1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Of magic and medicine (or how to make it as even as possible)

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Link the Writer, Oct 7, 2015.

    Something just occurred to me, how does medicine work in the realm of various fantasy worlds? Specifically medicine and magic. If someone loses an arm, couldn't the doctors use magic to weld it back to the stump or generate a new arm? I've seen some fantasies where it's explained that magic can't heal something that's already healed (like a scar, for instance) or make what never was (say generating hearing for someone born deaf.) Sometimes I've seen it where the magic in regards to medicine is downgraded in lieu for the more "muggle" way of medical treatment.

    My questions for you all are:

    - If you're writing a fantasy with magic, do you put restrictions on your magic in terms of medical care and other things to ensure they're not too overpowered?

    - Do you think it's logical that in some works of fiction, magic can do all sorts of amazing things, yet it can't glue a severed arm back to the stump, heal a scar (Thanks, Dumbledore!) or generate hearing for someone born deaf? It's magic, right? Is it realistic that in a world with magic, it's limited to only a few certain users or by the condition of the injury/condition?

    I hope I made some sense, I just wrote this off on the fly because the thought had sprung in my head. :D
     
  2. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    I'm being very careful when it comes to healing magic. My story has it but I've been thinking about how to properly portray it.
    I was thinking about having it where its not really just 'Oh you lost a arm, well... MAGIC! There ya go. new arm.' But basically it 'boosts' one natural regeneration... that's it.
    Can you save someone from a stab wound? Sure.
    Save someone from being poisoned or recover from a non physical type wound? Nope.
    This is why natural medicine is a big thing in my world.
    ...but again its just a theory I'm working with... need to work out the kinks. x3
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Very interesting! My healing magic revolves chiefly on the skills and knowhow of the caster. Someone who is skilled enough to heal a minor injury may not know enough/be skilled enough to heal a broken broke. However, they can't undo what's already been healed (say, remove a disfiguring scar) or make what never was (say, giving physical hearing or sight to someone who never had them.)

    For things like curses, that's another ball of wax entirely. They'd have know exactly what the curse was, and exactly how to revoke it, and they have to do it before it becomes 'natural', that is a natural part of the body.

    I'm still working out how they treat diseases, disorders, etc. So if someone had epilepsy, what sort of magical/medical treatment would they have, that sort of thing. The thing I'm careful with about this is that I don't want to make it seem like magic makes it all better, y'know? Like, "Woo, you've got seizures? Don't worry, we'll just zap your brain back to senses and you'll be right as rain." To someone who actually suffers from epilepsy, they might find that very offensive. Even if it's in a magical universe, I want to try and not make magic the CURE EVERYTHING(tm) spell. :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  4. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    The difference between your stories magic and mine is that the magic in my story isn't really learned. It's more 'acquired' by holding a crystal that allows for it to happen. People can learn to use the crystals in various ways but the crystals set ability can not be altered.

    My 2 cents, maybe just like a real doctor, in order to cure a diseases a different method might be in order. (Sounds obvious but you know what I mean.)

    Ex: Character gets poisoned. A normal healing crystal can't help him. But a blood crystal may be able to draw the poison out. Maybe a water crystal can flush through his system or etc...

    Just my 2 cents.:)
     
  5. Bocere
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    Bocere Member

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    I think that requiring different skill levels is a good way to go if healing magic is going to be extremely prevalent in your world. That way, theoretically if someone was CRAZY skilled they could fix just about anything, but you would be free to limit your active characters however is best for your plot without breaking the rules of your created world.

    I also like that something can't be "unhealed" or "rehealed," as that adds some drama to the healing process, like, "don't screw up or else this will be messed up forever." It also could explain if there's certain things (like the diseases, etc.) that healers never even attempt to learn to fix with magic - maybe the risks would be too great.

    The magic in my world is super super limited and has absolutely nothing to do with healing (if your arm gets cut off, sorry champ, it's staying off), so take my notes with a grain of salt since I'm not actually involved in creating a world where this is an issue, but I think it's a really interesting point to make!
     
  6. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I'm a big fan of story bibles. When constructing a fantasy (or sci-fi) world, the imperative is always to set limits on what the specifically fantastical elements (like magic) can and cannot do, and then to not break your own rules (no deuses ex machina). If I think and write out all these rules beforehand in a story bible, I find it at least makes me avoid that problem, although it does make writing the actual story that much more frustrating. I think as long as you are self-consistent, you can get away with quite a lot.

    By far my favorite magical system, if you want to call it that, is the one Ursula K. LeGuin thought up for Earthsea. It's based on knowing the "true" names of things, the catch being that even the smallest things have true names that must be known in order for magic to work on them. Thus, magic becomes exponentially more complicated as it becomes more powerful--and is therefore self-limiting. As one of her characters puts it, in a turn of phrase I will probably spend my life trying and failing to imitate, "that which gives us the power to work magic, sets the limits of that power."

    So, not sure how to improve upon that myself, but hopefully it will inspire you :)
     
  7. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my world healing magic is practically impossible. There are some that can but it is very limited. At least in the fixing you sense. People can use magic to apply pressure, slow bleeding, burn cuts so the bleeding stops ext.

    Even in the context of magic I tend to shy away from healing. At least good healing. It too easy to become deus ex Machina. Since it begs the question of why it isn't used. A good fix is limited what magic can heal, or who can heal or how quickly the healing happens. Limits explain why it isn't always done because the premise I bet is that at some point your characters are going to get hurt but if it is well known that a healer can fix then in 10 seconds and is nearby there is no sense of suspense.
     
