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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 30 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [d&d4e] Puzzles in RPGs  (Read 13592 times)
AzaLiN
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Posts: 44


« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2009, 08:36:51 PM »

Good results with the warm up method. I put 3 very hard fights leading up to the puzzle section, and when they got to the puzzle they were so determined to beat it that every player participated and stayed up an extra hour that night to finish it, to 1 instead of 12 when our host planned to end things.

The puzzle itself was to uncover clues about how to get the cave witch to appear in a large, mushroom-forest area underground and grant them entry to the otherworld: they had to perform a specific dance to specific music to a lit fire; they learned the steps by reanimating dead dancers and copying them, using comprehend languages to learn the musical notes, and eating ceremonial mushrooms that gave further visual clues about the ritual they were performing. If they did parts in the wrong order it would ruin the ritual, they'd be attacked, and they could move on and the room would reset as they went deeper down the tunnel. As to incorporating story, the witch is a barrier to keep out the unworthy, and since they had to fight the witch afterwards, it will be seen that the people of that culture refer to swordplay and combat as a dance, which will have further magical effects in the future.

It wasn't an ideal puzzle, but it really cleared up whether the approach would work.
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Kevin Vito
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« Reply #31 on: September 18, 2009, 01:52:59 PM »

I haven't run this in an actual group yet, but I have been brainstorming a puzzle-type encounter for 4E.
Various users on rpg.net have given input on it here:
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=474052

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Callan S.
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« Reply #32 on: September 18, 2009, 06:20:29 PM »

It sounds like those hard fights drove home a certain approach to the game, AzaLiN!

Speaking of them, an old curly question is what is the established procedure if a character died, or the whole party TPK'ed during those hard encounters? I'm asking about previously established procedure, rather than what you might make up on the fly if it happened. It's a hard question - I'm just asking out of interest in terms of what you've developed on the matter. :)
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AzaLiN
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Posts: 44


« Reply #33 on: September 20, 2009, 01:07:45 AM »

I ruthlessly butchered the paladin earlier tonight. Everyone looked pleased. He was coup de graced 4 times (2 misses). Now that the party is negotiating with the orcs that killed him, they're talking in the presence of the head on a stick in the command tent. Its gold. The point is, I think that PC death is being well received so far. I've arranged a good game-world reason for the influx of new adventurers (specifically, they're being lured in the same way as the actual PC party was, by chasing pact stones and trying to get into old ruins). Um, the game-world right now is a semi-mystical place that they can't get out of without getting the help of a powerful faction, or satisfying the one who lured them there.

But for TPKs, I'm working on game-world mechanics to handle them. I think they're important for gameplay, in this case. The party has several raise dead scrolls, they've used 1 already, but those don't address TPKs. I want it to be so that they can be TPK'd up to 3x per session without slowing things down too much, and I want a game-world solution that will usually result in the PCs just getting back on their feet and back into the fight, but surely with a decent helping of 'permanent' death as well. I think I have one, but I want to think on it more before implementing it. (3x is max, there should be less, what i mean is that I want them to be only a minor hiccup in gameplay). It'll probably revolve around custom rituals, or artifacts, and a certain amount of permanent PC death will still occur. Lots of treasure to make up for paying for these rituals.

For puzzles- this one is more problem-like. They actually negotiated with the orcs, surprising me, as I mentioned above, and what the orc demanded was 20 human scalps to prove their intentions. So, to get the scalps without betraying either faction of the 4 factions they're working for, they're harvesting undead scalps right now, and theorizing about using doctored animal hides. The hard part is doing so despite being 3 levels too low for an even close to standard fight. I'm letting them powergame and double-deal, and its been good so far. The nice thing is that after they betray the orcs (for various pre-decided reasons), because there's so many of them, and the nature of the setting, he continues to be an important NPC afterwards, attacking whatever faction they side with as revenge. I'm using 'hit point stacks' to address lag in big combats (somewhere on this site http://arsludi.lamemage.com/?s=stack i couldn't find the exact link).

The next thing i want to implement is puzzle random encounters (for random encounters, I actually use the dice very little, and just harass/ambush/track them constantly outside of town, according to how the pacing seems to need). The PC location when the encounter occurs determines the location of the puzzle/setting. It should give me huge options to improvise during play.

Its 3 am here, so forgive me if this is a little scatter brained.

