Scene 1: The Cell
All prisoners have base stats set at 8, before lineage adjustment. Our four players each play their first choice character. Shackled among them are half a dozen complete NPCs and four “1st drop” NPCs who are the second choice character.
The Cell challenges players to be cooperative, control or manage NPCs (three of whom are real doozies) and take on simple tasks that commoners could manage, given the right background.
It helps that all first choice have dark vision, so we don’t need ‘voices in the dark’ to work out who can do what.
Countdown: The prisoners learn they have four hours before slavers load them for their life in the mines. I don’t actually know an effective way to signal time passing in D&D, so I linked my private countdown to task attempts and penalties for being caught and beaten. I think the urgency communicated itself.
Resources: I pre-rolled “what has it got in it pocketses precious?” assuring the first choices of some useful bits and pieces. And some useless ones as well! Using spectacle wire to pick locks sounds great, but angry farmer guy tries to free himself, messing the wire up after taking a long time.
They then discover that a corpse lying near the burly half-orc at the end covers a hole. Just using fingertips (as opposed to removing footwear and using toes) gains them a fine dagger. Some of them can pick locks with it, but arrogant bard guy gives the game away. A guard confiscates the dagger.
They next realize that almost anything could be hidden in the layers of muck they are sitting in. A huge stroke of luck – the gnome in the corner (who has also identified a possible weak brick next to him, and taken serious cuts trying to use a broken piece of glass) finds a proper purse with brass clips.
As time passes Everyone, even the annoying ones, are freed. The burly half-orc is stabbed by junky pre-med girl, but he is so tough it makes little difference! They discover, luckily in time, that the loose brick option will cause a shelf next door to come crashing down, so that’s abandoned.
The next plan is to use the guards’ willingness to beat prisoners in their favor. Get one in then jump him. This is risky but time is ticking. Then, a stroke of luck! The laziest guard checks on them and uses the bars of the cell as a back massage device. They leap forward with belt ready – but they are too weak to carry out the attack properly and all of them are soundly beaten. Fanatical priestess has use her last miracle by this time and she joins the growing death toll.
Scene 2: The prison
Finally with time narrowing to the final hour they manage to use the last piece of brass clasp to pick the cell door lock. Time to check left and right.
Unluckily checking left brings the scout into spore range of a myconid-infected prisoner and the resulting sneezes bring guards running. Though feigning dead the half-orc becomes really dead at this point. All players are now on their second choice characters.
All is not lost though – they are still free, and use fatalistic leper guy as a human weapon, forcing the guards back into their own ready-room! The speed with which they advance – more or less ignoring other doors now – gets them past the failsafe second set of bars!
With the guards at least temporarily stowed, they (and surviving NPCs junky pre-med girl and fatalistic leper guy) disable the alarm gong and head outside, into next session!