, one white, one black, from the road into a bag and have the young woman pick one. If it is white, the debt is forgiven and she doesn't have to marry the shark. If black, the debt is still forgiven, but the loan shark gets the girl. To her chagrin, the young girl sees the loan shark has picked two black stones. What does she do to get out of marrying the man?

I've heard several good answers including calling him out(though some versions of the puzzle void this), changing the rock in question to the opposite of that in the bag, and my favorite, pretend to accidentally drop the rock and reason it must have been the opposite of that in the bag. As a consequence, an approach that would anger the shark gets them attacked by a land shark.

Another to which I've devised many valid answers(including one in 2 questions) is this:

There are three gods, one who always lies, one who always tells the truth, and one who answers randomly. They only answer yes or no questions, but answer in their own language, da and ja, which the questioner does not know the translation of. The questioner can ask three questions, each to only one of the gods, in order to determine which is which.

I should warn that this is a puzzle that may take hours, days, or weeks to solve, but the loop hole of asking a question they cannot answer by asking about what the random one would say can make it much simpler, even allowing a two question solution.

Kolonel
2012-05-21, 11:19 AM
Both of these questions can be deeply problematic, as they have "Alignment" components to them, and nothing causes divisiveness at the table quite like Alignment concerns. What one person considers the "righteous" answer could well be an "in-between" answer - or even an "evil" answer! - to another person based on justification and personal baggage.

Exactly. But that's the point. If the answer was straightforward, even the most evil character could deceive the statue with a lie.
However, if the goody-good openly heroic answer is a wrong one that leads to catastrophe, the player who says that is deemed unworthy.
For the statue not only seeks the good, (for that a simple alignment detecting spell would do) but the good who is also wise and smart.

Another good question would be the one that I know by the name of Prisoners' dilemma (not the one that JoshuaZ linked):
You manage to defeat a pack of marauding orcs, and the last two of them lay down their weapons and surrender. They are at your mercy, and they pose no threat to you. One of them is just a kid who was just fighting his first real battle.
But you are on short supply and have a few men, so you cannot afford to take them with you as prisoners. You are in a hurry and the nearest human settlement is days away in the wrong way, so you cannot take them to a proper prison. Letting them go would probably mean they will be able to rejoin their tribe and come back to take revenge later. But killing a defenseless creature who surrendered is not a chivalrous act.
What do you do, and why?

Just don't let the team debate on this... let each character have his/her own answer. Otherwise they may end up arguing for weeks.
One "good" answer is to 'kill the orcs, so they won't be able to slaughter innocent humans or hinder our mission in the future'.
Another one is to 'let the orcs live, there is no merit in killing them now, if they come back to fight again, they will get what they deserve in a fair combat'.
The statue may accept one or both (or a third one), depending on the god he serves.

(OFF: By the way, I really wanted to choose the latter option to deal with Zaalbaar and Mission near the end of KotOR, on the dark side path, but the game forced me to kill them, because I chose not to aid the Republic, and therefore my character is automatically a ruthless evil Sith. :( )

Textor44
2012-05-21, 11:54 AM
Both of these questions can be deeply problematic, as they have "Alignment" components to them, and nothing causes divisiveness at the table quite like Alignment concerns. What one person considers the "righteous" answer could well be an "in-between" answer - or even an "evil" answer! - to another person based on justification and personal baggage.

A couple of possible solutions to this issue:

The statue was created by somebody, so therefore the statues would share the same values of the person who created them. If someone rolls a history or religion check on the statue, they may get some insight into the values of the culture that the statue was created for, and that can allow the PCs to figure out what sort of answers are "right" or "wrong."

Another solution: The statue has no moral compass. It reads the character speaking and determines if the character is answering in a way that they believe their own answer is good or evil, and judges the answer based on that, therefore making the statue judge based on the character's own moral compass, rather than the culture that created the statue.

The best part about the first solution I proposed is if you create a moral code for a long forgotten civilization that is different than the "modern" moral codes the PCs live with... just as the Romans believed slavery and gladitorial combat for entertainment were acceptable, but we no longer believe that's how things should be, the statue can believe things that are unacceptable to the PCs to be a completely valid and moral (or immoral) decision.

