Bard Week: Musical Puzzles
Here are some puzzles and challenges that rely on music made for those special bards in your campaign!
The Gibbering Obelisk
A small obelisk with many mouths sings a dissonant tone. When a musician finds the right note, they can make the dissonant sound into a harmonious chord and solve the puzzle. Have the bard make a Performance check to see how good their ears are for this. You could have the dissonant note change each time it is harmonized, and solve the puzzle on the third successful check, and reset on a failed check.
Definitely Not Zelda
In a very Lost Woods scenario, the players are travelling through identical rooms and have become lost in a looping illusion; only able to escape by traversing the correct sequence of doorways. The players hear a short lick from a doorway, but they are not sure which one, as it came and went so quickly. The bard can mimic the musical phrase with a successful Performance check or by acting it out. When the phrase is successfully mimicked, the lick will play again. Hopefully this time the PCs were listening! By going back and forth with the unseen musician, the players can follow it out of the trap.
A prop puzzle in which players each have a one-note instrument (whistle, chime, drum, horn, etc.) that plays a different note, perhaps with a number attached to it. Signify this in the dungeon with instruments mounted on pedestals or something (so it requires more than one person to solve the puzzle). Searching the room or decoding a message reveals the correct order to play the notes in. The bard can read the music properly and leads the players (out-of-game) in the performance by pointing or calling out each note in turn as the other players respond by playing their note. This is easier said than done, as my family has tried this a few times using the toys from themed Christmas crackers
Walk this Way
A tiled room has different letters on each tile, each no higher than G, hinting that they are musical notes. A looping song is being sung from a Magic Mouth or a ghost somewhere in the room, with a distinct pause to indicate the start and end of the tune. The tiles must be stepped on in the correct order to cross the room safely and unlock the door. If a tile is stepped on incorrectly or out of order it will produce a painful electric shock for the person stepping on it. The bard can figure out the starting note and can make Performance checks to get hints on how many steps higher or lower the next note in the sequence is. The key is to estimate the next note based on the previous note. I would stay away from sharps and flats, here; the simpler the better.
Play for Us
There are a four stone doors in an echoing chamber. Each door has a relief of a human upon it, each with a different expression. One is angry, one is solemn, one is happy, and one appears scared or surprised. A short poem (perhaps found earlier, or maybe simply in the room) hints that you must sing or play a song appropriate for the audience; “four friends came to hear four songs” or something like that. The bard must improvise a song (you can have the actual player do so, or just have them make a Performance check) that evokes the emotion shown by a door. When this is done, it will open the door with the bust that enjoys the song the most. Perhaps the busts animate when the players sing or play.
A riddle requires the players to sing or play a “traditional” elven/dwarven/gnomish/folk song in the campaign universe. The bard must make a History check to remember such a song from their travels. Alternatively, the players could return to an appropriate town to seek out the answer if the bard fails this check. Regardless, the bard is able to perform the song and solve the puzzle.