Medicine For The Mundane

by mshrm

We’ve had a few campaigns using GURPS Fourth Edition, but as I look back, none of them have had much in the way of normal, mundane, long-term healing.

In the Weird West game, there were only ever two kinds of fights. There were brawls, mostly with fists, where any injury could be put right with a First Aid roll and a good night’s sleep. Past that, there were serious fights, starting with six-shooters and scaling up all the way to aerial bombardment, where if you weren’t dead when the smoke cleared, you were probably unscathed. The Space Cowboys campaign was the same way: the progression went from “unhurt” to “scuffed and bruised”, then suddenly jumped to “atoms scattered in the vacuum”. Even with a doctor as a PC, we still didn’t have much detailed healing.

Both times we’ve played Supers, defensive powers and abundant regeneration meant that few PCs had to seek medical assistance. In the lower-powered, grittier game, there was one PC who had an extensive subplot involving recovery from injury, but that was only because he was mostly mechanical. His problem wasn’t finding a doctor, it was coming up with the cash flow to keep himself in spare parts.

In Dungeon Fantasy, of course, nobody ever went to the doctor, they just gave an ample donation to the Church. Actually, as it happened, after rapidly going through a series of clerics, my guys just had the alchemist/bard brew up healing potions. A limb or two was crippled, but then immediately fixed through Applied Theology.

When you get down to it, the most experience my group has had with the GURPS rules for mundane medicine and healing is watching TKotBO stop a wound from bleeding through the application of a spinal adjustment. (His specialization for Esoteric Medicine was “Chiropractic”.) Since the number of broken limbs is starting to exceed the number of PCs in the apocalypse campaign, I thought it might be a good time to review.

First Aid

First Aid is what’s done while the wounded are still laying on the ground. It’s what you get when your care provider is a Boy Scout, rather than a doctor. It’s also what my players are most familiar with: the skill that stops bleeding and restores a few HP while resting after the fight. When confronted with a crippled arm, First Aid puts it in a sling.

So, when thinking of the apocalypse party, remember that Farrah has a broomstick tied to one leg, from hip to ankle, and Cauliflower Jones has one arm tightly tied to his chest. They’ve received First Aid treatment, and that’s about as good as it gets.

Trained medical professionals can do better than just First Aid. First, there’s the Diagnosis skill, which is used to determine what’s wrong with the patient, when it isn’t obvious. (Like in the case of our apocalypse-survivors: their problem is, they’re all busted and banged up.) More immediately useful for our heroes are Physician, Pharmacy, and Surgery.

Physician is the skill for tending the sick and wounded, and for deciding what drug a patient needs. Pharmacy is the skill for making that drug, if it’s not already available. Surgery is the invasive skill of digging in there and trying to fix things, hands-on.

How does this apply to our heroes of the apocalypse? Medically speaking, they have two challenges before them. They’re suffering from lost Hit Points, and they’ve collected multiple crippled limbs.

Hit Points are regained naturally, with a HT roll after a “day of rest and decent food” (B424). If you spend the day wrestling zombies, searching ruins, and hiking trails, all on short rations, you don’t heal. On the other hand, if you’re under the care of a physician, the doctor gets a Physician roll to restore another HP. (And you could get a bonus to the HT roll for natural healing, which is nothing to sneeze at when you don’t have HT 14.) Considering that the average character has HT 10 (50% success rate), and a licensed doctor is going to have Physician 12-15 (74-95% success), a hospitalized patient is going to recover over twice as fast as one relying on bed-rest alone.

The crippled limbs are another problem. Most of them are only temporarily crippled, so once the HP are back, the effects of the injuries go away, too. There are a few lasting injuries, though, with recovery periods measured in months. An operation using the Surgery skill can change the recovery period to weeks, instead!

There you go, easy-peasy: all the PCs need to do is spend five or six days in a well-equipped hospital!