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How to Create Your Own Riddles for An At-Home Escape Room

This is it, the master blueprint for at-home escape room riddle ideas. Just follow these top tips, and you'll be riddling in no time!
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Follow these steps to craft riddles that intrigue, mystify, and elate. It's an instant escape room win!

Stop Googling At-Home Escape Room Riddle Ideas. It's Time to Make Your Own!

Everyone knows what a riddle is. And seeing as you're reading this, I'm guessing that you've been solving riddles since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. You've likely written a few weak riddles, but now it's time to step into the big leagues. 

Yep, it's time to craft your own riddles for your DIY escape room. But how do you go from "how many months have 28 days" to great escape room riddles that Tolkien himself would be proud of? (By the way, if you didn't say all 12, you may need a ghostwriter!)

Just follow these steps to start your riddle-writing journey. It'll be a bit of work, but it's easier than you'd think. But FIRST - you need to know what makes an escape room riddle special. You see, many riddles are just for fun. They're nonsense riddles meant to be funny or provoke an eye roll. Riddles such as "how do you make the number one disappear — add a 'g' and it is 'gone'" are fun but hardly useful.
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Here's what makes an escape room riddle unique:

   • They use logic to connect to the escape room's story. This means they just make sense. Upon hearing the answer, players should exclaim, "why didn't I think of that?" If they drop their heads and roll their eyes, you may have overdone the fun and missed the logic.

   • They give players something. Escape room riddles are a delivery mechanism - they move players along on their journey. When solved, your riddle should provide a combination, a hint to the solution for the next puzzle, or even the secret ingredient in your Aunt Linda's lasagna (as if she'd ever tell). Therefore, not only must the riddle be logical, the answer must be important. Here, check out this list of puzzles, and think of the kind of answers that might help solve them.

  • They are designed to be solved. This may seem obvious, but it's a rookie mistake. Complex, obscure riddles aren't fun. They shouldn't be designed to trick players, though they should make them think. All of the information the players need to solve the riddle should be in the room. Don't count on players' general knowledge. Put the clues in front of them and let them get to work.

To help you design riddles that are tough but not impossible, logical but not obvious, and fun but not funny, we've set forth the steps to completing your escape room riddles below. Following these steps will save time, headaches, and complaints from players about riddles such as "what can you catch but not throw? A cold."

Step 1. Do Your Research

This is the easy part — and the fun part. Read riddles. Lots of riddles. The more you familiarise yourself with riddles and their format, the easier it will be to write your own. You'll find tons of fun little gems out there. "What goes up but never comes down? Your age." 
"What has a face and hands but no arms and legs? A clock."

(Just be careful how far down the rabbit hole you go.... if you hear yourself say, "riddle me this," it's time for a break.)

During your search, why not take some time to peruse great DIY escape room examples, like this one? After all, that's what your riddles are for!

Then, search for logical riddles. These provide great ideas you can apply to your escape room at home. While some of the logical riddles contain a bit of humor, their focus is forcing you to think. After a while, you will understand how to craft a strong riddle that forces people to think through the problem. Take this riddle, for example:

Todd is looking at Karen. Karen is looking at Timmy. Todd is married, Timmy is not, and we don't know if Karen is married. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

Answer: Yes. If Karen is married, then she is married and looking at Timmy, who is unmarried. If Karen is unmarried, then Todd, who is married, is looking at her. Either way, the statement is correct.

This riddle, while lacking any humor at all, forces you to think through the problem. While this can be solved with some quick thinking, it helps you understand your needed structure. Read more of these kinds of riddles and less of the "why did the worm cross the road? To get away from the chicken" variety.
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Step 2. Start With The Answer

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This tip should appeal to those who read a book's last page first (why do you do that? Read the book!). To know how to craft your riddle, you need to know the answer first. This is because the purpose of an escape room riddle is to provide a very specific piece of information. So decide on the answer you want your players to know, and work backward from there.

It's also important to have the theme nailed down at this stage. By deciding on the theme (like one of these), you allow yourself to know what types of objects would exist in your escape room. If you opt for a pirate-themed escape room, having "the batmobile" as an answer to a riddle would make no sense, no matter how much you love Bruce Wayne.

