This escape room spellbook is imbued with ideas that transform your creative idea into a truly immersive adventure.
It's part 2 of our Escape Room Design Blueprint and will help you improve any puzzles you find in our massive list.
If you're short on time just download one of our ready to play escape room kits ready to play kit here. You can play them right away or customize them before printing using the super simple Designer's Kit.
Or, pick up our Escape Room Master Class. It's loaded with all the ready-to-use templates and advanced tips you need to make designing an escape room easy (plus, it's an epic kids activity!).
Almost every DIY escape room kit on the market follows an annoying puzzle flow:
Even the 'good' example of above results in a 4 digit combination rather than intrinsically adding to a bigger puzzle. For example, spelling a word like OPEN, or making one letter in an acrostic word.
To do this well, you'll most likely need to design a major combination puzzle that requires several smaller challenges to be solved first. More on this in Secret 6.
Yes, it's hard, but 100% worth every painstaking hour invested into eliminating all checking mechanisms.
If you're trying to make players rage-quit in frustration, just get random unconnected puzzles and chuck them all in a room together. You'll be sure to succeed.
It forces players to simply run around guessing what goes with what.
This is the very definition of rage-quit.
For example, what would make a better clue location for players who need to open a toolbox?
The hammer belongs in a toolbox, which will create an 'aha' moment once players make the logical connection.
Or, consider this puzzle from Escape Room Z. So long as players are observant, they'll notice the first clue card is, in fact, an enlarged version of the stamp on the postcard. 'Aha!'
This idea is critical for printable or boxed escape room kits since there's already minimal contextual understanding. It's very common for designers to just create 'floating puzzles' that don't really exist anywhere in a world. They're just puzzles on a page with no context.
Players just don't know where to start.
So don't do this. Just don't.
Some children have to escape more than just a room and they need your help.
Every time a Game Master delivers a verbose intro a fun fairy dies somewhere...
But there's something even worse - reading an intro!
Reading during a game is boring. Sooooo boring.
So don't use words to describe the storyline, scene, goals, or puzzles.
Instead, use images and videos:
Save yourself the grunt work, when designing your DIY escape game by starting with one of these customizable kits.
They're 100% ready to print and party, and also come with the intuitive game editor so you can add puzzles, locks, boxes, and change whatever takes your fancy.
Go on, use them to craft something beautiful:
Real life escape rooms 'make sense' the moment you step foot in one.
Printable escape room kits give you lots of options for interesting puzzles, including scrunching, cutting, throwing and folding.
This is perfect for the overly-curious goblin or that particularly clumsy barbarian in your party. There's no need to worry about breaking sensitive game pieces because you can just print it again!
So don't fear to really unleash the creativity of your adventurers, always add at least 3 puzzles that involve tactically using the kit.
Here're some ideas:
Many computer games use a 'String of Pearls' script involving many stages and changes (the red side of the picture). While it feels natural to follow this formula, unless you're making a game for kids, in a DIY escape room it will fail.
This is because you're (most definitely) following Secret #1 and Incinerating Checking Mechanisms. There's just no way for players to know they've 'succeeded' in this part and to move onto the next stage. (well, ok there is, but they all make the game less fun and are not worth doing just to add a morphing storyline).
Just make the story occur in one location and have just one major goal. After all, people are playing the game to interact and have fun, not experience an interactive theatre play.
It's obvious you'll need a variety of puzzles in your escape room.
What's not obvious is a dreary old ghost. He hides in your room and feeds off a lack of consistency between your puzzles. Worst still, this ethereal design theory is one of the biggest fun killers in your game, and many designers don't spot him until it's too late!
Consider this inconsistency:
All clues in your escape game are only used once, except for one. Players will learn to use and discard all clues, then get stuck on the puzzle that requires something to be reused. Instead, make every clue used the same number of times.
Each puzzle type is included as an easy version and a hard version. Such as an easy and hard cipher. When players solve the easy one they'll have learned the approach to crush the harder one. This style can work great, but if you have a hard puzzle with no warm up players will start looking for it, only to find themselves stuck and frustrated.
Build consistency into your puzzles and you won't need to call anyone, that depressing old spectre will just leave!
The most challenging part of crafting the perfect escape room is balancing the difficulty between too boring and too hard.
If your game's too easy, it's dull and lifeless.
Too hard, and it's table-flippingly frustrating!
That sweet spot in between the two is 'Flow', and it can make or break your game.
How do you get it?
Start by understanding who you're designing your escape game for:
Believe it or not, people don't want an escape room where they solve a linear sequence of puzzles.
They want a delightful adventure with their friends.
That's the whole idea. FUN!!!
Therefore, your goal as an escape room designer is to mix in a variety of experiences that get friends talking, laughing, and facing a challenge together.
You can include these in any ratio you like, but the suggestions below work well for keeping everyone interested. Remember, everyone finds different activities fun so keep everyone engaged by including a good mix from this list.
Here's a breakdown of the various activities to include in your escape room design:
Red Herrings are those 'extras' in an escape room that exist solely to distract players.
If you're creating your own escape room business in real life, they suck.
In printable escape rooms, they're noxious infractions against the human soul.
It's because there's so little context and players are already using their imagination to craft the world.
Don't do them, lest you be swallowed whole by the mystical red herring in the sky.
Die-hard fans of your escape room will want to suck the marrow out of every last puzzle, challenge, and game (don't worry, they're not undead, they're just passionate!).
Reward these weathered adventurers with a bonus super-hard puzzle that's totally optional.
You can do this without getting in the way of the main game by making the start of it quite obvious:
Feel like playing sooner? Just grab one of these printable escape room kits. They download instantly and are ready to print & party. Tonight!
Don't worry, you can even edit the game, using PowerPoint, to add your own style and puzzles.