Riddles/puzzles - do they work?

Chirping in, Lone Wolf Saga used “mathematical puzzle” in most of its puzzle sections (the left arm of the scale has 3 bricks. The other has 2 rocks. Which one is heavier? kind of stuff). Often times, they’re related to optional content that grant you secret stuff later in the story.

And there’re also… not necessarily a puzzle, rather a “key to unlock the door.” They key can be found by meticulously exploring every pages of the book, thus rewards those who read most of the book on a single playthrough. Granted, it’s a gamebook and you can easily cheat it out.

1 Like

There are numerous ways to do this. Design, however, is part of the challenge. If you can find a way to make it fun for yourself, then the idea is that others will find it fun as well. So, ask yourself, what kinds of puzzles or riddles would you want to solve? Once you have an answer to that, you should be on track.

I’ve got some minor puzzles in my game. The set-up is that they have to get through the realm of a god very quickly, by appeasing it or bypassing it or whatever. I felt the “fairest” way to do it was to give them all the information they need about the god and then give them a selection of options. If they pick wrong, I then provide a sentence or two of explanation why they were wrong.

Which comes in handy later on considering they have to do the puzzles more than once! Things start to change after the first go around, actually. It gets weird.

Anyway the point is, give your players full information and make the most interesting part of the puzzle the puzzle, not the solution.

1 Like

If you want another example, Oedipus Rex uses 2 out of a pool of 6 riddles with the Sphinx. I’ve got a hint system (and tracks for if you fail to choose correctly.) Pretty sure I included it in the demo that’s up here. You’re welcome to take a look at the coding for ideas on one way of setting this sort of thing out if you want.


I love riddles! I am currently incorporating one into a game and it’s a bit of a tricky one. One thing I do to help them is if they have high intelligence, I make the MC think it out a bit like I would trying to explain it gradually to someone. Kind of like a flow chart but leave it hanging somewhere in the middle to let them figure it out.

If they don’t have high enough intelligence, they are on their own. But they get two attempts and if they fail both, they just can’t get access to that area, so it’s not a game-changer. And they can always come back to try again.

That’s interesting. I’ve been trying to incorporate a stats system in my game in which certain choices give you extra points in certain stats, which then give you some advantage in certain tasks you have to perform.
And while typing this out I thought of another option to do this. Maybe I could find a way for them to access that area using different stats, like intelligence for the riddle or strength to push a heavy boulder or something, instead of relying so much on that one right answer.

1 Like

Including riddles in a game is really simple when you know how. For the Dryad’s Riddle, I would use a code like this:

*temp Answer

Who's the black private dick, that's a sex machine to all the chicks?

*input_text Answer
*if ("$!!{Answer}" = "SHAFT")
  *goto Correct
  *goto Incorrect

*label Correct

You're damn right!

*label Incorrect

He's a complicated man, but no one understands him but his woman.

Definitely. Let’s take this riddle, for example:

Q: A man fell off of a 30-foot ladder, but he didn’t get hurt at all. How is this possible?

A. He fell off the bottom step.

Now, there are several different ways that the player might answer this:

  • He fell off the bottom step.
  • He fell off the last step.
  • He fell from the bottom step.
  • He was on the bottom step.
  • They fell off the bottom step.

Ect, ect… You’d have to think of every possible way the player could answer this, and code each of them as the correct answer.


Another option I can think of is to make it so that there’s something specific the player needs to do in order to get the statue to reveal the key, and until the player figures out exactly what it is they need to do, they’re stuck in the room.

Kind of like the old point and click adventure games, where you have a bunch of items and a bunch of different things that you can use the item on… You can get stuck using random objects with other random objects for hours before you realize you were supposed to use the rubber chicken with a pully in the middle to get across the cable. :yum:

1 Like

I think I read that somewhere before, but I can’t seem to find it again anymore, so I’m just going to ask you directly. Why did you use “$!!” there? Specifically, why the two exclamation marks instead of just one?

By the way, thank you for sharing this, it’s really helpful.

1 Like

Because it makes whatever they typed in all caps.

Let’s say the answer is “EARTH” but they typed in “Earth” or “earth” or “EaRtH” or any horrid combination of upper and lower case. If you change their answer to all caps, it’s really easy to check if it’s the right one.


Wish I had have known that! :smile:

Single mark (!) makes All First Letter Capitalized.

