I am currently GMing a D&D Next game and, so far, we're having a blast. However, I noticed that I have a group of players who hope to have everything served to them, require several explanations in a row to make them understand how things work, and forget about their resources.

My players just don't want to think and they rarely even remember the objects they are carrying. In fact, sometimes they tell me they are using items they produced from nowhere or expect to light a campfire in the middle of a battle in just one round pretty much with just their hands.

My players are just the sort that will lose a battle in a horrible way even if the solution is obvious. A Gypsy gave them a wand with the Shatter spell and told them they would need it; then they face a knight with a suit of crystal armor that bounced most spells. Even though an elf told them "There's a spell that could work! If we could SHATTER the armor with it we could win!".

They still tried to use firecrackers for 2 rounds before I told the Druid, "Girl... you have a Shatter wand in your pocket..." :)

I have to reveal a lot of info to them in order to avoid them dying a horrible death; and most puzzles I make have made them paranoid since they just don't like to think.

Once, I told them they could open a door using an "Impure" item from a collection of random stuff hanging from a wall, yet they ignored a bloodied dagger and a BDSM toy in order to try and use a cucumber and an eggplant on it... We spent one hour with that puzzle.

So, how can I build campaigns around players that just roll dice to do damage?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, at least with the impurity puzzle they had their minds in the gutter. I call that one a win, even if they had trouble with the intended solution. =) \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 18:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ "they just don't like to think" -- sad to say, but I think the solution here is for you to adapt to them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ For a door that needs to be opened with something impure, couldn't they just send the bard to open it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 21:40

7 Answers 7


You seem to be building a lot of your challenges as simple riddles with exactly one solution.

When I was a newbie DM I tried the same thing and it lead to really slow and tedious sessions where the players were trying to guess the solution. It was frustrating for me because they kept trying one pointless solution after another completely missing my clues and it was frustrating for them because whatever they tried didn't work. Or rather I didn't allow it to work because no matter how creative it was, it wasn't what I had planned and allowing it would have meant I had to diverge from my carefully crafted plot.

But then I found a much better approach: Don't design puzzles, design challenges. Put an obstacle in the players way, but just don't think about a solution for it yourself. See what the players come up with to solve it and reward creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. When the players come up with an original solution you would have never imagined, just try to roll with it.

Let's take, for example, your door puzzle. A door magically warded against pureness is a possible obstacle. Confusing it by carrying a corrupted item would be one solution, but it is by far not the only one.

One idea most players would try is cracking it open by force. Boring and uncreative, but when they are amazingly strong it could still work. I would let them roll with a challenge rating which is so astronomical that their chance of success is practically zero, and punish them for failing by zapping them with magic damage, but when they win against all odds, good for them.

Another solution would be to dispel it with magic. Slightly more creative, but still boring. I would let them try with a high CR and when they fail, wasting the spell is punishment enough.

They could try to pass it mentally by trying to think corrupt thoughts while opening it. This could get interesting and might be an entertaining RP situation. Depending on what kind of thoughts they come up with and how much in-character it is, I might give each character a more or less easy roll.

Or they could come up with some other obscure solution I don't see and might never come up with myself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly what I do for my Shadowrun group. But I think the OP's group doesn't want to problem solve with anything more than might right now. But this is definitely good advice. +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 12:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Maybe this doesn't address the whole problem, but it does detect a problem. It took me several years to notice this. I used to be desperate when my players tried silly approaches instead of taking my clever one. Then, when revealed, my players found silly my clever solution. So I learned to allow players get away with solutions I don't 100% see, because they won't either share 100% my logic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 12:58

The best thing you can do in this situation is understand what the players want and cater to it. It sounds to me like they want to run in and use their skills to beat up the things, and you're looking for the use of cunning and problem-solving to progress forward. You could base campaigns around them carving a swathe through the land with the occasional thought-provoking quest thrown in or even make those side-quests. You can include an NPC whose job is to be the clever one, and they will have to drag the NPC along (and protect them) in order to have this NPC do the job.

Also remember that you don't HAVE to have a high (or medium) level of detail in these things. Let them be able to say things like "I fish around my knapsack for a corrupted item" and tell them they find a BDSM toy (or nothing). There's nothing wrong with a bit of hand-holding, after all, so long as everyone is having fun with it.

If you don't want to cater to that, you might have to find a new group of players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for cater to the playstyle or find a new group of players. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Finding a new group of player is so extreme for such a little issue. I think we should focus on finding solution rather than destroying the problem in this stack. What about training the players to think, by restraining their ability to fight for a little while for example ? It's not because they don't think of "thinking" atm that they will never have fun that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saffron
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 8:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ The finding a new group is an extreme example, but listed as a last result. He can also use those side quests to spur that sort of thinking. But I've had the most success by knowing what the players want and tailoring to that. Even if it was hack & slash with a little RP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the end - however you could get your players to do something they don't want to do, it wouldn't be fun. So get on the same page! If they want to solve puzzles make them easier and give them a little harder puzzles for optional extra rewards, so they just solve them if they want to. If they don't like puzzles, just give them a plot without them :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Falco You can learn to enjoy a certain set of things you couldn't comprehend in the first place. Puzzle solving is one of these. I think instead of telling op to abandon his puzzles, we should tell him how to adapt these to the players (so everybody is having fun). There are ways to hide a puzzle in a battle, and the oposite too. RPG is not about either beating things, or solving puzzles. There's a middle ground that everyone can enjoy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saffron
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 8:05

While it's possible that your players may not "like to think", as you say, you're almost guaranteed that the PC's will never think like you. It's a common problem for DMs to really understand how different their informed perspective is compared to that of the PC's, and how the "obvious" details just don't stick out of the noise of the game world as presented as well as they seem to from the presenter's viewpoint. You can of course stop using thoughtful challenges and puzzles, and that's a playstyle choice, but before you go that route, try amping up the signal on the things you want them to see.

