You may have noticed that the Knights of Reignsborough are gearing up for another season. They have released several new Actual Plays for your listening enjoyment. My favorite so far has been Rogues of Reignsborough: Escape from Dauger Island. Listening to the players deal with the prison environs was very entertaining but it highlighted for me the amount of work that goes into creating a prison for a supers game. I can be a lazy gm at times, and I turn to the internet for answers for these labor intensive design issues. It did not disappoint.
The Big House is a complete prison for any super hero role playing game. It was written by Roman Drum of Scaldcrow Games. The book itself is mechanics neutral. It utilizes a simple system for describing relative power levels of things throughout the book. It represents danger with skulls that range from 1 to 3 and experience by crosses that range from 1 to 5. There is also a value assignment chart which provides a rough guideline for a bit more defined way of looking at descriptors throughout the book. This makes it for much easier time when running a game. It provides a nice guideline for building up whichever piece from the book that you deem important while giving a well rounded feel to everything else.
The majority of the book is a rundown of the prison from a top-down perspective. It begins with an overview of the facility including manufacturer, staffing, capacity and physical resources. From here, the reader is taken on a trip throughout the prison. The book provides enough information on the processes that are involved in running the prison to provide several story hooks without ever really calling them out directly. The prisoner transport system itself is a wonderful place to insert problems. Prisoners and personnel are brought into the facility via teleport pads. An adventure where a group of villains is brought in unhampered is the simplest means of exploiting this design. Hell, just shutting the transport pads down and laying siege to the prison creates an interesting scenario. This style of description permeates the book. Each section of prison operations and layout presents obvious points for exploitation.
If that wasn’t enough, a section of plot hooks is also provided. Roman presents them in a story arc fashion. He takes a certain feature from the prison description and provides a short synopsis of how to turn it into a more lengthy story arc. My favorite of these involves the power control drug Pretanaught. The drug is starting to fail and a new variation is in the works. The player characters just have to keep things under control until the version is ready. A simple story line with many directions in which to travel.
I only have one minor quibble with the book. It could use more maps. There is just the one map of the cell blocks over all but no real look at the compound from an aerial perspective. It is not a necessary addition but I think it would have given a more complete view of the prison. Quibble aside, this is an excellent resource for someone running their own super hero game. You can pick up the book and drop the prison into your setting. All you have to do is adjust the grit to fit your taste.