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Twisted Tales: Prison Sex
by Darren Maclennan
A story of lawful evils
This scenario is suitable to any setting that allows for some degree of fantasy and weirdness. You can always replace the major Law and Chaos entities with various weird aliens for a science-fiction settings. Horror settings, especially Call of Cthulhu, can replace the Law entity with a Great Old One, perhaps one who's less interested in shattering sanity than maintaining a weird form of order.
Note that this adventure requires a bit of work on the GM's part to flesh out the encounters with both the escapees and the prisoners; this is done so that the GM can determine how long he wants each section to go. It's also suggested that the GM be sure of the changes that this will make to his campaign, adjusting for desired effect.
Inspirations for this one include the short story "The Library of Babylon", by Borges - which is highly recommended - and the HBO show "Oz". The title comes from the title of a song by Tool, which seemed appropriate. Feel free to show your players the title of the adventure that they're about to run, but don't be surprised if they don't show up for a while afterwards. ;-)
The scenario begins with the disappearance of people who wouldn't, ordinarily, be much missed by society at large - criminals. However, the criminals have disappeared from their country's central prison, a place that's a combination between the Tower of London and Alcatraz. For the last two hundred years, the monolithic structure has kept the worst of the country behind bars, and it's assumed that the structure will continue to hold the worst of them for the next few centuries or so. Sitting in the slum district of the capital city, the prison provides numerous jobs for those nearby. In particular, the residents are paid vey well for every prisoner they recapture, and some of them have even gotten jobs as professional "ratcatchers", who act as makeshift bounty hunters for whoever's able to escape.
A week before the start of this scenario, there was a mass jailbreak. One of the walls of the prison seemed to spontaneously collapse, allowing some three dozen inmates - most of whom are truly dangerous, either to the government or to people in general - to escape. While one or two of them are in prison for their political views and/or importance, a la Sir Raleigh, the rest are very likely to be the kind of people that you want dead and in Hell, rather than walking the street. While the ratcatchers are chomping at the bit to take down most of these men, most of them are dangerous enough to warrant calling in support from outside - in other words, the player characters. If the characters don't happen to be powerhouses, then they can act as research personnel and/or detectives - they chase the escapees down, the ratcatchers take care of the rest. In an emergency situation like this, everyone can lend a hand.
Initially, there are few complications. The ratcatchers, having lost six of their own to one of the more dangerous escapees, are more than willing to let the characters have their free run of the town, and the player's characters will be able to requisition the aid of the local authorities, heavy weaponry, maps of the area, food and so forth. The catch is that the characters are expected to make immediate headway in capturing the escapees - and most of them were originally caught by people who were stonger than the characters were. Most of them have been stripped of their powers and are weak from their imprisonment, but the ratcatchers can vouch for their lethality.
Some of the escapees are:
If you're so inclined, you can include the party's old nemeses here, using this escape as a pretext for reintroducing them to the game. Also, the above NPCs are meant to be examples; feel free to invent your own.
The best way to run this part of the adventure is to take a few sessions simply to chase down the bad guys. Write up a bad guy, a setting where he's staying, and then send the characters in to capture him - witnesses, rumours, old patterns or any other deductions can quickly provide the place to start without need for the players to search the entire city. The first capture will be simple. After that, start throwing complications after them - he's got an identical twin, or he's staying with his homicidal family, or he's just about leave the city, or he's holding hostages.
Other complications include the ratcatchers. Once regrouped, will demand that they have access to the escapees and the bounties attached to them. That access will be granted, and the ratcatchers will immediately start turning the streets upside down in an effort to flush out the escapees that are left over. If the characters and the ratcatchers happen to start chasing the same person, then there's going to be a fight between the ratcatchers and the PCs. It probably won't be lethal, but PCs should be aware that what they're doing as a service comprises these people's livelihoods; stripping them of their bounties means that they'll remain poor. It'll work out best if the players agree to capture the villains, then let the ratcatchers take them in for the reward - but negotiation may only come about after the players and the ratcatchers engage in pitched skirmishes a few times.
