One of the great things about fantasy gaming, or any other genre of gaming for that matter, is that we can take a vile concept from real life, such as the ancient art of torture, something that normally reminds us of the atrocities of which humans are capable, and having fun with the variety of ways and means!
I propose a one-stop shop for everything and anything torture-related. Every GM in the history of gaming, has decribed at one time or another, the ubiquitous torture chamber deep in the bowels of some dungeon, castle, or cult headquarters. In published materials, these dank rooms are usually filled with the standard cliched items. A Rack, an Iron Maiden, and some heated tongs and pincers. But there are so many ways to make em’ talk or kill them slowly, that I thought this would make a great thread!
I’m proposing entries of both a historical nature, and ones from imagination as well. Anything goes!
Inspiration struck after reading a MoonHunter entry, titled The Red Hand’s Guide.
Additional Ideas (48)
This device was invented when Sir Leonard Skeffington was the lieutenant of the Tower of London. 'Scavanger' was a corruption of Skeffington. In Italy this was known as the 'cicogna' or "the stork".
Originally used as a bondage device to transport prisoners between two buildings-this device also caused painful cramping of the abdomen and rectum. The neck was placed inside a loop, the hands placed through smaller loops, and the legs stuck between two bars, with the feet locked into stirrups. This placed the prisoner into an uncomfortable fetal position, with the knees and hands drawn up to the chin. Any kind of significant movement was painfully impossible.
Variations existed, which allowed the torturer to slowly compress the distance between the knees and chin. This resulted in broken bones, througout the ribcage and spine.
An execution device designed in ancient Greece, and one of my favorites!
A brazen bull, life-sized, made totally of brass, was hollow, with a door in the side. The victim was shut up in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became "red hot" and causing the victim inside to slowly roast to death. So that nothing unseemly might spoil the spectators viewing pleasure, the bull was usually designed in such a way that its smoke rose in spicy clouds of incense. The head of the ox was supplied by a complex system of tubes and stops so that the prisoner's screams were converted into sounds not unlike the bellowing of an infuriated ox. It is also said that when the bull was reopened, the victims' scorched bones shone like jewels and were made into bracelets.
In my campaign, the jaded aristocrats of the Empire of A'Thun, 'improved' on this design, by allowing a more intricate set of tubing and piping to emit a sound not unlike music, during the roasting victim's muted death screams. Composers, of a sort, competed among themselves to produce short, inspired pieces of symphony for the amusement of the masses.
A deviously simple tool that was used on victims either cold or red-hot. Built somewhat like a huge scissor with four to six curved prongs in lieu of blades. Suspended from the ceiling, the pincers would be used to lift the victim into the air, using the soft flesh of the buttocks, belly or breasts- or the eyes and ears, much like a bowling ball.
A classic Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu film which featured quite an array of disturbing torture and killing methods.
1- A weakened (from torture) and sleeping victim, is excruciatingly killed by asphixiation, being slowly smothered to death in his cell with several layers of wet paper sheets, placed snuggly on his face. No mess, no fuss. It appears he died from previous injuries.
2- The classic Iron Maiden makes an appearence
3- A breastplate of iron, heated in a fire is forced onto a victim's chest, causing his flesh to burn, bubble and scar permanently.
4- One poor sap, a witness to a killing, is 'silenced' permanently by the murderers, by having his throat ripped out from the inside with a long steel hook inserted through his mouth. The villains killed another chap by jamming a long sewing needle up his nose, and into his brain. A little blood around his nostril was the only evidence of how he died.
A galss ball is put into the person's mouth, then a belt like thing is put around their head, from the bottom of their jaw up to the top of their head. A pen and a piece of paper are given to them, and they are told to answer the questions. They are also told, in excruciating detail, what happens when that ball shatters and shreads their mouth into ribbons.
If they don't the belt is tightened one hole. Eventually the pressure on the ball will become so great that they don't know if the next lie will be thier last. Also, you can have the ball be hollow, and filled wih a noxious gas that would cause them to gag/puke to prevent them from swallowing the glass shards.
