Background

Many aeons ago, when the world was young and man was but a weak, mewling creature upon the face of the Earth, the gods were not removed from us, as they are today; yea, verily I tell you, the gods walked amongst us and spoke with us.

And it was in those times that men, bold men and courageous, sought out the gods and cried unto them, "Help us oh gods, for we are weak and know not how to survive against the cruel frosts of winter or the sharp teeth of the great cats; nor may we find food that our families might live, nor shelter from the harsh elements." And the gods spake unto them, "Come to us then and we will teach you; we will give you of our knowledge that you might live and more, for hearken to our words: man's destiny is to rule, and through our teaching he will have lordship and dominion of the whole Earth, under us."

And some men sought out Chandark, God of War, and he taught men to forge weapons and to fight with them, that the fell beasts of the land would be dismayed and prey no more upon man. Weapons he taught them, and strategy, and tactics, the use of shields and siege weapons, and war entered the land, as one nation fought another. And Chandark smiled and was well pleased by his pupils. And others sought out Drynnioch, God of Earth, and from him they learned the craft of building. Masonry he taught them, and the secrets of the arch, the block and tackle and the buttress. And his disciples praised him as they returned to their kindred. Mighty cities they built, and bridges, and aqueducts, and tall towers, and always the graceful temples, stretching towards the sky, honouring Drynnioch, their master.

And others sought out Llanarven, Goddess of Life. Her disciples learned the ways of farming and of agriculture. Irrigation she taught them and, with the words that she spoke, did animals come to them: the horse, the oxen, the sheep and the pig. Servants of man they were to be, now and forever. But when her followers returned to their kindreds, the disciples of Chandark turned upon them, seizing the product of their hands and ruling over them. And Llanarven was wrath and turned to her brother Chandark and struck him in her anger. To this day they remain enemies and the heavens are filled with the sounds of their strife.

And those by the coast sought out Siathain, God of the Ocean: from him they learned the way of the sea, of the currents and the tides, of wind and weather. Strong ships they built, swift sailing and true. Truly, the disciples of Siathain know no bounds for they and their peoples sail throughout the wide oceans. And others went to Ruth, Our Lady of Silence. Her disciples she taught well; the secrets of moving unseen and unheard, the ways of hiding and of stealth. And in some, those most perceptive, she awakened a love and reverence of knowledge. But the people cried out to her, "Wherefore do you teach your disciples these things? They prey upon us at night: our goods are not safe from them and we walk in fear in the darkness." But Ruth said nothing, merely smiling an enigmatic smile.

And thus it went: some sought out Chandark and others Siathain; some Drynnioch or Ruth or Llanarven; some learned from Arghail of the Forests, from Andur, lord of Order or Trevithan of the Beasts, others from Geraint, God of the Skies or Liashtra, Goddess of Healing. But more than sought any of these sought out Maranesh, God of Magic. A multitude descended upon him, begging and clamouring to be taught the ways of wizardry, the skills of sorcery. And Maranesh grew frustrated and thundered, "Begone, you idle chatterers, you fools, you seekers of riches: you know not what you seek. The way of magic is a long path and a difficult one; only those most worthy will I teach. The mind, of course is supreme, but so also is the body: if this is weak then it will fail you, just when the demands of magic are greatest. I am leaving this place: those who still wish to follow me, seek out my tower: those who reach my room I will accept as my disciples; however, be warned: those who are not suited to magic will never reach me."

The Puzzle
This is the puzzle that Maranesh placed in his tower. As he said, the mind is key and those who have not the wit to decipher the clues will not get far. However, the puzzle also tests the body: a weakling will find it harader to cross than a strong person, though most is a recognition of your own strength and weaknesses. It should be noted that the puzzle is individual: different routes across will be appropriate depending on a person's gender, race and religion. Note also that the worthy can gain great benefits from crossing it - Maranesh wished to reward his disciples - so it is not purely dangerous; indeed, people may wish to take a convoluted route across to gain these benefits.

The puzzle consists of a five by five grid of tiles. Each tile is 30ft by 30ft and has a beautiful mosaic picture on it. It is possible to step from one tile to any of the adjacent tiles (including diagonally); however, the roof is too low to jump a tile and magic will not work in this room. You start on the bottom side of the grid and can initially step on any one of the bottom five tiles. You can exit from any of the five tiles on the top side of the grid.