Try to determine what answer you need to give your players. Where will the answer lead? It may help to start with the last answer in the game and work your way back to the game's first riddle. Figure out what information they need — is it a combination, an object, or some other type of clue? Keeping these escape room design tips in mind will probably help.

Make your answer specific. Vague answers won't help your players with the next riddle. Your answer should be a concrete noun — a person, number, place, or thing. Having a concrete answer logically connected to the next riddle will help the players move closer to escaping.

Step 3. Brainstorm Words Associated With Your Answer

What does your answer do? What does it look like? Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? Is it alive or inanimate? Can it also write riddles? If so, you can ask it for help!

Grab a thesaurus. Make a list of verbs and adjectives related to your answer. Try to find older words not commonly used in modern language. You're not trying to trick them, but you are trying to make the players think.

Having these words on hand will kickstart your creative process by feeding you with new ideas to use for your escape room riddle.

Have fun with this step. Make a list of "borderline" words that somewhat relate to your answer without giving it away. You may even learn new words you can use at your next party - bonus!
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Step 4. Write Your Riddle

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This is the hard part. You've done the prep, you have the tools you need... time to get to work. If you're stuck, follow these suggestions to come up with awesome riddle ideas for your at-home escape room.

How does your answer relate to the world around it? Where would you find it? Try and picture the world from its point of view. What clues can you give the players without revealing the answer to the question?

Use metaphors. We know that you remember metaphors from high school. A metaphor is a figure of speech regarded as symbolic of another thing. For example, a book can be a "passport to adventure!" That's a fair but challenging description.

Use similes. A simile compares one thing to another of a different kind, such as "crazy like a fox." Similes use "like" and "is" to make a comparison. In your riddle, you could use "reflects like a mirror" to describe water.

Use onomatopoeia
(even if you can't pronounce it). These are words formed from the sounds made by what is being named. Cuckoo is an onomatopoeia.

Have fun. Play around with different forms of the riddle until you have it. When you've got something that could stump Batman (for a moment, at least), then you know you've got it! 

Step 5. Revise. Rewrite. Repeat!

No riddle is perfect the first time around.

Write, then rewrite, then rewrite some more. Trying different options will spark different creative ideas you hadn't thought of to begin with.

Then, share it with a friend. This step is vital! You need other people as a sounding board to make sure you haven't lost your hold on reality. If they roll their eyes and look at you like you've slipped into madness... then you probably have. Time for another rewrite. However, if they laugh and say, "I should have known that," when you reveal the answer, you've got it just right! 

(This process of writing, testing, and rewriting is also vital for the escape room design process. Just see Dani's story as the perfect example!)
Laughing playing a printable escape room game

Step 6. Put It All Together

Epic game night with a printable escape room game
Here we are. You've got your riddle... now time to craft an unforgettable escape room experience. Jump over to this guide for a step-by-step walk through the process... and then add riddles! 
Here are a few fun ways to present your riddles in an escape room:

   • Read the riddle during the game briefing. Describe the briefing, then deliver the riddle just before you start the clock. (Make sure it's short and simple so that they won't forget it!)

   • Display the riddle for your at home escape room on a monitor. They'll have the riddle staring down at them as they scurry around the room, looking for clues and assimilating the information you planted in the escape room.
A fun variant of this is to stick your riddle on a USB drive, or as the screensaver of a phone. When they unlock the phone or stick the USB into a computer, they'll be instantly met with their next challenge.
   • Scrawl the riddle in a book or on a notepad. If you choose this method, ensure they can find the riddle quickly. You want them working on the riddle, not working to find it. Putting a riddle in the margins of a book adds an extra level of intrigue. Players wonder, 'what were they trying to tell us?'

   • Play the riddle on an audio file. It can be on a loop or triggered by an event like stepping on a pedal. This requires a little extra attention from the players, as the riddle will not be there to be reread when they get stuck.

   • Put it up on the wall.
Write it in crayon. Put it in a nice frame. Use blacklight (if the room allows). Walls always work wonderfully to deliver clues and riddles - especially in post-apocalyptic scenarios!

   • Use live actors to deliver the riddle. This may require extra planning, but using a live actor adds extra fun for the players.

Trust me, you'll relish seeing your riddles in action! Watching the players search for the answers to riddles for your at home escape room will bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes. Just resist the urge to start each riddle with, "riddle me this!", and you should be safe from becoming an evil, riddle-slinging mastermind. Probably.
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