There are many choices for locks that you can use in your DIY escape room. A variety in the type of locks is as important as variety in other parts of your game. Locks are typically inexpensive and re-usable in your different rooms. You may already have a few laying around your house, or maybe your friends and family can help.
Check out my Youtube video on Escape Room Locks
- Key Padlock
- Numerical Combination Lock
- Alphabetic Combination Lock
- Directional Lock – Has four positions, similar to a compass. May come with stickers to customize the four positions. Can typically create a custom combination
- Chain or Bike Lock – Has a chain with combination lock built-in.
These basic lock types will be available with several different options, like re-settable combination, key or combo option, size and numbers of combination positions. I would really recommend only having one type of lock in a room. This provides variety for players and also gives them a hint as to what possible key or combination matches a lock.
Other Lock Options
Here are other escape room lock options that are typically more expensive then the first options.
- Key Lock Box – Small box typically used to store keys at houses for sale.
- Cash box – small lockable box
- Lockable Briefcase or Luggage
- Digital Locks – require a battery/power and may have lighted dials or touchpads
- Magnetic Locks – An electrically controlled magnet that can hold and release based on power. Used a lot in commercial rooms to hold drawers, cabinets and doors until a puzzle is solved
- Interior Door Privacy Lock – Many inside doors that can be locked also have a small hole in the opposite door knob from the lock button. You can have the players ‘lock pick’ this type of door knob.
Read about puzzles in my first room, including the lock pick one
Using Locks in your Escape Room
So now that you have decided on the locks that you want to use, what next? There are many ways that you can include the locks into your game. It is generally not recommended that you actually lock players into any room. To attach locks to doors you can use a chain lock and hang it from the door knob. You can also create a hanger for the knob out of cardboard. This also allows for hanging several locks on one door. You can also get a lock hasp that provides holes for attaching several locks.
Boxes or safes with built-in locks are ready made for your escape room. If you do not have this type of box you can make a similar device by taking a box or tupperware and wrapping it with either a chain lock or a bungee cord connected to a lock. You can also put the lock on the box or taped to it.
If you have rewards or prizes that are paper or foldable they could be put inside the neck of the lock. Here again is where you can explain to players before the game to expect this type of locking.
Don’t make the classic mistake that I have made. Write down all lock combinations, especially on locks that you can change the combo. Nothing worse then a locked lock that you can’t use.
Provide basic lock instructions. Some commercial rooms will have practice locks in the waiting room or a lock demo during the room introduction. I have left the lock’s instructions in the room. Also consider marking locks with the amount of numbers/letters needed to unlock it. needless frustration should not be a design feature of your room.
Since you will probably be using a regular room(s) in your house for the game and you don’t want to make major changes just for the game, there are a few things your can do to attach locks. Consider just hanging lock from doorknob or bungee cord it around a box. I often use this method and just tell players before the game that locks may be easily defeated but they should open the lock before proceeding.
So now you have the locks, what is next? Here is my primer on your DIY Escape Room build