I've been slowly working my way through the complete set of The Twilight Zone episodes on DVD.
Obviously, it's great stuff. The Twilight Zone was an oasis of nightmare in the vast ocean of bland, safe, comfortable, folksy, and wholesome mid-century television.
I can remember watching my first episode of the show way, way back... I'm not sure how old I was, probably single digits. My parents had taken me to a furniture store so they could look for a sofa or something. There were a dozen or so TV sets in a nearby section of the store. I just sat down in front of one of them and started watching this strange but engaging black and white show.
That episode was "To Serve Man". Since that fateful day, I've watched over a hundred episodes of The Twilight Zone. I thought I had seen them all, though I knew instinctively there would be a handful of episodes I'd never seen. Sure enough, yesterday I came across "Five Characters in Search of an Exit". I'd seen images, but never the episode itself.
It was fantastic; simplistic, yet provocative and disturbing, while predating both Toy Story and Cube. It struck me that it would also make for an interesting, weird encounter. So, here goes...
The adventurers come across a metal canister about half the size of a dwarf. The canister is made out of gray metal and is round as one would expect. The top is sealed, sort of like a hatch. There are hinges, seven pin-sized holes, and a viewing glass in the center.
Peering into the glass, one sees five dolls laying at the bottom of the canister, each toy figure about 6" tall. After a couple minutes of looking, one can determine that the dolls are sculpted and dressed as a clown, hobo, ballet dancer, Scotsman playing the bagpipes, and an Army major.
Opening the hatch is quite easy. Once the canister is open, the toys seemingly move and speak on their own. They ask a lot of questions (such as "Who are we?", "How did we get here?", and "Can you let us out?"), but can answer almost nothing. The living dolls have no memory other than being trapped within the curved metal walls of their prison for some time.
The GM can come up with his own reason for why a jester, tramp, ballerina, bagpipe player, and soldier are alive and were placed within the canister. However, I've provided a little table for randomly rolling.
Who Are They and Why Are They Here?
1. All five are living beings scooped from space/time, shrunk down to doll size, and imprisoned within the canister by an evil wizard who specializes in dimensional magic. He's going to sell them once he returns from his latest trip to 20th century Earth.
2. These five dolls were sculpted out of enchanted clay by a talented toy maker. The toy maker is keeping them inside the canister until his patron, Lord Bargerry, can claim them. Lord Bargerry bought the toy maker, Silas Anklecorn, the magic clay. Lord Bargerry plans on using the dolls for amusement in his castle... at least until he grows bored of them.
3. The five dolls were created by a powerful demon. The demon needed facsimiles of people in which to imprison various souls. Those souls reside within the various dolls. The clown, hobo, ballet dancer, Scotsman with bagpipes, and Army major will reside in the canister until released by the PCs. Once freed, they will grow to a normal human size until, one by one, they are dragged into Hell by crimson and orange tentacles of flame.
4. The five characters are part of a madman's dream. The madman is sleeping upon an arcane sigil in some nearby temple or dungeon. He dreamt of these individuals trapped within a canister and that's the sole reason for their existence. The real question is will they disappear into oblivion when the lunatic wakes up (assuming he ever awakens). Taking that line of inquiry a step further, are the PCs also fictional characters within the confines of this madman's nightmare?
Authored by Venger Satanis