If it’s something I’ve noticed about fiction, prisoners don’t like to stay locked up for long. I’m watching The Flash and Gotham and waiting for all those ne’er-do-wells to escape from their various cells. And when it happens, it will be spectacular (I hope)!

Even in video games like Fallout: New Vegas, there are entire communities of criminals who took over their jails, kicked out the lawmen, and run it themselves. And sometimes (like in The Walking Dead), the good guys find that prisons offer safety against a world gone mad… once you take care of the zombies and criminals hiding inside.

territory-emma-bull-coverSo today we’re going to create a group of prisoners and then figure out a story around them. Maybe the PCs will encounter them on the road. Maybe the prisoners will be causing trouble while they attempt to hide in a town somewhere. Or maybe the prisoners will form their own civilization and make their own laws to cause trouble for the rest of the world…

Insta-NPCs #5: Prisoners and Escapees offers quite a collection of tables to get us going, so let’s grab some dice, the worksheet from Prisoners, some paper and pencils and get started!

Walking Through the Steps

First, I think we’re going to set this in the Wild West. I recently finished reading Territory by Emma Bull (2007), which combines the stories and personalities around Tombstone, AZ, with the magic of urban fantasy. If you like alternative histories weaving the traditional with the nontraditional, I definitely recommend this tale. But it’s definitely influenced my thinking about the traditional western for the better. (Add magic to the dusty, shoot-em-up world of the western somehow gives it that “new car smell” again for some reason…)

The first item to figure out is the “Who?” And apparently that’s to be a bit of a mystery, since I rolled a 3 on my d6 for “Undetermined.” We’ll wait to see what other clues we get from the rest of the process.

Next up we have to determine if the crime they committed was real or imagined. I don’t have a coin handy, so I’ll roll another d6. I got a 4. As an even number, that indicates that the crime was imagined. Perhaps the individual (or group) was framed for a crime they didn’t commit. Or maybe they just felt slighted and though a law may not have been broken, they felt they were wronged in some way.

So what was the crime? A d20 tells us that it was a (18) “Breach of contract.” Interesting. Perhaps there was a business transaction handled with a handshake or a verbal agreement that’s been broken.

Now we determine how long their sentence was via a d8 roll. We get a 3, which indicates months. I’ll roll a d12 to see how long they were sentenced to in months and got a 2. So they were sentenced to 2 months for an imagined breach of contract.

insta-npc-5-coverTheir “intention” during their sentence was a 5 on a d6, indicating they want to complete their task. I’m not sure whether the “task” in this case is the sentence itself or whatever was agreed upon in the contract. So I’ll roll the d6 again – odd means they mean to finish their sentence without incident and even means they wish to complete whatever task they were contracted for. Another 5 on a d6 suggests they just want to be done with jail and move on with their lives.

In this case, I don’t think it matters what kind of cell they spent time in, but we’ll roll on the Cell Mates, Cell and Conditions tables anyway. A 4 on a d6 indicates this individual was living with 4 cell mates. I got a 3 on a d6, indicating their cell was walled. And a 2 on a d6 indicates that the jail had a rat problem.

With all that in place, I still don’t know enough about this individual.

Tomorrow we’ll see what we can do about that!

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