We have deliberately avoided strict do’s and don’ts lists because there are many shades of grey in design.
However, a few months ago, a reader named Bill (@onepixelman) culled this list of Dos and Don’ts from our reviews and sent it to us. Derived from our commentary on a wide variety of games, he took these notes as a guide for his own designs and shared them with us.
I’ve organized the list and added section headings.
- Don’t make puzzles feel like homework.
- Don’t make clue collecting tedious.
- Do set a min/max on the number of players.
- Do watch out for clue bottlenecks.
- Don’t add too many distractions or red herrings.
- Do make sure the connection between clues is strong.
- Don’t require objects to stay in their original position.
- Don’t have multiple possible solutions to a puzzle unless it’s intentional.
- Do create a coherent, compelling theme.
- Don’t have too many of the same type lock or puzzle.
- Don’t let it be possible to miss big puzzles.
- Do have a climax / finale.
- Don’t put random / cheap crap in the room.
- Do check the functionality of critical set pieces.
- Don’t make the location hard to find, and, hell, jazz it up.
- Don’t have bad customer service at any link in the chain.
- Do have a rules explanation video, talk, or sheet.
- Do have a game master who is actively involved during gameplay.
- Do offer a walkthrough, group picture, and debrief session after the game.
Mind the details.
For more thoughts on the escape room industry and design tips, checkout our Room Design section.