The HexBox is a nested puzzle box full of secrets, magic, and darkness that I crafted for my D&D campaign. (Incidentally, also a great name for a gaming system for witches.) The players knew the box belonged to the demon they were hunting, but felt suddenly compelled to open it despite the risks. What’s inside?!
The HexBox is a set of four hexagonal nested boxes with many interconnected puzzles players must solve to open each successive box. It’s kind of an escape-room style project, except entirely contained within the box. I play a lot of point-and-click style puzzle games, the kind IRL escape rooms are modeled on. I can’t get enough of them. These are intended to be on that theme, a set of tactile puzzles the players must solve in the campaign in order to obtain an important item hidden in the smallest box. The project took me over a year to complete and I love every puzzle in it. It’s made mostly of paper and solvable without destroying any components. You don’t have to know anything about D&D to solve.
Planning the boxes was definitely a challenge! In a video game, you can design pieces of a puzzle that move, rotate, open, slide, glow, or provide any response you want. Part of what makes these games compelling is the act of exploring objects and environments and learning how to interact with them. This kind of mood is hard to achieve under the constraints of physical reality because animating an object is much easier than actually building a mechanical box to accomplish the same thing. These boxes are definitely too small to build in electronics, so I’m went full analog using paper, paint, Velcro, transparency sheets, color filters, and anything else that could make the puzzles more clever and/or visually aesthetic. I tried hard to find ways to circumvent reality’s limitations and make it as immersive as possible, and I think I did a pretty good job!
Normally I like to write out a narrative of the process of creating my artworks, but this ended up too big for that. Instead, I’ve recorded a video tour. (You can also find a twitter thread of the process here.) First few minutes gives an introduction to the project. Skip to 4:40 for the spoiler-free, visual overview of the boxes- Just in case you know me and might want to solve some day. Skip to 10:00 for the full tour including explanations of all the puzzles.
I do also want to acknowledge that many of my ideas for puzzles came from other content I’ve consumed over the years. Here are some of my favorite games/companies and also to some websites/resources I used in the creation process:
- Amanita Design (e.g., Machinarium)
- Fireproof Games (e.g., The Room)
- Glitch Games (e.g., Forever Lost)
- Other games I love: DEVICE 6, Goragoa, Monkey Island Tales, Myst, Tiny Bang Story, Year Walk, Four Last Things, OXENFREE, Nelly Cootalot, Lumino City, Life is Strange, The Witness,…….so many more.
- Websites: Project Gutenberg, Lock Paper Scissors, Practical Cryptography, Wild Olive