The purpose of this guide is to offer suggestions on how to roleplay a healer, how to add flavour to healing magic in roleplay, and most importantly, how to keep magical healing from becoming a two-second cure-all that ruins roleplay by making all injuries trivial to cure.
Nouala started this project last year, I'm expanding on her good work: this is still a work in progress. Suggestions and comments for further improvement are welcome.
Game Mechanics vs. Lore Edit
Game mechanics supply healing, poison/disease/curse cleansing at the push of a button. They do this because gameplay requires it - instance and raid level play would be impossible without it. But looking at the lore, it's obvious that the reality of healing in Azeroth is not this convenient. Even WoW's quests have an abundance of fetching this or that for medicine or healing magic, and ailments "ordinary" magic can't cure.
The case is similar with resurrection. Though the resurrection game mechanic is trivial, the fact that Uther Lightbringer and Bolvar Fordragon can die with plethoras of paladins at hand argues strongly that lorewise, raising the dead is either impossible or too difficult to accomplish even to restore great heroes. One of the few cases of resurrection recorded in lore is Medivh, mightily epic Guardian of Tirisfal, who was raised by his equally epic mother Aegwynn. The process took her nine years of questing and preparation to accomplish: given that even epic heroes take this long at it, resurrection should probably be considered beyond the scope of normal roleplay.
Why Natural healing in a magical world? Edit
As said, WoW contains many instances of quests where the player helps an NPC make a medicine for a friend or loved one - so obviously RL-style medical knowledge is useful and used even in WoW. Azeroth is a much bigger and more populated world than we see in-game (Stormwind alone has a population of 200.000). In practice, it's likely there simply aren't enough priests, druids and so forth to magically heal every single injury. Magical healing would likely be reserved for the war effort, serious injuries, or those powerful/important/rich enough to demand it.
Going further, there's also the source of magical healing to consider. In the lore of Warcraft, the Light, various gods, shamanic spirits and druidic nature affinity are all brands of divine magic - magical healing is not medical treatment, it's always a miracle. Many priests/paladins/druids/shamans would likely be reluctant to use such a precious gift to cure minor injuries, and prefer to reserve it for true emergencies. Many may consider calling the Light or Nature to mend your cut thumb or bruised knee plain disrespectful.
There are also practical considerations. For example, while a healer could quickly close a bullet wound, that would leave the bullet in the wound where it can do a lot of damage (if it's made of lead, it would be poisonous, etc.). There's more roleplay to be had in removing the bullet first and then trying to heal it, than there is in just hitting the Regrowth button and saying "There, is that better?".
Finally, even magical healing doesn't have to be instantaneous. For example, a limb that was magically re-attached could still need training to work properly again, or a magically treated wound may still be weak and achy for a few days after while the body catches up with how fast it was fixed. As a rule of thumb, the more dramatic the wound, disease or other condition you're fixing is, the more time roleplaying the treatment should take.
Healing with magic Edit
Magical healing should exist to facilitate RP, not to make injury and sickness trivial.
If any injury can be cured with a quick Renew of Flash of Light, if any poison or disease can be countered with a Purify or Abolish Disease, roleplay becomes a farce. No one will be worried about getting injured, maimed or killed, if healers can fix it all in seconds. Roleplaying healing as super-effective and super fast removes any danger our characters face while adventuring or fighting. Even worse, it also removes all the roleplay that can be had while treating or recovering from injuries.
Magical healing should be used to create and help roleplay, not as a cure-all that removes it. How do you go about this, and still play your character as an effective and competent healer? Adapt to the situation. A few suggestions below, for different playstyles and situations:
1) The Combat Healer -- A healer who specialises in mending wounds almost instantaneously in the heat of battle, but has a significantly harder time once the injury/poison/disease/curse has set in for a few minutes or hours. This lets your character be very effective in IC instances and other RP involving game mechanic combat, where extensively playing injuries only gets in the way (though you can still pause for a little RP after for dramatic bits, such as wipes or manabreaks after rez), but lets you take your time and RP less instant healing at your leisure when someone comes to you with injuries they've got somewhere else. It also lets you have fun with a gruff bedside manner: a combat healer's goal is to keeping patients battleworthy, not scar-free or feeling happy and healthy.
