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KevLar
2008-12-17, 06:10 AM
Book of Vile Darkness, page 37.
That's one option. It uses the Intimidate skill rolled by the torturer, with a circumstance bonus from the torturing device. So, to resist torture, you roll a level check, plus wisdom modifier, plus any modifiers versus fear. If you are immune to fear, you're untouchable.

It's a quite solid method, I'm not arguing that. But say I want the fear factor to be relevant, but not decisive. Say I want to simulate the situation where nothing scares you (you're a paladin, for example), but you get to a point where you simply can't stand the pain. It's only human (and any other species that feels pain - not all do). : Never mind that part, I was talked out of it.

EDIT---
Here's what the rules don't cover: determination. It's one thing being interrogated, under torture, to reveal the whereabouts of an enemy of the state who is a stranger to you, and quite another to reveal the whereabouts of a partner, a dear friend, a son. If you are affiliated to an organization by chance or whim, you wouldn't mind revealing their activities. But if you have joined a cause you are adamant about, it's different. There should be some kind of modifier representing that. The Giant's Diplomacy variant comes to mind, where Relationship (ranging from Intimate to Nemesis) can alter a roll from -10 to +10. Not at all negligible, and for a good reason.
---EDIT

What house rule could I use? A will save seems rational, but with natural 1s counting as failures, everyone will eventually fail the check if it's repeated too many times, which is to be expected.

I'm toying with the idea of a save that determines success or failure over a period of time (as opposed to every smack), where the amount of failure (5 below the DC, 10 below the DC etc) determines how long it will take you to break. Not sure if I like it. I'm also at a loss about the appropriate DC and modifiers.

Goals:
1) Verisimilitude
In reality, scores of ordinary people have resisted torture for months, out of sheer determination and belief to a higher cause. (Trust me when I say this, I have read endless accounts and talked to several of them personally.) And I'm not talking about heroes and warriors, I'm talking about students and housewives. (Hence, I'm very reluctant to use a level check. At all.) Others have cracked in minutes, but if there is indeed a higher cause, well damn, they are fewer than those who didn't. How the hell do you represent that, mechanically?

2) Playability
I wouldn't want this to be like a trap you just solve with a Disable Device roll. I'd like some room for roleplaying. Somehow. To be honest, I can't imagine how, at the moment.

What does the Playground think? Feasible? Lost cause? Other ideas??

Thanks in advance. :)

kamikasei
2008-12-17, 06:15 AM
It's a quite solid method, I'm not arguing that. But say I want the fear factor to be relevant, but not decisive. Say I want to simulate the situation where nothing scares you (you're a paladin, for example), but you get to a point where you simply can't stand the pain. It's only human (and any other species that feels pain - not all do).

A comment on this: it's only human to eventually be unable to deal with pain, but on the other hand it's inhuman to be totally immune to fear. Inflict enough pain on a paladin and maybe their mind will break, but they will never fear further pain, so won't do what the torturer wants to get them to withold it.

Basically it seems to me that, given a person truly immune to fear, you can torture them to insanity but not to compliance.

Inspectre
2008-12-17, 06:58 AM
I'd say don't bother with designing rules at all and leave it in the realm of roleplaying.

If it's villians on PCs, have the villian approach the PCs and say "Look, I know you are all tough guys. But if you don't tell me what I want to know, I'm going to inflict lasting bodily harm on you." Threaten them with cutting off limbs, tearing out eyes . . . introducing them to the level-drainning undead donwstairs. And then carry those threats out. Most players will squeal like pigs upon seeing that. :smallbiggrin: And if not, hey, they're real heroes to continue resisting right? Of course, you'll probably want there to be a way they can go on a quest or some such after their inevitable escape that will fix whatever nasty injuries they've sustained. But make them endure the consequences first. :smallwink:

If its PCs on villians, just determine what information this guy knows, and roleplaying him appropriately. If he's a craven coward, he'll probably spill the beans as soon as the party rogue pulls out a knife. If it's the bad guy's hardened lieutenant, he probably isn't going to tell the PCs squat, or maybe feed them information for a trap, unless *you* the DM want it to go differently. :smallwink:

KevLar
2008-12-17, 07:22 AM
A comment on this: it's only human to eventually be unable to deal with pain, but on the other hand it's inhuman to be totally immune to fear. Inflict enough pain on a paladin and maybe their mind will break, but they will never fear further pain, so won't do what the torturer wants to get them to withold it.
Umm... I can't argue that, actually. :) You are right.
I've edited the first post, above. I still have a problem with the BoVD mechanics, and I've narrowed it down to factoring in determination.

