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.
Sorry to the lovely anon who sent this who I lost the request for. I remember reading it and specifically wanting to write it too!
You had a sudden craving to bake and baking took priority over time. Even if it was just after 4am. Especially if it was just after 4am. Charles lay asleep in the bed beside you, his head rested delicately on the pillow and his eyes closed. You slipped out of bed, careful not to wake him and tiptoed down to the kitchen.
After five minutes of painfully silent baking, you decided to put music on. So you did, dancing along as you stirred the bowl of sugar and other ingredients.
Charles woke with a headache, so decided to go and get water. He was too tired to notice the bed was empty and groggily stumbled down to the kitchen. As he neared, he heard music. Puzzled, and slightly more awake, he recognised it as your favourite song. He entered the kitchen, but stopped in the doorway, a smile appearing on his lips. He chuckled quietly, watching as your gentle swaying turned into energetic dancing as you whisked something in a bowl. He leaned against the doorframe, biting his lip to keep from alerting you to his presence with his laughter.
A figure came to stand beside him. Erik’s face showed a completely confused, face as he watched you, dancing and baking at 5 in the morning.
Charles grinned, motioning for Erik to not say anything too loud.
“What the heck is she doing? It’s 5am!” Erik hissed, glancing at you to make sure you hadn’t heard.
Smiling as he watched you, Charles whispered under his breath “I believe she’s dancing and baking.”
“Her music woke me up.” Erik grumbled.
Charles laughed, quietly and at that moment, you turned around, spinning with the bowl. Your hair flipped over your shoulder as you stopped abrubtly to face them and your mouth dropped open slightly.
Erik waved a hand in greeting, “Morning. Sort of.”
You quickly put the bowl on the counter before you dropped it.
“How long have you been there?” You asked.
“Since your music woke me up.” Erik grumbled, using the metal spoon to press the ‘off’ button on the stereo. With that, he left to go back to bed, merely grunting at your apology.
Charles was in a fit of laughter, so he pulled you into a hug, resting his head on top of yours.
“You’re adorable.” He mumbled, rubbing your back gently.
It was your turn to laugh.
“No, really. 5am baking? I love you.” Charles said, pulling away.
You pressed your lips to his, feeling his smile. It was good to see him smile.
“What are you baking?”
“Chocolate chip cookies.” You grinned.
“Brilliant. Can I help?”
“Of course.” You took his hand, leading him over to the counter and turning on the music again, just a bit quieter than before.
And together, yourself and Charles danced and did 5am baking.