OSR: Magical Medicine in Endon

Magical healing is perilous. In the middle of a dungeon, with the nearest village a dozen miles away and the prospect of treasure just around the corner, few adventurers worry about the source, scalability, or consequences of healing magic.

In Endon, medicine is still the domain of quacks, experimentalists, and young disreputable doctors. As the game's Tempo increases, "Heal-At-Home" wands and patent medicines proliferate.

Jakub Bazyluk

1. Healing Potions

Healing potions allow someone to keep fighting at peak efficiency when they otherwise wouldn't be able to. It's hard to maim someone just a little bit with an axe, so only the best ones actually close wounds or replace blood. Many aren't even magical. Some of the cheapest, sold to factory workers or exhausted dockyard hands, are made from magical runoff or water stored in thaumically contaminated barrels. A bit of ginger, molasses, yeast, and dye can make ordinary water from the River Burl into a cheap potion.

Side Effects May Include:

  • Addiction. Not nessesarily to the magical properties (if any). Many "improved" healing potions include laudanum, coca leaves, or strange and untested herbs. It is a stimulating era.
  • Self-Injury. Fatigue and pain are sometimes useful signals. 
  • Cancer. Potion-swilling adventurers rarely live long enough to experience the long-term side effects of prolongued cellular stimulation. Potion companies in Endon deny any links between healing and cancer.

2. Extract Venom 

Spells of separation and purification have a long and troubled history in magical healing. Many common spells will separate patient and poison... in two appropriately sized buckets. A spell that aims to draw out an impurity in the blood can, if misaligned, draw out the blood instead. Dr. Hartwell pioneered the use of extract venom at Blumsworth Hospital, saving patients from the grips of opium, mercury, and arsenic. 

Side Effects May Include:

  • Failure to Find. While "venom" is a broad category, and Dr. Hartwell constantly works to broaden it, some diseases or conditions simply do not have an easily treatable liquid source. Luckily, extract venom fails gently, instead of deciding to yank something out of the patient, but not all spells are so polite.
  • DTs. Extracting opium or alcohol from a habitual user can result in seizures and death.
  • Inadvertent Purification. The spell extracts only pure (or relatively pure) substances. If a poison was made of several compounds, the suddenly purified liquid can react in unusual ways.

3. Skeleton Rays

Bone is magically resonant. A high thaumic field can temporarily reveal a creature's skeleton as shadows inside flesh, but this is less of a diagnostic technique and more of a warning sign. Still, spells that target bones specifically are common, even if a few skirt the line between medicine and necromancy. Spells like osteoblastwave and calcify can, if used carefully, heal shattered limbs or dented skulls.

Side Effects May Include: 

  • Leaping Bone Syndrome (where the skeleton, lightly empowered by ambient magical energy and definitely not temporarily animated because that would be necromancy) moves faster or more forcefully than the rest of the body. 
  • Fused or Additional Joints.
  • Antlers.
  • Elbow Spikes. Endon's army is very interested in anyone who can develop bone spurs, as they believe it will save money on weapons.

4. Alter Self

For the sufficiently wealthy, magic creams or personal wizards can halt the physical signs of aging... in theory. In practice, there are aspects of aging that magic cannot conceal. Joints still ache. Revitalized skin develops a waxy sheen. Muscles freeze or twitch unexpectedly. And culturally, in Endon, age is associated with wisdom and vanity with incapability.

Side Effects May Include: 

  • Dreadful Revelations. In a high magic field, alterations can reverse themselves. The classic "wizard melts into a decrepit living skeleton" is a staple image in penny dreadfuls. Illusionary glamours are more vulnerable than biomancy, but they are far cheaper.
  • Octarine Striations. Discerning wizards can detect traces of magic in fatty tissues and bones. Occasional use is (apparently) harmless; repeated use can lead to discoloration visible through the skin.
  • Uncanny Symmetry. The caster's judgement and memory are used to determine the spell's fine details. A careless wizard can create a face that looks almost right, but is subtly wrong. A very careless wizard can forget to include pores or eyelids.
Thomas Elliott

5. Polymorph

How does polymorph work? Are a creature's parts rearranged (bones become bones, nerves become nerves), or is the creature reduced to elementary thaumic particles, which are reassembled in a new configuration? If the former, how can several lbs of human brain turn into a tenth of an oz of pigeon brain? If the latter, how are memories - which some wizards believe reside solely in the squishy matter of the brain - preserved? Polymorphing a dying creature into a healthy one (or, frequently, a whole-but-dead one) is known as wizard's restoration, just as cure light wounds is sometimes called cleric's featherfall. The Leonine Cartel is delving into the possibilities of polymorph. Medical experimentation is only one of their ventures.

Side Effects May Include:

  • Critical Existence Failure. Polymorph is deadly, and when it fails, the results get scraped off the walls and buried in a lead-lined coffin. Wizards rarely publicize that part.
  • Dybuk Syndrome.
  • Morphic Instability. Some biomancers believe lycanthropes and other shape-changers were created through misused polymorph spells.

