Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-28-2015, 03:51 AM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

Interrogation is the IQ/A skill of questioning a prisoner or other unwilling subject, which defaults to IQ-5, Intimidation-3, or Psychology-4. No skills default to Interrogation, although Fortune-Telling can be used in its place, with the right subject and circumstances. The GM normally makes Interrogation rolls, which are a Quick Contest against the subject's Will for each question, with victory getting a true answer, a tie or loss no answer, and loss by more than five a believable lie. In most settings, only the police, military, prison and intelligence services, and the underworld, teach this skill. The skill dates back to GURPS 1e, and its rules haven't changed much since then.

Modifiers include penalties for the subject's loyalty to his cause, +2 for a lengthy session, of over two hours, +3 for using severe threats and +6 for coercive measures amounting to torture (this doesn't have to be physical force: threats against loved ones, or use of something the subject has a phobia about, also work). Torture is also often considered vile conduct, and likely to attract punishment or retribution. Like all applied psychology, it's a complicated subject.

Interrogation isn't listed as a skill penalised by lack of Cultural Familiarity or comprehension of the subject's language, but cases could be made for both of those. Mind Probe is more useful if you have Interrogation at better than IQ level. Callous boosts Interrogation, if you use threats or torture, and Low Empathy penalises it. Extreme Fanaticism helps you resist the skill, as does anything that boosts Will.

Interrogation is common on templates for spies, counterspies, police and other investigators, and similar trades. Action uses uncontested Interrogation for questioning cooperative or neutral subjects efficiently, and has rules for handling an entire interrogation as a single contest, polygraphs and resisting them, "truth serums", using Intimidation (and its drawbacks), cinematic limitations of torture (they might say anything) and recovering from failures via Detect Lies. Action 4: Specialists includes action-movie journalists with Interrogation skill, and combat epidemiologists are the strangest interrogators. Banestorm's Michaelites and Lazarites include investigator-priests, and Bio-Tech's bioterrorist lens includes the skill. DF Bards and Holy Warriors use Interrogation on monsters, and Evil Clerics on anyone they can; Psis do it more subtly. Fantasy has templates for Slayers and Roman magistrates; High-Tech applies the skill to cartography, has polygraphs and voice-stress analyzers, and hints at techniques for inducing subjects to be forthcoming and truthful, but without details. Horror gives criminals, occultists and slayers the skill as an option. Madness Dossier "wetware hackers" use it along with drugs and electrodes. Locations: Hellsgate has a demon with an interesting optional specialisation, (Voluntary Interviews) and Metro of Madness has religious cultists who use the skill. Low-Tech has material on torture's place in historical legal systems, and methods of applying pain without doing much physical damage. Magic: Death Spells has coercion with threats of zombification, and Martial Arts has torture via Pressure Points. Monster Hunters makes much the same uses of this skill as Action.

Mysteries, naturally, has a lot about interrogation, but isn't terribly consistent with later 4e books. It reckons interviews of witnesses are Diplomacy, with its modifiers, and that only arrested or convicted prisoners get Interrogation, which is always somewhat coercive. It also has rules for using Influence rolls for questioning, and tables of modifiers for all of these.

Power-Ups volumes 3, 5, 6 and 7 all have examples for Interrogation. Powers has uses for the skill with mind-reading powers, as does Psionic Powers, and Psis; Reign of Steel: Will to Live has some powerful technological assistance in the form of virtual reality.

Social Engineering seems to embody the modern state of the GURPS art on Interrogation. It amplifies and explains the Basic rules, emphasises that Interrogation is only for prisoners, and provides rules for other skills to complement this one. Notably, it explains how to do good cop/bad cop correctly. Thaumatology has a very strange use for the skill: inflicting severe pain on yourself, as a sacrifice to spirits who enjoy that kind of thing. Ritual Path Magic has a ritual that makes Interrogation rolls unopposed, and Ultra-Tech has devices that boost the skill.

