Welcome to Part 10-1 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂
In any adventure (and life in general) injuries and illnesses are bound to happen. How are your characters going to deal with them? There are probably going to be different levels of medical care you’re encountering, whether there’s magical healing, fully equipped hospitals, field first aid, etc. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail here, but you should be aware of what’s going to be available to your characters if/when they find themselves in need of medical attention. I won’t be going into any detail for magical healing, reproductive health, disabilities or mental health, because those get their own posts.
When you’re developing medicine for your world, keep in mind that you probably want it to be limited in some fashion. If every injury and disease can be easily cured, then there’s no reason to worry about anyone who gets sick or hurt. You’re going to want your readers to sweat when something happens to your characters, so design medicine in your world to accommodate this. Also, try to be consistent with what is going to be curable at each level of care. If you don’t want to go big on injury or illness you can also create some tension by giving the character something that would be curable at a low level of care, but keep them in a situation where they simply don’t have access to it.
Who is doing the medical work in your world? Typically you’ll most often see specific types split between the sexes, but you’re perfectly welcome to mix this up. Are certain types of medicine seen as more valid than others? How accessible is medical care to people? Do you have healers that specialize or is everyone a jack of all trades when it comes to their methods? How much knowledge does the general populace have with regards to basic healing? Who gets to practice and how are they taught? Is medicine taught at educational institutes, by practicing professionals, by apprenticeship, etc.?
Herbal healers are the most common type I see in fantasy. There’s nothing at all wrong with this. You can add some authenticity to your use of herbal healing by doing your research. Know the differences between teas, elixirs, tinctures, etc. Get to know common herbal lore from climates similar to the world you’ve created. If you’re exploring more modern alternatives in medicine, figure out what’s appropriate for your world. The history of medicine is fascinating and can lend a lot of ideas to your story.
Disease can be a good plot point, utilizing the plague/epidemic concept to create tension and obstacles for characters. Plagues can collapse societies and bring a whole other level of conflict to your world. If you need to really shake things up or kill off high ranking characters without having your characters do the dirty work, send in a plague. You can create a power vacuum that prompts a whole load of fresh political conflicts.