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June 14, 2012 / Wythe

Inspiration: Super Jail!

I alluded to my extreme love of this unrepentant splatter-art trash earlier, and I must renew that love and explain its relevance to designing DnD scenarios. But first, talking vegetables:

The set-up for Super Jail! is that perfect blend of simplicity and repeatability that makes for a perfect one-off or series adventure within DnD. The characters are archetypes already (Warden, crazily attached guard, heartless robot guard, in-over-his-[gigantic]-head accountant); the setting is infinitely large despite being contained: It’s a jail. It’s always a jail, and even when you leave (as in the time travel event), you want to come back—because you (the adventurer) belong there, fighting to prove yourself and to survive.

The tone of Super Jail! towards its characters is also funny, in an unexpected way: We feel sorry for them, and so does the universe of the show. It’s as if the Universal GM is throwing far-too-powerful enemies at them, then offering them some weird solace (sent on a dangerous undercover mission, the accountant accidentally becomes king of the inmates). Then, naturally, chaos overtakes the system and a generalized violence supersedes any sense of “storytelling”—which restores a grim, materialist feeling of “realism” to an otherwise 100% fantastic psychedeliascape.

Finally, yes, the show combines giant insects, robots, gangs of marauding brigands, brutal control regimes (always failing, of course, against chaos/generalized violence).

Specifically, this approach worked very well for a scenario in which the PCs were dragged down into a terrible Alcazaba of the future-Imperial Roman-esque psychic police. To escape, the PCs had to overcome not just a set of crazed wardens/guards, but also the prisoners themselves (obsessed with a future-rugby analog called KLONK), as well as a generalized violence unleashed by any destabilization of the control regime. IT WAS SUPER EASY TO RUN THAT ONE.

Anyone else got a deep thought about Super Jail! + DnD to share?

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