@Inspectre:
Personally, I have no problem with what you're suggesting. But some people I know would scream Freeform! Blasphemy! if I dared to utter anything of the sort. And this being a group game, I'd like everyone to be happy. Compromise is good.


So, at the moment, I'm leaning towards keeping the BoVD thingy, but adding a modifier to the level check of the one resisting. The Relationship clause (which I mentioned in the edited post) seems reasonable:


The Relationship: Whether they love, hate, or have never met each other, the relationship between two people always influences any request.

-10 Intimate: Someone who with whom you have an implicit trust. Example: A lover or spouse.
-7 Friend: Someone with whom you have a regularly positive personal relationship. Example: A long-time buddy or a sibling.
-5 Ally: Someone on the same team, but with whom you have no personal relationship. Example: A cleric of the same religion or a knight serving the same king.
-2 Acquaintance (Positive): Someone you have met several times with no particularly negative experiences. Example: The blacksmith that buys your looted equipment regularly.
+0 Just Met: No relationship whatsoever. Example: A guard at a castle or a traveler on a road.
+2 Acquaintance (Negative): Someone you have met several times with no particularly positive experiences. Example: A town guard that has arrested you for drunkenness once or twice.
+5 Enemy: Someone on an opposed team, with whom you have no personal relationship. Example: A cleric of a philosophically-opposed religion or an orc bandit who is robbing you.
+7 Personal Foe: Someone with whom you have a regularly antagonistic personal relationship. Example: An evil warlord whom you are attempting to thwart, or a bounty hunter who is tracking you down for your crimes.
+10 Nemesis: Someone who has sworn to do you, personally, harm. Example: The brother of a man you murdered in cold blood.
... only it would be expanded to include "relationship" to an ideal, if applicable.

I think I like it. Am I missing something?

allonym
2008-12-17, 07:27 AM
Some interesting rules on torture from a Call of Cthulhu supplement that might be of use in adaptation:

Starting skill percentage - 05%. Skill: Interrogation. The art of drawing information out of a captive by pushing his mental limits, attempting to break the willpower of a victim who attempts to withhold information. For every hour period that the interrogator succeeds in his skill roll, the interrogated person must succeed in a POWx5 roll (The d20 system uses a relatively easy will save) or reveal a piece of information that the interrogator seeks. What information exactly is given is up to the GM. For each cumulative hour of successful interrogation, the POW multiplier drops by one, so for the second hour of successful interrogation, the victim must roll POWx4 (Presumably, making the will save DCs higher), and so on. This can never drop below POWx1 (an average human having a 10-11% chance of succeeding here). Each time the interrogator fails his skill roll, the victim increases his POW multiplier by 1, never going over POWx5 (again, making the save DC easier).

Interrogations drain the stamina of interrogator and interrogated quickly. After four hours, the interrogator must take a break of several hours, or his skill is cut in half for further interrogation. If the interrogated person has a break longer than half an hour, his multiplier automatically returns to POWx5. This means it can be more effective to have several skilled interrogators take turns. Interrogation is worthless on temporarily or permanently insane victims.

Torture is a subset of this skill. It takes only half an hour for each use of the skill instead of an hour, but can still go on for four hours without a break. It is an horrific act and experience, costing the torturer 0/1D4 sanity, and the victim 1D4/1D10 sanity, every day. A victim who goes temporarily or permanently insane during the process will confess to anything, even things which are totally untrue. In this case, torture will produce no further useful information at any point - if that was the point at all.

Not sure how you'd model insanity in normal D&D, and it does have the problem of making higher level characters generally more resistant than lower level ones, though will saves are also a function of your wisdom and your class, so the sort of variables you wanted could still be modelled. The idea that most (if not all) of the time, torture is worthless at revealing the truth, is part of the sanity mechanic, so I'm not sure how you'd work that into D&D. However, it's worth bearing in mind that someone who fails their sanity roll has a good chance of breaking (that is, confessing to anything, not giving any 'use' to the torture) on the first day.

kamikasei
2008-12-17, 08:06 AM
Maybe you should treat it as a form of Diplomacy - as in, the Giant's rule. You're creating a very bad situation or the threat of it, and then bargaining with the subject; they have information (or perhaps loyalty, or really anything), you want to buy it and are offering to remove the bad thing rather than to give them anything positive. In fact, you could model any form of intimidation as "diplomacy by other means" in this way (perhaps coupled with a bluff check to convince them of the sincerity of your threats).

