Inquisition the Torturing

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in most of the games I’ve played.

Here’s the drill; the PCs are in a pitched battle, killing off baddies like Han Solo at a storm trooper convention, when a mook gets KOed or maimed rather than murdalized. One PC shouts “Keep him alive, we’ll need to question him!” and the party acquiesces.

After combat the miscreant is bound, awake and ready to be interrogated. At this stage, in practically every group I’ve ever played with, the PCs break out the knives. It doesn’t matter the system, the setting or the characters, the first tool the party uses to get information from every enemy combatant is torture. That’s right, even in Care Bears the Caring Tender Heart will heat up the branding iron in order to make Beasly squeal.

Kill the wabbit indeed.

I don’t want to blame the players for these shenanigans. I want to believe we do this because the rules encourage us to do so.


Well at least not in a quick D20 search.There are bonueses for being bigger than your enemy and that’s about it.

Also, intimidation is based off charisma so even with the Muppet dog this man is damn terrifying.

It does not appear then that Big RPG is trying to vindicate the Bush/Cheney years.

Still it’s odd. I’ve played games with Paladins in the group and they don’t bat an eye when their fellow PCs start competing to see who can be the best ‘Dr. Pain’.

What’s really weird is that even players who are strongly against such tactics in real life will let their characters become ‘Jack Bauer’ when these situations pop up.


I believe the answer is popular fiction. The GURPS crowd will hate me for this but RPGs simulate fiction; nearly every piece of fiction depicts torture as a valid way to get information. Whenever someone is on the rack they will tell the truth, always, at least in popular media.

In some cases this isn’t so horrifying. After all if you’re playing 24, 007 or Jason Bounre the RPG then this convention is expected. Also, I suppose if your group believes that sometimes ‘enhanced interrogation’ is necessary then this can work.

In some realities this man is mentally stable.

However, if you’re as horrified about this as I am I’d recommend taking a more complex approach to interrogation. While torture may work on the cowardly and stupid (in which case just the threat of it will get results) on everyone else will make it harder to get to the truth. The NPC (gawd I hope you’re not doing this to a PC) will get a bonus because he’s very motivated to tell you a story he believes you want to hear, this will, more than likely, not be the truth.

Thanks for listening to my diatribe.

Carry on.

Note: First picture in this blog was by nome63 at

2 Responses to “Inquisition the Torturing”

  1. I remember that Paladin-not-batting-and-eyeling-at-the-other-PCs-torturing-the-prisoner scene; I guess the rest of us weren’t really that ‘lawful’ or ‘good’, but the Paladin shouldn’t have simply said “I have a problem with this,” and then walked out of earshot…at least the GM enforced the alignment infraction system and the Paladin subsequently fell.

  2. Hey Dan!

    Long time no speak. Good to hear from you. 🙂 I’ll send you an email sometime tonight.

    As for the Paladin, I can see why the GM didn’t inflict an alingment infraction; unfortuneatly this sorta behaviour is ‘normal’ in the setting. If ‘kill people and take their stuff’ is the main thrust of adventuring torture doesn’t seem so bad.

    These days though I try to GM stories that are a more morally complex than that.

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