Page 1068 - Misread Herring

24th May 2018, 6:00 AM in The Return of Harmony, Part 1
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Misread Herring
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Newbiespud 24th May 2018, 6:00 AM edit delete
I'm not the only one whose brain went in this direction for a second, right?

Though to go on another tangent for a second, I've personally got nothing but disdain for riddles. Maybe it's a flaw in my brain, maybe I've never had the satisfaction of solving a really good one, but riddles as clues / hints / puzzles have never brought any table of mine much fun and can go straight into the bin as far as I'm concerned.

Notice: Guest comic submissions are open! Guidelines here. Deadline: January 27th, 2023.



arcictgray 24th May 2018, 6:04 AM edit delete reply
Ah, the joy of solving riddles. The joy of knowing that if only you had a telepathic link to the creator of the riddle to think like he does everything would make sense.

The only real way to make a riddle that players will get is if they have demonstrated knowledge of or thinking paths similar enough to the line of thinking required to understand the riddle you are making. In a way, it's "riddle" enough just to create challenges for players.
nathan400 24th May 2018, 6:10 AM edit delete reply
I've taken to not having solution's to my puzzles, and letting the first decently clever thing my players come up with be the answer.
Wulfraed 24th May 2018, 8:10 AM edit delete reply
I once proposed an alternative response to the traditional Sphinx riddle (4 legs morning, 2 legs mid-day, 3 legs evening)...

The shadow of a table angled such that the morning sun reveals all four legs, and noon the front pair overlap the rear pair, and evening a diagonal pair overlap resulting in three legs in the shadow.
Balrighty 24th May 2018, 11:47 AM edit delete reply
Alternatively, I think the most appropriate answer in a D&D world is "a mimic". In the morning, it's a four-legged table. In the middle of the day, it's a replica of a suit of armor. And in the evening, it's a three-legged milk stool.
Truthkeeper 25th May 2018, 11:43 PM edit delete reply
The best way to stump any party with a sphinx or other riddlegiver is to make them give the reasoning for their answer, and not accept "Because that's what everyone knows the answer is" as a reason.
ZzzDJ 28th May 2018, 12:05 AM edit delete reply
There was a riddle given to my group in a Pathfinder game... It went something like this,
"If you have me, you want to share me, but if you share me, you don't have me."
The "right" answer is "A Secret".
OUR answer was, "Virginity".
Honestly, I think our answer is more accurate, given that even large-scale projects known by dozens or hundreds of people have been kept functionally secret.
Chakat Firepaw 24th May 2018, 7:52 PM edit delete reply
That's basically just a variant on the quantum ogre. No matter what the players com up with, it's right and leads them to the next part of the adventure.

My rule about riddles is to not use ones reliant on puzzling out wordplay. Instead use ones that require logic, analysis or at most realizing that an oblique description is of some nearby object, (e.g. "behind those with no arms but four hands" to describe a safe covered by the picture "Dogs Playing Poker").
Greenhornet 26th May 2018, 5:23 AM edit delete reply
I know! Last night, I was watching some riddle videos and there was a series of "which do not belong?" pictures. While THEIR answers were logical, I was able to find AT LEAST one alternate answer to each that were equally logical.
paradoxical 24th May 2018, 6:12 AM E Nigma's solution edit delete reply
I think that riddles are cool and all that, but after the players have had a chance to muddle through for a moment, then they should roll for their characters' capabilities for answering it. Thus White Wolf's enigma's knowledge.
CCC 24th May 2018, 6:44 AM edit delete reply
When you have a good riddle - a really, properly *good* riddle - it should be obvious, when you have the right answer, that it is right and that no other answer will do. (Most riddles are merely mediocre).

Here's one of my favourite examples:

I'm the beginning of eternity
The end of time and space;
The start of every end,
And the end of every race.

What am I?
Borg 24th May 2018, 8:02 AM edit delete reply
If you ask me, riddles that are talking about spelling are a bit overdone. I've seen too many of them.
Winged Cat 24th May 2018, 11:38 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
"What am I?"

An answer that falls apart if you try it outside the English language?

