Dear Escape Room Owners,
Your players should not need a @!#$%^&* tetanus shot to play your escape room.
1 in 5
In twenty percent of the escape rooms I’ve played, I have found an exposed nail or screw in your construction or a loose nail or screw on the ground.
For the past year, I’ve been keeping a tally.
I’m not hunting these things down; I’m simply happening upon them while I’m searching. I find exposed nails inside of all sorts of props and set pieces.
It still shocks me how often I find loose nails and screws laying around.
Exposed Nails & Screws
I understand the exposed nails & screws. You’ve finished building something. It looks great on the outside. Since you already know how your own game works, you don’t have to search like a player, and you don’t notice these protrusions. When you’re constructing something big, you can overlook something small. I get it.
You should search like a player anyway. Run your hands over every surface, inside and out. If you think players might be able to reach into it, check it for hazards.
While you’re at it, hit any splintering wood with some sandpaper, would you please? I’m tired of splinters.
When you find a nail or screw, clip it and sand it. Get rid of any sharp points or edges.
Are these leftover from construction or are your players actively removing them from things?
Either way, you should check the floor for loose nails. You don’t need anyone stepping on them. You also don’t need players thinking that a loose nail is part of a puzzle.
What I Do
Whenever I find a loose nail, I leave it where the gamemaster will find it (and I usually point it out to them). If I find an exposed nail or screw, I’ll grab the gamemaster or owner and point it out. I encourage all players to do this.
This kind of thing never makes it into a review unless we’re talking a very large volume of exposed nails and screws.
What You Can Do
Spend a few minutes going through each of your games with a good pair of cutting pliers and some sandpaper. or simply get a Dremel with a cutting wheel or an angle grinder (suggested by J Cooper in the comments).
This is a small detail to everyone except the person who cuts himself open in your game. I’ve seen it happen and it’s unnecessary.
Even if you think you’ve eliminated all screws, nails, and hazards, you should still be prepared for injuries. Have a stocked first aid kit available. Make sure that your whole staff knows where it is and how to use it. Ensure that someone is responsible for periodically refilling it.
If someone starts bleeding in your game, you should be able to get them some disinfectant and a bandaid without having to terminate their playthrough.
Shit happens. Make sure you have a plan.
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An Open Letter On Exposed Nails & Screws in Escape Rooms is one component of room design. For more tips, check out our Room Design section.