I tend to be sceptical about the real effectiveness of torture: it will get people to talk, but if they don't have the information you're after -- which someone who does know is likely to claim anyway -- all you can get is something they've made up. You're betting that your knowledge so far in the case is correct and if you're wrong, you're likely get onto a false trail.

Something that I've noticed in several gaming groups with characters who are part of a military structure or other large-scale conflict is that characters who are professional about the conflict are quite willing to apply need-to-know to themselves. They know they're at risk of capture and interrogation, and therefore make sure they don't know where the McGuffin is hidden, or who the secret heir is.

What have you got out of prisoners, or kept from your captors?
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-28-2015, 05:12 AM   #2
Peter Knutsen
Banned
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Europe
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

There's an on-going thread about interrogation, in this same forum. I'll get around to linking to it from this thread, later today, if nobody has done it before.
Peter Knutsen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-28-2015, 05:48 AM   #3
cptbutton
 
cptbutton's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Knutsen View Post
There's an on-going thread about interrogation, in this same forum. I'll get around to linking to it from this thread, later today, if nobody has done it before.
This one?

Expert (Interviewer); Psychology; Interrogation
cptbutton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-28-2015, 11:12 AM   #4
RogerBW
 
RogerBW's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: near London, UK
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

I miss the "Interview" skill from Cyberpunk 2020. (Also the "Persuasion, Lie & Fast Talk" skill but that's another thread.)

People who've been through real-life intensive questioning, or those who've had sufficiently good simulations of it in escape-and-evasion or similar courses, seem to be of a uniform opinion that everyone will talk eventually, but it can take a while, and the harder the interrogator pushes the more likely he is to get back fabulation. Social Engineering seems to get this close enough to right for game purposes.

There is certainly a genuine Interrogation subskill that one might call "careful interviewing", the sort of police technique that gets suspects to go over their stories repeatedly from slightly different angles while the questioner looks for inconsistencies. This doesn't have to be overtly aggressive, though it's never going to be friendly; saying "look, we're all tired, let's just run through it once more and then you can go" is certainly a valid tactic.

It's not something that's come up very often in my games, which is a bit surprising really. A lot of the time a malefactor is caught dead to rights, and no special interrogation is needed as I know he's entirely happy to save his own skin. Such NPCs should probably fabulate more.
RogerBW is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 11:31 AM   #5
jason taylor
 
jason taylor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Interrogation is the IQ/A skill of questioning a prisoner or other unwilling subject, which defaults to IQ-5, Intimidation-3, or Psychology-4. No skills default to Interrogation, although Fortune-Telling can be used in its place, with the right subject and circumstances. The GM normally makes Interrogation rolls, which are a Quick Contest against the subject's Will for each question, with victory getting a true answer, a tie or loss no answer, and loss by more than five a believable lie. In most settings, only the police, military, prison and intelligence services, and the underworld, teach this skill. The skill dates back to GURPS 1e, and its rules haven't changed much since then.

Modifiers include penalties for the subject's loyalty to his cause, +2 for a lengthy session, of over two hours, +3 for using severe threats and +6 for coercive measures amounting to torture (this doesn't have to be physical force: threats against loved ones, or use of something the subject has a phobia about, also work). Torture is also often considered vile conduct, and likely to attract punishment or retribution. Like all applied psychology, it's a complicated subject.

Interrogation isn't listed as a skill penalised by lack of Cultural Familiarity or comprehension of the subject's language, but cases could be made for both of those. Mind Probe is more useful if you have Interrogation at better than IQ level. Callous boosts Interrogation, if you use threats or torture, and Low Empathy penalises it. Extreme Fanaticism helps you resist the skill, as does anything that boosts Will.

