How long would someone survive, and what would he be capable of, if locked inside a metal cage and dropped into an ocean with heavy weights?

Here's the scenario. The big bad is known to dispose of naughty underlings using the aforementioned cage. To prevent easy escapes, the cage is kept in an anti-magic field that extends to just below the water's surface, and any obvious magic items will be confiscated. A small material component or focus could be hidden in a pocket, but would have to be retrieved before you drown. The mole is afraid of being found out, so he plans to escape; he knows some magic, and can prepare specific spells in readiness for the inevitable.

(Side question: What would actually kill him? Pressure? Inhalation of water?)

Important considerations:

  • How long is he alive and conscious? Obviously there'll be no casting hour-long spells. He cannot breathe underwater, though he can hold his breath.
  • If the escape method (eg spell) depends on speech, how possible is it to speak underwater?
  • Somatic components (gestures) - how long do you have before you're pinned down by the water?
  • Etcetera.

Answers based on reality are preferred over those based on RPG rules, but if specific spells etc are needed, borrow from the definition of D&D 3.5th Ed or Pathfinder.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you add in more info on how the magic works, do they have magic to breathe underwater or something? Or at the very least give a link on those DnD rules $\endgroup$ – Skye Oct 1 '16 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ Link to SRD added, and also a note that he has no underwater breathing skills. $\endgroup$ – rosuav Oct 1 '16 at 8:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Have you considered rpg.stackexchange.com if you're sticking to D&D rules $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 1 '16 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ Just wondering, what's stopping the guy from using something like disintegration after his cage drops below the water surface? $\endgroup$ – Skye Oct 1 '16 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ Could do that. Is there an acceptable way to migrate a question? (This started out as less strictly defined, and then I realized that I'd need SOME form of rules about magic, or the question can't be answered. I picked 3.5th Ed because it's what I'm most familiar with, and don't have to invent all my own rules.) $\endgroup$ – rosuav Oct 1 '16 at 8:18

A person in a metal cage won't sink all that quickly, because they have lots of drag. Adding weights will increase the sinking speed, but this whole method of execution seems to be intended to cause suffering, so a sinking speed of more than about five feet per second seems unlikely.

The time available for action is as long as you can hold your breath. The sport of Freediving deals with that, but its records on Wikipedia aren't complete, and the people who do that have a lot of training. Once you can't hold your breath any more, you'll start to inhale water, and lose the ability to take any kind of constructive action. Wikipedia's article on drowning has lots of detail. You should have at least 30 seconds, which is plenty if you can get the magic right.

To use magic, you need a spell that has no verbal components, or has only one word. An obvious place to start is a spell that lets you breathe water. I'm not too familiar with D&D 3.5, but its Water Breathing spell has a casting time of "One standard action", and you presumably need to turn it into a "swift action", which is possible with a metamagic feat. Once you have Water Breathing up and running, you're fine, and can take other actions at leisure.

Tricks like this are the reasons for points 4 and 7 in the Evil Overlord List.

  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense. The overlord is going to need a LOT of work to prevent this. Back to the old drawing board :) $\endgroup$ – rosuav Oct 1 '16 at 22:27

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