Yep, it's another one of those posts designed to infuriate your players. This time around, I'll make a few observations concerning riddles (obviously); namely, how to use them, when to do so, and how they can be solved.


Riddles, like mazes, can pose a great mental challenge to your players, and have a knack for eating up time. Though they're somewhat easier to circumvent/avoid than mazes (depending on the scenario, of course), this also makes them far easier to place and run than a standard labyrinth. Many of the rules for utilizing mazes are compatible with these puzzles, so I'm not going to linger on this topic.

Much like 'How', the 'When' of riddles is similar to mazes, save for certain considerations that should be taken. Riddles, obviously lacking the mechanical depth of mazes, are difficult to center an entire session or campaign around. Having a singular, inherently non-threatening challenge can be difficult in general to work with, which is what makes the context of this challenge so important. To combat this factor of passivity, the knee-jerk reaction of many Hosts is the placement of a severe punishment for those who fail to complete this challenge (namely death or dismemberment). I, however, feel this to be rather draconian, and a good way to frustrate an uninspired group with endless hours of desperate pondering. Personally, I prefer to have the riddle deny access to an area entirely voluntary and inconsequential to the plot. This optional area can be as rewarding as a shiny, new weapon, or an alternative, safer route to a dangerous objective.

-The Solution

Most people (that I'm familiar with, in any case), tend to strictly accept a valid answer for their riddle of choice, and will yield to no other solution. This method, unfortunately, has the drawback of immediately ceasing game play, especially if the group one is working with are particularly unimaginative. To remedy this issue, it's becoming increasingly common practice to allow a roll or check to "find" the solution, allowing the fictional character to solve it in-game without player intervention. The drawback of this method is its simplicity, which allows even the most complex of questions to be answered with a single lucky roll (in the case of the unimaginative group, wouldn't be a drawback at all, if it preserved the session's momentum). With this issue in mind, the principle of keeping strictly optional areas guarded via riddle is further validated, as failure to access said zone shouldn't have a relevant effect on the overall plot/session structure.

With the discussion out of the way and without further ado, I present a handful of sample riddles to get you started (as always, feel free to modify them any way you see fit):

1. Two doors before you, each guarded by a spirit

One always tells the truth, the other always tells a lie

There's no way to discern between the two, or to tell which one will lie

You also know that one door leads to certain death; the other to your goal

They permit you to ask a single question, directed at one spirit, before you choose a door

What do you ask?

2. A murder was committed and 5 suspects are being questioned

Suspect #1 says Suspect #2 did it
Suspect #2 says Suspect #1 did it
Suspect #3 proclaims their innocence
Suspect #4 says Suspect #5 did it
Suspect #5 says Suspect #4 is lying

If only one of these men told the truth, who spoke truthfully and who is the killer?

3. Two bodies have I, though both joined as one

The more I stand still, I quicker I run

What am I? (My personal favorite)

4. Alfred is the father of 5 children

Half of his children are daughters

How is this possible?


~Fabi said...

You actually give me interesting ideas for DMing.

DocStout said...

I think these elements in your game really depend on how your players get their "fun". Every group has its own tolerance for this sort of thing. Personally, I like riddles in a game, used sparingly.

metaphysicalfarms said...

imagine if gollum could have rolled for a solution to Bilbo's riddle

seorava said...

answer to all is 42

Venus said...

thanks for the sample riddles, gave something to think about

lazyboyniko said...

ricky gervais had that logic riddle similar to number 1 for the entrance to heaven and hell

drumtalker said...

Love riddles. Haha. Cool stuff, bro.

Adventures of Life said...

when in doubt pick choice "C"
or just google it lol

Lhosreiff said...

I like this suspects version better:
Five suspects are called into police headquarters for questioning. They give the following statements.
A:"One of the five of us is lying."
B:"Two of the five of us are lying."
C:"I know these guys, and three of the five of us are lying."
D:"Don't listen to a word they say. Out of the five of us, four are lying."
E:"All five of us are dirty rotten liars!"
The police only want to release the suspects who are telling the truth. How many people should they let go?

FSU_Mark said...

Nice riddles, i've only heard the first one before

Anita Johnson said...

Nice. Check my out blog, I have tons of great riddles too!
Anyway, 1) Where does your door lead?
2) 5 is truthful, 3 is guilty
3) Hourglass ;)
4) Alfred is a grandfather of 2 sons and 2 daughters, 1 of which bore a child.

Patwa said...

heh, nice post xD

Asty said...

nice way to start my morning :b

consuela bananahammoc said...

You got me thinking on a friday night :P xx

freddieblue1 said...

ah riddles are great!

Roygbiv said...

Wow, what a unqiue blogging topic. Riddles are always tough for me, some people just have a knack for them, followed++

Where did you get those shoes, btw?? haha.

Kenzie said...

i love riddles! thanks :P

steweneweduk said...

So bad at riddles...

Fortune said...

Fuck you lateral thinking puzzles.

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