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> Add risk and non-supernatural horror to the game, Diseases and torture
Wounded Ronin
post Feb 19 2006, 10:00 PM
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SR 3 bad things that can happen to the PCs which aren't covered by the rulebook

As the GM, it's your job to keep he game interesting and challenging for the PCs. One way to keep the solutions to problems from becoming nothing but "textbook" solutions you take skill points, cyberwear, or equipment to solve is to put the PCs in nasty situations that are rather different in some way than what is typically covered neatly in the rulebook. While this can be more challenging for the GM who then must justify the particulars of what he's doing to players who sometimes don't want their PCs to be in real danger, the reward is that it can also promote outside-the-box thinking by everyone at the gaming table.

Furthermore, by presenting a fairly unique situation, I think that the GM can get the players to empathize more with their characters. If the GM gives the players a cliche, like, "You wake up in a swanky futuristic lab with a cranial bomb and a smirking suit," it's easy for the player to file this away in their mind as something that's 'supposed' to happen as a plot hook. On the other hand, if you create something unusual that the player has to really imagine, that he can't comfortably and quickly file away, I think you've got a real chance at really making that player's skin crawl. But, I think that's really for the better in the role-playing department. Who is going to be more engaged, really engaged on a visceral level? The person who calmly thinks, "Oh, heh, Bubba the love troll", or the person who mentally recoils with, "Oh, GOD!!!! What are they GOING TO DO!?!?"

At the same time, though, I think that it's important that the PC has a chance of getting away or surviving. If the PC is instantly killed in a horrific way (such as boiling in hot lead, or being flayed) or if it's clear the PC is not going to survive, the torture itself is still easily filed away mentally. Likewise, if the torture is guaranteed to end game play for that character, it becomes easy to chalk it up to making a new character and not really get engaged with the predicament. For example, the medieval torture of confining someone in an oubliette, actually cementing someone into your dungeon wall in a tiny space so that for the rest of their life they're stuck in an uncomfortable position and they never see light again, is extremely horrifying. To this day, I can't help but feel a certain revulsion and contempt for anyone who would do that to a fellow human being, and I can only hope that the victims died quickly from sufforcation and didn't need to wait for days before thirst did them in. But as horrifying as that fate is, I don't think that it's horrifying if it happens to your PC. The GM tells you that your PC is doomed to spend the rest of his or her life in cramping pain and absolute darkness. You say, "man...", but then you just make a new character and that's that. On the other hand, if the character endures a deadly torture but struggles to survive for a long time because there is hope for survival, the player is going to become really engaged with that. Your player will have to imagine the situation, imagine ways out of it, and imagine what the best thing to do to struggle to survive in that situation would be. Whether the character lives or dies, you'll have really given that visceral, empathic horror to the player. And I think that once you've done that, there's no way that player won't role play to the hilt with passion.

Below are some situations I tried to design to be nasty and dangerous but to at least have the potential for survival or rescue. Some of them are potentially fatal tortures, but others are nasty real-world diseases of varying severity. In designing these rules, I tried to respect realism, but also make the situations possibly survivable.



1.) The PC is immersed in tar and feathered

Most people nowadays think that tarring and feathering is a comical event with rustic charm. If you stop to think about how hot tar is, and the kind of infection-prone burns all over the body that being immersed in tar would create, it quickly becomes obvious that tarring and feathering is a pretty twisted and nasty thing to do to someone.

When the PC is first immersed in tar he or she must resist 10S damage. Combat pool cannot be used because you can't really dodge something if you're immersed in it and non-environmental seal armor is useless because the tar simply seeps in under it. Environmental seal armor protects with 1/2 impact armor because it basically prevents sticking to flesh and insulates against the heat. In any case, my impression is that when you tar and feather someone you customarily strip them and restrain them.

If a character is simply left in a vat of hot tar apply 10S damage every combat turn and apply rules for drowning when required.

If a character has been successfully immersed in tar and then removed for feathering, apply 5M damage at the end of each combat turn spent out of the tar bath, since the tar on the body would start cooling when in contact with the air. Furthermore, the characer will be blind, deaf, and unable to smell due to the tar coveringhi or her hed until he or she takes a complex action to wipe away the excess tar, which requires an Intelligence (6) test to do effectively in this stressful situation. To stop taking damage the PC must cool off in the tar somehow, possibly through magic or immersion in water.