Whybird
2012-05-21, 02:01 PM
The only problem is most riddles are binary, as in you either get them right or wrong, there is no real challenge involved and some people just really dislike them or aren't good at them, making it much less fun for them.

How about turning the tables: to pass the guardian they have to come up with a riddle it can't answer?

More generally, the approach I tend to take with OC puzzles is that players can bypass them with IC skills, but doing so consumes resources, gives an incomplete hint, or puts them at risk (or possibly some combination of the three.)

For example, if there's a logic puzzle indicating which of four gates is safe to enter, they can make a Thievery check to identify one of the trapped ones, but the other two are beyond their skill.

Malimar
2012-05-21, 04:04 PM
How about turning the tables: to pass the guardian they have to come up with a riddle it can't answer?

"What have I got in my pocket?"

That can easily be a really good idea, though, especially if specify that the guardian requires, not just a riddle that it can't answer, but a question that cannot, in principle, be answered (except, perhaps, with "mu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative))"). Cue the PCs asking "What happens when an irresistible force hits an immovable object?", "Is the answer to this question 'no'?", "When did you stop beating your wife?", or "Does a cow have the Buddha-nature?"

Which has a little overlap with puzzles of the sort like the tribe of savages who capture you and tell you, "If the next statement you make is true, you will be fed to the lions. If the next statement you make is false, you will be thrown in the volcano."

Vovix
2012-05-21, 07:03 PM
"What can change the nature of a man?"

cattoy
2012-05-21, 08:52 PM

Raum
2012-05-21, 09:54 PM
"How is a politician like a diaper?"
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More useful, set up a situation like children's tales and fables. They run into various entities in trouble and later gain help or hindrance depending on how they interacted with the entity.

E.g. If they help an old woman repair a cart, she gives them something (minor item or information) which they'll find useful later. Even if it looks meaningless at the time.

deuxhero
2012-05-22, 12:26 AM
As a consequence, an approach that would anger the shark gets them attacked by a land shark.

Rorrik
2012-05-22, 12:48 AM

I'm afraid I'm missing something of the joke. I'm not familiar with dead shark, and was reffering to a bulette, or landshark.

TheCountAlucard
2012-05-22, 12:49 AM
In this case, the riddle was "How is a raven like a desk?"Like a writing-desk. :smalltongue:

deuxhero
2012-05-22, 12:50 AM
I'm afraid I'm missing something of the joke. I'm not familiar with dead shark, and was reffering to a bulette, or landshark.

If the solution ends with a dead (loan)shark, what happens? It's something to be prepared for given the riddle is going to be given to a group of of tomb robbing murders.

A riddle from Star Wars KotOR came to my mind.

Honestly, that was TERRIBLE. It's clear the machine wants you to pick the dark side answers, in fact it explicitly says that if you reach the "attack" answer through "wrong" reasoning, but there is never an option to lie.

Rorrik
2012-05-22, 12:56 AM
If the solution ends with a dead (loan)shark, what happens? It's something to be prepared for given the riddle is going to be given to a group of of tomb robbing murders.

Ah, well given the scenario is a young woman and an old farmer confronting the land shark, and not the adventurers themselves, I imagine an attempt to kill him would anger him and result in the adventurers having to kill a landshark, so yes, a valid solution.

deuxhero
2012-05-22, 01:02 AM
Ah, well given the scenario is a young woman and an old farmer confronting the land shark, and not the adventurers themselves, I imagine an attempt to kill him would anger him and result in the adventurers having to kill a landshark, so yes, a valid solution.

It's a young woman confronting the loanshark, who is clearly not that prominent a criminal (comes in person to collect, not using agents) and thus low level, not a young woman confronting the adventurers. "stab in back" or (in game terms) "CDG when sleeping" are both reasonably likely to succeed.

Yoven
2012-05-23, 07:18 AM
How about turning the tables: to pass the guardian they have to come up with a riddle it can't answer?

Sounds extremely similar to Blaine from Stephen Kings Dark Tower...
Ask me a riddle I cant answer and i will Not kill you all...

Of course this is quite hard on Players AND on the Dungeon Master, who has to solve them .. so it becomes not a puzzle in the game world but outside of it, and it could really make te DM sweat.
Giving them a maximum number of tries could ease this up a bit (for the DM)

Cheers
2012-05-23, 02:25 PM
There are some ... less esotheric solutions.

