This request comes from another one of my Patrons, Brad. Here’s what Brad requested:
I recently went through an escape room with some of my gaming group, and I thought that it would be interesting to put out characters through an “escape dungeon” during a session. Could you do that as a mini-dungeon?
Challenge accepted, Brad!
The general idea I came up with is a labyrinthine dungeon with a series of doors, all locked. The only way to get through each of the doors is by solving a riddle within. This is a throwback to old Gygaxian adventures as well as video games from the late-’80s/early-’90s like Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and Myst.
I thought I might cut this up a little bit since it takes a little more doing to create riddles (it’s more difficult than I thought it’d be!), but here’s the first part of it now.
As I create more of these rooms for my patrons (including Brad), I’ll add more rooms, but for now, this room can be added to any dungeon you like or easily inserted into a preexisting adventure.
The 12 Novice Adventurers
The adventurers find themselves in a room with twelve statues. Each one depicts one of the twelve classes from the PHB (Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, etc).
Read the following text:
You are in a large room measuring 35-feet-long east-to-west and 20-feet-wide north-to-south. There are twelve statues in the room, six on the northern wall and six more on the southern wall. Each looks like some sort of adventurer, its hand reaching out and curled as if it is supposed to be holding something.
In the center of the room on a simple, wooden table are weapons, twelve in all: a dagger, a dart, a greataxe, a handaxe, and javelin, a light crossbow, a longsword, a mace, a quarterstaff, a rapier, a scimitar, and a shortsword.
On the far western wall is a small table with a pivotable hourglass, all of its sand piled at the bottom. Just behind it are words scrawled onto the wall.
The weapons are props and not actually usable. A simple investigation check reveals this.
The riddle on the wall reads (feel free to create a handout for the players):
The twelve novice adventurers
Rushing into a dungeon.
Each novice adventurer
Rushing without a weapon.
The tome of the fire giant
Offers clues to this weapon game.
No simple choice or martial
Only those specifically named.
Twenty minutes to solve the riddle
Or a quick exit you will find
Try to cheat without solving it
And all your possessions will be mine.
Once the riddle is read aloud, the hourglass magically flips over and the countdown begins.
The 12 Adventurer Statues
Each of the twelve statues is dressed in the stereotypical clothing for its class and each is a human alternating between male and female. At the base of each of the statues is a plaque that identifies each statue: barbarian for barbarian, fighter for fighter, etc.
None of the statues are armed. In fact, they each have an outstretched hand where a weapon should fit. Even if the characters try to investigate the hands to determine what fits where no clear answer is apparent. For example, the sorcerer gets the light crossbow. However, he/she does not have both his/her hands positioned for a crossbow; instead, it looks as if any of the 12 choices would fit.
The 3 Doors
There are three doors in the room. For now, you can decide which of the three doors is the one that opens when the puzzle is solved and which door the characters originally entered through. The third door will open at a later time with another riddle or puzzle (or you can just remove it, up to you).
If you’d like to see the rest of the dungeon to see how this room fits, check out Dyson Logos’ blog: The Architect’s Dungeon. This room is to the right of Dyson’s signature.
Solving the Puzzle
It should be pretty obvious to the characters that they’ve got to place the weapons in each of the statue’s hands to open the door. But which weapon goes where?
The riddle references “the tome of the fire giant.” This, perhaps, is a little meta, but this is referencing the PHB (it’s got a fire giant on the cover). In the PHB, each class description lists the equipment that each class starts with. Determining which weapon goes with which class is simply a matter of deduction.
Note that the riddle also says “No simple choice or martial / Only those specifically named.” This means that the characters can’t give a statue a weapon simply because the PHB says they can take a martial weapon or simple weapon of their choice; the weapon must be specifically named in the text. For example, the fighter gets to choose a simple weapon, but it doesn’t say specifically that they can use a dagger. Therefore, putting the dagger into the fighter’s hand would be incorrect. However, it does specifically state that the fighter gets a handaxe, and that’s what it gets.
Which statue gets which weapon?
Here is the only solution to the puzzle:
- The barbarian gets the greataxe. It’s the only class that specifically names a greataxe.
