Summary: Questioner wants to know the best way to restrain a person in order to prevent self-harm, while minimizing discomfort, facilitating their cleanliness and ongoing education, allowing entertainment and providing opportunities for copulation while protecting their partner from unexpected violent mood shifts, all the while maintaining a discreet watch by stenographers recording the person's speech. Tech level is Victorian England.

Backstory: Several hundred years ago, certain youths in foreign lands began to be - for want of a less superstitious term - possessed by spirits of prophecy. Such persons so afflicted have mental states that vary between lucidity, drooling imbecility, and most significantly, prescience or violence and self-destructiveness, and the shifts in mental state are swift and unpredictable.

Since these prophets have been shown to have demonstrably accurate and specific powers of prophecy, they are a valuable resource of national importance. However, in all but a very few cases, their self-destructiveness and suicidal tendencies leads to a very short useful lifespan as a prophet unless placed in restraints that prevent self-harm.

Unfortunately, restraints strict enough to prevent self-harm can themselves be harmful. In the nations in which prophets first appeared, prophets were variously chained permanently spread-eagled upon crude stone slabs, lying in their own filth in hollows worn into the stone by generations of prophets who had lived out the remainder of their lives there before them, or pinioned within casks with only their hands, head and posterior protruding, amongst other yet more barbaric means of restraint.

So, enough of the historical background. Prophets were formerly found only in less civilised realms, where individual lives were of little importance when placed beside the needs of the state. However, a fortunate accident of inheritance has led to the occurrence of prophets in our own nation. It has been demonstrated by our scientists that the children of a prophet have an approximately 1 in 2 chance of being prophets themselves, but while around 2 in 3 children born of two prophets will also be prophets, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the infant will be stillborn, and should that be the case, the mother is also unlikely to survive the pregnancy. Given that such a mother would herself be a prophet, once the risks were recognized, prophets were forbidden to be bred to other prophets.

That being the case, women of our region - either those who could pass as natives of the nations in which prophets were present, or true natives who had been convinced to change their allegiance - volunteered to couple with male prophets in the hope of being impregnated with a child who would become a prophet, and would be born in our own region. Such women must have had strong stomachs, given the squalor in which prophets were kept, and their poor state of health and grooming, not to mention that they were actively trying to bear a child who would be cursed to a lifetime of slavery and degradation.

Now that we have our own prophets, our scientists have made further discoveries, with the assistance of a small handful of prophets who were able to control their self-destructive and suicidal urges while conscious.

While a prophet need not even be normally capable of speech in order to prophesise, educated prophets give better prophecies, as the prophecy appears to be filtered through the prophet's mind to a degree.

Additionally, healthy, happy prophets live longer and are of more use than mistreated slaves bound perpetually in their own filth until their untimely demise from festering pressure sores or other diseases.

To this end, our monarch has commissioned a study into the best way to restrain a prophet in order to prevent self-harm, while minimizing discomfort, facilitating their cleanliness and ongoing education, allowing entertainment and providing opportunities for copulation while protecting their partner from unexpected violent mood shifts, all the while maintaining a discreet watch by stenographers who are tasked to record any prophetic utterances.

As it has been shown over centuries that contact with a wide variety of people stimulates prophesy, our prophets' living conditions must be such that they are accessible to the general public, able to make physical, even intimate, contact with them, yet protected from assassins.

To this end, I am seeking public submissions as to the best way to maintain prophets in safety and comfort for all, maximising their useful lifespans and minimising the impact of their inevitable servitude, while ensuring that no prophesy goes unrecorded.

Please consider that our nation has technological capabilities similar to that of Victorian England, though our mores are rather less restrictive and class-based for the most part. Save for prophesy, magic is mere superstition or trickery.


Using individuals trained in the martial arts to restrain otherwise unrestrained prophets has met with only limited success. Prophets in a psychotic state have been known to exhibit hysterical strength and have a complete disregard for pain, and have been known to dislocate their own joints in order to escape a hold. Combined with the instant shifts in mental state, a prophet can do significant damage to themselves or others before their handlers can react.

