You can take prisoners at the end of most battles or sieges. Some fights do not allow the option, such as freeing a village from bandits or attacking a bandit lair. Not only troops can be captured, but lords and monarchs too, as well as unique spawns leaders.
You can only capture the enemies who have been knocked unconscious through the use of blunt weapons (horse charging is also blunt damage). Very rarely, sharp weapons may result in wounding, due to reasons unknown (possibly the surgery skill on the opposite side). Once you have taken prisoners, you may recruit them to your party, ransom them to Red Brotherhood agents or Ramun the Slave Trader (found in taverns in cities), or garrison them in a city. Also, if the enemy has prisoners, after defeating him the player is allowed to get these prisoners to his army, and trade them for theirs (if he lacks party room). This feature only applies to non-elite troops (nearly all troops with level 39 and lower, except for the Noldor Warrior)
Sending your troops into battle without you will very often result in wounding enemy troops, which can be useful if on a quest to capture enemy soldiers.
Prisoners can be a great source of money if you have high Prisoner Management, or a city or castle to store them in. If you have a city, you can put all your prisoners in it until a ransom broker appears in your tavern. If you have no city but have higher prisoner management, you can travel around capturing prisoners and selling them as you find ransom brokers. If you have a castle, you can check nearby cities until you find a broker, and then convey your prisoners to his location.
Your Prisoner Management skill governs how many prisoners you can take at a time: 10 for every point. The skills base attribute is charisma.
Prisoners are considered party members for the sake of calculating speed, thus the amount and speed of prisoners can result in increasing or decreasing Party Speed. You may want to avoid dragging around low value infantry, while keeping mounted prisoners around for a bit longer.
Certain troops can't be knocked unconscious, meaning they can't be captured. These include:
- All undead troops
- Elite Snake Cult troops: Serpent Priestess, Azi Dahaka Serpent Priestess, Anaconda Knight
- Heretic pseudo-leaders: Seeress, Eyegrim the Devourer
You can talk to Noldor prisoners for an option to release them for 1 renown and +1 relationship with the Noldor.
For captured lords and monarchs, every 24 hours there is a 5% chance that the kingdom from which they come will offer a good deal of denars to get the prisoner released, this amount depends on how important the lord is and the overall wealth of the kingdom; refusing this will result in loss of honor, but will prevent them from raising a new army for as long as they are held captive.
You can also talk to the prisoner directly (while they are in your party) for an option to immediately get a ransom and release the prisoner. This is recommended if you do not have a walled fief to detain the prisoner in, as they will likely escape anyway.
You can still capture a lord without using the Prisoner Management skill. If your prisoner capacity is reached, the lord will still be captured, possibly overfilling your max capacity (e.g. 6/5).
Prisoner heroes (monarchs, unique spawn leaders and vassals) will attempt to escape captivity every 48 hours, their chance of success is dependent on where you are holding them. Prisoner Management reduces the escape chance. The escape check occurs for all prisoners at once, at fixed intervals, so if the timing is wrong a lord can escape right after you capture him. Chances:
- In field: 40% base escape chance, with a 2% reduction for every point in Prisoner Management on your character.
- In walled fief: 20% base escape chance, with a 1% reduction for every point of the steward's Prisoner Management skill.
- In walled fief with Prison Tower: 10% base escape chance, with a 0.5% reduction for every point of the steward's Prisoner Management skill.
These chances are only for you and your kingdom (if you own it, if you joined a faction it will only affect you). For other kingdoms and minor factions, escape chances are way lower, but they are not affected by Prisoner Management skill, being 5% if they are in field, 2% if they are in a walled fief and 0.5% if they are on a walled fief with prisoner tower.
If you keep the captive nobles as your prisoners while you travel, you will notice that they gain the + symbol next to their name, like they have leveled up. Although this means that the noble has an unused skill point available, there is no way to upgrade their skills as you are not the captured lord's monarch.
Due these high escape chances, it is recommended the player talks to these when they are captured and take the deal of money they offer, as risking to wait for a better offer will likely result on him fleeing, rewarding the player with nothing.
Note: Hireable mercenary companies' leaders can't be captured, they will always escape.
Monarchs work the same way as nobles, but PoP adds a feature that may trigger when the kingdom of the monarch is weak (it has 6 or less walled fiefs, and player must be monarch), a special option will show up when talking to him when being your prisoner. This option trades his unique weapon in exchange for his freedom, but this will reduce your relations with that monarch by 40 and with his kingdom by 5.
