A runaround is a type of instructional puzzle in which solvers physically (or virtually) travel through a location based on a series of directions. Unlike other instructional puzzles, most runaround actually require taking physical actions, as opposed to Conundrums where many of the actions are simply there for flavor. Runarounds are not to be confused with other physical travel elements of puzzle hunts, such as the action of locating a prize at the end of a hunt, or puzzles about physical locations that do not contain travel instructions.

Background[edit | edit source]

Runarounds are a core component of many classic puzzle and treasure hunts. By virtue of being something that connects the on-paper or virtual experience to the tangible, physical world, they have a power that very few other types of puzzles manage to capture. As such, in-person hunts will usually include at least one runaround, either as a mid-hunt puzzle or as part of the finale. This is especially true of the MIT Mystery hunt, wherein a runaround has been part of nearly every hunt finale (excluding the remote-only hunts). However, this also extends to events like The Game and BANG, where the puzzlehunt experience is often combined with a large amount of travel (especially in the former, which often had road-rally elements as well).

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Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Runarounds are one of the more straightforward types of instructional puzzles. Unlike conundrums and gimmick rallyes, runarounds tend not to actively try and trick the solver with confusing or seemingly contradictory instructions. While they may choose to have a gimmick to how they present their instructions, like making it all in emoji, or having solvers follow a path in reverse, they will usually be consistent in their trickery: runarounds pick a gimmick and stick to it. Aside from these gimmicks, runarounds also tend to provide clear directions, so that solvers don't get too far off course before realizing they've made a mistake in their journey.

While most runarounds are done on-site, in the same location as the hunt is taking place as a whole, it's possible to relocate a runaround to somewhere else. A common variation is the virtual runaround, where solvers are expected to either complete a runaround in a video game or on a map of a real or fictional place, or via a street-view program like Google Earth. These runarounds are especially useful for making hunts more accessible, on top of providing more varied locales to explore.

Another type of non-local runaround is the remote runaround, where physical presence is still needed, but at somewhere outside of the hunt location. These are less common, as the writing team can't guarantee that someone will be able to either be in the separate location, or be willing to travel there. In hunts and events with more of an emphasis on travel and a longer expected participation time, however, these types of runarounds can be quite fun, if you're willing to go on a multi-hour drive.

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • MIT Mystery Hunt 2020 - The finale of this hunt had a whopping ten separate runarounds, one for each region of the park. These included a mix of traditional runarounds with clear instructions, gimmick-y runarounds, and two runarounds that required minimal movement, making the finale more accessible for team members with movement disabilities.

Notable Twists[edit | edit source]

  • How I Spent My Pre-/Post-Apocalyptic Summer Vacation (MITMH 2017) - A large-scale runaround around the general Boston area. Click to revealHowever, solvers would quickly realize that some of the steps didn't work in modern-day Boston, and instead had to turn to Fallout 4's post-nuclear Boston to finish it out. Swapping between the two worlds was a necessary step multiple times in this puzzle.
  • Deploy Challenge (MITMH 2018) - On the surface, this looks like a single, very long runaround. However, the key is that Click to revealat a certain point, each set of instructions fails and cannot be completed, forcing solvers to go to the next one.

See Also[edit | edit source]