(Yeah, yeah, the letter E. But "every" includes ones where other languages and not English are present...)
Guest 24th May 2018, 5:48 PM edit delete reply
I prefer "death" as an answer... Especially since that should work, regardless of language.
BackSet 24th May 2018, 2:21 PM edit delete reply
It’s 42 (just kidding, it’s e.
Gdesign95 24th May 2018, 3:15 PM edit delete reply
My favorite Riddle is this one

"With potent, flowery words speak I, Of something common, vulgar, dry; I weave webs of pedantic prose, In effort to befuddle those, Who think I wile time away, In lofty things, above all day. The common kind that linger where Monadic beings live and fare; Practical I may not be, But life, it seems, is full of me! And so adventurer I cry, can you tell me what am I?"
BackSet 24th May 2018, 5:02 PM edit delete reply
Guest 24th May 2018, 11:34 PM edit delete reply
CCC 25th May 2018, 12:42 AM edit delete reply
A riddle.
Gdesign95 25th May 2018, 7:54 AM edit delete reply
And CCC got it.
Guest 24th May 2018, 5:17 PM edit delete reply
Zero, obviously.

Did no one else guess this?
Guest 24th May 2018, 5:18 PM edit delete reply
Oh, bah.

Screw it, I stand by my answer.
BackSet 26th May 2018, 4:49 PM edit delete reply
I, too, stand by mine as it is still an adequate answer, given the phrasing of the riddle
Toric 24th May 2018, 6:49 AM edit delete reply
The letter E
Arix 24th May 2018, 7:14 AM edit delete reply
My problem with riddles is that I'm yet to come across one that hits the right balance between being tricky and challenging to solve, but not being so broad as to allow multiple answers. That's my big problem with riddles - not that it's difficult to come up with the answer, but that it's so easy to come up with many different answers that all could reasonably work, but aren't what the riddler thought of so they're not right.
Winged Cat 24th May 2018, 11:36 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
So agreed. Movies and games and other media descriptions almost never show this side, always assuming there can only be one possible answer that the heroes must find. But in truth, riddles usually admit to a number of solutions, which the bright or clever can find but the riddler did not think of, with no way for the answerers to know which answer was meant.

"Read the air", they say. "Know the person who poses the question, and from that deduce the nature of the answer." BS: the riddler just didn't think there could be any other answer, and that's all there is to it.
ChaoticBrain 24th May 2018, 4:12 PM edit delete reply
"the riddler just didn't think there could be any other answer"

So in other words, solving the riddle requires you to "Know the person who poses the question".
Greenhornet 26th May 2018, 5:30 AM edit delete reply
How about the "no answer" riddles?
"Answer or die! Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"
"The egg. Dinosaurs were hatched from eggs and dinosaurs lived before chickens."
"Son of a B***H!"
Godzfirefly 26th May 2018, 8:09 AM edit delete reply
@Greenhornet: I think you've forgotten that that's the exact point of the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Originally, it wasn't some vague philosophical concept or unanswerable riddle. It was intended to represent the dichotomy between creationism and evolutionism.

If God created the universe and all animals in it, then the first chicken came before the first egg. If evolution crafted chickens from a predecessor, then the egg came first.

As the mainstream understanding of creation versus evolution changed to lean in a particular direction, the point of the question got lost.
Borg 26th May 2018, 9:52 AM edit delete reply
The core of the question "What came first, the chicken or the (chicken) egg?" is a refusal to disambiguate whether a chicken egg is an egg that was laid by a chicken or an egg that hatches into a chicken. Without that ambiguity, it's trivially answerable; with it it's too ill-posed of a question to be answerable.
albedoequals1 24th May 2018, 7:38 AM edit delete reply
Riddles are a must when you have a bard in the group. They're a great way to force the player to think instead of just "I take 10 for 50 on knowledge everything. Tell me the answer."

