Deserts in D&D can be very difficult to run because they are mostly defined by what isn’t there. There’s no water, no protection from the sun, and virtually no life. So you can’t really blame players if they choose to find some much-needed shade in a cozy pyramid or crypt. Even if they are riddled with puzzles and undead.
While undead and desert critters provide you with combat challenges, crypts and pyramids are just perfect for dangerous puzzles.
But why would anyone put a puzzle into a crypt or pyramid in the middle of the desert? Here are some reasons we like to use:
- The puzzle in a desert pyramid is simply a language and writing system that players need to decipher.
- The puzzle is a test so only the worthy or initiated can enter the crypt or pyramid.
- The puzzle is some kind of operating system that has broken down in harsh desert conditions. In order to fix it, players need to solve the puzzle.
- The puzzle was a system for keeping the undead locked in and it is starting to break down. Players need to solve the puzzle to restore the abjuration magic and keep the undead from roaming the desert freely.
These are just some quick reasons we come up with, but surely you can come up with more. Now that we have a couple of plausible reasons for putting puzzles in pyramids and crypts, let’s build a D&D puzzle adventure.
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Pyramid and Crypt D&D Puzzles we Recommend
Our first pick is Dungeon Puzzles, available in our webshop. It is perfect because with this setup you are not just putting puzzles into your crypt or pyramid. Instead, the entire pyramid becomes the puzzle. So how does that work?
With dungeon puzzles, players are given a map of a fragmented floor level of a pyramid. They must then figure out how the different tiles need to be rotated in their place to match up every hallway. This allows them to travel through the pyramid. To be fair, we stole this idea from the puzzle designer who explains it better in this article on his website. But it is still a fantastic idea. He also recommends a few other great puzzles but for our next puzzle, we chose to go in a different direction.
Our second pick is Rune Puzzles. The runes themselves may not match the desert theme but in our story, the pyramids were spaceships from an ancient civilization, and the Runes were written in an alien language. (It’s the plot to Stargate, we know)
For crypts, we also used rune puzzles. But this time the runes are ‘wall of force barriers’ that builders had created as safeguards. Players needed to quickly take down a barrier if a horde of undead was chasing them, or they could solve the puzzle to erect barriers and keep the undead at bay.
Now both puzzles are great. But using these two puzzles together worked even better! So imagine players first having to solve the Dungeon Puzzle to rearrange the layout of the crypt or pyramid so they can enter. And once they are in, they still have to erect or take down barriers with Rune Puzzles. It’s layer upon layer of puzzles with combat encounters thrown in between.
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.