Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Terrain Hazards: Prisons

Favorite video game prison?
Most prisons have an intelligent design, and that means very regular halls, and huge rooms to be able to allow one person to oversee huge swathes of the building at once. Prisons therefore allow for many of the fixtures involved in other constructed dungeons, but they have many extra features beside.

Zero Equipment

I dunno if you would call this a terrain feature, but it is something that can have a drastic impact on fighting that often goes hand in hand with the prison theme. Having nothing will be a big disadvantage to characters who depend on particular tools, and specially, in-line with the them of this series, weapons and armor. This is a situation that gives bare handed fighters a chance to shine, and potentially magic users (unless we specifically have some special feature of the prison that says magic doesn't work.) 
Characters like quick gadgeteers that can improvise something from nothing might also be able to take advantage of any stuff they can get their hands on. You might want to take a look at the rules on p.4 of Dungeon Fantasy 4: Sages for putting something together quickly.
Rocks might be one of the most abundant weapons you can find. A tiny rock can do thrust (- 2 per die) damage, and go 3.5 x strength yards in a turn if thrown as a weapon. A large one that is about basic lift can do thrust (+1 per die) and go 0.6 x strength yards. Those are the most useful I think, but there are more in Basic Set: Campaigns, p. 355 A rock can also be used an improvised fist load to help do slightly more damage when punching.
Turning this on its head, if the players are guarding a prison, and expect the inmates to not have weapons better than a shiv or carefully selected throwing rocks, it can be a rude awakening if they get something dangerous smuggled in.

Security Systems

Magic! Maybe not historically accurate, but some kinda system to detect when someone is somewhere they shouldn't be might not be outside of the realm of fantasy. Think of it as a standard type of trap that someone with thaumatology or magery can confirm, but the effect is calling guards who will likely arrive in under half a minute. Turned on its head, it might be something that a ward might want to intentionally trigger to call for help.  If security triggers are close to a character in the middle of combat, remember to pay attention to knockback effects. An alternative or a follow-up for a generous or a no-messing-around prison is a non-lethal but serious disabling affliction. Perhaps a decently long term paralysis effect or instant sleep? Anything goes when it's magic.
Of course, it would also behoove characters escaping from prison to be stealthy, naturally. It is almost a fantasy prison guard's sole job to observe for prison breaks, so if fighting, it is often imperative to be as quiet as possible.

Cell Bars

Prison cells with barred doors allow for different mechanics as well. When dealing with cell bars, someone might be able to improvise a long distance attack or something with a long reach to fight with impunity against someone with a short range melee weapon. Very strong characters may be able to bend bars and use them as improvised batons or clubs.
Reaching through bars might allow someone to garrote a guard walking too close with an improvised rope of torn clothes.

Social Climate

Especially relevant on the battlefield of a prison where most intelligent beings aren't likely to be outright malicious towards you; where making friends with the guards, the inmates, or both can be an important preparatory step for an upcoming skirmish. In a situation where power is so asymmetric as in a prison, doing anything to shake it up is to someone's advantage. An imprisoned character that befriends a guard might get them to hesitate when push comes to shove or get them to look the other way. Encouraging all prisoners to fight in unison to overwhelm the outnumbered but much better armed guards could also be a good strategy.
In the inverse, if the players are guarding a prison, good relationships with the inmates and adherence to duty might encourage the prison population to be cooperative in the mutual best interest of everyone.

Other Thoughts and Closing

I am getting close to done with the list, ad starting to run into a lot of variations on previously discussed themes. This, backdrop, as Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons says, is pretty similar to a cellar. The interesting twists are more thematic than mechanical in a way. Instead of trying to find something, you are usually trying to get out, or keep someone inside... or you could be trying to break someone out, bringing it close in theme to one of the big cellar themes of "go get a thing and bring it back safely." Dungeon Fantasy 2 also compares it to the similar "menagerie," something of a predecessor to the zoo or circus. In that situation a lot of animal interaction techniques probably become valuable, and more than likely, the theme isn't escape, but probably retrieval, extermination, or liberation. Prisons are kinda ragged on for being a kinda "railroad" scenario, but I don't think they have to be bad. Losing expensive equipment can be annoying, I guess, unless there is a way to acquire it at the end. Of course, interacting with a prison doesn't always have to be from the ward's perspective, and approaching it from the perspective of a warden, or maybe a bumbling doofus who finds it just wandering about can make it more interesting. The bumbler scenario probably reduces it to a cellar though, but with people instead of preserved sundries... unless there is a really good reason the wardens don't want outsiders looking around the prison.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...