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So, werewolves only transform once, after they were infected, either by another werewolf or by an unknown disease. From there, they remain in a human/wolf hybrid form with their human mind intact (except for the necessary firmware updates). The "animal side" only takes over either during full moon or when the werewolf is really scared.

In terms of psychology, the animal side behaves like a wolf that considers humans prey. That's all. A werewolf, controlled by their animal side, won't necessarily be aggressive; injured and scared werewolves will run, especially when alone.

Obviously, since they aren't inherently evil and because they still care about humans, werewolf tribes lock themselves up during full moon.

Now, temporarily trapping the tribe has several difficulties:

  1. Purebreds: Purebreds are born as werewolves and make up the majority of most tribes, other than that, they aren't different from the ones who were once humans. I never said werewolves were sterile, which means tribes can get pretty large.

  2. Werewolves are good climbers: Being stronger and more agile than regular humans, though not to ridiculous degrees, makes them difficult to contain AND keep safe. These are werewolves, not catgirls, if they fall, it's gonna hurt. Similarly, if they try to overcome other physical barriers through sheer force, they could end up hurting themselves.

  3. They have to get out of there once full moon is over, and only when full moon is over.

  4. They have limited resources: Werewolf tribes avoid humans and in terms of material and intellectual resources, they're also limited. Most werewolves were humans (usually from cities) with various jobs before they were turned. They, of course, pass the knowledge down to their children, but that's all.

    4.5. Resources: In terms of resources, the problem is the limited "territory" and nomadic lifestyle. Werewolf tribes usually stay in heavily forested areas, as they're adapted to those and because it makes it difficult for monster hunters to track or pursue them.

Using the help of humans is obviously out of question. So, just how could werewolves hole up somewhere and wait out full moon while minimalizing the risk of injury/death of nearby humans or their kin?

The world's technology is the same as late-medieval Europe.

The answer

The full-moon festival is held every, you guessed it, full moon. Though drinking alcohol isn't allowed, you can find other ways of recreation, more on that later.

The spirit of this event is two-sides, the initial party is for socialization, and the end, like a COVID-19 quarantine, emphasizes on slowing down a little and spending time with close friends and family.

The most anticipated part of the festival is, of course, the feast. The feast usually ends at around sunset. The purpose of this event isn't just to have fun, you see, there are incense burners that help suppress the smell of humans and animals and have a mild calming effect. Similarly, most of the herbs that are used to spice up the food are normally used as sleep medication. The doses are low, of course.

So after the festival is over, everyone goes back to their homes lock up and go to sleep. Their tents tend to be sturdier than what humans use. Though these tents wouldn't be able to stop the entire tribe, they don't have to, they're mostly a safeguard to keep anyone who wakes up too soon from wandering off.

For monster hunters, attacking a tribe after full moon festival is still dangerous. You see, other than being tried for crimes against humanity, there's something else.

There are tales of monster hunters who tried to pull off such attacks but all of them went missing shortly after entering the forest. Later, they were found hanging from various trees and heights, kilometers away from where they entered, much to the joy of Logan Paul.

The ropes themselves were unremarkable. However, every single "victim" had an expression of fear on their faces, and judging by the dirt marks on them, must have been dragged to the tree.

The way their necks were broken also seemed strange. Rather than one big fracture, there were many tiny and medium ones. One can only imagine what could've caused it.

The more paranoid believe that the trees themselves came to life and had violently strangled the monster hunters, but then there's the mystery of the notes left behind, usually stuffed into a victim's bag or pocket.

This is what they say:
"Let them be and I let you be - Nooser"

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  • $\begingroup$ A large cave with small exit blocked by a large boulder that is also machine operated but only by human sized person who can climb the machine? $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Apr 9 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Are they inclined to tear apart stuff to "get out", or will any pen that would nominally contain a regular wolf suffice? If yes, it's easy to add a lock that only a human can open, especially if they aren't inclined to try to escape anyway. For that matter, if they only "consider humans as prey", maybe they don't need to do anything except stay away from humans, especially if, as Pelinore suggested, they have a feast the day before. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 9 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ This is very similar to the premise of Don't Escape. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Sible-Reinstate Monica Apr 10 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a reason it has to be a physical obstruction? Can they just walk more than 8 hours (or however long the animal side takes over) from the nearest humans settlement and let their wild side run loose? $\endgroup$ – Harabeck Apr 10 at 19:00

12 Answers 12

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Sweat lodge / opium den.

sweat lodge source

When the full moon is coming, the nomadic lycanthropes build a sweat lodge. Maybe of branches and skins, maybe excavated; it depends where they are and what they have.