If a character has been successfully feathered by his or her tormenters, he or she will look ridiculous. The GM could apply penalties to any social skill rolls made by the character with people who have seen the character screaming and sprinting while cooking to death and covered in feathers.

After the tar cools it will be very hard to remove. Armor or clothing will be impossible to clean. Simply cutting or ripping the tar off the skin will cause a M wound if clothes were worn,and a S wound if the character was mostly nude. Firearms and equipment will probably be effectively destroyed.

I think that tarring and feathering could be used in a campaign set in the CAS. If the PCs are sent to, say, rescue someone from the Humanis Policlub or Alamos 20K but they end up surrendering somewhere, tarring and feathering could be their fate. Hey, it gives them more of a fighting chance than a (less imaginative) basic lynching. It also would create the challenge of how to escape from the area, or complete the mission, with all their equipment destroyed.


2.) The PC is dragged behind a horse or vehicle

It's a cliche of Westerns that someone is dragged through the desert across the ground by their wrists. Considering how bland Westerns usually are, that's remarkably sadistic, if you think about it. I can imagine someone running behind the horse or car as it accelerates, being unable to keep up, falling down, and then getting lacerations, losing toes, getting flesh ripped away to expose bone, and then having the bone shatter as it hits rocks and things. If someone were to survive somehow, hey'd probably get massive infection, and their body would have bits of gravel and dirt embedded in it all over. Even if the person were taken to a hospital, I'm sure there'd be some pieces of rock or something which would remain embedded in the body causing discomfort forevermore.

I think that the amount of damage that someone would sustain being dragged by their hands behind a horse or something would depend mostly on the speed and the terrain, but I think doing some kind of Rigger 3 velocity-based rigamarole isn't needed, because it's obvious that if the velocity is very low we can just not apply damage, and if you're being dragged behind the Batmobile we just say you're automatically dead. I would say the damage values I'm about to outline would probably be for a speed between 30 and 60 miles per hour.

Each combat turn, apply either 10L or 10M physical damage, resisted by Impact Armor,depending on whether the terrain is smooth or hazardous. Since being dragged along the ground is very errosive, apply the armor degradation rule to represent the armor getting ripped away.

The best way to escap from this situation would probably be to cast a spell, but because of the difficult situation a +2 TN applies to all actions. There is probably going to be a lot of dust in the character's eyes, so apply visibility penalties for smoke as well. In addition, don't forget to layer on the ever-increasing wound modifiers.

Since the character is restrained, combat pool may not be used to resist damage. The truth is I can't really think of a non-magical way out of this situation, since if you're being dragged by your wrists at high speed the friction against the ground is pretty much going to keep you stretched out and incapacitated. Better hope someone rescues you, or that the driver only wants to torture you but not kill you. Otherwise, you'll probably come apart. IIRC, I have heard of a real life case where a man being dragged somewhere in the South actually came apart.


3.) The PC gets infected with Girardia lamblia

It's a common problem in developing countries that the water may be infected with parasites suchas girardia. If someone drinks this water they run the risk of getting ill.

Symptoms are acute or chronic diarrhea that is mild to severe; bulky, greasy, frothy, foul-smelling stools (because the parasite disrupts the body's absorption of fat from foods), abdominal cramps, excessive gas, weakness, exhaustion, and weight loss. Often, a victim will experience 2-4 loose stools in the first half hour to hour of daily routine. The average incubation period is 7-10 days, although it can be as little as 3 days, and if untreated the condition can persist for a month.

Treatment is 500 mg of Fasigyn, after which the condition will quickly resolve. I believe that drinking alcohol within 24 hours of taking the treatment can lead to liver problems.

It's commonly accepted that disease isn't a big problem in the world of SR3, but consider the obstacles faced by a shadowrunner doing a job in a developing country:
-Fasigyn is not going to be stocked in your character's medkit, because it plays no role in first aid, and is not a "lifesaving" medication.
-I've never seen a PC take a cure disease spell, and while in a foreign country a PC won't be able to go to his magical contacts for help, or his street doc for that matter.
-If the PC dosen't have a medical background (a Medicine or Nursing background knowledge skill) he or she has no basis to be able to identify the problem, and in-character probably won't know the appropriate steps to take to safeguard health.

