Jailhouse Stock
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Basic Information

This is a suggestion for how to start a campaign … and hopefully a better one than "you all meet in a tavern".

This one goes:

"You're all in a jail cell"


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • All the PCs have been thrown in a holding cell together - the GM gives them a brief explanation of what happened and they provide him with a link story and the other player with a description. e.g.:
    • <player 1 to the other players> "My character is slumped in a corner, he's better dressed than you might expect for someone in a jail cell, but he's covered in mud and blood - quite a bit of it his own by the looks of things - and reeks of booze"
      • <player 1 to the GM> "My character is a belted knight, and there's no way he would have been picked up in a random trawl of strangers to the town unless he was too drunk to make himself understood. He gave the guard a good fight of it when they tried to arrest him and when he's sober enough to realise where he is he'll be demanding that they're horsewhipped for this insult to his honour. His squire and retinue will have noticed that he's not in his bed at their lodgings by now and are likely to be inquiring after him at the Castle. This could get interesting."
    • <player 2 to the other players>"My character is tall, tonsured and angry looking. He paces the floor of the cell, stopping every now and again to hammer on the door and shout for the guard"
      • <player 2 to the GM> "My character is an ordained priest and the civil authority has no jurisdiction over him - the fact that those idiot watchmen refused to believe him is an abomination! The bishop will hear of this and those men will be coming up the minster aisle on their knees wearing sackcloth and ashes if I have anything to do with this!"
    • <player 3 to the other players> "My character is fairly shabbily dressed, but seems to have made himself about as comfortable as it's possible to be in this cell. He seems to be asleep."
      • <player 3 to the GM> "My character is a habitual criminal and therefore one of the 'usual suspects' and accustomed to being rounded up. He knows better than to resist arrest and, given that he hasn't done anything criminal in this town yet and is fairly confident that he's not going to be fitted up for anything he's catching up on his sleep."
    • <player 4 to the other players> "My character is fairly respectably dressed, like a secular clerk or scholar. He looks miserable and keeps casting anxious glances at the priest"
      • <player 4 to the GM> "My character is a magician and hopes this arrest isn't a prelude to the ducking stool".
  • The GM then gets to improvise a response to each of the link stories dependant on the campaign: in this case the PCs have been rounded up because there has been a suspcious murder and, this being a fairly realistic medieval campaign, strangers to the town are top of the suspect list. As it happens they all have an alibi, or some other reason that they couldn't have committed the crime and these, and anything arising from the link stories, serve as a roleplaying warmup - e.g. the constable of the town dealing with the angry priest and knight - and allows the GM to correct any misapprehensions they have about the setting - e.g. The knight probably shouldn't have been arrested by his social inferiors, but neither should he have beaten the Watchmen, so it probably evens out, and yes, the Priest would normally only be subject to canon law, but in matters of murder, rape and insurrection the civil power does have jurisdiction.
  • For a modern campaign, you could substitute a police detective for the priest, who is released once his ID has been checked out and perhaps some other elite for the knight, whose hotshot lawyer arrives and has the charges dropped on a technicality ("Yes, you can certainly charge my client with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, but he will then be forced to bring a suit against the department for wrongful arrest since I have witnesses prepared to testify that the officers in question were too busy beating him to read him his rights. Also, I have reason to believe that the force used by the arresting officers was disproportinate as judged by the standard of Crown versus…" … you get the picture…).
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