The characters have each been individually found guilty of crimes that they have indeed committed. They’re sent to an underground prison, which they must escape from. Have each player make his character with a specific crime that he has committed (one not punishable by death, but severe enough to warrant life in prison). These crimes serve as excellent back-stories, as well as possible future adventures/issues for them to resolve.
The PCs begin the adventure standing before the court, having their charges, verdicts, and punishments read to them. Each player reads out loud their crime, as if it were being read by the judge or magistrate of the court. Just the details and facts of the crimes are to be read, not any reasoning behind them (that is for the PCs to reveal later in-character, if they wish). This reading is just to start the adventure, getting the PCs acquainted with each other, and hearing everyone’s crimes. After the PC’s are done, the GM will do the same for two NPCs who are also getting sentenced.
After all the charges and verdicts have been read, they are sentenced to life in Deepground, a massive underground prison. In this region, this is the punishment of choice, so there are a lot of prisoners down there. The PCs are taken to the town that surrounds the prison (the town is also called Deepground), and lowered into the cavern. With them in the cage are two other criminals, some torches, blankets, and A LOT of food. Instructions were given to everyone that they were to depart the cage upon setting down – anyone still in, on, or under the cage when it is brought back up is shot (bows, guns, lasers, whatever). Food is dropped once a day (at noon) into the cavern (mostly bread and other rations). It is also delivered in the cage when prisoners go down. Also, there is an underground river for water supply. On the ride down, if none of the PCs suggest that they should stick together, one of the NPCs will.
Once the PCs get to the bottom, there will be about 100 NPCs waiting to get to the food, and they look hungry. Anyone getting in their way gets trampled. If the PCs hang out anywhere near the cage, they will be mugged for their clothes and blankets, and any food they carry. So they had better move quickly. One of the two NPCs gets mugged and killed right there, if the PCs haven’t gotten the hint.
Over the next few weeks, the PCs need to either establish themselves as tough brutes, join a gang, or remain relatively hidden (that will be hard to do). In the beginning, they will be threatened and harassed just to see what they are made of (and to see if their stuff can be taken). The weapons down here are few and far between, consisting mostly of clubs and daggers made from bones of the dead, and clubs and spikes made from burnt out torches. Most likely, after a few scuffles, they will be left alone. The available food dropped down is just enough to keep the PCs alive. If, for some reason, a PC doesn’t eat for a day, he starts taking penalties (loss of healing surges, stats, etc.).
The Escape: There are three gangs. The biggest, baddest of the bunch are the Wolves. Eventually, the PCs learn that the Wolves guard access to another part of the underground caves. Through the access is a “no turning back” trek. Once you start the trek you can’t come back (it’s physically impossible). If a PC inquires about it he is shown a ledge overlooking a deep chasm, with another ledge across it and below. He is told that many have tried the jump, but only few have made it. The Wolves swear it is an exit, but they don’t use it because they live like kings down here. The PC’s must pay a fee to the Wolves for permission to make the jump. The fee is one week’s food supply per person.
Things to consider:
- If the PC’s eat half portions to save their own food, they take a penalty for being hungry and malnourished while saving food and for a few days after.
- Saving food can be dangerous because others might try to take it.
- Do they save it, or give it up immediately every day? Can they do this every-other day?
- Other prisoners might give up some food, only if they have good reason (were any friendships made? Any favors gained?).
- How much food will the PCs take with them on their journey? Remember that food spoils.
Once they begin their trek they will need to make several skill checks, as well as get into a fight with an underground creature (perhaps something they can eat just in the nick of time?). Also, along the way they will find several bodies of failed escapees. Finally, after several days of traveling underground, with no food or water, starving, tired, and near-death, they have one more obstacle: A simple, easy Climb or Balance check to make it across a ledge. If they succeed, they make it out of the cavern and are free. But if they fail, they fall to their death. Each character gets one roll, and a failure cannot be fudged.