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Saturday, 30th August, 2008, 04:41 PM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
The Manual of Mysteries: A Guide to Codes, Puzzles, and Riddles in Your Campaign
The Manual of Mysteries is a fifty-eight page book from Technomancer Press. The book is bound in orange covers, using thermal binding. The cover displays three adventurers looking at a door, around which runes are scrawled. The book has no artwork or illustrations besides the cover and the page of advertisements in the back, depictions of visual puzzles notwithstanding. As a book of puzzles, mysteries, and riddles, this book is useable with any Fantasy RPG.
The book’s first chapter is short, being a single page that discusses why and when you should use puzzles in your game. It also briefly touches on how, giving the caveat of not making completing an adventure dependant on solving a puzzle, since the players may not figure it out.
The second chapter covers mysteries. It lays out the different types of mysteries, and then goes on with guides for laying down the plot, and the details of how the mystery should be investigated and then solved. Five sample mysteries are then given.
Chapter three covers puzzles. Puzzles are physical objects that need to be manipulated in a certain manner to make them work. Different puzzling items are given here, including the cryptex from The Davinci Code.
The subject of the fourth chapter is cryptography. These are written ciphers and coded messages that require a certain method to understand. In addition to codes and cryptograms, more unorthodox codes like grilles are also covered here.
Chapter five covers riddles. This chapter covers three types of riddles: enigmas (the standard riddle format that most people think of), rebuses (pictures where the verbalizations of the pictures, together, forms a word or sentence), and conundrums (verbal riddles based on puns or ambiguity). Multiple examples are given for each.
The most unorthodox of the chapters, chapter six deals with behavioral puzzles. Behavioral puzzles are not so much deliberate attempts to deceive anyone as they are a lack of understanding. Behavioral puzzles arise from visiting a foreign culture and not understanding things like their customs or laws, for example.
Chapter seven deals with linguistic puzzles. Similar to conundrums from chapter five, these largely deal with plays on words. Things such as ambiguities, double-meanings, or even hidden acronyms are all types of linguistic puzzles.
An expansion of the material from chapter three, chapter eight deals with puzzling traps. These are probably what adventuring parties are most familiar with, as these puzzles have consequences that punish failure. Multiple examples are given, any of which would work well in a dungeon complex.
The final chapter of the book deals with putting all of these together in your campaign. It deals with having situations where the players have characters that are smarter than they (the players) are, or if the players can’t solve the puzzle and give up instead.
Altogether, The Manual of Mysteries is exactly what the title makes it out to be: a manual of puzzles, riddles, and mysteries for your RPG. This book doesn’t just present a large section of pre-made puzzles (though it has many of those too), but does an excellent job discussing how to create them, when to use them, and why they work (or don’t work) so well. Game Masters everywhere will find this book to be an invaluable resource for when they need to give their players a situation that can’t be hack ‘n’ slashed to death.
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