The thing is, there are fundamental difficulties in modeling intimidation generally and torture specifically.

- Torture doesn't work. You don't get reliable information, you get a subject who will tell you what they think will make the torture stop. This might be the truth, but it might be a lie that they think you're more likely to accept than the truth. The same applies to intimidation generally.
- Is there bluffing involved, or not? You generally don't want to inflict harm - threatening to kill someone if they don't do as you say works great if they believe you and aren't willing to die, but if they don't believe you then you either kill them (a waste - and what if he was your only source?) or don't (hey, you were bluffing! Guess you'll have a harder time convincing them to take your next threat seriously, huh?)

Like a lot of social skills, it's more complicated than D&D mechanics admit. You'd need to do a lot of houseruling.

Then again, as you say, there's the question of whether being higher-level or having a higher will save or any of those things necessarily always means you have a better chance of resisting torture (however that's decided). Maybe the variance you describe, where one person might last through days without cracking while another caves within minutes, just has to be left as what the d20 roll represents.

KevLar
2008-12-17, 08:31 AM
Umm, I don't know... I'd hesitate to use Sanity rules in anything that isn't hardcore, 100% horror. The game in question is nothing of the sort. I want torture mechanics handy because torture will come up, and I want mechanics that allow a stubborn commoner to (perhaps) succeed.

If it matters:

This game is set in an alternate Germany, around the time of Luther. Heretics of several varieties are everywhere, and, for the most part, it's essentially a social upheaval, the landless rising Vs the clergy and nobility, only with a religious pretext. Mayhem ensues.

Many of the "heretics" simply tagged along, for a number of reasons. But many are nothing less than fanatics, absolutely convinced that God is on their side. Some, the more educated ones, might even be aware that the pope's high priest's riches are not an affront to God, but to the people, and be adamant in their cause for another reason.

I'd hate to have all those fanatic peasants confessing or talking, simply because their level check would be too low Vs a high ranking torturer. Not when there are lots of historical examples of simple men and women who defied everything to the bitter end. And conversely, I'd hate using a check that's too easy to make, not when there are scores of people who confessed every inconceivable crime they were told to, just so the torture would stop.

Oh, and it's a humble origins game. PCs begin with an NPC class before switching to something more... adventurous.

Fluff tidbit! The Song Of Contradictions:

I know a song of contradictions,
Iíll sing it to you straight away:
I explained the Gospel to the parish priest,
who kept on talking in Latin,
I told him: youíre going to have to pay for the wheat,
and the part in excess belongs to the dispossessed.

I went up to the palace on my own,
my friend and I went to see the master,
five of us told him the land was ours,
ten of us explained it to him,
twenty of us sent him running,
fifty of us took the castle,
a hundred of us burned it,
a thousand of us crossed the river,
ten thousand of us are marching to the last battle!

- From Luther Blisset's novel "Q"

KevLar
2008-12-17, 09:59 AM
(Sorry for the double post, I just noticed kamikasei's answer.)

Good points. Here's what I have so far. The mechanics from BoVD are used, with the following changes:

1) The Intimidate check is made once for each session (duration to be determined, depending on which machines are used). Not every single round.

2) There is no static Intimidate check DC, but, like a normal Intimidate check, an opposed roll: 1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + targetís Wisdom bonus + targetís modifiers on saves against fear.

3) In addition, the target gets a bonus to the check. This bonus consists of his determination to stay true to a cause AND, if information about another person is requested, his relationship to that person.

The Cause:
+10: Fanatic
+7: Adamant
+5: Affiliated
+2: Sympathizer
+0: Indifferent

The Relationship:
+10: Intimate
+7: Friend
+5: Ally
+2: Acquaintance (Positive)
+0: Just Met

The bonuses are cumulative. I figure that if you are true to a cause AND asked to reveal your best friend's whereabouts, it will be harder to convince you.