Yeah, in Dryad’s Riddle, I originally had a rule that all answers had to begin with a capital letter before someone pointed out the whole !! thing to me. That way, it doesn’t matter if the player uses a capital letter at the beginning, or if they have the whole word in lower case letters, or if they use all caps. The answer will come up as correct either way.


Haha yeah. I didn’t know you could use !'s in if statements like that and so did an if statement for all the main possibilities and then set it to all lower case afterwards. Not sure how I never knew that but would have saved me some time :slight_smile:

1 Like

I just said this in a WiP thread, but I think one problem with riddles (or other puzzles) in games like these (other than the exact wording one already mentioned by @CypherCarat and @Avery_Moore), is the fact that the riddles are challenging the player, not the character. Now, if the game is explicitly about solving riddles, this is fine, since that’s the point, but for a game where you have an intelligence stat, I would certainly suggest not including such riddles. If I were playing an intelligent character and couldn’t get the riddle, I wouldn’t be very happy. (That said, if I were playing a stupid character and could get the riddle but my character couldn’t, I’d also not be happy… :sweat:)


It’s all about how a riddle is presented in the game’s flow.
If it is out of nowhere and should not pose a challenge to the character, then no. But if it is a genuine challenge for both character and player alike it doesn’t even have to be an outright riddle.

In BG there was a temple where you could find segments of a prayer to its god. You had to put them in the right order and extract from them the steps to performing a ritual, then perform it later.
What I like about this is that the clues are disguised as flavor text/lore, and you don’t even know they are a puzzle clue until you encounter the puzzle. (Though for this to work there would have to be pure flavor text for it to hide in)

SoH has a detective scene, wherein a description of a crime scene would be provided and you would have to input what was out of place/contained a clue. If you get it right, you’d then have to answer a multiple choice question about WHY it was noteworthy.

There is a board game called guess who, where in you are given a pool of people and drip-fed characteristics of the correct person (gender, age, clothing, etc) and use them to find that person.

I personally dislike the ‘railroaded puzzles’ in many point and click adventure games. For example, not even allowed to guess a puzzle solution until I’ve found a ‘diagram’ for it, which is in a locked box behind a barred door high up on a mountain in a mystical fairy realm. Having to find this specific knife to cut a rope when I have plenty of sharp objects in my inventory and near me. And such.
I very much prefer there be more than one way to move forward (as the situation permits).

Maybe a character who’s specialized in strength and dumped everything else could just brute force the door. Maybe a character with a reasonable amount of craftmanship could pry open the floor and inspect the mechanics underneath the statues (insert circuit board-esque image). Maybe a perceptive character would notice specks of blood from people who tried the wrong statues and paid the price, or scruff marks in a particular area. A charismatic MC could wheedle something out of the locals (if there are any) in a previous encounter.

(A direct bypass seems less fun though. It would be nice if the stats provide extra clues instead of allowing you to skip the puzzle.)

Choosing wrong should definitely have consequences, though instant death is a bit harsh… Is there a health bar? Is the character on a time limit? If they have companions, will they think less of the MC?
Is there a save system?

Oh, I forgot to say before. Treasure of the Forbidden City is another puzzle based game that you might want to look at. In fact, I think some of the puzzles in that game might be similar to the kind of puzzles you’re hoping to add in your game. :blush:

Coming a bit late to the discussion ,but it might be relevant:

We did a couple of puzzles for Highlands, Deep Waters. One of them somewhat early in the game, where you have to unscramble the letters of an address and then type it. A lot of people had trouble with it, even thought it was “supposedly” easy.

I also wasn’t aware that you could code the thing to be automatically capitalized, so I had to do dozens of versions manually considering all the possibilities I could think of.

Another “puzzle” of the game was in a house in which you could only leave after finding two clues.

We did not explicit said to the players that they would only be allowed to leave after finding the two clues(or that there were 2 of them), and one was somewhat hard to find. Many players thought it was actually a bug and that they were stuck on the house forever, and sent reports to CoG support.

I personally don’t like puzzles that much as a player, because I find they feel gratuitous or metagamish most of the time. I think its hard to find a good balance between realism and difficulty regarding them. Of course, when this happens and the puzzle is both challenging without being impossibly hard while also making total sense given the setting and the circumstances of the game, it can be awesome and gratifying.

Otherwise I think they can be pretty frustrating.