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Video Gnoments, Episode III: Puzzles

In this episode I talk about how to use three dimensional puzzles in your sessions as a way to accentuate and not compromise your RPG system of choice.  I also demonstrate some simple puzzles and suggest how they may be used as part of a story.

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9 Comments To "Video Gnoments, Episode III: Puzzles"

#1 Comment By lomythica On January 14, 2011 @ 7:11 am

Another great Gnoment Patrick!

I have tried a few puzzle like ideas in the past, with varied results. I will try to execute some of the guidelines presented to hopefully enhance future ones.

What I did in the past that worked, was, instead of having a successful skill roll offer extra time in the scenario (or less time if roll is failed). I know that goes against your guideline. It was a bomb that I made out of a cheap alarm clock and the little cables from inside an Ethernet cable. The goal was to disarm the bomb. One of the characters had demolition skill and was disarming, while the others were all locked in a room with him. He had to determine which wire to cut to disable. Wrong wire cut would speed up the clock (enhanced by a faster ticking sound effect). In addition, a separate roll allowed for a 50-50 ruling out of 2 of the four cables (like 50-50 in who wants to be a millionaire).

It worked quite nicely, and they failed…but they really enjoyed it (still talk about it). Fortunately for them, it was an Electromagnetic pulse bomb that fried their electronics (making the last encounter a lot harder), so they didn’t end up dead.

The next one I plan is a timed challenge with a key ring full of keys, and a lock… Only one key works and the guards are going to be there any minute.. I know it isn’t quite a puzzle, but it seems in a similar vein. Any ideas to enhance it would be much appreciated.

#2 Comment By lomythica On January 14, 2011 @ 7:13 am

Bad typo.. Successful skill roll did increase or decrease the time to work on defusing the bomb.

#3 Comment By Patrick Benson On January 14, 2011 @ 10:14 am

[1] – I’m glad that you liked the Video Gnoment, and if you have had success with an approach that goes against what I suggest well who am I to say that you did something wrong? There are probably many exceptions to the “rules” that I presented.

With the keys you are correct that it isn’t a puzzle. You need to establish rules for how many keys the PCs can test before the guards arrive. I suggest some sort of attribute or skill check. Any roll allows for a single key to be tested in one round (maybe a critical failure results in none), but successes increase the number of keys that my be tested in one round. Perhaps a critical success eliminates half of the keys from the ring completely followed by a number of attempts to open the lock.

I hope that suggestion helps you. Good luck with it and let us know how it went.

#4 Comment By Razjah On January 14, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

Very good advice! I really liked this gnoment. It gives really solid advice on how to bring puzzles into the game without making the game about puzzles.

However, the audio sounds like you did this in a basement with the echo. Perhaps for the next gnoment there could bne something done to help the echo sound.

#5 Comment By E-l337 On January 14, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

Aw man, I saw 3D puzzles and here I was thinking of some kind of in-game puzzle (blocks, switches, something) that would be displayed on multiple levels or something. But I guess the topics covered work as well, and it’s a rather nice concept. I kind of wish I had an IRL group to do this sort of thing with – I’d love to have the players walk into a session with some strange-looking object in the middle of the table and go, “Oh, that? See if you can solve it. I might give you something nice if you do.”

#6 Comment By Vance On January 14, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

In a recent session, the PC’s in my group were standing at a door to an underground temple that had been “locked” with 6 riddles in 6 different languages. As they solved each riddle, a stone wheel would turn and deposit a crystal shard in their hands. Once solved, the door opened, but they needed to assemble the 6 shards into the key that would unlock the final door below. I used a $2 wooden puzzle (with 6 pieces) that formed kind of a 3D star shape when assembled.

The players LOVED it!

I also used a puzzle box a few sessions ago that they had a good time trying to open. I love props!

#7 Comment By Patrick Benson On January 14, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

[2] – I understand that the audio, and IMO the video, need to imprvoe. It was recorded in my dining room. The large wooden table, the hardwood floors, the large open space, and the large windows in that room all are contributing to the echo effect. I am trying to setup a “recording studio” somewhere in the house, but it has to be something that I can take down and put up easily to make it really work. But it also has to be affordable. I love writing for Gnome Stew, but until I am independently wealthy I can only spend so much on my hobby. Oh well! 🙂

[3] – Sorry that you were expecting something else! I’m glad that you did like what was presented though.

[4] – I think that I have that exact same puzzle. I’m glad to hear that you have had a good experience with puzzles in your game as well. I think that they are excellent ways to enhance a session.

#8 Comment By Ben Scerri On January 16, 2011 @ 1:39 am

Great advice! Well done on another Video Gnoment, I really enjoy them, and think they add something previously unseen on Gnome Stew, so I hope you get the chance to release more of them.

I personally have used timed puzzles before, but never vital ones. For instance, I bought a Rubik’s Cube, made a few moves on it, and then gave it to the players saying that is was a 3D representation of the security system in this installation they were raiding. The tech-savvy character had to make skill rolls to determine how many seconds he got to work on it, and then at the end of the timer, they’d have a combat round. Basically, if he solved it, he would lock down the installation, and the guards would stop. If he failed, they’d either have to run, or destroy the doors through other means.

This was a very fun one, as it got everyone really on edge (but in a good way). I would not suggest this for people who don’t already know how to solve Rubik’s Cubes however (as they are difficult if you don’t know the trick to them).

(P.S. If you need ideas for an echo free ‘studio’, if you have a trampoline or similar thing such as that, you can film in your back yard against that turned on its side (to act as a back screen). This is something me and my friends have tried before and it works very well.)

#9 Comment By kwixson On February 2, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

You rock. Very good move doing video. You are a dynamic speaker and it suits you. Would love to see more. When you do, you might try adding some more lights. Video cameras (even the one in your computer) love light. The more of it the better. If you have them, a pair of regular lamps with CFL’s in them flanking your camera right up close will do the trick. Or, better still, do it near a window where you get a lot of natural light. Audio is easy and I think you know what to do there. The trick is to surround yourself with soft stuff, rugs, blankets, anything – floor and two perpendicular walls. Hope to see you at Gen Con or somewhere so I can get you to sign my copy of Eureka!