KTANE Mods I Don’t Use (And How I’d Fix Them)

Mod support was recently added to Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a fantastic multiplayer and party game available on Steam. The game requires at least two players: one person has a bomb filled with tricks and puzzles, and another person (or team of people) has a manual with all the information on how to detangle those tricks and puzzles. The bomb guy (defuser) isn’t allowed to see the manual, and the manual guy (expert) isn’t allowed to see the bomb. From there, the game is all about effective communication.

The base game comes with about a dozen different types of modules to play with, and we had a blast (literally!) when the game was new learning how to solve them. That accomplished, though, the game sort of lost its luster. With mod support, though, new modules are popping up all the time. We’ve easily tripled the number of modules we have to worry about, making the game fresh and fun every night we play it.

We don’t like using every mod, though, and this article explores the reasons why. Let’s start with a line or two about the mods we do use, and what makes them great. Keep in mind that I’m usually on the bomb, which means I don’t know how a lot of the mods work on the manual side of things — and that may skew my opinion of them. (But then, that’s part of the game!)

Here’s a link to the KTANE workshop page: https://steamcommunity.com/app/341800/workshop/

Mods We Love

Piano Keys
Piano keys are planted firmly in the weird-video-game-puzzle headspace, so they fit in nicely on the bomb. I’m surprised it didn’t make the cut as one of the base game modules. They look great and are quick to assign to an expert. Takes a bit of time and dexterity to input the solution, so I like to get piano done maybe halfway through my bomb.

Crazy Talk
The whole game is about effective communication, so a module designed to make communication ineffective is a no-brainer. There’s a bit of a trick to cracking this one, but once you crack it a few times it becomes second nature. All big bombs need a couple easy modules, and Crazy Talk is frequently hilarious, so I’m glad to have it.

A solid module that takes a few failures to understand. This is one that defuser and expert need to have a system worked out for ahead of time, or it’ll become a real time sink. I suspect there are more efficient ways to solve this than the way we’re doing it, but we haven’t explored new methods thus far.

Color Flash
A module based on the Stroop effect. As the defuser, I love this module for two reasons. One, it’s just fun to read out! And two, the module can’t be stopped or slowed down once you’ve started reading it, so it’s a great way to whip slower experts into shape. “Wait, hold on, go slower–” “SORRY CAN’T, THE BOMB WAITS FOR NO MAN.”

A handsome module with a unique solving mechanism. Sometimes they’re simple, sometimes they’re a real bastard. Good either way.

Emoji Math
For this module the defuser reads off ASCII emojis like 🙂 and =|, then the expert translates those into numbers and solves a simple math problem. It’s a quick and easy module, but demands the defuser’s attention to read out properly.

Connection Check
I have no idea how to solve this one, but it’s super easy to read out and keeps the experts busy for a while. Kind of ugly on the bomb, though.

Two Bits
An excellent “back-and-forth” module, where the defuser and expert take turns passing two bits of information before finally getting the solve. Working a few seconds of Two Bits in between all your other modules tests your time management skills on the bomb, and is one of my favorite parts of being the defuser.

A short, sweet module where the expert needs to resolve a pair of logic equations. The module would be better if it randomized the AND and OR operators, and if the tiny displays were a bit more readable, but it’s still pretty good as-is.

This module requires the expert to resolve a few statements based on astrological symbols. It’s one of the earliest mods we tried, and is honestly one of the first ones I’d consider getting rid of. It’s an example of a type of module I feel we have too many of, where I read some complicated information, the expert applies a bunch of rules to that information, then returns me the result. Which is every module, really, at their most basic, but there’s nothing to Astrology that stands out as really unique. All the experts are used to it now, though, and I’ve actually started learning many of the astrological and planetary symbols, so we’re likely to keep it around out of sheer intertia.

Probably the single best module we have! Chess requires the expert to actually draw out a little chess board, consider some simple rules, and work out how various pieces move on the board. My only real gripe with the module its physical appearance doesn’t at all reflect how cool the solutions are.