"How many are there?" type of questions, where the players need to make an educated guess on how many (marbles in a jar, liters in a pond, pebbles in a mosaic tile floor, .....). To make it slightly less luck based, offer them the chance to earn clues. Either through skill checks, through combat or through clever thinking. Maybe even add a little RP chances, where they must convince someone to give the a clue/ tell what they know.

"Least amount of moves." Basically give them a riddle that can be solved in many different ways and depending on how many moves it takes them, reward or punish accordingly.

"Untill only one is left." Like the classic peg solitaire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peg_solitaire) but with no take-backs. See how far they get and reward depending on hhow many are left. There are dozens of variations on this one.

Hope these help.

Amphetryon
2012-05-23, 10:34 PM
Just don't let the team debate on this... let each character have his/her own answer. Otherwise they may end up arguing for weeks.
One "good" answer is to 'kill the orcs, so they won't be able to slaughter innocent humans or hinder our mission in the future'.
Another one is to 'let the orcs live, there is no merit in killing them now, if they come back to fight again, they will get what they deserve in a fair combat'.
The statue may accept one or both (or a third one), depending on the god he serves.
Setting aside the whole "I roll Disable Device" issue for a moment. . . .How do you propose preventing the debate? Assuming you manage that, and don't have a uniform answer from everyone in the party, then how do you propose managing the table after a) the solution that the first Player voices is right, causing other potentially "right" answers to be ignored by the other Players because they heard the Character speak or b) the solution the first Player voices is right, and so is the next Player's different answer, because the other Characters didn't hear the first solution? I can't imagine a group of gamers who would be especially happy with a riddle where any solution they offered was considered equally valid; it certainly doesn't mesh with my experiences at the table.

Rorrik
2012-05-24, 08:11 PM
Here's an interesting twist. Have the riddle giver speak mentally to each of them, giving them all a different riddle. You could hand them out on scraps of paper and have the riddler demand an answer. The riddles can really be simple, but they will all have a different answer and the real riddle is a test to see if they will communicate well enough to figure it out.

pres_man
2012-05-24, 10:12 PM
Here's an interesting twist. Have the riddle giver speak mentally to each of them, giving them all a different riddle. You could hand them out on scraps of paper and have the riddler demand an answer. The riddles can really be simple, but they will all have a different answer and the real riddle is a test to see if they will communicate well enough to figure it out.

Have all the answers work together to form another riddle.

Kolonel
2012-05-25, 09:34 AM
Setting aside the whole "I roll Disable Device" issue for a moment. . . .How do you propose preventing the debate? Assuming you manage that, and don't have a uniform answer from everyone in the party, then how do you propose managing the table after a) the solution that the first Player voices is right, causing other potentially "right" answers to be ignored by the other Players because they heard the Character speak or b) the solution the first Player voices is right, and so is the next Player's different answer, because the other Characters didn't hear the first solution? I can't imagine a group of gamers who would be especially happy with a riddle where any solution they offered was considered equally valid; it certainly doesn't mesh with my experiences at the table.

Preventing the debate: I should have written preventing arguments. There is no problem if the characters are just debating what should they do in a situation like this. Argument starts only when they have to reach a consensus. This would happen, if they encountered the orcs in a real in-game situation, where they have to decide the fate of real in-game orcs.
If this comes up in a riddle, however, especially if each player has their own set of hypothetical in-game orcs to decide the fate of, with only a celestial being's opinion depending on it, there won't be any harm to the game.

If the answer is 'I'd kill the orcs, because they are our enemy, and therefore they have to be killed', the statue would say something like: 'So you are willing to slaughter anyone who you are told is the enemy? Your loyalty to the mission is admirable, but one, who kills without thinking can never be worthy of [lawful good god]'s weapons.'
A response like 'I'd let go of the orcs, because killing is bad.' could be countered by 'I admire your beliefs, but if you can't bring yourself to fight every time you see an enemy appearing weak, you will be easily manipulated [by the lawful evil]'.
An answer without reasoning wouldn't get the statue's blessing either: 'If you don't have reasons, you won't be able to persuade anyone to follow you. You are not cut out to be a leader, and only a true leader can wield [LG god]'s sword.'

