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Holding Prisoners and Being Captive

There comes a time when a game will deal with prisoners or being captive. This can be an important part of role play experience if it’s done correctly.

In the Atomic RPG System, we tackle this problem with a simple solution: When PCs and NPCs are taken prisoner, they are considered to be Captive. When a character is Captive, the kinds of Actions they can take are limited. The Atomic RPG System makes it easy to have the interesting roleplay that surrounds situations involving prisoners.

Game Information Needed for Captives

When the situation arrises where either the players want to take an NPC prisoner, or when the players themselves are prisoners. There are a couple important pieces of information that the GM needs to figure out. These are simple rules so the GM can run Captives smoothly. 

The Purpose of Taking Captives

At the very basic level Captives are taken because they broke the law. Local law enforcement will take characters Captive for their crimes. In this case there may not be much interaction.

However, in many RPG games characters are taken Captive to gain information from them. This is the most likely situation that the your game may find you in whether you are on the giving or receiving end of being Captive. 

When a character is taken Captive. The game should move to Turn Time or Real time and the GM should run the “interrogation” encounter between when the character is taken Captive and when they have a chance to try to escape. 

Taking prisoners or becoming one can both be rich roleplay opportunities which all players at the table should take seriously. It can be great time to dig deeper into the motivations, information, style, and intrigue of the campaign.

Taking a Captive

There are two ways to take a Captive.

First, they can choose to be taken Captive, such as surrendering to police.

Second, unconscious characters or NPCs can automatically be taken Captive.  This is done by overpowering the character such as attacking them and rendering them unconscious. Characters always have the choice to kill something or knock it unconscious when the target would be defeated.

In the Atomic RPG System the Game Mode must change to Turn Time before any character can be taken Captive. Taking someone Captive requires concentration and time to make sure they are properly bound, restrained, or otherwise detained.

After the character or NPC has become a Captive, they are likely going to want to escape. To determine if an escape attempt is successful, the character or NPC taking the target Captive has two choices:

Basic Escape Check

Use the basic non-rolling method to set the Escape Check.  Use the level of the character who took the target Captive, plus 20.

A seventh level character would give their Captive an Escape Check of 27.

Opposed Roll

The character taking the target Captive can roll a skill roll to set the Escape Check. The GM should determine which skill is most relevant for the situation.
Subterfuge should apply to most situations.
Athletics might be used against physical restraints.
Scholar might be used if kept in a force field.
Religion might be used to keep a demon in a summoning circle.

The GM should keep escape checks secret to add to the tension of the game.

Once the character chooses which way they would like to determine the Escape Check (or the GM sets it), it should be noted, both the method and the result. The escapee will need to roll the final Escape Check number or higher to escape. This is to move from being a Captive to being able to freely act. Such as using Powers again and other normal actions. Atomic Items, Specialties, and Powers may modify the Escape Check. There are many items that can be used which have standard Escape Checks. Some of these are listed below for easy reference.
Name Check Cost Example
Minor Lock 20 20 Basic Iron Shackles, Sisters Diary Latch, or Glove Compartment Door
Lesser Lock 25 50 Handcuffs, Gate Locks, or Crude Jail Cells
Improved Lock 35 100 Standard House and Store Locks
Greater Lock 50 250 Upper Class Houses, Jewelry Stores, or Home Safe
Superior Lock 70 500 Security Door, Luxury Car Ignition, or Bank Vault

Being a Captive Character

When a character is Captive, they are very limited in what they can do.

The GM will have to make decisions depending on the specifics of the character’s Captive state. Can they speak? Can they see? Are they able to move?

Here are some guidelines that should be followed when a character is Captive. They are very limited in what they normally can do.

The GM can make some changes or additions to being Captive but these will all depend on the different circumstances of the specific adventure in a Atomic RPG System game. It is always best to keep it as simple as possible. A GM should try their best to keep erroneous additions out whenever possible.

Escape Being a Captive

Being a prisoner is never fun. Here is how a character who is Captive can attempt to make an escape.

As the gaming group plays out the situation, smart decisions and the timing of Actions is vital. Captives are unlikely to be able to escape during an interrogation or while the guard is standing outside of the cell.  Or worse those holding the prisoners will attack those they see are trying to escape. But when the night comes and the guards fall asleep the Captive can find an unhindered time to try to make their escape.

GM’s may assign penalties to the Captive or bonuses to others when they have the advantage in this type of situation. Using the Minor (Character Tier X 1), Major (Character Tier X 2), and Superior  (Character Tier X 5) modifiers are a good rule of thumb.

To escape being Captive, the character will roll against the Escape Check. If the skill roll is equal to or higher than the Escape Check, the character escapes. 

For most Escape Checks the character will usually use the following Skills. However, counter skills and other situations may have the GM change what a character gets to roll. 

Athletics Skill Check

This check is used to physically break things to get out. This may be break the rope bonds, bend the shackles to slip out wrists, or the bash down jail cell door.

Subterfuge Skill Check

This check is used to physically disable and disarm whatever is keeping you captive. This may be to untie the rope bonds, unlock the shackles, or hack the keypad on the security door.

Succeeding an Escape Check

The character is free and able to use actions normally.

A Captive character may have to make several checks. An example of this would be to roll to see if they can remove the shackles and then again to open their prison cell.

As the character makes successful Escape Checks it is the GM’s responsibility to tell them when they are no longer considered Captive. The best way to determine this is as a GM consider if the character is still easy to control or otherwise at the mercy of their captors. If the character just gets out of their shackles but is still in a prison cell, the answer should be “Yes”. However, if the character that is Captive escapes the cell, the answer would then be “No” as they can now physically attack guards and are not at their captor’s mercy anymore.

Once the GM decides that the character is no longer Captive, they can again begin to use their Powers and other abilities as normal. The character may still be limited if they are missing all their equipment but they can act normally.

Failing an Escape Check

The character remains captive.

They character may have the opportunity to use the other Skill against the same Escape Check. Perhaps they can break the shackles instead of picking them. These opportunities are determined by the GM.

Failed Escape Checks are similar to failed skill checks. When you fail you cannot attempt the same check until circumstances change. In the case of Escape Checks a new day is considered changing circumstances and another escape attempt can be made. The GM may allow further attempts should the circumstances change such as being handcuffed (First Attempt), then interrogated, then put into a jail cell (Second Chance).

Atomic RPG Game's Quick and Easy Prisoner Mechanics

As you can see, the process and mechanics involved with prisoners is pretty simple. This makes the decision to suddenly take or become prisoners quite easy.

Playing Atomic RPG System, a group of gamers can easily take prisoners or become prisoners themselves and continue to keep the game going.

First, establish when a player is Captive. Then the Captive just needs to roll against this Escape Check to be free once again. This simple mechanic should be able to be used in any number of situations.

The flexibility of the Atomic RPG System shines through with the Captive mechanic. This allows players and GM’s alike to use their limitless imaginations to push their role play games to the next level, while driving their own enjoyment of roleplay gaming ever forward.

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