32 Escape Room Puzzles You Can Create At Home For $10.
Designing your own escape room is intricately fun. It's even better than playing them.
But it can cost big $$. And take heaps of time. So skim through this cheat sheet of DIY puzzles and find your favorites.
Lock, Stock & barricade.
Nothing says Escape Room better than a good ol' fashion steel door with keypad entry. However, unless you're Batman, you probably don't have one guarding your washing machine...
That's ok, we can't all be Batman.
Instead, just realise your mates will use their imagination to fill in the blanks. This means you'll need to design your escape game with a strong theme and storyline and explain it at the beginning.
For example, in a fantasy escape room, a simple combination padlock could be a Magic circle that will teleport the team home again.
It will require some creativity and imagination but remember you're not making a big $$ game as a business - you're just chilling with mates or trying something fresh for team building
Bike chain keypad
The easiest number padlock you can do is draping a bike chain around a door handle.
Sure. It's not the most authentic, but remember this is a party for mates, not a business.
Just add authenticity with a written label or reference how it fits into your escape room theme during the intro.
Bike chain lock box
This trick turns any container into a locked chest. Again, add some authenticity using a label or reference the chest in your story.
The combination can be numbers or letters, so they bring a lot of flexibility.
Just don't be cruel and tie your toilet seat shut until your mates solve it...
2nd hand briefcase
Briefcases fit into so many escape room themes. You'll need to hunt through a few 2nd hand stores but it's totally worth it.
Just ensure the key, or inbuilt combination lock, work before buying.
Don't worry if it's not that sturdy. Simply tell your mates not to force puzzles open.
Old school classic
One of the most versatile puzzles in any home escape room.
Some come with numbers, others letters, still others even have a key as a secondary means of opening.
Outdoor lock box
Designed to store a front door key, you might have seen these locked around a fence.
I like them as a DIY escape puzzle because they feel like a combination safe.
Phone lock screen
You can turn any phone into a combination safe by changing the passcode. Your puzzle can be a traditional number sequence or a pattern that shows the order.
- Change the lock screen passcode.
- Take a photo of your clue or puzzle.
- Open the photo so it's the first thing that appears when the phone is unlocked.
- Lock the screen and you're all set!
All chained up
A $10 length of chain, from a hardware store, gives you heaps of options for your padlocks. For example,
- Locking 2 sliding doors.
- Anchoring an object that needs to be weighed using kitchen scales. Players will need to release it before it's usable.
Paper puzzle on chain
Don't let a lack of fancy hardware limit your creativity. You can turn any puzzle into a lock. This one's from Escape Room Z and takes players to a website where they enter a passphrase.
Just make your puzzle and hook it over a door along with a note that it's locked until solved.
Trust me. Mates will love it.
Umm.. Door key?
This might seem obvious but it's super easy to forget: your house already has lockable doors!
Just grab the key and make it a reward for solving another puzzle.
Is simple. Is good.
Grab a cheap safe ($50)
Ok, so this one costs more than 10 bucks but it's super cool.
For about $50 you can get a safe with a keypad.
They not only add epic mojo but can be painted, chalked, or drawn on to make into an all-in-one puzzle.
Visual Detection & the hidden obvious
One of the classic, and best, escape room puzzle ideas is an object that should, or shouldn't be there. It creates a Matrix black cat moment that your brain tries to rationalize while tripping out of a neurochemical high.
They work best for:
- Short answers like padlock combinations.
- Hiding something in a very difficult location because players will inspect the strange object in detail.
- Patterns or a specific sequence.
- A computer keyboard with some of the keys rearranged could be a password. This is easy to do since they just clip on/off with a bit of leverage.
- That ominous clock with no hands. This one's a little bit overdone and you don't want to wreck your clock but you get the idea).
- A set dinner table, ready to eat at, that has a 'random' knives missing.
- An entirely minimalist setting with a hippie statue in the corner.
- A triptych of paintings in the wrong order can represent any sequence of 1,2,3 - 1,3,2 - 2,1,3 - 2,3,1, - 3,1,2 or 3, 2,1.
- A photo that was taken from inside the room with and extra object in it.
Have a look around your workplace, or home, for things that are normal - then enjoy making them not normal.
Download a printable escape kit:
This teens escape game is set in the near future and sends you on a treasonous mission!
A humorous zombie themed escape room kit that transforms your home into an Arggh-venture!
Make your next kids party an escape room adventure! This game kit has everything you need. 😉
You either love these or hate them.
If they're not your thing, just skip down to the impossible boxes below. Otherwise here's some ways to turn them into easy escape room puzzles:
- Attach a key to one of the pieces and tie them to something fixed. When players separate the parts they can use the key in a locked door. If your puzzle doesn't fit a key, just tie it to one of the parts using string and a note saying 'Can't use until separate.' After all, you're doing this for mates, not as an escape business.
- Use the weight of one of the pieces as a passcode or combination. Just leave the combined puzzle on some digital kitchen scales next to the lock. Players will get the idea.
- Invent a story and expect players to use some imagination. For example, Separate these to open the portal. A simple note, with an optional prop, is all that's required, and it gives you a super easy DIY puzzle.
Or DIY an Impossible box
A box that doesn't open is one of the more fun (and possibly frustrating) puzzle ideas for any escape room.
But if you don't make them too hard, or too easy, they're super fun! You'll probably need to buy these unless you're good with woodwork or Lego.
Since puzzle boxes require no external objects to solve they'll always be 1 player that just keeps trying until they get it. Use this to your advantage by placing the missing piece of another puzzle inside.
