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 Post subject: Four Humors
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 9:11 pm 
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No idea where else to put this:

We're all vaguely familiar with the idea of the Four Humors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_humors), which dominated medicine for some time in the west.

Obviously, this theory has been discredited and we all know better these days. Have any of you had experience playing a physician character or having had a physician character in one of your groups?

I'm curious as to how others have treated the theory in context of their own games. The main possibilities seem to be either that you assume it does work to some degree (in the way that we assume symbols arranged in certain ways actually do have some kind of magical effect) or you mechanically assume it does nothing and both player and Narrator nod along knowingly as the charade is played out.

Granted, most of the time the kind of work needed in a role-playing game will be stitching someone back together, setting bones, or other things better suited to barber-surgeons or apothecary, but if and when it does come up?

Any thoughts?

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 Post subject: Re: Four Humors
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 10:02 pm 
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KazianG wrote:
The main possibilities seem to be either that you assume it does work to some degree ...

... or you mechanically assume it does nothing and both player and Narrator nod along knowingly as the charade is played out.


This same issue applies to any area of advanced knowledge you care to nominate, and for most periods of human history.

IMO, you shouldn't build mechanics that run contrary to character behaviour. The mechanics should support the world view.

Imagine for a moment that you build an extremely elaborate magical system, with a variety of approaches to how magic is cast. Then the mechanics say that everyone has the same chance of casting magic successfully. The elaborate descriptions of how the shaman cast their magic are now simply colour and the player will soon stop describing how they cast their magic. After all, everyone at the table knows that it makes no difference.

In terms of how we handle medicine in our (largely) medieval game, the practice of medicine involves many different things -- eat this, drink that, don't eat these things, pray this scripture, pay for these hymns to be sung 3 times, as well as the application of anatomical knowledge. Who knows which drove the physical benefit, the healing? It doesn't really matter as long as the player can get their head around their character's behaviour.

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 Post subject: Re: Four Humors
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:33 am 
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It is an odd thing. Magic is an iffy example simply because it is in the nature of the world to assume that magic doesn't work here, but does work there. On the other hand, for the Humors to be assumed to work, we have to assume that the body itself acts fundamentally differently.

The "something about this works" approach is an easy enough compromise.

It is a very interesting topic though. I'm inclined to go research medieval medicine further, I think. Particularly that coming from the Islamic world about this time.

That semi-famous anecdote:
Quote:
They brought before me a knight in whose leg an abscess had grown; and a woman afflicted with imbecility. To the knight I applied a small poultice until the abscess opened and became well; and the woman I put on diet and made her humor wet.

Then a Frankish physician came to them and said, "This man knows nothing about treating them." He then said to the knight, "Which wouldst thou prefer, living with one leg or dying with two?" The latter replied, "Living with one leg." The physician said, "Bring me a strong knight and a sharp ax." A knight came with the ax. And I was standing by. Then the physician laid the leg of the patient on a block of wood and bade the knight strike his leg with the ax and chop it off at one blow. Accordingly he struck it--while I was looking on--one blow, but the leg was not severed. He dealt another blow, upon which the marrow of the leg flowed out and the patient died on the spot.

He then examined the woman and said, "This is a woman in whose head there is a devil which has possessed her. Shave off her hair." Accordingly they shaved it off and the woman began once more to eat their ordinary diet--garlic and mustard. Her imbecility took a turn for the worse. The physician then said, "The devil has penetrated through her head." He therefore took a razor, made a deep cruciform incision on it, peeled off the skin at the middle of the incision until the bone of the skull was exposed and rubbed it with salt. The woman also expired instantly.

Thereupon I asked them whether my services were needed any longer, and when they replied in the negative I turned home, having learned of their medicine what I knew not before."

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 Post subject: Re: Four Humors
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:19 am 
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Quote:
They brought before me a knight in whose leg an abscess had grown; and a woman afflicted with imbecility. To the knight I applied a small poultice until the abscess opened and became well; and the woman I put on diet and made her humor wet.

Then a Frankish physician came to them and said, "This man knows nothing about treating them." He then said to the knight, "Which wouldst thou prefer, living with one leg or dying with two?" The latter replied, "Living with one leg." The physician said, "Bring me a strong knight and a sharp ax." A knight came with the ax. And I was standing by. Then the physician laid the leg of the patient on a block of wood and bade the knight strike his leg with the ax and chop it off at one blow. Accordingly he struck it--while I was looking on--one blow, but the leg was not severed. He dealt another blow, upon which the marrow of the leg flowed out and the patient died on the spot.

He then examined the woman and said, "This is a woman in whose head there is a devil which has possessed her. Shave off her hair." Accordingly they shaved it off and the woman began once more to eat their ordinary diet--garlic and mustard. Her imbecility took a turn for the worse. The physician then said, "The devil has penetrated through her head." He therefore took a razor, made a deep cruciform incision on it, peeled off the skin at the middle of the incision until the bone of the skull was exposed and rubbed it with salt. The woman also expired instantly.

Thereupon I asked them whether my services were needed any longer, and when they replied in the negative I turned home, having learned of their medicine what I knew not before."


Where is this from? It reads like propaganda. Keep in mind that the Jews operated -- no pun intended -- throughout the Frankish kingdoms. Their knowledge of medicine was as good as any in the Islamic world, perhaps better. This is not to say necessarily that the above didn't happen but I've never heard of an amputation being performed with an axe rather than with a saw.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Four Humors
PostPosted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:19 am 
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I know I first read it in a book called "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes" http://www.amazon.com/Crusades-Through- ... 0805208984

I lifted the actual quote from here: http://usna.edu/Users/history/abels/cru ... nquidh.htm

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