Once the bulk of the villains have been rounded up, things get weird. One of the last villains to be brought down has disguised himself as a woman, working down near the river district. His skill with disguise is strong, but somehow, a witness catches him attiring himself and the gig is up. Either the ratcatchers or the player characters themselves can also witness this event. If the ratcatchers are the ones who witness it, they can describe the events to the player characters. Otherwise, the GM can actually run the PCs through the events.
When the man dressed as a woman - let's call him Duidhen - is discovered, he'll immediately make a break for the river, intending to swim across and get away. Bring him down or let him escape - either way, the result will be the same. As soon as the GM feels that it's dramatically appropriate, Duidhen will drop his female clothes in order to make the swim easier. Immediately after, the ground seems to pulse, then splits open. The Keepers come through shortly thereafter.
The Keepers themselves are utterly bizarre - try to keep them counter to the setting that they appear in. For example, in a high-tech setting, they'll appear to be crude, floating automatons made out of wood and barbed wire. In a fantasy setting, they'll be sleek, black metallic things, outlined with brilliant chrome. The central body is a vertical lozenge, about half as tall as a man. Projecting from the central body are a dozen arms, each tipped with either a simple, three-fingered hand or a metallic cube. The cube acts as a fairly powerful electrical shock, while the hands are for grabbing. In this case, there's only a single Keeper coming through the portal. As soon as its attacked, more will come through, probably 1-2 for each character. The Keepers will be interested in grabbing Duidhen and simply phasing back into their home dimension. They can be stopped, briefly, but ultimately there's enough of them to ensure that Duidhen is taken through. After that happens, the Keepers simply leave.
From this point, there's two ways that the scenario can go - they end in the same point, but the GM can decide how long he wants this campaign to be. The first is to have the Keepers simply decide to take the PCs with them for their impudence in trying to prevent Dudhein from being taken to his rightful place. In this case, you can simply go to the Prison portion of the game. If not, then the characters are going to have to figure out what happened to Dudhein, and if it's going to happen again. If they don't care, have it happen to a friend or relative of theirs who is arrested for a minor crime. If they still don't care, then the Keepers come after them next.
Clues towards the identity of the Keepers include:
This is the second part of the adventure, and it'll reveal what happened to the escapees and what the Keepers are.
No matter how the characters access the place where the Keepers live, they'll find themselves in the same situation. All of their weaponry and armor will be taken away. Magic will still work, as will cybernetics, but anything that isn't attached to the bodies of the characters will be confiscated. Feel free to reduce any weapons or enchantments that might too powerful in the setting to come - even ban magic use altogether, if you're inclined - since the next section relies on the characters being relatively powerless in a dangerous environment.
The characters will find themselves in comfortable gray clothing which has no pockets, zippers, buttons. They'll wake up in a single-man cell, which looks like just about every cell in the known universe - bed, toilet, sink, mirror, and that's it. Each cell is private. The door to each cell is composed of clear plexiglass, and slides down from a recess in the top of the doorway. Privacy is minimal, but the door can be locked.
The exterior is where the players start figuring out where they are. Describe the setting that they're in as a mass of stark angles and open spaces. Every open space has a cell on every wall, but there's very little to indicate that somebody lives there. The characters should get the impression that the place is huge - probably as large as a planet, although there's no specific piece of evidence that'll prove it. The organization of the place is very complex, but also very orderly - so much so, as a matter of fact, that the characters will be able to tell where they are in relation to their original cells at all times. Characters will be allowed to roam throughout the complex during the day, but will be expected to be in their cells for fourteen hours out of every day - those who are out for longer will attract attention. The geography of the place, however, shouldn't be as important as the people that the characters will meet.
And the people that the characters will meet are, in a word, legion. While a good number of them are human, most of them will speak langauges that the characters don't understand. Meanwhile, the alien races range from the familiar, like elves and dwarves, to the utterly bizarre, like a race composed entirely of nerve endings that stretch across the ceilings and walls of one area. The area near the PCs assigned cells have a lot of people from the PC's home dimension - including, remarkably enough, the escapees that weren't accounted for elsewhere. However, there are famous criminals and political prisoners here as well - some from as late as three hundred years ago. Feel free to throw in minor criminals from years past. It's a good way to get across both the age of your game world and the number of people within the prison.
