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Playing With / Life-or-Limb Decision

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Basic Trope: A character is faced with a Sadistic Choice: sacrifice one of their limbs or die.

  • Straight: Bob’s leg gets trapped under a large boulder, and he has to cut it off to escape.
  • Exaggerated: Bob has to cut off three separate limbs, all of which are trapped.
  • Downplayed:
    • Bob has to cut off some of his fingers to escape.
    • Bob has six different limbs. He can miss one.
    • Bob can regenerate his limbs.
    • Bob has to cut his long hair to escape after it gets caught in some heavy machinery.
    • Bob's limbs are expendable because he's a robot or cyborg and can easily get a limb he removes replaced.
    • Bob only needs to break or dislocate a bone to escape. It will heal over time.
  • Justified:
    • Bob's limb is stuck under something neither he nor anyone with him can move.
    • Bob's arm has been bitten by something with a contagious and deadly disease. If he doesn't cut it off in time, Bob could die, or worse.
  • Inverted:
    • Bob's leg has somehow been cut off, and he has to reattach it to escape.
    • Bob's arms and legs are chained to the wall, unable to move them. The key is sitting nearby. He must accept an alien parasite into his body, granting him a third arm, or die of thirst/starvation.
  • Subverted: Bob's leg is trapped under a large boulder, but despite the intense pain, he manages to break free after some effort without sacrificing his limb.
  • Double Subverted: The limb has sustained enough trauma that he later needs to have it amputated anyway.
  • Parodied:
    • Bob's leg gets trapped under a large boulder. Despite help already being on the way, he cuts if off anyway because he doesn’t want to miss the latest episode of his favourite TV show.
    • Bob makes the cut way higher than necessary: "You were only pinned at the ankle! Why the hell did you start cutting at the thigh?!"
    • Bob is a zombie, and so when his neck was stuck, so he cut off his own head and soon after reattached it.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob cuts off his trapped arm, regenerates it, is trapped again, has to cut it again, repeat ad nauseum.
  • Averted: Bob doesn't get his leg trapped.
  • Enforced: The writer needs to portray Bob as a character who would be willing to do anything to survive, including sacrificing parts of his own body.
  • Lampshaded: "And then I was faced with a terrible choice: cut my own leg off or die."
  • Invoked: One of Emperor Evulz's booby traps is designed specifically to catch and trap the hand of anyone reaching into the wrong holes of one of his mechanisms. Oh, and the hand is held in by sharp blades.
  • Exploited:
    • Emperor Evulz, knowing Bob lost a limb, makes his fortress impossible to get into unless you have two arms and two legs.
    • Emperor Evulz uses plenty of stairs in his fortress, but no ramps, thus making his fortress wheelchair inaccessible.
  • Defied: Faced with having his leg trapped under the boulder, Bob decides to wait for help for as long as he possibly can.
  • Discussed: "If I manage to get my leg trapped, with nobody around to help me, I'd probably have to cut if off."
  • Conversed: "I just saw this movie where the guy gets his leg trapped under a rock, so eventually he cuts it off to escape."
  • Deconstructed: Bob cuts off his limb to escape, but he bleeds to death not much later.
  • Reconstructed:
    • This is still preferable to slowly dying from hunger, his only other alternative. At least he had a shot at making it out this way.
    • After cutting off his limb, Bob takes steps to disinfect and cauterize his open wound using the materials available to him.
  • Played For Laughs: Bob cuts off his leg to escape... too bad he cut off the wrong leg.
  • Played For Drama: The work goes into the physical and mental consequences of Bob sacrificing his leg to survive.

Go back to Life-or-Limb Decision—but you'll need to kiss one of your limbs goodbye.