The leaders of the unique spawns can be captured, their capture chance relies on your Prisoner Management Skill level, by 5% per level, from 40% at 0, up to a max of 90% capture chance at 10. They are considered as Nobles (you can pick them up even when no space is left for them), but they have an unique dialogue and options:
- Freeing him for a large pouch of diamonds.
- Freeing him for a Qualis Gem.
- Tell him to leave and never return (player gets 3 honor and 5 renown).
- Some leaders can be freed in exchange of unlocking CKO equipment related to them, to know which leaders offer this unlock and what they unlock, check Custom Knighthood Order Unlockable Equipment.
- Kill him (player loses 5 honor and 5 renown)
The 3rd and 5th option will ensure the unique spawn not spawning again. The 3rd one is suggested unless the player needs negative honor to join the Order of Eventide.
If you are a monarch and have sufficiently good relations with a captured lord, they will offer to defect to your faction if you talk to them. This is a potentially easy way to get good personality lords, and they can sometimes even bring their fiefs with them.
The formula for the required relationship is:
- 15 base
- Campaign AI setting: +0 on Poor, +5 on Average, +10 on Good
- +1 for each castle or village owned by lord's faction, +2 for each city
- -1 for each castle or village owned by player's faction, -2 for each city
- -1 for each point in Persuasion skill
You can rescue captured lords of a neutral or friendly kingdom from your enemies in two ways. The first is to simply defeat the lord that took them prisoner in battle so long as he has not put them into a dungeon yet, this will automatically free the captured lord and you will gain a small bonus in relation with them.
If the lord is being held captive in a hostile walled fief, you can sneak into the fief, knock out the prison guard (this can be very difficult in cities where you may find yourself surrounded by up to 4 high-tier troops, in a confined space, wielding only robes and a quarterstaff) then enter the prison and tell the captured lord that you're there to rescue him. This may become easier by bribing a village belonging to that city/castle to start a fire. The fire will start in one hour or at midnight by your choice, and most of the guards will be gone while fighting off the guards with the prisoner.
It is also possible to rescue lords from a castle or city if they are held by a faction that is neutral to you. This is more attractive than attempting to sneak past the guards as it allows you to retain your normal adventuring equipment, which makes fighting a half dozen guard units quite a bit easier. It raises your relationship by 5 with the rescued lord as well as increasing your relation by 2 points with his home faction. There is also honor associated with ending their incarceration. There are no negative effects with the ruling lord or faction. In addition, if the captive lord has relatives, you can speak to the relative to receive a quest to rescue the captive lord, further increasing your relationship, monetary, and experience gains. In total, this is one of the most effective ways to increase honor and relations as an unfactioned lord, and goes a long way towards building a future kingdom. Since troops are completely unnecessary it is best to just use a bare bones party of heroes and free all the lords possible. This is excluding the possibility of running into a hostile band.
Once you have gotten the lord out of prison (it is a good idea to tell him to fight together with you, then order him to hold his ground in a corner out of sight) you have to defeat all the troops in the city or castle, without letting the lord get knocked unconscious; this can be very tricky when there are a lot of archers around. If a lord is knocked unconscious you will have failed the rescue, and the game will tell you that he had to be left behind.
You cannot attempt a prison break in the same castle/city more than once every day, as the guards will instantly recognize you.
After capturing a castle or city, you may find ladies who failed to escape. You can talk to them and let them go free (+1 relationship), or hold them prisoner for ransom (loss of relationship and honor, profit if a deal is offered).
You may attempt to recruit prisoners into your party through the Camp menu once every 24 hours.
This may allow you to acquire a specific unit without having to train them yourself, or may give you a quick boost to your troop numbers. However, doing so comes at a cost to morale of -3 for every prisoner that accepts your offer. There is also a high chance that freshly recruited prisoners will desert your party within the following day, although this can easily be prevented by putting them into a garrison.
The chance of prisoners accepting the deal is based on your persuasion skill. 0 persuasion will have a success rate of 40%, every point increases the rate by 4% up to 80% at skill level 10.
When recruiting prisoners, the choice to join your party is not made by individual units, but rather a troop type. In other words, if you have 3 Snake Cult Followers as prisoners, you will either get 0 or 3 of them.
Troops of level 40 and above cannot be recruited from prisoners. The sole exception is the Noldor Warrior, who can't be recruited either, despite being only lvl 36.
Exploit: If you really want to recruit prisoners and have enabled quitting without saving, save before trying to recruit prisoners. The chance of prisoners joining you is completely random, so loading and trying again could make prisoner management pretty useful, considering you can recruit prisoners once a day.