691 The Imperial Prison – LV4 Shadowdark Adventure

Welcome to the imperial prison. Stay put and obedient and you may be fed. Disobey and you’ll be the first to be interrogated, tortured, and processed…

Warden Gaston Knowles

The last stop in a life of crime and rebellion is either death or prison. Perhaps death is the gentler alternative; living in a cell is hell on earth. Little mercy is shown to inmates. In some places, they become the playthings of torturers and sick, madmen. In some gruesome cases, convicts are used as experimental subjects in medical or magi­cal procedures. Their extended survival is not expected.

For Arcane Knowledge

The imperial prison is located on the outskirts of the kingdom’s capital, Ardennia. Less than a mile from the city walls, a small, one-story keep is the place where con­victs of the most heinous crimes are sent. Many won­der why the high-security prison is located beyond the city walls but few know the truth. The court wizard, Lord Vlanderberg, conducts evil experiments on the hapless inmates to further his proficiency with the necromantic arts. The emperor supports his efforts despite their ille­gality and immorality. All because Vlanderberg’s prow­ess and creations are often useful to the corrupt ruler.

Thus, the imperial prison is just a front for the wizard’s nefarious activities. More often than not, the culprits of petty crimes are sent to the imperial prison only because the wizard is low on test subjects. The nefarious activi­ties that occur in the compound are yet to be revealed.

Adventure Hooks

Wrongful Imprisonment. The characters have been arrested and transported to the imperial prison. They have been singled out by the authorities as rabble-rous­ers or rebels. Whether these accusations are accurate or not depends on the characters’ recent deeds and the GM’s interpretation. The characters, gagged and blind­folded, are moved to area 8 where they must plan their escape before they are tortured or interrogated (0 XP).

Prison Break. Adam Kirks, the son of a noble is cap­tive in the imperial prison. There is a large reward for freeing this man. There are rumors about inmates be­ing changed beyond recognition or disfigured by torture and interrogations. The characters plan to raid the pris­on and break their friend out. They must gain access to the underground compound to do so (50 gp, 4 XP).

Level 4 Adventure

  • Danger. Risky. Check for a Random Event every 2 crawling rounds and after loud noises (3-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Some areas have braziers with permanent light spells; the rest are dark. No denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Speed Alarm. Creatures moving at full speed within the underground compound trigger a silent alarm that alerts the prison warden in area 3. Characters can pre­vent this by spotting the speed sensors on some ceilings and inspecting them with a detect magic
1 Two guards approach the party’s location. The armored guards are distracted and only carry daggers.
2 All personnel end their shifts and abandon their posts. For 1 crawling round, the prison guards move toward the keep to return home. The prison is unguarded for 1 crawling round before the new shift arrives.
3 A ghost appears before the party. The former criminal claims his body was used for nefarious experiments nearby and begs the party to bury his remains (area 10).
4 Three zombies escape the laboratory and are on the loose. They have no loyalties and may attack the guards.
5 A shattering roar can be heard through the walls. Its or­igin and nature remain a mystery. It was the abominate, undead monster trapped in a cell in area 12.
6 The outline of a pressure plate obstructs passage, if trig­gered, an axe swings down. It deals 1d6 damage unless the target jumps out of the way quickly (DC 14 DEX).
7 A desperate, cudgel-wielding inmate escapes from area 11 and catches up with the party (Reaction check).
8 An arcane malfunction in the laboratory (area 10) causes all magic braziers to fizzle out for 1 crawling round.

Escaping the Prison

To facilitate the exploration of the prison compound, it is expected that the party begins their period of captivity in area 8. At least one of the characters is located elsewhere, the strongest are placed in the high-security cells (area 11). Regarding the gear the characters possessed when arrested, it is randomly split between the interrogation chamber (area 9) and the shelves and wooden crates in the prison landing (area 5).

1. Keep Gate

Two sets of 20-foot-tall wooden doors are the only way in or out of the keep. In between the sets of mahoga­ny doors, there are three sets of murder-holes that the guards are trained to take advantage of if required.

  • The Doors. The doors are reinforced with steel cor­ners and beams. A ram is required to break through them. Tools can bypass the locks (DC 15 DEX check).
  • The Holes. Each orifice is half-a-foot wide and al­lows the guards to attack with spears from the adjoining rooms. Only long, piercing weapons can be used as such.

2. Armory

The room contains enough weaponry and leather armor to equip a twenty-strong platoon. Most of the weapons are forged from iron and run-of-the-mill quality.

