12 Reasons to Love a Briefcase (I’m talking Escape Room Design)

I never thought I’d be writing a blogpost with this title. In fact, I’m really letting my inner nerd out here. But I have to share.

I just love a briefcase. Even though I have a garage full of plain boxes with just a hasp and staple alongside every permutation and combination of padlock available, the briefcase is the prop I turn to for teaching Escape Room Design.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s mobile, easy for the players to move around with them, so you can give them it early and let them run with it.
  2. Speaking of which, you can even give it to them before the game starts, or pass it on to them to carry during a mobile escape game or urban hunt.
  3. They know what to do with it, and though one three digit lock is simple to brute force, two makes people pause for thought.
  4. It is naturally a container, so can keep papers and other contents neat and tidy, and it looks important too. e.g. If you have to have a book as a clue, putting it in a briefcase gives it a bit more respect and relevance.
  5. Room for lots of other helpful stuff such as packets of sweets for motivation and dry wipe boards for solving problems, tools or a calculator (how often do your players forget what 2+2 equals in the heat of the moment?)
  6. You can use more complicated puzzles because you can work through an example problem and solve for the left hand lock, so then they can work through the problem to solve for the right hand lock.
  7. It’s a “character” prop – prompting: who did it belong to? what stickers and markings are on it and why? is there a label? what else do the contents reveal about the owner? Fake passports, plane tickets, mobile phone, locked USB drive, etc. Lots of opportunities for expanding the narrative.
  8. They are a relatively cheap prop. They can be bought new from less than £15 from Amazon, ebay and elsewhere.
  9. The combination locks are easy to change.
  10. Put a light inside one, and then take a picture of someone opening it. Very Pulp Fiction/Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  11. You can use them for storage when they are in storage. I label up my briefcases and keep my smaller props and padlocks in them.

And finally . . .

  1. Put a whole “Escape Room” inside a briefcase. I’ve run pop-up events and classroom sessions armed only with a briefcase full of other padlocked containers and puzzles, and they’re easy for me to port about too. It’s a great way to start people off on escape room narrative design, giving them a briefcase with the brief “What’s in it?” and “Why?” and “How are the players going to get it open?”

(Might try this one as an ice-breaker at the next Escape Room Unconference.)

Have I missed a cunning trick for using a briefcase in an Escape Room? Let me know in the comments.

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