In this post, we'll talk about:
Before entering a room, the best groups create and communicate an organization plan, and make sure everyone agrees with the plan. It doesn't help to have an organization plan if someone in the group doesn't know the plan.
Satu Tahkaaho recently asked 213 escape room enthusiasts:
When you play, do you make an "I've already used this item" pile, or do you just leave stuff where you last used it?
Here are the results:
I make a pile: 55%
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't: 34%
I don't make a pile: 11%
Part of a good organization plan involves creating two piles.
The first pile will be a pile of completed puzzles. Because you will almost never use the same code or key for two different locks, and you'll never need a lock after it's used, designate a place for solved puzzles and locks. Just leave used keys in the locks they opened.
Make another pile of searched items. This is most important in a room that has a lot of clothing, luggage, or other items with multiple pockets. Make sure you go through every pocket in clothing and bags. If you have more that 4 people in a room, have two people pair up to search each item, and after an item has been searched for clues, place it in a pile of searched items so that people don't waste time searching an item that has already been searched. If you do get stuck or can’t find something, you will likely have to go back through the items that you put in this pile.
Many hints are wasted simply because a group failed to thoroughly search a room, compile generation one (traditional) locks, remove used elements, or combine all related elements. It's very frustrating when a game master has to tell someone on the team that they put an unused key in their pocket, left an locked box under a table, or failed to search the pockets of a jacket. People often lose track of puzzles and locks. If you're looking for a three digit number for a lock, put that lock in a central location so you will see it often and remember to look for a three digit code. Someone in the group should regularly remind people that you are looking for a three digit numeric key.
Part of a good organization plan includes assigning roles to the players on your team.
If the team is larger than four people, you should have a team leader who is always aware of what everyone on the team is good at, what everyone in the room is doing, and what puzzles and locks are and are not being worked on. Teams are often tempted to huddle up and work together on a puzzle when they could divide and conquer. A leader can make sure that everyone is moving forward, no puzzles are being neglected, and hints are used promptly when the group stagnates.
Another potential role is the solver. Some groups have someone on the team who is very good a solving complicated puzzles. Those people are tremendously valuable to a team, and their time should be dedicated to solving puzzles. When the leader discovers a difficult puzzle, he should give it to the solver. The solver should not spend much of his time searching or organizing.
In large groups (groups of 6 or more), you can make someone the organizer. This is the person in charge of the piles mentioned above. They make sure that clues, puzzles pieces, and key aren't being left in random places around they room. They make sure that searched props aren't getting unnecessarily searched repeatedly by removing them from the field of play. They makes sure unopened locks on movable boxes/bags are placed in a central location for everyone to reference on a regular basis.
Another potential role is the searcher. If you have a young person on your team, young people often make great searchers. Searching is the first step of every room, but you can't stop searching after you start working on puzzles. The searcher shouldn't spend all his time on puzzle because as new areas are discover, his job is to thoroughly search everything in the room.