I don't know about your players, but mine scamper around the known universe seeking out if not actively causing trouble. The sort of folk who land on a planet, ask where the roughest part of town is, tool up and head down there ready to rumble. Yet the Traveller universe is not a lawless place. Those characters who break the law persistently will eventually get their collars felt, be hauled in front of a judge and sent down for a term in jail!
This need not be the end of the game or a time to roll up new characters. The number of courtroom and prison dramas on TV suggests that there is plenty of scope for playing out characters' brushes with the law. A prison break adventure is an obvious one, but those characters who settle down and 'do their time' can also get involved in prison politics, make contacts or learn new skills ready for when they get out... and of course, there is much adventure to be had in wrongful accusations, where characters have to negotiate and survive incarceration whilst proving their innocence.
The Prison Planet of the title is called Keanou in the Lanth subsector of the Spinward Marches, but can be set on a desert planet wherever is convenient for your purposes. The material provided begins with some game mechanics for modelling the justice process, in particular that which applies after sentencing: parole hearings and appeals. We then move on to details of the in-processing and adventure material entitled 'The First Week' which serves to introduce the characters to their new home. This includes notes on prison routine and layout, it is an interesting place converted from an old mining facility, and prisoners labour in the mines if not cunning or lucky enough to wangle a more favourable work detail. There's plenty of scope here for running adventures involving a lengthy stay, and certainly enough and more resources if you intend for the characters to be incarcerated briefly prior to escape or release by other means.
The next section provides details (and full stat blocks) for prison staff and convicts. Each one has notes on personality and interests to help you make them come alive as they interact with the characters. Their details also include work assignment and which prison rumours they know. These may or may not be accurate, of course, but prisons run on rumours and the characters should be encouraged to find out as many as they can. The good thing is that there are a lot of prisoners for the characters to get to know, so it is easy to build up the atmosphere of a lot of people held here... there are even a few intended to arrive after the characters, so that they will not be the New Guys for ever! There's lots of detail on the guards and other staff, including how easily they bribe (and what works best), how they treat the convicts in general, and how they are likely to respond to someone trying to be friendly. Lastly there are a few visitors, mostly lawyers touting for trade and the like.
Next comes Running the Adventure, which provides the Referee with all the tools to play out the dragging miserable existence that is the convicts' (and so the characters') lot. Mechanics cover encounters with other prisoners, the work routine, the gaining of 'reputation' in the prison and the operation of the various gangs and power blocs that have developed here. There are also notes on security, bribing guards, and getting into brawls. There are a comprehensive series of 'events' which can take place, chosen by die roll or Referee whim as suits. This section covers all the day-to-day operations of the prison.
Then comes a section of Rumours, where you can look up the various rumours different NPC convicts know, as well as details on how true they are... there's plenty of scope for the Referee to spice them up, embellish them, as he sees fit.
This is followed by a selection of Incidents, set-piece events designed to teach the characters something about the prison and its assorted dangers. There are also some overarcing adventure ideas which have longer-term consequences. The Referee may choose any of them, or a combination, to run in parallel with the more everyday events from Running the Adventure and the discrete Incidents - the beauty of this is that repeat visits for those characters who prove recidivists are quite possible, just pick different background adventure arcs to run each time they are convicted!
And if all this is not enough to keep everyone occupied, there are several fullblown adventures to run once the characters have settled in. Each has its own timescale and a whole series of events, and they can be stirred in around everything else that is going on... and of course, at least one offers the possibility for escape! For those who do get out, somehow, the final few pages cover the planet Keanou and its main settlement of Circle City.
For those players who want a spell of jail time in their history, the rules for a term as a prisoner is included for use during character generation. But the real thrust of this book is to enable you to play out incarceration when the law catches up with the characters!
This is an impressive collection of resources and adventures to make a spell of imprisonment a real part of your campaign. Or, if you prefer, an idea's just occurred to me, it could be quite interesting if characters for some reason got jobs running the prison and had to cope with all the events and adventures herein from the other side! Overall, it could prove for some interesting games whichever side of the bars the characters end up...
Return to Adventure 2: Prison Planet page.
Reviewed: 27 September 2012