In recent days, I’ve been fiddling with some new characters, one of whom is a young man who utilizes healing magic. This got me thinking about your magical variety of doctors in the media, wielding light magic to stave of disease, close wounds, and even cheat death. There are many ways to work healing magic into a fantasy story.
There are, of course, some limitations your healer must have, and this will probably vary depending on the type of healer they are, as well as their personality and what side of the conflict they’re meant to be on. Here are some ideas.
The Standard RPG Healer—Any proper RPG that allows the player to choose different classes will have a variation on this character, though they can appear in fiction as well. Usually called a priest or a cleric, this person can heal allies with little to no side-effects on the caster or the surrounding environment. They’ve got flash heals for quick patch ups, longer running healing spells for fusing broken bones, spells that heal over time and quickly knit pesky wounds together as the fighters get them, and environmental healing spells that work on multiple allies at the same time.
The RPG Healer’s limits are usually energy based. Games will represent this as a magic meter. This method will probably require a writer to create some form of energy system for the healer to follow, as it can be very easy to have the healer’s energy levels radically change if you’re not paying attention. For example, you can give yourself a “point system” and have each spell be worth a certain number of “points.” Say your healer can do 100 points worth of healing, with spells worth 5, 10, and 15 points. While you write them, you can determine which combination of spells they can use before running out of magical energy and needing a recharge (this can work for other classes of magic as well).
Another option can be based around the spells themselves. Maybe the healer can only flash heal ten times a day. Maybe certain spells require certain conditions. Another option I’ve seen is that a healer’s spells start to lose effectiveness over time when used on the same person repeatedly. One day they can easily patch a collapsed ribcage, but after a few weeks, they can barely close a knife wound on the same person.
Since there’s little risk to this type of healer when they do their job, they’re generally pretty nice folks. They’ll aid adventurers in any way they can. They might charge for their services. At the worst, they’ll be jerks who charge way too much.
The Empathic Healer—You’d hate to be this poor bastard. The Empathic Healer is pretty much what the name suggests: while they can heal you, they take your pain unto themselves. In this case, the healer is either transferring the injuries to themselves, or they simply feel the pain associated with it. They aren’t generally the type to get involved in conflicts where they’re constantly healing people, and may only use their powers in special, preferably non-fatal, cases.
The name also implies the limitations. The healer that heals through transference is basically an injured wreck with each treatment and can risk dying themselves if they aren’t careful. While the Empathic Healer who just feels the associated pain likely won’t bleed out on you, pain can be crippling. The healer will have to build up a high pain tolerance, but there’s still a risk even then, like going into shock or suffering a heart attack or something else extreme amounts of pain and stress can cause. As such, these guys will usually not use their powers for anything but serious wounds, and will likely know non-magical treatments for superficial wounds. This type of healer may also be unable to self-heal.
If a hero, this is usually the person who will sacrifice themselves to save the protagonist. If your Empathic Healer has more advanced skills, they can likely forgo transferring the wounds onto themselves and redirect them to someone else. Usually this is a villain tactic, but a hero could do this by essentially turning the enemy’s attacks right back at them. I mean, the guy who’s hit would still feel the pain of being hit (it’s not like a healer can deflect magic), but at least the monster bleeds out faster.
The Life Drainer—Something is fueling a healer’s magic and allowing them to heal. Typically, it can be sourced from whatever magical sources your world has, but sometimes that’s not enough. The magical sources are just a conduit. The healing itself comes from taking the vitality of other living things.
A lot of the limitations of this one depends on what kind of person the healer is. You can take the “Pro-Life” route, having your healer sacrifice their own life energy to heal, resulting in a severely shortened life span, and maybe some biological failings the closer the healer gets to death. Some healers might refuse to use animals, while others are fine with it. Plants are usually a safe bet, but likely require a plentiful amount of them.
A good Life Drainer will try to use their abilities to cause the least amount of damage possible, only resorting in using their own life force if the situation is dire and there’s no other life source available (though, some of their party members may all be willing to sacrifice a little bit of time to save someone). An evil life drainer will purposefully drain the lives of others, usually to heal themselves.
The Reversal Healer—Okay, so this one technically doesn’t use healing magic, but time magic can be very flexible, so I’ll add this one as well. The idea behind this one is not that the wound is healed so much as the damaged is reversed to a time before it was damaged. This type of magic is the one that can usually reverse death as well.
Time magic is usually more varied in its limitations. Your caster might not be able to reverse time by more than a few minutes, so taking too long to get to the injured character may make any attempts at healing pointless. Maybe healing someone screws with destiny and now the gang has to fix it. Time magic is tricky like that.
I would say that if someone is willing to risk screwing up space-time to heal someone, they’re probably a good person. Crazy, but good at heart.
Those are just some of the types of healers I’ve had experience with in fiction. Does an author/artist of yours have a unique type of healer? Feel free to share!