ClueKeeper Self-Guided Hunt Guidelines

These guidelines can be used by the hunt creator for planning and publishing a self-guided hunt.

To create a high-quality ClueKeeper self-guided hunt, make sure to meet these basic requirements before you publish your hunt.

  1. All hunt text and information should be correct and free of typos or grammatical errors.
  2. The hunt should be tested on real people (who don't already know the answers), playing at the real location(s) and in real time.
  3. The clue difficulty level, time limits, hints and scoring system used (if any) should be consistent throughout the hunt, and appropriate to the target audience.
  4. The hunt should be fun, and include added value such as scenic locations, clever clues and/or interesting trivia information.

Below is a step-by-step walkthrough of the ClueKeeper hunt creation pages, with tips for creating a self-guided hunt that meets the guidelines listed above. Of course, if you have a great hunt in mind with a different structure that is outside of these guidelines, go for it! We offer free consultation and hunt reviews for new creators, so please contact us if you’d like some extra support.

Creating Your Hunt

The Edit Hunt interface is where you'll create your hunt, set all of the hunt's policies, and add clues. Let's walk through each of the Edit Hunt tabs in order.

1. Hunt Info

The first step is to select the Hunt Type, which in this case should be Self-Guided. This will reveal the rest of the fields you'll need to complete on this tab.

The Hunt Title, Subtitle, Brand, Location, Duration, and Difficulty will all be listed if you choose to use the point-of-sale page provided by ClueKeeper. There's no need to include duplicate information in multiple fields (like putting the full location in the title, subtitle and location fields).

Every self-guided hunt must be branded. The Brand consists of a name as well as a small logo, and helps give a consistent look to multiple hunts created by the same author or company. If you don't have a brand for your hunts yet, you'll need to set one up. Start by sending a request email to

Every field has a "?" icon next to it that you can hover your cursor over for more information. Please read these if you are unsure about what each field is for. Be sure to pay special attention to the Difficulty descriptions. This is a good time to consider who your hunt's target audience will be, since this should guide the creation of your entire hunt.

Here are some example target audiences:

  1. Families playing with kids. These hunts should be easy, fun and possibly non-competitive. All the information needed in order to play (including maps) should be provided in ClueKeeper or at the location(s) visited. Allow plenty of time to solve the clues (more than you think is necessary - kids like to stop for snacks or breaks along the way) and include hints that essentially spell out how to solve the clues. The amount of walking between clues should not be demanding.
  2. Corporate teambuilding adults. These hunts can be easy or medium difficulty, although it's still nice to have all the necessary information (maps, codes, etc.) provided in ClueKeeper. If you think teams will be comparing scores or playing against each other at the same time, consider ways to differentiate scores, such as hints that cost points, or tight time limits.
  3. Puzzle enthusiast adults. The clues in these hunts can include challenging puzzles, and can require additional resources, such as looking up locations, codes or information online, taking detailed notes on scratch paper, etc.

2. Policies

Maximum Team Size for self-guided hunts is usually best at 2-5 players, just because it's difficult to engage more than that many people around a mobile device. In reality, most self-guided hunt players will probably only register one player regardless of their group size, but listing a maximum number of players is still a good way to set expectations.

Hunt Expiration Time depends both on your hunt and on the target audience. This is not an estimate of how long the hunt will take, but a timer after which the hunt will automatically expire whether the player is finished or not. For non-competitive hunts, consider allowing a very long time limit or even no time limit at all, so that players can come back to the hunt if they don't finish in a single day. For competitive hunts, a stricter time limit can be good, especially if your hunt sets expectations by telling teams how long they will have, and selects the Show Time Remaining option. If most teams will not finish, consider setting expectations further by including "How many clues can you solve in 1 hour?" or something similar in the hunt Description (found in 1. Hunt Info). Note: If you do set a time limit, make sure to include an alert message like "15 minutes remaining" at the appropriate time (see the 6. Messages section).

Unlock Policy can be set to Linear or Scramble. Linear is appropriate if the locations of your clues are listed in the ideal walking order, or if you have a story that develops during the course of play. In Linear events, each clue must be solved, or permanently skipped, before a player can see the next clue. Scramble works well if the locations are all close together (and/or in no particular order), if you expect many teams to play at once and don't want them following each other, or if you want players to have the ability to move forward while still being able to come back to unsolved clues later.

