I find adding puzzles to games for adults one of the hardest things about writing games. My players just know far too much. But when I’m gaming with kids it’s suddenly a lot easier, setting them in game challenges that really make them think is just a matter of realising what they haven’t learned yet.
Here are three simple tools to add puzzles to role-playing games for your kids
Do your kids know how to read coordinates? If the answer is no then working them into the game is a great way to teach them. Draw a simple map, and then draw a grid over it. A 10 * 10 grid is plenty. Then make sure that they find something labelled clearly as ‘clue to the treasure’ or ‘directions to the secret base’, but which contains only a pair of numbers say ‘3, 7’.
My kids were stumped for a good ten minutes by this, before they enlisted the help of an outside expert (Grandad) to explain the cunning code. Of course once they’ve got the hang of this it becomes easy. So change things up with the next idea…
For kids who are a bit older, break out a Caesar Cipher puzzle. This is the code where all the letters in the secret message are shifted a fixed number of characters left or right. So if the cipher is +1 and the code is HAL the correct answer is IBM.
A Caesar cipher can in itself provide enough material for a whole game because it comes in discrete bits. You have to find the coded message, the value of the cipher and if it’s a password, the place to use it. Add a beginning, an end and perhaps some events travelling between locations and you’ve got more than enough scenes for an entire adventure.
Don’t forget that your kids probably won’t work out how the code works by themselves. You might need to place an expert character in game who can mentor the heroes through the process of cracking the code – without actually doing it themselves.
You know that joke-book your kids won’t stop reading to you? Well it’s time to get your own back. Today’s villain has stolen a treasure and hidden it behind three impossible riddles. Riddles made even harder thanks to the villain’s appalling sense of humour.
If guessing the answers to the jokes is too hard, present a set of questions and answers for the heroes to match up. For instance
- How does the ocean say hello?
- Why couldn’t the pony sing?
- Where do hamburgers go to dance?
- What do you call a group of disorganized cats?
- A cat-tastrophe.
- Because she was a little horse
- It waves
- They go to the meat-ball
(Jokes plundered from here)
Depending on the age of your kids this could be a challenging puzzle or a trivial one.
There you go. Three ways to add a puzzle to the game that will delight your kids while requiring almost no time at all to prepare. If you’ve got suggestions of your own, leave them in the comments.