2) The CPR Healer -- Think of healing magic as the CPR from hospital series. You can almost certainly prevent people dying by reattaching limbs or pouring their guts back in and magically stitching them up, but they'll still be badly injured and that you can't do much about. You'll help them properly, when you've got the patient out of the combat zone. This is good for emote-combat or generally roleplay combat settings, where you have room to describe a little but are still in IC danger and will have to move soon.
3) The Attending Healer -- This style is best for hospital and/or recovery-type roleplay in peaceful settings. The idea here is to accelerate the body's own healing processes, and let the other character get back into the thick of action in hours or days, not weeks. This style lets you both take your time about roleplaying an injury and its treatment consequences. It also lets a healer add their own flair to how their character treats injuries: do they use herbal remedies? Surgery? A magic, laying-on-hands version of medicines that would treat inflammation and stimulate healing? How does it feel when the magic works -- does it hurt or itch because new tissue is growing faster than it's supposed to, does it feel warm and nice because it's benevolent magic, is there a whispering in the air because ancestor spirits are gathering to see their descendant does well? Are you solemn and reverent about it, are you a Greg House -style wiseass, or do you sympathise or joke with the patient to keep their spirits up?
4) The Ritual Healer -- This is brilliant for major and dramatic stuff like regrowing limbs or eyes, patients on the brink of death, saving children or removing handicaps that have been part of a character's RP for a long time. Make it a mini-plot: ask the patient's friends to bring you one or more things that require heroic effort to get. Examples could be a scroll from the lost libraries of Eldre'thalas or the Scarlet Monastery, plants from the grave of Zaetar, a titan trinket rumored to be found in Uldaman, notes on the patient's curse from Scholomance, or Neltharion's breath which burns strongly enough only in the most powerful Black Dragons - whatever suits the level of the would-be heroes. When they bring the item(s), you can roleplay the ritual and then recovery as you like.
Some convenient catch-alls Edit
Not everyone shares the same idea of how RP-healing works, and that's OK. There's easy ways to explain why things don't go like you expected, if you and your patient have different ideas of how efficient healing magic is.
1) Magic works only as well as the patient lets it. You can't force bodies to heal, or stay alive: the patient has to be willing as well. This is handy when the other person refuses to have magic healing be as effective as you want it to be: if the patient doesn't think you can help them, you can't. It's not your fault, it's just how the magic works: they won't heal if they don't think they will.
2) "Nature/the Light/the Spirits/<insert deity> is weak/strong now" - in some particularly nasty places healing may not work optimally, while in some particularly holy ones it may work beyond your wildest expectations. Sometimes you may just have a very good moment and whichever divinity grants you better results than you could hope for. This is handy when the patient thinks magic is a lot more effective than you meant it to be - sometimes you just get that lucky. This can also work if for some reason the patient's player does want to be healed against their character's will.
3) Magic only goes so far. This is for situations when you plain just don't want to use/have healing magic used on you: sometimes magic has done all it can, and further magic is a waste of energy. This is handy when you have an overzealous healer but you want to roleplay the recovery phase too. It can also be a permanent feature: perhaps the character has been healed so much over their life that healing no longer works as well on them, or perhaps they simply believe very strongly that pain is part of the price of healing, and they can only be healed to a certain degree.
4) All healers use what works for them. Since the lore doesn't actually explain how magic works, past the source of power it uses, a lot of druid players will have their own explanation of how their healing works, a lot of priests will have different prayers, and so forth. This is okay - each user can be IC different about how they were taught to heal. It even creates roleplay, because you can discuss among druids or paladins or shamans how the power works for you - think doctors talking shop.
5) Sometimes it scars, sometimes it doesn't. You can say your healing does or doesn't scar, but you can't force another player to accept the verdict - you as a player should accept this even if your character complains that this isn't how it should go. Sometimes the magic is unpredictable. As a rule of thumb, combat healers may not waste energy making sure scars don't happen, druidic and shamanic healers may also consider scars a natural price of healing and leave them be. On the other hand, attending healers could be very careful about not scarring, while priests and paladins might consider a lack of scars a sign of the Light's benevolence in undoing all hurts.
Whether your healer uses magic or medicine, there's no substitute for RL knowledge on how injury works to give food for imagination and help you be believable in the role. Read up on first aid procedure - better yet, take a first aid course (your local Red Cross should organise them). Not only is it good RP reference, it's a good skill to have for real and doesn't take that long to learn.
--Nouala 09:24, 10 November 2008 (UTC)
--Auburn(SWC) 15:59, 11 June 2009 (UTC)