Lettered Keys
A super simple module where I read a two-digit number and, thirty seconds later, the expert tells me which of four buttons to push. Again, every bomb needs a few simple modules.

Combination Lock
Another of my favorites, this is actually two modules in one. The lock either references a two factor code that changes every sixty seconds, or references the number of solved modules on the bomb itself. The first kind of lock is a race against time, and a pure test of task delegation and time management. The second kind requires precision, since nothing bogs a bomb down more than an expert who flubbed a lock, causing other experts to pile up solutions that can’t be input without changing the lock. Either way, it’s a hectic way to start a bomb!

Foreign Exchange Rates
A cool module that plugs into the internet and references real world currency exchange rates. The first time we tried this my experts insisted it was broken, but more recent experts report those first experts were just dumb and bad, so I’m turning the module back on and not telling anyone. Shh!

I love the look of this module! So many modules are just collections of lettered or numbered buttons, that big colorful wires are a refreshing change. It took us a while to crack this one, but now that we know how it works and can get it solved it’s become one of my favorites.

After installing so many complicated modules our bombs were getting a little unwieldly. It seemed like the mod-makers were focusing on big, intricate puzzle-modules and neglecting the simpler ones. Alphabet is a nice, simple one that has helped bring our bombs back down to earth. Still, it’s ugly and kind of plain-looking, so I’ll probably uninstall it as soon as someone makes a much nicer-looking simple mod.

Mods We Don’t Love

Round Keypad
One of six “Advanced Base Modules” that have to be installed as a pack, this mod takes the basic Symbols module and juices it up a bit. I actually love the way it looks on the bomb, but can’t use it because of how much I dislike some of it’s brothers.

How to fix it:
Unpack it from the other five, so I can install it individually.

Forget Me Not
A really unique module that involves notating information every time a module is solved on the bomb. Having this on a big, complicated bomb totally changes the way you need to work that bomb, and I would love to incorporate it into my game, but…

How to fix it:
…it needs to be unpacked from the rest of the Advanced Base Modules, first.

I am terrible at reading morse code, and the only reason I don’t frequently choke on the base Morse Code module included in KTANE is because experts can solve the module even with incomplete information. Like, if I flub a dot for a dash, and the expert gets the word “stfak” as a result, they know what I meant was “steak” and can adjust their answer accordingly. With Morsematics, every dot and dash is required; incomplete or incorrect information causes the module to strike, which causes my bomb to explodes.

How to fix it:
The module is ugly, and should probably use a light diode similar to the basic Morse Code module rather than the smaller, faster green LED. Even so, though, the module just isn’t for me and I would still keep it turned off.

We have no idea how this module is supposed to work. I sat down with two experts on three 10-minute bombs, and didn’t even come close. As best I can tell, most of the work needs to be done by the defuser, and most of that work is playing Pipe Dream. It’s also hideously ugly — the worst-looking module in the Steam Workshop by far.

How to fix it:
Simplify it greatly. Instead of four input/outputs, and 36 pipe segments, maybe two input/outputs and 16 segments in a 4×4 grid. It’d still be ugly though, and it’d still be Pipe Dream, so I’m still not sure it’d be good.

Safety Safe
A very cool module where you have to listen for clicks on safe knobs, notate their positions, then pass that info on to the expert. We’re not very experienced with this one, but we were getting more efficient with it as we went. I get the feeling we would use it on the bomb, if we could.

How to fix it:
Easy answer: Unpack it from the other Advanced Base Modules.

Longer answer: A version of this module with three knobs intead of six, and which used the two factor display in some way, would be much more tense. Having to listen for the clicks, relay the information, wait for the expert to do a quick calculation, then input the solution, all inside of sixty seconds, would be simply awesome.

Simon States
A more obnoxious version of the already obnoxious Simon Says module.