Scoring Policy for self-guided hunts is usually Points-based. It is up to you whether the points earned are meaningful scores that differentiate teams, or whether most teams get the maximum score and the hunt is just for fun. In non-competitive hunts, you may prefer no points or scoring (choose None for this option). Note that in our experience, however, people tend to like earning points even when they are not competing. (We do not recommend Par-based scoring for self-guided hunts or first-time hunt creators.)

Default Points Per Clue can be set at 10 to allow room for purchasing hints with points if needed. However, a hunt with more difficult clues requiring multiple hints may be more fun if each clue is worth 100 points. Note that you can also choose to assign different point values to your various clues. You'll still need to choose a default value, however.

Answer Confirmation Policy will dramatically affect scoring and player enjoyment. Unlimited is great for non-competitive hunts (in which it's fun just to get the right answer, no matter how many guesses it takes) as well as for very difficult clues (in which there might be partial answers to confirm during the solving process). The One Shot answer policy is great for trivia questions or competitive hunts with straightforward clues that have clear, unambiguous answers. However, some players can find this system frustrating, so it's best to make it very clear that only one guess is allowed per clue. Delayed is similar to One Shot in that only one guess is allowed per clue, but all scoring happens at the end of the hunt as opposed to right away after each submission (think of it like turning in an answer sheet at the end of a test and having everything graded at once).

Internet Policy for self-guided hunts is usually Online Mode which provides a better experience for multiple players using the app at the same time. However, Offline Mode may be preferred if your particular hunt uses locations with bad cellular coverage or if you want to allow the use of devices that don't have cellular capabilities. Please read the hover-over "?" info carefully before deciding.

Leaderboard Policy for self-guided hunts is usually Visible when team finishes, although for a non-competitive hunt, you might consider No leaderboard. The other options are more suitable to hosted hunts.

Default GPS Enforcement depends on the style of your hunt. Typically, starting a clue timer requires either a GPS location or a Start Code (found in 4. Content > 3. Start Info) for each individual clue, but not both. You can also bypass GPS enforcement and choose to have each clue start automatically as soon as the previous clue is solved (for Linear hunts), or to have all clues start at once when the hunt begins (for Scramble hunts). Similarly, finishing a clue typically requires either standing in a specific GPS location or entering a Solution (found in 4. Content > 6. Solve Info). You can also require both of these to finish a clue if you like. Note that at this stage, these choices are just the default - you will have the opportunity to override these settings on each individual clue as well.

Default GPS Radius may be set to any value as low as 5 meters, but we do not recommend anything smaller than 25 meters as a general policy due to the variance in sensitivity of mobile devices. Note that if players are within 25 meters of the specified radius they will get a message letting them know they are getting close. Individual clues can override the default as needed.

Time Zone should be set to the hunt's location.

3. Start Info

The Start Code will start the countdown on the Hunt Expiration Time (found in 2. Policies). Since this is a self-guided hunt, be sure to tell teams what the start code is as part of your Hunt Intro Text. You will likely also want to repeat some information you probably listed in the Hunt Description (found in 1. Hunt Info) such as the general location, recommended number of players, a quick overview of the scoring policy and time limit, any additional materials teams may need to bring (like scratch paper) as well as the start code.

A little bit of HTML in the text can make instructions easier to read. For example: after you enter all of the hunt info, insert two line breaks, <br><br>, then add something like When you are at the starting location and ready to start your 2-hour hunt timer, tap <b>Enter Start Code</b> below and type <font color="#009900"><b>GO</b></font>. Good luck! A splash of color and the occasional bold text can go a long way!

A quick note about start codes - while hosted hunts often use start codes that are hard for teams to guess in advance, there really isn't much need for secrecy in a self-guided hunt. You are directly telling the player how to start their timer, so keep the word or phrase short and easy to type.

Hunt Intro Media is a great place to add a map for your hunt (or any other introductory image). But remember: this page will no longer be accessible once the hunt begins, so you may want to put another image of the map in the During-Hunt Media section (found in 4. Content) if teams will want to access the image during the hunt itself.

4. Content

This is where you'll do most of your clue creation. More detail on that in a minute. But first, below the Clues section, fill in the During-Hunt Text and During-Hunt Media. These will mostly be a repeat of the info from the hunt Description and/or Hunt Intro Text sections above.

For self-guided hunts, we recommend leaving all the various During-Hunt UI Options in their default state (unchecked). Some options do not apply for self-guided hunts anyway, but read the "?" text for each option to make sure that's what you want for your hunt.