The tiles are:
YOU EXIT HERE
Tree Swan North Lion Moon
War Earth Dragon Ocean Sun
Rainbow Star Chaos Silence Life
River West East Lamb Ship
Crown Mountain South Justice Boar
YOU START HERE

Also, on the wall before you get to the grid, are tentry-one cryptic comments.

Beware the boar, beware the swan
The salt sea bore her body on.

Only a good man or a fool does not fear justice.

East is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet.

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
Till you find your dream

To long they delved, and too deeply, till they awoke what lay sleeping beneath its roots.

Earth is not known for tolerance.

A diamond sparkles amidst coal dust
Loved by those of elven race
Feared by those of cruel species:
Ugly, cruel and base.

On this depends all life on Edrith
She will renew all, but those who get too close may be burned.

Gold will placate the mightiest of beasts.

Choose your path; north or south. Once chosen, your path is fixed.

The king of beasts is very near
Those with his crown have naught to fear
Yet cowards who shall run away
Will run yet more some other day.

And the fairest shall wear a crown.

The river flows swiftly, the weak will be smothered
The elf in his forest is safe from all others
The rainbow needs wits for its end to be found
A ship with a woman will soon run aground.

Bring balm to the conflict and thou shalt be blessed

Those who lovethe stars should fear the moon.

Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.

Who dares to chance the vagaries of chaos, as swift to punish as to reward?

To heal is the way of life.

These are the natures of the four winds:
Strong is the wind from the east; he punishes the weak.
The west wing gambols delightfully o'er the setting sun.
Swift blows the south wind: wind, what do you seek?
But only the hardy still stand when the north wind is done.

Root and water, stock and stone. These four together will protect you.

Silence is golden.

Solution
I think the best way to give the solution is to list each tile and say what standing on it will do, backing this up with the appropriate quotation (in italics)from the cryptic clues.

Any creatures that appear are immune to the effects of the tiles and disappear either when killed or when the person they were summoned to attack reaches the other side of the grid.

Also, I am sorry to say this, but this puzzle won't work (or at least will need a lot of adaptation) unless you are using some form of system which has various physical and mental stats for characters. It doesn't really matter what sort of system you are using (as I will make it non-system specific) but a purely free-form one is unlikely work.

Tree
If an elf: gain a small amount of protection (e.g. some magic resistance). If any other race: Lose a small amount from a number of stats. The elf in his forest is safe from all others

Swan
Lose a reasonable amount from all mental stats, magic casting ability and similar abilities. Beware the swan

North
If you have previously stepped on "South" then you will take a large amount of damage and lose a reasonable amount to stats. You will also be teleported to the tile "South". Choose your path; north or south. Once chosen, your path is fixed.
If you have not previously stepped on "South" then make a roll that tests your toughness/ability to withstand damage or similar. If you fail, the tested statistic decreases slightly. But only the hardy still stand when the north wind is done.

Lion
If you are wearing the Crown (see "Crown") then nothing happens. The king of beasts is very near/Those with his crown have naught to fear
If you are not wearing the Crown then make a roll that tests your courage/will power or similar. If you fail, the tested statistic decreases moderately.

Moon
If an elf then take a moderate amount of damage and lose various other stats, including magic casting ability and appearance, if appropriate to your system. Those who love the stars should fear the moon. (see also "Star").

War
If you have previously stepped on "Lamb" then you are "blessed" (i.e. receive some form of bonus, up to the GM). Bring balm to the conflict and thou shalt be blessed (NB: "balm" is an anagram of "lamb").
If not then an armed warrior appears and you must fight him (no justification but it is the nature of War, after all). Someone who venerates a god of War will fight an easier opponent.

Earth
Unless you greatly venerate a god of Earth then you will be petrified. Earth is not known for tolerance.

Dragon
If you throw 50 crowns (see "Silence") or more on to the square before stepping on it, nothing happens. Otherwise a wyvern appears and attacks you. Gold will placate the mightiest of beasts.

Ocean
If a woman steps on it, nothing happens.
If a man steps on it, he falls through the tile in to a pool full of man-eating sharks. If he can swim, he can, with difficulty, lever himself out (if he can fend off the sharks whilst doing so). The salt sea bore her body on. (i.e. no mention of HIS body).

Sun
If you step on it, the whole grid is "reset" for everyone meaning anyone can gain the benefits and penalties of each square again (normally each square can only affect each person once - Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.). However, you will also take a moderate amount of damage. On this depends all life on Earth/ She will renew all, but those who get too close may be burned.