How to fix it:
Hell, I’m looking for a way to uninstall Simon Says, not mix in its more annoying cousin. It’s just not something I want on my bomb.

A fun module where the expert uses bomb information and a set of complex rules to get a batch of information for the defuser to input. It’s in the same design space as Astrology, but has a more distinct personality. My issue with it is the icons are very tricky to see on the double-decker bomb; I have to use the Windows magnifier to make sense of the different icons. Additionally, my experts report that it’s a bit too complex to comfortably solve.

How to fix it:
Make the icons bigger and tighten up the manual a bit. Having a vaguely-confusing manual is part of KTANE, of course, but some of the mods take that idea to the wrong extreme, and Laundry is one of them.

The module spits out a scrambled word, and I punch in the correct one. Easy peasy. The reason I don’t use it is because I can’t imagine really needing an expert for it. I’m decent at descrambling anagrams, and it feels outside the spirit of the game to have modules the defuser can do all on his own. A little bit of that is inevitable, as after defusing hundreds of modules you will start to notice patterns and memorize bits of information, but Anagrams seems to be designed with that sort of gameplay in mind.

How to fix it:
I don’t think it can be “fixed”, nor do I think most of the defusers who like this module would agree it even needs “fixing”. Some players like the sensation of solving modules without their experts, and Anagrams is the perfect mod for those players. I’m glad they have it!

Adventure Game
A boring module where I read a whole slew of information — seriously, like sixteen pieces of information — and the expert correlates it into a solution. Similar to Astrology, except it’s thematically boring too. No symbols, no fun references to actual adventure games, not much of anything really. Just two word lists and a button.

How to fix it:
Play Zork, and Myst, and Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango, and then design a clever module around those game ideas while being very carefly not to actually require the defuser or expert to have knowledge of any of those games. (No, I don’t have any ideas on how to do that. Why do you ask?)

I love the idea for Listening, but the implementation made me pretty salty. In theory it’s simple: a casette tape plays a sound, I describe the sound to my expert, my expert looks up the sound on a list and relays a password. In practice, though, it went all too often like this:

Me: It sounds like… a crowd of people maybe? Like a lot of people in a large room with bad acoustics.

Expert: Could it be an arcade maybe? Or a casino?

Me: It could be either of those things. Let me listen again.

*listens again, which takes ten seconds*

Me: There’s definitely some game machine sounds in there. It’s like 50/50.

Expert: Well, pick one I guess.

*bomb explodes*


How to fix it:
Filling the list with purposely similar-sounding noises was a big mistake, since it creates terrible coin flip scenarios in a game that is 100% not designed to have coin flip scenarios. I’m sure defusers who have heard all the sounds and have the list memorized get a good experience from this module, so my advice is to re-tool the module so all players get that experience without requiring memorization.

A module that requires the expert to solve a short cryptogram from A Christmas Carol. Neat idea, but reading several lines of text an individual letter at a time is too much for a game where I can’t afford to spend more than twenty seconds on a module. Also, the letters are so tiny it’s hard to read them on the double-decker bomb.

How to fix it:
I don’t want to say Cryptography has no place in KTANE, but I’m not sure how to square the circle. Cryptograms, to me, are thoughtful and time-consuming puzzles that demand deduction and experimentation. There’s really no time for that in a KTANE module. It I could see the text better on my screen, maybe we could figure out an efficient way to crack the module, but in its current state I’m not even motivated to play with it.

An ugly module where you have to rotate a tiny cube with four buttons by following your expert’s complicated advice. Honestly we didn’t play with this one for too long. It seems to require a bit of work on the expert’s part, in combination with some back-and-forth with the defuser.

How to fix it:
I think the module is pretty bad to look at, and it doesn’t even move around or do anything cool. The expert I was experimenting with reports the manual is unclear and hard to follow. If both of these problems were fixed maybe I’d go back to it, and be able to give more appropriate feedback.

