Perplexing Puzzles #2: Puzzle Chests

Perplexing Puzzles #2: Puzzle Chests


This massive pdf clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 59 (!!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So, we’ve all been there – the ONE player who plays the skill-monkey isn’t here. We’re all waiting. There’s this one player who’s late to the gig, and without him, the PCs can’t simply plunder their hard-earned loot.


We’ve all been there and now, instead of twiddling collective thumbs, we have this rather cool supplement. Or perhaps, you’re looking for a way to challenge the brains of your PCs – I know mine love the change of pace a good puzzle brings, something mostly lost on most new-school modules. So how do these work?


Each puzzle lock is represented by one or more lines of d6s that show a certain number of eyes as a starting configuration. There also is a target configuration to open the chest. The goal is to change the starting configuration to the target configuration via set of moves. Each chest has a valid set of moves like e.g. 1, 2 -> 3, 4. Dice on the left side of the arrow are the input, those on the right side are the output. Any combination of the numbers shown as input is acceptable, as long as the first number is left of the second number. The input is removed from the sequence of numbers shown and the output is added in from the right. This may sound complex here, but it actually isn’t when seen with visual representations of the dice.


Each of the puzzle boxes comes with its own sheet – said sheet not only has a detailed, dressing/so what’s the chest-like description, but also a second page that handily sums up the target moves to win for the DM, should you be not that proficient with puzzles like this. Going one step beyond, suggested sample treasure and stats (hp, weight and hardness) are provided for each chest – including additional treasure of a rather iconic and unique nature – even “just” mundane items receive some unique representations.


Now beyond this initial configuration, suggested XP-values and CRs for the chests are provided – which obviously can be enhanced by traps. You see, certain combinations and chests may have moves and configurations that reset the chest and/or trigger a trap. If a short contemplation wasn’t enough to hint at this – this system is so simple and elegant, yet downright brilliant, I’ve been using the hell out of it. Making your own puzzle chests with this is so easy, it’s not even funny – and the added complexity you can add is nigh infinite – from certain sequence numbers adding or detracting from the number of output dice (to represent e.g. chests that open like origami flowers or close upon themselves) to ones that change everything – this system is exceedingly elegant and brilliant.


Oh, and the chests tell stories – beyond the description handed to the players, skills can be sued to glean more information and hints for the chest and yes, frustrated players may brute force them, but where’s the fun in that? Optional special rules for resets and yes, some unique magical weapons can also be found herein – but that should not detract from the fact that this system works perfectly in ANY roleplaying system – I currently use it, for example, as a means of representing magical “hacking” into a quasi-atlantean civilization’s devices. The chests? I scavenged them and their treasures for other components of my game.


It should be noted that, while the 20 base chests range from child’s play to difficult, there also are 7 advanced chests – and these are EVIL. With complex special rules, multiple rows of dice , rows that may not be modified and only indirectly changed – yes, these are brain-teasers indeed and provide more inspiration than you can shake a stick at.



Editing and formatting are good. Layout adheres toa printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for oen’s convenience. Artwork consists of origami-shapes and the pdf’s chest-sheets are concise, easy to grasp and printer-friendly to boot.


I ADORE this book. Its system is used all the time in my home-game and my players enjoy the diversion and challenge this brings. It also doubles as an inspired little treasure book. So why did it take me forever to review this? Well, there are some glitches herein. Number 3, for example, is glitchy and lists the wrong legal moves. The correct moves should be:

1 -> 2

2 -> 3

3 -> 4

4 -> 1


This is not bad in my book. It took me about 1 minute to deduce them. But it is a flaw and one I hoped would be rectified so I could write the glowing recommendation this deserves. Alas, the pdf did not sell – at all. And reality hit. I do not fault Bradley Crouch for not investing even more time in this, but I figured, you should be aware of that – this is NOT a perfect pdf.

The plus-side, though, would be that this pdf now is FREE. Yes, you can actually download this massive, 50+ page book for free. Even if you only scavenge the dressing, the items etc., this is worth the download. Getting such an inspired, easy to use and easier even to expand puzzle system for free is even better. And completely offsets aforementioned flaws for me. I don’t often write reviews of free products anymore, mainly since there doesn’t seem to be a big interest in them (and I can barely keep up with the commercial ones!), but this is something PFRPG needs in my book:


A challenge for the brain.

A fun diversion.

A neat mini-game.

A call-back to the time when modules featured the like (and riddles!) more often. I wished this had sold more units – it deserves to see support. And it deserves it now, even more. So, let me urge you: Take a look. Download this. Try it out. Puzzles can be exceedingly fun and we all have to wait for that one player stuck in traffic once in a while…don’t we?


As a free product, this is stellar – even with its flaws, and well-worth 5 stars + seal of approval.


You can get this awesome book for FREE here on OBS!
Endzeitgeist out.



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3 Responses

  1. Interjection Games says:

    See the “bead chests” from the 90s Sierra RPG Betrayal in Antara. The system is pretty much a straight rip. All I can claim are the advanced chests.

  2. Ben says:

    I am not understanding how to work this at all.

    Do the players get to see what dice are coming up?
    How do I know which dice to put in front of the players after they take dice out?
    How do I know to tell them to take two dice or one dice?

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Hej Ben!

      Let me help:

      Step 1):
      You print out a Puzzle Chest-sheet (or duplicate it in another way).

      Step 2):
      Personally, I provide the chest-description, then I hand out the sheet. On the sheet, the players see the initial state, the unlocking combination, and the legal moves.

      It gets easier if you line up the dice of the initial state.

      Let’s take the first puzzle, all right?
      So players have lined up:
      1, 2, 1

      The unlocking combination is 2, 1, 1 – so if they manage to line up this combo, the chest pops open.

      You solve puzzle chests by using legal moves.
      The legal moves for this puzzle are
      a) 2, 1 -> 1, 1
      b) 1 -> 2

      The structure of these legal moves is pretty simple: On the left of the arrow, you have the input, on the right, you have the output. Input dice are read from left to right, but need not be adjacent. You take out the input and receive the output.

      In our example (1, 2, 1), you could thus use the first and third number 1 as input to get an output of 2 as per legal move b).
      You could, however, since input needs to be in sequence from left to right, only change the second and third number (2, 1) of the initial configuration to get an output of 1, 1. taking the first and second number and removing it would be illegal, since it would be 1, 2, not 2, 1.

      Output is added to the right of the dice-line.

      I hope this explanation helps!
      So, to recapitulate:
      Do the players get to see what dice are coming up?
      How do I know which dice to put in front of the players after they take dice out?
      The legal moves show you which dice to insert.
      How do I know to tell them to take two dice or one dice?
      You usually don’t need to tell them – it’s depicted as a legal move. (But if you don’t print out a chest, you obviously need to tell them the legal moves available for the chest.)

      I hope this helps – if it doesn’t, drop me a line!
      Cheers and thanks for commenting!

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