While the character is affected by girardia apply -2 to that character's Body and Strength, which will apply for up to a month if the character dosen't get medical treatment.

To help the player empathize with the character, it's impotant to describe the symptoms in vivid detail. Describe to the player how the character's stool looks like it's in melted butter, and how the stool is extremely watery. Describe how burps and farts, which smell beefy and foul, emerge at embarrasing times constantly throughout the day. You may apply a +1 TN penalty to social skill checks on account of horrific fecal aroma.

4.) The PCs have hot sand poured over them

One tactic used in ancient siege warfare in desert settings was to pour burning sand onto people attempting to scale walls because the sand would get under armor and burn. It is written that people would leap from their ladders into water a great distance below to relieve the horrible burning.

There may be some situations in deserts where the PCs enemies have the chance to dump hot sand over them. Perhaps a militia group has a trap-room set up with locking doors and slits in the ceiling. Instead of using expensive stun gasses or what have you, they simply are heating big pots of sand over fire all day and dump these pots over the slits when someone is trapped in the room, so that the sand is impossible to avoid.

A PC who has been hit with a large quantity of hot sand must resist 5M damage each combat turn. No combat pool or armor applies to the damage resisance because the sand gets inside the clothes and armor. Probably the only ways to stop taking damage are to cool the whole body off rapidly by diving into water, or to remove armor and most clothing.

I recommend requiing 2 complex actions to remove an article of armor; one to unbuckle it, and another to cast it off. This is a great way to confound characters who are always layering armor. 1 complex action should suffice for ripping off ordinary clothing.

Environmental seal armor probably provides total protection against the hot sand.

I can see his hazard coming into play in a campaign concerning blowing away militia group members while marking snarky comments, like a tribue to the classic FPS game "Damage Incorporated".


5.) The PC gets cholera

One thing that shadowrunners are known to do is enter covertly through sewers, which is usually depicted in flavor text as being sort of gross but basically safe if you don't encounter critters.

There's a reason most of us instinctively shy away from pee and poo, though, and that's because coming in contact with that stuff puts you at risk for diseases likecholera. I think it's time to put statistical risk back into unsanitary practices, don't you? In any case, if a PC does get cholera, he or she will finally have a realistic-sounding Vietnam-style "war story" about becoming disgustingly ill while engaged in a violent conflict.

Every time a character may have ingested or gotten in his mucous membranes any sort of water that's been tainted with urine or feces, secretly roll the number of dice in his karma pool versus a TN of 4. If the character swims or immerses himself in sewage, or if he drinks a large amount (a cup or more) of tainted water, modify that TN up to 8. If there are no successes, the character quickly comes down with cholera. (Incubation period is 1-3 days.)

Cholera is a deadly disease which kills people all over the world because it rapidly dehydrates the victim. If untreated the patient will usually fall into a dehydration-related delerium and die.

One morning after the PC contracts cholera, the GM must inform the player that the character has discharged a large quantity of diarreah and thin, yellowish liquid into his or her sleeping arrangement. Every 2 hours of that day have the character resist 5L damage with Body alone to represent the damage caused by rapid dehydration. The character, meanwhile, is constantly going to be leaking thin, yellowish liquid (which does not smell particularly fecal) from his or her rectum. It's impossible to "hold it in" and clothing will rapidly become foul and soiled. (Hospital arrangements for cholera patients typically include a bed with a hole in it so a bucket can be placed underneath.) The diseased and dehydrated state causes severe weakness, so subtract 3 from both Body and Strength while the PC is ill. If the PC ends up taking a Deadly wound from this disease, he or she has fallen into a delerious state due to dehydration. The character's eyes roll around in strange directions and she moans out nonsensical words and phrases.

Since the damage is being caused by dehydration and not trauma, Treat and Heal spells cannot be used to reverse the damage done by the disease. Medkits probably contain salt pills or oral rehydration salts as these are life-saving medicines in some cases; it may even come with an IV bag for emergency hydration. Thereore, medkits may be effective in curing the damage caused by the disease. Remember, though, to roll for supplies running out each time the medkit is used in this way.