OK, it's time to add your Clues! Start by choosing +Add New Clue, and we'll walk through those tabs next.

4. Content > +Add New Clue

Enter the clue's title (don't worry, you can change it later if you need to). Then choose whether this is a Basic Clue (a single clue with a solution) or a Mini-Hunt (a series of clues that must all be solved before reaching a final meta-solution). If you are new to creating hunts, you may want to stick with basic clues for now. Note that whether you choose Basic or Mini-Hunt, this option cannot be changed later on. (If you decide that a particular clue should be of the opposite type, you can delete the existing clue and add a new clue of the other type.)

4. Content > 1. Clue Info

This is where you can change the Clue Title if you wish.

4. Content > 2. Policies

You may want to set a Clue Expiration Time per clue, especially if you are designing a competitive hunt. However, it is also fine to leave this section blank and give players as much time as they need. A word of caution: if you set a tight time limit on solving individual clues, be sure to mention that in the 1. Hunt Info<, 4. Content > 3. Start Info or 4. Content > 4. Content section so that players are not surprised if they run out of time.

Available Skip Time is usually set to 0 (i.e. players can skip the clue immediately if they choose), although you may want to change it for your particular hunt or for a particular clue. If you don't want players to be able to skip the clue at all, leave this field blank. Keep in mind, though, that this can be frustrating if players get stuck on a clue and have no way to move on.

Alert Time (available only if a Clue Expiration Time has been set) sends a warning message before the clue expires. This is often set at 5 minutes before expiration, but you may wish to make it longer if the clue is particularly difficult. A good basic guideline is to consider how long it would take to find the solution after reading all of the hints, and allow at least that much time.

4. Content > 3. Start Info

There are 3 ways to start an individual clue, but you should probably choose only one method and use it throughout your hunt. Method 1: A Start Code can be used. The player will type in a specified word or phrase when they are ready to begin that clue (follow the guidelines about start codes from 3. Start Info). Method 2: A Start GPS Location can be enforced. The player will tap Start when they are ready and standing in the correct location. You can also combine methods 1 and 2, requiring a start code to be entered while standing in the correct GPS location. Method 3: Automatic (both fields left blank). When no start code or start GPS location is given, each clue timer will start automatically when the previous clue is solved (for Linear hunts), or all clue timers will start simultaneously when the hunt is started (for Scramble hunts).

If you choose method 1 or 2, you can include Clue Intro Text (such as instructions about where to go, or what the start code is) and Clue Intro Media (such as a map or picture of the clue's start location). With method 3, there is no Clue Intro (since the clue begins automatically), meaning that any text about where to go should be included in the Clue Text itself (found in 4. Content > 4. Content). Please note that in method 3, a clue's solve time will also include any travel time to that clue's starting location (remember: with automatic clue starting, the timer begins as soon as the previous clue is solved in a linear hunt). Keep this in mind if you use timed free hints, and allow for walking time from one clue to the next before the first hint becomes available (more on hints later).

4. Content > 4. Content

Finally, time to enter the actual clue! Add the Clue Text and Clue Media here. If the text is long, remember to use html line breaks, <br><br>, to make it more readable. Here are a few clue tips:

  • On the first clue of the hunt, tell teams how to enter their solution, and remind them of the hunt's Answer Confirmation Policy (found in 2. Policies). Here is some example text that can follow the main text of your first clue when using the Unlimited answer policy:

    <br><br>To enter a guess for the solution, tap on <b>Solve</b> below. For this clue, you may enter multiple guesses without penalty. Good luck!

    Example text to follow the text of your first clue when using the One Shot answer policy:

    <br><br>To enter a guess for the solution, tap on <b>Solve</b> below. You will only get one guess, so make sure it's a good one and check your spelling! If you need a hint, tap on the <b>Hints</b> button.

  • When writing your clue text, make sure the clue does not contain the solution word or part of the solution word. It is also best if the solution word that you're looking for is very clearly specified, rather than vague or open-ended. Example: "Walk to the end of the pier in the marina. What boat is moored there?" The answer could be SAILBOAT, but maybe it's just SAIL since the clue already said boat, or maybe it's SEABREEZE, the name of that particular boat, or maybe the answer is that model of sailboat, a SLOOP. A clearer clue might be "Walk to the end of the pier in the marina and find slip number 9. What is the name painted on the back of this boat?" The correct answer is clearly SEABREEZE.

