By Trevar A. Fracchiolla
These free 5e puzzles will give your players something unique and interesting to do in your next game session. Feel free to customize these 5e puzzles to suit you and your players' playstyles.
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This puzzle features words inscribed in glowing letters upon a round, central pedestal. Atop the pedestal is a series of colored and numbered dials that can be turned.
The pitch-black walls of the circular chamber seem to absorb all light in the space, providing only a faint impression of a pedestal in the center. Small pinpricks of lights form abstract constellations and gleam like jewels along the domed ceiling and sloping walls, winking in brilliant hues that do little to illumine the darkness.
If a character approaches the pedestal, arcane glyphs flash to life and glow scarlet around the edge of the stone plinth to reveal an inscription. The inscription reads as follows:
“The fey count numbers and words like stars:
Eight stands above, blazing eternal like a ruby,
While Three lights the way for you only.”
Examining the pedestal reveals the same phrases as the glowing letters have also been carved into the pedestal behind the glyphs and traced in crimson paint. The top of the round pedestal also features six rotatable dials set into the stone, each colored to match the glimmering stars and featuring the numbers 0 through 30 written around their edges. A triangular marker at the outside and center point toward each other, indicating the number “0” on each of the dials currently. If the dials are turned, there is no perceivable change in the room unless the solution is found.
When reviewing the illusory stars along the wall, a simple count reveals the following stars: 3 diamonds, 8 emeralds, 12 amethysts, 16 sapphires, 24 rubies, 30 topazes. Attempting to touch the stars reveals that they are incorporeal, with the exception of the red stars: these are actually rubies embedded in the walls.
A detect magic spell will reveal that the arcane glyphs are illusions, as are all the gleaming stars except the rubies. The pedestal itself is non-magical.
A character that turns the red dial to the number 24 but leaves the others untouched (following the instructions of the third and eighth word in the inscription: “Count Stars Above Ruby Lights Only”) is rewarded by the center of the pedestal rising upwards to reveal a small compartment beneath it. The compartment can house any form of reward that matches the campaign or situation.
If any of the other dials are adjusted from the zero position, the pedestal remains inactive until they are reset to their nominal position.
If the players are having difficulty solving the puzzle, their characters can make checks to receive hints:
Wisdom (Insight) DC 15. The inscription seems to provide meaningless instruction, but it does appear to be worded specifically to feature three lines with eight words each.
Intelligence (Investigation) DC 10. The carved words in the pedestal appear to emphasize the third and eighth words in each line of the inscription.
Intelligence (History) DC 15. Many scholars agree that fey creatures place unusual importance on numerology, and there is often hidden significance in them.
Customizing the Puzzle
The inscription can be easily updated to provide different details or descriptions, understanding that key numbers are called out, and their corresponding words are then the key instructions. In addition, the result revealed once the solution is discovered can be adjusted, such as revealing a hidden passageway or unlocking a door.
Raising the Difficulty
If additional challenge is needed, a trap can be activated if any dial has been adjusted before the red one. This could be in the form of an arrow or dart trap firing from the stars whose colors match the incorrectly adjusted dials or a spell being cast from the pedestal to strike nearby characters.
A ten-sided table rests in the center of a chamber, adorned with dragon skulls in each corner and a cluster of vials at the center.
The square chamber is small and lit by a circular skylight in the ceiling, granting ample light to illumine the decagonal stone table at its center. A faded and peeling fresco adorns the domed ceiling around the skylight, depicting dragons wielding devastating power over helpless creatures quavering before their might. A dragon’s head is carved at each corner of the stone table, painted a different color with jaws gaping open. The center of the table cluster five vials filled to the brim with arcane elemental energy, and around the collection of glass containers gilded letters read: “Feed each dragon their power.”
The five vials at the center of the table contain bubbling acid, murky poison, crackling lightning, burning fire, and shattered ice. If the contents of a vial are poured out, they appear to magically reappear inside the container again. A detect magic spell reveals that the glass vials appear to be products of transmutation magic.
Each of the ten dragon skulls is uniquely painted and carved to resemble common draconic ancestries: black, blue, brass, bronze, copper, gold, green, red, silver, and white. The size of each skull is approximately the same as a wyrmling's but with empty eye sockets.
Solving the puzzle requires a character to pour the elemental contents of the vials into the dragon skull whose color corresponds to that element: ice for silver and white, acid for black and copper, lightning for the blue and bronze dragons, poison for green, and then fire for the brass, gold, and red skulls.
Upon successfully providing a correct element to the corresponding dragon skull, the skull’s gaping maw slowly closes, its eyes blazing with the arcane element it ingested. Once all ten skulls’ eyes are glowing, the tabletop rises upwards to reveal a hidden space beneath that can house an appropriate reward, such as a scroll, key, or map.