One more thing: evaluation comes only after all questions are asked, so there is no 'he passed the test with this answer, I'll say the same'.

Amphetryon
2012-05-25, 01:53 PM
Preventing the debate: I should have written preventing arguments. There is no problem if the characters are just debating what should they do in a situation like this. Argument starts only when they have to reach a consensus. This would happen, if they encountered the orcs in a real in-game situation, where they have to decide the fate of real in-game orcs.
If this comes up in a riddle, however, especially if each player has their own set of hypothetical in-game orcs to decide the fate of, with only a celestial being's opinion depending on it, there won't be any harm to the game.

If the answer is 'I'd kill the orcs, because they are our enemy, and therefore they have to be killed', the statue would say something like: 'So you are willing to slaughter anyone who you are told is the enemy? Your loyalty to the mission is admirable, but one, who kills without thinking can never be worthy of [lawful good god]'s weapons.'
A response like 'I'd let go of the orcs, because killing is bad.' could be countered by 'I admire your beliefs, but if you can't bring yourself to fight every time you see an enemy appearing weak, you will be easily manipulated [by the lawful evil]'.
An answer without reasoning wouldn't get the statue's blessing either: 'If you don't have reasons, you won't be able to persuade anyone to follow you. You are not cut out to be a leader, and only a true leader can wield [LG god]'s sword.'

One more thing: evaluation comes only after all questions are asked, so there is no 'he passed the test with this answer, I'll say the same'.
For everything before "one more thing:" That's penalizing folks who aren't naturally charismatic or quick on their feet, as well as folks who have what they think are legitimate rationalizations that don't mesh with the DM's. . . not to mention the "I roll Disable Device" crowd.

Evaluation only comes after all questions are asked. . . so the first one can't get past the riddle-monster until his teammates catch up to him, regardless of how far ahead he was scouting? If it works for your group, great, but I'd find that a serious suspension of disbelief.

Kolonel
2012-05-26, 10:33 AM
For everything before "one more thing:" That's penalizing folks who aren't naturally charismatic or quick on their feet, as well as folks who have what they think are legitimate rationalizations that don't mesh with the DM's. . . not to mention the "I roll Disable Device" crowd.

Evaluation only comes after all questions are asked. . . so the first one can't get past the riddle-monster until his teammates catch up to him, regardless of how far ahead he was scouting? If it works for your group, great, but I'd find that a serious suspension of disbelief.
You keep imagining this riddle in a situation where riddles (in general, not just this type) should not go at all, namely: the party encounters the riddle, and have to solve it in order to move on and complete the module.
Riddles should never be main focus.
Why have them then? Because they are memorable and can add to the atmosphere of the setting.

What I'm trying to say is, failure should be an option (and not a fatal one).
If the players have no chance but to solve it, the problems you mention ("well, I, as a player can't solve it, but my character may be able to, I roll bluff/disable device"; certain PCs get pinned down at the middle of the module; etc.) come to haunt the game.
But if the riddle is just a skipable sidequest or the players don't have to solve it on the spot (they can go back later, and try again, not unlimited retries per se), it can work just fine.

Amphetryon
2012-05-26, 11:06 AM
You keep imagining this riddle in a situation where riddles (in general, not just this type) should not go at all, namely: the party encounters the riddle, and have to solve it in order to move on and complete the module.
Riddles should never be main focus.
Why have them then? Because they are memorable and can add to the atmosphere of the setting.

What I'm trying to say is, failure should be an option (and not a fatal one).
If the players have no chance but to solve it, the problems you mention ("well, I, as a player can't solve it, but my character may be able to, I roll bluff/disable device"; certain PCs get pinned down at the middle of the module; etc.) come to haunt the game.
But if the riddle is just a skipable sidequest or the players don't have to solve it on the spot (they can go back later, and try again, not unlimited retries per se), it can work just fine.
You keep imagining the riddle as a situation where it's some sort of optional extra, where the players will somehow intrinsically know they can skip it and get back to it at their convenience with no deleterious effects; how would they come to that knowledge in-character? If the riddles do not advance plot, characterization, or theme, then why are they there? If they DO advance plot, characterization, or theme, then they do so by their solution, or else why are they riddles in the first place, instead of (for example) Zen koans?

jackattack
2012-05-27, 06:50 AM
A good riddle obstacle can be binary, but should not be all-or-nothing. The right answer should not unlock the door, it should disable a trap. The wrong answer should not block a passage, it should release (more) monsters for the party to fight.

