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Disease in FRPGing

pemerton

Legend
In RuneQuest, disease is not (primarily) a biochemical state of affairs. Disease is caused by evil sprits or similar sorts of evil visitations. And the way to cure it is by contesting those forces with one's own, good, magic.

Rolemaster inclines the opposite way. It has rules for diseases that reflect (in a rough-and-ready way) contemporary medical classifications. Diseases can be cured using magic (the Purifications spell list) but this seems to be about magically removing/killing pathogens and toxins in the body. Other healing magic is clearly defined as operating on tissues in a biological fashion; there is even magic that permits the transplant of organs.

What about D&D? Some healing magic appears to operate by interacting with biological processes - eg Cure Blindness and Regenerate seem to be able to produce the regrowth of tissue. And in Gygax's AD&D we are told that, by using the Cure Disease spell, "The cleric cures most diseases - including those of a parasitic, bacterial, or viral nature - by placing his or her hand upon the diseased creature." In 4e D&D the Cure Disease ritual doesn't refer to pathogens but still talks about "incubation" periods for diseases, suggesting a biological approach. And the Cure Disease ritual is different from, thought structurally identical to, the Remove Affliction ritual which clearly is concerned with driving out or dispelling evil sprits and effects afflicting an individual.

But the characters who can cure disease - typically clerics and paladins - can also drive out and destroy evil spirits (eg via Turn Undead, Protection from Evil, the Dispel Evil spell, etc, or in 4e D&D via their ability to inflict radiant damage). So is it possible to construe the curing of disease as more like RQ and less like RM?

And what about other FRPGs?
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I suppose it's possible to see curing disease in 5E either way. The Lesser Restoration spell can remove a number of conditions (blinded, deafened, paralyzed, and poisoned) and it can cure diseases. The Greater Restoration spell can reduce a creature's exhaustion level by one, or remove a curse (including an attunement to a cursed item), an effect that has charmed or petrified a creature, any reduction to a creature's ability scores, or one effect reducing a creature's hit point maximum.

Both spells are available to clerics and druids, but paladins never get Greater Restoration (outside Oath of Devotion), and bards and artificers get both. Clerics and druids argue for a spiritual interpretation (at least as a possibility), but bards and especially artificers don't, IMO.

At this point I don't have any earlier editions taking up enough brain space to answer for them. I realize you don't play 5E, and I'll explain any of the above that you need.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I didn't put any disease rules in Modos 2 because, well, rules-lite. There are some powers (spells) that hint at being diseases. Use of those powers isn't the domain of holy classes, because there are no classes:

Curse 2: all rolls for one attribute are penalized.
Poison 2: take d8 damage, no protection from armor.

For the former, taking a penalty on certain rolls makes a character look afflicted by performing tasks poorly. This might be considered a more debilitating disease. For the latter, taking damage has no required effect until a character exceeds his limit. Then the disease appears near-fatal, because too much damage removes a character from play. Also, a Cure spell can undo the effects of Poison, but not Curse.

There is a Healer skill, which doesn't mention disease, but does mention the body's "natural healing mechanisms" and an "ailment." The skill focuses on the removal of damage, so it directly treats Poison but not Curse.

For reference:
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Tiny Little Oozes that are too small to see but which get inside the body and start devouring the host and releasing disease into the body. A cleric heals by purifying the body of these oozes and repair any damage.

Of course some disease are cursed by curses (mummy rot) and some may indeed mean demonic/necrotic taint
 

But the characters who can cure disease - typically clerics and paladins - can also drive out and destroy evil spirits (eg via Turn Undead, Protection from Evil, the Dispel Evil spell, etc, or in 4e D&D via their ability to inflict radiant damage). So is it possible to construe the curing of disease as more like RQ and less like RM?

And what about other FRPGs?

I think that examining the description of diseases themselves sheds some light on this topic, perhaps more than examining the curing spells. If disease had a biological origin, most disease would target a specific species. Diseases in RPG, for the sake of simplicity, generally are able to target any creature and cause similar effects and progression. This puts them more in a "spirit/magical" side than in the "biological side" in the first place. I'd also look at how the non-magical treatments work. In 4e D&D, IIRC, heal checks actually helped a lot (especially when several characters attempted it) to recover from a disease (so it hinted at a mundane origin, though we don't know the specific of the heal check, maybe it was chanting prayers to shoo the bad spirits away and not giving herbal remedies....) In 5e, the few examples given in the DMG all rely on the victim making CON saving throws. A doctor won't help you at all, unless he casts a spell. I know we have horrible depiction of the medieval doctors in our minds, and bleeding patients to death was probably not the brightest idea in many cases, but to make them totally irrelevant to curing disease seems excessive if dealing with biological disease. I'd say it entrenches 5e D&D diseases more into the supernatural side than it was in 4e.

(BTW, I loved the RQ disease spirits).
 

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