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Using Physical Puzzles in a Role-Playing Game

September 23, 2009 | | Comments 1

This post came from a trip to a local game store that also sells a variety of toys and puzzles. Sparked by a sudden interest in puzzles, I picked up the “Enigmatic Temple” from Family Games Inc. They have an entire line of these fairly difficult wooden puzzles that range from the relatively easy to the hellish in terms of solutions.   I had a good time solving it and the thought occurred to me that an RPG might benefit from an occasional puzzle box. Rather than have the thief role some dice to open a puzzle box, actually give the party the puzzle to solve. Maybe give them a hint or two if they make a skill check, but do not make it too easy.

Here are some shots of the puzzle. I think it will make a great piece of reality for an RPG encounter or quest.

Enigmatic Temple Puzzle

Enigmatic Temple Puzzle

The Engimatic Temple, Reverse Side

The Engimatic Temple, Reverse Side

All you have to do is remove the dice from the center of the temple, without using a hammer. ;-)

Fair warning, I solved my temple puzzle in less than 5 minutes because I guessed the locking mechanism. Some groups might take far longer or  never get it at all. Do not let the puzzle become a drawn out, painful experience. Some players will absolutely hate the idea, so do not make them suffer through if it is not a fun experience.  There is a set of six puzzles in this series and I am going to look into getting more, both for my own enjoyment and as potential game props.

Drop me a comment if you have used a puzzle like this in a game.  I would like to know how it went.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

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About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

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