When you think of a bridge or chasm in D&D, using a puzzle to make it exciting is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. And yet, you can easily incorporate puzzles into a bridge challenge IF you choose the right puzzle for the job. Luckily, I have three examples of puzzles you can use.
Using Runestone Puzzles to Bridge a Chasm in D&D
For my first example I’ll be using Runestone Puzzles. The party wishes to cross a chasm, but the bridge is missing. All they have to use for building materials is a couple of magical runestones that fit in their pocket. Matching the symbols of a runestone to the big one on their side of the chasm will turn it into a floating stepping stone. But that will only happen if the symbols match. And only if they manage to connect the bridge on the other side as well, can they start to retrieve stones for further use later in the game.
Of course, they could just try to make a straight line to the other side of the chasm and that is certainly easier. But without a place to attach the final stone, they’ll can’t retrieve the first stone they placed. This ensures there is always a way to cross and players won’t get stuck, but at the same time, not completely solving the puzzle will cost them valuable runestones.
As you can see this is a very simple runestone puzzle setup that creates a bridge over a chasm. But you can reuse the runestones in other places around you setting. Runestone puzzles offer an infinite amount of setups, and the more pieces PCs collect, the more powerful the bridges – or other objects – they can create. But you can also use the pocket-sized version of these stones on doors, treasure chest and so on.
Using Floor Puzzles to Bridge a Chasm in D&D
For my second example I’m using a puzzle from my Floor Puzzles pack. In this case the puzzle bridge is already in place, but players must walk the correct pattern over the puzzle tiles in order to reach the other side of the chasm safely. If they don’t follow the pattern carefully, they’ll be pushed off the side. Clever players use a rope to prevent their PCs from falling all the way down the chasm, but they must still figure out the correct path to cross the bridge.
This puzzle can be solved entirely by trial and error so players will never get stuck, but it will take a lot of time that way. Of course, hints to solving this puzzle are included in the puzzle pack and PCs should be given the clues before they encounter this bridge puzzle.
Using Rune Puzzles to Bridge a Chasm in D&D
For my third example I’m using a very different type of Rune Puzzles as a bridge over the chasm. In this example the runes are already in place, but they are not solid. PCs must solve the puzzle in order to transform this rune puzzle into a bridge and continue on their D&D quest.
For this bridge puzzle, I don’t have an option to prevent players from becoming stuck. Of course, you could always give your PCs hints. I like to give them a number of intelligence checks, equal to their intelligence modifier, to see if they can uncover a hint. That way, you are challenging the players as well as their characters. But not being able to cross this bridge isn’t always a problem. If players can’t solve the puzzle, they’ll have to take the long way round.
Using all Three Bridge and Chasm Puzzles
The three puzzles I’ve used in the examples are all available in my web store here for those of you who are interested. They’re available in printable tabletop and virtual tabletop format. But they can also be purchased as part of the Vault Bundle which contains over 200 unique puzzles and a ton of other original products that work with any gaming system. So be sure to check that out.
By Paul Camp
Images: WotC, roll20