3D Maze
An absolutely insane module patterened after old-school dungeon crawls like Wizardry and Ultima. The defuser and expert need to work together to figure out which maze the defuser is in, where he is in that maze, which way he’s facing, and where the exit is. It was pretty fun to puzzle it out when we did it, but I’m not convinced the module is solvable in its current state in a full double-decker bomb. It requires way too much of my attention to really be viable.

How to fix it:
I’m not sure it really needs fixing. Some modules seem to be designed for smaller, more complicated bombs rather than the huge, fast-paced ones my experts and I like. For players who want the more complicated stuff, 3D Maze is perfect. As it stands, it’s something I might throw on every once in a while for a change of pace.

Turn the Key
This is two modules in one: a single key version, and a double key version. The single key version is pretty neat; it’s just a key I need to turn when the countdown timer shows a particular time. The double key version, however, is an absolute nightmare. The two keys have to be turned — and maybe turned back? — after some modules are solved but before others are. In essence, it dictates the order my experts and I need to solve the bomb, totally wrecking our flow. No thanks!

How to fix it:
The ability to install the easy version without the nightmare version would be ideal. I do think the easy version is a bit too easy though; I’d recommend a version with different types of keys (different materials or colors, for instance). I tell the expert what sort of key I have, and he correlates that with some bomb info to come up with my target time.

Number Pad
An ugly monstrosity I wouldn’t want on my bomb even it was super fun to solve, which it’s not.

How to fix it:
There are too many “follow all these complicated rules” modules, and I certainly don’t need one more. Fixing this module so it becomes something I’d install would require so many changes that it would no longer resemble its original state. So I guess my answer is, junk it and make something totally new.

Ceasar Cipher
A big letter keypad. Experts report it’s easy to solve. Personally, I think it’s too plain and ugly looking. In addition, the name of the module is misspelled and there’s currently a bug that requires you to disable Emoji Math if you want to use it.

How to fix it:
Fix the bugs (obviously) and make the module mechanism a little more interesting. I have enough plain letter keypads on my bomb as it is.

Mystic Square
An 8-slider puzzle which seems to pack too many ideas into one module. One of the earliest comments on the Steam Workshop page for this module is “page 1 and page 2 could have been a seperate module each” and I agree. On one hand you have the idea of sliding tiles around and uncovering symbols underneath in a certain order. On the other you have the aspect of solving a magic square. Both might be neat modules, but both at once makes it kind of a mess.

How to fix it:
Honestly, I’ve solved a thousand magic squares in my life. The concept is boring and stuffy. The idea of sliding tiles to uncover symbols, though, might make for a really cool back-and-forth module, as long as it doesn’t require too much busywork on the part of the defuser.

Silly Slots
A module based on a slot machine is a good idea, but this module requires so much bookkeeping that it just turns into a slog. The icons are just tiny, faraway blobs on a double-decker bomb, as well, which is too bad because otherwise it’s pretty interesting to look at. This one is another example of “too many good ideas stuffed into one mod.”

How to fix it:
Instead of the current confusing-on-purpose word substitution concept, transform it into a quicker, punchier back-and-forth module. Make the reels bigger and the symbols more distinct. Each phase of the module, I pull the handle and wait for the slots to come to a rest. (The slot sounds are actually really very good!) I read the symbols to my expert, and he tells me which of the three reels to lock. Then I pull the handle again. Once all three reels are locked I push submit, and either solve the module (if the expert got it right) or get a strike (if he didn’t). If each step was comparable to a step of Memory or Who’s On First, it’d be just about right.

Mouse In The Maze
This module is so terrible-looking I didn’t even install it. It seems pretty similar to 3D Maze, in any case.

How to fix it:
No idea. I’d have to try it to know how it works, and I don’t want to do that.

And that concludes our full tour of just about everything in the KTANE Steam Workshop at time of writing. Thanks for reading!


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