I see that you've gone to great pains to have lots of different elements point at the solution and they're still not getting it, so you may have to give them a wider variety of solutions that are feasible before you begin to fully understand what aspects of their environment they are focused on.

One very good resource I've found for techniques in this area is the 3 Clue Rule from Justin Alexander's blog. He deals with a lot of mystery and detective-style RPGs, but the methods extend readily, especially for someone who like to work clever riddles into their game world.

Another technique that might help is to actualize the important bits. If instead of something written on her character sheet, your druid had a 3x5 card sitting on the table in front of her with an image pasted on it of a wand blasting a crystal vase, maybe the light comes on earlier. I'm no social sciences guy, but there's something to the whole aural-visual-textual thing about how people learn and what they pick up on, so if you can add physical elements to your presentation you might make fire some additional neurons for them.

Lastly, I always try to think of at least one solution to a problem I'm using that I, as a player, probably wouldn't have tried until I'd tried everything else I could think of, and make that one of the valid answers. Maybe I would consider the chance of it working to be very small, or I feel the rationale is tenuous or just silly, but it let's me open up the solution set to catch people who think much differently than I do while still not making me feel like I've completely thrown out my common sense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the link to the 3 Clue Rule... It's an awesome reference, and I think it can help a lot in my own games. Good comment overall. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 21:34

If your players don't want to think, you can't make them.

I would just ditch the group and find another one, but in case you don't want to do that:


Don't require thinking. Plot is: Monster of the week attacks innocent town. Players need to beat them up to get the loot. - And nothing more. Either they are bored soon from this and demand more challenge or that is exactly whats making it fun for them, so be it.

Make thinking equal rolling dice. They have a problem that requires brain and the players don't think? Let them roll INT. The one with the highest success has the solution. If they all fail, at least the players now know that thinking could help.

Remove the magical item that would help. I have only once met a group that got that straight, each player was also GM in their own group. In groups that don't want to think, keeping your mind on your inventory is futile.


If you want to stick to your style you have to make the problems solvable by requiring them to interact with the world they are in a way they can comprehend.

Make props and have them use them. "I draw my sword" equals grabbing the swordcard. Every(!) item in the inventory is represented by an matching item on the table.

Images and sounds. They see a collection of items on the wall and need to pick the correct one? Have a photo of that and let them point to the one they want to use. They need to identify the scene? Use music from their favorite movies.


You currently rely on your players ability for frontal lobe thinking. That isn't something all people find enjoyable so many want to reduce that as much as possible whenever possible. Keep that in mind. Thinking is hard to them for whatever reason. You need to cater other areas of their brains.


Something that I've done to help my players in those situations is to have them make a kind of "intuition check." Basically tell them to make an INT or WIS check, whichever is better for them, and then give them some hint or clue based on the result.

If your players are having trouble with a puzzle even after you give them more obvious hints, this could help you move the game along without feeling too forced. Your players like rolling dice more than solving puzzles, so make it possible for them to do both. And since you get to choose the DC and what information they get from the check it is exactly as helpful as you want it to be.

Using your example with the naughty door, a low intuition check might let them realize that if they use all four items one of them is bound to work. A higher check might let them realize that a bloody knife is less pure than a cucumber. You are still leading them to the answers, but this way might make it feel like their characters are more involved. A Wizard or Rogue with high INT should be able to come up with a clever solution even if the player driving them can't.


Of nudges and dice rolls

The main task of the GM is to keep players in character and involved in what's happening. They have two tools to do this; content, and rules.

The content way

From complex riddles, to gentle nudges, to characters outright stating what to do, your world can be full of hints, tips and tricks that your players can pick up on. A waterfall before you reach an un-crossable river of lava. A slight breeze in a seemingly inescapable cave-in. The elf yelling "Someone pull out a wand of shatter!"

Your "hint" (telling characters about the shatter spell) was brilliant. The fact that they missed it leads us to method number two:

The rules way

Roll the dice. You don't wait for your players to shout "I jump out of the way!" when there's an arrow coming at them (could be fun to do, though), so you don't have to make them come up with an answer they don't know either.

If someone tries to light a fire while in combat, roll a d20. They'll think it's to see if it works, but really it could be an intelligence check. The dumb ogre might end up actually trying to light a fire with his hand, but the nearby wizard might tell him to stand up and fight instead, as he successfully passed his intelligence check.

Same for the wand. Roll to see who remembers about it.

Applying the two

In general, it's a good idea to use both of these, in that order. Depending on the nature of your group of players, you'll end up doing one more than the others, but that's just fine.


Think about creating "Key Items" that will play a part in the narrative. Don't necessarily tell the players which item will solve what challenge, but its something that you can do consistently enough so that eventually the players will clue into the fact that they might need an important item to solve a puzzle later.


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