This character has a scarred or deformed neck as a result of a failed hanging. This may just indicate that he is a real hard case and too tough to kill easily, or it may be used to show what a bad life he has led and to explain his hatred of the world.
Obviously, this works better with short drop hanging, where there is a possibility of a rushed execution leading to someone being cut down whilst still alive. Surviving a long drop hanging would be another matter altogether.
There is a rumour - which probably varies in accuracy from place to place - that anyone who survives being hanged, or who survives a set number of attempts to hang him, is pardoned. This would probably be more of a medieval thing, where divine intervention might be suspected.
In more modern settings, this can be updated to The Man They Couldn't Fry. Many of the early criminals sentenced to the electric chair survived the process and had to be electrocuted repeatedly before they died.
Game and Story Use
- Great way to demonstrate that a villain is a real Bad Ass.
- Or that his loyal Henchmen cut him down / rescued him.
- Flavorful back story for an anti-hero PC. Of course, there's all sorts of social stigma that goes with it.
- Transplanted to the fantasy genre or superhero genre, this might be a clue to a character's regeneration or other powers.
- The Man They Couldn't Hang might turn out to be some sort of undead.
- The Jaegermonsters from Girl Genius also appear to be resistant to hanging, although no explanation is actually given, other than that they are supernaturally tough.
- The undead may inject a certain level of ambiguity into this.
- More generally, anything that doesn't breath and circulate blood1 is likely to immune to short-drop hanging, and anything with an unbreakable (and undislocatable) spine (or the ability to recover from a broken and wrenched neck) should be immune to the long drop, up until the point of its head coming off. Unless that also isn't a problem…
- The ability to feign death successfully could well lead to someone being cut down whilst still alive … especially if the gallows are busy that day.
Building This Character
- In general, this character should be built along the lines of The Gunslinger or Wild West Outlaw, or whatever other sort of Criminal they were prior to their arrest. A few changes, though:
- Physical Traits, especially Stamina or Constitution, are really important. The lynch mob didn't break your neck, or choke you to death, and your stats should reflect that.
- You've got a permanent wound on your neck, and being hung doesn't do much for the disposition.