Rainbow
You must have a riddle contest with the GM. The rainbow needs wits for its end to be found. If you lose, each stat decreases slightly. If you tie then you take a small amount of damage and repeat the contest until one of you wins.
If you win then, if you have not previously stepped on Mountain and River (in that order), nothing happens. However, if you have, then an item appears which will help to satisfy your deepest desire (e.g. for power, for knowledge, for honour, etc.). Climb every mountain/Ford every stream/Follow every rainbow/Till you find your dream.

Star
If an elf, gain a blessing (i.e. receive some form of bonus, up to the GM) and become more beautiful. If an orc, lose some stats and become uglier. If any other race, nothing happens. A diamond sparkles amidst coal dust/Loved by those of elven race/Feared by those of cruel species:/Ugly, cruel and base.

Chaos
Roll a d20:
1: Die, body vapourised 11:Permanently grow 1ft
2: Die 12:Change religion
3:Change gender: 13:Gain perfect night
vision, permanently
4:Lose some stats 14:Gain resistance to poison
5:Lose some different stats 15:Gain magic resistance
6:Become vulnerable to poison 16:Lose some stats (see "4")
7:Lose some magic resistance 17:Gain some different stats
(see "5").
8:Grow a prehensile tail 18:Gain a lot of money
9:Change race 19:Gain a minor blessing
10:Permanently shrink 1ft 20:Gain a major blessing
Who dares to chance the vagaries of chaos, as swift to punish as to reward?
Someone who venerates a god of Chaos may get a reroll.

Silence
Gain 50 crowns (note that this can be thrown on the "Dragon" tile). Silence is golden. Someone who venerates a god of Silence will gain twice as much money. If you speak on this tile, you are deafened for a week (no justification, but it is the nature of Silence).

Life
You are fully healed. Someone who venerates a god of Life may gain extra capacity to absorb damage. To heal is the way of life.

River
Make a roll that tests your endurance (or similar). If you fail, the tested statistic decreases slightly. The river flows swiftly, the weak will be smothered
It is also a necessary component in the "Mountain/River/Rainbow" combination (see "Rainbow").

West
If you have previously stepped on "East" then you will take a large amount of damage and lose a reasonable amount to stats. East is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet.
If you have not previously stepped on "East" then make a roll that tests your agility. If you fail, the tested statistic decreases slightly. The west wind gambols delightfully o'er the setting sun.

East
If you have previously stepped on "West" then you will take a large amount of damage and lose a reasonable amount to stats. East is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet.
If you have not previously stepped on "West" then make a roll that tests your strength. If you fail, the tested statistic decreases slightly. Strong is the wind from the east; he punishes the weak.

Lamb
Nothing happens. Note that this has significance if you later step on "War".

Ship
If a mansteps on it, nothing happens.
If a woman steps on it, she falls through the tile in to a pool full of man-eating sharks. If she can swim, he can, with difficulty, lever himself out (if she can fend off the sharks whilst doing so). A ship with a woman will soon run aground.

Crown
Very attractive people will find that a crown appears on their head. (Significant for stepping on "Lion").
Attractive people: nothing happens.
Average people: take a small amount of damage.
Ugly people: take a lot of damage and lose some stats.
And the fairest shall wear a crown.

Mountain
If a dwarf steps on it then a fiery demon of some sort appears and attacks him. To long they delved, and too deeply, till they awoke what lay sleeping beneath its roots.
It is also a necessary component in the "Mountain/River/Rainbow" combination (see "Rainbow").

South
If you have previously stepped on "North" then you will take a large amount of damage and lose a reasonable amount to stats. Choose your path; north or south. Once chosen, your path is fixed.
If you have not previously stepped on "North" then make a roll that tests your speed. If you fail, the tested statistic decreases slightly. Swift blows the south wind: wind, what do you seek?

Justice
If you have very low mental stats, nothing happens.
Otherwise, unless you have "high honour" are "good" or are a character that always acts with utmost probity (this could be just up to the GM's discretion, it depends what type of system you are using) then you will be smitten, taking damage (possibly dying) depending on how honourable you are. Only a good man or a fool does not fear justice.

Boar
Lose a reasonable amount from all physical stats, combat abilities, etc. and take a moderate amount of damage. Beware the swan

One other thing
Stepping on "Tree", one of "River" or "Ocean", one of "Mountain" or "Earth" and either "Lamb" or "Boar" at some point will give you some form of protection (e.g. increased magic resistance). Root and water, stock and stone. These four together will protect you.

Final note: of course, this puzzle could be used in other places, not necessarily with the given backstory.

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