Then they all go in. They burn certain herbs and the lodge fills with smoke. While in animal form they doze, and have visions. Maybe some howl in their altered trance state. As the sun comes up the fire goes out. They wake to the sun.

It is a bonding ritual for the tribe. Sometimes the visions have power.

Very occasionally a nonlycanthrope is invited to participate.

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    $\begingroup$ Line the lodge structure with SIlver blades so the transformed fellas avoid touching the wall. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Apr 9 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ "Certain herbs" eh? Hmmm... $\endgroup$ – enorl76 Apr 10 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ The "bonding ritual" bit is a great point, I think that's what makes this idea really work as a plausible real world scenario. Good answer! <thumbs up> $\endgroup$ – Vladimir Apr 11 at 19:31
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Construct a sea-cave that requires two low tides to escape

The human-form tribe members can enter into the innermost chamber (which can be quite large) on the day before the full moon. Regardless of the swimming prowess of the hybrids, it should be possible to construct a system of locks that utilize the tidal range (0-16m/50ft) either as a strict water barrier, or that lifts some heavy floating material.

This shouldn't require more than medieval technology, and you say that the tribes are sizable. There is also a certain romance to it.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a really clever idea for a medieval time lock. +1 $\endgroup$ – Redwolf Programs Apr 10 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ +1, this is one of very, very few ideas I've seen for time locking mechanisms that I might be willing to trust without backups. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 11 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ what if low tide happens during a full moon night? you have to clarify that your fictional world is different from earth in this regard. $\endgroup$ – carlo Apr 12 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ @carlo unless there is a moon that moves very very fast, the determining factor is the rotation of the earth. There will be one major low tide and one minor low tide every day. $\endgroup$ – Cireo Apr 13 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ mmh you are right $\endgroup$ – carlo Apr 13 at 19:15
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I may misunderstand this, but you said

In terms of psychology, the animal side behaves like a wolf that considers humans prey. That's all. A werewolf, controlled by their animal side, won't necessarily be aggressive; injured and scared werewolves will run, especially when alone. In terms of psychology, the animal side behaves like a wolf that considers humans prey. That's all. A werewolf, controlled by their animal side, won't necessarily be aggressive; injured and scared werewolves will run, especially when alone.

A house that's large enough could be used. If the werewolves behave like wolves, they won't be opening locked doors. That's all. However, it would be safe to add multiple locks onto those doors as an extra safeguard.

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    $\begingroup$ I was also considering a lock that could only be operated as a human, such as one that requires the flexibility of a hand and fingers. And if they grow to a large wolf, one that has a small enough hole in front of it that only a human hand can fit through. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Apr 10 at 16:20
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This is going to be an incredibly boring answer.

You said that when they're in animal form that they act like wolves, well, what would a wolf do if it woke up in an enclosure which it felt safe in, felt well fed, and the elders were all laying about grooming eachother? Not much, probably just hang out with everyone else.

If you watch video of animals in their natural habitat, they really just sit around a lot when they're fed. So if you have a huge feast as was suggested by other answers, you probably won't even need a complicated lock. Just a cozy environment to spend the night in.

I think the key here is taking advantage of the animal instinct that if it is in an environment that it has never associated with negative memories, and it's bodily needs are met. It will usually just stay there naturally.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 this is the best answer, together with the smoke den! $\endgroup$ – carlo Apr 12 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ ok, also the "real wolves pack" one is pretty good $\endgroup$ – carlo Apr 12 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ One issue is with mature males - they will want to leave even if they're fed. And if you do supply them with mature females, then you're only setting up for a much bigger problem down the road. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 12 at 16:07
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I don't think this is as good as other existing answers, but I feel the need to "fix" nick012000's answer...

Chains

If they don't have human intelligence, all they need is a chain, a collar/manacle (that will fit their transformed form; this is really important!), and a really sturdy staple to secure it all. You can use pretty simple locks (read: the sort of warded locks that were available in medieval times) if there are no tools available. Don't use ropes; ropes can be clawed or chewed through. Attach your anchors to rocks; really big ones that can't be moved without tools. (A cliff face or the side of a cave will do quite nicely.) Unless they have some sort of penance fetish, however, your wolves will almost surely prefer to be able to move around rather than being immobilized. It's a lot more comfortable in general, and especially when nature calls.

