beowulf likes puzzles and riddles

Acanthus’s Conundrums #8: Puzzles and 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!

This week we have a puzzle that may involve a small amount of trial and error to get the answer.

Puzzle #8: Share and Share Alike

Three adventurers – Fili the Bard, Doru the Druid and Muks the Monk – leave a dark dwarf mine carrying several bags of gems. On reaching their camp, they set about dividing them up.

The first member, Fili, says, “Doru, my druidic friend, I suggest you give each of us two of your bags; Muks, then you should give me two of your bags. That way we will each have an equal number of bags!”

After a moment’s thought, Doru replies, saying, “Sure Fili, Muks and I can do that. But afterwards Fili, because you had no money when we started and I paid for half of your gear for the adventure, you ought to give me half of your bags to cover the cost. Then I’ll be happy.”

At this, the three friends agree and share the bags out. When they have done, they find they each have finished with as many bags as they started with.

How many bags of gems did each adventurer carry out of the mine AND end up with?

Solution: How many gems each at the start and end of the process? Fili 4, Muks 8, Doru 12.

Without the final piece of information – that each adventurer ends up with the same number of bags that they started with – there is an infinite number of solutions based on Doru carrying out 8 bags more than Fili and 4 more than Muks, while Muks leaves with 4 more bags than Fili.

Riddle #22 – On a sword:

“I live with one, as servant or guest,

Nothing holds me when I am at rest.

Often five control me at my worst or best;

I oft’ face my kind in a final test.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: an insult; a tongue; a whip; a sword.

Answer: a sword, although any substantial blade that rests in a scabbard is acceptable.

A short and sharp riddle that may promote some discussion. The opening line describes swords being bought or found, while the second considers the fact swords are kept in otherwise empty scabbards – i.e., the empty space within a sheath. It takes the digits of a hand to hold and use a sword, while battles and duels pit “sword against sword” in a final test for the wielder.

Riddle #23 – On day and night:

“When viewed in the middle, one’s the equal of the other;

But viewed at the ends, one will grow, one wither.

Although separated, we’re thought of together;

One’s smile of light is the rouser, one’s heart of darkness the soother.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: day and night; the poles of the planet; up and down; left and right.

Answer: day and night.

Viewed from the equator, or “middle” of a planet, day and night are the same, but at “the ends of the earth” each grows longer or shorter depending on the season. And while the two can never BE together, they are often spoken or thought of in the same sentence, either as companions or opposites. This leads to the final line, where the opening of the line refers to the light of dawn waking people or rousing them, while the second part consider the dark of night soothing folks to sleep.

Riddle #24 – On a scorpion

“I wear armor to protect me, it’s refitted as I grow.

As many legs as a pair of horses mean I’m never slow.

Eyes as numerous as the tyrant feared, huge piercing shears to hand.

And yet the whip I use to fight is hardest to withstand.”

If you need to offer clues, some suggested answers are: a scorpion; a dragon; a basilisk; a crab.

Answer: a scorpion.

Historically, scorpions have been considered to be anything from worms to snakes, such is their unusualness. In fact, they are closely related to spiders, but have significant differences. Their exoskeleton hardens as they grow, but is shed a number of times before they reach adulthood, they have anywhere between six and 12 eyes, their oversized pincers can act a shears, and the tail can move as quickly as a whip. Some can even spray their poison without using the sting.

Well, that’s another Acanthus’s Conundrums completed; here is the link to previous posts.

We hope they add something to your game and would love to hear how you are using them with your players, especially if they have come up with inventive solutions. Please share your ideas if you have adapted them for specific environments or amended them in some way to add flavor to your world.

As ever, 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 via the comments!

Until the next set, enjoy your adventures!

Acanthus the Sage

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