Dungeons & Dragons Online

Puzzles Lead to Treasure, Not to Bosses

Content of the article: "Puzzles Lead to Treasure, Not to Bosses"

So here you are, you just created an amazing dungeon to end a story arc, where the players are going fight there way through an ancient temple to stop the BBG from summoning *insert horrifying creature here. While you're prepping you come up with the greatest idea for a puzzle room (or maybe you find in on reddit, who knows, certainly not your players). Your so smart you think, you just came up with (found on reddit) the best puzzle ever. It's perfect, it's hard enough to be challenging, but not so hard that they wont get through it. Fuck you're good.

Then what happens? They can't figure it out. How can they not figure it out? It's not that hard. Next thing you know you've spent 90 minutes with your players staring at a brazier in the middle of the room. You're Paladin/Warlock min-maxer is on his phone because he hasn't fought anything in 2 hours and the Wizard who takes all the notes is tearing his hair out because he supposed to be the "smart one".

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That's why puzzles shouldn't lead to the boss fight. If they die on the way and the world ends because Asmodeus gets summoned that's fine. But if the world ends because they couldn't figure out a stupid little puzzle that's pretty anti-climatic.

I get it though, puzzles are cool, especially when you get to feel smart for designing them (or just knowing the answer because you found it on reddit). I use puzzles in a lot of my dungeons. My players like them. They also get to feel smart for solving them. But they shouldn't create a chokepoint.

When I build puzzles I like to put them in a side room that leads to some treasure, but won't prevent them from saving the world. Example: the players are trying to make there way through a ruined temple of a long dead civilization so they can kill the BBG. In that scenario, maybe the BBG is in a shrine at the end of the dungeon. But there's also this other room with a puzzle that guards the tomb of a particularly important noble from that civilization. Because he's so important he's not buried in the crypts, he's got his own room protected by magic. When they get through the puzzle room, they enter his tomb and can take his super sweet magic sword from his cold dead hands (optional fight with his ghost when they enter the tomb).

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This way you get to feel smart for coming up with great puzzles (or finding them on reddit), your players get to feel smart for solving them and the world doesn't end because they're illiterate bastards that don't know how to rearrange 4 letters to spell fire.

Source: reddit.com

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