The other night I was putting together some of my paper miniatures when I started to think about other things I could design, like ruins, walls, wells, and various room contents such as treasure chests. In considering how to make easily constructed three dimensional objects, the thought occurred that there might be something to learn from origami techniques.
I started googling the subject and discovered this excellent gallery of origami D&D creations.
Then I had the idea that it might be fun to incorporate actually making origami into a D&D session, under the right circumstances. I understand that making origami is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I could see using it occasionally in place of dice. For example, if a lock has to be picked, a thief player might be told that it’s an extremely rare type of lock that he’s never seen before except in books. Hand him a sheet of origami paper with instructions for a simple design and if he can produce a reasonable result, voila, lock picked! Over time, the designs one might be able to give players could grow more complicated, and the whole group could help (or this might be great for that especially quiet player or one with busy hands.) You could even have the end result be a game clue of some kind, and hand out the instructions piecemeal, so the players don’t know what the end result will be until they’ve succeeded in making it. Maybe if they make a diamond shape, the chest opens to reveal a valuable gem. Locks not withstanding, creating origami could be used for other purposes such as a one time riddle to activate a portal or magic item.
The thing I like about this is that you can slowly increase the difficulty of the instructions and the difficulty itself is easier to gauge. As much as I like the game within game aspect of say, playing chess with one of your players, it seems much harder to gauge the degree of difficulty for the player (unless you know you suck or are willing to throw the game, in which case what’s the point?) There’s also the explicitly adversarial nature of that type of arrangement. I think one of the keys to using something like this is making sure that it doesn’t lead to the game being on hold for the rest of the players. If the origami can’t be quickly made, the locked treasure chest or magic item can be brought along with the party and the origami worked on by the player during slower parts of the game.
Of course there’s a number of puzzle items out there that could be used for this same purpose if your players cringe at the thought of folding paper. Substitute metal puzzle rings, a rubic’s cube with your own rune designs taped over the colors, etc. Still, origami is free or nearly so, and there are tons of free instructions on the web for all levels of ability. One day your players might even thank you for “teaching” it to them. Expect to have their creations thrown at you too.
Update: C'mon. Origami. D&D. Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate!