Any Ideas for Dungeon Puzzles Designed Around a Psychological Theme?

WilsonE7

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In my game, dungeons represent a character's mind. Going through a dungeon represents a character working through some issue or problem in their life. I'm looking for ideas of puzzles that would go with those themes. Right now I just need ideas for the first one. The theme I'm designing it around is "unrequited longing," or "longing for something dangerous." I had one idea of a chase puzzle (player chasing a monster to get a key), but I need some other ideas for different puzzles based on that theme. I'd appreciate any help!
 

Solovei

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I love this concept! Makes me think of the Persona games, especially 4 and 5... (not sure if you've played those or not)

How about one of those puzzles where you have to make it from point A to point B (usually across a room) but you can only step on each tile once? And maybe if you stand on them too long the tiles crumble and the character falls? This would introduce that element of danger the character is craving
 

Finnuval

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Maybe have each tile they step on do damage as they try to gather a treausre that moves away from the player... (Until IT isnt fun anymore lol)

Go one further and add a permanent decrease to stats Every X steps to drive the point home even more.

That's my two cents anyway xD
 

WilsonE7

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How about one of those puzzles where you have to make it from point A to point B (usually across a room) but you can only step on each tile once? And maybe if you stand on them too long the tiles crumble and the character falls?

Maybe have each tile they step on do damage as they try to gather a treausre that moves away from the player... (Until IT isnt fun anymore lol)

Go one further and add a permanent decrease to stats Every X steps to drive the point home even more.
Those are both really cool ideas! I could do the floor tile one with events probably, maybe use VisuStella's event templates? As for the stats decreasing one, if I were to do that, I'd need a way to make sure it doesn't become impossible and to restore their original stats later on (so they're not messed up for the rest of the game, lol). With the damage floor/chasing one, I'd have to end it before my player rage-quits, but it's an interesting atmospheric trick.

I also just had another idea: a logic puzzle where you have to choose the right door. A series of fake doors that beckon the player and he has to see past the deception.

Great ideas! I'd love to hear more of them!
 

Basileus

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Rather than just a theme, I think the most important thing to consider is "what should the player learn from this?". That will inform the kinds of solutions you will need to make and you can work backwards from there.

Like others have suggested, if the intended lesson is to learn to let go/cut your losses, then it makes sense to punish the player for pushing on in some way like with decreasing HP or stats. In this case, knowing specifically what actions you don't want to player to do can help create the puzzle/gimmick.

I'm not really sure what to suggest, but if you have some ideas on what the player should learn from the situation (or just the character's arc the dungeon is about) then I might be able to think of something more specific.
 

WilsonE7

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I'm not really sure what to suggest, but if you have some ideas on what the player should learn from the situation (or just the character's arc the dungeon is about) then I might be able to think of something more specific.
The character represented by the dungeon is a high school student who is torn between trying to fit in with the popular crowd and standing for his own morals. He let the group he was trying to fit in with manipulate him into doing things that could damage his reputation (cheating, stealing, etc.) to benefit them. He knows they're just using him, but he hopes he can gain status from them if he plays along. The hero of the story is a telepath who accidentally discovers he can enter people's minds (the dungeons). The hero goes through them to help the characters defeat their weaknesses (personified by enemies, puzzles, and eventually the dungeon boss). By the end of this chapter of the game, the character (and, I guess, the player) learns how to say no and forge his own identity.

...which now that I think about it does fit in with the idea of "cutting your losses." I guess I could bait the player with the promise of treasure, but it would cost them greatly unless they wait until certain thresholds are passed. Risk/reward management. I also had the idea of having a bunch of mimic chests.
 

kairi_key

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Hmm, don't know why I think of things like that movie "Saw" that involves pain and dilemma. Or things like destroying oneself to gain their ideal self.

Things that might sound weird might be something like a body switching game. Like, you have a robot that need to pass the criteria and you have to switch your robot's part with other robots to get in. The challenge might be that some part that is usually needed are locked. And maybe further, you might not be able to keep holding on to the same part twice.
 

BK-tdm

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To translate the character's situation almost literally you could add a big maze like area, the exit is blocked by a lesser devil or whatever antagonist you flavor, the devil must be weak, just dont tell that to the player, even better make him look super steong and intimidating, the devil can let you pass but only IF you get him some keys first, the weak devil will task the player with finding 8 or so keys, must be a big number and pretty scattered, each key will be watched by a strong but non aggressive enemy, until you grab his key, cue a difficcult and forced battle.
You can only carry one key at a time and you must deliver it to the devil to get the next one, everytime you deliver one key you may question the demon as to why he doesnt get the keys himself or just simply keep with the "quest"...
Around the 3rd or so key you can add another option... tell the devil to grab his own stupid keys! Cue an enraged devil who reassures you shall not pass until he gets his keys, now you have 2 choices, keep doing the key errands or fight the devil, afteall hes only in the way of the exit, nothing else is blocking it, IF the player chooses to fight him? Cue boss battle with the super intimidating devil that has exactly... 10hp, the player one shots the devil and then the devil finds some petty excuses and goes away with a "next time you wont be so lucky!"

