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My Secret Ingredient For Making Great PuzzlesFrom JohnnFour | Published May 30, 2022
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1,204
Brief Word From JohnnThink too small and think too big.
We've got a critter making a nest under our deck. We can't see it because it's found a good crack to inhabit. But we can hear it. It's chewing something. Leaves maybe. Paper perhaps. The bones of some poor victim, most likely. Or it could merely be a cat that confiscates dice.
The tiny dire creature's lair
But as we bear every last inch of modern moon-technology to summon this dire beast from its lair to teleport it to a different land where its folk party down all day, it's reminding me of how the small stuff could ruin a character's day.
Too often we get tunnel vision and make our weakest foes whatever the monster guide says. But a well-placed fire ant hill, a family of curious yet cunning rats, or a persistent swarm of mosquitoes could drive a party of heroes back to the tavern for stiff drinks.
Likewise, when contemplating our worlds, we fall into the GM trap of realism, which inevitably shrinks our thinking and results in logical but uninspired ideas.
Instead, for villain plans, campaign ideas, or even the scope and impact of your setting's history, we should think infinitely. We should think as big as possible and silence the inner critic screaming "that's not possible!" at us. Better to have an idea too big and hammer it into shape than to limit imagination and only ever have small ideas.
Thanks little demon under the deck for reminding me to have more fun by thinking bigger and smaller.
Speaking of world-building, today I have a tip for you that's been in my brain for ages. I've hinted at this in the past, but never really explained my thinking on how to use our campaign setting to craft awesome puzzles.
So today, at last, I share how we can use our worlds for gameplay in a way you might not have thought about before. Let's begin!
My Secret Ingredient For Making Great Puzzles
Why Have a World For Your Game?
In a monster building course I've just started filming for Platinum Wizards of Adventure, I put this in one lesson and promised to unpack it later:
Your Setting serves as one or more dimensions in your puzzles.
Here's the screenshot for a bit more context:
So you know those dungeon puzzles we love?
And Room II: Roleplay or Puzzle?
And our quest for great dilemmas to challenge players?
I'm basically saying that puzzles are the main reason I love world building because our settings can serve up material answers to all those questions.
So today let's dive into this further and please allow me to explain what I mean by:
Setting = Puzzles