Corpse Medicine

Grave robbing is a huge component of fantasy tabletop role playing games. Exploring ancient crypts, tombs, and catacombs are perhaps more fundamental to a game of Dungeons and Dragons than the dragons! The dungeons can be many things, but whatever they are, more often than not, they contain the dead. Typically, a gang of dungeoneering adventurers will loot the bodies and then leave them where they are. In this post, I want to provide incentive for characters to not only want to take the treasures entombed with the corpses, but the corpses as well!

I won’t go too much into the actual practice of corpse medicine, which was used in the 16th and 17th centuries. I have only done a modicum of research on the topic and from what I can tell, it was widely practiced at that time. There was also a certain logic to it that I think makes it easy to incorporate into the tabletop experience. The thought was that tinctures and potions made from the dead contained a bit of that person’s spirit, which imbued the remedy with it’s power. You would take ground up skull for a headache, or use blood to cure an ailment that effected the blood.[1] While we now know that most these “cures” don’t work, some of them actually do! [2] In a fantasy world with real spirits and magic, corpse medicine would certainly be an effective form of medicine, and one’s mortal remains could ask a high price!

The references below contain some fascinating inspiration, however, I believe it is simple to incorporate this morbid medicine into a game. Each part of the corpse is used in a cure corresponding to that particular part. So a hand would be used to cure an ailment on one’s hand, perhaps numbness or a rash. Intestines could be ground up and used to cure an ulcer or other stomach ailment. Furthermore, the bodies of demi-humans might also have different characteristics based on the characteristics often associated with those demi-humans. For example, the hand of an elf may grant extra potency in magic. The heart of a dwarf may grant a bonus to constitution or strength. Even a tincture made from the remains of a non-humanoid would possibly be of value, swiftness from the hooves of a unicorn, resistance to cold from the teeth of a yeti. Allow characters to take whatever remains they desire, and make some use of them. Use this simple logic to determine what the effect should be and grant it an efficacy based on the challenge of obtaining the ingredients. I also recommend that you are tracking encumbrance, dragging every single corpse the players find back to town should not be possible.

I’ll be incorporating this into my games, and if my players go for it I’ll hopefully have some great stories to tell about it in future posts. If you decide to implement corpse medicine into your campaign be sure to let me know in the comments how it goes!

[1]The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine
[2]  New Morbid Terminology: Corpse Medicine
Mummies and the Usefulness of Death

Resurrecting the Blog

Writing is hard, there are many constraints to writing but I think most of them are mental. I’ll circle back to that in a future post, because obviously the mental issues are the most important challenges but I want to get the other stuff out of the way. For now I just want to talk about finding the time to write. I plan to use this blog that I’ve had for years (but very seldom updated) as a space for my creative writing. The following, is my plan for this blog and how I hope to keep it updated on a regular basis when I haven’t been able to before.

Time, at least for me, is probably the biggest non mental challenge when it comes to my own writing. I want to write but I have so many other responsibilities. How on earth do I find time to write when work, family, my home, and everything else that takes up my time fills up my day? Time is elusive, I think we all have time to write, we just aren’t able to find it. I’ve started carrying around a notebook with a fountain pen attached to it so I can write down ideas. What I’ve discovered is that even when I have time and realize I have time, it can feel like I don’t. I will think to myself, “I have 10 minutes to write,” then I experience all the mental road blocks that a writer often faces, suddenly that 10 minutes is all used up, and I have written nothing. Still, carrying around that notebook has helped. I’ve resorted to just trying to write down simple ideas, just the bullet points, which I would eventually want to copy and flesh out when I get to a computer anyway.

Another thing that helps is thinking about why I want to write. Understanding one’s goals when it comes to writing helps a great deal. Finding time, very often involves finding the little bits of time spread throughout a busy day. In order to properly utilize those bits of time you need to break down your writing into chunks that fit into those small increments available to you. I have several reasons for writing, the first is to come up with new adventures to run for tabletop role-playing. The second is to eventually write a novel. Each of these can be broken down significantly enough to fit into those tiny time slots we have throughout the day. Here is how I’ve determined to do so.

Both of those goals involves world building, which is the main thing you will find on this blog. World building is not something you do all at once, although you could, I think it benefits from thinking about it over a long time. Adding, changing, and growing the world organically. World building tidbits are things that can be created over a 10 minute span of time and fleshed out later if necessary. I can write as much or as little about a person, place, or thing within the time I have and then add it to my world as is, modify it, or dispose of it. Eventually, the world building vignettes posted here might be compiled into a complete story. The main thing is just to create. This blog will serve as my main proving ground for world building. Most of what you’ll see here will be written in a stream of consciousness format, with probably very little editing. The blog posts may never be referenced again or they might be edited into a finalized form, made into something publishable, and published. The goal is of course just to write. I’m going to set a goal of creating a minimum of two drafts per week with the goal of publishing once a week. That way I should have a nice backlog. It also takes some of the performance pressure off. I can write something I might never want to share with the world and that is OK. That isn’t to say I’m going to promise high quality every time I publish to this blog, these posts should be considered rough draft brainstorm sessions and I’m sharing them more for myself than the reader. I believe it will help motivate me, the benefit to others is that they can see my creative process, and I think it will be helpful to gauge which writings people do and do not enjoy before creating a more formal publication outside of this blog.

Well, I’ve used up all my ever elusive time. My goal for this week is to write two more drafts. Hopefully at least one of them will be something worth sharing on here, if not I have other writings I can make into blog posts. I really enjoy doing character creation and have a hand full of those writings that I could and will eventually share. I haven’t decided what I want the schedule to be for this blog so it might be a little irregular until I get that figured out but keep checking back, I want to find a good and consistent schedule. I think I can keep this up now that I have a real plan for doing so.