A large-toothed, four-handed woodsman's saw. The unfortunate subject is suspended upside-down, and the saw was used to split the body in two, beginning at the crotch. Because the victim is inverted, the brain remains adequately oxygenated and little blood is lost, ensuring that consciousness was maintained until the saw reached the navel and even possibly the breast.
Less is more...
The purpose of this device is not torture but execution. The apparatus is comprised of a blade which falls between two vertical columns equipped with grooves. Painless perhaps, but scientists discovered (and this has been confirmed by modern neuroscience) that a head that is cut off in this swift manner is well aware that it has been beheaded, maintaining consciousness just long enough to perceive this.
The saq mai (F'lorine, meaning "head drop") is a quite simple but diabolically ingenious tool of torturers. The main component is a simple rack, on which the victim is locked, stretched out, unable to move, but not stretched. The victim's head is covered in a harness of sorts; on the backside of this harness (against the victim's head) are sharp (though not deadly sharp) pins. The front of the mask (which sports no pins) is connected to a chain- this chain runs through a metal loop above the table, and on the other side of the chain there is a huge, spiked weight.
Therefore, summarizing the function of the saq mai, the victim remains in a constant state of paralyzing neck pain and fear; if the victim moves his head down into a more comfortable position, the pins of the head-harness with stab into his skin (they already cause considerable discomfort); if the victim moves his head forward off the pins in an effort to lessen the pain of these pins, the spiked weight will lower into his innards.
The piercing of both wrists and ankles with nails is the key. Also it is vital to position the ankle nails such that the victim's knees are slightly bent. (Note that, contrary the Christian mythology the upper nails were nearly always driven through the wrists rather than the hands as this provides a more secure hold. Similarly the lower nail was typically driven through the ankles rather than the feet, although this was largely a matter of convenience).
It works as follows:
The victim is suspended by his (or indeed her) wrists. This not only causes considerable pain but also tightens the pectoral muscles across the chest, constricting the lungs and making breathing all but impossible.
In an attempt to breathe the victim instinctively straitens his knees, in order to relieve the pressure on the lungs. However, the only support is the nail driven through the ankles, which causes the victim excruciating levels of pain that cannot long be endure.
To relieve the pain the victim relaxes his knees and is again suspended by the wrists. Thus the cycle repeats endlessly.
The perverse beauty of all this is that no active torturer is required as the victim's own instinctive desire the live does all of the work.
Contemporary accounts suggested that a healthy man might take three or four days to die.
Death wasn't always by asphyxiation. Dehydration, blood loss, and simple shock were also ways to die when crucified. In addition, the manner of crucifixion wasn't set in stone. There were constant variations in the specifics, sometimes including piercing through the actual palms.
In addition, in an honor/shame society (as the ANE was), crucifixion would be a most shameful, dishonorable way to die. That was a major part of it's purpose. To degrade and shame, as well as torture and kill. Something to keep in mind if you're going to be using this in a campaign.
For this one the victim is strapped to a chair, with both of their palms face up. A substance such as heroin is heated up to the point where it melts, and a knife is heated until it is red-hot. The knife is then run through the heroin, or any other suitable drug, until the whole blade is coated with a thin film of the drug. The knife is then used to peel the skin off of the victim's exposed arm, in thin strips so that this can be done repeatedly on the same arm.
The knife is then heated again, and the drug reapplied, the process is repeated until the victim caves.
Torture is not always about pain, which the devious posters to this thread seem to know very well...
First you bind the person's hands so that their finger nails go into their other arm. Then you cast a spell on their finger nail alone, something along the lines of 'speed up growth so that 1 year passes in a minute' Soon their nails will grow into their skin causing them undue pain. You then stop the spell, and cut the nail off. Move their hands and re-bind. Repeat until desired results are achieved.
This has reminded me of an actual execution technique from Asia: the prisoner is bound to lie down on earth, on a cleared bamboo field... if you have plants that can grow a few centimeters a day through anything, you do not need to worry about the prisoner or the funeral.
Something feeling 'asian' or not is a foolish criteria for usage.
This technique can only be used in worlds were there is no seperation between clerical and wizard magics, where magic can be used to heal.
