Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dust, wind, dude! Meta-puzzles in your game.

I've been writing up lists of ideas for special areas, puzzles, traps, and other ways to challenge players in order to get keystone treasures in my megadungeon.  I figure, if these treasures are important enough to give out rumors of them, and make them into the objectives of exploration, most of them had better be a bit harder to find than just laying there as part of the ogre's pile o' loot.

Most of my ideas are fairly 'in game' or things that would be part of the environment of the dungeon, or things that would be fair tests of character knowledge.   Some, though, are purely things that the players may know or be able to figure out, but would actually be impossible (or nearly so) for a character from a medieval fantasy world.

References to pop culture, music, literature, and the like are things that just would be beyond the pale of your standard D&D character.  I've got no problem putting these sorts of things in my dungeon, but I know some players out there don't like them.  I think they're fun, though, and as long as it's fun, I don't care.

I'm kind of curious, how many of the folks reading this blog (or I guess realistically, how many of the dozen or so of you who actually post comments after reading) mind these sorts of player knowledge puzzles, and how many find them annoying or counter-verisimilitudinous?


  1. It would depend on how believable the world was and the tone of the game and players. If everyone was taking it more or less seriously I'd find such things a poor idea, but in a less serious game (like most I have these days) I think it'd just be fun, but would still want them used only occasionally so it didn't become a joke game.

  2. You can always take the Gene Wolfe route - he presented archaic language in Book of the New Sun as Latin, but pointed out that it wasn't actually Latin ... Latin was just an Earth-equivalent stand-in for the actual language.

    Similarly, you could just say that your "pop culture" puzzles are stand-ins for an in-setting equivalent that would make no sense to someone not immersed in the culture.

    Just a thought.

  3. Normally, I'm against such stuff, but Scott's suggestions do work as well.

  4. I used to put things in like this, such as a puzzle based on Metallica lyrics, but I always made sure I had a parallel in-setting reference for them. In this case, the lyrics were from an ancient inscription, and if the players were able to fill in the blanks, they had drawn up the missing bits of information from their memory of such things as old wives's tales, myths, or something they'd found in a library.

    I encouraged my players to go ahead and use player knowledge to solve my puzzles, but always challenged them to find a way to do it in-character. They got very creative, and it helped many of them really deepen their character backgrounds.