Puzzles and Mazes and Riddles oh my!
Puzzles and Mazes can be implemented in so many ways, we’ll start with mazes. A lot of people hear maze and imagine large shrubs and a minotaur hiding somewhere, or a series of stone walls in confusing settings or something similar to the Labyrinth. Remember, a maze can be just too many halls and confusing turns within a castle you are unfamiliar with, or a rogues den with twists and turns. An ordinary building can be considered a maze if it’s large and you have no idea where you are going, a maze can even be a forest that is over grown with a few choices of direction.
Mazes can be a series of rooms with doors but every room looks the exact same as the last so you have no idea if you’ve been in that room before or not making it difficult to backtrack, maybe there are only about a dozen rooms or even less but so many different choices and back tracking, have a few connected so you never know if you are in a new room or not (unless otherwise cleverly foiled by marking it with chalk or some other equally clever device.) perhaps the rooms are magical and if someone marks it with chalk they -all- become marked the exact same way (or go back to it’s original state whence the pc leaves it.) again your imagination is the limit, and don’t let it stop there! But remember, if a player is stuck in a maze too long with no encounters and nothing but fumbling around lost, the player will lose interest and become bored. Keep them interested with traps, monsters, or other ‘hazards’.
As for puzzles these are very diverse situations, a riddle can be considered a verbal puzzle, or perhaps it’s something similar to a trap! A puzzle can be closely rooted into many situations, it could be a trap needed to be solved or the players will ultimately meet their doom! And it could be the traps aren’t set off until you make the wrong decision. Could be setting up a series of runes in sequences, or having every party member stand in a certain area and each doing a different thing. Or perhaps it involves the elements and using them to open a puzzle box (similarly as The Fifth Element ), you can even make the puzzle turning stones to connect all the pieces so light or other such things can connect from one area to another (as done similarly in the Dungeons and Dragons Online game in one of the quests, or a lot like the hacking in Bioshock.). So many possibilities lie in the tip of your fingers, you simply must create them!
I’m going to keep this one brief as I’m sure I’m taking up a lot of time today, but this is -any one- of the items described here that helps the person imagine something that is pleasing to them, so that when they envision something it can stick in their mind and they can rehash it later as if seen on a movie, find things the players particularly enjoy. It’s like watching a movie with good graphics and special effects, make it a dynamic experience for them.
Items, Plot, Story, and Combat.
For the sake of trying not to totally bore you, we are going to condense these into one category — even though I could probably talk all day about each of these things. First off, Items. Item’s play a big part in games too, people love getting new items, sharing them, creating them, and showing them off. Don’t be a Monty Haul! But let your characters work towards something (even if they never get it, or can’t use it whence they make it to said item) but always give them a fantastical goal, let them upgrade items, later on let them get intelligent weapons with fun, quirky personalities from the stuck up finely crafted blade, to the fierce, might war hammer! Treat them as NPC’s…only shinier?
Plot and Story
Something very commonly discussed, I won’t go into too much here as this is meant to help enhance your plot and story but remember that this IS a vital part of a DnD game, as well as the atmosphere you create the plot and story are things that will continue to keep players interested. It will give them a reason to continue to come back, like a good story book with a rich plot, or a tv series you watch every night it’s on fearing if you don’t you’ll miss something grand happening or suspenseful. Create a level of suspense, relief, excitement, sorrow, and every other emotion in the book. If players get extremely emotional because of events happening in game to their characters that can often be a good thing, that means you as a DM are keeping there interest — so keep it up!
I feel this is very well explained in most the handbooks you possess, my only tips (in this article) are remember your extra terrain, dynamics, and personality to combat. Taunts, rude gestures, and mocking moves from enemies can be fun little extra’s to throw into any combat as well as tactics, terrain advantages, terrain hazards, traps, and what ever other clever little schemes you can come up with. With that note, I hope you all have a happy gaming and good luck!
Remember, be creative — and dynamic! And note that not ALL of these need to be placed into a situation or story to make it good, these are only simple tips and extras you can use on your own terms.