Writing Riddles

In roleplaying games not all challenges are combat related, a number of them will require the participants to think, or to solve a puzzle.

The most traditional of these puzzles are riddles, and writing your own riddles can be a rewarding way of adding personalisation to your campaign.

There are lots of sources of riddles that you can adapt or take wholesale, either online, or from some of our favourite books. The problem with these riddles is that they are not personal to your game, and they provide no challenge to anyone who has heard them before.

It is fairly simple to craft your own riddles, but it needs a bit of time and practice to do well, so be sure to leave yourself an hour or so to concentrate on the task, it’s hard to do in a rush or to make up a good riddle on the spot.

First off, pick the answer to the riddle, it can either be generic (a cloud, a mountain) or specific (Jenny, the king’s youngest daughter). Once you have the solution, think of a few characteristics of the item (a cloud could be fluffy and white, or dark and foreboding). It generally helps to write these ideas down, they’ll form the core of your riddle.

Once you have defining characteristics, you have to turn them into a clue. Riddles are often formed from rhyming couplets. Don’t be afraid to stretch a rhyme a little or to use odd sentence structure, it is almost expected.

“A fleece flung high for all to see, reddened at night glad shepherds be” – a cloud.

This riddle requires knowledge of old sayings, and also uses the imagery of sheep and shepherds to hide the true meaning. Don’t be afraid to try several versions and shift words around until you feel happy with the way it reads, and also how difficult the riddle feels.

Difficultly can be hard to judge, especially when you start out. Test your first few riddles against your players in non-critical situations, the only way to gauge the diffculty is against your play group, as some will solve riddles far better than others.

Have fun writing your own riddles, you’ll enjoy it so much more than ripping off the Hobbit, and your players will too.


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