A good riddle doesn't exist in a vacuum, it has something to do with the dungeon itself. There might be a hint or solution nearby, whether it is an object or an image. The riddle might have something to do with what's on the other side of the door, or around the next corner. Multiple riddles with a common theme might reveal the identity or weakness of the final monster, or the solution of the final riddle.

That said, the "number of steps" or "number remaining" puzzles are good non-binary head-scratchers, which allow a scaled response by the GM -- they can determine the number of monsters the party will face, or the number of traps they will need to disarm, or the number of damage dice a magical effect will unleash. Try expanding the corn-chicken-fox conundrum.

Present the characters with a weapon rack (with weapons in it) and a door or panel with pegs to hold one weapon, or a statue with an open hand. The question is something along the lines of "what is the most powerful weapon" and the party must put a weapon on the pegs or in the statue's hand. The opponents they face in the next room will be wielding that weapon, or the statue will come to life and use that weapon against the party. If they select one of their own weapons, the opponents might be unarmed, or the statue might bow and let them pass.

A door is studded with coins of various metals which cannot be removed. The lock is a coin-sized slot, and cannot be picked or spelled open. The party can only get through by putting a coin in the slot to unlock the door. The metal-denomination of the coin determines the type or level of threat they will face on the other side of the door. Multiple coins do nothing, only the first one counts, but all of them magically appear on the door.

Put several books on a bookcase and tell them that they may remove only one. Let the read the titles and choose. Provide a small and/or temporary benefit, and tailor the next threat to use/expend that benefit. For example, selecting a book titled "Greed" might reveal a compartment with twenty iron coins, which they can use to distract rust monsters in the next room. Reading a book called "Sword Techniques" might act like a scroll that improves the reader's (or nearest sword-wielder's) attack scores for the duration of the next battle. And so on.

Socratov
2012-05-27, 08:18 AM
So, a riddle with multiple answers/outcomes?...

2 things pop into my head: the chess challenge from Harry Potter (difficult to roleplay, but it would be awesome) and a trial (great to roleplay since it will involve a character's backstory).

Another fun thing would be a re-enactment of Monty Hall. You could give the players 3 chests. 1 has a curse/geas, 1 has a piece of knowledge, 1 has great magic item, or even the mcguffin (you could add more doors, but the principle remains the same). You could even have the players position themselves in front of different sets of chests, so that they 1 by one get to choose (so if the first player doesn't get the mcguffin, there will always be another chance). the multiple options endorses a thing you want to have (best answer), a thing you might consider useful (a not wrong answer), and a thing that would mess you up (the wrong answer)

deuxhero
2012-05-27, 01:31 PM
Present the characters with a weapon rack (with weapons in it) and a door or panel with pegs to hold one weapon, or a statue with an open hand. The question is something along the lines of "what is the most powerful weapon" and the party must put a weapon on the pegs or in the statue's hand. The opponents they face in the next room will be wielding that weapon, or the statue will come to life and use that weapon against the party. If they select one of their own weapons, the opponents might be unarmed, or the statue might bow and let them pass.

And if the party backtracks a bit and grabs the brain of a defeated enemy?

Rorrik
2012-05-27, 01:36 PM
And if the party backtracks a bit and grabs the brain of a defeated enemy?

Ithillids, or mages

newBlazingAngel
2012-05-27, 02:25 PM
A good riddle obstacle can be binary, but should not be all-or-nothing. The right answer should not unlock the door, it should disable a trap. The wrong answer should not block a passage, it should release (more) monsters for the party to fight.

A good riddle doesn't exist in a vacuum, it has something to do with the dungeon itself. There might be a hint or solution nearby, whether it is an object or an image. The riddle might have something to do with what's on the other side of the door, or around the next corner. Multiple riddles with a common theme might reveal the identity or weakness of the final monster, or the solution of the final riddle.

That said, the "number of steps" or "number remaining" puzzles are good non-binary head-scratchers, which allow a scaled response by the GM -- they can determine the number of monsters the party will face, or the number of traps they will need to disarm, or the number of damage dice a magical effect will unleash. Try expanding the corn-chicken-fox conundrum.

