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Storylines in Treasure Hunts

The topic of adding a storyline to a treasure hunt often sounds much more daunting than it actually is. What do we mean by adding a storyline? We simply mean providing some other reason why the participants must finish the treasure hunt other than 'just to finish it' or because there's a prize at the end. Storylines can provide a stronger motivation to complete the hunt all on it's own. Which treasure hunt would you be more engaged in going on: A treasure hunt to find a lost Aztec idol with a potential, but unverified, ancient power source or a treasure hunt with random clues and an arbitrary final destination?


How much you actually integrate a storyline into your treasure hunt is up to you. At the bare minimum it's good to provide some kind of back story as to what they are trying to do or find. Give them a higher calling and remove the randomness of the entire activity. In our fast paced culture, we've grown to like randomness less and less. Although props are fun to work with (which is why we are working to expand our current selection) they aren't absolutely necessary in order to pull off a storyline. For example, in the example above you might be asking "Great, now where am I going to get an ancient Aztec idol with possible magical powers?" Well, there are resources for some fun props that would work, but an appropriate image printed on paper left at the end would work just fine. If you have multiple teams on the hunt, then number the papers in order (lowest number on top.) As teams come in, they can take the top sheet showing them what place they came in! Trust us, your participants would rather look for an interesting object and find a piece a paper than to NOT be looking for an interesting object at all.


Adding the storyline will also help with adults. Typically, you mention the words 'treasure hunt' to an adult and you can almost see the groans in their hearts and minds. However, with a storyline you don't have to ever use the words treasure hunt. Simply invite them to find the lost idol, save the trapped secret agent or rescue the missing pirate.

Adding a storyline is also great for kids and not just for the sake of fun. Thanks to the current video game industry, today's kids fully understand what a back story is. Every video game has one. There aren't too many games that kids enjoy where there ISN'T a back story of some sort. By back story we're talking about who the characters are and what their motivations are. Learning the back stories is a lot about what the kids talk about when they're at school talking about the games that they've played or want to own. Incorporating a storyline into your treasure hunt will tap into what they already know and get excited about.

Now, how far do you take a storyline? As far as you want. Sometimes we can be a bit tapped out creatively and we can only eke out a simple premise as to what the participants will be looking for. However, there are numerous other ways to beef up the storyline along the way by adding these other components:

* Are there other 'characters' also looking for the item? Will they interact with those characters along the way? Will some of the clues be missing because they got to them first?
* Create the puzzles with the theme. Utilize the names of places and characters in the clues to create a continuity
* Incorporate a few subplots along the way - obstacles on the way that would naturally slow someone down on the adventure. For example, if they were looking for pirate's treasure on a deserted island perhaps they come across some quicksand, a make-shift suspension bridge, etc.

Of course a storyline isn't necessary for a treasure hunt to 'work' but the big question is why wouldn't you WANT to include one even at its basest level? Give them something else to do other than go on a treasure hunt…give them more of an adventure!