The use of drugs has likewise been found to be of limited value. A prophet can slip instantly into a prophetic state at any time, even when in the midst of a violent outburst or an act of copulation, and the mental impairment that such drugs cause degrades the value of the prophecy. Additionally, some, but not all, violent outbursts appear to be uncontrollable by means of drugs, and are said by the superstitious to be the work of the possessing spirit, as prophets in such states have been observed employing martial skills that they have never learned and sometimes ought not be capable of performing at all, and seem immune to most drugs at such times.

Some few prophets appear to have an innate untrained ability to suppress their violent and self-destructive outbursts while conscious, though they exhibit visible signs of considerable mental and physical stress while doing so, and are not capable of suppressing an outburst that occurs during sleep or sedation.

A few more prophets have been successfully trained to be similarly able to suppress their violent and self-destructive outbursts, but the majority do not appear capable of benefiting from such training.

Many prophets show signs of depression, and it is thought that the unresponsive state that many show is more a result of that depression than an effect related to the ability to prophesise. In good conditions, prophets show fewer and shorter bouts of unresponsiveness.

Providing prophets with sexual partners is considered to be a good practise on multiple levels. As the prophetic curse almost invariably appears to strike during late puberty, new prophets are typically teenagers with the usual sexual urges. Providing them with sexual partners has been shown to reduce their stress levels and the frequency of undesirable mental states, and additionally provides the chance of new prophets to be born. Providing many sexual partners has been shown to broaden the range of their prophesies, and a new sexual partner is likely to trigger a shift to a prophetic state. However, violent outbursts directed at their sexual partners is also fairly common.

Given the necessity for intimate contact at such times, it is unlikely that a handler could prevent injury to the partner through martial techniques alone.

  • $\begingroup$ Please remember that edits made to a question after answers have been provided should not change the requirements of answers. While I'm aware the martial issue came up after the first answer was posted, it may have been better to post a new question with the altered specifications and added details than to edit this question and, thus, invalidate the existing answers. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jan 25, 2018 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I extracted a summary and put it at the top of the question. The story fluff gets in the way of figuring out what is being asked. Monty, in your next question, please consider leaving all the backstory out of the question entirely. It'll make the question much more approachable and probably get you more answers. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Jan 26, 2018 at 7:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ easy, just chop off the arms and legs ... gruesome but effective. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2018 at 7:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ArtisticPhoenix, in Victorian England, one amputation carried a significant risk of death from complications, and here you're proposing four?! $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild Am I correct to assume that the prophets are 24/7 violent sometimes? $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Oct 17, 2018 at 23:37

5 Answers 5


We recommend a layered approach to securing these individuals. These protective layers will be based on the following observed behaviors and requirements to date:


  1. Random and extreme mood swings
  2. A mood in which violence to the self or others is likely and intentional
  3. Inordinate strength when victim to a violent phase


  1. Some freedom of motion
  2. Safe access to others for educational, social, or intimate purposes
  3. Ability to present prophesies


We assume these individuals are not trainable to reduce the length or severity of violent episodes. If this were the case, we would advise methods that have been researched in controlling the self-harm of mentally deficient individuals, such as applying lemon juice to the mouth during a non-desired behavior. We also note that such activity would likely be hazardous to the health of others, and may not be recommended, dependent on the severity of the violent episode.

With these factors in mind, we present the following solution.

Primary Protection - Restraint

The prophetic individual should be secured at all times using a belly chain. This device allows the subject limited motion to eat, point, write, etc. while "restricting arm motion to prevent the [subject] from butting or hitting." In accordance with the inordinate strength noted in the past, we advise heavier chain than would be utilized for high-risk inmates placed in similar restraints. During sessions with others, ankle bindings may also be employed and it is advised the chains be secured to a solid surface, such as a heavy chair or the frame of a bed; the latter is especially advised for intimate sessions.