Interrogation is common on templates for spies, counterspies, police and other investigators, and similar trades. Action uses uncontested Interrogation for questioning cooperative or neutral subjects efficiently, and has rules for handling an entire interrogation as a single contest, polygraphs and resisting them, "truth serums", using Intimidation (and its drawbacks), cinematic limitations of torture (they might say anything) and recovering from failures via Detect Lies. Action 4: Specialists includes action-movie journalists with Interrogation skill, and combat epidemiologists are the strangest interrogators. Banestorm's Michaelites and Lazarites include investigator-priests, and Bio-Tech's bioterrorist lens includes the skill. DF Bards and Holy Warriors use Interrogation on monsters, and Evil Clerics on anyone they can; Psis do it more subtly. Fantasy has templates for Slayers and Roman magistrates; High-Tech applies the skill to cartography, has polygraphs and voice-stress analyzers, and hints at techniques for inducing subjects to be forthcoming and truthful, but without details. Horror gives criminals, occultists and slayers the skill as an option. Madness Dossier "wetware hackers" use it along with drugs and electrodes. Locations: Hellsgate has a demon with an interesting optional specialisation, (Voluntary Interviews) and Metro of Madness has religious cultists who use the skill. Low-Tech has material on torture's place in historical legal systems, and methods of applying pain without doing much physical damage. Magic: Death Spells has coercion with threats of zombification, and Martial Arts has torture via Pressure Points. Monster Hunters makes much the same uses of this skill as Action.

Mysteries, naturally, has a lot about interrogation, but isn't terribly consistent with later 4e books. It reckons interviews of witnesses are Diplomacy, with its modifiers, and that only arrested or convicted prisoners get Interrogation, which is always somewhat coercive. It also has rules for using Influence rolls for questioning, and tables of modifiers for all of these.

Power-Ups volumes 3, 5, 6 and 7 all have examples for Interrogation. Powers has uses for the skill with mind-reading powers, as does Psionic Powers, and Psis; Reign of Steel: Will to Live has some powerful technological assistance in the form of virtual reality.

Social Engineering seems to embody the modern state of the GURPS art on Interrogation. It amplifies and explains the Basic rules, emphasises that Interrogation is only for prisoners, and provides rules for other skills to complement this one. Notably, it explains how to do good cop/bad cop correctly. Thaumatology has a very strange use for the skill: inflicting severe pain on yourself, as a sacrifice to spirits who enjoy that kind of thing. Ritual Path Magic has a ritual that makes Interrogation rolls unopposed, and Ultra-Tech has devices that boost the skill.

I tend to be sceptical about the real effectiveness of torture: it will get people to talk, but if they don't have the information you're after -- which someone who does know is likely to claim anyway -- all you can get is something they've made up. You're betting that your knowledge so far in the case is correct and if you're wrong, you're likely get onto a false trail.

Something that I've noticed in several gaming groups with characters who are part of a military structure or other large-scale conflict is that characters who are professional about the conflict are quite willing to apply need-to-know to themselves. They know they're at risk of capture and interrogation, and therefore make sure they don't know where the McGuffin is hidden, or who the secret heir is.

What have you got out of prisoners, or kept from your captors?
In Burn Notice, "Comrades" rather then torture the prisoner "intensely"(what he did was certainly highly unpleasant but probably would not qualify as torture as we normally think of it), Michael Westen pretended to have been tortured to win the prisoner's trust.
__________________
"The navy could probably win a war without coffee but would prefer not to try"-Samuel Eliot Morrison
jason taylor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 11:46 AM   #6
Verjigorm
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, North Caroline, United States of America, Earth?
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

One interesting aspect of torture and interrogation is that Islamic terrorists, when captured, have proven much less resistant to interrogation, fearing that they would be tortured. The threat of being released from american authority, into say Egyptian or, until recently, Syrian authority was apparently taken very seriously.

Of course, the way you use torture isn't to put them on the rack, and yell "tell us what you know!" while prodding them with hot pokers. That produces all sorts of exaggerated claims. No, the trick is to use existing information, get the subject to tell you what you know is a falsehood, then "punish" them for lying. It requires a substantial set up, and you spend a lot of time going over stuff you already know, and you have to already know these things.

