In the past decade or so the popularity of escape room puzzles has exploded. Apparently, there’s just something about being locked up with time running out that people really enjoy. And the same is true for Dungeons & Dragons. Its popularity has skyrocketed since the release of 5e edition.
So why not combine the two?
In this article, we’ll explain exactly how you can combine and layer room puzzles to create an amazing D&D escape room that your players are sure to enjoy.
Why D&D Escape Room Puzzles are Amazing
Before we get started, let’s just quickly examine how popular escape room puzzles and Dungeons & Dragons have become over the last years. Here are some stats from Google Trends about searches for ‘escape rooms’ for the United States:
The data shows that escape rooms are here to stay and their popularity remains high. But what about Dungeons & Dragons? Google trends data reveals the following for ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ in the US.
With Dungeons and Dragons, it’s pretty much the same story. So now we have two things that are both rising in popularity AND go together like milk and cookies! Nuf said. Let’s get to work!
How to Build a D&D Escape Room
The general rules for any escape room are:
- You lock the PCs inside a room or structure.
- They have one hour to escape or some disaster comes to pass.
- There are interconnected puzzles that need to be solved in order to escape the room.
To build an escape room in D&D you’re going to need lots of puzzles. It won’t do to just have one big puzzle that takes an hour to solve. Here’s why:
Imagine having an escape room in your D&D. The room is empty save for one table and a magical jigsaw puzzle with a thousand pieces. The players can all work on the puzzle simultaneously and have just one hour to solve it.
This would be a terrible escape room for several reasons:
- First, players only get one measly puzzle to solve. There’s no variety.
- Second, they can already see the entire path to the puzzle’s solution from the first minute. There’s no sense of wonder.
- Third, the room is empty save for a single puzzle that fits no narrative. There’s no immersion.
So simply throwing a singular puzzle on the table and calling it an escape room isn’t going to cut it. We need a variety of multiple puzzles that can each be solved quickly, interlinking puzzles to create a sense of wonder and discovery, and filling the room with different puzzles that support a narrative and immersion.
Finding that many quick and richly illustrated puzzles is a tall order. And it is why we recommend purchasing the Puzzle Bundle from our webshop. It has hundreds of puzzles you can use for your D&D escape room. There are enough puzzles to create multiple escape rooms if you wish.
In the next part of this article, we’ll show you an example of a setup for an escape room using just some of these puzzles. It will illustrate just how easy it is to build escape rooms for D&D compared to having to design, draw, and interlink all these puzzles yourself.
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An Example Of a Puzzle Escape Room for Dungeons & Dragons
The creator of the Puzzles we sell in our webshop has actually created an escape room using puzzles from the Puzzle Bundle in a virtual tabletop. But you can print these puzzles and use them at your table as well.
Without giving away exactly how everything works we have permission to show you his puzzle setup. Here it is:
We love how rich this escape room is in illustrated puzzles. There’s just so much to discover and that is exactly the appeal of a well-designed escape room.
This room contains 12 puzzles for players to solve.
The Puzzle Bundle has lots of illustrated puzzle pieces you can use in printable format and for online use. Some of the pieces in this puzzle were custom made such as the clock face and rooms. But in the Puzzle Bundle, there’s a puzzle called ‘dungeon puzzles‘ that has rooms you can use if you want to create a similar setup. Or you could just draw them out on a battle map.
So how are the puzzles interlinked?
With most escape rooms players need to solve one puzzle to get the key to solving the next one. And you could set up this puzzle in that way. But the designer chose that players have to solve six plus the number of players to escape the room.
The benefit of this setup is that it’s almost impossible to get stuck. If players can’t solve one puzzle, they simply choose another one. And they also tend to pick the puzzles they enjoy most first, which makes for a better player experience.
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Introducing a D&D Puzzle Escape Room
The designer offers two possible introductions to choose from.
1. Escape the College of the Magi
Breaking into the College of the Magi to steal their magical secrets might not have been one of your brightest ideas. And nobody told you about the magical lock that’s currently preventing you from leaving. The Magi will wake in one hour and if they find you snooping around the classrooms, you’ll be expelled for sure. Since the College is floating 10.000 feet in the air, that’s a problem.
Villagers below have complained… Petitions were signed…
But there is no lock that can’t be picked. And this one requires you to solve a number of magical problems. Solve a number of problems equal to 6 + the Nr. of players and a portal to the surface will open. Fail and learn what it means to be a College ‘ dropout’.
2. The Tournament
Congratulations would-be heroes!
You and your party of adventurers are cordially invited to partake in the Tournament. The Tournament is a contest where groups of adventurers can prove their value by facing a set of challenges in a magical room. This room is set in the middle of an arena in front of a live audience. While the audience will be able to see your every move, you cannot perceive them.
If you wish to partake you’ll have one hour to complete a set of challenges using only your wit and resourcefulness. Using powers or special abilities is not allowed. This year the challenges have been produced by six powerful wizards. There are twelve problems of which you must solve 6 + the Nr. of party members partaking.
Winners will be named ‘Heroes of the Tournament’. You may use this honorary title while seeking employment until the next tournament is held.
These are some very good examples of plausible introductions that work with just about any D&D campaign. What’s more, the players can’t use their magical powers to circumvent puzzles. That would break this challenge. But they can still use their skills to find or use clues. This way, you still challenge the PCs (and not only the players). And it’s another way to avoid players getting stuck.
Setting up Your Own D&D Puzzle Escape Room
Let’s look at some of the puzzles used in this setup.
The pieces of vine are from Dungeon Puzzles. They need to be laid out in a way so they are all connected. This puzzle also comes with entire dungeon rooms that you can use as puzzle pieces. So a whole dungeon becomes a puzzle.
The color wheels in this puzzle are similar to Runestone Puzzles. These puzzle pieces need to be rotated so all symbols in horizontal and vertical directions match.
These Riddles are not part of the Puzzle Bundle but you can get them at our affiliate’s store here. There are 101 riddles in the pack.
These Floor Puzzles are ideal for escape rooms because you can just lay them on the floor. Players must walk the correct pattern over these floor tiles to solve the puzzle.
These lines of Rune Puzzles have several steps to solving them. We won’t give away the answer but the great thing about these is that you can place them on any object. Whether you wish to lock a treasure chest, book, or door, these puzzles will do the job just by placing a single image on top of them.
While not easily visible in the escape room example, Elemental Puzzles can be laid out on any rocky surface. Players must use the four elements in the correct pattern to solve this puzzle.
Escape rooms are popular because they offer an immersive experience with lots of puzzles to solve. And the only way to recreate that feeling in D&D is to use lots of props, printed or otherwise. The Puzzle Bundle is the easiest way we know to get that many well-designed illustrated puzzles to your table in minutes.
There are enough puzzles here to build an endless variety of escape rooms to keep your players entertained for years to come.
Dark Ulf is the founder and editor of DNDpuzzles.com. When not writing for DNDpuzzles he travels the multiverse and destroys demons with a crossbow in one hand and a crossword in the other.
We hope this site inspires you to put more puzzles into your D&D games.