Ideas for unique scavenger hunt / escape room clues with a unique form!
January 25, 2022 4:04 PM   Subscribe

We're having a party! The party is a puzzle! It's very exciting. We've got schemes afoot to get guests searching the house, puzzling out clues, completing little challenges, etc etc. If you've even been a part of something like this, what was the one clue, challenge, or trick that you loved, that really blew your mind, or that did something with the format you hadn't expected? We do have some budget, so if it requires a small prop ($10 or less), that's likely workable.

I recognise there are other extremely related askmefi's - I'll be browsing them! - but this one is specifically a request for clues that escape the riddle->solution->combinationlock default and do something unexpected instead.
posted by wattle to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My dad does this every so often at Christmas. One year he figured out how to create QR codes and printed a bunch out and hid them around the house. When you scanned them, they gave you a trivia question and a clue to the next one. It was a fun little addition to the usual clue hunting thing. (I assumed at least one was going to be a Rickroll but he managed to resist -- but maybe you could do that!)
posted by fight or flight at 4:08 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: Inspired by the answer above, I once saw (maybe even here on MF at some point) a nonogram puzzle that when completed created a scannable QR code.
posted by wats at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: If you aren't in a time crunch, Ji Ga Zo puzzles create images based on your photographs. You upload a .jpeg and it will print out a puzzle sheet. When the 300 pieces are put together correctly, it looks like the .jpeg you uploaded.

I bought it once and used it quite a few times making pictures of family for a Thanksgiving get-together. Everyone enjoyed it.

Caveat: you have to use the included CD-ROM to get the software to make it work, so you'd need a computer with a CD-ROM drive.
posted by tacodave at 4:28 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: I was in an escape room where the books on the shelves were arranged in patterns that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for certain repeating books. They spelled out letters like

| | | |
| | | |

using the spines of several copies of a single book. But you could also use several different books by an author, or something like that.

I thought it was great because we were all poring over these bookshelves for several minutes yelling out what we thought were clues, but the solution was something totally different. (The authors came into it in the order of letters or something, IIRC.)
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:29 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: One of my favorite on-location puzzles we were given a stack of subtly edited photos of different spots--this was at a library so it was various locations around the library. We had to 1. identify where the photo had been taken and then 2. determine what had been changed in the photo. So like we get a photo of a piece of abstract art in the library, we had to go find where the painting was hung up and THEN notice that the letter C had been edited out of the painting in the photo, giving the clue C. Find all the photos, find all the missing letters, unscramble the word. We were given the stack of photos without context.
posted by phunniemee at 4:45 PM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

We did treasure hunts for our kids when they were little. I remember one time they had to type something into a computer, and the computer gave them the next clue. If you have a programmer available, maybe they can work up an adult version.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: A couple more web apps I thought of that I've used in creating puzzle-hunt type games for pals. Perhaps you can make use of them in some way that incorporates the physical setting:, lets you create password-protected messages.. on this particular site they generally self-destruct after being read, but there may be other similar options out there that don't disappear. I once made a chain of about 10 messages on here with a link to the next message in the sequence along with a clue to its password embedded in each.

Then there is Miro, which is a shared whiteboard on which you can get pretty creative as it's quite a versatile tool... You can add text, photos, shapes, all kinds of stuff to it that can be interacted with by whoever has access to it. You can hide things on here, or maybe more interestingly create an interactive puzzle or challenge that needs to be solved.

Along similar lines: can be a wild place to hide something... be sure to turn on the x and y coordinates! [NSFW/Warning from Mefi moderator: that linked page is publicly-editable, and right now there are racial slurs at the landing point; here's the About page]

I'm super into this kinda stuff, so feel free to memail if you'd like me to go into more detail or hit you with some more specific types of ideas :)
posted by wats at 6:51 PM on January 25, 2022

Everyone gets a "personal knowledge" bit of information.

No-one else (other than the organizer) knows what that is.

In itself, it's fairly useless.

But if people talk to each other about their clues, then they might start making sense.


One person might know where a key is, but it's useless knowledge (it's a "safety deposit box key" relayed from an unreliable narator, assuming that it's an external SDB. Someone else knows that "great grandad" is a safecracker/ Houdini-type and had a strange box but no idea where it is; another might know that grandad was a Houdini nut and has a bunch of memorabilia, etc.)
posted by porpoise at 7:02 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: Combination locks that have letters, not numbers. So they need a word to open a box where another clue is!
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:57 PM on January 25, 2022

Best answer: I did an Easter egg hunt by giving the kids a piece of rope and a cluttered farmyard. The next clue was exactly a rope's length from the last. Option there for burying some clues to require Natty Bumppo tracking skills. Could work in a house with string and thumbtacks.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:16 AM on January 26, 2022

I've always liked puzzles where you start with a letter introducing you to the mystery that you think is full of clues to look out for (items in the room, numbers that could be a code), when it's actually a straightforward puzzle you solve by reading the first letter of each sentence to form a direction to the next clue, like Look in the desk drawer.
posted by Mchelly at 6:25 AM on January 26, 2022

Custom scratch cards/stickers (example) to reveal a clue?
posted by eyeball at 8:06 PM on January 26, 2022

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