But once you "catch 'em in a lie" once or twice, and hurt'em for it, people start to be a bit more truthful.
__________________
A shadu an la illa illah Allah, we shadu anna Muhammadar Rasul
Verjigorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 11:46 AM   #7
dripton
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Virginia, USA
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

The wizard in my current DF game has one point in Interrogation, bought with an earned character point after interrogating a few captured enemies at default skill. So far the party has only managed to capture low-level minions, so the information gained has been useful but limited. Bosses tend to be harder to capture and less likely to talk -- so far they've fought four bosses and managed to capture none of them. (Three have died and one has escaped.)

Language penalties are often an issue when attempting to interrogate non-human enemies in fantasy games. My PCs are always trying to learn more languages, but it's hard to sustain enough contact with hostile monsters to get past Broken comprehension. Gift of Tongues is nice, but it's expensive to maintain past Broken.
dripton is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 11:59 AM   #8
jason taylor
 
jason taylor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Verjigorm View Post
One interesting aspect of torture and interrogation is that Islamic terrorists, when captured, have proven much less resistant to interrogation, fearing that they would be tortured. The threat of being released from american authority, into say Egyptian or, until recently, Syrian authority was apparently taken very seriously.

Of course, the way you use torture isn't to put them on the rack, and yell "tell us what you know!" while prodding them with hot pokers. That produces all sorts of exaggerated claims. No, the trick is to use existing information, get the subject to tell you what you know is a falsehood, then "punish" them for lying. It requires a substantial set up, and you spend a lot of time going over stuff you already know, and you have to already know these things.

But once you "catch 'em in a lie" once or twice, and hurt'em for it, people start to be a bit more truthful.
Interesting and likely true(I haven't studied up on the craft myself but it sounds likely enough).

Do they ever just threaten to release them and spread a rumor that he turned?
__________________
"The navy could probably win a war without coffee but would prefer not to try"-Samuel Eliot Morrison
jason taylor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-29-2015, 12:38 PM   #9
Verjigorm
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlotte, North Caroline, United States of America, Earth?
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

Quote:
Originally Posted by jason taylor View Post
Interesting and likely true(I haven't studied up on the craft myself but it sounds likely enough).

Do they ever just threaten to release them and spread a rumor that he turned?
I think the biggest barrier towards that threat is that it's very hard for us to disseminate information through the channels that the subject would fear. If we knew who to spread the rumors to, we would probably be better served by them "disappearing" rather than using them as a threat. And they(the subject) know that. Well, I say that, but there's enough of a belief in a Zionist/World Bank/Bilderberg Group conspiracy among most revolutionary muslims that I'm not sure they wouldn't believe that we implant monitors in them. It's a weird little bunch.

It's also frightening how "they"(Islamic Terrorists) and our own domestic terrorists overlap. Their lists of grievances are very similar, with many of both groups believing in the same Zionist/Whatever conspiracies, and their behaviors are similar. I guess we're lucky, right now, in that our domestic terrorists tend to view "Them" as the enemy, rather than comrades in arms.
__________________
A shadu an la illa illah Allah, we shadu anna Muhammadar Rasul
Verjigorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-30-2015, 03:30 AM   #10
vicky_molokh
GURPS FAQ Keeper
 
vicky_molokh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Kyv, Ukraine
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Interrogation

I recommend to cut down on the political tangent in GURPS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Ritual Path Magic has a ritual that makes Interrogation rolls unopposed
That wording made me suspicious for a moment, as I didn't realise it's an Afflicition sort of ritual (i.e. which should be resisted when cast).

Oh, this might be 3e, but I vaguely recall that Interrogation can have the (Resistence) specialisation, i.e. skill at dealing with it from the opposite side.
__________________
Vicky 'Molokh', GURPS FAQ and uFAQ Keeper
Also, GURPS Discord is a nice place for (faster) Q&A and overall GURPS dicussion.
vicky_molokh is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
basic, interrogation, skill of the week

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:55 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.