Secondary Protection - Personnel and Technology

There should always be at least two attendants available to facilitate or restrain the prophetic individual, both being individuals of strength to handle the observed inordinate strength of the subject's manic episodes. These individuals should be trained to notice mood swings, either impending or happening, and be alert and ready to respond.

Additionally, we advise using a cutting edge device that has seen particular acclaim from ranchers: a cattle prod. The electric charge from the device will assist the attendant personnel to direct or interfere with the activities of the subject.

Tertiary Protection - Environment

A padded cell should be provided the prophetic individual. This room will feature no furnishings or windows and have a single entry point. During extreme bouts of mania, the attendants should place the subject in this room for safety, until the mania passes.

Additionally, the subject should have access to a grassy enclosure, for psychological reasons, and eating, education, public, entertainment, and relaxation areas, to provide basic needs and offer mental and physical stimulation.

In all environments, the attendants must have free and easy access to the subject. Environments in which the subject interacts with the public must be secured prior to the subject's entry to the area. In such areas, we advise a fence, either chain link or bars, to limit the subject's access to the public.

Emergency Protection - Anesthesia

Finally, in an emergency case, and thankfully for medical advances, we advise the use of an anesthetic grenade, a device capable of deploying a sleep-inducing gas, for instances where the prophetic individual escapes restraint during a manic episode and cannot be restrained through force from the attendants. We have previously recommended such a device with notable success.

  • $\begingroup$ Switching the location of the prophet to one place to another during Victoria Era is the most tedious part of your answer since, the negative traits might occur during the transport from the padded room to the grassy environment, or from the entertainment area into another area, do you mind if you include it in your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Oct 17, 2018 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.J Not sure what you mean. Outside the manic phase where attendants are forcibly moving the subject into the padded cell, the subject is perfectly capable of moving about the area on his/her own. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Oct 17, 2018 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ During transport of the prophet, I do think there is a chance they'll be violent during transport from room to room. If the persons who are guarding the prophet is lax during the transport procedure, someone will get hurt. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.J
    Oct 17, 2018 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.J In my solution, there is no procedure for moving a subject outside of a manic phase; s/he is free to move about the area as they choose. It's like walking from the kitchen to the living room to the back yard. If the people whose only job is to watch the prophet don't, then they can be replaced with others. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Oct 18, 2018 at 12:33

Your best bet would be to keep the prophet surrounded by guards at all times. They should be adept at at least one, if not multiple, forms of non lethal combat. From personal experience, I can say that many moves used in Japanese and oriental martial arts, like judo and ju-jitsu, can be difficult to escape from. The guards should be able to coordinate well with each other, for an easier restraint and all be familiar with the others techniques.

If we're talking the late Victorian era, then we can employ the use of sedatives. By this time there's the hypodermic needle and morphine as well as some types of opiate salts. If you keep someone well trained in medicine with the prophet, then they could very quickly either inject him with morphine, or a similar sedative; or if you prefer, the needle could already be in the prophet, and the doctor need only depress it to inject the sedative. From what you've described, it would be extremely difficult to sedate the prophet using opiate salts taken in through the respiratory system, however that is another sedation method. As you say, the prophets can get extremely violent, so it would also be advisable for your doctor to also be trained in combat to some extent.