  • When writing location names, cross-check them with local posted info as well as online maps to make sure you are using the correct name and spelling. Many local parks, artworks, roads or shops have nicknames that you may know, but non-local players won't be able to find.

4. Content > 5. Hints

Clues in self-guided hunts usually need hints, since there is nobody running the hunt who may be able to help a player that gets stuck. Clues that rely on locations with permanently posted information (like historic plaques or statues) also need a backup plan so that they are still solvable even if the location is closed or otherwise inaccessible. Easy clues usually only need one "here's exactly how to solve it" type of hint. More difficult clues usually need a gentle nudge hint, followed by a more detailed hint or clue walk-through.

Hints in self-guided hunts are usually delivered in one of two ways. Method 1: hints cost a certain number of points to purchase. This is our recommended method for first-time hunt creators. Purchasing the hint allows players more control, so they can play at their desired level of speed and competitiveness. Method 2: time-released hints are good for more complicated clues, or when you want players to spend only a set amount of time on a clue before moving along. We'll walk through hint method 1 below.

To start, click on +Add New Hint. For Time Available, choose 0 minutes from the start of the clue (meaning the hint will be available immediately). Add your Hint Text, making sure it is actually helpful (few things are more frustrating to a player than buying a hint that doesn't help at all!). If possible, include any location-based data that's necessary for solving, in case the location has been compromised. Enter an Initial Cost that's about 10% of the clue's value if solved (that's just a suggestion; any cost is ok, but players are more comfortable paying 10% than 50%, so let's keep them happy!). Enter a Final Cost that is the same as the Initial Cost. (Don't worry about the Cost Decay options that appear if your final cost is lower than your initial cost: those are more commonly used for advanced or hosted hunts.) If you are adding multiple hints, add the gentle nudge first as Hint 1, and then add the big hint as Hint 2, making it available 0 minutes from the release of Hint 1.

If you decide to use timed hints that are released for free after a certain number of minutes from the start of the clue, make sure to allow enough time for players to read and understand the clue before the free hint pops up. (In this case, you would use the Time Available field to specify how long a player must wait for the free hint, and set both the initial cost and the final cost to 0.)

4. Content > 6. Solve Info

Use +Add Solution to add your correct / preferred Clue Solution, followed by a comma separated list of any other acceptable solutions (like nicknames, plurals, common misspellings, etc.) A thorough list of possible solutions is especially important if you are using the One Shot answer confirmation policy.

The UI will automatically show a pop-up message that says "Correct!" and tell the player how many points they have earned when a recognized solution is entered. If desired, you can also add a custom Message to this pop-up. You might want to add additional praise, a bit of the hunt's storyline, or a fun tidbit of trivia about the location or clue, for example. This is a great way to add value to the player's hunt experience, but remember to keep the message short and nonessential, since some players may skip ahead to the next clue without reading the pop-up message. Note that the custom message field should not contain information about the next clue or location - that should go in the next clue's start info or content field.

Partials can be added only if you are using the Unlimited answer confirmation policy. A partial solution can be anything that you want to acknowledge as being at least partly correct but that doesn't constitute a full solution to the clue. This might include common misspellings, close answers, or instructional messages that are generated on the way to the full solution.

For example, suppose that your clue decodes to the message FIRST PRESIDENT, but the solution that you're looking for is really WASHINGTON. You would list WASHINGTON as your solution (and likely GEORGE WASHINGTON as an acceptable alternate solution), while listing FIRST PRESIDENT as a correct partial solution with an associated message such as "That's right so far, but what is the name of the first President?"

When a player enters a valid partial solution, you may choose to skip past any hints that are no longer needed at that point. The player will then be able to view those hints immediately and without having to pay any points. You may also choose to award a portion of the clue's total points for a correct partial solution, at your discretion.

If your solution is only a Solve GPS Location, you will still need to use +Add Solution, and then leave the solution word field blank to default to GPS enforcement. Note that you can still add a custom message to the solution.

5. Advanced

For self-guided hunts, we don't recommend using Clue Open and Auto-Skip Times. These are intended mainly for hosted hunts.

6. Messages

Self-guided hunts don't usually need many messages. However, if you added a Hunt Expiration Time (found in 2. Policies), you may want to add a message warning players before time runs out.

