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Basic Information

This page is a stub. Please expand on it if you have good ideas for how to use riddles, codes, and puzzles in gaming.


1. Rumkins Cipher Tools - awesome website devoted to solving codes, and the tools to solve or create them. Lots of good resources for GM's.
2. The Black Chamber - MOAR cipher tools, delivered with a darker and cool sounding name…
3. Hanging Hyena - Word solvers and pen & paper cipher tools. Good if you're stuck trying to figure out a puzzle and can get your mobile phone out…
4. Wordsies - Another word game solving tool related site…
5. Omniglot - Writing Systems and Real World Runes - Great if you're trying to come up with a plausible looking alphabet for non-humans. For example, stuff like this the Theban alphabet or the angelic alphabet (both are real artifacts of our history).
6. Luthorian - Another large collection of tools and alphabets. Including The Dagger Alphabet. Perfect for a guild of thieves….
7. RPG: Amber Diceless Roleplaying by Erick Wujcik - the author talks about how he hates riddles, and so if he thinks there's going to be riddles in a campaign, he makes his character an expert riddler. That way he can justify solving them only in-character, not out-of-character. I've always thought that was brilliant, even if it is rather metagamey.

Game and Story Use

  • Riddles are fun, and a classic part of the genre. Remember Bilbo and Gollum? Remember all those old D&D modules with the weird riddle-and-trap-laden dungeons?
  • Some players just hate riddles (and/or puzzles, or brain-teasers, or at least ones that don't have immediate practical applications and real-world solutions). If you have such a player in your game, you may need to consider either not including riddles in your campaign, or allowing that person to just make an intelligence check to solve the riddle in-character without doing the work out-of-character. Don't set yourself up for frustration by building an elaborate puzzle that the players aren't willing to (or capable of) solving. It won't make anyone happy.
    • Can get very meta if the player best at solving riddles happens to be playing a fighter with the IQ of tofu. Likewise when the superhumanly intelligent wizard is baffled by a simple number puzzle that logically he should be able to solve in his head. This sort of thing flies immediately counter to all attempts at role-playing and separating player and character knowledge and personality.
    • Also quite annoying for the GM when the riddles are based in the lore of the campaign setting and the murderhobo players couldn't be bothered to read the lore or have their characters take any skills that would allow them to dice for it.
      • Of course there are limits, by all means expect your players to show reasonable respect for the effort you put into the setting, but don't expect them to become experts on it, nor to read your 4000 page Silmarillion knock off (especially if have a reputation for ERP) in order to play the game. Allow a decent level of default knowledge on the part of characters as well - even if your players are clowns who know little to none of the history, myth and legend of their own culture, their characters are less likely to be.
  • Stuck trying to get your players to solve a riddle or puzzle? Give them a hint… but be sparing.. for example, one or two letters at a time. Small changes in the puzzle can weaken it enough to make it obvious. Something I noticed from solving cryptograms is that the first couple of letters in a hundred letter messages take about half my time…and most of the puzzle crumbles within a minute of figuring out seven or eight of the letters involves.
    • But never underestimate the power of your players to miss the bloody obvious. Or your own ability to forget that the fact something is glaringly apparent to you, doesn't mean that it's so to the players. Especially if they are from a different culture group to you (and recall that as little as decade can be a culture group shift in the modern world).
  • A random consideration: remember that (historically at least) anything to do with clocks will be anachronistic before the start of the C14, and even then rare until much later with the idea of "clockwise" taking a few hundred more years to develop. Before that, your best hope of something similar is a sundial around which the sun drives the shadow of the gnomon in a direction which clocks would later be built to emulate. This direction was known as "sunwise" (or deoisel) in Celtic cultres, opposed to widdershins or tuathal. Sunwise was considered to be "properly aligned" and propitious, whereas to go against it was very much not so. Also - and the etymological roots of this are still visible in many languages - before the compass was widespread, the easiest cardinal axis to fix was East-West, given that sunrise is always to the East and sunset to the West. From there it is only a short leap to identify the South with midday (or the North in in the Southern Hemisphere) and then the final cardinal point with midnight.
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