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07 September 2011 @ 11:13 pm
Meta Month, Day 7: The Limits of Healing  
After having to deal with a very displeased digestive system last night, I found myself thinking about healing staves and what they can and can't do. It seems pretty well established in FE8 anyway, that staves can heal injures but not illnesses. After all, nothing can be done for Vigarde, and when Lyon talks about his research with the Dark Stone he goes on to say "Maybe we can use it not only to heal wounds, but also to stop diseases." So staves work on injuries. Okay.

Even when it comes to injuries, we know staves can't fix everything. Lyon mentions using the Stone to treat a burn victim who couldn't be helped by staves. There's the matter of Seth's wound that he says hasn't fully healed. And then there's the bit where L'Arachel offers to heal Ephraim's scars. Now, why can a staff heal a scar but not help Seth's wound?

When I write fic, one of the most important things I try to do in terms of battles is not make things too easy. If staves are a cure-all then there's little risk to the characters. I like to write it so that really serious injures, even if they can be healed by staves, may require several treatments over a period of days. Probably how soon the wound is treated affects how well the treatments works. I also think some wounds can't be treated. I you lose an eye on the battlefield that's that; it's gone. If your leg gets crushed to a pulp by a wyvern, there's not going to be enough material for the staff to reconstruct and they're going to have to amputate. Healing is also draining to staff users so I imagine a lot of triage has to be done when there's a whole army to treat.

As for the scars, my guess is that since that's only a cosmetic detail, then perhaps that's a simple matter to heal.
 
 
 
saffiremoon21saffiremoon21 on September 8th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
That's actually really super interesting and makes me think about a lot of the healing in fantasy novels. Is it explained well at all in Harry Potter, what can and cannot be healed?

I know in Wheel of Time they basically say that the only thing that can't be Healed is death, but it's very rare to find anyone who can heal more than a few scratches and it's quite wearying to both the healer and the patient. I always imagined staves worked somewhat like that, especially considering the healers are all rather...lightweight.
wolfraven80: FE: RD - Rhys - cutewolfraven80 on September 8th, 2011 04:02 am (UTC)
I don't remember anything detailed about healing in HP. The only thing I can recall off the top is that Harry had to take a potion in book two, iirc, to heal a broken bone and it took several hours and was fairly painful. It's been such a long while since I've read them...

As for FE, Natasha's supports mention her getting drained and collapsing after doing a lot of healing so it does seem to work that way in FE8 anyway.
Manna: AAML-TeamRockethooves on September 8th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
I have to agree with you. I have my own thoughts (saving for my own meta), but I really like the way you sorta explain away what looks on the surface like a contradiction-- re: can heal scars but not Seth's wound.

We can assume Seth had his wound long enough, or that it's BAD enough, anyway, that it will bother him for a long time-- perhaps forever, like someone might complain of their knee knowing it's gonna rain.

Anyway, I agree 110% with staves being a "cure-all" being too easy.

Mostly because I feel there should be danger involved. Now, don't get me wrong-- an epic battle on the battlefield that just, never ends and drags on until one side literally tires out and can't go anymore sounds kind of neat in its own terrible way, but in reality it just sucks. A fatal blow should be a fatal blow, and if there are enough bad injuries you're going to lose people-- period. Someone's lying on the battlefield bleeding to death, and unfortunately they're not necessarily going to make it back to GET treated. It's sad, because it could be a curable injury (say, something a little worse than Seth's injury), but it's not going to be curable when they can't get to help. And if the battle drags on for 1-4 days, they're lying in the sun/rain/dirt/mud/whatever and not eating/drinking/in a clean environment, sooo without help they're likely to die.

Despite having what could possibly be treated...if they'd made it back to help.

Buuut I like to think there's risk involved, you know? That in a REAL novelization of any of the games, death happens, even if it is to some random squire/mercenary/knights that Innes recognizes/etc, and not the main cast themselves. Because it just makes sense. People are going to die in battle. If they don't (re: small band like FE7's) it should be heralded as a miracle and there are bound to be a lot of close calls.

Either way, I can't help but imagine there are limits to staves. Like you said, they can't heal illness. And scars? Well, I always look at that kinda like plastic surgery-- maybe not the EASIEST thing ever (for the healer, probably painful for the person receiving the treatment) but it's definitely doable by a good cleric/healer. Thing is, it's totally cosmetic, also unnecessary.

But I also like to imagine that healers aren't exactly pouring out of the woodwork-- they're actually harder to come by, hence Serra being sent all the way to Bern for training (from Ostia).

I also like to imagine it like this: but it's very rare to find anyone who can heal more than a few scratches and it's quite wearying to both the healer and the patient, because saffiremoon21's comment just makes sense.

But sometimes in a particular story I'll need healing to work a different way, sooo there's that, too. P:
wolfraven80: FE: RD - Rhyswolfraven80 on September 9th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
Someone's lying on the battlefield bleeding to death, and unfortunately they're not necessarily going to make it back to GET treated.

That sounds a lot like the situation in World War I. Medics tried to pick people up but couldn't always do it. Your odds were much better if you could drag yourself back to your own lines where they could get you to a dressing station (though even there your odds weren't great).

