3 D&D Combat Puzzle Encounters that Leave Players Speechless

In the magnificent world of Dungeons & Dragons players encounter and combat monsters all the time. But even with a wide variety of monsters combat can start to feel a little repetitive. After a while players start using the same tactics for every combat encounter. Tank at the front, healer close behind, ranged attackers at the back. Sound familiar?

So how do you change it up and challenge your players in different ways? You use combat puzzle encounters of course! 

With a puzzle encounter, players can’t use their usual tactics in combating D&D monsters because the puzzle challenges them in a different way. Using puzzles with your combat encounters provides a fresh experience every time. So let’s look at three examples of how to do that.

3. Place Puzzle Pieces on a Monster for Your Combat Puzzle Encounter

With this encounter setup, you take a gargantuan monster like a Tarrasque or a Copper Dragon. And you place the slots for puzzle pieces on the monster. So for a Copper Dragon, you could place a puzzle slot on its wings. 

A Puzzle slot from Lock Puzzles can be easily placed over the image of a Copper Dragon’s wing as a player handout.

The monster is immune to all kinds of damage until all puzzle pieces are placed into the slots. So instead of doing a simple combat encounter, players now have to puzzle out how they will get to the wings without falling victim to its acid breath.

Using puzzle pieces on monsters changes the players’ tactics completely. They’ll be challenged to think of solutions they haven’t used before. 


2. Combat a Monster for Puzzle Pieces During an Encounter

With this combat puzzle encounter, you flip the script. The puzzle pieces players need to obtain are stuck to the D&D monster. And they need to combat it to obtain them. 

So imagine players fighting an Iron Golem and chipping of an iron puzzle piece for every 50 damage they deal it. Of course, players still need to snatch those puzzle pieces away before the Golem grabs them and places the pieces back on its body.

Again, this is not a very complex encounter setup but it does challenge players in very different ways.

For placing puzzles pieces on metallic monsters or retrieving them we recommend using Lock Puzzles from our webshop. The pieces are perfect for this type of encounter because there are multiple slots and each slot only uses three puzzle pieces. For a more detailed explanation check them out here. 

1. Fight a Horde while Solving a Puzzle

Our last combat puzzle encounter setup works well with any puzzle. In this scenario, players must solve a puzzle while being attacked by monsters. We like to use a never-ending horde of monsters that the party can only keep at bay for a short time. For example:

Grognak swings his two-handed axe at the horde of skeletons in the narrow hallway. Bones splinter like dry wood. But a glance down the hallway tells him that it’s useless. Hundreds of skeletons have awoken from the catacombs. Their only chance of survival is escape. Unfortunately, Igmar is taking his sweet time deciphering those ancient runes on the magically sealed door so Grognak will have to hold out just a little longer.

In this puzzle encounter, only a couple of players can focus on solving the puzzle while the others must combat the wave of skeletons. The great thing about this setup is that players get to choose whether they want to focus on solving the puzzle or if they prefer a combat encounter. Both are vital to success, so in a way, even players who don’t enjoy puzzles get to contribute and have fun doing it!

Our Puzzle Recommendations that Work With Combat Encounters

For puzzles that work well with combat encounters we recommend:

PuzzlePerfect for:
Lock PuzzlesMetallic creatures
Dungeon PuzzlesEscaping Hordes
Runestone PuzzlesStone creatures
Potion PuzzlesPlant creatures
Laser PuzzlesFighting while solving the puzzle
Elemental PuzzlesFighting on top of the puzzle area

All of these puzzles can be found in our webshop. But if you simply want the complete collection be sure to check out the Puzzle Bundle which contains over 200 illustrated puzzles.

Dark Ulf – Putting Puzzles into D&D games since 2009

Dark Ulf is the founder and editor of DNDpuzzles.com. When not writing for DNDpuzzles he travels the multiverse and destroys demons with a crossbow in one hand and a crossword in the other.

We hope this site inspires you to put more puzzles into your D&D games.