Where there's people, there's groups, and where there's groups, there's usually some form of conflict. Most of the groups here have formed around ethnic and/or nationalist lines. The escapees from the prison have formed their own group for self-protection. Other groups exist, mostly human, mostly from nations that the characters have never heard of, and probably never will. The GM can probably be content with creating three to four nearby human groups that the PCs can interact with, including the escapees.
Violence is prohibited - it'll bring the Keepers within, say, 1d6 rounds of the first moment of combat. However, despite the interference of the Keepers, violence is an everday part of life. The trick is to settle the fight within a few rounds. For that reason, most fights tend to be swift, brutal, and non-lethal. The weapons most commonly available are either made from bedsheets - garrotes, or cloaks. The only edged weapons possible are made from the bones of those slain within the prison, which are infrequent. When fights occur, they're very, very quick; anybody caught fighting is incarcerated within their cells for 1d3 days, the cell door turning opaque and locking itself. Water is available - but communication and food aren't. Nobody wants time in the hole.
There's one element here that isn't automatically provided for the PCs, or for anybody else within the prison: food. There are food dispensers, tall, curved columns that dot the walls at relatively regular intervals. Inscribed into each is a complex geometric pattern, which visually represents a logical thesis. Meditation on the symbols will bring both a nutritious - if somewhat tasteless - meal, and an greater understanding of the principles of logic. As time passes, the logical propositions will begin to creep into their minds at inappropriate times, sometimes overtaking the character's ability to speak their native language or perform simple tasks. The only currency in the prison is food, and the most valuable members of any gang are those who are good enough at meditation to get more than a single person's share of food. That's how the currency of the prison works.
At this stage of the game, the characters may feel as if they've lost control of their destinies and will care only about finding a way out. However, there is plenty for them to do if the GM does not want to cut straight to the escape vehicle. For example:
The GM can come up with his own plots and characters for this part of the session; feel free to extend or shorten it as long as you want. Of course, while the characters have been establishing themselves within the prison, hopefully having learned how to get food for themselves - or having become enforcers for a group of people who can - they've most likely also been looking for a way out. Although there are rumours of people who took off on various plans and never came back, it's clear that nobody has any idea how to escape. Eventually, however, the PCs will be contacted by the one of the minions of the opposition - 8/7D-String. (Eight-Seven-Dee String). It takes the form of a floating bundle of what looks like string, always moving. At times, the string will spread out across the room, clinging to the walls; at other times, it'll be so tiny that it'll almost be invisible.
Eight-Seven explains that the characters have become trapped in one of the endless fortresses of the Enemy, an eternal opponent to the forces of Freedom. The forces of the Enemy have decided to abduct the most free beings of other dimensions in order to eventually brainwash them into joining the Enemy; the characters have been imprisoned because they attempted to interfere with the Keepers. Eight-Seven, by comparison, isn't at all interested in keeping the characters imprisoned. It wants to set them free. It wants all of them to be set free, as a matter of fact, so that they can serve the will of Eight-Seven's masters, the shining host of Chaos. The characters, Eight-Seven will reveal, have become imprisoned by the forces of Law, and will stay here until their will has been broken by the propositional logic of the food dispensers.
Of course, Eight-Seven is more than glad to help them - it's been trying to gain access to the Prison for the past four hundred years, and has only now been able to get through. However, while Eight-Seven will explain any facet of the prison's operation to them, it's unwilling or unable to engineer an escape for them. It can provide them with the ability to hide from the Keepers for short periods, and it'll also give them something that's taken it a long time to forge: The Chaos Bullet, a tiny lump of matter that constantly shifts from form to form - one second, it's a small wax statuette of a stag; the next, it's a sphere of ice-cold mud that rolls back and forth within the palm. Its forms are limitless. Eight-Seven explains thatthe Chaos Bullet will destroy the entity of law that runs the prison and severely disrupt the prison itself. It will not describe the consequences that will result; after all, it doesn't necessarily see a connection between cause and effect.
