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Old 04-18-2015, 07:29 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

Esoteric Medicine is the Per/H skill of medicine based on mystical or esoteric ideas, rather than scientific biology. This is an example of GURPS' science-centred world view, but it isn't hard to turn the dials and make this skill the replacement for Physician. Below TL5, Physician doesn't exist, and Esoteric Medicine is used although that doesn't necessarily mean it works well. It does always provide First Aid/TL, since that doesn't vary (much) between schools of medicine. The only default is Per-6, and there are no listed modifiers, although equipment and/or Physiology modifiers could be reasonable for some schools of Esoteric Medicine. If there's more than one school that works, they should be distinct specialisations. Pharmacy (Herbal) is often used in combination with this skill.

Dungeon Fantasy makes considerable use of Esoteric Medicine, with (Holy), (Druidic) and (Chi) specialisations. This seems to be using it as "the skills of practical and effective medicine, without claiming the world of DF has scientific biology", which is a longstanding fantasy trope. Fantasy-Tech 1 has more things to do with it, and Low-Tech has realistic applications. Martial Arts has material on Chi-based forms, and Monster Hunters has quite a lot of modern-day uses. As usual, PU3 and PU7 have examples that include this skill. Powers suggests Esoteric Medicine for "healing" crippled powers, and for use in place of IQ for the Healing power, and Enhanced Senses suggests how sensory abilities can boost the skill. Supers has it as the skill for understanding Chi powers in general. The Thaumatology series has many applications for it and Chinese Elemental Powers has a lot on the (Taoist) specialisation. And you can make Zombies with it, of course.

I've never used Esoteric Medicine in a game, but it's something I'd like to try. A setting with Alchemy, and Esoteric Medicine (Paracelsian), but without overt spell-casting sounds focused enough to be interesting.

What have you done with Esoteric Medicine?
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Old 04-18-2015, 08:00 AM   #2
WaterAndWindSpirit
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

In the Urban Arcana setting I plan on having, Physician takes care of "natural" wounds (even if the cause is supernatural. A fireball inflict regular burns, and so on), while Esoteric Medicine treats wounds inflicted to the mind (say, a Mindfray wound (see XCOM Psionics) would be treated by Esoteric Medicine). Some spells would inflict special damage to the soul, and natural healing would heal those, but Physician can do nothing against an attack that leaves no physical wound.
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Old 04-18-2015, 08:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

Esoteric Medicine works as Physician/TL2 for normal care (p.B425). It does not help with Surgery, but it can help with supernatural afflictions.
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Old 04-18-2015, 09:40 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

In my current campaign, one of the PCs asked her NPC ally to put on his sealskin and go spy on an approaching ship, and he critically failed the roll and got stuck half seal and half selkie. Another PC used her Esoteric Medicine to try to unbind him, and found the right massage points to get him loose.

I don't view Esoteric Medicine as a purely psychic or mystical skill. Rather, I think of it as a combination of empirically useful techniques for treating symptoms (even weird ones like using electric fish to treat gout or migraines) with prescientific theories for why they work and classifications of different effects. The ability to use it to get the benefits that would be possible if those prescientific theories really worked is the cinematic part, and is appropriate to campaigns where chi is real, and maybe to weird science campaigns.

If I wanted to mechanic treating disease by freeing someone from spiritual affliction, I'd use the Exorcism rules. Exorcism seems to be one of the oldest of all healing skills.
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Old 04-18-2015, 09:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

In a campaign that is supposed to start today, I have a character with Esoteric Medicine at a high level, thanks to being a Per-oriented character. I'm looking forward to using it in a pinch (the character doesn't want to over-rely on this skill). But there are some campaign house rules, making Esoteric Medicine essentially heal +1 HP on a success of any sort and wound for an extra -1 HP on a failure of any sort; and adding esoteric versions of Surgery and Diagnosis, which default to EM at the same penalties as regular versions default to Physician. Another goodie is the Pressure Points default to Esoteric Medicine -4 (the optional default), though I need a Perk to actually benefit from this default, PP being a TbaM skill.
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Old 04-18-2015, 09:45 AM   #6
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

I don't like it being based on Per instead of IQ. Per being otherwise unnecessary for characters of a medical bent, by and large.

I don't use it because Physician protects from critical failures on Minor and Major Healing, which Esoteric Medicine does not.

Also, DF does list Physician as a valid skill which always made me wonder why the clerics used Esoteric Medicine(Holy).
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Old 04-18-2015, 10:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans View Post
I don't like it being based on Per instead of IQ. Per being otherwise unnecessary for characters of a medical bent, by and large.
I have to disagree. Spotting obscure details is important in real-word medicine; this gets obscured in GURPS because medically-skilled character normally have good IQ, which comes with good Per by default.
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Old 04-18-2015, 10:21 AM   #8
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
I have to disagree. Spotting obscure details is important in real-word medicine; this gets obscured in GURPS because medically-skilled character normally have good IQ, which comes with good Per by default.
Players commonly decrease Per for their IQ-oriented characters. Making Diagnosis Per-based while keeping Physician IQ-based might do well to emphasise the importance of both. (Now, making DX important for Surgery without either nerfing surgeons nor making IQ meh for surgeons - that's trickier.)
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Old 04-18-2015, 10:27 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

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Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans View Post
Also, DF does list Physician as a valid skill which always made me wonder why the clerics used Esoteric Medicine(Holy).
Because that's what clerics do. They use ointments and prayers rather than soulless medicine.
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Old 04-18-2015, 10:50 AM   #10
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Esoteric Medicine

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Originally Posted by Anders View Post
Because that's what clerics do. They use ointments and prayers rather than soulless medicine.
But those critical fails, man!
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