Besides for getting magical curing, the cholera victim needs medical treatment to recover, and typically an IV to prevent death from dehydration. However, like with girardia, in a foreign country a shadowrunner may not be able to get the medical help that he needs, and without a medical background (remember, specifically a Medicine or Nursing knowledge skill; biotech aka first aid won't cut it) he won't even have an idea what the matter with him is. As the GM you may give the PC a chance to make an Int (5) check to realize he's dehydrated, but otherwise just tell him he feels ill and weak. Other PCs, who aren't feeling what that PC is feeling, will probably have no idea what is going on unless they have medical backgrounds. After a bout of cholera, though, I'll bet that in-character the PCs will want to start running with a doctor in the future!

A final important note: the yellowish thin runoff produced by the cholera victim is itself contaminated. Anyone who comes in contact with it (probably the rest of the party) should be considered at risk by the GM.

EDIT: This entry describes severe cases of cholera. It's actually more common, IRL, to get a basic case of cholera which is basically a nasty bout of diarreah which causes some dehydration but resolves in 3-6 days. If one character gets this severe cholera, I'd recommend telling one or two other players that their characters have gotten "really bad diarreah, with some of that same clear runoff, but not nearly as bad", and have that resolve in a few days.

Also, some points for flavor text. Because of the severe dehydration, the character can experience horrible muscle cramps, and the skin begin to look thin and drawn.




6.) The PC is made to fight in the dojo of death

There was a James Bond film, "You Only Live Twice" I believe, where Bond is captured, given a robe, and forced to fight martial arts deathmatches in a dojo. Bond simply kicks his opponent while bowing and manages to run away.

Nevertheless, if a player is enough of an orientalist the dojo of death might even appeal to him or her. Just have the character participate in a string of 1 on 1 martial arts battles with no chance to rest in between but an endless stream of fresh opponents. When the character takes a D wound have the evil dojo people recussitate in the way that provides the biggest risk of losing magic points. Perhaps they can refer to the character as "the gimp", since the character is there to be little more than a human punching bag.

This is another one of those situations where the PC will probably have to be rescued, but I think that this scenario "working" has everything to do with your descriptive prowress as a GM. If you give a really evocative description of the dojo, I think an orientalist player will really engage in the situation even though it's rather dire. A spoon full of sugar and all that...


7.) Hard labor and exposure

This last section is just a quick reminder. Rules for exposure are in the Target: Wastelands guidebook, and cruelly hard labor rules can probably be derived from the rules for exhaustion based on encumberance or somesuch.

So, if a PC is captured in the Yukon and the bad guys decide to take away his clothes and force him to pull a doglsed while whipping him until he collapes, you know where to find the rules for that.
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Ancient History
post Feb 19 2006, 10:56 PM
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Dr. What
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Glyph
post Feb 19 2006, 11:40 PM
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Those kind of scenarios are things that you should be very, very careful in using. They might get someone to "roleplay" more, but they might just as easily turn them off of roleplaying at all. If they are involved with a character, and horrible things happen to that character, and it isn't fun, then their next character might be nothing but a min-maxed set of numbers to them. Not everyone wants to feel anxious about their character when they are playing a game to escape life's stresses for awhile.

Also, a character that this happens to will probably be obsessed with revenge. And at that point, the NPCs in question will really cease to exist as anything but objects of hatred for them - they won't care about the supervillain's sad childhood, or that the guard they need to torture for information about him has a wife and two kids. They will simply be out for brutal revenge on the NPC and anyone getting in their way. If the NPC is one that is out of reach, revenge-wise (super-powerful corporate CEO, etc.), then the player might assume that the whole ordeal was a GM power-trip (which wouldn't be your intention, but would be correct for some GMs, sorry to say), and feel bitter and railroaded about the whole thing.

So I would say that if you use these kind of things, be sure that your players want a grim and gritty kind of game, and won't react the wrong way.
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Wounded Ronin
post Feb 20 2006, 05:03 AM
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Yes, the PC in question would probably become obsessed with revenge; but, that would be a realistic in-character reaction for the vast majority of people. That particular character might not care about the NPCs tragic childhood or whatever, but perhaps the other PCs still do. Then maybe you can get some interesting conflict between, say, a "pacifist" PC who wasn't tortured and the crazed PC who was.
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SL James
post Feb 20 2006, 07:04 AM
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QUOTE (Wounded Ronin)
4.) The PCs have hot sand poured over them

That reminds me, I need to write up rules for waterboarding.
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Wounded Ronin
post Feb 20 2006, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (SL James)
QUOTE (Wounded Ronin @ Feb 19 2006, 04:00 PM)
4.)  The PCs have hot sand poured over them

That reminds me, I need to write up rules for waterboarding.

