a puzzling riddle

Acanthus’s Conundrums #6: 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 are also included, so you can adapt them to your adventure.

Do 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!

Puzzle #6: Mixed messages

‘I was approaching one of those strange Underworld myconid villages where the inhabitants do their absolute best to confuse humanoids and trick them into getting lost. Although I had visited very few of these settlements, my research had warned me that the residents, on meeting a new visitor, divide themselves into two distinct groups: some always tell the truth, others always tell lies.’

Unfortunately, my grasp of the fungal language was very slight at this time, so when I met two locals on the path into town—a tall, lithe Armillaria warrior and a broad, squat Lactarius cleric—I thought carefully as I needed to ask directions. “Are you a truth-teller?”, I asked the Armillaria. “Yuuhn”, it replied, slightly bowing its cap. I recognized this as a word meaning either “yes” or “no”, but I could not remember which. Luckily the Lactarius chose to speak Undercommon, so I asked what its companion had said. “My warrior friend said Yes”, the cleric replied, “but being a boastful warrior, is a complete liar”. To which group, the truth-tellers or the liars, did each of my informants belong, and from whom should I have asked for directions?

Solution: When I asked the Armillaria if it was a truth-teller, and it replied, “Yuuhn”, it must have been saying “Yes”, since, if it was a truth teller, “Yes” would have been its truthful answer, and, if it was a liar, “Yes” would have been its liar’s answer.

Therefore, when the Lactarius then told me that the warrior was saying “Yes”, it was telling the truth, which meant that the cleric was a truth-teller, and thus was also telling the truth when it said that the Armillaria was a liar.

After all this, I concluded that the Armillaria warrior was a liar and the Lactarius cleric a truth-teller. I asked the cleric for directions and went on my way.

Riddle #16 – On a horse:

“I carry the burden of leadership,

And walk ahead, in front of many leaders.

Although a calm type, I fight like a monk to defend my own;

With companions, I’ll don armor, from iron boots upwards, and be the first into battle.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a warrior; a ruler; a rousing battle cry; a horse.

Answer: a horse.

The riddle suggests several roles that a horse undertakes: carrying leaders, but always having “a head” in front of the rider being carried; fighting with its natural weapons to protect its herd; being shod with iron shoes – and more armor possibly – and leading the charge into battle. Throughout the history of riddles, horses and dogs and had the “companion” tag used frequently and giving them non-animal sounding traits is a regular device.

Riddle #17 – On a river:

“I follow my path across hills and fields with little effort,

But a special place will always look to hold me close.

What may at first push me aside, I’ll push through eventually,

For when I have no end, I cut my way!”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a pathway; a river; a rumor; a traveler.

Answer: a river.

Rivers, of course, follow a “path of least resistance” but are always kept within their banks, even if it bursts them and then recedes. In addition, while a river does move around obstacles, it eventually wears them away – think oxbow lakes or canyons – and if you take the final letter from “river” you are left with “rive” which means “to cut” or similar.

Riddle #18 – On a quill

“Simple in nature, I do not claim to know anything at all,

And yet every wise person follows what I’ve said.

Once I soared though the clouds, but now remain on the ground,

Admired when bright and new, the dark tracks I leave behind are my treasure.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a quill; an owl; an oracle; a rainbow.

Answer: a quill, although a bone stylus or very similar writing tool is acceptable.

As a simple tool, a quill knows nothing yet is much admired when fresh from a bird and newly sharp, hence the “Once I soared” and “Admired” lines. However, after use, it leaves “dark tracks” of writing that a “wise person” follows, if the advice is correct of course! Historically, a similar riddle with one or two changes is used to represent a bone stylus, as this too may have come from a bird, but such a tool usually comes from a more robust animal as bird bones are fragile.

That’s it for another Puzzles and Riddles, but here is the link to previous posts XXXXXXXXXX.

We would love to hear how you are using them in your games, especially if your players have come up with inventive solutions or you have adapted them for specific environments. And 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 help, do please let us know!

Until the next edition here’s to happy gaming!

Acanthus the Sage

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