Behind the Screen: On Puzzle Handling…

2007 December 3
by Dante

While doing some Christmas shopping today, I was playing around with some ideas for puzzles for our next few campaign sessions. This led me to start thinking about the more satisfying puzzle scenarios that I have beheld and what it was that made them great, and I arrived at one very great example to share with you all today courtesy of a campaign built by my buddy, Sir Geekelot.


One of the most frustrating puzzles is one that feels arbitrarily dropped in front of the adventuring group. In the case of Sir Geekelot’s campaign, he structured something that essentially equated to a puzzle arc: three puzzles that could be worked in parrallel for the party to proceed. This puzzle arc was tied in directly to the plot, using some key touchpoints that he had established early and often enough to make them immediately recognizable to the group.

The puzzles themselves were pattern or logic puzzles that required some trial and error. They were challenging and the extra plot tie-ins made them even more engaging but not too difficult as to lead to frustration.


Another great element of this puzzle arc was the way it was structured: teams of two paired up and were presented with the task at hand and only they could work that particular puzzle. The neat thing about this setup was that each person had someone to talk the problem out with, but there were enough puzzles at hand for everyone to focus. This led to a real beehive of activity around the table and no one was left out sitting on their hands. If I walked in cold on the session at that point, it would be enough to tell that however this particular puzzle scenario was done it was done correctly. My teammate and I had a pretty easy time with our puzzle, others took a little longer, but in the end everyone walked out successful.


This is one of those untenable attributes that is very hard to describe, but the encounter was generally fun. The presence of danger (but not explicit death), the fact that because of the clamor of activity around the table you never really knew how the rest of the group was doing, and the ability to share your success directly with the person that you were partnered with really made the experience satisfying.

I think that structuring puzzles in this intimate and relevant way was really the best. I hope the next time I bring puzzles into the mix I’m half as successful as this particular instance, Sir Geekelot really knew how to do this up right.

One Response leave one →
  1. SirGeekelot permalink
    December 5, 2007

    I’m glad that you enjoyed that. It was one of my favorite runs we had during that campaign. I look forward to seeing what you come up with in your current campaign.

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