  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do you need magic to do this? Applying pressure to a wound to slow bleeding is basic first aid, and cauterizing wounds is at least a century old.

    There are also lots of "Folk cures" that actually work...check out https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27263-anglo-saxon-remedy-kills-hospital-superbug-mrsa/

    On the downside, there are also lots of folk remedies that don't work...!

    So, in a fantasy-world-based-on-mediaeval-Europe setting, there are cures that DON'T require either magic or modern pharmaceuticals.
     
  9. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because magically applying pressure is safer? Well one up side is that magical pressure can be more direct. Such as if the liver was stabbed. They can apply pressure to the liver holding it in place as it normally would be before being stabbed. The trick is that it is still cut. The theory is that by holding it in place they slow the damage they can increase the timeframe in which to find treatment. Though masters(the very few I have) can magically sew the cut back up. Though that is tricky. Even masters can't do it fast.
     
  10. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    In my fantasy, healing with magic is not common practice. It has to do with the "rules" of magic in my world, and that very few people actually have access to magic. Those who have become powerful magicians would have to evaluate very carefully the benefit of healing a major wound, since the cost to the magician himself would be very great. Minor scratches and scraps, perhaps, could be healed without too much trouble, but then these wouldn't need magical attendance. Basically, and being very vague, everytime magic is used it requires something of the weilder that it does not give back. So to do something with magic, one has to decide if it's worth it or not.
     
  11. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    For my setting, most medical care is provided by the Cien and they learn mundane medicine from age 8 - and almost all care is provided by them. Since most ailments are handled in a mundane way, only severe and special conditions require the type of care divinities can provide. To be brief, "magic" is a misnomer for the special powers in which the divine beings in my setting. Fiel has taken one such an ability to an extreme by using a thin blade as a visual marker to channel her power - and likens the cuts for a Caesarean section as being no more difficult than gutting a fish. There is no uttering of magic words and curing fatal diseases - everyone would have essentially immortal bodies in that case.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2015
  12. Moth
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    Moth Active Member

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    In my stories, I tend to have very strict limits and rules when it comes to magic. Things like being unable to create living matter/life with it, or having it be toxic and damaging to a person's health by its nature. Hard to re-attach an arm or leg with magic when the magic itself causes flesh to shrivel and rot.

    That being said, you can always make ethical/cultural blocks if your magic system is more limitless. Maybe people don't want to be healed with magic because it's considered evil or unnatural. Think about medieval Europe and witchcraft. If a witch said she could make your arm grow back, chances are you'd call her the devil and fear for your soul over your mortal body. Or maybe the knowledge of how to use magic in that specific way isn't there. It's gotta be difficult getting rid of a plague if you're unaware of microbiology and the mechanics behind it.

    Magic, and how it's used, has to make logical sense. If it doesn't, it won't seem real - even in a fantasy world.
     
  13. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    My understanding of magic in fantasy is that you cast a spell or find a few nearby weeds and all injuries are heeled. Is this stupid? Yes. Is it one of the many tropes that turns me off fantasy as a genre? Definitely.

    Do not get me wrong, this is no different to an action hero getting shot and running around one day after impromptu surgery by a veterinarian, both are fucking stupid.

    But in terms of fantasy, the thing I hate, HATE, about fantasy is magic. It is a "get out of jail free" card that never expires. It is the ultimate deus ex machina. And here is the real problem, if there are never any consequences... if magic can always fix an injury or prevent your characters from dying, then what the hell investment should we have in any of them?

    In conclusion; magic= the easiest way to fuck up any investment from your readers.
     
  14. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which is why you create limitations on magic in your fantasy settings. And then you make those limitations known to the audience, so they aren't going "Well why can't character x do yto solve problem z?"
     
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  15. Daemon Wolf
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    Destruction is a lot easier than "medicine" magic. I mean it's a lot easier to just stab someone than it is to sew him back up, especially if you cut into a lot. So I would say it takes much more magic to heal than to destroy or do other things.

    Example: One "wizard" (or whatever you wish to call your magic users) may not be that skilled/doesn't have enough power and can only heal the stump of an arm. Then the character has to find a blacksmith to try making an arm for him/her (you could even mix that with magic to make it work like a regular arm but that's up to you.).

    But if s/he would've gone to wizard number two s/he would've gotten her/his arm fully back.

    Just my two cents.
     
  16. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    For my universe, a healer (using magic) would not be able to heal a mortal wound, or one that is too serious. They would kill themselves if they tried.

    Really, I try to limit magic in my world, since its so often used as a crutch. (As Chinspinner mentioned). I've put a cap on it, and drawn its lines in the sand.
     
  17. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    There should always be an equal cost to the benefit when it comes to magic. Even if your healing powers just accelerate and bolster natural processes, there has to be an investment of energy; energy to kill infection, to cleanse toxins, to regenerate cells and tissues. Usually, that energy comes from the caster, but it might come from the patient, too, and weaken them further.
     
  18. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed. My healing magic mostly accelerates natural processes. Mages in my setting channel energy from another plane of existence, the Outerworld, and they have an inborn connection to it. That connection strains as more energy is pulled across into the physical world, and can break if stretched too far. If it breaks, the mage dies. Healing magic takes a lot of energy, which limits the sort of wounds that can be healed. There are also diseases that can't be treated with magic.
     
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  19. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    Magic from another plane of existence? I've never heard of that before. Kudos.
     
  20. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    There used to be healing magic in mine, used by priests and, unsurprisingly, it was called miracles. Then the gods left, it stopped working, and medicine has only been around for the past two hundred years.
     

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