What Are the Best Dungeon Puzzles? A Complete Guide

Your adventure awaits you! 50 million people worldwide play Dungeons & Dragons (DND). Some people play it every week, solving elaborate puzzles with their friends and family members.

If you're the Dungeon Master (DM), you should come up with clever dungeon puzzles to make your quests more interesting. However, many players are familiar with the best dungeon puzzles. You need to go the extra mile so your game stays exciting.

What are some good puzzles to last an entire session or introduce a dungeon? How can you introduce plot points and new characters? What should you do to make your puzzles effective?

Answer these questions and you can be a great dungeon and puzzle master. Here is your comprehensive guide.

Table of contents


The Time Loop

If you want a DnD puzzle that can last an entire session, a time loop can work. Your players can go inside a mansion, cave, or another location where people would be gathering. They can spend some time interviewing NPCs and exploring the situation.

After a few turns, the players will discover that their location is trapped in a time loop. The NPCs will complete the same action and perform the same lines. Items your players have moved will return to their previous locations.

Your players will have to figure out the nature of the time loop and end the curse. They can end the curse by killing a monster, reciting an incantation, or solving other puzzles and riddles. NPCs can reward the players for freeing them.

You can make the situation humorous or morbid. Many DMs have the NPCs get murdered or die, only for the time loop to take effect.

The Looping Road

The looping road is a variant of the time loop. Your players may be traveling down a road.

As time goes on, they realize that they have yet to reach their destination, and they notice landmarks they have passed previously. You can make the loop last an entire session if you want.

You will need to describe distinct landmarks like storefronts or towers so your players know they are on a looping road. If you want a loop inside a building, you can have a never-ending staircase with paintings on the walls.

The players may need to make observations about the landmarks in order to get off the road. They can also look at a map or walk a certain way to get out.

The Missing Object

If you want a puzzle at the end of a mission or as the final stage for a dungeon, you can ask your players to find a missing object. They can enter a room with a statue that has its hands held out. However, its hands are empty.

The players will need to observe the statue, explore the room, and realize they must find the missing object. They may need to go into other rooms or complete side quests in order to find this object.

To make this puzzle effective, you should hint at the item the players need during their mission. In a previous room, there may be a scale model or painting of the statue with the proper item in its hands.

The Wrong Monster

The wrong monster can combine a combat encounter with a puzzle. It can also start a campaign in an interesting way.

Your players may encounter a creature that is not from the location they are in. They may be on a river or coastline and discover a fire monster.

Once the players have defeated the monster, they have to figure out why it was there. They may need to investigate the location and meet other characters. In order to defeat the monster, they may need to solve a puzzle related to the location that the monster is from.

Make sure that the out-of-place monster creates a greater mystery for the campaign. If it is out of place for no apparent reason, the players may find it jarring and confusing.

Crossing a River

During a river-crossing puzzle, the players must transport three items across a river one at a time. However, they cannot leave certain combinations of items together.

The players may need to transport a chalice, a thief, and a murderer. If the players leave the thief and chalice together, the thief will steal the chalice, and the players will lose the puzzle. But if they leave the murderer and thief together, the murderer will kill the thief.

You can select any items you want. You can also require the players to transport more than three items or that only one player can go at a time. There should be consequences if the players fail the puzzle, but you can have multiple solutions.

Pouring Water

Your players may enter a room that has three jugs of different sizes. The players must figure out how much water each container should hold, and they can only use the containers to transfer water from one container to another.

You can replace the water with another liquid like lava or poison. If the players touch the liquid, they may take damage.

Feel free to let your players work around the puzzle. They may levitate the liquid out of one container and put it in another. They can create new amounts of liquid with spells and fill the containers with them.

A variant of this puzzle is the Pythagorean cup. Players enter a room with a large pool of liquid. Something is at the bottom of the pool, and the players realize they need to get the item by draining the pool.

The party will eventually realize they can drain the pool by adding more liquid to it. They can do so by casting spells or using buckets to fill the pool.

Counting Down

If your players are experienced with DnD and know all of the classic puzzles, you can do a countdown puzzle to trick them. Your players may come to a location with many objects. A clock on the wall may start counting down as soon as the players enter or flip a switch.

The players will then assume they need to do something to stop the countdown. They may start moving objects, examining runes, or trying to find incantations. They may also try to escape the room.