The technique is simple. The mage puts a pain block in the target's abdomin. An incision is made and warm to pure charcol hot to warm coals are put in (important as they burn clean and don't need too much 02). The wound is then healed over. The pain block is removed and reapplied as needed to "motivate" the target. If the target "spills their guts", the coals can be removed by a quick incision and some more healing.
This lovely location can be used for more than mere executions of nobility. The ringing of the bells, if not fully rhythmic, can still do serious kinetic damage to the target, as well as deafen them, and can send the target towards madness, but not kill them. So "short doses" of the bell can be used to "loosen" the tongue of most people, who after the second or third time under will do just about anything to avoid it.
This is not a fantasy torture. Execution by bell was practiced in three Asian countries in centuries past.
Pillory : A wooden framework on a post, with holes for the head and hands, in which offenders were formerly locked to be exposed to public scorn as punishment.
The barrel pillory was a device of perfect torture if used correctly.
This particular device was mainly used on those who ere common to befall the disgrace of to much drink. The barrel fit over the entire body of the person being punished with their head sticking out of the very top. Only the head could stick out as the top was usually two parts that were clamped shut allowing only the head through but did not allow the person being punished to dip their head below the opening.
There were two kinds of this particular device. The enclose barrle which forced the person being punished to kneel in their own filth for the length of their punishment, not to mention not being able to properly sit, kneel, or bend to a comfortable position.
And the open barrel where the perons being punished was forced to walk the streets to show their crime to the populace always to open ridicule and scorn.
Often there were scenes painted on the sides of the barrel showing the transgressions of the person being accused of. Drunkenss, fighting, theft were all popular themes.
Not a common item used in a dungeon or torture setting it could however be used for a purpose to punish both men and women.
Other names of this same device were, the girgle of purity, girdle of venus, or the florentine girgle.
The history of this device predates Christianity but its use rose to a high during midieval periods. They were never intended to be worn for long periods of time, more for short jaunts to protect against the possibility of rape.
There are two forms of the belt, the partial pudenda and the full pudenda. The partial pudenda was a metal belt that locked around the waist and had a metal front. The covering around the genital area was left open but was usually covered in small, sharp pins or spikes that pointed outward. Some even had a single edged blade that ran the length of the opening.
The full pudenda was built in a similar manner but instead of a single opening in the front it had one in the rear as well. Both openings had the same spikes or teeth that protected from enterance.
A rarely used torture, but one I would use in my setting to really get into the players heads, was to force a male onto an individual wearing one of these devices. The male usually does not last long with this kind of torture.
It could also, uncommonly, be used against woman who are pronounced shrews or adulterers to keep them from continuing their ways.
Not the piece of armor but ana ctual device made by the germans, who oddly enough gave it a french name.
This was an odd device usually made out of what was lying about the shop of the blacksmith who built them. It was formed of a breastplate surrounded by three or four bands of metal that locked in the back. A locking band would go under the groin of the prisoner to lock in the back as well as bands locking over the shoulders. This was not a custom built device but the bands were able to lock in different positions making it possible for different sized prisoners to use the same device with similar discomfort.
A prisoner would be locked into this device with their arms bound to their sides and the bands locked into place. The weight caused by the breastplate would cause a heavy discomfort but with the inability to bend and stretch or even move the arms, the prisoner was uncomfortable quickly. Sitting in this device was near impossible, and unconfortable to boot.
Reach out and touch someone...
The Tucker Telephone is a torture device of the early 20th century. It used parts from a (now old-fashioned crank) telephone. The electric generator of the telephone is wired in sequence to two batteries so that the instrument can be used to administer electric shocks to another person. The Tucker Telephone was invented by a trustee who acted as the "resident physician" at the Tucker State Prison Farm, Arkansas, in the 1960s.
At the "Tucker Hospital", an inmate was strapped down and electrodes placed on toes and genitals.. When the crank was turned, a charge was shot through the body. Continuing with the telehone euphemisms, 'long-distance calls' referred to several such charges, just before the point of losing consciousness. This was imperfect, however, and other consequences included permanent organ damage and insanity. Its use is substantiated until 1968.
