In 2022, I moved apartments. But I had a couple weeks of overlap in the leases, so I used the extra time to turn my old, empty apartment into escape room/narrative experience. As you do.

The premise is this: your friend has just rented this apartment. But the old tenant has left some stuff behind. It looks innocent enough, but your friend is just getting weird vibes, and asks you to come check out the unit before they move all their stuff in. They come in and start poking around (with the explicit instructions to leave the appliances alone, my security deposit is very real) and discover...

  • A junk drawer including a business card for a psychic. If they called the number, they'd get a voicemail where the psychic gave them some hints in the form of a "daily reading".
  • The junk drawer also included a lottery ticket with an encoded message. It was just A1Z26, but anagrammed by necessity because lottery tickets are printed in numerical order. At least one team actually solved this, which still blows my mind.
  • Some loose teas in the cabinet, with the psychic's logos on the bags.
  • The trash contained part of a print-out from a doctor's office, with a diagnosis of tachycardia, as well as a letter from the landlord.
  • The giant canvas print leaning against the wall had a makeup bag hidden behind it. The makeup bag had a combination lock.
  • A cardboard box with some dvds and books had the previous tenant's name written on the side. Some of the DVD cases held copies of zines about doing magic, specifically healing and sigil magic.
  • What appeared to be an Amazon Echo was actually an empty shell holding a blacklight flashlight. Shining the blacklight at the extremely generic text art revealed secret messages: HOME IS NOT SAFE and... something about dreams... there was also a large sigil on the inside of the door.
  • A false outlet plate on the front of the fridge (which was EXTREMELY hard to notice, even though why would a fridge have an outlet plate on it?) held a scrap of paper with drafts of sigil designs.
  • The closet held a corkboard with some postcards on it. The postcards were dated and scented with perfume.
  • The bathroom had some perfume samples.
  • The closet had some clothes. The clothes had playing cards in the pockets. The playing cards were also scented with the perfume.
  • Using the numbers on the cards in date order (keyed by scent), players could open the makeup bag and discover pendant necklaces. Under blacklight, they revealed the same sigil as on the door. They could take a necklace home as a prize.

The story this all adds up to, which players did a pretty good job of piecing together: the previous tenant started feeling sick after moving in, and had recurring nightmares of being attacked. She went to the doctor, but it didn't help, so she went to a psychic, who told her she was under spiritual attack from her landlord and sold her some protective teas. The tenant continued to do magickal research, learned how to make protective wards, and the dreams stopped. Her landlord got increasingly angry after this, so she packed up in a hurry and fled while she could. She left behind protections for the next tenant, along with coded warnings--trying to disguise it all so that the landlord wouldn't notice.

I got to run the room remotely for a group of patreon supporters: they piled in to a Discord voice channel, and I streamed my phone camera and acted as their avatar. They told me where to go, what to look at, what drawers to open, etc. And this was an absolute blast! I would definitely do this again (... and bring an extra phone battery in case the game runs long). Admittedly, the scent-based clues did not translate, but in my defense I did not originally design the room to be run remotely ;) . I will probably not use a scent-based puzzle again for a number of reasons (some people have allergies, scents tend to fade and comingle, etc).

paintings and prints, leaning against a wall cardboard boxes of books and dvds the junk drawer lotto ticket corkboard with postcards a psychic's business card a trash can clothes hanging in the closet affirmation art on a windowsill affirmation art under a blacklight affirmation art under a blacklight fake plate on fridge makeup bag, locked makeup bag, unlocked and full of wards