Puzzles have a reputation for being dull intellectual challenges. But we are here to change all of that! Because in our Dungeons & Dragons games puzzles are crawling with undead horrors. Let’s see if your players still believe puzzles are boring when cold the dead hands of a vampire or a mob of zombies are clawing for them.
That’s right, it’s time for some chills and thrills with D&D horror puzzles. So let’s dive right in.
Making D&D Puzzles Scary
Puzzles are not scary and if you want to run a horror story you need to scare your players. So how do you set up a frightening D&D puzzle?
First, puzzles do not need to be scary. We have undead and other horrors to take care of that. So let’s take undead for example. Why are they scary in the first place?
One thing that stands out about the undead is that they are often unstoppable. A mob of zombies slowly comes nearer and there is not much the players can do about it. Skeletons that have fallen rise again. And vampires can be vanquished only to return.
This is not a coincidence. We fear the inevitability of death and so it stands to reason that undead monsters are an expression of that fear. We can’t avoid death forever. We can only run and hide from it for a while. Or can we?
One aspect of all puzzles is that it takes time to figure them out. The players can’t continue on their path before they do. So if your party is running from a mob of zombies having their path blocked by a door puzzle can be very scary.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
- Ice and Snow Puzzles because it works well with the undead theme.
- Escape Room Puzzles. Get out before they get in!
It’s so scary in fact, that many horror movies employ this tactic. How many movies have you seen where characters rush to complete some ritual (puzzle) to stop the inevitable coming of an undead monster. How many where characters need to franticly unlock a door to get away from some horrific danger?
Almost all of them, right?
So if you want to put a puzzle in your D&D horror story, almost any puzzle will do IF you set it up the right way. But we like these puzzles the best.
Lock Puzzles for D&D Horror and Vampires
Our first pick is D&D Lock Puzzles which is available in our webshop. With this puzzle, players need to fill a lock with just three puzzle pieces. Sounds easy enough. But you can increase the difficulty by adding more locks.
- So two locks would have a total of six pieces. Still not very hard.
- But six locks would have a total of eighteen puzzle pieces. Ouch.
While it is easy to fill out a single lock, filling all locks simultaneously can only be done in one way. So your players might fill out half of the locks only to discover the pieces they have left won’t fit. And all the while those zombies are getting nearer.
You can also flip the script where a cult is trying to solve a puzzle that will unseal a mighty vampire. And the players need to stop the cult from finishing their task. Showing how the cult is slowly succeeding is what creates the horror in this case. Again, when it comes to horror think inevitable rise of doom. Quick scares are great for effect, but the real fear lies in slow inevitability.
Technically, an adventure where players enter a pyramid with a mummy is also an undead horror adventure. If that’s the kind of setup you like, check out our article about D&D Desert Puzzles for Pyramids and Crypts.
Rune Puzzles for D&D Horror
Rune Puzzles can use in many ways. For D&D vampire and horror puzzles, we like to lay them on floors to create force field barriers.
For example, imagine your players entering a tomb where a mighty vampire is trapped. They must enter this prison to retrieve some artifact. And by solving a puzzle they can either take down a force field to enter or put up a force field to block off an area. Now it’s a challenge to let down the correct force fields and put them back up again without the vampire escaping OR locking themselves in with the bloodsucker.
You can easily change the theme of this adventure to a mummy, lich, or Cthulhu if your players messed with you one time too many. Whichever scares your players the most.
The puzzles in this article are available in our webshop and are a part of the Puzzle Bundle which contains hundreds of puzzles for D&D. With the right setup you could use any of these puzzles for a horror campaign so be sure to check them out. There may be something that fits your story better.
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.