So basically captured or detained mages are restrained by keeping their hands or fingers from moving, requiring rather heavy and specialized restraining devices used for during their trial and for the duration of their imprisonment, it being used to lock their fingers, hands, and arms into place behind their backs.

Could someone keep their muscles of the associated body parts from deteriorating to uselessness if they were to resist against the restraints every day or something?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you need it for story reasons? Often times these were very acceptable secondary effects from the punishments. Completely destroying someone's health or even death wasn't uncommon. If you don't need it for story reasons it can deepen your story in more realism. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Sep 23 '21 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ It's a story from the perspective of a criminal mage who's been imprisoned for I'm thinking at least 5 years, with the story starting a day before he's released. Of course he's not going to be in the best of shape on release but I don't want him to be completely useless on release, and was thinking that maybe, if resisting against the restraints could work, that he was smart enough to keep himself from deteriorating too much while in the cell. Though I do agree that maybe holding off on his ability to do much of anything could provide an interesting challenge for the character to overcome. $\endgroup$
    – Giffen
    Sep 23 '21 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ You took no time to read the wiki for reality-check. You're misusing it, so I've removed it. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '21 at 16:26

Oddly, no one has actually answered your question

Could a person, bound as you suggest, and using no magic, maintain muscle mass by straining against their restraints?


But that's a very simple answer to a fairly complex problem.

  1. It would take an incredible amount of self-discipline to do this. On the order of hours every day for however long one is in restraints. The average person would give up on the idea very quickly, so whomever did do it, you'd have to write as an exceptional person.

  2. Bound as they are, the prisoner would experience a fair amount of pain. The body hates immobility and you're suggesting an unnatural immobility. The cramps would be excruciating.

  3. Maintaining muscle mass requires a great deal more food than simply surviving. When the body starves, it takes energy from itself — and it starts with muscle mass. Think about this: you're trying to build muscle and the body is trying to consume it. That would really speed up your demise.

Of course we must be talking about a lengthy period of time because atrophy occurs over a lengthy period of time. A week in such restraints wouldn't significantly change muscle mass. probably a month wouldn't. A year... that would do it, which is why what I've discussed is all in play. You're talking about a lengthy period of time to threaten atrophy.

So, yes... it could be done...

  1. So long as your captor doesn't realize what you're doing, in which case they need only drop your food intake to completely ruin your efforts.
  • $\begingroup$ A week in such restraints would indeed start to atrophy the muscles, and the effect would be substantial after a month! See here: "After 3–5 weeks of bedrest, almost half the normal strength of a muscle is lost." Complete immobility would presumably be even worse than just bed rest, since in bed rest a person may still move a little. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Sep 24 '21 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ @causative I spent 18 months in a cast with a sling over my shoulder due to a skiing accident. Of course the muscles begin to atrophy basically immediately... but I can tell you from personal experience, it takes quite a bit longer than 3-5 weeks of bedrest to lose much of anything. Oh, you'll feel weak when you get up - but you'll have it all back in a couple of days. That's because it isn't real atrophy (actual loss of muscle mass), it's just disuse. The difference is important for the OP's question. $\endgroup$ Sep 25 '21 at 4:26

You cast regenerate on that degenerate.

You touch a creature and stimulate its natural Healing ability. The target regains 4d8 + 15 Hit Points. For the Duration of the spell, the target regains 1 hit point at the start of each of its turns (10 Hit Points each minute).

The target's severed body Members (fingers, legs, tails, and so on), if any, are restored after 2 minutes. If you have the severed part and hold it to the stump, the spell instantaneously causes the limb to knit to the stump.

Consider though that some spells may not need gestual components, nor even verbal ones. The best way to contain criminal mages is by imprisoning their minds, not their bodies.


Magic "fluff" apart what you describe is not much different to what happens in fully sedated patients who cannot move because, well, they are sedated. And there is a way to limit muscle damage.

Fully sedated patients, being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), experience substantial skeletal muscle loss. Consequently, survival rate is reduced and full recovery after awakening is compromised. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) represents an effective method to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and alleviate muscle disuse atrophy in healthy subjects.

Simply said:

  • apply electrodes to the muscles
  • stimulate the muscles to contract
  • $\begingroup$ So, just tell the mages to resist or else? $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '21 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ I spent 18 months in a cast as a teen for a knee injury. I had the pleasure of NMES to avoid atrophy. It helps, but it doesn't stop it. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '21 at 16:30

Forced labour

In a perspective this can be seen as a frame challenge.

An imprisoned mage also represents opportunities. Just like any prisoner, you can use them as labour. Their magic can be a great boon for the people who imprisoned the mage in many cases. If this is the case, the deterioration can be halted or reduced, as the mage sometimes can use the arms and hands.

This isn't necessarily a common practice. Forcing prisoners to work needs to be advantageous. They can do tough jobs for extended times, while a lesser amount of people equipped with weapons make sure they do good work. Mages will be more difficult to control. They need to be guarded by someone vigilant and consistently more powerful. If they have artifacts to help them it would be great, but if the power comes only from the mage this can be difficult.

Your mage might still be restricted, or forced to work in such a way that little power is left for revolting (like dehydration, sickness, hunger or magical exhaustion). Or maybe the mage is someone with a weak spot, so if the mage revolts the family is slaughtered. That way the mage was able to move and maybe even practice magic, have had a a gruelling life in prison and a plausible reason why she/he didn’t escape.


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