If they don't understand locks in full wolf form, you're done! I would, however, recommend having two (or more) keys which are also secured to chains so that a) you have a backup, just in case, and b) they can't accidentally lose the keys or kick them out of reach or whatnot.

If you need a little more sophistication, put the key inside a puzzle box that they won't be able to open in wolf form (due to intelligence or dexterity or both). Again, just make sure they can't simply break open the box or kick it out of reach, and have more than one if possible.

This might still be useful if building an enclosure is a problem.

Have backups

I really can't stress this enough. Whatever you do, build in as many contingencies as possible. Consider whether your werewolves would rather accidentally kill some puny hoomahns (use fail-safe mechanisms) or get themselves killed (use fail-secure mechanisms). Assuming they would rather not die themselves, they should use as many redundant release mechanisms as they can manage, and more importantly, should split into as many separate groups (with completely independent release mechanisms) as possible, so that as long as one group can free itself, they can go check on the rest in case something goes wrong.

And again, if at all possible, have someone they trust that is not a werewolf promise to check in on them. There's a reason it's strongly recommended to not engage in dangerous activities without a spotter, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which this is more true than intentionally imprisoning yourself.

But wait...

Can you trust a normal human?

If your "outsider" is just a backup system, then you may be okay. But what if he sells you out? When you're locked up, you're vulnerable.

One way you could fix this is by also locking up the human. Leave him the key to release the wolves, and leave the key to release him out of everyone's reach. He can't get free without releasing the wolves (after they turn back, because otherwise they'll just eat him), but he can't get free himself without releasing the wolves. If you can find someone that's actually trustworthy and trusts the wolves in turn, they might even volunteer for this. Alternatively, you can always use slaves and just never release them; if they don't release the wolves, they starve. Again, have backups.

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Bureaucracy, outside help, and an "air raid" shelter.

Werewolf communities need to keep meticulous records of population. Who is born, who dies. Who goes off into the woods and doesn't come back.

This lets them know each and every person who is around. A few days before the full moon (Since those things can be calculated), they go into a shelter. A cave might work, but caves often have secondary exits and weird places where people can get trapped and lost, so it would have to have such places closed off.

The population is checked. Every person is accounted for, and ensured that everyone is in the cave.

Someone from the "local" human population would come and lock the entrance, and a few days after the full moon would come and unlock it.

Now, why would the "humans" trust the werewolves? Well. For one, the bureaucracy of tracking everyone. And, if someone goes missing, the Werewolves immediately notify the local humans. The locker/unlocker could be a volunteer, or a squad of soldiers, or whatever the local humans deem fit.

Now, what happens inside the shelter, and the design of it, depends on how the moon affects them. If they need to see the moon to be changed, then they're fine. They spend a few days in the shelter, carrying on largely as normal. In this case, the lock is largely to make sure accidents and inquisitive children don't happen.

If it affects them regardless of if they can see it or not, then the shelter has to be designed around their animalistic selves to ensure there's nothing that would be injurious to them. Nothing that can be climbed and fallen off of. Nothing that an animal would attempt to force and get stuck in or injured on.

This even works with a nomadic people - They have several set up, and make sure they are at one of them when the moon is full. The humans "nearby" (I'm imaginging they're not particularly close, just the closest), also knowing the moon phases, could send someone out to assist. Maybe a family member of someone that was turned?

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    $\begingroup$ The catch here is that you need trust to go both ways. You talk about the humans trusting the werewolves to cooperate, which, yes, is one concern. However, what stops the humans from not unlocking the place after the full moon, but barring it up more tightly and basically starving the werewolves to death and wiping them out? Humans are historically prone to severe prejudice over even such trivial things as skin color: over something significant like some people being werewolves, this could get very ugly very fast if your local werewolf-killing organization gets wind of this arrangement. $\endgroup$ – Palarran Apr 9 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Palarran To be fair, that could make a good story. The humans and werewolves of Croddleton had always lived together peacefully, with a symbiotic pact that protected them from each other. Until one day, a travelling werewolf killer arrived in the village, and the relationship changed forever. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 10 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor That's absolutely true. I was just pointing out that it is an entirely legitimate concern that needs to be accounted for in the story (unless the assumption is that the reader is an idiot, which might just possibly be a Very Bad Idea). $\endgroup$ – Palarran Apr 10 at 16:01
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  1. You can get padlocks & even handcuffs with timers on them, some of them are pretty heavy duty, if you don't want to make a trip to the hardware store you can order delivery online.