Tech, Gadgets & Sci-fi
You don't have to limit your escape room to being non-digital just because it's not on your iPad. Here are some super easy ways to add epic intrigue and electrifying mystery:
Putting a digital clue or puzzle on a USB stick and hiding it somewhere in your escape room gives you a ridiculous number of fun options.
- An audio file of a conversation that gives a clue or puzzle (you can make one easily using the voice recorder on your phone).
- A short video showing a corner of the room that the players are in. However, it shows 1 extra object with a number on the side (again you can make the video using your phone).
- If you're making a super hard escape game create a Word document and store an important clue or solution inside the Author section of. To view it players will need to look at the file properties so give them a hint to point them in the right direction.
Fix the Fusebox
All those switches in your fuse box control different rooms in your house. This allows you to have an electric device, that isn't working, as part of a multi-stage puzzle.
Make a puzzle that requires a particular electrical device to be working like a laptop. Leave the puzzle, or clue, on the laptop and let the battery totally drain.
Next, plug it into the power socket to charge but turn that power point off using your fuse box.
This way it won't turn on until players solve the initial puzzle so leave a clue, like blood drops, that guides them there.
Leave an online clue
Imagine your players getting their phone out and going to a website that you made just to give them a clue. Sound too hard? Don't worry it's easy.
You can make a free website in 10 minutes using a service called Blogger. It's made by Google and as easy to set up as an email account.
Just log in, create a new page, and add your clue there. Here's an example of one that starts off a date night escape adventure my wife.
Some alternatives include making a YouTube video, sending players to an online tool that solves a particular cipher type, or linking to a Facebook post. Whichever tech you choose make it easy for players to access by using making a QR code (see the next puzzle).
QR code? Whhaatt?
It's one of those square pictures you see on the back of sauce bottles that no-one uses. They are totally day to day but are super epic for designing your own escape game.
Basically, they can link to anything online which makes them great for escape puzzles. You can cut them into puzzle pieces, hide them under objects, or take players to a Youtube video. For example, the QR code above is from the Escape Room Z kit and takes players to an online safe they try to crack.
Also, they're just heaps easier to use than typing in a long website URL 😉
To make a QR code use Google Shortener to generate a short URL. Then click the Settings for the code and there'll be an option for QR Code.
Top puzzles to make with them:
- Cut the QR code into puzzle pieces. Just make sure you test it at the end to make sure it still works!
- Take players to a Youtube video showing them how to do something like mix 2 liquids in a science experiment.
- Make a free website or Facebook post that contains a cipher lookup sheet.
Make a Minecraft puzzle
The Minecraft game allows you to make, well, anything...
Include escape room puzzles:
- Simple: a sequence of colors, words written on a wall, or pattern made from different sized block piles.
- Advanced: make a vault, with 'password' entry like in the video below.
- Insane: craft a whole puzzle room that augments your real life escape room like this one.
Party games & challenges
Remember those team building games you've done over the years? You can create an escape room puzzle by simply adding a flavorsome story and introducing the challenge
Just set the game up then either narrate the story or stash a Challange card that explains what needs to be done somewhere in your game. Here are some fun team puzzles:
Just grab a NERF gun and set up some targets. You can invent any rules you like. For example, one shot each or points for different objects.
The targets in this video are from the printable kit Escape Room Z.
Each player takes turns crossing the field blindfolded while receiving instructions from the other players.
The best locations, for this escape room puzzle, are a hall way or large mat with clear edges so players know what's involved.
Make a string obstacle course like the laser detection systems in movies. Then it's a not-so-simple matter of getting through it.
Little red dots
Grab a pack of those little red dot stickers and place one on anything that relates to the game. Players will still experience hunt and scavenging but they'll know for certain they've succeeded.
An alternate method is to tie colored string to objects.
Make unique clues
Ciphers, Codes, & Cracking
Cracking a cipher is much harder than the movies make out. In fact, it could take the entire duration of your escape game just to solve one unless you provide the right hints.
This means you'll either want to use the easier ciphers below or make and basic and hard version:
- The basic version will be found first and introduces players to the concept behind the cipher.
- The hard one uses the same methodology but a different look and feel. When players tackle this cipher, their experience will show them where to start.
I'd still recommend one of the easy ones below for most Escape Rooms:
Substitution cipher (easy)
There's a whole host of codes that swap out one character for something else. In effect, you're creating a new alphabet.
To make it readable, players will need look-up chart which shows at least some of the comparisons.
Some common examples include Morse code, Egyptian hieroglyphics, or just random symbols like a Pigpen cipher.
Caesar cipher (easy)
The classic A=1, B=2 cipher is too easy, unless you're designing and escape room for kids.
So, go one level harder and make a Caesar Cipher instead. This is where the alphabet is 'shifted' left a certain number of character.
For example, with a Shift of 1 the letter B would be replaced with D like in the bottom row of the picture above.
Book code (hard)
Book code's are caked in so much old-school awesomeness they're practically mouldy! The resulting ciphertext just looks like a random miss-match of numbers and without the original text is literally unbreakable!
All you have to do is replace each word in your message with the number that corresponds to that position in your book.
Vigenere Cipher (Super hard)
This code's a great puzzle for the Master Challenge in your escape room. It's not easy to understand but if the players can work it out it's epic fun!
We're going to use a grid of 26 different caesar ciphers and look up XY coordinates on that grid to encode our text. It's kinda like playing that board game Battleships where you destroy your opponents ships by guessing X and Y coordinates.