Healing Magic Is the Hardest
In speculative settings, magic usage ranges from Utility Magic
to world-breaking rituals but very often it will fail at fixing grievous bodily harm or resuscitating a recently deceased person. If healing magic is
possible, it will require a disproportionate amount of power to pull off, compared to anything else on the same scale—up to a Divine Intervention
. That "natural" Healing Factor
is looking better by the second.
This can be justified by Life being a different kind of energy, accessible only by gods, but a simpler (and more realistic
) justification lies in the complexity of all living things. Even simply closing a wound is more complicated than just stitching the flesh together, and dealing with organ damage or disease is even worse. In any setting which applies this justification, expect anything as complex as turning someone into a frog
to be right out.
, this is done to make the characters avoid injuries as hard as they would in Real Life
. When you can easily recover from grievous bodily harm
or be brought back to life altogether
, things get a lot less dramatic and the threats, less credible. An alternative approach to increase the risks is to introduce dangers that are either exempt from magical healing
or worse than death
Compare All Deaths Final
. Compare and contrast Magic Is Rare; Health Is Cheap
. See also Rule of Drama
Anime and Manga
- In Sally the Witch, Sally's trials involving healing are always pretty complicated since, despite being a highly skilled Cute Witch, her healing capacity is next to none and healing magic in itself is extremely hard to perform since it involves either the use of the four basic Elemental Powers or filling a quest with a time limit. In the original series, she goes to Find the Cure when one of Yoshiko's brothers almost has a leg ripped off him by a Threatening Shark; in the 1989 one, she must learn a very complicated spell with the aforementioned Elemental Powers to heal the injured leg of Erika, a Broken Bird ballerina who got into an accident and wants to dance for her father.
- In the Lyrical Nanoha series, magic can fix cuts, bruises, and even sprained ankles — but get yourself wounded for real and it's weeks to months in the hospital.
- In Naruto they can do a lot of different jutsu's including making 10,000 copies of themselves, summoning giant animals and make themselves nigh immortal, but Lady Tsunade struggles healing Lee's bones when he gets savagely beaten by Gaara. Lady Tsunade is the best healer in this series, though to be fair she was very out of practice after years of not healing people for her Dark and Troubled Past.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, healing is a sign that an alchemist is skilled.
- In the first anime, this is limited to Dr. Marcoh because he has a Philosopher's Stone.
- In the second anime, there are more characters able to heal, but it's still not something that many are capable of.
- In the manga, it has more to do with Amestrian Alchemy having been developed to be highly military and industry oriented. It's made clear that healers are more common in Xing. Which isn't to say that healers aren't skilled, just not necessarily moreso than someone who can create a giant fireball.
- In Bleach, characters with healing powers are exceedingly rare.
- Neliel has healing saliva/vomit, which only slightly accelerates natural healing—her drooling on Ichigo is played for laughs, but the ability itself is treated as valuable.
- Orihime has the power to "reject" wounds and injuries on other people (I.E. they never happened), but she can only do it slowly. This power is so sought after that Big Bad Aizen kidnapped her for it. (Sort of.) Even that isn't so much "healing" as applying Ret Gone to the injury or death.
- Many Lieutenants can cast healing and attack Kido with near equal proficiency, it's just that few bother to learn it, because Squad 4 (the healing squad) is the Zoidberg of the Court Guard Squads.
- In Claymore, the eponymous warriors possess an impressive Healing Factor but only two characters (Cynthia and Yuma) can actually accelerate others' regeneration. The fact that there seems to have been no healing techniques used by the many previous generations of Claymores suggests that they were the only ones who actually found a way to use yoki for it. Healing normal humans is right out. Moreover, only "defense-type" Claymores can regenerate from particularly grievous injuries (like having an arm cut off); "offense-type" Claymores must resort to either Pulling Themselves Together or Appendage Assimilation.
- In Scrapped Princess, Raquel Casull can blow up buildings just by looking at them funny but all her magic cannot prevent Pacifica from bleeding out after being stabbed in the back. It takes a personal intervention by Lord Mauser to fix that wound.