Chronoplasm: I love your encounter. Would you mind if I borrowed it? I especially like how the PCs can circumvent it- they'll be very pleased with themselves when they disregard the boat-ferry aspect and that's when they really beat the puzzle. So, they have 2 satisfying solutions, just make sure they realize the conditions of the puzzle include encumbrance and gnolls trying to escape, and be sure to remember that the PCs might just negotiate with the gnolls to cooperate for a few hours.
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Kevin Vito
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« Reply #34 on: September 21, 2009, 09:17:09 AM »

[quote author=AzaLiN link=topic=28444.msg269689#msg269689 date=1253437665

Chronoplasm: I love your encounter. Would you mind if I borrowed it? I especially like how the PCs can circumvent it- they'll be very pleased with themselves when they disregard the boat-ferry aspect and that's when they really beat the puzzle. So, they have 2 satisfying solutions, just make sure they realize the conditions of the puzzle include encumbrance and gnolls trying to escape, and be sure to remember that the PCs might just negotiate with the gnolls to cooperate for a few hours.
[/quote]

Go ahead. I want to see what other people can do with it.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #35 on: September 21, 2009, 02:54:15 PM »

Hi Azalin,

Sounds nifty. I guess I was asking in terms of any sort of resistance on the matter, which it doesn't sound like you have. For example I was talking with a friend who was GM'ing, after the game, and he was basically saying he would fudge deaths because 'it wouldn't be very fun to die'. So I said why not have it as a rule that you can't die, just get your butt kicked to a corner and you crawl away into cover, or such? He wouldn't go that way either, yet he wanted to maintain the idea you could die (which was obviously an illusion).


Hi Chronoplasm,

Ack, just read that thread you linked to! It's almost a condensation of all gamer shit responces to challenge, from over three decades! Working outside the box is great, but when you can actually solve the puzzle within the box but can't figure out how to do it, you aught to admit you've failed at doing that before resorting to outside the box/knocking out the gnolls/etc moves. But do they? This is precisely how fiction typically destroys challenge, because "Oh, I knock them all out" - wow, that was hard to think of! What a challenge it must have been to figure that one out!

Working outside the box often leads to just really limp solutions. Not to mention the very first responce post, which just rejects it overall - if someone's into gamism, why are they identifying a puzzle/challenge, and rejecting it? Because they aren't into gamism. Or their into some sort of bitterest gamer gamism, where the fiction has gnawed away challenge so much all they have left with is something that's solved by knocking out all the gnolls/something completely weak ass. A thousand times better to have a fox and geese problem (which defies some options the fiction insists are there) than to just default to that.

Anyway, I think the key issue there is that you try and solve the puzzle while staying withing the puzzles 'box'. And if you can't, you admit it (a key element of gamism) and then go on to a solution that solves it from outside the box. I'll post that in that thread - watch for the alergic responces (for people who don't want to do gamism and are alergic to it, fair enough - but you'll see other alergic reactions from people not in that situation).

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Callan S.
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« Reply #36 on: September 21, 2009, 03:31:08 PM »

I'll just clarify, I'm refering to the responces to your initial challenge idea, Chrono. Your puzzle situation is good, but I'm looking at my sentence structure and it could be read the wrong way, so just clarifying just in case!
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Kevin Vito
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« Reply #37 on: September 21, 2009, 04:34:37 PM »

I got it. :)

I think I have a possible solution:
Dangle a shiny special prize in front of the players. This is their reward if they play the game by its seemingly arbitrary rules. If they sidestep the parameters of the challenge, but succeed, they are still rewarded but it will be a lesser reward.
A good way to explain these arbitrary rules might be with a bit of simple magical handwavium. Perhaps the reason the gnolls fear and refuse to swim the river is because it is enchanted somehow?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #38 on: September 21, 2009, 05:14:23 PM »

I was thinking basically the same thing, though in terms of XP. The most XP for solving it in the box, and perhaps a third or a quater (or some such reduction) of that if you solve it by a means outside the box. Or in terms of explicit esteem, solving it in the box gets the most, while solving it outside gets some approval (it's good, but not as hard to do). Trying to go outside the box without admitting it was too tough and they give in, no esteem....actually, as I write that, I realise the XP thing from above gives the wrong message for that (and indeed so does your prize idea, if it was going for that). Because they could shift to the lesser XP solution without having admitted the in the box puzzle was too tough. It's like they get esteem without having to admit their prior failure. Which I think bypasses the point of even giving an in the box challenge, as I'm thinking about it at the moment - it's basically being ignored, in that case.

