I like categorizing players by asking them to rank combat, interaction, and riddles. Personally, I hate riddles. They break the flow, and to be honest, I don’t get to see many riddles in real life, so riddles protecting things are not very believable.
Some players do enjoy riddles, however. What are good riddles to use?
- Let them find the riddle before any finding any hints. If there’s a locked door with a riddle behind it, don’t provide a hint outside the locked door. Players will think that the hint indicates that the locked door is the riddle. They’ll waste time trying to understand the hints they believe will enable them to unlock the door.
- Other riddles should be part of the environment. Fixing something is a good riddle: Players need to remember things they saw, figure out how those could be used to solve the problem, and maybe find something that is easy to find once they know what they are looking for. A dungeon crawl ends in a large dome. There are statues along the walls, some of them covered by scaffolding. Somebody must have been renovating. Where’s the treasure? Let the players discover that the scaffolding around one of the status has been moved. Moving it back to its original position will allow players to reach a hidden service tunnel leading to a new section of the dungeon.
- The most important rule is to limit word-based riddles to social occasions: Story telling, singing, games of luck, betting, and riddle contests are excellent entertainment. In urban settings, solving a riddle might give you a better price, earn you respect, avoid a fight, or gain you some information – because you have entertained somebody, played a game with somebody. At court, a party member is being accused of having betrayed the location of the Lord’s eldest son to the enemy. The accused manages to defuse the situation. Finally, one of the Lord’s advisers proposes a riddle. If the accused manages to solve the riddle, everybody laughs, an no face is lost. If the accused takes too long, people start whispering, and as the silence stretches there will be a voice or two muttering: “Fool! Stupid oaf probably just failed to kill our Lord’s son due to a slow wit.”
- Riddles should allow players to make incremental progress. This allows the players to get some feedback: Are they nearly done, or are they going nowhere? Small rewards or signs of progress, some punishment or signs of failure go a long way. It is quite disappointing when you discover you’ve been looking at the wrong drawing this last hour, all for naught.
Tags: RPG DungeonMasterAdvice