I'm preparing for my first time as a DM in D&D 5e (as a player I have gotten to level 4 in 3 campaigns so I have a good grasp of the game, in my group everyone wants to have a go as DM and as players so we switch campaigns a lot).
My plan is to have a gladiator style story in a Roman-empire–type world. For the first session I was planning to have the players be captured1 and forced to fight in an arena from which they should escape2. From there they will have to flee to another empire. (Which empire they flee to and which route they take should give me enough to build a real story on and give them some influence over the story.)
1 How do I go about capturing the players?
Do I tell them before they make their background? It might make certain things easier example:
It would make sense for "the Romans" to confiscate some equipment which they haven't even used, that would be quite annoying. Should I just tell them to not prepare equipment, because it was confiscated?
On the other hand it could be quite fun as well to at the start of the session begin with a short story about how each player was captured and how they will have to fight against other prisoners.
Or should I maybe make it a real combat encounter? But for this I would have to make sure it is an unfair fight which sounds like a bad idea.
2 Main question: How do I make sure they escape?
My story relies on them escaping otherwise they would just be stuck in an arena for the entire campaign. I don't want to make this trivially easy but I still need to make sure it happens. The only thing I can think of is to provide many many was for them to escape:
- They could kill a guard guarding the gate while fighting in the arena, this would be a very public way to escape which could have some side-effects, like civilians helping or attacking them.
- They could steal the keys from a guard while he sleeps (maybe with the help of something like mage hand).
- And as a final backup: they could win their freedom as prize for winning if they just can't figure out they're supposed to escape.
Is there a better way to do this? Do I have enough opportunities to escape? Both real options seem quite miss-able. (Do you have any other ideas? Just letting the jailer forget to lock their cell seems kinda lame.)