The Big House
Built just off the coast of New York this prison was the brain child of Hank Pym. Officially it was called ‘Pym Experimental Penitentiary Number One’ but more it was more commonly referred to as the Big House.
It gained its name through the radical idea of shrinking the inmates, thus allowing for cheap construction, clothing and food with only a minimal staff required. Even if a prisoner did escape they would be too small to do any harm, in theory at least.
Prisoners were made up of a variety of super villains with a range of power levels. They were allowed to retain their costumes, many of them still wearing full masks. Their powers weren’t nullified, only contained behind force fields.
These force fields had a design flaw. When lowered to allow inmates in or out it took 19.5 seconds for the field to recharge. During this time the field could be breached, something the Mad Thinker used to his advantage to escape.
An on-site infirmary allowed treatment of the inmates medical needs. Microscope tools allowed the prison doctor to perform surgery on the shrunken prisoners. In extreme cases, where the work was to delicate the doctor could shrink himself using Pym gas to carry out the operation personally.
When receiving visitors prisoners sat in a specially designed booth, cameras blowing up the image or shrinking it to allow both parties to see each other as normal sized individuals.
There were those who questioned the legality of forcibly shrinking prisoners. There were also concerns that long term exposure to Pym Particles could lead to violent behaviour, multiple personalities and even cancer.
The Big House is another super-villain prison that can be used in a campaign. It is a logical way to keep villains, whose powers can’t be removed, contained. Heroes who need to get information from an inmate can enjoy the sight of their shrunken enemies.
A light-hearted adventure could focus on the staff there and how they deal with the tiny law-breakers. Pest control becomes very important when a rat eat a prisoner. The size difference also means that the guards can act tough in front of villains who have brought mighty heroes to their knees.
You might wish to explore the legal ramifications of the Big House. If it goes to the courts whose side will the PC heroes be on? There are strong arguments for both sides and the PCs actions could sway the verdict.
Villains could create their own version of the Big House, especially during Dark Reign. What will heroes do when the tables are turned and they find themselves shrunk and imprisoned?
You might also want to explore what other types of prisons Pym or other heroes could come up with. While Pym Particles are Hank’s most famous invention he also made progress in robotics and has encountered other forms of weird science that could be used in prisons.
Pym Particles Reduction Gas
Stored as a gas Pym Particles could rapidly shrink anyone exposed to them. The gas came in two varieties, one that would permanently shrink someone until the effects are reversed and another that would only shrink someone for a short time.
The antidote, Re-Enlarging gas, does make the subject grow but counteracts the shrinking effect. This ensures that those affected return to their normal size without fear of causing them to become giants.
Mass produced Pym Particles Reduction Gas might be used outside of The Big House. There are numerous commercial uses for the gas, especially in transportation where cargo could be shrunk while in transit.
It could also be used to reduce housing costs or shrink business premises. This could be a radical solution to the problem of overcrowding. Covert, terrorist and criminal organisations all might see the advantage in miniaturising their base of operations using the reduction gas.
The gas could be useful to anyone wishing to capture a group of targets. For law-enforcers and super heroes this could be a good tactic for dealing with large number of criminals in a single strike. Criminals could use the same method to aid in kidnapping or taking hostages.
Releasing the Reduction Gas in public areas could cause chaos. Everyday environments could become instantly dangerous. Weather, such as rain, snow and strong winds, all become potentially lethal when you’re only a few inches high.
There are variety of ways that the Reduction Gas could be used and abused in a campaign. When not being used as a hazard or threat you could allow player characters, especially those with a connection to Hank Pym, to Unlock its use to deal with giant threats such as alien invaders or Fin Fang Foom.
In game terms what do you do when a character has been shrunk? The easiest way to represent their size being diminished is to reduce the dice size of powers that work off their physical body while leaving other abilities unaffected.
Shrink the Thing to the size of an action figure and his Godlike Strength of D12 might only be a D6 while Shadowcat’s Intangibility of D10 remains the same no matter how small she is shrunk.
Size-changing and stretching abilities could be used to counter-act the effects of the gas. For example it is conceivable that a shrunken Mr Fantastic could stretch himself to appear normal sized, although he’d be unable to stretch any further.
In these instances their power is nullified while any complications due to their size are ignored. The moment they stop using their power in this way they can once again add it to any dice pools but accept the disadvantages of their reduced stature.
A ‘Shrunk’ complication could be applied, making tasks more difficult and opponents present more of a threat, the size of the dice used representing just how small they are. When player characters use their small size to their advantage they should be able to add the complication dice to their roll.
It is not always obvious if a power should be diminished if a character is shrunk. Is the lightening that Thor summons any less damaging if he was tiny? Should movement powers be reduced because the character has more space to cover relative to their size?
Ultimately this is a decision that needs to be made between the players and the games master. What makes the most sense for your group and for the story? In some instances the offer of Plot Points can sway the argument.
Shrunken characters should work together, their numbers compensating for their reduced powers. This is where support actions and creating assets becomes important. Opponents will find it hard to defend against multiple attackers or strike against such tiny assailants.
Shrinking characters can make for an interesting twist to an adventure, up-scaling or reducing the threats faced. Foiling a bank robbery wouldn’t normally trouble the Avengers unless they were all only a few inches tall and Spider-Man might be able to deal with Annihilus and his hordes single-handed if they emerge from the Negative zone the size of insects.
Even familiar locations can be turned into adventures when the PCs are shrunk. Consider the trouble that tiny heroes might get into within the Avengers of X-Men mansions. Could a bug-sized Spider-Man make it out alive from the Daily Bugle?