Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Riddle me this...

Riddles can be a fun part of RPG game sessions. Whether presented by helpful or harmful creatures, demanded in payment by fey and inscrutable oracles, or scrawled on the magically locked door of the treasure vault, they can be a nice change from combat, traps, and the other more typical challenges of an adventure.

I find it a good idea to keep a few riddles on hand on the chance an opportunity presents itself to use one. As old English and Norse literature is full of riddles, which were every bit as important an oral tradition to those cultures as the great Sagas were, its not too hard to track down some good ones to use at the table.

Riddles can range from simplistic:

Q- What is yours, yet your wife uses it much more than you do?

A- Your Name

To Long and Complex:

Q- Time was, when I was weapon and warrior, Now the young hero hoods me with gold,
And Silver. At Times men kiss me. At times I speak and summon to battle
Loyal companions. At times a courser, bears me o'er marchland. At times a ship
Bears me o'er the billows, brightly adorned. At times a fair maiden fills me with breath;
At times hard and headless I lie on the board, bereft of beauty. At times I hang
Winsome on wall, richly embellished, where revelers drink. At times a Warrior,
Bears me on a horse, a battle adornment, and I swallow, bright shining, the breath from his bosom. At times with my strains I summon the heroes proudly to wine, at times I win back
Spoils from the Spoiler, with sounding voice, put Foemen to flight! Now ask what I'm called...

A- A Horn

I prefer mid-size ones that are not too easy, but not too hard that they'll never be figured out, and with the possibility of an easy misinterpretation:

Q- A strange thing hangs by a man's thigh, hidden by a garment.
It has a hole in its head.
It is stiff and strong and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
When a man hitches his clothing high above his knee,
He wants that hanging thing to poke the old hole
Of fitting length it has often filled before.

A- A key

Some good resources for riddles are here, here, here, and here.


  1. Fantastic post. As someone who enjoys riddles at the game table, I have learned that it is often best to remember that sometimes the party just wont be able to come up with the correct answer. Make sure that the riddle is not essential to the campaign. In a traditional old school sandbox, riddles are a much better challenge than in a plot based campaign for that reason. You don't want your plot to be too reliant on a riddle that the party may or may not understand.

    I typically prefer run sandbox campaign, but will run one with a grand story-arch at player request.

  2. I always liked riddles. I think I was better at inventing them than solving them (at least, the rhyming kind).

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