Quote
A good way to explain these arbitrary rules might be with a bit of simple magical handwavium. Perhaps the reason the gnolls fear and refuse to swim the river is because it is enchanted somehow?

I'm inclined to think anyone who wants gamism and some reasonbly solid fiction as a side dish, with apply polyfiller to any gaps in the fiction, so to speak. Hell, I do that with TV when they do something that doesn't quite make sense. And you did say blood river after all...sounds nasty to me! I wouldn't go in! (see, I'm doing it even as we speak!)

While I think people who don't want to fill in those gaps, either don't want gamism to begin with or don't realise that a few tears and gaps in the fiction is better than flawless fiction that, as in the bitterest gamer, presents challenge rarely/on a monkeys might fly out of my butt basis.

I'm actually thinking you don't need arbitrary rules, just explicit notification of the puzzles boundry line "Knock the gnolls out you say - well, that's something that seems like it'd work, but it's an action that's outside of the puzzles boundries. I assure you, it is possible to solve the puzzle without doing that. *slight teasing in voice* But if ya wanna say you give up then we can look into that...."
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FredGarber
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Posts: 95


« Reply #39 on: September 22, 2009, 09:34:44 AM »

Just an FYI, before you try this:
With four gnolls and four guards, and a two person canoe ?  There is no "In the box" solution.

And the "standard" puzzle of 3x3 requires (at more than one point) two gnolls to row alone, and one to return alone to the guards with the canoe: not likely.  There's even one point where all three gnolls are on the far side, and all three guards will be on the starting side. 

I agree with the poster in the other thread that if my GM gave me a "standard" puzzle like this I would just roll an INT, and then go Google the answer.

-Fred
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Kevin Vito
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« Reply #40 on: September 22, 2009, 09:47:26 AM »

Just an FYI, before you try this:
With four gnolls and four guards, and a two person canoe ?  There is no "In the box" solution.

And the "standard" puzzle of 3x3 requires (at more than one point) two gnolls to row alone, and one to return alone to the guards with the canoe: not likely.  There's even one point where all three gnolls are on the far side, and all three guards will be on the starting side. 

I agree with the poster in the other thread that if my GM gave me a "standard" puzzle like this I would just roll an INT, and then go Google the answer.

-Fred

Heh. Yeah, I guess that's one of the problems with using puzzles in games. Sometimes the DM screws up and makes a broken puzzle. Heh. :)  It's a good thing I haven't actually subjected any players to this yet. I'll get it fixed up somehow.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #41 on: September 22, 2009, 02:19:47 PM »

I sat down with it and it works out

1. Player takes one gnoll to the other side

2. Player takes another gnoll (G2) to the other side. By strict wording of the puzzle, they attack when they are superior in numbers to PC on that side, and the PC is staying in the boat. He's not on that side! The wording doesn't describe them running off or anything, so they can be left there. Also it fits my imagination in that the player turfs the gnoll out of the boat and gets out of there pronto - but as I said before, I'm willing to patch the fiction to support the gamism. If you only want the fiction to happen how it'd just seem to happen...that's either sim or bitterest gamer territory.

3. Player takes another player (P2) to the other side. The both get out and now they equal the gnolls numbers, who are now co operative.

4. They send G1 back in the boat.

5. G1 brings over G3 in the boat. And lest we get onto the likelyhood of this, this is something that shits me - if someone says they're into the challenge, why, as soon as the fiction of the puzzle doesn't seem quite right, do they toss out the challenge? If they're doing that, in practical terms, they're not there for gamism. Preserving the integrity of the fiction has first priority with them, if they're doing that. And once it's first, gamism is not.

6. G3 is deposited on the other shore, where P1, P2 and G1 are. G3 is sent back again, because he's a filthy gnoll and can do all the work! >:)

7. G3 brings P3 over to the other side. There's just G4 and P4 on the other side now.

8. G3 brings G4 over.

9. G3 brings P4 over and then gets out himself. Ta da! Solveable! Where's my cookie!?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #42 on: September 22, 2009, 02:27:09 PM »

That should be G1 being sent back in step 6 and doing all the work in the following steps. Gnolls...they all look alike, it's not hard to mix 'em up!
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otspiii
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« Reply #43 on: September 23, 2009, 09:17:11 AM »

I don't really think the gnoll puzzle plays to the strengths of RPGs.  It might be a fun puzzle to solve in a puzzle-book, but I think putting it in the context of an RPG just weakens it.

