Dealing with 'Cheating'

(This article is a continuation of our Adventure Treasure Hunts 101 -
The FREE Course
series. To start from the beginning, click HERE.)

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When considering your rules for your treasure hunt that you expect your guests to follow, you'll need to consider the consequences if they don't abide by them. It can be VERY frustrating to be on a team that follows all of the rules only to lose to a team suspected of cheating in some way. I could never list all the ways that a team can cheat, but I will mention the common ways I've seen over the years.

The tampering of clues. Make sure that every vital piece of information is secured. There were hunts years ago where I had a note taped to a railing or a rock as a clue. What I found was that there will always be one team who thinks themselves clever when they rip the clue apart or throw the rock over the cliff or down the road. The solution is simple…NEVER have a clue that can be tampered with.

Teams splitting. This is actually an innocent form of cleverness that can be initiated by the team. It involves the team splitting into separate groups to split the tasks and then meet at a rendezvous point. There are three possible solutions. One is to have your hunt in a linear format (when all the actions on the hunt lead directly to a specific other action - a predetermined order you have set up ahead of time) where each team is presented with only one task at a time. The second is to inform each volunteer to not speak to a team unless the predetermined number of teammates is present. The third is to tie the team's members together (however, this will not work for car rallies…unless you give the teams a lot of slack between each team member.)

Harassing of volunteers or stealing clues. If a team must negotiate with a volunteer to get a certain object like a microchip or microfilm and they are finding themselves unsuccessful, the option could be open to actually manhandling the character to get what they want. I will admit, this has only happened a couple of times, but it was very ugly when it did.

Although it is good to mention the different ways cheating can occur, it is also possible to attack cheating or irreverent behavior at its core…the motivation to cheat in the first place. The following are a few suggestions that greatly reduce the presence of cheating.

Clearly explain the rules and give each team a copy before they begin.

Have consequences for foolish behavior.

Have a good story. When the teams feel like they are actually part of a story, they forget they are racing against others, thus eliminating much of the competitiveness.

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