Homemade Escape-The-Room
February 12, 2016 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to make an Escape-The-Room type game for some friends and need puzzle / storyline suggestions.

A small group of us did our first Escape-The-Room game and fell in love (we didn’t escape but came oh so close!). I was talking with one of my friends about the experience and we think that it would be a blast to create one for some of the friends that couldn’t attend. We’re brainstorming and I want to tap into the Metafilter Hivemind for help.

Location will be at my house, probably in the basement
Basement is fairly large and has some unique features, including a (lockable!) soundbooth and a laundry chute
Area around the water heater is fenced off and could act as a ‘second room’
House also has a small backyard with a shed

We plan on inviting three to five friends. The tricky thing is that two of these friends are heavily involved in the haunted house industry so I’m assuming they’ve done a few Escape-The-Rooms before or at least have some familiarity. I would love to reuse the more devious tricks from our room but I’m worried that they’d immediately spot them.

We also feel like this is a good opportunity to incorporate elements that might not be appropriate for the general public, such as fire, destroying objects, and blood and gore. Haunted house people have seen everything so nothing we do will be too much.

I’d like to come up with some kind of storyline and I’m strongly considering a wholesale ripoff of The 7th Guest, complete with playing the music while they try and escape, but I’m open to anything.

Assume that we have access to a wide variety of theatrical equipment and are willing to buy what we don’t have.

I turn to you now, Metafilter: what puzzles should we include to trap our friends in my basement forever?
posted by Diskeater to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Some sort of Edgar Allen Poe "Telltale Heart" variation? They've been walled into the basement and have to escape before....zombies appear? Zombies make everything better.
posted by xingcat at 3:03 PM on February 12, 2016

I haven't done one of these, so my ideas might be based on misconceptions, but a bit like how you can tell when a clock was broken by the position the hands stopped in, I suggest including a puzzle that, crime-scene-like, it requires the room to be untouched to figure out what happened there, detective-style.

The tricksy bit is that the first thing the players will naturally do is start investigating the room, moving things about as they examine them, thus systematically destroying the information that contains the solution to the puzzle. Then they'll figure out enough of the problem to figure out how they need to figure it out and... Oh No! Everyone put everything back exactly how you found it!
...But I don't remember where this thing was? Do you remember?! You?! Anyone?! Bueller?

Of course, it is possible that the players might mess up the "crime-scene" irrevocably before they realize they have to treat it like a crime-scene, fortunately you foresaw their incompetence and left them a hidden second-chance: the room contains an old digital camera. Find new batteries for the camera and look in the photo memory, and someone (or something) took a photo of the room before the players messed it up.
posted by anonymisc at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are two rooms. One room has some minor puzzles that unlock the door to the other room.

Here's the catch: Anyone that enters Room 2 must first be blindfolded. The only way they can navigate Room 2 is by FaceTiming or video-calling a person in Room 1. The phone is a camera and a two-way radio. People in Room 1 have to guide the blindfolded person in Room 2, using only what they can see from the phone's video feed.

There are puzzles in Room 2 that unlock items that can be taken back to Room 1, and those items are used to solve Room 1 puzzles that allow the players to escape and complete the game.

"Hold the phone up higher. Stop. It says the key is in a box on the shelf next to a dictionary. OK, turn around, step forward. Forward. OK, now hold the phone up again. Scan the shelf with the camera. Slow. Slow. There it is! OK, now put the phone down and take the box off the shelf..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:53 PM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who does ALL THE ROOM ESCAPE PUZZLES. Seriously. She has done all the ones here in town (which means maybe 20 or so?) plus every time she travels she does another two or three wherever she goes. Yet, when I have done them with her, she is usually still surprised by various mechanics. So I get the sense that most room escapes are fairly creative and innovative in what they do, and so even if your friends are really into them, they are unlikely to know exactly the mechanic you have borrowed from the one you did, unless they have also done that specific room.

So go ahead and borrow ideas.

That said, my favourite mechanic in the ones I've done was where one of the boxes we unlocked in room 2 had a remote control, and another had some batteries, and another had a handle that fit on a crank back in room 1, so we had to remember to go back and try it there. And when we wound the crank in room one, a whole fake wall panel lifted up and revealed a glass room divider underneath. On the other side of the divider there was a remote control car, which we could control with the remote from the other room (once we had found the batteries). We had to back the car against a switch that was in a little garage thing, which required a fair amount of dexterity. When we did, that switch released the next puzzle back in room 2.

I just loved the little remote controlled car bit.
posted by lollusc at 9:15 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

(I want to be your friend)

An ETR game I played recently involved time travel. Basically there were two identical rooms, representing before and after a particular point in time (so like a day in between or something). Something got messed up in the After room and you had to solve clues in the Before room that unlocked access to the Time Machine.

While in the Before room, you could take actions that affect what happened in the After room - and similarly, clues in the After room will unlock things in the Before room that will lead to the "future" being changed. For example, when you start the game, you learn that their "intern" had broken a clock. If you tell the intern hanging around the Before room to be careful of clocks, the clock stays unbroken in the After room and you get access to a new clue. There was also a series of clues that involved ordering stuff off their version of Amazon: you'd go to the Before room, buy something off "Amazon", it'll get delivered in the After room, you look at the delivery and get a clue for something else you need to buy, go to the Before room, buy that, etc etc.
posted by divabat at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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