The math:


A diplomat PC asking a stranger of equal level and Wisdom of 10 to accept a deal with an even risk-vs.-reward ratio should need to roll a 10 on the die to succeed. This is my numerical starting point, and I will proceed in both directions from there.

For the purpose of this houserule, I'm actually keeping the bonuses from 0 to +10 for the sake of convenience, and using the "formula" to determine what level the torturer should be:

A trained torturer (full ranks to Intimidate and, say, Cha 14) with an average device (circumstance bonus 4) interrogating a common prisoner who has average wisdom and moderate affiliation to a cause AND the person in question, should need to roll 10 to succeed.

Torturer's Intimidate bonus: ranks + Cha + device= (level + 3) + 2 + 4 = level + 9
Prisoner's Level check bonus: level + Wis + 5 + 5 = level + 10

So, a torturer with a 50% chance to break a character with a cause, should be 1 level higher. Ooookay... For zealots (fanatics/intimate), it takes a torturer 12 levels higher. That's a bit extreme, but a 13th level torturer is expected to have better Cha and better devices at his disposal (the Iron Maiden's bonus can be +12), so I'm fine with that.

Looks good, for now. Maybe.

Well, basically, I'm not looking for a house rule that fits everyone's needs - hence, this isn't in the homebrew section. I'm just trying to figure a reasonable rule I can use as a guide, in order to design encounters.
EDIT: Encounters with [I]Maidens. :smallamused:

Telonius
2008-12-17, 10:05 AM
I'd give it a dual check. The checks are done once per day for the first week, once per week up to a month, then once per month.

First, intimidate check on the part of the interrogator. Add in any device bonuses, as specified in the BOVD. If the check succeeds, the subject is Intimidated. Succeed by 5+, scared; by 10+, terrified. Fail, and the subject is Stalwart. Fail by 5+, subject is Steeled. Fail by 10+, subject is Resolute. People immune to fear take no penalties as a result of this check, but may obtain further benefits if the check would have failed by 5 or 10.

Then, a Will save on the part of the person being interrogated. DC to beat is 10 + HD of the interrogator + Modifiers. A natural 1 does not automatically fail this save.

Modifiers:

Scared people are easier to get information out of.
-6 for being Resolute
-4 for being Steeled
-2 for being Stalwart
+2 for being Intimidated
+4 for being Scared
+6 for being Terrified

People build up a resistance over time.
+4 if it's the first time you're being interrogated
+2 if the interrogation has gone on for a week
0 if the interrogation has gone on for a month
-2 if the interrogation has gone on for six months
-4 if the interrogation has gone on for a year or more.

-2 modifier if you have undergone specific training to resist interrogation techniques. (I would possibly allow this as a Social Skill Trick, like those described in Complete Scoundrel).

Modified version of KevLar's relationship scale.
+6 Nemesis
+4 Personal Foe
+2 Enemy
+1 Negative Acquaintance
0 No relationship
-1 Positive Acquaintance
-2 Ally
-4 Personal Friend
-6 Intimate (I'd include close family here as well as things like the cleric who found you as an orphan and raised you, etc; or if answering would violate a Paladin's Code, Cleric's Oath, etc).

Results:
On a failed Will save, the target tells the information.
If the target fails the Will save by 10 or more (or roll a 1), the target gives the information along with gibberish confessions.
Upon a successful Will save, the target remains silent.
If the target makes the Will save by 10 or more, the target can choose to Bluff the interrogator.

EDIT: Cleaned up a few things there. I'm not sure how the math would work out.'

EDIT2: Okay, a level 3 warrior is interrogating a level 3 commoner. Assume 10's in all ability scores, warrior has maxed out intimidate. Initial Roll: opposed check. Warrior: d20+6 (ranks)+4 (device) = +10. Commoner: d20+3 (CL) = +3. On average, the commoner fails by 7. He's Scared.

Onto the Will save. DC is 10 + 3 (HD of warrior) + 4 (Scared) + 4 (first time), so baseline of DC 21. If it's about his wife, DC 15. Commoner's Will save is +0, so he makes the save 25% of the time. Sounds about right.

Level 3 warrior interrogates a level 3 human Cleric, 18 wisdom. Initial Roll: Warrior +10. Cleric: 3 (CL) + 4 (Wisdom). On average, Cleric fails by 3. He's Intimidated.

