As much as I live to dive into the drama and politics of D&D it can be a lot of fun just to sit back and chill for a bit. The versatility of this game allows us to port external features easily into your session to without a fuss. It is just the perception of the toy we are messing with to make this work.
Puzzles & Riddles
The most obvious of these are puzzles and riddles. They have a strong history within the game already, but I figured I should touch on them anyway. You can take a simple children’s puzzle like a Rubik’s cube add a bit of paint and you have the horrifying cenobite box. It doesn’t take much to modify them in a way to make them feel rooted in your world, and there are so many real world puzzles for cheap that you don’t have to worry about using the same one twice.
Riddles are in the same boat. Its fairly easy to look for riddles by answer so I can tailor the riddle to the story I’m telling. The only issue I have with riddles is when there is a discrepancy between player and character abilities. To account for this I allow my players to use inspiration tokens to get a hint to the answer. The strength of the hint is based on the character’s int score.
I love using board games I have around the house in abstract ways. I previously wrote how I use Jenga to build tension, but you can use even more complex games as part of your D&D story. You could play a game of RISK or Blokus to play out the conflict in the countries to the west with each player taking on a warring faction. Instead of using a random encounter, or roll to see what the results are for a deck of many things or wand of wonder have them draw from Cards Against Humanity to see the results. Yeah, the results may be bonkers, but if you’re using these items in game you should be expecting things to get weird anyway.
Everyone loves handouts. Yes, the amazing handcrafted props are best, but us regular people don’t have time for such frivolities. That’s what the dollar store is for! Want to give your players a prop sword when they finally claim their holy avenger or flame blade? Those $3 laser swords make a perfect gag gift to go along with the in-game achievement. Just use a sharpie and write ‘holy avenger’ on the illuminated blade and voila, instant memorable moment for your table.
I hope this article made you laugh. Remember, its just a game, so have a little fun with it.