There should be some things the players have to work for.
you know that guy 24th May 2018, 2:10 PM edit delete reply
A challenge that their characters cannot solve.
Greenhornet 26th May 2018, 5:32 AM edit delete reply
See my "no answer riddle" above.
BackSet 24th May 2018, 3:14 PM edit delete reply
That’s exactly what you can do here. Unless of course, your entire group has dismal intelligence.
LordIce 24th May 2018, 7:43 AM edit delete reply
I HATE it when players do what AJ's player does all the time. This is the worst example: When she just treats the whole story like a bunch of hoops that she has to jump through, and simply tries to find the right hoop to start with.
It's gotten to the point where she is even trying to read the DM's face to see if she gives anything away.
Classic Steve 24th May 2018, 8:56 AM edit delete reply
That's the trouble with pragmatism: Sometimes it gets in the way of fun.
ChaoticBrain 24th May 2018, 9:17 AM edit delete reply
That's why they call her the "Element of Fun-Ruining".
BackSet 24th May 2018, 3:15 PM edit delete reply
All ypu need to know is if the GM is smiling or not. If they are, ypur dead, if they arent, your probably still dead.
Discord 24th May 2018, 7:48 AM edit delete reply
Plants that spreads chaos own their own, check.
A handsome picture carved on the moon, check.
Realistic moving flames on houses, check.
6 confused ponies, check.
Preparing for my defeat, how did that get there? Scraped.
Ah yes, defeathering the griffins.
BackSet 24th May 2018, 3:16 PM edit delete reply
You know, this is gonna get people really pissed at you after you reform.
Discord 24th May 2018, 4:02 PM edit delete reply
The lord of chaos.
And I thought the pink one was the funny jewel.
Greenhornet 26th May 2018, 5:36 AM edit delete reply
Ah, Discord. Some people want to see the world burn, others want it to be a musical comedy.
BackSet 26th May 2018, 4:52 PM edit delete reply
But that’s what it is already.
Borg 24th May 2018, 8:05 AM edit delete reply
I believe I also interpreted "back where you began" to mean where they originally found the Elements, yes. But I can't deny that taking a more recent horizon and referring to Ponyville doesn't also make sense.
Luminous Lead 24th May 2018, 8:19 AM edit delete reply
Everfree does seem like the most likely suspect. It's where they were all properly glued together after all.

Then again, if we're talking about true beginnings, shouldn't the elements have been hiding where each of them saw the first Sonic Rainboom? It was, after all, the moment when they all got their destiny marks.
Winged Cat 24th May 2018, 11:43 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
That hasn't been established as canon in this game yet, has it?

That said, if we're really going for the start - the first scene in this game happened in Twilight's library-home in Canterlot, yes?
Digo Dragon 25th May 2018, 5:43 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
There was a D&D campaign I ran many years ago where the party discovered that the reason they ended up adventuring together was because each of them had a relative (generally along the grandparent/ older uncle age range) that was an adventurer in a team of their own. That team made a pact with an angel to get together some years down the road to complete a mission they couldn't at the time due to several issues. Well they had to sign a caveat that if the time came to finish the mission and they couldn't get together to do it, then a younger relative/descendant would be plucked by the fates to do it for them.

Cue the PCs minds being collectively blown. Followed by some funny arguments with their relatives about messing with other people's fates. XD
BackSet 24th May 2018, 3:18 PM edit delete reply
I mean, back where they began could really refer to where they all first met which was at the party in twilights library (they had met indivisually beforehand but that was where they were first all together)
WuseMajor 24th May 2018, 8:32 AM edit delete reply
Personally I’d cast “True Seeing” on the vault right quick, just to make sure that “back where you began” isn’t right here, right now.
Waffle Sorter 29th May 2018, 6:23 AM edit delete reply
That was my initial hypothesis, back when this first aired in the show.
Boris Carlot 24th May 2018, 9:04 AM edit delete reply
Riddles make me ridiculously, irrationally angry if I don't solve them quickly. I feel like I *should* be able to get the answer and when I don't I feel embarrassed and frustrated. Even if I'm able to solve the riddle subsequently the payoff isn't worth the shitty feeling prior.