Question is about where his immediate superior (who raised him from an infant) is hiding. DC is 10 + 3 + 2 (Intimidated) + 4 (first time) -6 (Intimate) = 13.
Cleric's roll gets these bonuses: +4 (Wisdom), +3 (base save). Cleric needs to roll a 6 or better; succeeds 75% of the time. Does that sound right to you?

KevLar
2008-12-17, 10:44 AM
Oooh, another option. Not bad at all. :)

Note: as far as Relationship is concerned, I gave only bonus for friends and no penalty for enemies, because being tortured to snitch on a personal foe doesn't happen often. It's far more likely that you'd be the one volunteering to offer information. :smallwink:

Need to do the math again.
(And finally decide if being immune to fear is decisive or not...)

Immutep
2008-12-17, 01:12 PM
I admit, i skipped reading reply's so if this is the same as others have put i appologise.

There's an old saying that keep hearing crop up. "Everyone talks on the third day". I would have thought that there was logic behind this statement (assuming the torturor knows his trade) because in the middle ages, there were several occassions where torture would achieve a confession to a crime (many believed to be false confessions just to stop the torture) examples are the adultorous wives of henry the 8th, who's alleged lovers confessed to sleeping with them even though this would lead to their own executions.

Maybe torturor should be a skill chain/proffession?
How about include fortitude bonus as well as will bonus to the roll to reprisent pain threshold/determination?
If the torturee is a PC, he should get to decide if he tells the truth or lies or spits in the torturors face, at least to start with. Maybe perhaps list nonlethal damage and by the time it hits zero, they've broke and will sing like a nightningale?

Prometheus
2008-12-17, 01:49 PM
The best way to handle torture with PCs is to torture/kill someone else if the PCs don't comply. That way, they really are put in the position. Just like I you can't use Diplomacy or Intimidate checks against PCs, they like to "free will" even with the strongest elements to resist.

The only other way to do it is to have all the PCs in a separate room, and tell them whoever cracks first gets to be set free. One of the PCs might comply, or appear to comply on the basis that they could come back and rescue the others. Alternatively, play it just like a PCs in prison scheme and have the real task be to escape while various things are happening to them, when gives them ability damage, sickened/nausea, and hp loss.

KevLar
2008-12-17, 02:20 PM
@Prometheus:
All these are fine ways to handle a (generic) game session that includes torture. However, I have plenty of ideas about that, and what I'm looking for is the mechanics. You see, this isn't a powergaming galore, it's a roleplaying galore. I expect at least some of the players to declare "I won't break, no matter what they do to me", shrugging off any mechanical disadvantage that will come from that. And when this happens, I'd like to tell them "You want to resist, fine. But can you? Here are the rules." Fair rules of course, but rules.

@Telonius:
A second edit! Yes, the results sound just fine to me. I like the dual roll very much, among other things because it allows for some roleplaying in between. And I think I'll keep the little houserule that a natural 1 isn't an automatic failure for this will save. Speaking of which...


If the target fails the Will save by 10 or more (or roll a 1), the target gives the information along with gibberish confessions.

Was this an oversight? It kinda screws the "no automatic failure" thingy. I'll ignore it, but the rest is pretty solid.

Thanks. :smallsmile:

Telonius
2008-12-17, 02:30 PM
Ah, I was toying around with that idea for awhile - forgot to delete it. I'd originally thought that it might model an "accidental breaking" of the prisoner's mind, but ultimately decided against it.

Tacoma
2008-12-17, 02:39 PM
Torture doesn't exist to gain true information from a prisoner. The prisoner quickly tells you whatever you want to hear, after telling you everything that is truth (including "I don't know that"). So you end up with false information. Whether the victim refuses to tell you his secrets is immaterial. It happens eventually. It's not (physically) hard to torture a dude who's tied up. But you can't trust the information you receive. At the point the nut has cracked, you don't know if you've broken down his willpower enough to tell you his truth, or whether you've broken him down enough that he's so desperate he starts making up lies to save himself.

That said, torture is actually used as a method of intimidation. You tell everyone that they have to do what you say or you'll torture them. Then you capture a few dissidents, torture them, maim them, tell them you'll do it again to them and their friends if they continue dissenting, then you let most of them go. Now everyone knows you're not bluffing, they see what happens to dissenters, and almost everyone stops dissenting.

