[RPG] My players have a habit of always torturing enemies they capture for information, how can I make our adventure less macabre?


So I'm running the lost mines of Phandelver as a new DM and we're about 5 sessions in. I've noticed a pattern that seems to repeat itself: the players defeat and capture an evil NPC character that knows some information, that character is tied up and intimidated/tortured, then that character inevitably spills the information it knows.

This cycle is getting a bit repetitive and depressing. How can I, as a DM, encourage my players to try more diverse ways of obtaining information from uncooperative NPCs without withholding story-critical information?

Best Answer

Don't reward the behavior.

You control the game universe and everything in it. Start making your NPCs tougher and smarter. Let them resist the torture defiantly, going so far as to die to keep their secret. If they complain this is unrealistic, point out that in real life, Thomas More resisted intense torture and then execution at the hands of King Henry VIII and never caved into the king's demands.

Alternatively, make the victims crafty. Have them give the PCs bad information to get out of torture. Again, realistic: torture victims tend to tell their tormentors what they think they want to hear, not necessarily the truth. With enough bad information, the players should start drifting away from the tactic.

Also make sure to have the bad guys react to this tactic. If they torture an orc, the orc band burns a village in retaliation if they find out about it. This continues this answer's theme of realism: torture often breeds very ugly tit for tat escalations - it's a reason most people avoid it. Have the players face the consequences of what they're doing.

There are no game mechanics for torture that I have ever seem, which means the outcome is up to you. When your players start playing this game, just make them lose until they stop playing.