Puzzle Design


Hail shields! I am trying to beef up my GM chops by studying puzzles. I’d like to incorporate more of these into my games. At present, my puzzles are usually bags of HP the PCs have to hit with their brains. I’d rather give the players a little more challenge to think laterally. My gaming experience has been sorely lacking in puzzles. Does anyone have any great resources or thoughts on a design process for puzzles? Some fancy formula like TTT or LOG? What are puzzles like in your games?


Here are a few, cool links for you!

My absolute favorite! Still need to make such a dungeon! It fits the Runehammer way very well!

Good introduction!

Another good introduction!

I think it fits TRPGs better.

The reason why I don’t do puzzles, or enjoy them at the game. Which is important to understand to start making good puzzles. Haha!


I uhm… kinda hate puzzles in tabletop RPGs lol

Why? They stop the flow of play and usually revolve around some meta-game thinking in order to solve them, which for me, escapes the purpouse of roleplaying. BUT! That doesn’t mean we can’t design puzzle-like challenges for our games.

Hankerin’s got a lot of insight in this particular topic:


Puzzles are hard!
I kind of agree with @Nimlouth. They break the pacing of the game.

I would say that all puzzles need to be obvious or have 3 almost obvious solutions. If it is a mcguffen is needed…it’s got to be obvious…or the puzzle is really about avoiding the giant rolling ball and collapsing tower…not getting the right weight in a bag of sand to keep the counterweight from triggering when the idol is removed.

Or you can do what I do…


Put out clues, and if the players come up with something clever…let it work, if they don’t…make it hard on them. If clever but cliche…it seems to work, but other things happen.


Puzzles in my games are super easy. I prep some random stuff called the puzzle or problem and that’s it. Whatever solution the players come up with is the solution.

GMs create problems or puzzles, Players create solutions. :slight_smile:


I should have also linked that! Thanks for reminding us! I watch it once a year because it’s got really great advice!


Thanks everyone! I have watched the videos and come up with a few guidelines:

  • Have a clear goal. Player shouldn’t have to figure out what to do, just how to do it.

  • Have a catch: the puzzle seems impossible at first glance, prompting lateral thinking.

  • The solution should be easy to do, but require some thought. No busy work!

It’s also worthwhile to consider whether you’re making a puzzle, or a problem. A puzzle has only one, or very few, solutions which the designer intends. A problem has many solutions, and the designer doesn’t know how you’ll solve it. In a puzzle the player discovers the solution, while in a problem the player invents a solution.

This has helped me for my game tonight :smiling_imp:


I like puzzles and problems, but I think there are two basic things we need to be aware of to implement them well

  1. they take time, and it’s really difficult to know how much; and
  2. they are sometimes never solved.

1 means that we should never have puzzles or problems at a level where we are not willing to give up control over pacing. So if, for example, we think it’s important to fit four scenes or encounters into a session, we shouldn’t have a puzzle in these scenes. However, we could still have a puzzle between sessions. For example, the players might review their clues and decide where they want to go next.

2 means that we shouldn’t introduce a puzzle that we require the players to solve. A solved puzzle might result in a reward, a shortcut, or progress in a side mission, but should typically not be the only way to complete the main mission.

At the end of the day, I think the more player choice you have in your adventure, the better puzzles fit. Because then the players can just choose to go someplace else if they get stuck.


Take a look at these two articles:

They’ve helped me a lot conceptually with puzzles and other brainy conundrums.


Thank you! Those articles help a lot to bring the concepts learned from the video game puzzle videos to RPGs. Good find!