If the players are uncertain how to solve the puzzle and request a hint, their characters can make the following checks for assistance:
Intelligence (History) DC 10. The dragon skulls appear to represent common types of dragons that have been prevalent in history and legend.
Intelligence (Nature) DC 10. The elements present in the vials are common forms of energy featured in common draconic races.
Wisdom (Perception) DC 10. The fresco of dragons features ten dragons altogether, and each is colored to correspond to one of the skulls set into the table.
Intelligence (Investigation) DC 15. Upon closer examination of the ancient fresco, a player can discover that the faded painting depicts the dragons destroying humanoids with their breath weapons (see the solution above for details regarding this).
Customizing the Puzzle
Instead of the standard draconic varieties adventuring parties can encounter, the dragon skulls can be limited or expanded to feature rarer varieties. The result of the puzzle’s completion is also easily customized to dispel a magical barrier, reveal a hidden passageway, or open a previously locked door as befits the situation.
Alternatively, instead of utilizing vials of magical energy to resolve the puzzle, you may require players to cast spells or use magic items to produce the same effects for each dragon head. There can also be more or fewer vials than needed to resolve the puzzle if desired.
Raising the Difficulty
Narrowing or increasing the scope of draconic varieties may raise or lower the difficulty of the puzzle depending on players’ familiarity with different types of dragons and their colors. In addition, the puzzle can be made more deadly by having a trap activate if the incorrect element is inserted into a dragon’s maw. This could be in the form of the skull’s mouth clamping down on the character’s hand or expelling the incorrect element in a corresponding breath weapon attack.
This puzzle features several portraits and candles that must be interacted with to make crossing a bridge protected by perpetual and powerful wind possible.
Shadows wreathe the edges of the lengthy hallway, obscuring the portraits that line the walls on either side with unlit candles set into sconces below their frame. Each figure depicted upon the canvas appears to be covering their faces with their hands, but their eyes peek through gaps in their fingers and seem to follow you as you pass by them. An arching doorway beyond the last of the portraits reveals an arching bridge that crosses over a forty-foot chasm. The far side features a massive statue of a blindfolded mage’s head, with the open door on the other side placed perfectly to resemble their open mouth. Powerful wind billows from that gaping maw, creating a buffeting gale so powerful it threatens to blow away anyone who steps on the bridge.
If a character examines the portraits lining the hallway, they discover each figure is depicted peeking through their fingers at them. Even if they shift from one side to the other, the eyes seem to track their movements and position. There is also a wrought-iron sconce beneath each portrait, holding an unlit candle.
A detect magic spell cast in the hallway reveals that each of the portraits radiates divination magic, while the carved head with the door on the opposite side of the chasm shines with an evocation aura. The candles and sconces do not give off any magical aura.
To solve the puzzle, a player must light each of the candles in front of the portraits. Doing so illuminates their faces, and the figures in the portraits will subtly shift their fingers so that their eyes are covered. Once all the portraits have been blinded by the candles, the wind gusting from the doorway on the opposite side of the chasm ceases, providing access to the room on the far side.
If the players decide to not resolve the puzzle using the candles, they can likewise use magical light sources such as the daylight, dancing lights, or other similar spells to blind the portraits. A dispel magic spell can also be cast to end the divination magic on the portraits, or a physical object can be placed over each of the paintings to obscure the figure’s vision as well.
If players are having difficulty resolving the puzzle and require assistance, offer them the following hints after successful checks:
Intelligence (Investigation) DC 10. The candles appear to have not been lit before, although they seem to be just as old as the hallway.
Wisdom (Insight) DC 15. The portraits appear to subtly change in response to the amount of light present in the hallway.
Wisdom (Perception) DC 15. Hidden in the shadows above the door leading to the chasm is a plaque with the phrase “Light Illumines and Blinds” etched into it.
Customizing the Puzzle
The puzzle can be reversed so that the hallway is brilliantly lit, and only extinguishing the lights will blind the portraits. Alternatively, consider having the portraits be of deities that fit your campaign and having them shift to become their opposite as the puzzle is resolved. There can also be as many or as few portraits as you desire for this puzzle, and they can be positioned in more difficult-to-reach spaces in the hallway.
The reward for completing the puzzle can also be customized with a little adjustment. For example, instead of a door being made available on the other side of the chasm, an important magic item or another similar reward can be stored within the mage’s mouth.
Raising the Difficulty
To make the puzzle deadlier, a character attempting to cross the bridge may find themselves in danger of falling into the chasm or getting blown backward. In addition, players can be made to fight the souls of the portraits that they successfully blind (use a monster stat block like a will-o’wisp or wraith) to permanently defeat the portrait.
Blinding the portraits can also be more restrictive and less open to interpretation, as the source of their vision is divination magic. This could mean that only light sources can obscure their sight rather than physical barriers.
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