Totally on me, though. Riddles are fine, it's my brain that doesn't work right.
Guest 24th May 2018, 9:04 AM edit delete reply
I've always considered riddles cheating in many RPGs. Especially when the GM insists that the PLAYER figure out the riddle, not the character.
"Look fucko, my character has lived in this setting for X years and knows all about what the riddle consists of for your homebrew setting, quit giving me shit because _I_ as a player don't know that in your setting rabbits are all called smerps! Otherwise I'm gonna have a riddle of my own for you. "Who thinks he is very clever but not clever enough to avoid being fed to the local pig farm? I'll give you a clue, I'm looking at him'!"
BackSet 24th May 2018, 3:20 PM edit delete reply
Or even better: “My character has literally dedicated his life to riddles and has more points in intelligence and knowledge skills than anything else and your telling me I have to solve it on my own? What is wrong with you you sadistic bastard!”
SilverShadow4 26th May 2018, 1:04 AM edit delete reply
I love riddles but I can also recognize that they aren't for everybody. I have some planned for an upcoming escape room-esque campaign that are still in the works but so far I've planned them in sorts of stages.
The party encounters an obstacle and a riddle is given that, when solved, will provide passage.
The riddle itself will be of average difficulty, leaning more towards easy. The trick is HOW they solve the riddle. One of the base ideas I have is providing hints for colors/symbols/patterns associated with the answer or the letters that make it up. Once arranged or pressed correctly the obstacle has been overcome.
So if they really don't want to try to solve it, it is possible to brute-force through, but I feel like it'll be rewarding for the players and the characters to be able to solve it.
I'm also not super stuck-to-my-notes so if they're having trouble I can drop some bigger hints. I'm also a fan of mazes, I like to provide chalk or other ways to mark their trail. I've been known to leave a rope trailing behind us lol
Needling Haystacks 24th May 2018, 9:12 AM edit delete reply
I prefer puzzles to riddles. Subbed in for a few games with a GM who loved 'em, though I thought he overdid it a little. Might just be bitter that he nixed my solution to the greater scope problem that involved burning things. :P Apparently that particular group wasn't much on improv.
Armada 24th May 2018, 10:06 AM edit delete reply
I wrote some riddles! Here's the one I'm proudest of, mostly because it's long:

The old man lives down the way from me
He has no eyes but lots of teeth
He has no legs, he can’t move much
But he’s not sad; he has enough
I said he’d go round trip with me
I’d show him the air and I’d show him the sea
He found a new love, a pretty girl
Her name was written all in curls
The girl had a destination, she said
No need for a map, it was all in her head
And lo and behold, the place was in sight
We delivered ourselves, thought, “This is all right!”
So we settled down there, he, she, and I
So far from home I could almost cry
But truly it’s nice here, together, us three
Me and then she, ‘cross the way, and then he
We’ll travel no more, our journey is spent
We’re empty inside, but our hearts are content

If you google this, you will probably find the answer; I wrote it for a forum game some time ago, and the people there figured it out pretty handily. I like writing rhyming riddles, they're fun.
Clifford Snow 24th May 2018, 5:58 PM edit delete reply
Um, what exactly is the question here?
CCC 25th May 2018, 1:15 AM edit delete reply
It's fairly clear, I think. The 'old man' is a barbed fishhook, the 'girl' is the river.

"I’d show him the air and I’d show him the sea" - he's casting his line, with the fishhook at the end

"The girl had a destination, she said" This 'destination' is the mouth of the river, a mouth being something commonly found in a head

"We’ll travel no more, our journey is spent
We’re empty inside, but our hearts are content" - The narrator is settling down to a pleasant afternoon's fishing at the mouth of the river.
terrycloth 24th May 2018, 10:15 AM edit delete reply
The most important thing is that they be obvious in retrospect. Sure there can be other answers that technically work, but the real answer has to be *obvious*. But only in retrospect.

...but I kind of hate them still. There was one one-shot game that started out with a bunch of riddles and I ended up ruling out the 'real' answer on about half of them after someone suggested it, so we didn't get any equipment for our quest.

Me :"Always moving, never wanders" -- how could that be a tree? Trees only move when the wind blows. Let me translate this line for you -- "I am not a tree." Let's go with river, even if the other lines don't work very well.

GM: Sorry, it was a tree.
Digo Dragon 24th May 2018, 11:16 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Yeah I'm fairly average at making riddles and historically my players are bad at figuring them out, so I just don't bother. I think the last one I did was "What is the difference between an orange..."

