Ages ago, during the golden age of whatever civilization created the most powerful magic items of your setting, a temple was erected to protect something very dangerous. I've first two rooms of the jungle temple that I use in the 1-shot that I run for new DnD players. These first two rooms that I present guard Trafalgar's tomb in my adventure. The players are racing to brave the challenges of the temple and claim whatever lies within before their pursuers.
This puzzle is described in detail in our Puzzles part 2 episode of the Running off the Rails podcast.
For your use, you can drop these rooms into any dungeon.
Lend a Hand
The first room of the temple has a large stone slab door at the other side of the room. It has a symbol of a hand on it. Smaller hand symbols are visible throughout the room.
The door opens to the players when 4 people press the 4 stones with hands inscribed on them at the same time.
Before arriving at the room the players should discover a drawing made by someone who discovered how the hand room worked, but never had enough people to solve the puzzle.
If a player steps on a tile that is not colored in, a trap springs and deals 2d4 piercing or slashing damage. The trap is "comedically" unpredictable. I've gotten some awesome laughs at the table when darts shoot from the wall opposite from the direction the character is expectantly holding their shield.
After the players press all the correct stones in at once the walls glow blue, the stone tablet on the opposite wall slides open, and a skylight opens and allows light to pass from the sky outside above into the room below.
The players may descend the stairs into the room directly below, and will see the new skylight when they arrive.
Life From Death
When the players arrive in the room below they immediately notice a few things.
- A pedestal that stands resolute in the center of the room with the light that was opened from above shining down into it. Holes in the sides of the pedestal are visible.
- Four coffins with their lids closed lie at the back of the room.
- The walls are covered with rich iconography of trees, vines and all manor of jungle plant life.
When a player inevitably steps into the room, the coffins open and 4 undead zombies attack the players. The Zombies will chase the players up the stairs, but not into the hand room. I typically like for the player's pursuers to make a loud noise either from outside the temple or up in the hand room to really drive the players right into this combat puzzle.
- Visible within one of the undead creature's chests is a bright red glow.
- The undead should be relatively low CR. Three should be brute-like melee attackers and one should attack at range. The three brutes each carry a gem in their chests, one red, one blue, and one yellow.
- Once the pedestal is inspected up close a character will notice that it looks like there is a deep depression that something can fit into.
- If a player tries to put a colored gem into the pedestal, they learn two things.
- The light shining down from above hits the gem and the light refracts around the room coloring the lush jungle iconography in that color.
- It looks like there is actually room for two gems.
- If the players place two gems into the pedestal, the color that is refracted against the walls is the combined color. Blue and yellow combine to make green and that combination is the answer to the puzzle.
- For a puzzle with a bit more bite, you can modify the undead statblocks to re-animate the turn after they hit 0 hit points and pursue the gem that was taken from them. This works well for a group that immediately figures out the solution to the puzzle to make the encounter feel more challenging. For groups that are struggling to figure out what to do at, it is best to keep the undead dead after they are reduced to 0 hit points to let the players brute force their way through the solution.
I hope that these flexible puzzles bring joy to you and your tables of DnD.