DooM RPG takes the clues, hints, and implications of its source material and strives to recreate or enhance it to be true to the spirit and intent of the original. A common pitfall made again and again during the design process has been sticking too close to the unnecessary details of DooM Video Game, being too literal, and not seeing the big picture. Puzzles are no exception.
Video game design in the early 1990's forced DooM to present puzzles in an abstract way. The true dream of the author had to be constrained by existing technology and computing capabilities. Thankfully, this is one of the areas where DooM RPG can excel past those previous limitations, if only we have the drive and imagination to do so.
When you see a switch in the DooM Video Game, what does that really represent? A mere button to press? A lever to pull? How droll. No, the switch is actually a shorthand in the narrative for a maddening riddle puzzle involving prime numbers and coordinates for demonic gateways, or a timed mosaic puzzle to rewire and reroute power to where it is needed or where it is not. When we stand at the gaming table, we are able to take that shorthand narrative and expound that into an interesting challenge, rooted in the game fiction, to test and stress the players' abilities to think creatively. The DooM Video Game also presented many puzzles as hidden doors, identifiable by only a slight shift in the wall texture. The original intent here is to challenge the players' abilities of perception. Can they spot the slightly distorted door among the uncountable surfaces in a map? In DooM RPG, we instead challenge the players' abilities to interpret the meanings of clearly marked clues and leverage the story narrative to their advantage.
Puzzles serve to reward intelligent players via Secrets. DooM RPG is a punishing game that offers impossible challenges which cannot be defeated by simply rolling well on dice. When players solve certain puzzles, Secret chambers full of weapons and other boons are revealed to them. This is a well-earned reward and the means for players to directly affect their odds of survival.
I've been spewing out some hot air from atop a soap box for a little while now. Time to show what I mean through an actual example, a piece of game design that you can take right now and slip into any game mechanics system supporting an appropriate narrative theme. The example below, and all follow-up articles relating to Puzzles, will be deriving inspiration chiefly from the Fourthcore Alphabet; P is for Puzzles, S is for Secrets, and X is for X Marks the Spot.
HYPERPARTICLE RYDBERG PULSE PUZZLEFEATURES OF THE AREA
- You enter a five-sided room with shining, polished steel walls and a dark ceiling.
- To your left is a blackened and sealed circular hatch in the center of the wall; the only means out of this room besides crawling back from where you came. The hatch has a small, reinforced violet glass aperture about 1 inch around in its center.
- A glass pedestal on a mechanized platform rises up in the center of the room when you step in, a small opening in the floor pulling away to reveal its formerly concealed location. The platform rises to be flush with the floor, and the pedestal is 3 feet tall.
- On top of the pedestal sits a crystal clear, multi-facted Martian Tzo Crystal the size of your fist, held in delicate brass tines. The brilliant gemstone shape resembles a humanoid face with curled horned and an open mouth, screaming in terror. The crystal catches the room lights in odd angles, creating a mesmerizing display. Bits of ruddy Martian soil cling to its corners.
- What look to be two gun barrels protrude from the center of the two walls directly opposite of the hatch, each featuring a line of five small, green lights. A small monitor and keyboard are embedded in the walls as well.
UPON CLOSER INSPECTION
- The Martian Tzo Crystal is known for its strange transformative properties, affecting the quantum membrane of reality. It is held fast to the pedestal and cannot be removed without damaging it.
- The two gun barrels are, in fact, hyperparticle Rydberg pulse emitters. When the correct two particle types are discharged from the emitters and combined in the crystal, the hatch will safely unlock. However, an incorrect particle collision will transmogrify the crystal into antimatter, resulting in a cataclysmic explosion that kills all Marines in this room and opens this section of the station into the cold, airless Martian atmosphere.
- The consoles adjacent to the emitters are able to manipulate the type of particle discharged by each emitter: Muon (Blue), Gluon (Green), Lepton (Red), Photon (flashing White), Neutrino (Yellow),Tau Particle (Orange), Z Boson (solid White), and Dark Matter (no light). When an emitter's particle type is changed, its lights change to match the related colors noted in parentheses. Both emitters are aimed directly at the Martian Tzo Crystal and can be fired simultaneously from the consoles.
Marines must manipulate the hyperparticle Rydberg pulse emitters so that one laser displays red, a lepton, and the other displays blue, a muon. Firing the red and blue particles at the Martian Tzo Crystal then produces a combined purple beam that strikes the violet aperture in the hatch, releasing it and revealing a Secret chamber.
Editing by Andy Kotch