What's waterboarding? I'm afraid to google it, for fear of what it might be...
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Shrapnel
post Feb 21 2006, 01:30 AM
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I believe it's a form of interrogation, where the subject is made to feel like they are drowning.

Wikipedia: Waterboarding

This post has been edited by Shrapnel: Feb 21 2006, 01:36 AM
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Gyro the Greek S...
post Feb 21 2006, 01:30 AM
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Bubba the Love Troll takes offense, and requests that you add "Deliverance" to your list.
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Wounded Ronin
post Feb 21 2006, 02:58 AM
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QUOTE (Shrapnel)
I believe it's a form of interrogation, where the subject is made to feel like they are drowning.

Wikipedia: Waterboarding

Aha, thanks for the link.


I think it would be hard to implement because SR dosen't really have a good brain damage mechanic. Like, medically speaking, you can give someone brain damage by depriving them of air or blood to the brain for a short period of time. But in terms of SR rules I don't think that it would be terribly easy to create a medically accurate neurological damage table.

Good idea, but I think it would be extremely tough to implement.
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Wounded Ronin
post Feb 21 2006, 10:09 PM
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QUOTE (Gyro the Greek Sandwich Pirate)
Bubba the Love Troll takes offense, and requests that you add "Deliverance" to your list.

I never saw Deliverance. Didn't it have something to do with some anally violated fat guy making piggy noises? Sounds like something from bdsmlibrary.com. (Link NSFW, obviously.)




Anyway, last night I was thinking about rules for waterboarding. Even though it would be difficult to accurately represent all the details of neurological damage, maybe it would be simple enough to subtract 1 point of Intelligence from a character if he or she is not successfully recussitated within 1 minute of stopping breathing. That way a good interrogator could do it "safely", but do it too many times, or do it with an inept interrogator, and your character could easily lose some points of intelligence. If your INT reaches zero you have massive braindamage and are effectively dead, unless you 1.) spend karma to raise INT back from 0 to 1 and then 2.) use Hand of God so as not to die right then.

That would also make the torture more difficult to deal with for the player. Normally, it'd just be a matter of making your Willpower check with gamma scopalamine or what have you and either spilling the beans or not. In this case, you'd have a choice of whether or not to give away information endangering the rest of the party, but few people would really want their character to lose INT.

Sounds like it would make for an interesting session, but boy oh boy your players had better be wanting a "dark" session with high PC mortality.
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hyzmarca
post Feb 22 2006, 04:12 AM
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I prefer Chinese Water Torture over waterboarding. Restrain a persioner so that he is unable to move any part of his body, the head especially, and slowly drip water on his forehead. It causes no physical damage and the psycological trauma can take quite a while to build up but there is something horrificly insidious about leaving someone in such a prediciment for several days with IV nutrients.

I don't believe that it would be very effective when use agains ta PC but it is one of the few tortures that could be used in LARP without being excessive.
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SL James
post Feb 22 2006, 04:53 AM
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Yes, but they do waterboarding at SERE school, which was the whole point of it coming up, and not chinese water torture.
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Frackula
post Feb 22 2006, 05:43 AM
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QUOTE (hyzmarca)
I don't believe that it would be very effective when use agains ta PC but it is one of the few tortures that could be used in LARP without being excessive.

A Shadowrun LARP? From what I've heard, this can only end in actual crime.
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fistandantilus4....
post Feb 22 2006, 06:06 AM
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QUOTE (Ancient History)
Dr. What

The session with Dr. What was probably one of those most remembered and talked about events with out group, and they've been through quite a lot. It's like playing Darksun. The harder the crap is to deal with, the more f'ed up you get, the more satisfaction you get when you finally win (even if there are a few friendly bodies lying around).

The incident where one un-prepared PC contracted malaria after running in Amazonia was great too. They were still doing the Harlequin run, and went on to the next section, to extract a certain someone in the mid west. One runner spent the entire run in the hospital. Thank god for a real good fake military ID.

That was when the mages started learning Cure Disease, Sterilize, and clean.
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Crusher Bob
post Feb 22 2006, 09:24 AM
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For 'general oxygen deprivation' (like drowning) the time without air for brain damage is closer to 5 minues, not one. Although it depends on the previous activity level, body temperate, etc.