Those few who form a resistance can be purged if caught soon enough by friends and family who are so fearful they turn in their own countrymen. And by spies. And by arresting anyone who seems like they might be a dissident.

So you don't torture to gain information, you torture to maintain fear and control over a population. It's more of a roleplaying thing at such a large scale than a dice roll issue.

Telonius
2008-12-17, 02:47 PM
That's exactly what I was trying to model in the Will save after Intimidate check - only in a fairly narrow range of "successful" torture will the interrogator get good information. And there's nothing to tell the torturer (except his own Sense Motive check) that what he's hearing is true or false.

herrhauptmann
2008-12-17, 03:27 PM
Torture doesn't exist to gain true information from a prisoner. The prisoner quickly tells you whatever you want to hear, after telling you everything that is truth (including "I don't know that"). So you end up with false information. Whether the victim refuses to tell you his secrets is immaterial. It happens eventually. It's not (physically) hard to torture a dude who's tied up. But you can't trust the information you receive. At the point the nut has cracked, you don't know if you've broken down his willpower enough to tell you his truth, or whether you've broken him down enough that he's so desperate he starts making up lies to save himself.

And here you've discovered the Gitmo waterboarding problem. Torture someone enough, and they'll start telling you that Santa Claus is real if they think it'll make it stop.

KevLar
2008-12-17, 03:37 PM
That said, torture is actually used as a method of intimidation. You tell everyone that they have to do what you say or you'll torture them. Then you capture a few dissidents, torture them, maim them, tell them you'll do it again to them and their friends if they continue dissenting, then you let most of them go. Now everyone knows you're not bluffing, they see what happens to dissenters, and almost everyone stops dissenting.
And yet, as history has proven, countless social, national and religious movements have NOT been crushed by extensive and brutal torture. It's one thing to be alone in a torture chamber. It's another thing to be alone in there, but have (or believe you have) resolved comrades outside. Moreover, the sight of a tortured and maimed ex-prisoner or a hanging corpse may very well intimidate some, but it may also make others even more resolute. As long as there is a cause people passionately believe in, and not just... a trend. And as long as there is a hope, however distant, for victory.

It's not that I disagree with you. Using torture for intimidating a group of dissidents and sooner or later succeeding, is indeed possible, even probable in some cases. You just make it sound too easy. :smallsmile: There are many factors to be considered.

Now, in the place where my story is set, a national revolt is not an option because the nation-state hasn't been invented yet. Organized and deliberate social revolt is also hard to come by, because the Age of Enlightenment hasn't happened, and people can't even think in such terms. But religion rules every aspect of people's lives from dawn to dusk, in the form of rites, deeply-rooted beliefs and superstitions. Everyone's first priority is to be pious.

So, if a bunch of somewhat charismatic people start roaming the villages and preaching that the official church has abandoned God, it will make an impression. The preacher may say that a true servant of God shouldn't own land because the dogma is against it. At the same time, he is tapping on the peasant's piety AND the hidden, never expressed, urge to keep the fruit of his labour himself instead of giving it away to priests and nobles. Especially if he's getting nothing in return for his "tax" - for example, when the kingdoms are in constant war and no one is safe anyway.

The preacher will never say, and almost never believe, that he's aiming for anything other than religious purity. Which is why he has a potential to draw fanatics around him. Men who will gladly die for the cause. Men who will gladly kill for the cause. Men who are in fact starting a social revolution - except they don't know it. At all.

Against all this, the clergy and nobility will take out the big guns. No, not torture. Ex-communication and branding them as heretics. Now, that will make an impression, too. In the end, it will be a battle to win people's hearts, by fear of hell or promise of paradise. Breaking bodies in the process is expected, but not the decisive factor.

So, torture will be a flavorful side dish in this game. I don't expect it to play a major role in the grand scope of things, and I'm not focusing on it at all. But it will come up sooner or later, and I wanted to have a good way to run it. :smallsmile:


@herrhauptmann:
Being from a country that saw the last dictatorship fall about a generation ago....
let me tell you, when people have something to believe in, torture is not automatically the way to make them talk, be it the truth or gibberish. Defiance is a very likely outcome, too.