The door behind the inscription wasn't trapped or locked. The players were free to just move on to the next part of the dungeon.
Winged Cat 24th May 2018, 11:32 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
Inducements to overthinking can themselves be good traps. (I remember a certain Web comic that parodied this: a wall with the word "OVERTHINKING" drew adventurers to ponder it and stop, never able to move past.)
Chakat Firepaw 24th May 2018, 8:07 PM edit delete reply
Then there is the classic trap:

There is a short dead-end corridor leading out of the chamber, there is a sign at the end saying "Only by following these instructions can you escape the trap in this room." The part of the sign with the instructions is too small to read from here.

The instructions? Here they are, in Rot13:

Qb abg ernq gurfr vafgehpgvbaf.
Digo Dragon 25th May 2018, 5:46 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Heh heh, that's pretty mean. :3
Wulfraed 25th May 2018, 7:24 AM edit delete reply
I didn't bother with the ROT-13, but I suspect it was similar to a trap in the old RatShack TRS-80 game Raaka-Tu...

Enter a room.
Jeweled lever on the wall, sign says something like "He who pulls this lever shall receive what they deserve"

Pull lever: ceiling opens up you get buried in gold dust... Dead!

The treasure in that room... Don't pull the lever; TAKE the lever.
Digo Dragon 25th May 2018, 5:46 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Well that old story I said a while back about the party failing at the Knock Knock Door is surely a classic example of Overthinking.
Ace 24th May 2018, 11:31 AM edit delete reply
The Everfree Forest, in the original context of the show, is EXACTLY where I thought he put them. After all "back where you began" (Even ignoring the twist and turns)..well they began to show the elemental traits in the Everfree Forest on their way to rescue princess celestia (who was in another castle).

i didn't think of the <spoiler> at the time. but oh the memories it brings back.
Story Time 24th May 2018, 1:43 PM edit delete reply
The object you need to get your adventure is hidden in X place, you need to solve the riddle, if you guess wrong, you lost time, and of course there are many places to guess...

Any story of how the adventurers had to solve a riddle to know where is hidden the mistery object only to fail with the riddle and not finding what they wanted?
BackSet 24th May 2018, 2:22 PM edit delete reply
Here’s a riddle: What is the answer to the great question of Life, The Universe, and Everything?
Guest 24th May 2018, 5:23 PM edit delete reply
Is it entropy? The solution's the thing that comes at the end, right?
Chakat Firepaw 24th May 2018, 8:08 PM edit delete reply
That's not a riddle, that's a trivia question.
BackSet 26th May 2018, 4:53 PM edit delete reply
Yes, that’s the point. Look, I’ve been reading a lot of hitchhikers guide lately. I’m on a high from it.
shadowstripe 24th May 2018, 11:41 PM edit delete reply
Dragonflight 24th May 2018, 8:04 PM edit delete reply
As a general rule, I hate riddles.

The biggest atrocity that sticks out in my mind was one of the later Zork! games. By the end of the series, the game developers created a puzzle that was seemingly impossible to solve. This was intentional. They had created such a devoted following, who had proven so capable of figuring out exactly how they thought, that they had to create the "ultimate" riddle.

The solution? You had to cheat, of course. If you played the game completely straight, you had no chance of guessing the correct solution.

This is why I hate riddles. Unless you can absolutely project yourself into the other person's mind, you have effectively no chance of solving the riddle. Especially if they think they're being "clever."
DM's Choice 25th May 2018, 1:33 AM edit delete reply
There is a great video about riddles in RPGs on the YouTube channel "How to be a great GameMaster", which I personally found very inspiring. Essentially, it's about not letting a riddle bog down an adventure, but 1) accepting an unexpected answer as correct if it makes sense and 2) allowing for rolls to get hints or - if nothing helps - even the answer, with the justification that a group possibly has at least one character with an extraordinary Intelligence score which - face it - goes far beyond the capabilities of the players.
DeS_Tructive 25th May 2018, 3:27 AM edit delete reply
The Problem with riddles usually aren't the riddles themselves, but a GM that insists things are done in a very specific manner, even if valid alternatives are presented.