7. Finish Info

Self-guided hunts don't need a Finish Code. They will end automatically when all clues have been either solved or skipped, or when the hunt expiration time has been reached. Post-Hunt Text and Post-Hunt Media will appear automatically once the hunt ends. This is a great place to wrap up any hunt storyline, thank people for playing, and so forth. We also suggest directing them to final online hunt results with something like <br><br>Visit <b></b> and sign in to see results and find more hunts near you!

8. Authors

For self-guided hunts, the only author is usually the hunt creator.

9. Summary

This tab gives you a quick overview of your clues, hints and solutions. If anything essential is missing from your hunt (like a clue with no solution), it will be listed at the bottom of the page. Besides any issues mentioned here that may need fixing, you should also proofread your entire hunt.

Proofreading Your Hunt

The best way to proofread your hunt is by playing it yourself on the ClueKeeper app. If you are using GPS Enforcement (found in 2. Policies), you can temporarily turn it off for easier proofreading. Just remember to turn it back on before testing on location!

On the Create page, switch from the Edit Hunt tab to the Test Hunt tab and create a test registration for yourself. Open the ClueKeeper app on your mobile device and type in the generated Hunt Code to download your hunt. Play it all the way through, including reading all the hints, checking for typos as well as HTML formatting and appearance.

Testing Your Hunt

Once your hunt is proofread and looking good, arrange for a test team to play on their own. The test team should be at least one person (or preferably a small team) with no knowledge of the hunt's clues or solutions. They should play in real-time and at the correct location(s) without help or hints from you. Ask them to bring along a notepad and write down any questions or issues they might have while playing.

The feedback you will get from this type of test is usually better than anything our hunt review team can provide. Besides the tester's own notes, you can view their actual timing data, all the guesses they made, which hints they viewed and more in their Event Log. From the Create page, switch to the Results tab to view Test Results. Next to the test team's Status, click the arrow to View Event Log for that team.

After the test, return to the Edit Hunt tab to make any necessary adjustments so that the hunt will run smoothly. Always remember: a fun experience for the players is the top priority!

Submitting for Review

After proofreading and testing, you're ready to submit the hunt for review! From the Manage Hunt tab, click Submit for review. Make sure the hunt is really ready, because once submitted, only minor text edits are allowed. You may not modify the structure of a published hunt (for example, by adding or removing entire clues).

When you submit your hunt for review, you can choose between two types of reviews: a cursory review or a detailed review. A cursory review is for those who are confident in the creation process and are not looking for any feedback from the ClueKeeper team prior to publication, and this type of review should take no longer than 24 hours and will basically make sure your hunt isn't violating any rules that might get us kicked off the App Store. A detailed review is strongly recommended especially for first-time creators, as in this type of review, one of our expert creators will go through your hunt with a fine-toothed comb to see if there are things big or small that might make your hunt better, whether that's pointing you towards a feature or option that you may have missed or helping you avoid any common pitfalls that you may have overlooked. Because detailed reviews are time-consuming and we need to schedule time to do them, we ask that you allow up to 3 business days for this type of review, but we do feel it is well worth the wait for the quality of feedback that we can provide.

Also note that you are welcome to ask for reviews earlier in the process if you like - just send an email to at any point in the process and let us know what sort of feedback you'd like, and we'll be happy to take a look.

What Happens Next?

Congrats on creating and publishing your self-guided hunt! If you plan to sell this hunt, this is where the hard part begins -- advertising and selling your hunt. We can and will contribute to your marketing through our social media channels when you launch, but the most successful hunts on the platform are those for which their creators work hard to get the word out.

If you are using ClueKeeper's provided point-of-sale page, you can direct your customers there to buy the hunt from us directly, and we will send your your share of the profits on a monthly basis. The link to this page is available on your Manage Hunt page. Alternatively (or additionally), you can buy hunt codes directly from the Manage Hunt page and then distribute them to your customers through your own channels. If you use this feature, you can track your sales from your Create page, where there are sales links for each of your published hunts and for any brands you have.

Additional Resources

If you haven't already, be sure to join the ClueKeeper Developers Facebook group to share and learn from other ClueKeeper creators.

Make sure to play our free tutorial hunt, Welcome to ClueKeeper, as well as our other free demo hunts, Dr. Egghead's Mystery Omelette (use hunt code EGGHEAD) and Gnome Invasion (use hunt code GNOMES).

For more information about ClueKeeper hunt creation, please check our FAQ. We also provide a best practices page for hosted hunts, and a spreadsheet template for organizing and editing all your hunt text on a single page.