Stone Soup Scavenger Hunt

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Details
    1. Starting
    2. Ending
    3. Scoring
  3. Appendix
    1. Guidelines
    2. Variations
    3. Credits


In a traditional scavenger hunt, the organizers make a list of things, teams go out and find things on the list, and the organizers hand out points based on what each team brought back. Points for each item are based on how difficult the organizers expect it to be to retrieve.

A Stone Soup Scavenger Hunt adds two twists: no one is in charge, and points depend on how many teams successfully find each item.

Instead of one organizer giving all teams the same list, each team makes up a short list and gives copies to all the other teams. Each team takes the lists they receive and puts them together to form a complete list of things they need to find. Everyone gets to tell people what to find, and everyone gets to play.

Instead of giving a fixed number of points to each team finding a particular item, there's a fixed number of points available for each type of item, and all the teams that bring one share the points. The fewer teams find something, the more points those teams get for it. There's one more way to get points, so be sure to read further.


I tried, but I couldn't get away without making up one special term: "sponsor". Each team makes a list of items that other teams may try to find. A team is said to sponsor the items on their list.


Here's how things will go:

  1. The starting time and place are announced.
  2. Teams create their lists of sponsored items.
  3. Teams show up.
  4. The ending time and place are announced.
  5. People count up the teams and agree on how many items each team will sponsor. Extra items on a list should be ignored. (I don't know yet how many items teams should be searching for. We'll have to try it. The goal is to have a good density of found items so that there's some overlap among teams, but not too much. It will depend on the number of teams, the difficulty of the items, and the length of the game.)
  6. Lists are handed out.
  7. Teams begin hunting.


For this example, let's say each team will sponsor four items. (A real game would probably have more teams and a much longer total list.)

Let's say there are three teams: Florists, Chronophiles, and Geologists. Each team has made a list of what they want everyone else to try to find. Here are the lists they made:

dandelionpocket watchsand
fig leafhourglassa brick
doll with a dried apple headsundiala crystal
cubic watermelonpiece of quartzdirt

Each team will try to find the things the other teams told them to. Here's what each team will be looking for:

pocket watch dandelion dandelion
hourglass fig leaf fig leaf
sundial doll with a dried apple headdoll with a dried apple head
piece of quartzcubic watermelon cubic watermelon
sand sand pocket watch
a brick a brick hourglass
a crystal a crystal sundial
dirt dirt piece of quartz

You may have noticed some overlap in there. Geologists listed "a crystal", and Chronophiles listed "piece of quartz". Since quartz is a type of crystal, Florists will have an easy way to score points for two items by bringing a single object. Chronophiles can get points for bringing a crystal, and Geologists can get points for bringing a piece of quartz, but neither of them can score twice with one object the way Florists could. Putting the same things on your list as other teams put on theirs creates opportunities for your opponents.

The lists don't need to be thematic like the ones shown here, though that might be fun.


All the teams must be at the appointed time and place with all of their found items. A delegate from each team visits each other team and is shown the things they brought that the delegate's team sponsored. The delegate approves or rejects each object. (Delegates would reject an object if they thought it wasn't what they asked for and wasn't a clever enough substitute to merit points.)

Suggestion: Delegates can all work at the same time with different teams. One way to make this easy is for the teams to arrange themselves (with their stash) in a big circle so that the delegates can each start with the team to their left and walk around the circle.

When all delegates have visited all teams, each delegate goes through their list of sponsored items and announces which teams brought one and how many points they each get. If any team objects to any ruling, they may appeal to the masses, in which case each team casts a vote and the matter is decided by the majority. In the event of a tie vote, the sponsoring team's vote decides the issue.

When a delegate announces items and scores, they must point out items that were found by only one team, and the team must show everyone what they brought. That makes it much harder for a team to award themselves points they don't deserve, or for two teams to exchange the most valuable favors. A delegate may also point out any items they thought were particularly clever, and teams could display their items as they're mentioned. This is a good time for show-and-tell. In a small game, the judging could be done this way without sending delegates around, but if there are many teams and many items, it could take too long.


Each list item is worth 100 points. These points are split among the sponsoring team and all the teams that brought a qualifying item. Each team receives an equal share. If no team brings a qualifying item, no points are awarded. The sponsoring team gets a share so that they have an incentive to sponsor items that are hard to find, but not so hard no one finds one.


All the teams have returned. Chronophiles found sand. Florists found an hourglass and point out the sand inside to Geologists. Geologists spent their time looking at rocks and didn't find anything at all, but they did draw a picture of a watermelon in cubist style. Florists were so impressed with Geologists' cleverness, they let the drawing count.

Item Teams (including sponsor)Points
hourglass Florists, Chronophiles 50 each
sand Florists (the hourglass), Chronophiles, Geologists 33 each
cubic watermelon Geologists, Florists 50 each

Florists got 133 points, and Chronophiles and Geologists each got 83. Florists win!

If Chronophiles think the cubist watermelon shouldn't count, they could appeal and have it decided by a vote. In this case, with only three teams, that's not going to help, because the other two teams are going to vote in favor of it. If there were at least five teams, a vote could overturn the decision.



Ways to Cheat


I tried to design rules and protocols that would be easy to understand and to play while still encouraging the type of game I was after. There are complications some people might prefer.


Seth Golub
Principal designer and author.
Ian Flanigan
Thought of having each team bring part of the list so everyone could play. (Originally, I was just working on novel scoring systems.)
Robert Harris
Involved in many discussions on design and wording.
I discussed my ideas with many people, and some of them had useful feedback I've failed to recognize here. Also, many people proofread this page and helped me make it easier to understand. I don't want to try to list everyone, because I know I'd leave some people out. Please don't hate me.