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
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
* 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
them more of an adventure!