- The bard gets the longsword. It’s the only class that specifically names a longsword.
- The cleric gets the mace. It’s the only class that specifically names the mace.
- The druid gets the scimitar. It’s the only class that specifically names a scimitar.
- The monk gets the dart. It’s the only class that specifically names darts.
- The wizard gets the quarterstaff. It’s the only class that specifically names the quarterstaff.
- Next, we can deduce that the fighter gets the handaxe. The barbarian is the only other one that gets a handaxe to start with, but it already has the greataxe.
- Similarly, the paladin gets the javelin. The barbarian is the only other one that gets a javelin, but it already has the greataxe.
- And the ranger gets the shortsword. While the monk gets to start with a short sword, too, the monk must hold the dart.
- The rogue gets the rapier. The bard is the only other class that gets to start with the rapier, but bard the bard must hold the longsword.
- The sorcerer gets the light crossbow. Clerics and fighters can both start with the light crossbow. However, the cleric must hold the mace and the fighter must hold the handaxe.
- Finally, the warlock gets the dagger because it is the only weapon left.
Once all of the statues have the correct weapons in their hands, the door opens.
Timing the Riddle
The moment the players/characters read the riddle on the wall, the hourglass starts. Similarly, you must time the players to see how fast they can solve the riddle so you may want to use an app on your cell phone or an egg timer. They have twenty minutes.
Note: I’ve set it for twenty, but it might need to be a little longer. We’ll see how it works out with playtesting. Feel free to change it yourself.
Should the players/characters not solve the riddle within the allotted time, they are magically transported to the start of the dungeon and have to start all over.
If you want to be really hardcore, you can make it so they only have a certain number of tries to solve the dungeon and its riddles. Or you can have the rooms reset with new riddles to really make it tough. Totally up to you!
Trying to Cheat
The riddle says “Try to cheat without solving it / And all your possessions will be mine.” If the characters try to do anything to circumvent solving the riddle, the magic of the room will not only teleport them to the start of the dungeon, but it will also leave them all naked without any of their possessions. In fact, their gear and possessions are sent to the final treasure room. So, not only will they lost what they came with, but they’ll lose what they’ve found since they’ve been in the dungeon, too.
What is considered cheating?
- Trying to pick a lock or break one of the doors to escape the room is considered cheating.
- Breaking the hourglass or using magic to stop time.
- Anything else that tries to circumvent of solving the riddle.
The reward of opening the door might not be enough to keep the players happy (personally, I just tell them to shut the hell up and be glad I give them any of my attention in the first place, but that’s just me being a shitty GM).
You might also include one of these rewards:
- Once the puzzle is solved, all of the weapons turn to gold. The weapons all weigh a combined 35.25 lbs, which is worth 1,762.50 gold pieces in the open market. If the characters are of a higher tier (11th level or higher) it can be platinum instead and the weapons will be worth 17,625 platinum pieces.
- Each of the weapons briefly turns into a magic weapon. Then, the disembodied voice of the dungeon’s creator can be heard, “You’ve opened the door / Now accept one reward.” The characters can then select one of the weapons to take with them. Once a weapon is selected, the other weapons turn back into props. The bonus offered depends on the characters’ current levels:
- Levels 1-4: weapon +1
- Levels 5-10: weapon +2
- Levels 11-20: weapon +3
- Another clue to another part of the dungeon appears such as a key, a map, or some other interesting token. As I create more rooms for this riddle-filled dungeon, I’ll probably reference it here.
This challenge is totally FREE for you to use in your personal campaigns. If you’d like a PDF version of the challenge, it’s available to all Patrons. For as little as $3 per month, you get all the PDFs PLUS get to move to the top of the request queue. Pretty cool, right?
Thanks for Reading!
This is just the first part of Brad’s request as I’ll be sure to create another room soon (just have to brainstorm an idea first, lol).
Hopefully, you can use this in one of your dungeons. Or, if you like, feel free to make a request similar to Brad’s and I can create another room.
If you’d like to learn more about requests, just head on over to the request page:
See you next time.
Art by Dyson Logos and Shutterstock (both used with permission).