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Basic Information

Lynching is, more or less, the administration of capital punishment by those without the official sanction to do so. It is generally distinguished from murder by the joint enterprise of a large number of people and a veneer of just cause.

Lynching is a common fate for those who commit particularly socially unacceptable crimes1 and whom the state is unwilling or unable to protect. Lynching may also be the fate of those who have been tried and sentenced by an official court but whose crimes enrage the mob to such a degree that they consider the sentence inadequate.

In wartime combatants that fall into the hands of a hostile civilian population may also be lynched - air crew are popular victims, as are enemy special forces … if they can be caught. The troops of a fallen regime and stragglers from retreating armies are also at risk of being lynched.

A lynch mob - or very similar organism - may also inflict punishments short of death, most of them still involving some form of bodily harm although some may limit themselves to purely social punishments such as humiliating the victim (see rough music below) or ritually expelling them from the community. Fatal injury may still result, and equally an attempted fatal lynching may be survivable … mobs are often neither predictable nor competent.

See also

Stoning - a form of capital punishment that involves many of the most popular aspects of lynching and, in many cultures, is indeed the preferred method for conducting one.
Rough Music - a less lethal version of lynching.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs may find themselves the targets of a lynch mob, or may merely come between one and its victim (which is often much the same thing). As with any mob, dispersing it without starting a massacre can be tricky.
  • A lynching is usually good shorthand for a place where the rule of law is somewhat slender.
  • The fact that someone is being lynched doesn't necessarily mean that they are innocent - this may be an important learning point for PCs who immediately jump in to stop lynch mobs.
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