The Tom Russell Method of Puzzle Design.

When I design a puzzle in a video game, I need to very carefully work out the solution and the clues that lead the player to that solution. And in some games, like Seq.Breaker, I need to come up with two or three solutions to the same room, each fitting different circumstances, without getting in the way of each other. Which is exhausting.

But I don't need to do that in D&D. I can just throw a seemingly impossible problem at the players and tell them to fix it. And then they do, often in very creative, surprising, and delightful ways. About half the puzzles I've created for my players-- and "puzzles" here encompasses also traps and obstacles like a bottomless chasm that needs crossing or an Eye of Alarm that stands poised to warn the wight inside of their approach-- are not designed with any solution in mind on my end. There's no agonizing over clues/story points, and I don't need to spend hours adjusting pixels or play-testing like I do with video game design; I just write "giant walls are going to smooch you!" on the back on my index card, and it's done. Ten seconds of prep that equals about ten minutes of gameplay/storytelling.

Now, I'm not stupid about it: very few of these sorts of challenges are designed to kill or threaten the player, and those that are deadly-- like that bottomless chasm-- won't hurt the player while they're discussing their options.

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