But I also like to imagine that healers aren't exactly pouring out of the woodwork

Yeah, I'm not sure how common they are. It seems to require a good deal of study and training since most of the healers are part of an Order of some sort so it doesn't seem to be the sort of thing just anyone can learn. We have a lot of highborn people in the game so obviously they've always had access to healers, but that's probably not the cases in smaller towns and villages.
mark_asphodelmark_asphodel on September 8th, 2011 11:20 am (UTC)
After all, nothing can be done for Vigarde

Or all the other parents! The high percentage of orphans and half-orphans is a pretty good argument about healing magic allowing for the equivalent of even mid 20th-century life expectancy.

I also think some wounds can't be treated. I you lose an eye on the battlefield that's that; it's gone

I also have my doubts about healing staves being able to deal with, say, brain injuries. Regrowing bones and skin? Maybe. Rewiring neural networks? I don't buy it.

As for the scars, my guess is that since that's only a cosmetic detail, then perhaps that's a simple matter to heal.

IMO, it depends on what caused the scarring. My headcanon usually rolls with the idea that damage caused by certain forms of magic may be harder to heal than damage caused by physical combat.

OTOH, I do make allowances for certain healers in certain universes to have unusually miraculous powers. Like Elice... who can safely bring back the dead.
wolfraven80: FE:SS Restoration Queenwolfraven80 on September 9th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
Or all the other parents! The high percentage of orphans and half-orphans is a pretty good argument about healing magic allowing for the equivalent of even mid 20th-century life expectancy.

Yeah, when I did a search through the supports I was reminded that Forde's mother and Garcia's wife died of illness. There are a lot of others missing a parent, too. Ephraim and Eirika, and Lyon are all royalty; they presumably had access to the best healers around and that didn't help their mothers.

Like Elice... who can safely bring back the dead.

I'm really glad I don't have to deal with that in FE8. O_o
Samuraitersamuraiter on September 9th, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
I try to cover this by making note of the fact that the staves are not unlimited in their use. They do break, and they are costly to replace. Granted, their effectiveness depends heavily on the inner strength of the user, but a user without a staff might as well be doing nothing at all.
wolfraven80wolfraven80 on September 9th, 2011 03:31 am (UTC)
True, the cost would definitely be another factor that limits healers. It's not something that a village is likely to be able to afford on its own.
shining_valor: tacticiansshining_valor on September 9th, 2011 02:47 pm (UTC)
I don't buy into staves being anything other than a focus for the healer. While there might be some cost involved - higher quality staves would necessarily cost more - unless there were some accident, I don't see them breaking for normal usage.

I suppose there could be the possibility that they are just a charged magic item that intrepid healers grab and heal, heal, heal... oops ran out of battery power, throw away. Sort of like say, vulneraries. Which would beg the point of why everyone isn't using them. Running out of charges is a game mechanic. Getting tired and unable to focus is real life.

Another point that can be considered is the fact that the clergy have a monopoly on healing. Which may be why there are a limited number of healers. This might also explain why there are injuries that cannot be healed by your average run of the mill healer. They haven't had training or experience with either the body or the magic in order to focus it properly to do more than heal a few scratches. After all, why would the top tier of healers want to have their job security threatened? If your apprentices can do everything that you can and be payed at less than half your going rate, why would anyone choose to hire you?

At least, that's one possibility.
wolfraven80wolfraven80 on September 10th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
Getting tired and unable to focus is real life.

The game supports that in the Seth/Nathasha support when she mentions passing out after doing too much healing. I think the thing about the staves is that they do seem necessary to the healing work. Ignoring the issue of them breaking and their unlimited numbers in the shops during the game, they still represent an expense. Being a healer requires training and material so it's not something every village will be able have to access to.

Another point that can be considered is the fact that the clergy have a monopoly on healing

Well they don't entirely. After all magic users (e.g. Lute, Saleh, Ewan) can learn to use healing staves in the game and I've usually assumed in fics they could do some healing as well even if they weren't as efficient as the professional healers. I imagine it takes a lot of training and experience to be proficient.
shining_valor: tacticiansshining_valor on September 11th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
Another point that can be considered is the fact that the clergy have a monopoly on healing

Well they don't entirely. After all magic users (e.g. Lute, Saleh, Ewan) can learn to use healing staves in the game and I've usually assumed in fics they could do some healing as well even if they weren't as efficient as the professional healers. I imagine it takes a lot of training and experience to be proficient.

I do agree on the point that it would take training and experience to become proficient in the use of magic of any type.

I'm also of the opinion that anyone in Magvel could become a magic user of any type, provided they studied. This is based on the supports where two complete idiots throw around magic that not only produces fire, but also heals. And the funny part of it, IIRC they used a stave for both effects. Which would be partly why I consider staves more foci than absolute necessity. I would say that they allow for more efficient healing than trying to cast the magic without.

As for the monopoly part, please consider that although party mages can use staves after their class upgrades, who is it that you see starting out with healing magic? Clerics. No other class deals with this until afterwards and seems almost an afterthought. It could make interesting food for thought to figure out exactly how they manage to work training for healing into the mages while battling through the continent.