The player can take the long road by doing as told to "fit in" with the typical rpg fetch quests or can be "smart" enough to realize the devil is using them to do tasks way tougher than he is, one of the cues must be that the "enemies" watching the key will only attack if the key is taken and will be super strong for the current level.

Hope this long example helps you design a dungeon with a lesson on this theme.
 

WilsonE7

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The player can take the long road by doing as told to "fit in" with the typical rpg fetch quests or can be "smart" enough to realize the devil is using them to do tasks way tougher than he is, one of the cues must be that the "enemies" watching the key will only attack if the key is taken and will be super strong for the current level.
I like that! It's a neat trick that could work on both newbies and veteran RPG players. Newbies would be inclined to follow "instructions." Veterans would naturally look for the quest. But then if they take a closer look it's much simpler than they think! I'd also place a hint somewhere it's not too obvious, but also available. Cool idea!
 

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Not exactly puzzles, but this reminded me of two other games - Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind and Dragon Quest 4.

In Morrowind, there is an NPC in the starter town that wants you to help shake down a guy for money by finding and stealing his secret stash. You tail the guy, find the stash, take everything back to the quest-giver, and...you get a little gold. There's no special item, nothing to make the player feel like the quest was worth doing, just a lesson that the NPCs in this land will use you for their own gain if you let them.

In Dragon Quest 4, there is a chapter where you play a weapon merchant named Torneko. You wake up in the morning and your wife gives you lunch. You go to the weapon shop you work at and adventurers come in to buy or sell weapons. Your boss pays you for the day and you go home to find your wife and kid asleep, and you go to bed. This will repeat forever...if you let it. The player is trapped just like Torneko and they will never go out into the world and accomplish their dreams if they just do what other people tell them to. The game never prompts the player to do anything else, but it also doesn't set up any barriers. You can start Torneko's adventure at any time. Just don't go to work and leave town instead. The only thing keeping the player in this rut is their thinking. The adventure begins as soon as Torneko/the player has enough and decides to "break the rules" by doing what they want instead of what they are told.
 

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In my mind, the mechanic that would best match the theme of "longing" would be something that makes your goal fall away right before you get to it.

So, for example, bridge of platforms you walk over to reach the door to the next area, except the last one tilts or disintegrates as you walk over it, dropping you to a lower zone. Maybe in the lower zone the same thing happens, dropping you to a room where you can hit a switch and also climb up to the original zone. Hitting that switch causes the platform in the lower zone to become solid, which allows you to cross it (once you fall from the upper zone once again), and at the end of that bridge is another switch which makes the upper zone solid and crossable. Finally, you can get to the door you were longing for the entire time. You can get creative with this, adding switches in tiers and over branching pathways, but be careful not to make it too complex or vexing if it's your game's first dungeon. You could also place the actual goal for the whole dungeon right beyond that first door, with the final switch in the dungeon making that first bridge solid (and, to be merciful to the player, provide a quick jump or loop back to it).

Alternatively (but similarly), mirages could be used to represent the idea of longing, having some absurdly easy task ("grab the Gem that's 8 tiles away!") become an unobtainable tease when the player gets within a step or two of it and it transforms into its true form: a switch that's used to access the next area, where you can get the Gem... except you can't because that's also a switch, and so on until after several rooms it transforms into the dungeon's boss (which transforms back into the Gem after defeating it and you can finally obtain it).

Characters can comment on how they're so close they can taste it, throughout the trials.
 

Htlaets

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There's always the classic "map transfers don't lead where you think" gimmick that could work with this. Basically, make it so that the maps are not connected the way you visually think they should be and make it so that if players don't go through the map exits in the proper order they end up back at the beginning. Basically a case where taking the obvious path leads you nowhere.
 

auradev

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In my game, dungeons represent a character's mind. Going through a dungeon represents a character working through some issue or problem in their life. I'm looking for ideas of puzzles that would go with those themes. Right now I just need ideas for the first one. The theme I'm designing it around is "unrequited longing," or "longing for something dangerous." I had one idea of a chase puzzle (player chasing a monster to get a key), but I need some other ideas for different puzzles based on that theme. I'd appreciate any help!
Maybe going into a completely different diection: If you also have a world outside of your dungeons you might give the player options that trigger changes in the dungeons through the normal world. In Persona 5 for example there is a case where a door blocks the further passage into the dungeon representing his study. So in the real world they break into his study to break his perception of it being unenterable. Rather than a puzzle contained to just the dungeon, this can open up the puzzle to include things outside the person's mind as well.
 

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