The sedation will only be temporary though and will mostly just buy time to restrain the prophet if they're as strong as you say. The prophet's hands will most likely be their most damaging body parts as they allow for the most dexterity. To restrain the hands individually, you could have some form of glove that they wear at all times and has a sort of string system inside whereby, a guard would simply need to pull a cord on the glove's exterior and it would seize up on the hand. A simple pair of handcuffs can then hold the hands together and out of the way. To bring more control of the arms quickly, a similar device to handcuffs can be used, but around the upper arm. Imagine a strong strap around each upper arm connected together by a series of strong rope, or string or something, that can be left loose in most situations, and allow for regular mobility but again, like the gloves, a pull of a cord binds the two arms behind the prophet's back. You can restrain the rest of their limbs in the same sort of way: two straps on the limbs, connected bus string or rope, and can be pulled together to restrain the prophet at the pull of a cord. If you set all of these up properly, the you should be able to quickly force the prophet into some form of restraint, either flat or in a ball. Once there the main concern is keeping the prophet safe. Some form of brace, like a neck-brace, may be applied to any limbs needed to ensure that the prophet stays restrained and can't damage a limb by thrashing around.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! Nice answer. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jan 25, 2018 at 13:23

The best protective restraints are the arms of skilled caregivers trained in Aikido and Greco-Roman Westling. These professionals serve to defend their assigned prophet from both assasination and self-damage. Whenever a suicidal action is attempted, the guardians neutralize the threat using pressure points, flips, pins and holds. When necessary, the guardians can hold the prophet safely motionless until a more manageable mental state returns.

Three teams of three master-level athletes are assigned to each prophet, with each team covering an eight hour shift. The prophet is never left with less than two alert and ready guardians watching his every move. The third guardian is present for the unlikely event of a simultaneous assassination and suicide attempt. This guardian also performs all potentially dangerous services (such as shaving and cutting meat) while the other two hold the prophet motionless.

Although a variety of padded bondage devices are kept nearby to help with more lengthy bouts of dangerous behavior, their use is discouraged from day to day use. The prophet must remain free to interact with the populace whenever they are sane enough to do so safely.

Assisted by this defensive staff, and similar teams of stenographers, doctors and teachers, current day prophets live a much more luxurious life than their enslaved forebears. And the resulting improvement in prophecy quantity and quality, more than makes up for the additional expense to the kingdom.

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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, this has been tried and was less than completely successful. Prophets in a psychotic state have been known to exhibit hysterical strength and have a complete disregard for pain, and have been known to dislocate their own joints in order to escape a hold. Combined with the instant shift in mental state, a prophet can do significant damage to themselves or others before their handlers can react. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 25, 2018 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild: Add information like this to the question, otherwise this is just wasting the responder's time $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Jan 25, 2018 at 13:04

While a prophet need not even be normally capable of speech in order to prophesise, educated prophets give better prophecies, as the prophecy appears to be filtered through the prophet's mind to a degree.

If the prophet's mind tunes the prophecy, can you get a prophet focused on the well-being of the other prophets? If you had one prophet that could predict when the others will attempt self-harm, you could be far more relaxed with all the other prophets and just keep the one protected, relying on the one to notify you in advance of problems with the others.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting idea, however while prophet's prophecies are specific, accurate and reasonably unambiguous, they are not delivered reliably. A prophet can be exposed to those about whom a prophesy is desired, and while such a prophesy may indeed be forthcoming, weeks or months worth of irrelevant prophecies may be made before one relating to the desired subject is forthcoming, if one is forthcoming at all. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Oct 18, 2018 at 11:25
  1. Keep them fixed in place, on a padded chair with reclining capabilities.
  2. Keep the restraints heavy and tight so no movement outside of chewing, talking, drinking, and minor fidgeting is possible.
  3. Place tubes for the removal of excrement and urine, as well as menstrual fluid for female prophets.
  4. They should be able to be positioned so as to allow for intercourse.
  5. They should be gaurded at all times, and moved every two hours, with limbs massaged.

There is always the possibility of using the less pleasant suggestion of our friend Phoenix.

  • $\begingroup$ How can this setup allow for exercise, or in fact be much better than amputation or being chained to a slab, other than cleanliness. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Oct 18, 2018 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ You could make a sort of exercise bike and keep them still tethered in place whilst using it. $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2018 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ You could make a sort of exercise bike and keep them still tethered in place whilst using it. $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2018 at 1:05

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