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The Eight Roles for Escape Room Success

People ask me how they can succeed at an escape room.   One of the things that is important is to ensure that you have a team that can take on the various challenges in a room.

To help with this, I've developed this list of the eight roles that I see as crucial to succeeding in an escape room.  A person can have multiple roles.  If you don't have something that is listed, then be prepared to get a hint if you are faced with this type of challenge.

Project Manager - This person should have an idea of what is the current challenges the group is facing and is the person who is the communication hub.  If things are found, it should be reported to the project manager, and this person should be communicating with the group about what everyone is looking for.  This person shouldn't get stuck in working on a puzzle, but instead should be monitoring the flow of the room and ensure that people have something to work on.

Searcher - This person should be focused on looking on, under, above, around, behind, and inside everything.  They should be on the floor looking under furniture, searching in every pillowcase and pocket, and working through books in the room.  This is a great role for a younger player on a team, as they have fresher eyes than us old jaded folks.

Quartermaster - If the project manager is handling the people, the quartermaster is handling the stuff.  This person should work closely with the project manager and the searcher.  They will have a place in the room to put each type of thing that is found, as well as an area to put things that have already been used.  They will be most likely to be able to connect two different things together when facing this type of "a ha" puzzle.  They will also keep people in the room from wasting time working with something that has already been used.

Brain - The brain is the puzzler of the group.  This is the person who knows different types of logic and math puzzles and understands strategies for working through them.  There are certain types of encoding schemes that are in escape rooms (Morse code, Braille, Pigpen, 1-26 for A-Z, Roman numerals) and the Brain should be aware when they are looking at one of these and to seek a key.

Reader - This person's job is to read everything.  In some rooms, this is a crucial role, and in other rooms, it doesn't matter at all.  What doesn't work is for someone to quickly read something out loud to everyone, as people just don't listen.  It's better to have someone read documents to themselves, and then report to the Project Manager what the text contained.  This person can also look for funny patterns in text that might be an encoded message and pass that onto the Brain.  In addition, if there is a word puzzle, the Reader is a good one for it.

Rogue - This person has good physical dexterity, and will be the one to take on laser mazes, physical challenges like throwing or dropping things.  Most rooms have something physical, and a team can waste a lot of time letting everyone have a try (even though it might be fun).  It's better to let one person try and re-try a challenge, getting better at it, and then after they succeed, the rest of the group can play with the props later.  

Worker - This person needs grit.  The worker is someone who can take a process puzzle and work and work and work on it.   The other players should involve the worker as needed to accomplish tasks that are tedious.  Sometimes, there is nothing else to do other than try every key on the keyring or look behind every book on the shelf, and the worker will be the one for that task.

Game Designer - The game designer should have a different mental approach to the escape room.  They should be comfortable with how escape rooms are built, and be looking for patterns in design.  They can follow the wires from electrical puzzles to get an idea of what should work together.  They should be asking "what would the game designer want us to do" and "what is the style of this company/designer".  If there are multiple rooms in a facility, the game designer should be looking for design patterns between different rooms.  This can also be a frustrating role if the game isn't well-designed; while it is rewarding when something works because it's in the logic of the world, it's frustrating when something doesn't have a logical reason as to why it is in the world.

Side note - I wrote a paper all about using the concept of "Ask Why" to design escape rooms, which you can find here:

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