Prison Architect

Prison Architect

This image was made by MoskiDraws:

Justice is unfair for you, not enough tough on the criminals, or you want to promote a new way to consider the prisoners, then Prison Architect is the game you need!

In this video game, you are the warden of a prison and will decide of everything.

First, if you like the featured image of this post, consider visiting the Deviant Art page of its creator, Memoski.

I always loved strange games: Carmageddon, Postal 2, Slender Man, Sanitarium, The Forest… So it was obvious I had to buy Prison Architect.


Indie games have this thing triple-A will never have, strong choices!

At first, the graphics of Prison Architect may seem quite bad because you are not used to this type of design.

The isometric view is well-known if you are over 25 years old, and the construction part is like any builder (Sim City, Tropico, Sims…).

The different part is about the characters. These not-detailed round or stick men you only distinguish by their color: blue = guards, grey = low security inmates, orange = medium security…

But just play Prison Architect and you will learn to love the graphics. The characters design is really sufficient for the purpose of the game and allowed the developers to create some very violent situations (gang wars, murders…) without developing a too weird game or a banned one.


I couldn’t write something about the atmosphere before the graphics since the first were very well chosen to create the second.

The simple design of Prison Architect allowed the developers to focus on what is essential in a prison game: action and interaction.

Of course this is a construction game, you build walls (either concrete or brick walls), electric cable, put doors, phone booths… An important part of the game is about construction and management, but this is not a cold city builder (by the way I love Sim City 4, the last real city builder!).

The main part of the game is about humans. You have low, medium, and maximum security prisoners, standard guards, armed guards, K-9 guards, cooks, janitors…

Your inmates come with their past and some will only think about escaping from your prison while others will, if you offer them the chance to, follow courses to become respectable people when released.

A lot of your prisoners will also make contraband, either for cigarettes, alcohol, a knife or some tools.

Your choices and the choices of your prisoners will create an authentic feeling in each game. You want to play tough, your inmates may be tougher than you and you will end up with a riot and several dead guards. You play soft and kind, and this is no longer be a prison but rather a summer camp where your prisoners will make contraband, have a lot of freetime and learn new skills.

This is the real asset of Prison Architect, the atmosphere and the unpredictability of your prisoners and of the consequences of your choices.

Micro-management is the rule if you want to develop a huge and realistic prison handling with several type of prisoners.

Savage Worlds

If you want a science-fiction prison starter for a campaign, I advise you to give a try to my setting Dead Space Savage Worlds 😉

But some of you may want to play a contemporary one-shot and here you can find some tips to create a good prison, interesting guards and inmates, for your players.


To build a simple prison, here are some materials toughness:

Perimeter wall: 16 / explosion
Fence with barbwire: 8 / cutting, explosion
Concrete wall: 14 / explosion
Jail door: 10 / blunt, explosion
Solitary door: 12 / explosion

To climb the fence, you have to be helped, someone has to give you a leg up.
You can’t climb the perimeter wall unless you have a grappling hook with a 6 meters long rope.

In the prison, the guards can surveil you with several tools:

Search: Either yourself or your cell, a guard makes a Notice roll. A 4 means a success for normal objects and a 6 is a success for small objects. Only one guard do the roll.
Metal detectors: To add some luck, the metal detectors make a Notice roll (D12+2) each time an inmate walks through. 4 is a success for any metal object.
CCTV camera: A guard is always looking at all the cameras at the same time, so you can have some luck. If the guard can see you doing something forbidden, he does a Notice roll. A 6 is a success for patent actions, a 8 for hidden actions.
Dogs: Dogs are very efficient to find drugs and tunnels. They do a Notice roll (D10) and find drugs with a 4, tunnels with a 6.


Your prison should have 1 Chief (who could also be the Warden for a very badass prison), and 1 armed guard for around 10 normal guards.
A low security prison / wing would have 1 guard for 5 inmates, a medium security one 1 for 4, and a high security 1 for 3.


Agility D6 /  Smarts D8 / Spirit D6  / Strenght D6 / Vigor D6
Pace 6 / Parry 6 / Toughness 5 / Charisma +1
Fighting D8 / Intimidation D10 / Notice D12 / Persuasion D8 / Shooting D8 / Taunt D8
Equipment: A baton / a Taser (Vigor roll, with a 8 nothing a 6 Shaken, a 4 inconscious)
2 Edges.


Agility D6 /  Smarts D4 / Spirit D4  / Strenght D6 / Vigor D6
Pace 6 / Parry 5 / Toughness 5 / Charisma 0
Fighting D6 / Intimidation D6 / Notice D10 / Persuasion D4 / Shooting D6 / Taunt D4
Equipment: A baton

Armed guards:

Agility D8 /  Smarts D4 / Spirit D4  / Strenght D6 / Vigor D6
Pace 6 / Parry 5 / Toughness 5 / Charisma 0
Fighting D6 / Intimidation D6 / Notice D10 / Persuasion D4 / Shooting D10 / Taunt D4
Equipment: A baton / a Pump-Action Shotgun
1 Edge.


If you want a prison full of gang members and have some rules about racism (which often sadly comes with gangs), you will find it in my post about Training Day.

Minimum security:

Agility D4 /  Smarts D4 / Spirit D4  / Strenght D4 / Vigor D4
Pace 6 / Parry 4 / Toughness 4 / Charisma 0
Fighting D4 / Notice D4 / Persuasion D4 / Taunt D4

Medium security:

Agility D4 /  Smarts D6 / Spirit D4  / Strenght D6 / Vigor D6
Pace 6 / Parry 5 / Toughness 5 / Charisma 0
Fighting D6 / Intimidation D4 / Notice D6 / Persuasion D6 / Shooting D4 / Taunt D6
Equipment: Quite often a spoon, a sharpened pencil or cigarette pack.
1 Hindrance

Maximum security:

Agility D6 /  Smarts D8 / Spirit D6  / Strenght D8 / Vigor D8
Pace 6 / Parry 6 / Toughness 6 / Charisma 0
Fighting D8 / Intimidation D6 / Notice D8 / Persuasion D8 / Shooting D6 / Taunt D8
Equipment: Quite often a real knife, a dangerous tool or some drugs.
1 Edge and 2 Hindrances

If you to put some Top Maximum security prisoners, for example with mental illness, you will find some rules in my posts about Fight Club and Split.

I hope it will help you to create a good prison and a real challenge for your players. For a fantazy setting, some spells can replace the metal detectors and the cameras, and of course the equipment change, but the rules are rather the same.


I love role-playing games. I love to create, write and bring fun around a table. I also like web development, horror stuff, TV shows, video games, Stephen King's books...

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