Acanthus’s Conundrums is a weekly post that gives you a puzzle and three riddles to use in your roleplaying game.
Each comes with a suggested solution but be generous to your players if they come up with a reasonable answer, especially with the riddles. These diversions aren’t meant to cause disagreements or slow the adventure down.
Some thoughts about how the riddles have appeared historically, or how they can be interpreted in other ways, are also included, so you can adapt them to your adventure.
Also, we are interested in whether you have any puzzles or riddles of your own to share, or requests to make of Acanthus? Get in the comments or join our Discord server!
The puzzle this week finds us with an unhappy ogre in a goblin camp after a raid.
Puzzle #11: Inevitable Infighting
The leader of a small tribe of goblins, Errawnte the Enormous, is not a happy ogre! Someone tripped her up just as she was going to squash a foe (her favorite hobby), and she wants to find out who it was. Of course, nobody is owning up, and Errawnte knows that in any group of four goblins, only one will tell the truth. She questions the squad and gets the following answers.
Awgere said Beawt did it.
Beawt said Awgere did it.
Cuttar said Awgere didn’t do it.
Drewze said it was either Awgere or Cuttar.
So, who tripped up Errawnte?
Solution: Awgere can’t be the only one telling the truth. If he is telling the truth, that means Beawt did it. If Beawt did it, Awgere didn’t do it. So, Cuttar would also be telling the truth.
Beawt can’t be the only one telling the truth. If she is telling the truth, then Awgere did it. However, Drewze said it was either Awgere or Cuttar. So, Drewze would also be telling the truth.
Drewze can’t be the only one telling the truth. If he is telling the truth, then Awgere or Cuttar did it. But if Awgere did it, then Beawt is also telling the truth.
So, if Beawte is not telling the truth, then Awgere didn’t do it. This means Cuttar did it according to Drewze. If Cuttar did it, then Awgere didn’t do it. But Cuttar also said Awgere didn’t do it, so Cuttar would also be telling the truth here.
So, it seems Cuttar can be the only goblin who is only telling the truth.
Therefore, if she is telling the truth, then Beawte, Cuttar, or Drewze did it, which means for Awgere, Beawte, and Drewze to be lying, Drewze must have done it.
So, Cuttar is the only one telling the truth, and Drewze tripped up Errawnte! I hope he has a good excuse ready otherwise he could end up as dinner.
Riddle #31 – On a sailing ship:
“Long, sleek, swift child of the beautiful forest,
I use one element to leave another on my journey across a third as I fear the last.
I am borne along paths that some can follow, until there is no trace of them;
If unloved, my new home eventually eats away at my body until there is no trace of me.”
If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a seabird; a rumor; a storm; a ship.
Answer: a sailing ship.
Wooden ships, “children of the forest,” use wind to cross water away from earth. Of course, fire is a threat. As they sail, they leave a wake that can be used to track or follow them, but it quickly fades. But if a ship is left in water too long, it will rot away and sink.
Ancient riddles often call beautiful vessels children or daughters, or give them a human element. Even today vehicles are often thought of as she or he.
Riddle #32 – On a chicken:
“Removed from my caring mother before I am born,
I unknowingly hope to avoid being eaten after my armor is broken from without.
Then when ready to leave this home, from within that same armor is torn,
And again, avoiding being eaten, I live my life out.”
If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: an idea; a chicken; an orphan; a nut.
Answer: a chicken.
In riddles involving birds, the idea of them being “not yet born, but not in the womb” is often used to confuse the answerer.
Here, the idea of both eggs and chickens being eaten is used, so the chicken itself avoid becoming a meal both unknowingly as an egg and later as a bird. The armor is, of course, the hard shell.
Riddle #33 – On a bookworm:
“Words nourish me, but I do not care what they are or what they mean;
Even as I spend my life lost in books, no knowledge do I glean.
I consume their contents from cover to cover but am no more studious as a result,
For the librarian owner hates me, and my progress they yearn to halt.”
If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: paper pages; a thief; a bookworm; a plagiarist.
Answer: a bookworm.
Another animal here given human traits historically, although as can be seen, those traits are often negatives or “nots.” And while a bookworm will never understand the contents of a book or “studiously learn” anything, their progress through a book is often the cover to coverpath mentioned above..
We trust these give an additional element to your adventures, something to make your players smile – or groan with laughter on a few occasions – and would love to hear how you are using them in your game. If tyour group comes up with inventive solutions, please share both these answers and your ideas if you have adapted them for specific environments or amended them in some way to add flavor to your world.
Do get in touch if you would like any puzzles or riddles on a topic or subject that is coming up in your adventure and would like us to give you some pointers. Just let us know via Discord!
Until next time, here’s to happy gaming!
Acanthus the Sage