Callan, you're saying you don't understand why someone dedicated to the gamist agenda would try to come up with an alternate solution/'realistic' interpretation of the rules?  I think it's because the gamist strength of roleplaying games is that they present more complicated situations than board games/puzzle books can.  RPGs allow for 'outside the box' thinking because they give a human arbitrator who can take unexpected solutions to problems and use common sense to determine how well/poorly they work.  If you discourage that kind of thinking you're minimizing the big advantage RPGs have over other puzzle-providing hobbies.

The other reason I think is that a big part of the gamist mindset is often a desire for maximum efficiency/power.  This desire has a bad habit of encouraging min/maxing, breaking games, and taking the easy way out of puzzles, but it's not at its heart a bad thing.  It's the desire to push forward, forward, forward.  Burning passion and a desire for limitless expansion, pushing the limits of what you can do in a constant effort for self-betterment.  The moment you start doing anything but the most effective solution to a problem you're limiting yourself unnecessarily, an action that's the antithesis of this desire.  There's just something painful about having an effective and easy option hanging within reach, but then sitting down and taking the sub-optimal route because that's the way the GM wants you to do it.

It's a weird distinction, but I think 'Situations' are a lot better suited for RPGs than 'Puzzles', although there's so much overlap between the two it's a bit like drawing a distinction between being 'angry' and 'mad'.  Basically, I think that rather than tossing a logic or sudoku or math puzzle at the party with a totally predetermined 'correct' answer it's better to just provide a situation that if handled poorly could be dangerous, and if handled well could provide benefit.  The blood and sarcophagus/pit trap puzzles from earlier in the thread are good examples.  They allow the players to keep approaching the game creatively and don't ask for any artificial reduction of efficiency.  They take advantage of the fact that there's a GM sitting at the table that can understand complicated solutions, as opposed to the gnoll problem which a computer or answer-booklet could just as easily handle.

That said, 'not taking full advantage of the strengths of RPGs' isn't that bad of a crime.  If the players all like puzzles like the gnoll boat thing and state beforehand that they'd enjoy a RP session that occasionally turns into a logic puzzle then you should absolutely put puzzles like that in.  I've just seen a lot of trouble bubble up when the player's don't actively like that sort of thing (and not just because they're an 'imperfect gamist' or anything) and the GM just won't stop throwing that kind of puzzle at them.  Although it can be really jarring to suddenly have the game for all intents and purposes stop being a RPG and turn into something else, it is something that lots of RPGs do.  4th ed D&D basically turns into a board game during combat, and this is fine, but only as long as it's something the players are aware of before-game and actively desire.
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Hello, Forge.  My name is Misha.  It is a pleasure to meet you.
FredGarber
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Posts: 95


« Reply #44 on: September 23, 2009, 01:42:33 PM »

I sat down with it and it works out

2. Player takes another gnoll (G2) to the other side. By strict wording of the puzzle, they attack when they are superior in numbers to PC on that side, and the PC is staying in the boat. He's not on that side! The wording doesn't describe them running off or anything, so they can be left there. Also it fits my imagination in that the player turfs the gnoll out of the boat and gets out of there pronto - but as I said before, I'm willing to patch the fiction to support the gamism. If you only want the fiction to happen how it'd just seem to happen...that's either sim or bitterest gamer territory.

rings P4 over and then gets out himself. Ta da! Solveable! Where's my cookie!?


1. Gnolls are not Kobolds.  They're seven foot tall hyena-men.    Nobody's "Turfing" them out of a canoe, especially when they're religiously afraid of the water  :)
2. Your solution depends upon bending the rules ("Stop biting, Mr. Gnoll!  I'm in the boat, not on the shore!") as much as ignoring the canoe and building a raft does.

There's too much fiction you have to bend to get to the number crunching, for me.  If I wanted to sit around and number crunch with people I'd stay at work :)

You get a bent cookie :)

-Fred 
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