Ghost Puzzles: Broken & Disabled Escape Room Puzzles [Design]

Let’s make this really simple:

If a puzzle breaks or you disable it, kindly remove every trace of it from your escape room.

A mastodon fossil on display in a museum.

Remove The Props

If it looked like a puzzle prop when it was a puzzle, it will still look like a puzzle prop after it has been disabled.

It doesn’t matter that it looks cool. Turn it back into a puzzle or remove it. Otherwise it turns into a Ghost Puzzle*, an aggressive red herring that reminds us players that we never had an opportunity to play with that cool thing in the room.

It’s always lame when the most interesting prop in the escape room is a red herring.

Paint Over Clues

If there are markings on the walls from removed puzzles or previous iterations of your game, please paint over them.

Don’t make me turn into an escape room archeologist, determining which pieces are part of the current game and which components are remnants from some long-forgotten or destroyed interaction.

*Thank you to Haley at ImmersologyΒ for coining to term Ghost Puzzle earlier this week for our Erban Dictionary.


  1. I had an infuriating experience where they hadn’t properly painted over clues in black light paint from a puzzle that had been removed. We could still see the paint, and even more so when we shone the black light on them. We spent about 15 min trying to work out the code, with no direction from the gm that it was not useful until the game ended. We lost that room. It was an overall incredibly frustrating and disappointing game experience. Ghost puzzle coupled with either ambivalent or not paying attention game master to point out that it was not necessary, terrible combo.

    1. Yikes. That sounds terrible. When multiple problems collide, it tends to cause very large issues.

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