The thing is (and it's sad so many players and GMs don't realize this): GMs only have a limited amount of power. The whole game hinges on the players/characters actually wanting to play according to their rules.

I remember a situation near the end of the campaign, after we'd created a global organisation to deal with superhuman threats, the wife of one of the characters fell asleep and wouldn't wake up. It seemed like the big bad was either striking from the grave, or that it was some sort of revenge.

We tried everything we could come up with, but came up empty. The DM didn't allow for rolls to gain clues. In the end, I suggested we simply gather all the experts that could possibly be of use and let them figure it out.

The GM threw a hissy fit AND the campaign ending. But honestly, when the group admits they're out of ideas, any GM that's still inactive after ten minutes is simply gloating (or as I said back then: Getting off on their own fake cleverness).

This isn't a person that's interested in collaborative storytelling, and shouldn't be tolerated as a GM.
Werefrog 25th May 2018, 4:18 AM edit delete reply
The Werefrog once gave a partial riddle. The party didn't roll high enough on the translate test to get the full thing, so they got bits and pieces of the riddle. They had to piece together that partial clue to get to the answer, which was to give a proper burial to the spider monster things they had just killed shortly before.
Demonu 25th May 2018, 9:33 AM edit delete reply
I love riddles. Both as a player because I actually like solving them (I blame the Ace Attorney and Professor Layton series) and as a DM because it's one of the few instances that cannot readily be solved by violence or rolling dice.
Dragonflight 25th May 2018, 10:03 AM edit delete reply
The danger with a riddle puzzle in a game is that you can either give too few hints, or the hints you give might be impossible for the others to parse, because although you don't realize it, the hints (which make perfect sense to you) depend on someone sharing your point of view. If they don't, or approach the riddle from a different angle, it's unsolveable.

What I do as a GM is I remind myself that no one riddle, or villain, or encounter is more important than the story. On rare occasions, I'll line everything up perfectly, which are the ones I really remember fondly. Other times, something isn't working for some reason, and I have to adapt. That's life.
Hankroyd 25th May 2018, 12:15 PM edit delete reply
As a rule riddle are ... not great.
Seriously, why protect you magic vault or secret lair with a riddle that any PC can solve instead of a code only known by you.

However ... I did it once.
The PC were searching for an ancient powerful God, once before the entrance of his lair they found a sign "Only the cleverest may join me."

The players started to groan "Oh no, not stupid riddles."

They approached the locked door and real the riddle.

If you want to pass press the correct button, if you don't you die.

A - B - C - ???

Button 1 : 7
Button 2 : D
Button 3 : *
Button 4 : K


The players looked at the riddle and started laughing ...
The God they tried to awoke was VERY powerful, but also VERY VERY stupid and this riddle was the best he could do.
Such a good subvertion...

Funny thing, they were two other challenges "Wiserest" and "Strongerest" (Yeah, that God wasn't very good with word either)
Those challenges weren't riddles but were really serious, lethal ... and completly underestimated by the players because the first one was so stupid.

I loved being myself at that moment.
Adam L 26th May 2018, 12:15 AM edit delete reply
1. A moon colored box
Meant to be open from inside
Protects the sun colored
Treasure of life.
What is it?

2. It's so delicate that saying its name will break it.
What is it?

3. What has no begining, no end, and nothing in the middle?
CCC 26th May 2018, 6:59 AM edit delete reply
1.Egg. (Nice!)


SilvercatMoonpaw 26th May 2018, 9:15 AM edit delete reply
And of course villain riddles assume the villain is playing fair rather than making something up to distract the heroes while they finish their *true* plan.

Riddles are fine when the asker and the answerer are being controlled by the same person. Elsetimes it's stupid.
manicMagician 28th May 2018, 4:46 AM edit delete reply
I do hate riddles too. I often come up with answers that satisfy every condition or question or whatnot of the riddle, but it's the answer they were thinking of so it's considered wrong. Riddles aren't about being clever and figuring out the answer. Riddles are about guessing what the creator's answer is. And that is just a recipe for frustration for me.