Simple puzzles that require time travel to solve?
January 6, 2008 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of time-travel puzzle rooms for my D&D mini-campaign? (2 other categories of puzzles I'd like are described inside)

Let's say player A has a magical hourglass which is labeled "Past" on the bottom, and "Future" on the top. When sand falls "into the past", she goes back in time. Turned horizontal, to the present, and turned the other way, the future. I provide the amount of sand in each room, and that controls the distance and duration of her travel. (For example, "30 seconds of sand" would mean she goes back 30 seconds, and can remain in that timeline for 30 seconds before returning) Additional notes: 1) her physical location is preserved over the "time jumps", 2) when she goes back in time there will be two of her, 2.1) if she jumps back in the same physical location she was in, she'll just appear next to her clone from the past -- no overlap, and 3) the sand disappears when she exits a room.

I would like simple and interesting puzzles that require this ability. An example might be that she enters a room whose floor begins to raise slowly toward a ceiling of spikes. The solution is to go forward in time 30 seconds so that the floor has now raised over head, revealing the room underneath the raising floor with the lever that stops it. Also, don't worry too much about time paradoxes -- the players are much more interested in simplicity and coolness-factor than ones that are consistent with physical laws :P

The two other players also have special abilities. One can turn into a titan or tiny creature at will. The other can shift gravity toward any wall or ceiling. Puzzles of this type would be great too. I would be VERY grateful to anyone who can come up with a puzzle that requires ALL THREE abilities cooperatively in a clever way.

Please be as outlandish as you like. The rooms are the creation of a trickster god, so the setting allows for pretty much anything. If you have any questions, please ask. Thanks!
posted by TimeTravelSpeed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might consider a puzzle that requires her to stack trips into the past -- she has to take the hourglass from or give it to herself so she can go back 60 seconds.

Also, a puzzle in which a future version of herself is already in the room.

What about a puzzle in which the player who can shrink is required to go into the hourglass and add or remove sand from part of the hourglass?
posted by gerryblog at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, make sure to consider the impact of gravity on how the sand falls in the hourglass. If the focus of gravity shifts than the sand could start flowing in a new direction, impacting the flow of time.

So jumping off of gerryblog's idea, have the shrunken character inside the hourglass when gravity shifts - he/she better quickly find out a way to keep the sand where it is supposed to be!
posted by langeNU at 1:58 PM on January 6, 2008

Response by poster: I love that idea! I will definitely be incorporating something like that into one or two puzzles. I'll let you know how it turns out.
posted by TimeTravelSpeed at 2:57 PM on January 6, 2008

Be careful with ignoring paradoxes, especially in a gaming situation. It's not about physical laws being broken, but with ensuring that things behave consistently. Your rules can be as screwed up as possible, and even unknown to the players, but they should be consistent or the players will get very frustrated. They're being asked to solve puzzles, which involves predicting what will happen. If things don't follow any sort of rule that they can figure out, it's easy for them to get frustrated.

Here's an example of the sort of thing you need to be prepared to deal with. Player enters the room, picks up a rock on the floor, and rewinds time 30 seconds. He watches himself enter the room again, and before his past self can pick up the rock, his current self snatches it up. How do you deal with this? You've got a variety of options, depending on what kind of puzzles you want to solve. Here are a few possibilities.

A) As soon as a "paradox" like this occurs (i.e. something that makes his past self's actions impossible) some sort of temporal glitch erupts, reverting everything back to right before the players entered the room the first time. This format forces the players to be careful not to interfere with their past selves, which can be used to make seemingly very simple puzzles more difficult. (If you want to be really mean, you can even force the players to not be even seen by their past selves.) Puzzles where the PCs cooperate with their past selves (without their knowledge) are opened up here and become quite interesting.

B) Take over the past selves of the PCs as NPCs and try to play them as though they were encountering their future selves for the first time. So when the present PC snatches up the stone, you can choose what the past self would do, depending on what he/she knew at the time and the character's personality. This gives you a chance to turn a mirror on to the way the players have been playing their characters, which can be funny, meaningful, or frustrating, depending on how you handle it. It also opens up explicit cooperation puzzles where the PCs confer with their past selves and decide on a way to get through the puzzle.

C) Same as (B), but allow the PCs to play both their past and present selves. Only take this option if your players are very good role players or they will just treat this as a doubling of their manpower.

D) Remove the possibility of interacting strongly with the environment while in the past. The PCs become ghostlike. They are invisible to their past selves and cannot interact with the environment around them. This seems limiting to the point of stupidity, but there are still a large number of puzzles that can be solved using this gimmick. Information can be found this way, perhaps by opening a door with a switch around the corner and looking to see what's inside using a second self. Transportation puzzles can be solved similarly by traveling through the door as a ghost and then returning to the present.

E) Force large-scale time travel (at least a day). Players don't run into themselves, and any changes can be explained away by interlopers in the intermediary time. This changes the puzzle types dramatically, removing all the cooperation and timing puzzles and replacing them with time-lapse problems (rusting hinges, aging wine, giving an enemy a phobia as a child, etc.)

Whatever you do, be consistent, or failing that, be so ridiculously inconsistent as to be funny.
posted by ErWenn at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2008

The party slowly ascends the stairs to the next level, only to find their way inexplicably blocked by a large-ish but otherwise rather normal looking sofa...
posted by Caviar at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2008

There was an absolutely excellent flash game linked here last week that is directly on point. While I was playing it I was thinking of ways to turn it into an RPG adventure. See if it gives you any ideas.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:12 PM on January 6, 2008

In order to open the door at the far end of the room, there's a weight trigger on the ceiling. The catch: the trigger weight is the weight of Player C (normal) plus Player B (titan) plus 2x Player A, so Player A has to go back in time, then all four of them have to stand on it at once.
posted by Caviar at 6:14 PM on January 6, 2008

I was going to say what aeschenkarnos said.
posted by robcorr at 9:14 PM on January 6, 2008

other sources of ideas are Portal, and Timeshift.
Timeshift had some pretty cool pause, slowdown, and rewind time puzzles in it.
Also, 3rding the flash game.
posted by JonnyRotten at 5:23 AM on January 7, 2008

How about longer time frames. Character goes back several hundred years to plant a tree to climb later. Or one to allow or reverse weather or water erosion.
posted by jefftang at 6:23 AM on January 7, 2008

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