6. Fractional Teleport

Teleportation falls into 3 categories. True teleportation folds the target elsewhere and unfolds them at the destination. Risks include being lost between dimensions, unfolding into the middle of a wall, or misfolding on arrival. Reciprocal teleportation exchanges two volumes and masses. Differences in velocity, mass, or position can easily lead to splattering or slicing. False teleportation turns the target into mist or particles, which flow and reassemble at the destination. Fusing with objects at the destination, losing mass along the way, or simply failing to rematerialize are well-known mishaps.

Wizards dream of teleporting a disease out of a body. Surgery in Endon is extremely risky. The abdomen is a pulsating cave of horrors; individual organs are creatures best left alone. Separating a victim from a bullet, or a patient from an internal and growing tumour, is a task few surgeons will undertake without preparing their patient for the grave. Inject a tumour with antimagic liquids (including compounds of lead), then teleporting the rest of the body, could - in theory - leave the tumour behind. In practice, teleport spells have been carefully bred to keep their target in one piece, and convincing them to split a target into two controllable pieces is extremely difficult. Teleportation is not a discipline any hedge wizard or dabbler can pick up with a few weeks of study.

7. Restoration

Flesh seems to have an innate memory. Restoration-type spells turn back the clock (without, apparently, involving actual time travel), curing an illness or repairing a limb by prompting the body's memory of a past and healthy form. 

Side Effects May Include: 

  • Partial Neoteny. Reversion to an inconveniently early date. A child-sized arm is better than no arm at all, but a child-sized head can lead to madness. Glands are important, though Endon's doctors aren't entirely sure why.
  • Extruded Teeth. Restoring teeth by magic inevitably leads to the madhouse. Wizards are warned against it in every biomancy text, just after the warnings about necromancy but before the warnings about summoning venemous snakes in a darkened room. The illustrated plates are proverbially nightmarish.

8. Inadvisable Treatments

  • Troll Organs. Fresh troll blood and a quick hand with a scalpel can, according to back-alley legends, turn any doctor into a miracle worker... and any patient into a troll. 
  • Stasis. What can't be cured now can, in theory, be cured in the future. For an enormous fee, some wizards will lock a patient in a stasis spell and attach a label. Good luck!
  • Flesh to Stone. Sculpt your way out of a problem. Usually only makes the problem worse, as a slip of the chisel can sever an artery or smash a rib. Additional stone (added as plaster dust or clay) does not always know what sort of flesh it should become when the spell is reversed.
  • Lightning. Sometimes seems to revitalize dead tissues. Sometimes does nothing. Reliable alchemical lightning generators do not yet exist in Endon, but shocking grasp is relatively cheap.
  • Tuberculosis Pyrotherapy. Breathe fire is a spell with limited utility. But with it, and a strong resist flame spell, a patient can scour their lungs with fire, leaving the tissues unharmed but burning the nodules of consumption to ash. The cure works, but the spells required are sufficiently powerful that few can afford it, and fewer still are willing to dive head-first into a furnace.

Divine Magic

Grimelsnabe, God of Blood and Conquest, might heal a wounded adventurer during a quest to rob the Temple of the Five-Eyed Snake Goddess Smorgsrilla, but He is unlikely to heal Mrs. Thursdown of 44 Chusterby Lane, as Mrs. Thursdown is unlikely to play a role in Grimelsnabe's divine plots.

Endoners believe they are more pious than Foreigners. Gods in Foreign Parts require sacrifices, chanting, and a great deal of flattery. It's all very undignified. Endon's gods are a bit like deputy ministers. One is aware that they exist, presumably they're doing good work, and they must have names one could look up somewhere, but they shouldn't require constant public validation.

Oglaf (NSFW)


  1. Such a grab bag of body horror, one barely knows where to start!

    Clearly the best way for Mrs. Thursdown to get some healing from Grimelsnabe is to take her front-garden-related feud with Madame Snodsbury next door to the next level. I foresee someone getting a trowel in the jugular before the roses bloom.

    1. Madame Snodsbury would die of shame if anyone thought she turned to "sacrificing chickens and dancing about in the altogether" (as most Endoners believe foreign religion requires) just in order to win the prize for finest rosebushes at the annual tea fete and charity auction.

    2. Well, that sounds like she's in need of a few up-and-coming adventuring types to ensure that there are absolutely no witnesses to the thing that she won't tell them about then! And probably to perform a little horticultural sabotage in case the sudden bout of religion doesn't get her the results she needs...

  2. Tuberculotic pyrotherapy is fantastic, reminds me of Sunless Skies' opening where the soon-to-be-ex-captain is breathing her last in infectious gouts of flame. An anti-biotic resistant plagues parallel where TB somehow gains the treatment spells' traits would make for a fun endgame, plague doctors could add asbestos aprons to their creepy getup. Hell, maybe even fire axes to complement patent patient-prodding sticks (tm).

    As to petrified repair maybe the stone would have better luck turning into what it needs to if it was itself a sample of petrified flesh? Not so much trouble for a bone or tooth but distinctly unethical when dealing with marrow or heavens forbid, nerves. Could add a wrinkle to contraband seizures if every shipment of "statue parts" has to be checked for origin (quarry or charnel house...).