Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software

One-Step Puzzles

How to Design an Escape Room  "One Step Puzzles"

One-step puzzles are frequently the backbone of Escape Room puzzles and are the type most commonly used in Puzzle Books. One-step puzzles involve reasoning which needs to only look at one factor in solving. For instance, the puzzle:

What does HELP + BARK + WARD + LEAD equal? The answer is HARD (first letter of each of the words added together to form a single word.)

In this puzzle, the realization is that the pattern to figure out is that the first word gives the first letter, the second word gives the second letter, etc. This is the only thing to work out, making it a "One-step" puzzle.



This is another example of a one-step puzzle. This type of puzzle is usually easy to design and is great for beginning players as it gives them a feeling of success when they solve the puzzle and generates a feeling of "Aha!". These puzzles usually have only possible solution which helps simplify the solution space.

Evil Genius in Los Angeles is a good example of an Escape Room that has many one-step puzzles. Almost every puzzle involves the relationship of an object to another object and all the elements to solve the puzzle are at most 2 different items. 

Some Escape Room examples:

  • A Blue-light flash light to a piece of paper with the words "Code here" and a square underneath. The square has secret text illuminated with the blue-light.
  • Written on a map of Europe, "The 2 answers are London, England", where the map's longitude and latitude are the answers.
  • A bag of keys where the key to a certain lock is identified by a feature of the key that matches the lock or door, for instance, color or a number written on it.

While one-step puzzles are great, they aren't the only type of puzzle available, and their simplicity may not offer much of a challenge for experienced puzzle people. Also, one-step puzzles frequently cannot take advantage of the 3-dimensional nature of Escape Rooms. This is because by their very nature, one-step puzzles do not involve putting pieces from different places together to form into a more complex puzzle or answer.

One-step puzzles can be part of a great Escape Room however. They are a great way to start making puzzles and they can form the backbone of a strong Escape Room experience. What one-step puzzles have you designed?


Brian Hacker, an easy one-step puzzle, has been in the games industry for over 20 years, first as a professional Magic player. He went on to become a professional poker player and game designer. In an effort to understand obscure technologies and lose what remaining free time he had, he opened Enigma HQ!