Acanthus’s Conundrums #12: Puzzles & Riddles for RPGs

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!

Our puzzle this time has the party trying to find out which path to take in a drow tower as they search for the Matron Mother.

Puzzle #12: Like Mother, Like Daughters

Deep inside a drow tower, the party comes across a chamber with five doors in one wall. Each wooden door is skillfully carved with the image of a drow cleric and has a number and a name above it: 1, Juell; 2, Kolette; 3, Lawrealle; 4, Maniye; 5, Nyytingil.

The five females are all shown casting spells, and the rogue reckons at least some are trapped! But one is the way out, and the party must choose.

However, as is the capricious manner of the drow, there is a mosaic message in front of each door. Unfortunately, as soon as the messages are read, the entrance the party came through fades away. It seems the puzzle must be solved.

The middle door, number 3, has this in front of it:

“The four statements in front of the other doors refer exclusively to the Matron Mother and her four eldest daughters. One statement is true and the remaining three are false. Read them carefully, because the Matron Mother herself is your way out of here.”

The mosaic statements in front of the other four doors are as follows

Door 1: Juell is the mother.
Door 2: Lawrealle and Nyytingil are both daughters.
Door 4: Kolette is the mother.
Door 5: One of Juell, Maniye or Nyytingil is the mother.

Who is the Matron Mother, and which door is the way out?

Solution: If Juell is the Matron then the statements in front of doors 1, 2 and 5 are true.

If Kolette is the Matron then the statements before doors 2 and 4 are both true.

If Lawrealle is the Matron then all four statements are false.

If Maniye is the Matron then the statements in front of doors 2 and 5 are both true.

If Nyytingil is the Matron then the statements before doors 1, 2 and 4 are false and statement 5 is true, which meets the precondition.

So the answers must be: Nyytingil is Matron Mother and so Door 5 is the exit.

Riddle #34 – On a spider:

“I weave garments, but require no shuttles or looms,

 I build homes, but require no walls or rooms.

I’m adept at catching, but do so without a hand,

Like many of you I walk, but need not a floor to stand.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a crab; a settler; honesty; a spider.

Answer: a spider.

Ancient riddles about spiders often referred to whichever deity had granted the world the knowledge of weaving, and including woven items such as clothes or shrouds was usually included somewhere. Much was made of the spider’s ability to live with just legs rather than hands, while the hunting prowess they demonstrate was also incorporated on occasions.

Riddle #35 – On a snail:

“Whenever I travel, I carry all I own,

And my house is quite empty as across the land I roam.

My passage is sure; with companions we race to come last,

Yet what allows me to move will also help me to hold fast.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a snail; a tramp; an exile; an unbelieved truth.

Answer: a snail.

The fact a snail carries its home with it but has no other possessions is usually mentioned in riddles about snails, as is its slow and/or sure speed. Sometimes the fact it leaves a trail is included, along with its preparedness to either move from foes when the coast is clear or hunker down and use its slime to stick to surfaces.

Riddle #36 – On a mole:

“E’er hidden in dark shadows, I may as well be blind;

Interred alive, through the Underworld I wind.

Night is my day, no sun is seen by me,

‘Neath hills and in tunnels is where I long to be.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: an underground stream; a mole; a shovel or spade; a miner.

Answer: a mole.

Historic riddles presented a slightly sinister view of moles and their life below ground, emphasizing the darkness, their blindness as was believed to be consistent across all breeds, and their desire to stay out of the sun.

The other human-like aspects covered included its velvety coat being like an expensive cloak, or its voracious appetite making it like a glutton, along with them being considered proud, contemptible and cowardly in comments from the 14th Century.

That’s all for another Puzzles and Riddles, but here is a reminder of and link to previous posts.

Do let us know if there are any subjects you’d like included in the riddles, or if there is a particular situation for which you’d like a puzzle written. Leave a comment!

We are also keen to hear from you as to how you are using them in your game, and whether your players are coming up with inventive solutions. We are happy to share these with everyone so do let us know if you have adapted them for specific environments or amended them in some way to add flavor to your adventure.

Until the next set, enjoy your games!

Acanthus the Sage



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