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Combined with a strong cellar door (or a heavy duty steel security door if you must) & there really shouldn't be a problem. Just be sure you put all the tools out of the room before locking yourself in.

None of that stuff is particularly expensive & is all pretty easy to get hold of.

  1. The other really obvious precaution is to have really big pig-out the day before the night of the full moon, when I say 'big' I mean unreasonably humongous, that's stomach stretching "I'm in no condition to do anything but lie here & be very still in case I hurt myself" huge.

You've said they're psychologically like ordinary wolves during this time & wolves don't hunt when they're stuffed.

  1. Drugs, off the shelf sleeping pills & whatever else they can get hold of so they sleep through the full moon, a helpful doctor friend (or relative) might be good but so much of this can just be bought online & delivered by post that it really isn't isn't necessary.

A practical knowledge of wild herbs can also stand in for this.

  1. And finally something topical, "social distancing", go camping.

Make sure you're over a day's journey on foot from the nearest people before the full moon & that you've no other means of transport to hand.

Of course you can combine all four of these with a good solid concrete bunker somewhere in the wilderness miles from anywhere.

Edit : A timed lock for the medieval era.

You might not think timed locks are very likely or easy to come by in a medieval setting.

But, then again, perhaps not.

First find yourself a cave.

Then you need a big rock (too heavy to move unaided & big enough to block the cave).

Now you'll need some rope some wooden pit props a source of water & something to sling your rope over, this all needs to be outside the cave.

Sling the rope over your 'something to sling a rope over' & tie the rock to one end & the bucket to the other such that your bucket is hanging in the air over your head, fill the bucket with water so that you can now lift & move the rock, place it over the cave entrance & wedge the pit props under it to keep it there when you empty the bucket, you know have to arrange for water from a nearby water source to drip into the bucket (you're going to need some piping).

Enter the cave kick out the props (or tie ropes to them & pull them away) & the rock slams down locking you in until the bucket has filled enough to let you move the rock.

Some experimentation with bucket size, drip speed & what have you may be required to get the desired timing

After the tragic early cave opening & subsequent village slaughter the first time it rains they'll realise of course that they have to cover the bucket so only the intended drips get in.

Voila! & there you have it, one crude water clock locking mechanism.

If your werewolves have access to craftsmen or else have the necessary skills themselves the same principles can be applied to something a bit more sophisticated in a normal cellar or they might use a clockwork timer & locking mechanism you set on the outside of the door.

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    $\begingroup$ Okay, but how do I acquire timed padlocks, heavy-duty steel doors, and concrete in late-medieval Europe? I do like the idea of holding a feast. Maybe like a full moon festival where they socialize a bit and have fun since they can't really do much else. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 9 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles : Ah balls! medievil you say? I missed that, well options 2-4 still work, a working knowledge of herbs stands in for drugs of course, for the timed locks it's going to have to be a water clock, I can do you a nice simple one, see edit, alll done ;) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Apr 9 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore, it may or may not be safer to rely on water leaking out of a bucket. Also, iy you're relying on time-release mechanisms, always employ backups. Since we're talking about a tribe, probably they should not all use the same cave; that way if the mechanism at one cave fails, tribe members from the other cave can go help. Nothing will beat having human collaborators, however. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 9 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ Another idea would be a magnifying glass pointed at a thornwall your guys are stuck behind. Chances of failure: It will work perfectly until a very crucial moment in the story, at which point it inevitably fails and sends the tension through the roof. Bonus points if the werewolves are not just trapped, but in mortal danger. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 11 at 16:30
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Perhaps split the tribe into groups and have them locked in a room with doors opened by a pulley system from the other room. That way when the full moon is over the other group can flick the levers or pull the ropes in the proper order or pattern to release the other group

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Pet Humans

Apart from all the other solutions, like an opium den, just give the keys to a few normies. You get in the cages/shelter/dens as a human (with enough props to keep a werewolf entertained?).

The non-werewolf closes the locks, wishes them good night and goes to bed. When s/he wakes up they go to the cages/shelters/dens, unlock the doors and wish them good morning as they wake up.

