Player Challenge #05 Cypher Texts

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0919

Remember those cipher games where all the letters are scrambled and you have to decode the message?

For example:

Qwuub Ibgus!

Here’s the key:

D => S

E => W

H => Q

L => U

O = B

R => G

W => I

These are easy to make:

  1. Write your message with letters as normal
  2. Create a key underneath
  3. Re-write your message. As you write each letter, replace it with it’s counterpart from your key. If the letter is not in your key, add it along with its scrambled letter code.

Tip: keep your key in alphabetical order so you can finder letters faster.

Now here’s the in-game Player Challenge.

The characters discover something in another language. A scroll, book, map, epitaph, sign. Anything with letters.

The message is encoded with your cypher.

Give your players a handout with the encoded message.

Now, if your system requires characters to make a language check, do so.

If not, such as in D&D where you know all of a language just by having it on your character sheet, ask the players to roll against a DC you set. This is because the language is close to one a character has, but it’s ancient or a dialect.

For every degree of success or failure from the dice roll, you give the players one piece of the cypher.

For example, a success degree of one tells them that E’s are W’s. A success degree of three gets them D => S, E => W, H => Q.

A failure gives them no insights or a false key entry, your call.