Puzzles go way back in tabletop roleplaying game history, providing a break from the strictly in-game problem-solving into something testing the abilities of the players and not their characters. Many times, though, puzzles get neglected and forgotten, or simply done very poorly.
The challenges presented to players in The Lost Crown of Tesh-Naga (LCTN) are many. Included among them are several puzzles. In this article, we talk about some of them.
WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!
The action in LCTN revolves primarily around a chamber known as the Mother-Dragon’s Hub. There, the dungeoneers find a statue of Tiamat, the Five-Headed Dragon God. The statue, however, is incomplete, missing four of its heads. The puzzle to the entire adventure, what leads them to find the big magic item reward, becomes collecting the missing statue heads and bringing them back to the central hub. Because it is such an important piece of the action, the puzzle is kept bare bones and simple. There are no real penalties for failing, and the path to success (take broken statue head, put back onto broken statue) is an obvious course of action.
The next puzzle from LCTN I want to talk about is one found in the Flooded Hallways.
Features of the area
- The passage way ends in a curious dead end. The walls here are made of tight fitting, jagged stones and have a painted mural depicting a flight of six differently colored dragons, one dragon on each stone.
- The dragons are colored ivory, jet, gold, olive, azure, and crimson.
Upon further investigation
- Pressing the gold dragon opens a secret door.
- The hidden door pulls back to reveal a white marble dragon statue head with green veins (Carry 2 or Pack 4, See Area 4) tucked away in a tiny closet.
- Pressing any other dragon activates a trap (See Twist, below). The floor of this room begins sinking lower and lower into the depths of the mountain, with the relative level of water in the room rising higher and higher.
- Disarm Trap: Dungeoneer Ob 4 (complex mechanism)
- Suggested Initial Twist: The room lowers to half height, the level of water reaching over 5 feet above the floor. The deep water counts as a factor in most tests. Dungeoneers can still climb out, but doing so abandons the puzzle and the room closes shut.
- Suggested Final Twist: The room is completely submerged, adding an additional factor to most tests, and the dungeoneers face the possibility of drowning to death.
- Suggested Final Condition: Dead.
The solution to this puzzle is homage to roleplaying games lore. Classic gamers will instantly recognize that the dungeon is themed around the five-headed Dragon-God Tiamat. Gold represents the color yellow, the only color represented here that is not associated with one of the heads of Tiamat. Additionally, another area of the dungeon (the Pentagon Puzzle) gives a hint that the color yellow does not belong with the other five colors; red, green, blue, white, and black. This puzzle then takes things a step further by introducing a deadly trap.
Every trap has bait.
So, naturally, does this. The bait is somewhat concealed here, the stone statue head is hidden, but the imagery of the dragon murals is evokative and immediately recognizable as connected to the ancient history of the dungeon. Likewise, the trap doesn’t snap shut immediately. It takes two Turns to complete its activation, giving more leeway and potential for success in exchange for its nebulous reward. The trap, when first activated, offers an interesting choice for the dungeoneers: stay here and attempt to solve the puzzle, or give up and keep safe.
I’ll leave the next puzzle as a surprise for you dungeon masters to be revealed next week when LCTN gets published!