Content of the article: "How to: puzzles"
That's simple. Puzzles in TTRPGs suck, never use them. Never. But problems are a thing you should pose and use. Good news: almost every puzzle can be turned into a problem with just a minimal effort.
First, let's get over definitions:
Puzzle is a task that requires one specific solution. Think Rubik's cube that you need to solve the intended way — by rotating edges.
Problem is an obstacle that can be dealt with many different ways. Think Rubik's cube again, but all you need to do is to make each side the same color, how are you going to achieve that — by solving it properly or disassembling it and assembling again or just by using a paint and brush — that's up to you.
Why do puzzles suck? The obvious thing: because they test player skills instead of character skills. But, the more important thing: they don't help to develop or portray a character — we can't tell jackshit from the scene with a puzzle.
So, imagine this: Alice, Bob and Carol are all presented with the same challenge: to solve Rubik's cube the intended way. They solve it. What do we know about them now? Jack-fucking-shit. Who the fuck are these people? I don't know.
But if Alice, Bob and Carol were given a task "make this Rubik's cube solved, no matter the way" and Alice just solved it, Bob disassembled and assembled it again and Carol made the guy who gave her the cube to solve it for her under a threat of murdering him and his entire family — that sheds some light on who these characters are.
How to create a problem? Simple. Place an obstacle. Done — you have a problem (ha-ha).
How to turn a puzzle into a problem? That's simple too. Your puzzle doesn't exist in a vacuum, right? Is it a glyph on the door that requires a correct answer to open it? Or a sphynx that'll give them a magic sword for solving the puzzle? In any case, there's already a task that the characters need to achieve — get to the other side or lay their hands on the magic sword — boom! Just let them deal with it however they see fit.
TL;DR: do cool, don't do uncool.
- Brothers: A tale of two sons… goddamn how dare you!
- A simple puzzle/trap for DMs to use in their next dungeon!
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