However, once the countdown ends, the door opens. Nothing else happens. The players will realize it was a countdown telling them when the door will open, and they can continue their mission.

Make the situation as scary as possible. Have the room be filled with ominous objects, unusual noises, and flickering lights. Every time the lights flicker, objects can move, making the players believe they will be attacked if they don't solve the puzzle.

A countdown puzzle can create a moment of levity. But you can add consequences if your players overreact to the countdown. If they cast a spell and break the door, they may be unable to continue with the campaign until they fix the door.

Show Me Only

A "show me only" puzzle is another practical joke. Your players may enter a room with many thematic objects and a statue looking down at the floor.

"Show me only X" may be written on the ground, and you can put whatever you want into the sentence as X. "Show me only wealth" or "show me only power" are two popular choices.

The players will assume they need to bring objects in front of the statue to solve the puzzle. In reality, they need to cover up the words with the exception of whatever is X.

Fill the room with items related to the content of your sentence. For "wealth," you can fill the room with gold, silver, and bronze objects. As a reward for solving the puzzle, the players can take some of the objects for themselves.

The Magic Mirror

Your players enter a room with a large mirror in it. The inside of the room appears one way, but the mirror reveals the room in another way. There may be objects or people in the mirror you cannot see inside the room.

The players must use the visuals in the mirror to solve a puzzle. You can also require the players to match the real room to the mirror. They may need to combine objects together or create new items to make the two match.

You must provide powerful and precise descriptive details to make this work. Before the puzzle begins, write out descriptions of the real room and the mirrored room.

Rearranging Notes

Your players can enter a room with many notes lying on the ground or hidden throughout. They must collect all of the notes, then rearrange them so they are in chronological order.

You can adapt this puzzle to a number of situations. Dead soldiers may be lying on the ground, having been killed in a battle. After rearranging the notes, the players may discover the truth about the battle and put the soldiers' spirits to rest.

You can create a tangram puzzle with the notes. Each note can be in a different shape, and the party must rearrange the notes to create something.

If you're looking to introduce a plot point during a campaign, the notes may describe the plot point. You can also use the notes to teach your players a spell or another thing they need to learn later on.

The Shifting Maze

Your players may enter a room that leads into a maze. The maze is very large, and the party is not able to see where the exit is. The players enter the maze, but after a few turns, they discover that the paths are changing and items are moving around.

You can fill the maze with anything you want. You can add monsters and require the players to fight them.

The players can collect objects, trace landmarks, or explore various structures inside the maze. They can encounter characters and other entities inside as well.

Solving the maze can take more than one session, especially if you have mansions or dudgeons inside for the players to explore. To get out, the party may need to memorize the layout or arrange the maze like pieces of a slide puzzle. Require the players to draw their own maps to make the maze more challenging.

The Talking Door

Your players may come to a door with a monster or guardian. The guardian will open the door if the players solve a puzzle that it provides to them.

You can use any puzzle you want, and you can require the players to solve logic games. Self-referential quizzes contain the answers to the questions. Players must listen to the questions carefully and use all of the questions together to solve the quiz.

Try to create a quiz that makes the players believe they need to know things from other rooms. As time goes on, they should realize that the answers are within the questions themselves. If you're struggling with ideas, look at common interview puzzles and adapt them to your quiz.

The Cursed Tiles

Your party enters a room with tiles on the floor. The tiles have different runes and symbols written on them.

If a player steps on the wrong tile, something bad occurs. They may fall through the floor, get injured, or be transported back to the beginning. The players must figure out what tiles are safe and get to the end without any problems.

You should give clues so your players can guess the right pattern. One player can hold a map or describe visuals that the other players cannot see. You should also have various consequences for stepping on the wrong tiles.

The Best Dungeon Puzzles

Dungeon puzzles should surprise you and your party. Session-long puzzles include navigating time and location loops and obtaining missing objects.

If you want a short puzzle that can add some humor to your game, you can have a countdown puzzle. Use wrong monster and rearranging notes puzzles to introduce your campaign.

Whatever puzzles you use, describe the situation using evocative language to make things seem real. Give the party different options to solve the puzzle.

If you need suggestions for puzzles, look to experts. Puzzle Seek provides informative guides to puzzles. Read our guide to perplexing puzzles today.

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