The Tucker Telephone is also sometimes referred to as Radio Moscow, as the same device was used by the Russians in the early to middle 20th Century. There are scattered reports from American Vietnam war veterans that field phones were occasionally converted into Tucker telephones which were used by platoon commanders to torture Viet Cong prisoners.
A Medieval torture classic, as well as a means of punishment.
The victim would place his or her hands and feet in the open device later to be closed. Depending on the crime, a person could be sentenced to many days, or even weeks of staying confined by the stocks.
Even though in movies they portrait the stocks harmless, the reality was quite different. Victims suffered and sometimes those who wanted to save the victim were also tortured by this method.
Generally placed near a town or other settlement, the victim was subject to the public's harm. In most cases, it was limited to public scorn, feces, and rotten fruit thrown in them. However, if public sentiment was against them, the injuries could be more grevious. Punching/ hitting the victim was popular. However, more popular was the more biblical Stoning. This could be a nuicense to actual deep injury. Supposedly, cutting was very common, with a few rare cases of cuting off parts of the victim (such as a hand) to later be burned; stopping him from dying.
Sometimes, death penalty was sentenced by this device. The victim was to be left confined to the stocks somewhere while the public, sun, and animals did their job to kill him.
The victim is tied strongly enough, so it cannot move (the right equipment should be in any decent torture chamber), then drugged with a decent pain-killer - to feel no pain but stay conscious. Then, at a chosen location, usually a limb, or the abdomen later on, is covered by a piece of cloth which is put on fire.
The key is to maintain a slow-burning fire, that will cause the bodily fat to liquify and soak into the cloth. (This is also one reported cause for spontaneous combustion, given time it can burn the whole body from inside!)
Further medicine may be necessary to keep the unfortunate dieing of shock. Then, let the victim watch itself being slowly burned alive, until the sought information is revealed.
personally, i would just rather a bear came along....
I just happened to have come across this site and see this plea for...evil
Here are a few methods of torture/execution
This one works best in a computer-like chair. The victim sits down, with their hands below and outside the armrests. Their hands are put through the armrests, and under their legs. Then they are handcuffed, leaning forwards uncomfortably. Next, their legs are pulled up to the underside of the chair, where their ankles are shackled. Three small-width collars are placed around their neck. The top and bottom ones are chained to the ankle shackles. The center one (with spikes in the back) is chained to the handcuffs. This allows the collar to tighten as necessary, letting the victim choose to apply pressure to the spikes at the back of their neck, or the collar at the front, which chokes them. Much like crucifixion, the victim oscillates between aspyxiation and extreme pain.
This one requires a lot more planning and technical ability, but has the potential to keep a victim in agony for quite a while. It consists of a small array of mirrors. The victim is put in a collar with spikes on the inside. The collar is chained to the post, with the victim standing. The mirrors reflect the sunlight at the victim, varying the angle of the mirrors to account for the sun's movement. This will result in a searing sunburn after just a few hours. The victim not only suffers the extreme pain of an intensified sunburn, but also sleep deprivation and the threat of future skin cancer. The human body can only survive a few weeks without sleep. As for the burns, I have just one unanswered question: is it possible to inflict a third degree sunburn?
A derivative of this would be to chain the victim to a post and have someone hold a concave mirror out in direct sunlight, reflecting the beam at them and searing away their flesh little by little. To kill the victim (which may or may not be the objective) the torturer would have to burn away a significant percentage of the victim's body mass. Since the beam would cauterize the wound instantly, blood loss would be minimal, and death would be slow.
And finally, here's a wicked one. Some exotic metals can be warped, then when reheated, return to their original size and shape. A short metal cylinder could be stretched to several times its original diameter, then applied to a finger or toe. When heated with a hair dryer, they return to their original shape and size...crushing whatever they are applied to. Eventually, the lack of blood flow to the constricted area will cause it to die and eventually decompose. Antibiotics could keep the victim alive, so they would not die from infection. A supply of 20 fingers and toes should keep the torturer busy for several months before having to start on the limbs.
f the light... we need more torture devices."
