Prison Break!

So, I think I have enough of an outline to create the wagon/caravan starting adventure based upon yesterday’s post.

Another cliched starting adventure is starting the party in some sort of jail or prison.

This cliche has the advantage of pretty much forcing the characters to trust each other as if they are on the run then they probably don’t have anyone else to turn to.

I am thinking that the starting point would be the evening before the prison break out. The setting would be a that the characters have been bought as slaves. The remote house, probably in the mountains, is a gladiator style training camp. How the characters end up as slaves can be part of their backstory.

So word goes around that a group of gladiators that have finished their training are due to be sold in the next city and are being shipped out in the morning. The carts that are going to transport them arrived today. These gladiators would rather die fighting for their freedom than die for someone else’s sport. They have a plan and anyone who wants to take their chances has to be ready when the word goes round.

The actual break out is structured so that the players get a limited about of information about the layout of the castle, their characters movements have been severely limited. I am imagining a castle like Eltz in Germany.

So we offer the GM a encounter for every location. These would be things like a fight going on in the main courtyard against three gladiators and three guards, the gladiators are being pushed back. The characters have the option of joining the fight and putting the numerical odds very much in the escapee’s favour or using the fight as cover for their own escape. There could be fights going on in on the walls, the courtyard. We can have physical challenges such as filling a stairwell with fire, collapsing ceilings raining tiles down from a great height. Someone can release the hounds.

The players would have complete freedom as to how they want to approach their escape and there will be plenty of action going on around them at all times. The only part that is contrived is that the characters will be the only escapees to make it.

Once outside we have a chase scene with the characters having to deal with extreme mountainside terrain and being hunted by dogs and men. I can envisage a single road up to the castle and that holds the castle guards, thus baring it to the characters, the guards then send dogs into the woods to hunt down the escapees.

We can use the sound of other escapees being hunted down and caught to keep up the sense of tension. I have checked the Large Dog stats in both RMC and RMFP and they are identical. 4th level, AT3 (40), OB 45 and 65#hits. For a bunch of first level characters more than one dog at once will be a serious challenge unless they cooperate, one on one my money would be on the dog!

I would like to work in a false reprieve into this scene. The characters think that they have succeeded at escaping the dogs and guards but then some new threat confronts them.

So I know that RM2, RMC and RMFRP use identical stats. RMFRP and RMU both have the carnivorous flying monkey as a monster. It is not in the RMC C&T but I can include these stats in the adventure.

So the second part of the escape down the mountain changes the emphasis from hunted by dogs to a threat from the sky as the flying monkeys track them. A flying monkey is 4th level, AT4(30), OB 70MBa/60MGr/60SB« and 65#hits. These will be a serious challenge. These will be encountered as singles or pairs depending on how strong the party is at combat. What weapons and armour they had picked up and so on.

The chase comes to an end with the characters arriving at a cliff edge, a river below them. They have the choice of fighting a gathering group of carnivorous monkeys to jumping off the cliff and into the river.

The final act has the characters being swept down river and into a cave. There are lots of opportunities here for skill tests, swimming is the obvious one, endurance (body development) rolls to keep themselves or each other afloat as they tire.

The river ride takes them into a cave system where we can wash them up onto a shore. They then have to make their way through the caves to escape.

This one is unfortunately populated by Lizardmen (Sohleugir). As it happens these are actually weaker foes than the dogs or the monkeys.

When the characters emerge from the caves they are effectively free, out of reach of the slave owner on the different side of a mountain range so noone is ever going to associate them with any eventual rumours or new of the gladiator escape.

So we have three four foes, human guards (or do they need to be human? I think evil elves would be quite cool). Hunting dogs, flying carnivorous monkeys and lizardmen. We have environmental challenges of the burning and collapsing castle, a mountainside rush through steep forested terrain, whitewater ride down the river and then a cave exploration.

So that is my second suggested starting adventure.

What would you add?

8 Replies to “Prison Break!”

  1. This is one cliche I never cared for or used. Not quite sure why, but I always preferred to let the players sort out character stuff without the whole “you have to work together or you die” thing hanging over them.

    With swimming checks and the like, you have to be careful to make sure there are other ways out if someone fails a roll or doesn’t have the skill. Don’t forget, there’s a chance the GM is just as inexperienced as the players. TPK is not something you want on the first adventure, especially if it’s structured so there are no breaks or opportunities to improve skills.

    Given the opposition you’re throwing up, I’d hold this one back until the PCs are at least second level, possibly third depending on the party makeup. Maybe they get tossed into the prison after they’re framed for the events in the caravan in the first adventure. That way they’d be experienced, have a chance to improve some skills, and REALLY want to find that captain again…

    1. Does anyone know the current thinking in RMU of starting level? I know that at one point it was considered to be 3rd level. In Beta 2 page 107 table 11-2 still says that 1st level is pre-teenager, 2nd is teenager, 3rd is young adult and 4th+ is adult.

