# November 30, 2017

## Harry Potter Escape Room

So, hi! I haven’t written here in forever! Many things have changed – most importantly, I am now a full-time teen librarian in a library that I adore! I get to do awesome things for and with my group of teens, many of which are crafty, so this seems like as good a place as any to share. I tweeted about this before it happened, and a number of people were eager to see how it turned out, so hi!

I always like to do a big event at the end of November – Hunger Games my first year, Harry Potter my second. When I asked the teens this year what they wanted, Harry Potter was again the winner. So I combined Harry Potter with something else I’ve been wanting to try – an escape/puzzle room – to great success.

When I started thinking of doing a puzzle room, I had lots of ideas about how to do the puzzles, but it just wasn’t coming together. Once I figured out the problem that players would have to solve, though, everything fell into place. Luna’s spectrespecs have been stolen – not by nargles, as she would presume, but by some trickster thief. The thief has left behind a series of puzzles and clues, however, for Luna to solve. She has to rush to class, though, which is where the players come in. If they can solve the puzzle before Luna’s class is done, they can get a reward, which she has left in a locked bag. Of course, you’ll need the spectrespecs (which have red film to read that red area of the letter) to get the prize out.

I was thrilled when I found a lock that had the four Hogwarts house colors on its wheels. Once I found that, I knew I had to make one puzzle for each house, which would lead to the solution for this lock. (The glasses are in the box this is locked onto.)

I wrote a short poem leading the players to the four different puzzles, but the poem was also the clue to open a box containing blacklight flashlights. A few of the puzzles would not be solvable without the flashlights. The directional lock was fun to use, and it took them a while to realize that the directions in the poem were there for a reason. I made both lock boxes a little trickier by adding codes to them.

I set the room up with the lock boxes and original puzzle on a central table and each individual house puzzle on their own table around the outside. I used plastic tablecloths as runners to help denote house (also useful for folks who don’t know Harry Potter so well – just match the runner to the wheel on the lock!).

For Gryffindor, I used the potion puzzle fromĀ *Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone*. Since you never actually find out the answer or how to solve it in the book, this seemed ideal. It is basically a logic puzzle, trying to find the potion that will allow you to move forward. I labeled 7 empty bottles 1 through 7 and gave the players cards to shuffle around to try to figure out the contents. My teens had a lively debate while they tried to work it out, and they got the correct answer on their first try! As the designer, you have to make a few assumptions about bottle size, and I found this discussion very helpful.

Next up was Slytherin, for which I used a modified sudoku puzzle. This was the easiest challenge, and I might redo the puzzle for next time, removing more numbers, to make it harder.

For Hufflepuff, I bought a 100-piece puzzle and intended to write something on it that they would need the blacklight to read. When I got the puzzle, though, I realized that I could have the players count the number of items in the picture instead. I put a blacklight clue inside the box lid, telling them to count two different items and do a little math. It took them much longer than I expected to do the physical puzzle, and a few tried to resort to counting from the picture on the box (thankfully, that was too small for them to see all the details!).

Finally, for Ravenclaw, I used a book cipher and more math. With a book cipher, you have a three part number that corresponds to page, line, and word. The players had to find 10 words (all were numbers, so there could be math after) to complete the puzzle. Surprisingly, the teens were able to figure out to go to the first one, but then they thought the clue on that page, which should lead them to the next number, was the number itself! I had to coach this group a lot more than the others, just subtly hinting that they weren’t thinking the right way about things.

As I mentioned, each house puzzle gave the players a single digit number. They put those into the lock wheel and were able to unlock Luna’s glasses! It took them a few minutes to realize that Luna’s glasses and her letter went together, and then quite a few more minutes to figure out how to read the final clue. They were heavily invested in the blacklights by that time, and shining it on the red reveal puzzle made it impossible. The glasses revealed a single word, which unlocked this lock.

I made individual chocolate frogs for the prize, which they were all super excited about. When I run this program again, all I’ll need are more frogs (and probably some sturdier lock boxes). I also need to print up some rules and have them posted – most importantly, do not just try every combination on the lock until it works! Maybe I’ll tell them there’s some kind of curse on the locks if they try that?

Please let me know your thoughts, especially if you have ideas that could make this even better!