This one is relatively simple, one simply straps the patient to the operating table and drug the them into immobility then proceeds to take "creative liberties" with a scalpel upon the more fleshy parts of the body. (or if one wishes fore horrific shock factor the genitals)
The key here is to carve shallow wounds the size and diameter of a nickel (about 1/2" across), then place your preferred strain of flesh eating maggot eggs in to the wound.
As long as you set up a mirror to provide the victim with a decent view of the afflicted area, (Cutting off the eye lids may be necessary at this point.) they will likely tell you anything and everything you want to know as soon as they realize what will happen when the eggs hatch into larvae and go to work on their vulnerable body parts.
After the victim is suitably restrained one applies a sand paper covered belaying pin to various parts of the body with a brisk rubbing motion. The damage caused from this abrasion will be relatively minor (at first) but the pain would be excruciating. (Topical application of salt/alcohol to the wounds will speed the interrogation process without causing excessive harm to the victim.
For variation one can change the grade of sand paper to more or less coarse as they desire or substitute a cheese grater or metal/wood file.
Using a heating element attached inside a hollow metal spike of desired length and thickness one then inserts this probe into the subjects delicate bodily orifice of their choice and slowly turns up the heat. Depending on the amount of heat applied the tissue surrounding the probe will cook over a manner of minutes, hours, or perhaps longer inflicting horrible agony and eventual sterility. (providing the victim with a proper view of the process will help speed interrogation along of course along with the scent of their own body slow roasting)
For variety one can also apply electric shock therapy through this probe instead of, or during the cooking process, although this will hasten the heat build up and onset of sterility.
This one can be applied with minimal difficulty after the subject has been subjected to any number of other interrogation techniques. (It works especially well on spies, and other covert operatives)
The subject after being rendered unconsciouses then has their head bandaged (providing their eyes are still intact) and brought into a room made up to be a mockery of a hospital. (A small speaker connecting to a device that beeps regularly and another one that "hisses" for the hospital sounds and a pan of disinfectant on the floor for that "hospital smell." Providing someone to feel their wrist as if checking their pulse adds to this deception.
The subject is then awoken by someone impersonating a doctor and fed the simple story their body was "dumped" in a river or whatever and then found by an innocent passer by who called an ambulance.
From there the victim (if a spy or covert operative) can be "be briefed" by someone posing as a superior and the unwitting person will usually divulge their mission, what they found out, and what, if anything, they told their captors while under the strain of torture.
(one can also interpose a "qualified psychiatrist" during the debriefing to speak the person about their captivity and the effect it had upon them. Provided one can find a actual psychiatrist to conduct these sessions all manner of mental problems can be caused and/or taken advantage of.)
For added deception one can provide the victim with a secure untraceable line to the outside and allow them to call their "family" and let them know their okay and recovering in whatever out of the way medical area the interrogators have provided. (Usually in a third world country to prevent them from readily paying them a visit)
After this technique has been used whether effective or not, and the victim has recovered a modicum of health. The psychological impact of having the bandages removed or otherwise finding out they are still in the confinement of their torturers will usually break all but the strongest willed victims.
Simply, Blazing salt is a blend of carefully prepared hot pepper and salt. The peppers are cut just so, as to discard as much of the non-capsaicin containing material as possible, leaving behind only the veins that contain the pungent chemicals. Dried, and then ground into the salt, this mixture is applied to open wounds to create agonizing pain. Further, this mixture cannot be easily removed with water, as capsaicin is generally insoluble in water.
for this one you need these ankle shackles that are connected to chains and the chains are connected to a crank. The victim's ankles are placed in the ankle shackles and the torturer turns the crank, pulling the victim into split position. If this is used for interrogation, the crank can be turned as slowly or as quickly as the torturer wants.
The splits will be very painful, especially if the torturer turns and rests (to let the pain set in).
Well this consists of a wooden/metal/spiked frame that is in the shape of a human body doing a star jump that had lots of straps on it. The victim is strapped to the frame and if the frame is spiked, it will pierce the body. Otherwise, it is the perfect holding in place tool that a torture chamber can ever have.
A variation might include a drugged and spiked ball that is stuffed in the gentials.