Devils_Advocate
2008-12-17, 10:04 PM
First off, as has been said, torture does not necessarily promote honesty. It promotes apparent cooperation. You can go ahead and implicate an enemy instead of your actual accomplice. Unless the torturer has any way of immediately disproving your lies, they're as likely to stop the torture as revealing the truth is. If the torturer lacks any way to check the validity of your lies over the long term, they're also as likely to prevent future torture as revealing the truth is.

Torture is more useful when you already know what you want the victim to say. It's great for extracting confessions, for example, whether the victim actually did the things you want him to confess to or not.

Secondly? Rules for torture really do not fit well into the vanilla d20 system, which does not realistically model the pain, injury, and fear that result from being hurt. Until you're dying or close to it, you lose hit points and... that's it. You don't take a penalty to anything. You don't start bleeding profusely. You aren't compelled to run away. You might decide to, but it's not a compulsion.

In D&D, barring rule modifications, wounds basically get counteracted by your personal reservoir of healing positive energy that can be filled back up with cure spells. You can take damage and not get injured. Positive hit points serve as a shield against the negative consequences of being hurt that people have to deal with if they're hurt in real life. You may experience pain while someone is sticking his knife in you, but no lingering pain afterward, because you don't even have any injury to cause you pain.

This is the context within which symbol of pain is [Evil]. It's not that it's way worse than stab wounds or third-degree burns so much as that we're dealing with a world where swords and fireballs don't even inflict those things. I'm not even sure that they directly cause suffering the way that pain tends to in real life. More like just alarm, probably.

In a world like that, one of your more sophisticated torture devices is going to be something that just casts inflict minor wounds on someone every round. Just strap a guy into that and stare at him intently. (Knowing that the interrogator has to act to stop the device is a bit more threatening than him having to actively hurt you himself. He has to make a decision to stop, instead of having to decide to keep going.)

You could have a mechanical device that repeatedly jabs someone for 1 hit point of damage, too. Same basic deal.

This is how waterboarding works, I think. It's not about inflicting pain so much as scaring someone into thinking he could be killed.

Hell, you could induce fear of drowning by sticking someone in a pit that gets slowly filled with water. That would work, too. The point is that slow-moving death traps are the way to go if you want verisimilitude. Bringing in pain just highlights the system's general lack of realism with regard to pain.

KevLar
2008-12-18, 07:19 AM
Rules for torture really do not fit well into the vanilla d20 system, which does not realistically model the pain, injury, and fear that result from being hurt.[...] You can take damage and not get injured.
That is very very true. And that's why a liberal interpretation of the rules (not how they work in terms of numbers, but what they mean in terms of simulation) is necessary. It's a given that the hit point system, convenient though it may be, makes little sense when you examine it carefully.

Almost all the players I've ever known have their characters yell or grunt in pain when they take a hit in combat. Scream in pain if it's a critical hit. It's a natural tendency to bring some verisimilitude into the game, even when the rules don't support that with numbers. But that's OK, because you have your roleplaying skills, and a million ways to justify the inconsistencies - for the sake of better storytelling and immersion: "Right, so I was nearly killed by that blow and I'm bleeding profusely, but in the heat of the battle, and with the adrenaline boost that comes with it, I keep on fighting!" Etc.

A similar attitude, a bit more deliberately perhaps, is needed for a torture session. It doesn't have to be mathematically precise in terms of RAW. (In this case, correlating hit point damage with injury and pain, for which there are no rules, really.) It just has to make for a good story. As long as there are set and fair rules to determine the outcome, and as long as the players (and the DM) enjoy that sort of thing.. I see no problem. :smallsmile:


As for the whole "honesty" thing, it has been taken into consideration, but there's room for improvement there. I'm thinking of changing the meaning of a failed will save from "talking" to "try to make them stop". This allows the player to choose between telling the truth, making up random stuff, bluffing in order to misdirect them, whatever is more appropriate for the character. BUT, if the bluff (or truth!) isn't convincing enough and the torture continues and they fail a 2nd save... then the result changes to "try to make them stop, to the best of my abilities". That little difference should cover everything. :)

EDIT- And until he fails a save, defiance is an option. If a player (or NPC) wants to play a touch cookie, he can spit on their faces, call them names, make nasty comments about their mothers and sisters, or keep a dignified silence. Entirely acceptable. But if he fails a save, he'll want to at least appear to co-operate. And if he fails 2 saves, he'll do and say anything it takes.