Death by strangulation generally isn't the quick 10 second choke you see in the movies. Actually cutting the circulation to the brain (usually by constricting the catorid arteries) geatly hastens brain damage, but given the time scales in SR it will still take forever to strangle somone.
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Crusher Bob
post Feb 22 2006, 09:38 AM
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Re: tar and feathering

Obviously, people survived this, so your rules take on tar and feathering is rather extreme. A quick google says that the melting point of tar is 75-80C and the boiling point is ~200C. As melted tar, and not boiling tar was used for this practice, 10S is way over the top. Usually the subject would be basted (and not dipped), the tar may have been hot enough to burn (mostly first degree burns) so a damage rating of 4L to 6M seems appropriate.

Remember that this punishment is not meant to be lethal, but unpleasant enough that whoever you were doing it to wouldn't come back.
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mfb
post Feb 22 2006, 09:40 AM
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i'm reasonably certain you can force someone unconscious in 10-20 seconds with a technique that looks like strangulation but is actually intended to cut off bloodflow to and from the brain. the victim is also unable to breathe when you're doing this to them, but strangulation isn't the goal--only a side effect.

granted, this has nothing to do with waterboarding.
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Crusher Bob
post Feb 22 2006, 09:51 AM
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Yes, you can cause unconscious in, I dunno, maybe 10-30 seconds with a tool or hold that severly constricts the carotid arteries, but death takes longer than that.

As an interesting aside, that brain apparently produces a chemical somewhat similar to ketamine to stave off rain death a little longer. Which is why taking ketamine can apparenlty re-create the classic near-death-experience.
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Brahm
post Feb 22 2006, 10:39 AM
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QUOTE (mfb @ Feb 22 2006, 04:40 AM)
i'm reasonably certain you can force someone unconscious in 10-20 seconds with a technique that looks like strangulation but is actually intended to cut off bloodflow to and from the brain. the victim is also unable to breathe when you're doing this to them, but strangulation isn't the goal--only a side effect.

granted, this has nothing to do with waterboarding.

It can however have something to do with enjoyable sex. The location in question is on the front aside and back of the windpipe above the laranyx, the same place you would take the catorid pulse. I can tell you 10 seconds likely wouldn't be enough. I cannot tell you though how much it would take, and I would rather never find out.
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SL James
post Feb 22 2006, 04:21 PM
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QUOTE (Frackula)
QUOTE (hyzmarca @ Feb 21 2006, 11:12 PM)
I don't believe that it would be very effective when use agains ta PC but it is one of the few tortures that could be used in LARP without being excessive.

A Shadowrun LARP? From what I've heard, this can only end in actual crime.

And, god willing, a dead LARPer.
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Moon-Hawk
post Feb 22 2006, 05:05 PM
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Oh, you mean a good LARPer.
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Brahm
post Feb 22 2006, 05:49 PM
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Shooting Target
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Just too strong a multi-layered tapestry for you, hobbyist gamer?
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Wounded Ronin
post Feb 23 2006, 12:18 AM
Post #23


Great Dragon
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QUOTE (Crusher Bob)
Re: tar and feathering

Obviously, people survived this, so your rules take on tar and feathering is rather extreme. A quick google says that the melting point of tar is 75-80C and the boiling point is ~200C. As melted tar, and not boiling tar was used for this practice, 10S is way over the top. Usually the subject would be basted (and not dipped), the tar may have been hot enough to burn (mostly first degree burns) so a damage rating of 4L to 6M seems appropriate.

Remember that this punishment is not meant to be lethal, but unpleasant enough that whoever you were doing it to wouldn't come back.

Damn! I guess my tar-and-feather-fu is weak! To think that I would have done it the wrong way with a big vat of boiling tar. :rotfl:
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Fresno Bob
post Feb 23 2006, 08:34 PM
Post #24


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You would have been so embarassed at the torturers' convention.
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mfb
post Feb 23 2006, 08:42 PM
Post #25


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QUOTE (Wounded Ronin)
Damn! I guess my tar-and-feather-fu is weak! To think that I would have done it the wrong way with a big vat of boiling tar.

indeed. if only i'd known that beforehand, that poor guy might have--that is, i have never inflicted a horrible boiling fate on anyone.
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