From the live Slack Chat by James Cobalt
Tropes – black lights
Having to find a tiny thing with a black light is like searching for your car keys - not fun.
flickering flashlights is annoying
oils from skin breakdown ink so if you have ink on something it fades and disappears
GM should be checking fluorescence for fading
trying to find very fine UV ink - shittiest way to lose
make UV a bold reveal
single use items - we love when we’re told everything is used once but it’s really everything is used once BUT. e.g. black light is used for multiple clues
“Light before clue, never to view. Clube before light, all will look right.”
BLACKLIGHTS ARE NOT OBLIGATORY
we like fixed black lights (vs flashlights)
makes a great reveal
Use of black lights should make sense a bit at least.
Turn it into a magic wand or something that turns it into something that makes sense
Video game The Room uses black light effects really well
Next trope - books & bookshelves
Frustrate players with a library!
Books tell the story of the person who has them. But often the books in escape rooms are just bought as cheaply as possible and don’t support the character or narrative.
GMs should be checking books for maintenance issues. They fall apart
The page that had something on it was ripped out. The ink faded. The insert is missing.
Every word in every book is a potential red herring.
next trope - trap doors
a trap door is supposed to be a surprising reveal… so if there’s light coming from behind it, you know there’s something there. booo
same thing if not hung properly, mechanizations apparent, etc
or if 8 people are locked into closet side space and the only thing in there is a bookshelf
even a new player will know that
new players LOVE trap doors
Next trope - locks
Those combo locks that sucked in high school still suck.
Overlocking - using too many locks for something. Like 3 locks on one box. No reward for solving the puzzle.
Annoying when there’s 10 places to put a combination in. Have different combinations for each lock e.g. 3 digit, 4 digit, 5 digit, etc
Or use symbolism (symbol on lock matching symbol in puzzle)
Or proximity to puzzle
Locks shouldn’t be the challenge. The puzzles are the challenge.
Commando Marine Brass is a great quality lock. Has timeless look - can put in a room set 100 years ago without thematic dissonance
Locks can be better than tech. A pirate ship doesn’t need a mag lock. But a big bulky skeleton key lock? Yes please
Next trope- Red Herrings
If you put something really cool in the room but I don’t get to play with it, I will be frustrated.
saying in theatre- if you bring a gun on stage, you better use it
Don’t make the coolest thing in your room a red herring
If players touch something all the time and it’s not in play, that’s a red herring.
Red herring puzzles SO FRUSTRATING. If players are spending lots of time on something, they should get a reward.
Earlier David said - not everything needs a reward, but your players are paying 50 cents a minute… so give them something.
You don’t have to design red herrings. Players will create their own.
There ARE ways to delight with red herrings. We prefer that games consist only of meaningful content.
Put a sticker on red herrings so people don’t waste time on things that aren’t fun
If you’re going to have one, have one, make it funny or really interesting
We played a game where we uncovered that it was a joke. Everybody laughed. So we got something out of the moment even though it wasn’t part of the puzzles
Next Trope - Nail & Screws
About 1 in 3 games we find them laying around or protruding out of construction
Next trope - game master frustrations
It’s also a safety issue.
If you lie about one thing, other things are on the table (like maybe we can look in electrical outlets!)
It’s not always clear at what point the deception of the room begins
Don’t be condescending to your players. GMs shouldn’t have a smug look that you lost and they “won”
Players are self-conscious and feel bad already
So don’t be a jerk!
Don’t be aggressive
GM acts like they want to beat you. Rooting for the room
Players will feel more competitive and get more aggressive with props
GMs managing multiple games. Lack of oversight is disruptive to gameplay.
If a team calls for hint it means they aren’t having fun. Game stopped
Idle hands break shit.
a GM will hear trouble coming long before they see it, so they should always be listening
GMs need to improvise.
GMs need power to give refunds/discounts
Should have a warning system alarm to stop players if someone is doing something dangerous. No time to type a slide if someone is shoving a key in an outlet
Finally, Test & Iterate
train and empower staff. they should be helping to test and iterate the games
maintain your games and staff should know how to. everything will break. have backups. have GMs noticing
Be mindful of order so things flow and generate excitement
Optimize for fun