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Mixing strangers in your escape room GM Diaries #9

Posted in GM Diaries by Bill Parslow on Wed 30 August 2017

There’s been a bit of discussion in one of the escape room Facebook groups recently about troubles that people have had with putting strangers together despite the fact that “the small print clearly states that others may join you.” !

“Despite the fact” ? - there lies the reason for the outrage - why don’t people understand that NOBODY reads the small print. It’s perfectly logical - if something was important it would be written in LARGE print wouldn’t it? Therefore nobody reads the small print.

So when your group of four is joined by another group of two a series of quick and slightly awkward introductions have to be made. All the while as a GM you are assessing whether these players are going to get on. Lots of the time they will, but it does happen that you have the singularly most ill-assorted group of people to tackle the room as ever travelled to join the Night’s Watch. That is when it gets difficult.

But what can you do? Running a room that only takes six people it’s generally only two different groups (although I have had three couples on Sunday afternoon), and so it should be manageable. Escape Rooms can have a larger capacity - I’ve certainly heard of those that hold eight or more. I’ve never experienced a room with more than six people - my feeling is that the dynamics of providing meaningful puzzles for a large group can’t be easy, and when you start mixing up different groups and outlooks than it must get even more difficult.

As ever it comes back to how you treat your customers. For a start don’t hide the fact that others might join the group away in tiny print at the bottom of your booking form. Make sure people know right from the beginning - it’s dishonest not to do this.

In addition let people know in advance - I usually text them about an hour before with something along these lines:

“You will be joined by others - just as well as there is safety (limited) in numbers.”
I make it humorous but I do make it clear.

I also make sure that they meet up before hand just by asking them to be in the same place at least five minutes before they are due to start:

“Please wait there, in a well - behaved and attentive manner looking eager and intelligent at least 5 mins in advance of your time. (These are qualities that you need for the event, so best practice them a little now don't you think?)”

One of the things that does make me very anxious / cross / livid is when one of the groups does not turn up on time. I try to cover this by adding another line to my text:

“Latecomers however are not tolerated and will be left to the WOLVES”.
Clear enough I think, though not always sufficient.

After that, what more can you do? Well I do spend my introductory “in role” time with them gauging how I think it’s going to turn out and generally joshing everyone along just to get them relaxed and easy with each other.

So all we are left with is the time it doesn’t work. We had one such occurrence - in a later review, a poor review, a player said that his experience was “ruined” by a “drunk” who shouldn’t have been let in. It was just one that we had to chalk up to experience, one that slipped through the net as we wouldn’t knowingly let anyone who was too drunk into the room.

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Bill Parslow

Author photo for Bill Parslow

Bill Parslow is an escape room GM, writer and storyteller. Being a game master/game show host ticked a number of his boxes and he still rather enjoys it.

Bill is Tom's dad (the Founder of Buzzshot) and it was his experience working in a local Escape Room that led to Tom developing the Buzzshot software.