  • The Guards. Two guards are stationed here at all times, tasked with arming other staff in case of an attack. Their station is often boring and there is a 2-in-6 chance they are sleeping when the characters come.
  • Treasure (1 XP). The room contains ten spears, six longswords, seven shortswords, and ten sets of leather armor. It can all be sold for 10 gp wholesale.

3. Warden’s Office

The warden’s lavish office is decorated with embroi­dered rugs, oil paintings, and varnished furnishing.

Warden Gaston Knowles (knight) is usually here taking care of the paperwork and giving orders. He is a partic­ipant in the evil schemes that occur below but mostly looks the other way and pretends it is beyond him. The Warden fights only if cornered; he is prone to order the garrison to full alert and to rush for his horse and flee to Ardennia, the capital, if he is aware of a prison break.

  • The Documents. Inspecting the papers on shelves and the warden’s desk for 1 crawling round reveals ac­curate logs of inmates brought to the prison in the last 10 years. For at least 3 years, many convicts have been brought for petty reasons when the prison population drops below five inmates. The reasons remain unclear.
  • Treasure (4 XP). The locked chest (DC 14 DEX) be­hind the warden’s desk contains a leather sack with 450 sp, the checkpoint’s key, and a potion of healing.

4. Keep Checkpoint

An iron grating screen with a complex locking mech­anism divides the chamber. On the south side, a de­scending staircase leads into the underground areas.

This chamber is the only access to the prison below. Only the Warden (area 3) and the prison deputy (area 5), have the key to this grating gate but the lock can also be circumvented with fine tools (DC 14 DEX check).

5. Prison Landing and Cells

The prison deputy (thug) is behind the desk. Four guards keep an eye on the three communal cells. Each contains 2d3 new low-risk inmates (peasants). If freed, half of them may aid the party in their short-term goals.

  • Treasure (2 XP). The shelf contains stuff confiscated from inmates. A dagger, 10 gp, and a potion of vitality.

6. Kitchen and Larder

Cooks work endlessly to prepare meals for both the gar­rison and the inmate population. The food quality is con­siderably different between the two groups. Small char­acters can crawl up the smoke exhaust to the surface.

7. The Trap Room

The mostly-empty room contains two small shelves and an engraved rune in the center of the room.

Observant characters spot the shooting orifices on the walls (DC 14 WIS). Inspecting the floor for 1 crawling round reveals the machinery under the central floor tile.

  • Poison Darts. Stepping on the central tile causes a barrage of darts to shoot from the walls. All creatures in the area take 2d6 damage (DC 15 DEX for half).

8. Mid-Security Cells

There are elven cells in the room. Each with iron bars and a medium-quality lock (DC 14 DEX check). Some are littered with the bone remains of convicts who were left to die after extreme torture and forceful interroga­tions. A guard patrols the area once per hour. He carries the key to all cells in a keyring in his belt. A prisoner can pull him and take the keys by force (DC 14 STR), or nim­bly subtract the keys from him (DC 14 DEX check).

9. Interrogation Chamber

This chamber is filled with the grimmest torture devices. The floor is forever stained crimson in many spots from countless times blood has been spilled.

The deranged person in charge of torture and interroga­tion is a man named Xalter (thug). He works alone and enjoys inflicting untold misery upon the endless stream of prisoners that arrive at the imperial prison.

10. The Nefarious Laboratory

This chamber contains the strange arcane devices of Lord Vlanderberg, the court wizard. Fortunately, he is in the capital at this time. Two zombies and two apprentic­es perform errands that the court wizard left them.

  • The Work Table. The innards, organs, and skin of a hapless inmate are spread on the metal surface. The purpose of this baleful display remains obscure.
  • A spellcaster that inspects the parapher­nalia and the documents discovers that the purpose of these experiments is to detach body parts and reassem­ble them to form a hellish abomination (DC 13 INT).

11. High-Security Cells

These cells are in complete darkness and each features a high-quality lock (DC 15 DEX). Living inmates who have been used for arcane experiments are put here for the security of the staff and because they soon become mentally unstable. There are six people imprisoned here (peasants). Despite their poor mental state, they aid the characters if freed, at least in the short term.

12. The Ultimate Servant

Three vault-like chambers are found before the large iron-barred area. Two are empty but the northernmost one contains Lord Vlanderberg’s latest iteration of what he calls ‘the ultimate servant’. It is a twisted, 10-foot-tall zombie made from the bodies of at least twenty people. The mindless half-living creation is a zombie with these stat changes: HP 25, ATK 2 slams +4 (1d8), S +3 (LV 3).

The ultimate servant breaks from its vault-cell if any creature enters the large chamber in area 12. It then rushes there to attack. The mindless creature can be tricked into going toward area 10 and beyond and attack­ing the prison staff. It knows no limits nor master…

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