So, your character was arrested and thrown in the dungeon. Now what?
Being locked up in a dungeon is a common trope of fantasy fiction that usually leads to some clever escape followed by suitable revenge. Entire stories can be built around the concept of incarceration.
But not many D&D stories.
When characters get captured they're expected to escape pretty quickly and rolls are often fudged to make that happen. OK...no fudging. But those rolls can fail. Then it's time for the Deus Ex Machina and here comes that faithful NPC to save the day....
D&D really isn't set up for PCs to be prisoners. But if you want that kind of grit somewhere in your campaign, my suggestion is to handle it...between...adventures. How exactly the PC's find themselves imprisoned is largely up to your campaign. It's also a great way to start a campaign...
The tables below assume that the PC was in a captive state and recently gained freedom. Follow the tables as needed and as makes sense to your campaign. Some results may be contradictory, so use common sense.
Reason for capture/arrest: (roll 1d12) All include a sentencing modifier to be used a few steps below (modify these as you see fit.)
- Theft: You were caught stealing. (-3)
- Murder: You killed someone(s). (+3)
- Heresy/Witchcraft: You were spreading heretical views, worshiping the wrong deity, or blaspheming. (+1)
- Debt: You owe large sums and time is up. (-3)
- Prisoner of War: Doesn't necessarily have to happen during a war, but enemy combatants captured you. (+2)
- Arson: This has always been frowned upon. (+1)
- High Treason: You betrayed your King. (+4)
- Disorderly Conduct: Covers anything from drunken behavior to brawling to vandalism. (-3)
- Vagrancy: Apparently homeless, unproductive people weren't treated so well in the Middle Ages. (-3)
- Assault: This includes attempted murder / rape. (+2)
- Espionage: You were captured in enemy territory and are considered a spy. (+4)
- Debauchery: Strict times; use your imagination. (+0)
- Lawful (good): +3
- Neutral: +2
- Chaotic (evil): +0
What type of trial? Roll 1d4.
- Trial by Manorial Court or Inquisition. (some sort of jury or counsel)
- Trial by King's Court. (I am the law!)
- Trial by Combat. (in this case the PC loses the fight)
- Trial by Ordeal. (usually some form of torture searching for a confession and for the sake of this exercise the PC survived)
What was the sentence? Roll 1d8.
How did you gain your freedom? Roll 1d6.
- Comfortable Confinement. (access to friends and family)
- Public Humiliation. (such as the Pillory, often you would sleep in a cell at night)
- Hard Labor. (crushing rocks, digging, etc.)
- Confinement. (a dungeon full of prisoners)
- Slavery. (roll 1d6, if you roll a 5-6 you were sold to a gladiatorial arena)
- Solitary Confinement. (your own dark dungeon cell)
- Mutilation. (such as losing a hand)
- Death. (hanging, beheading, etc.)
Other than Death and maybe Mutilation, how long was your sentence to be? (roll 1d8) Add the sentencing modifier from above, no result can be less than 1.
- 1d4 weeks.
- 1d4 months.
- 2d6 months.
- 1 year.
- 1d4 years.
- 2d6 years.
- 2d6+6 years.
- Served your full sentence. (Obviously serving 10 years (or death) could upend your campaign, so feel free to re-roll this result.) Also, if your sentence was death and you want to be radical, you could make the character come back as undead.
- You were granted mercy.
- Someone paid a ransom for your freedom. (Perhaps an organization, church, or kingdom you are loyal too and they expect devotion for this...)
- You escaped. (Once per session from now on, there is a 35% chance that hunters will track you down and try to recapture you. This drops by 5% every session as they will eventually forget about you.)
- You were offered a shady deal in exchange for freedom. (You are now tasked with something nefarious such as assassination. If you don't complete this task, they will know...)
- Divine Intervention. (Something crazy happened, earthquake, flood, your cell door just opened, or you simply woke up one day somewhere else and perhaps later received a divine mission.)
Price paid for incarceration. (Whatever ill effects you suffered will remain in affect until you gain a level, at which point you will be back to your regular self.) Roll 1d6.
- You contracted a Disease that has so weakened you that your maximum Hit Points are lowered by 15%.
- Malnourished. You have lost 1d2 points of Strength and 1d2 points of Dexterity.
- Broken mind. You lose 1d4 points of Intelligence.
- Physically scarred, lose 1d4 points of Charisma. When you gain a level the scars remain, but you have learned to use them to your benefit.
- Infected. You are plagued by a chronic cough. Lose 1d4 points of Constitution.
- Defeated. Lose 1d4 points of Wisdom.
Due to fines, legal fees, confiscation, bribery, or just plain old corruption, whatever wealth the PC had accumulated up until their incarceration is reduced by a % roll (eg., if you roll 27, you have lost 27% of all your wealth.)
Unexpected benefits from incarceration. Roll 1d6.
Unexpected benefits from incarceration. Roll 1d6.
- After multiple escape attempts, you learned a little something about lock-picking. Gain lock-picking abilities equivalent to a 1st level thief, or 1 level higher if you are a thief.
- You found faith. Gain the ability to cast a 1st level cleric spell as a 1st level caster 1/day.
- You thought that you'd entered a state of insanity, but in fact, you have been communing with an outer intelligence. Gain one randomly determined 1st level wizard spell that you can cast 1/day.
- You became used to grimy living conditions and now have a +2 bonus vs. poison/disease.
- After regular scraps with other inmates/guards your fighting prowess has improved by +1.
- Pain fazes you no more. Gain 1d4 permanent Hit Points.