Pull the hair out one by one or together!
If you know torture won't work on someone then do it to their family instead to make the person give in.
In rare cases (holy monks/nuns sworn to chastity) then something like making love to them, kissing, licking, touching their bound bodies, would be a kind of mental torture for them.
i read this article because i wanted to learn some new methods, and you guys are truly devious, which i enjoy. so i had a cruel idea that twists some areas of thought. bind victim in an iron ring, similar to the russian implement of torture "the street sweepers daughter". next, you take a needle, with a small broadhead , similar to a bowhunting shaft, but only an inch and a half from tip to tip, in a cross pattern. put string attached to the other end, maybe 4 feet of string, and start the torture. weave the needle into the victims flesh, all over their bodies making sure to make maybe three or four passes on their genitals, but no more. and weave the needle and string all over ther body. once done with the weave, pull the other end of the string so as to rip out the needle with the head of it ripping through the flesh, making it bleed a little bit. salt the wounds, and then let them recuperate for a time to let the injuries heal. wash, rinse repeat. they will not die from it unless you put the needle too deep. truly heinous.
The Breaking Wheel (Catherine's Wheel)
The victim is lashed upon a large wheel, with joints in paritcular places. They are then beaten with clubs, which combined with the pressure points of the spokes easily break bones and joints. The rubbery usless limbs are threaded through the spokes, and the wheel is placed up high for the victim to die of dehydration days later while being pecked at by birds. Mercy may be extended by strangulation of the victim after several blows, or a coup de grace.
A seventeenth-century chronicler wrote the victim looked like, "A sort of huge screaming puppet writhing in rivulets of blood, a puppet with four tentacles, like a sea monster, of raw, slimy and shapeless flesh mixed up with splinters of smashed bones."
This device is the opposite principle of the Duke of Exeter's daughter, more commonly known as the rack, and was created for the Tower of London as the rack was too difficult to move up and down the stairs. Instead of stretching the body, the victim is forced into a compressed kneel and the clamp tightened.
From The Leopard, by Jo Nesbo:
First devised and created in the Belgian Congo. A smooth metallic ball, slightly smaller than a tennis ball in circumference with tiny apertures along its contours. Made of gold, coltan, and steel, the ball is a minor feat of engineering. An additional small opening reveals a looped wire. The ball is placed in the victim's mouth. When the wire is pulled, 24 tiny antenna jut out from the ball, causing it to lodge itself in the mouth. At this point, though not overly painful, the victim cannot remove the ball, nor can another extract it for them. With a second pull of the wire, 24 needles erupt outwards from the extended antennae in 24 directions, causing severe damage to throat, cheek, tongue, palate, nasal cavity, etc....the victim will usually bleed out slowly in excruciating pain. How was this used for torture? It usually involved 2 victims. One who who was forced to swallow the ball, and the second who was forced to watch the effects. That second person would usually begin talking quickly.
bTreadmill with Hot Metal Sheet:b/ You have a treadmill, or some such device like that. You put a metal sheet behind it, and put walls to either side. The metal sheet is kept hot. Burn your skin off if you touch it hot. Very painful hot. The person walks along on the treadmill until he is slowly burnt to death on the sheet.
This two pronged fork was strapped to the victims neck in order to prevent them from sleeping. They would either have their hands tied behind their back or suspended in air. It would also prevent the person from speaking further and was usually used post confession.
This device was mostly used in 16th century Spain. The victim would be placed in a harness atop a pyramid-shaped seat with a sharp point. The victim would then be slowly lowered onto the device, which would protrude into their genitals, often ripping them open. Death would occur from tears in muscle tissue that would become infected, or the victim would simply be impaled.
The Lead Sprinkler was a ball with holes in it attached to a long handle. The punishers would sprinkle the contents of the Lead Sprinkler onto the victim's mouth, anus, vagina or eyes causing intense pain and even death. This device would contain boiling water, hot oil, molten lead, or molten silver.
The crocodile shears were used to punish those attempting to assassinate the king. The device consisted of a tube with spikes at both ends that would be clamped down onto the victim's appendages. The arterial damage that would occur often resulted in agonizing death.