Present the characters with a weapon rack (with weapons in it) and a door or panel with pegs to hold one weapon, or a statue with an open hand. The question is something along the lines of "what is the most powerful weapon" and the party must put a weapon on the pegs or in the statue's hand. The opponents they face in the next room will be wielding that weapon, or the statue will come to life and use that weapon against the party. If they select one of their own weapons, the opponents might be unarmed, or the statue might bow and let them pass.

A door is studded with coins of various metals which cannot be removed. The lock is a coin-sized slot, and cannot be picked or spelled open. The party can only get through by putting a coin in the slot to unlock the door. The metal-denomination of the coin determines the type or level of threat they will face on the other side of the door. Multiple coins do nothing, only the first one counts, but all of them magically appear on the door.

Put several books on a bookcase and tell them that they may remove only one. Let the read the titles and choose. Provide a small and/or temporary benefit, and tailor the next threat to use/expend that benefit. For example, selecting a book titled "Greed" might reveal a compartment with twenty iron coins, which they can use to distract rust monsters in the next room. Reading a book called "Sword Techniques" might act like a scroll that improves the reader's (or nearest sword-wielder's) attack scores for the duration of the next battle. And so on.

I love this style of trap. I will be using these myself later. The simple style and logic involved is perfect for a D&D game.Their is no right answer, but some ar better than others. Absolutely perfect.

Runeward
2012-05-27, 02:40 PM
I am immediately reminded of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The riddles ("Only the penitent may pass" and then saw blades cut off heads) were verbal, but immediately allowed for physical resolution. In this way, the game doesn't have to slow at all but savvy, puzzle-minded players can derive benefit from their work.

You could probably take any riddle and then incorporate different paths for false answers and the real answer. For example,

With armor born of a suit so old
I watch over a treasure of gold
Ever outnumbered, I shall not yield
And vigilantly tend the battlefield

And then have paths of: crab, beehive, scarecrow, and dragon guarding clutch of eggs. Each false answer could go to a battle related to the incorrect choice. (I'll leave it to you to solve :smallsmile:).

randomhero00
2012-05-27, 03:29 PM
OP just ask oddly deeply philosophical questions that are related to your campaign.

The classic "If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear, does it make a noise?" Can have multiple answers. For example. Just do something similar, but that relates to the campaign somehow.

Almaseti
2012-05-27, 03:35 PM
The OP immediately made me think of the Phix's riddle in Wapsi Square:

I've never seen your face, but I kiss it every day. You can see me all around you. In the treetop's where I play.

Different characters had different answers, and got different prizes for it. (The ones in the comic were wind and sunshine.)

Also, a riddle that hints about what comes later in the dungeon is a great one too. If they get it, they're ready for what's next, and can pick spells/plan tactics as appropriate, but there isn't too big a penalty for failure.

jackattack
2012-05-28, 08:24 AM
And if the party backtracks a bit and grabs the brain of a defeated enemy?

Then their next opponents know exactly how to beat them? Or they face intellect devourers?

Or it slips off the pegs (or out of the statue's hand) and splats on the floor?

Rorrik
2012-05-28, 09:29 AM
Or it slips off the pegs (or out of the statue's hand) and splats on the floor?

I like the way you think.

Dumbledore lives
2012-06-03, 12:44 AM
I'm liking a lot of the ideas in the thread, and might go with the plaque asking for a riddle it can't answer. Hopefully I can make a brick joke of it and at the end of the adventure have him arrive and answer it, possibly saving them at the same time, but I don't actually know what'll happen then.

Dreamteller
2012-06-04, 11:29 AM
I would like to point out two things.

Firstly, in case of such riddles with multiple levels of success, it's quite possible that the players will have no idea if they did great or not so much. On one hand it's good to keep them uncertain for a while, but I would advise to make sure that they get some feedback later on. Otherwise they may not get any satisfaction from the challenge and feel that it was insignificant.