You can play around with the meta, like that the non-werewolves also sleep in a cage for when the werewolves break out, they still cant get to you. Or that because the non-werewolf is a nice guy, when they turn and encounter the non-werewolf, they have a deep feeling of security, feeling safe with this human.

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  • $\begingroup$ I added some other ways you can play with this in my answer. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 10 at 15:18
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What if they don't need to lock themselves up? What if they found a better way?

You said they behave just like wolves, right? This means their brains work like regular wolf brains except without years of memories, life experiences, and more importantly pack-experience. So how about this: when werewolves are in human-form, they domesticate regular wolves and turn them into a pack. They then train the regular wolves to be friendly around humans, and this way, when they turn into wolves themselves, the real wolves can teach their wolf-forms how to act and behave in accordance to the "pack law"—(not sure what the proper scientific term is).

They also should let their domesticated pack have an Alpha, so that s/he can maintain social order and hierarchy when they turn into wolves.

So now when the full moon happens the werewolves don't lock themselves up; instead they do the opposite, they go outside to fall in line with the real wolf pack, and by virtue of the pack-mentality, and guided by the alpha, they learn how to behave and function properly in the animal society.


Basically, the reason werewolves have a bad reputation is because their wolf-selves are just like children in adult bodies: Having never lived in a true pack, they lack the most basic wolf social and behavioral skills. They only lash out because they are scared, and the never learned better. (Also, being chained and locked indoors each time you wake up is probably terrible for your mental health and might, unsurprisingly, lead to some anger management issues...)

Anyway, having a real-wolf pack and a knowledgeable real-wolf Alpha allows their tribe to remain highly mobile because they don't to be tied down to any location or structures.

They are able to live peacefully because they know they can rely on the pack to teach them how to behave and on the Alpha to keep them in line.


Now wouldn't it be cool if someone wrote a story about this, except on the day before the full moon some dumb hunter killed their Alpha. Imagine the fear and anger—and, fear of anger—the tribe would experience going into the night, not knowing the kind of world they will comeback to when they wake up.

Who will step up as Alpha? Will restrain in the pack prevail? Or, will the loss of their leader and their anger towards the hunter set the pack on an irreversible path to destruction?

This should be called Fear of Anger.

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Bondage gear.

With the proper rope-tying skills, all that it'd take to restrain a werewolf would be about 50-100 feet of rope per werewolf restrained, and their moderately-superhuman strength would wind up working against them - the harder they pull on it, the tighter it would get; modern-day kinky rope bondage techniques are derived from the techniques that were used by Japanese policemen to restrain criminals. Then, when the morning comes, they wiggle over to each other and untie each other's knots (this is a process that gets much faster once one of them has freed their arms).

And, of course, depending on their tech level, they might have access to more advanced bondage gear, and that might make things easier for them. Locks, chains, leather belts, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ "they wiggle over to each other and untie each other's knots" - No. No. No. This can backfire. This will backfire. They will free themselves too soon. No interaction allowed. Use a proper timing mechanism. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 10 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak if the werewolves in wolf form are less intelligent, they wouldn't be able to free each others. $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Apr 10 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ It will especially not work if their claws are able to cut through the ropes. Not to mention I'm sure they'd prefer something less horribly uncomfortable. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 10 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Matthew Proper rope bondage won't give them enough freedom of motion to cut their own ropes with their claws. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Apr 11 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't thinking of them cutting their own ropes, necessarily. The problem is they have to be able to reach each other after they change back, which makes it hard to prevent themselves reaching each other while they're wolves. Another problem is that they're trying, while human, to tie themselves in a way that will properly restrain them as wolves, when their bodies will have different proportions. Don't get me wrong, I understand where you're coming from, I just see all sorts of reasons why this is, at best, far too difficult versus much better solutions. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 11 at 17:47
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Related to nick012000's answer:

They tie themselves up, including a muzzle so they can't chew through the ropes. The ropes are actually easy to escape from when the end is loose--but it's not. It goes up, over a beam, over a water trough, then across something that burns well and is tied off. A lit candle is placed on the the flammable stuff and some sort of shield is placed over the candle (keep it from being blown out.) The candle burns down, the rope burns through and falls in the water to extinguish it. Now it's easy to escape, but the werewolf is trapped until it burns down.

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, Ye Olde time release mechanisms. Or... they use this to keep a key out of reach and use something much simpler and more comfortable, as in my answer. Really, the only plus of the rope bondage idea is the fan-service. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Apr 11 at 17:49

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