Suspension Guidelines (as developed for the SF Citadel, and used by other local venues)
In recognition of the popularity and risks of rope suspension, Citadel has developed the following guidelines as recommendations for engaging in this type of play. While Dungeon Monitors will only interrupt rope scenes in case of a clear and imminent danger to life, limb, or Citadel property, failure to follow the letter or spirit of these guidelines may result in your being asked not to suspend at Citadel in the future.
Hardpoints (beams, frames, and permanent fixtures) should be visually inspected prior to every scene; it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of anything you plan to hang from. Note that the “two big guys test” is NOT an acceptable way to inspect a hardpoint. Bouncing on or swinging from Citadel hardpoints is prohibited. The hard points are intended for vertical load only, they are not designed for horizontal loading and shouldn’t be used in that manner. No exact safe working load has been established for any Citadel hardpoint.
The two main beams in the dungeon are designed to accommodate two suspensions at once. Please be courteous to your fellow riggers and set up so that you are using half of the beam (not in the middle of the beam, using the whole thing). If you feel you need an exception to this, please consult the Dungeon Monitor (DM).
2) Risk awareness
Bottoms participating in suspension scenes should be aware of the risks involved, including severe injury from falling as a result of equipment failure or rigger error, and long-term disability as a result of nerve compression, among others.
3) Appropriate hardware
All fixed hardware (i.e. ring and everything above it) should be climbing-rated, specifically designed for lofting humans, OR have a breaking strength exceeding 3000lb. Do not use metal cord/rope/chain around the Citadel’s beams as this will damage the beams.
Have a safety scissors and/or a rescue hook readily available and VISIBLE at all times. Keep in mind that, depending on the situation, cutting rope is often not the best option. The SF Citadel also provides a backboard to support the bottom in case of emergency — get assistance from at least 4 people, including the DM, to use the backboard.
4) Main support lines
A “main support line” is a line that is critical in keeping the bottom’s head from hitting the ground. The main support line should provide breaking strength 10x the bottom’s weight in it’s final configuration. For example, a 6mm jute support line with a strength of 200 lb, when doubled and run up through the ring, down through the harness again, and up to the ring a second time, provides 1200 lb of nominal strength, enough for only a 120 lb bottom. (Note that going through the bight rather than down through the harness creates a single point of failure AND lowers this strength to 800lb, enough for only an 80lb bottom.) Support lines should always be long enough to lower an unconscious bottom to the floor while still in a configuration meeting this breaking strength requirement. If the rigger will be climbing on/hanging from the bottom, the above calculation should instead use the combined weight of rigger and bottom.
We recommend against practices like slack drops onto the lift line, as these impose shock loads.
Hemp rope is stronger (varies around 500 lbs breaking strength for 6mm or ¼” diameter, and 800 lbs for 8mm diameter) and more robust than jute—jute is not recommended for critical lines. Some popular examples of synthetic rope strong enough to meet these guidelines in most circumstances are: ¼” nylon/MFP (1300-1500 lb), 6mm POSH polyester (1200 lb). Some synthetics may be inappropriate for high friction applications — test your rope’s response to friction.
Avoid single points of failure in your main support lines. When making a 3:1 pulley for critical loads, go under the harness or through your cuff/hanger instead of only through the center bight between your first and second pass through the ring. Using the center bight for support creates a weak single point of failure, and you only have 4 total ropes connecting the harness to the ring instead of 6.
5) Use of spotters
When the combined rope experience of participants in a suspension scene totals less than 2 years, it is recommended to designate an experienced spotter to monitor safety and assist in case of difficulty. Use of spotters is strongly recommended for self-suspension. When using a spotter, please let the DM know who they are. DMs may not act as spotters while on duty.
For self-suspensions or if you are worried about the bottom hitting their head on the floor (for example, when doing dynamic inversions on someone tall), consider using a soft mat. These are stored behind the chain bed and/or on the “bar” next to the chain bed. Mats are also a tripping hazard for the rigger or the bottom, which can itself be dangerous if one trips at the wrong time during a suspension.
7) Dungeon Monitor Check-In
Please check in with the Dungeon Monitor(s) before beginning any scene involving the hardpoints. Let the DM know if you have a spotter, who they are, and whether you expect anyone else to join your scene. Tell the DM that you have read these guidelines — asking whether you are familiar with them is the main function of the DM check-in.
These guidelines were formulated with key assistance/input from Topologist, NaturalTurn, and ShayBlondie. Additional feedback was received from Phil, BlackMayanUnique, members of our DM committee, and more. We welcome your feedback and are open to ongoing changes! Please keep in mind that these are GUIDELINES intended to enhance safety in our space.