Other thing is that I'm not sure if it's really a 'punishment' to throw more monsters or more difficult ones in next encounter. This way you're simply giving them more interesting challenge and more xp, so exactly what most players are looking for in D&D game. If you'd like to add a feel of meaningfulness to their success or failure, rather go for some visible gain/loss (which also gives feedback). For instance, in the next chamber there could be an alcove with some nice treasure inside. The alcove is barred with an impenetrable barrier which is lifted as characters enter the room - if they did well with the riddle. Or a temporal curse could befall on them, reducing their abilities for the rest of the day.

NichG
2012-06-04, 12:09 PM
An example I like for this kind of thing is the Stone Circles of Zerthimon from Planescape:Torment. They're a sort of chained puzzle that gives you unique spells and a good bit of xp every time you completed the next link of the chain, and the nature of the puzzle was more to understand the meaning of the stories that each segment told with regards to the history of the Githzerai - basically, a teaching tool. Understanding the story wasn't specifically the way to open more of the puzzle, but there was an NPC who would ask questions about the PC's understanding before showing how to open the next bit of it.

At the end of it, the PC's understanding exceeded the teacher's, and figuring out connections between the seemingly disconnected bits of the story would tell you where to look for the catch necessary to open the next bit (so realizing that chapter 4 and chapter 7 were both apochrypha because the morals they presented were strange given the rest of the story's point hinted that you should move those chapters to open the next chapter)

This is something that is optional and has multiple stages of success. Of course, the way it was implemented in the computer game takes advantage of a fixed response list, so you'd want to adapt things quite a bit for tabletop in doing a similar kind of puzzle.

One example of a very big 'puzzle' in a campaign I was in. You could spend 100xp to forge one of three types of magical gems. Each gem had a rune on it: 'Life', 'Spirit', 'Soul'. You could also combine gems and get a new gem with a new name. The first couple of combinations gave you generic words, but once you got a few tiers in the words tended to refer to plot elements in the campaign. Each gem also acted like a magical item, giving a specific buff or special ability, many of which were quite good (encouraging players to keep spending xp on them), but you could also use the gems, their names, and their effects to do a sort of divination-on-plot, trying to make plotty combinations to find out what they did.

Another thing to keep in mind would be the different types of puzzles.
- Puzzles where there is a way for the player to verify or evaluate their answer independently. This could be anything from 'get from A to B in the minimum number of moves' to 'Solve this math problem' to 'Deduce logically the state of a card/binary choice/whatever'. These could have multiple answers if there's an optimization involved, so two successful answers can be directly compared with eachother, and that maps to benefit.
- Puzzles where there could be one or more right answers, but the players can't verify them before engaging with the world. An example here would be the gem puzzle, where you had to ask the DM what the next gem combination would give. These can be exploratory puzzles (I try this next, what happens?) on one end of the gamut, and on the other end exercises in mind-reading (say what the DM is waiting to hear even though he hasn't told you anything solid).

In general, I'd say there's no point in a puzzle being there if you expect it to be solved entirely with game mechanics (though you could certainly make combination puzzles where game mechanics give hints/are necessary to make use of the solution/etc). As such, a puzzle that is mediated entirely by a mechanism is just looking to be bypassed. A puzzle whose basis is 'solve me to know where the treasure is hidden', 'solve me to be able to interpret these markings on the labyrinth walls', 'solve me to know the passcode to give to the bouncer at the black market', 'solve me to know the recipe to produce a new alchemical metal' etc is more durable.

Fiery Diamond
2012-06-04, 10:03 PM
One example of a very big 'puzzle' in a campaign I was in. You could spend 100xp to forge one of three types of magical gems. Each gem had a rune on it: 'Life', 'Spirit', 'Soul'. You could also combine gems and get a new gem with a new name. The first couple of combinations gave you generic words, but once you got a few tiers in the words tended to refer to plot elements in the campaign. Each gem also acted like a magical item, giving a specific buff or special ability, many of which were quite good (encouraging players to keep spending xp on them), but you could also use the gems, their names, and their effects to do a sort of divination-on-plot, trying to make plotty combinations to find out what they did.

I would love more details on this.

NichG
2012-06-05, 01:24 PM
I would love more details on this.

