Dungeons & Dragons Online

Using riddles for Puzzles in dungeons

Disclaimer: Use riddles for puzzles at your own risk, some people hate riddles and are no good at them, you will likely have to provide context clues as well for these mechanisms.

Below are some specific examples of classic riddles that I loved from the Dark Tower books and how you can use them in dungeon exploration, I am assuming all of these are being used to open doors or provide access to other areas through some mechanism.

Riddle Answer Clues
"Feed me and I live. Give me drink and I die. What am I? Fire – start a fire on the mechanism. Have a flint and some kindle in the room, have some ash or evidence of fires past on the mechanism or in the room. Have all 4 elements in the room, the 3 wrong elements trigger negative effects.
"I pass before the sun, yet I make no shadow. What am I?" Wind – blow on the mechanism Include a fan in the room, markings of the weather. This is a more difficult riddle. Maybe a perception check to notice the air in the room is still compared to other rooms. Have all 4 elements in the room, the 3 wrong elements trigger negative effects.
"This is as light as a feather, yet no man can hold it for long." One's breath – blow on the mechanism. Same as above.
"If you break me, I'll not stop working. If you can touch me, my work is done. If you lose me, you must find me with a ring soon after. What am I?" The human heart – this one might be a bit macabre to operate for some. This is a pretty difficult riddle, maybe include pictures of anatomy in the room or have it in a series of anatomy type riddles to get people thinking along these lines.
"Where may you find roads without carts, forests without trees, cities without houses?" On a map – have a series of objects to put on the mechanism, have them simply say the answer for a magical mechanism, or have a map in the room that they must investigate to notice a switch. An option is including various objects in the room and making this puzzle timed, bad guys are behind you, you can investigate all of the objects, but choosing the correct one first will mean they avoid encounters or have some other benefit.
"Cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind the stars and beneath the hills. Ends life and kills laughter. What is it?" The dark – extinguish the torches in a room. Have clues that the lights have been extinguished in the room before. You can have the door already open when they enter the room and the door closes when the party enters with lit torches.
"This thing runs but cannot walk, sometimes sings but never talks. Lacks arms, has hands; lacks a head but has a face. What is it?" A clock – how they operate this is up to you, whether it is moving an object or inspecting a clock in the room, or selecting one object on a table of many objects. Perhaps several different objects in the room and penalties for the wrong object, or a clock they found earlier in the dungeon on a corpse.
"What builds up castles, tears down mountains, makes some blind, helps others to see?" Sand – put a pile of sand on the mechanism, maybe pour it into a an hour glass or turn an hour glass over. Hints may be tough, whether it is sand left behind, or a particularly dirty room. This one could be a stumper.
"You have to prime the pump to get me going, and my pump primes backwards." Press the prime numbers on a list from largest to smallest. Perhaps a series of tiles on the floor with numbers on them leading to the door that exists the area. This riddle is not hard if your group has a math background, but you could get them confused. Perhaps offer an intelligence check to someone and say, you are aware of a concept called prime numbers from your studies, if they are really stuck.
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The above list of riddles is not exhaustive.

And as other DM's have noted, never have anything of necessity for the campaign locked behind a mechanism your PC's cannot solve. Consider how you will provide clues if they are stumped, and what those clues will cost them in terms of more difficult encounters later or now. Consider the possibility of 7 failed intelligence checks or investigation checks.

Caveat : I both hate solving riddles and hate having to crawl through dungeons rolling investigation checks every 5 feet. Of those two, I hate riddles less, because it feels more fair to provide hints for them, since the act of giving a hint for a trap alerts the party to the presence of a trap. There can still be traps with a riddle as well. A wrong answer can and should have some sort of penalty.

Source: reddit.com

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