Tunnels and crawlspaces are fun. They poke that same childhood nostalgia button as ball pits do.
They are a strong scene divider because they require players to stop, change body posture, and proceed forward in a different fashion.
As with so many different aspects of escape room design, there are some good, bad, and potentially dangerous ways to design crawlspaces. Let’s explore them.
I love a good crawl… my knees? Not so much.
Frankly, I and so so so many other players are thrilled to trade a little realism for some comfort. Pad the floor of your crawlspace.
Also it’s not a bad idea to round off or pad the corners of the crawlspace entryway and exit. Speaking of head injuries…
Your tunnel should be the same size on both ends. Keep the crawlspace height consistent throughout the tunnel (unless there is a climb or some other deliberately designed obstacle that is clear and visible).
Recently I had to scurry through a dark crawlspace that had height variation. It was fine going one way…
Going back, however, I missed a critical detail of the tunnel’s design:
It’s all fun and games until someone loses some brain cells.
Transitioning scenes under pressure can be good fun. That said, I strongly dissuade you from adding artificial tension during a crawling segment.
Adults can really hurt knees, backs, and heads if they aren’t accustomed to crawling or are required to do so in a hurry. It’s also worth noting that not everyone is up for it.
You should have a way for some players to bypass crawling segments.
In the United States, if you don’t have a way of bypassing crawling sections, you’re probably in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Take this one seriously.
The easy bypass technique: have a door that can be immediately opened once one person has crawled through to the other side. This is an elegant solution because anyone who wants to crawl can do so and anyone who isn’t into crawling or cannot crawl doesn’t miss out on much.