Saturday, July 13, 2013

In the Big House

Not long ago, this fascinating piece aired on NPR. It's about a prison in Venezuela that is run by the prisoners themselves. Yes, there are guards - but they only guard the outside to make sure no one unauthorized gets in or out. On the inside is an entire system of politics, economics, and hierarchy controlled completely by the inmates.

I was going to do a post, speculating about the different setting in which this could work, but then my regular gaming group started a discussion about our next game setting. So, this is what came out (with some minor edits).

CU-5028 is one of the Galactic Empire's remote penal colonies. It is a destination for all sorts of criminals from all ends of the galaxy. All sorts end up here, from cold-blooded killers to political opposition to lousy poets to tenant farmers who can't pay their debts. 
Several things make CU-5028 an ideal location for a penal colony. It supports a breathable atmosphere that can support standard forms of life and agriculture to sustain them. It also has a wealth of minerals that benefit both the local populace and the Empire at large. Most importantly, its highly charged ionosphere makes it impossible to get on or off except via the space elevator that connects to a single space port. 
While there is a contingent of government officials, the planet is run by the prisoners. A small garrison is present to protect the space port, and the number of prisoners on planet at any given time is tightly regulated. 
Touchstones: Firefly, Star Wars, any dystopian future, Australia's criminal history, Venezuelan prisons. (I was tempted to toss in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but I feel that our group would naturally take it there anyway.)

I'm dying to add more detail, but as a group we agreed to limit world-building until we decide on a setting and can do it collaboratively. I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about this, though.


  1. Clearly Escape from New York should be at the top of the touchstone list.