Unfortunately, the characters are going to have to figure out just how to find the law entity - the Keepers are just servants. As to how to reach the entity, Eight-Seven has a dozen ideas, most of which are dead ends (unles the GM thinks they deserve to succeed). To wit:
Eight-Seven will eventually get tired of running the characters in circles - although he will NOT hint in any way, shape or form that he's doing so - and tell them how to gain an audience. (Their screwing around gave him extra power, with which he intends to escape once the law entity is dead. The PCs will be annoyed but have little choice but to play along, as Eight-Seven is their best lead for finding an exit. Note however that the GM should be very careful not to annoy the players themselves, or the game will stop being fun.)
The Keepers, and the entity that sponsors them, strictly categorizes everything into various groups - prisoners, then elven prisoners, then elven female prisoners, and so forth. But a male looking like a female, or a female looking like a male, completely screws with the entity's perceptions; it's one of the few blind spots in its programming . Since the prison has both sexes, there's usually no need for anybody to cross-dress (sexual favors are bargained for with food, since sexual assault typically results in a Keeper shocking you where you'd least like it) and the garments provided are so utilitarian there is little desire to do so either.
The characters can use food for makeup and hair grease, and sheets for dresses and pants. Once they look roughly like the opposite sex, all that it'll take is for them to step in front of a Keeper when one of them does a patrol.
At which point, every Keeper in the entire prison drops to the ground, unable to process information that it wasn't built to recognize. The entity will try to get them restarted, but the prison will immediately launch into anarchy - old scores are paid off, and old sociopathies spring to life. Any gangs with a grudge against the character are going to try to settle it right now. They won't have time.
The Pure Keepers - children of the entity that works here - show up shortly thereafter, as shining, crystalline entities, with thousands of tiny manipulator hands sprouting from a central, cylindrical barrel of pure crystal. The characters will be immobilized and suddenly...moved somehow to the entity itself.
The entity itself is the size of a small planetoid, and the characters will find themselves floating in an orbit around it, maybe some fifty miles away. The surface of the planetoid is marked with various geometric shapes, and there's rings of geometric shapes floating around it as well. The light from its surface is steady, calming, but very, very bright and characters may have trouble seeing afterwards if they don't shield their eyes somehow.
The law entity communicates through telepathy - or, if not that, then by arranging shapes into letters, and from there into words that the characters can understand. The entity first apologizes for having imprisoned the characters - it was under the impression that they were criminals, rather than authorized agents of the law. It informs them that a number of ratcatchers have been returned already, and that the characters are willing to return. But the entity also knows that they've been talking to Eight-Seven and have the Chaos Bullet. The law entity is willing to let the characters kill it - it has already convicted itself of interfering with officially designated officers of the Law. If the characters want to kill it - execute it - with the Chaos Bullet, then the Law entity is ready to die.
Let's start with the least fun option. If the characters believe that the entity hasn't done enough to deserve death, then the entity will let them keep the Chaos Bullet - freedom of choice is necessary for the proper function of law - and send the home, along with the people who were taken from that specific dimension. If the characters have made any friends, then the entity will agree to "retry" them, and will set them free after a short delay. (This might not be a bad way of introducing new NPCs into the campaign.) Optionally, after they get back, they'll find that each of their backs have been permanently tattooed with the single, blocky arrow that's the symbol of Law; no matter what's done to it, it won't go away. The characters are now officially on the side of Law, which may lead to complications later on.
If they kill the Law entity, things will go to Hell in no time flat. The Chaos bullet zips into the Law entity, and its brilliant crystal shine will immediately die to a thin trickle of steady light. The characters will instantly "move" back to where they came from, escorted by Keepers, who will then drop dead, all of them, all at once. The food dispensers dispense food at regular intervals, without requiring visualization. Fights immediately break out within the prison, and the noise of fights - and people dying - ring through the halls. Eight-Seven opens a gate for the characters to escape, along with anybody else that they want to come with them, but the prison's population is that of a small planet, as the characters have now realized. Feel free to run them through bitter, bloody combats as they try to escape from the prison while every man and his dog will kill to come along with them, with Eight-Seven doing nothing to help. (It's done enough.)
Once the characters are through, they're free - they've escaped with their lives, and possibly with some friends. Of course, there's the possiblity that Eight-Seven, in the name of chaos, will pop open a thousand gates all over the world, allowing thousands of criminals access to the player's world - but that's for another session.
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