      I must say I hate this as char gen is long enough without having to level up 3 times before you even start play. In my RMU games we have started at 1st but I have been careful not to kill the characters. That is not ideal and not suitable for a “new to RMU” GM.

      If the starting adventurer is 3rd level then 4th level dogs and flying monkeys are acceptable and the numbers can be balanced against the party size.

      As to drowning that doesn’t have to be a problem. A single sentence in the written up adventure just says that characters that fail their swimming rolls end up passed out but washed up on a gravel bank inside the cave. The leap into the river is more of a plot device that an existential threat.

      In some respects I am glad that this isn’t a plot you would use. I will try and improve it until you say “Actually, I could use this.”

      1. I still stand by my opinion that if a game can’t start at first level, there’s something seriously wrong with the core mechanic or how it’s being applied. Not addressing that in a meaningful way does newcomers a great disservice. I especially dislike the association of levels with character age.

        1. I am slightly conflicted on this.

          I hate the idea of starting above 1st level. If levels have a scale of 1st to 50th, then 1st is the start.

          Having said that if these are adventures for RMU and RMU chooses to start at 3rd then starting adventures should be pitched at 3rd. What we choose to house rule or not cannot have a bearing on RAW adventures.

          And to undermine my own position I often tie level to age for my NPCs. If someone is living in a nice safe environment I tend to give them 1 level for every 5 years over 16 of their age. So a 50yr old blacksmith in a city would be something like 8th level. That gives me his basic skill level. In a hostile environment such an NPC ranger living on the edges of civilisation I give them 1 level for every 3 years. So our 50yr old would probably be about 12th level.

          I would much rather use your style which in a fantasy setting I would see as a dollop of cultural skills just for being born, A dollop of adolescent skills for their formative years and then a dollop of professional skills to represent their professional training. The jargon is life path chargen I think. At least this way they are 1st level even if they have three levels worth of skills.

          1. Exactly! You can easily build that stuff into character generation. I always viewed first level as the point where a character is at least reasonably capable of making their way in the world. You use culture as the first innate building block, another set of training (a specific background of some sort that rounds out the culture), and then perhaps some sort of apprenticeship to round things out (I’ve worked this more fully out for my modern stuff, but it works out to culture plus a background option plus education).

            I get what you’re doing with age and levels…I tend to go more on skill ranks in the NPC’s primary area of activity. But even then you’re starting first level higher than RAW (and in pre-modern settings 16 is arguably the threshold of adulthood in any case).

  2. An encounter for every location: One suggestion might be to insert (or suggest) Awareness, Environmental or Subterfuge skill challenges. On a success, there are fewer adversaries at the next location, fail it and there might be more. Added incentive to utilize the plethora of skills that most “Leroy Jenkins” types ignore.

    intothatdarkness: I’ve always taken the approach that the players have already expressed an interest in playing together. One thing I like to do is encourage THEM to figure out ties during character creation (Session 0). Granted, with a published module/ adventure this is tougher, but certainly still suggestible.

    Peter: I feel your pain IRT starting level. In other RPG’s, like you, I start a party at level 1, and just balance the sessions until they are beefier and more able to handle a tougher go.

    TBH, Table 11-2 bothered me a LOT at first, until I read the sentence that said the first few levels are usually adolescents and apprentices. So, after running the numbers some on my own, my current thinking is to grant new players culture, then a full ‘Apprentice’ level (i.e. level zero, max 2 rank per skill), then start them at Level 1. Yea, it could be argued that is level 2, and I’m fudging the level, but tough. =)

    Your proposed downing rule is a good one, and one I’ve myself many times without a bit of shame or concern.

    1. There will definitely be skill based challenges in each location. I also want to build a timed factor into the scene. A fire will start and it will spread. The longer the characters stay with in the castle the more burning building challenges they will face. There will be many routes out from leaping from a window into water to sneaking out a postern gate to rushing the front door. Combat will most likely be the worst possible option, which is a valuable RM lesson.

  3. I very much like the adventure: a good balance of choices and challenges.

    As for current RMU thinking on level 1: they do acknowledge that level 1 characters are kind of weak. One thing I hear they have done recently to address that is to increase the number of cultural ranks characters get. I would also like to see them offer a different way of rolling stats (making the low roll the temp and the high roll the potential leads to significantly lower stats, IMHO, and I don’t like that).

    To make this a starter adventure, what you could do is have the characters instructed for a couple of days in gladiatorial combat. This would be non-deadly, with wooden weapons and medical help available — no slavemaster wants to see his property destroyed unnecessarily. This would also be a way for the GM to introduce some basic game mechanics, showing the players how to play in a controlled and non-lethal environment, before they have to make choices as to which skills to buy at levels 2 and 3. And finally it would be a way also to increase the tension in the adventure, as the players come to really hate the drillmaster who is making them fight.

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