Magical Healing Systems

So I’ve been considering a few things lately. Given my background as a nurse and my understanding of the way the human body works, I’ve been wondering if “magical healing” should have parameters, and if so, what they’d be.

Obviously this question is very dependent on your world-building and on what you foresee for your own story, but here are a few things to consider if you decide to introduce a magical healing system into your fiction.

  • Blood loss – does the healing automatically restore lost blood? If so, the recipient would be just dandy, but if not, you may want to explore the symptoms of anemia (low blood levels) and possibly dehydration. These include weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, quickly tiring with exertion of any type, a pale appearance, and thirst. Symptoms would gradually improve over time, given that the person had available water and foods with sufficient protein, vitamin C, and other nutrients to replenish.
  • Muscle wasting – if you’ve ever had a cast on for a few weeks, you know how quickly lack of mobility can strip a limb down to a weak, scrawny looking version of itself. If your recipient of healing has been down a while, days to weeks, even healing the wounds or injuries may not restore their full strength and mobility.
  • Conservation of energy and matter – depending on where the “energy” for your magic system is coming from, the severity of the recipient’s injuries may need to be accounted for. A quick injury that is just basic broken tissue may be much easier to fix than a chronic illness, missing limb, etc..
  • Infection – does your magic system work by speeding up cellular growth? If that’s the case, magic added to an already infected wound might have unintended results of spreading or worsening the infection.
  • Non-specific injuries or illnesses – can your magic cure plagues? colds? unknown fevers or belly pain? Or does it work best when the healer can see or touch the damaged tissue?

My characters are powerful, but not godlike and unlimited. Limitations are what give characters the drive to innovate and succeed, and what make them feel “human” to the reader. I’m sure there are dozens more considerations unique to any given story, but understanding how a system of magic works in regards to these specific questions really helps keep my stories on track.

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What sorts of considerations do you take when dealing with limiting what characters can and cannot do with magic?

About arizela

I'm a NICU nurse and lactation counselor, currently on hiatus to pursue a PhD in nursing which focuses on the development of health across the lifespan. I write books, articles, and blogs in between my duties as mom, wife, and student. I own a tool belt, and I'm not afraid to use it.
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1 Response to Magical Healing Systems

  1. Alba says:

    I actually built a magic system a while back where some of these points came into play. Mages who could perform “physical” magic (moving objects and such) were very common, and healing a broken limb or knitting a flesh wound was trivially easy for them — to the point where being a healer was considered menial and unskilled labor.

    On the other hand, mages who could heal infections and disease were so rare that nobody knew they existed, and that sort of healing was considered impossible. My poor mage who *did* have the talent to heal disease had no clue that he could, and instead (as far as anyone including himself was aware) was a useless and inept failed apprentice healer.

    I loved that character and the world. Some day I’ll come up with an actual plot for the story…

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