07 October 2012

The Gummy Bear Pirate Captain Treasure Hunt

Pirate Captain Gummy Bear Green designed at www.heromachine.com
I have played role-playing games for many, many years.  One of my favorite parts of role-playing games is the problem solving, typically in the form of puzzles, riddles, and other brain teasers.  So it was only natural that I suggested a treasure hunt for my son's first birthday party.  Regardless of the fact that his guests, his cousins, 2, 3, and 5, can't read.  And have the attention span of a gnat on methamphetamines.  My son's own inability to walk and lack of real interest in anything but food, sparkly lights, and sleep precluded him from actively treasure hunting in any other capacity than napping through it.
However, in the true spirit of gaming groups I figured that solving the clues would entertain the adults who could direct the boys to near the next clue which they would have fun finding.  Like entertaining the problem solvers, min-maxers, and hack-n-slashers there would be problem solving for some, loot for others, and the shared joy of discovery.  I designed the challenge to be non-competitive, each boy had their own set of clues.  I didn't count on the eldest being able to solve most of the clues himself and the middle one to be lazy to the point of turpitude.  So much so that when he found his final prize, he made his grandfather "Get it!" despite being two feet away.  The youngest just had fun running around, the goodies being transiently enjoyable.
The birthday theme was Gummy Bears.  So I designed three pathways, Blue, Red, and Green.  Each team received an envelope color coordinated with a Gummy Bear Pirate Captain logo (see above) on it with their first clue.  This sent them to their first prize, a pack of Marvel Heroes Popping Candy With Lollipop.  As each color now had an associated character, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk, respectively, the next prizes were an action figure and a vehicle.  In order to increase the difficulty, there were two clues to get to each prize.  The candy and action figure had word balloons containing the next clue.  Thus there were five clues (a total of fifteen) to find three prizes.
Some design notes:
  • Do not have two clues for the same person be in the same generic classification as the other.  Two of my answers for the Red/Iron Man path was a tree (albeit different trees), which I thought did a good job of describing geographical location but instead described a tree.  Thus, the eldest cousin simply walked around looking at trees, missing the action figure and it's attendant clue, but accidentally stumbling upon the final prize, the vehicle.
  • The innate familiarity with my yard made the answer to clues much more obvious to me than my victims...er...players.  Thus I wanted to have one group find the largest tree in the yard, which they had figured out, but they completely missed it, they were so busy looking for it they did not even see this tree in the front yard.  A blue rock was apparently not as blue or as obvious as I thought it was.
  • Things are a lot more obvious when you hide them, than when you are looking for them.  It is hard to hide bright colors, such as yellow and red, however despite that items that I thought were ridiculously obvious were invisible to people as they searched.
  • Clues that describe an object such as the green clue "I am a strong machine, but I do not smash but cut so clean" (lawn mower) or the red clue "In your teeth or where to cook that is your clue for where to look" (grill) were superior to those describing geographical locations, e.g. attempting to describe a specific tree.
  • Children are easily satisfied, they were happy after finding the first prize.  So sometimes bigger is not better.
Things to consider for next year...