Red Herrings


I did a room in London ON on my way to the unconference.

I have a list of issues with this room but the biggest one was at one point we found two patterned keys - ladybugs and four leaf clovers. Now in a fairy/leprechaun room, they fit right in and I expected to use them.

They were complete red herrings. There weren’t even any key locks in the room! The door took a key, which after we found I was wandering around still trying to figure out where these patterned keys went. I wouldn’t have tried anything on the door, since I had 3 keys unused. We had to be hinted to the door.

What makes a red herring a red herring, to you?


Luckily I haven’t played very many games with red herrings.
I think most of the games that I’ve had with red herrings, we have been able to determine that it’s a red herring pretty quickly. I haven’t had any nightmare stories with wasting time on one though.

I will say that I think places that have “do not touch” stickers have a higher chance of building in accidental red herrings. Because if you have a decor item that looks somewhat interesting and they don’t have a do not touch sticker on them. Then I think players will assume it’s something that they need. When really it’s just something in the room that is more durable and they don’t think it will get broken.


To me, it’s any item that has been imbued with gamey-qualities that isn’t actually in-play. It’s not a red herring to me just because it distracts from the puzzle path; such as a note or audio recording that adds to the game’s narrative but doesn’t provide any overt clues. However, if the note or recording referenced numbers that appeared to be a combination, or gave instructions on how to do something else in the room that isn’t relevant, then we’re in red herring territory for me.


Definitely agreed. I’ve never played a game that went that far out of the way to provide a clue for something that isn’t needed though. Luckily.


I do have one example of a red herring that bothered me a little at the time but now I think is hilarious. There was a riddle and certain words were underlined. It wasn’t clear if we needed to solve the riddle or focus on the underlined words or both.

Turns out the answer to our puzzle (but not the riddle) was a word spelled from the first letter of every line in the riddle. The riddle itself and the underlined words had nothing to do with it. Totally trolled.