Our notes on it are online on the old campaign wiki:

http://omegapointe.wikispaces.com/Jeweler's+Shop

Warning: This system as written provides very powerful bonuses. This campaign was designed to, paraphrasing the GM, 'play at every range of power that anyone has ever played D&D at', and this soulgem system was a big part of how that was managed.

prufock
2012-06-06, 12:39 PM
How about a puzzle based on the Eleusis card game. The "dealer" (DM, puzzle machine, sphinx, whatever) makes a secret rule. He then presents a card to the players, which they have to either accept or reject. If they make the correct decision (accepting a card that fits the rule, rejecting a card that does not) they receive some reward. If they incorrectly accept or reject, they receive a punishment.

Some simple rules, for example, could be "any heart," "any red card," "any face card," or "any card lower than 6."

Some more tricky rules could be "any card with an N in the name" (one, seven, nine, ten, queen, king), "a different coloured card than the last one," or "only aces," or "any red card EXCEPT face cards."

This can give you up to 52 choice points, and those points can all be different things. There could be varying paths, traps/treasure, monsters behind doors, good and bad unlabeled potions, etc.

Once your players figure out the pattern they should be getting no punishments, so you may want to use a pared down deck (or medium other than cards) or a more complex rule, depending on how clever you figure your players will be. Of course they don't necessarily have to run into ALL the choice points.

None of these should guarantee or eliminate achieving their objective, just make it easier or harder depending on how fast they figure out the rule.

Asheram
2012-06-06, 02:56 PM
With armor born of a suit so old
I watch over a treasure of gold
Ever outnumbered, I shall not yield
And vigilantly tend the battlefield

And then have paths of: crab, beehive, scarecrow, and dragon guarding clutch of eggs..

Hm. I'll bite... I just love riddles.

Scarecrow.
The suit of old is the clothes he's wearing.
The treasure of gold is a field of wheat
He's ever outnumbered against the pests who wishes to eat.
He vigilantly (stands erect) over the field.

zanetheinsane
2012-06-07, 05:20 AM
In one of my campaigns the players progressed through a series of "puzzle rooms". Each room was a small 10x10 room and the exit led to another room.

In each room was a variety of different knick knacks, objects, out-of-place decorations, just really random stuff. One room might have a bookshelf, a desk, a chandelier, a stove, barrels. Each room had some "repeat" objects and plenty of unique ones.

Each door had a relief of a stone lion that would give the players a riddle to solve, and the answer to each riddle was one of the objects in the room. The tricky part is that on examining many of the objects, they could tell that they were fake and were attached to objects with levers and mechanisms.

Activating the correct item opened the door into the next puzzle room but pulling or removing the wrong thing would spring a very minor trap that might do something like 1d4 damage (not much at their level) or hinder them.

Of course they could "solve" the riddles by just pulling on everything in the room until the door opened, which they originally started doing. But once the damage started piling up and they realized that there was more than one room they quickly started being a little more judicious in their selection of objects.

The riddles weren't obtuse or overly difficult, but part of the "puzzle" was that the lion head did not tell them what they had to do to "solve" the riddle, it was merely programmed to just say the riddle. Watching my players shout at the lion head at first was amusing. And then watching them start going over the room and figuring out how everything worked they had a better sense of accomplishment.

For example, one of the answers to a riddle was "Time", and they figured out they had to pull on the hourglass which was hidden in a drawer of a desk (there had been a water clock in a previous room and they were searching for one in this one).

This way presented a solution to progressing without forcing the players to either solve the riddle or simply fail. If they were stuck they could try to narrow down the objects in the room and start trying them, hoping one would work (which they did for one of the rooms).

CCC
2012-06-08, 07:43 AM
Which of the following is the odd one out?

TREE
BUSH
FIRE
SHRUB

There is, of course, at least one rationale under which each of them can be considered "the odd one out". For some of them, there is more than one rationale.

Amphetryon
2012-06-08, 08:33 AM
Which of the following is the odd one out?

TREE
BUSH
FIRE
SHRUB

There is, of course, at least one rationale under which each of them can be considered "the odd one out". For some of them, there is more than one rationale.

So, is every answer correct - in which case, why is it presented as an obstacle - or is there one "best" answer - in which case is it not "guess what the DM is thinking"?

prufock
2012-06-12, 12:46 PM
So, is every answer correct - in which case, why is it presented as an obstacle - or is there one "best" answer - in which case is it not "guess what the DM is thinking"?

No need for any answer to be correct or "best." Each response can have a related consequence, none of which is necessarily better than the others.