- In Ojamajo Doremi using magic to heal is a forbidden technique because it comes at cost of magic user's own health. This comes in play when Hazuki attempts to heal a bunny that is about to die to spare the bunny's caretaker, Nanako, from feeling guilty; she does so despite knowing the risks, and gets a severe cold... but only because the Queen of the Magical Land intervened. She still can't remove all of the "bad karma", so Hazuki doesn't die but gets the cold and is Brought Down to Normal as punishment for being reckless.
- While there are still ways of treating injuries with magic in Fairy Tail (for instance, one of Ichiya's perfumes acts as a painkiller and can cure some poison), actual healing magic is considered a lost art. The only one shown to be capable of healing magic is Wendy, and hers has its use limited by being Cast from Hit Points.
- In the Light Novel (adapted into a manga) In Another World, I'm Called: the Black Healer, the main character's initial attempts to avoid standing out when she is dragged into a fantasy world and granted magical abilities immediately fails when she mentions off-hand that she can use healing magic, thinking that healing magic is something standard like it is in the videogames she enjoys. Healing magic is apparently extremely difficult and is a fusion of multiple types of magic in that world.
- Played With in Lanfeust de Troy. Of the main cast, the only one with a non-obvious limitation is the healing power. The other two main cast powers are heating metal and changing water temperature. The healing power can nearly instantaneously heal any non-fatal wound the caster can see, but only at night. The casting itself isn't easier or harder then any other power but for an unexplained reason it only works at night and is the only power with that limitation.
- The "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic imply that a talent in healing magic in the setting is very rare, as Radiant Hope is signaled-out to become a princess when she gets her cutie mark in healing (though granted, she is very good at healing, having been able to resurrect King Sombra from nothing but his horn, though some of that might be due to him not being a normal pony).
- In the Star Wars movie canon, the Force can supposedly be used to heal, but the ability to do so is extremely specialized and none of the onscreen characters ever demonstrates the power. Darth Plagueis allegedly developed this kind of ability, but even his apprentice Palpatine did not know how it worked. Which kind of sucked for Anakin since he turned to the Dark Side specifically because Palpatine promised to teach him how to do it. The Expanded Universe contains many examples of reliable Force healing, but like the rest of the EU, all of them have since been declared a separate canon. One of the Expanded Universe novels included Darth Vader himself attempting to heal his injuries using the Dark Side of the Force, and making at least some progress. But he ultimately failed, as the Dark Side is powered by hatred and anger, and he was unable to sustain those emotions through the healing.
- The Hurog duology does have healing magic, but it is very hard to do - a powerful mage is shown to be exhausted to the point of needing a nap after healing injuries on only one hand. And it is stated that the survival of said body part is uncertain even after the healing. The person has lots of other injuries, which are treated with more mundane methods. Healing magic in the 'verse esentially consists of "Psychic Surgery", the wizard Oreg had to magically remove the necrotized tissue.
- The Dragonlance books, based on the early Dungeons & Dragons games, has healing magic reserved to clerics. In the first book of the series, the appearance of clerics with healing powers is a sign that the gods have returned.
- Magical healing in The Witcher series is extremely difficult even for powerful mages, to the point where trying to treat a critical injury pretty much guarantees the healer dying from overexertion. In the non-canon Revised Ending, Yennefer (who previously brought down fortresses without breaking a sweat) passes out after healing a shallow wound on Ciri's face.
- In the Arcia Chronicles, Gerika is powerful enough to shake mountains like maracas but gives up on fixing Alexander's hunchback without even trying, saying that only Erasti may be capable of it.
- Deryni Healing is a rare talent, so rare even before the Ban on Magic that Deryni found to be Healers were actively discouraged from taking vows of celibacy. By the 1120s, only four people in the whole nation of Gwynedd are known to be able to do this, and three of them are blood relatives.
- In The Dresden Files healing magic seems to be nonexistent, at least for humans (Listens-To-Winds does have some capability in this matter, but he's a Senior Council Member and regularly goes back to medical school). Magic can be used to stanch a wound or keep someone alert, but not in any more direct fashion. Very powerful beings like the Faerie Queens can do more, including fixing a broken spine and bringing Harry back from the brink of death, with the help of a powerful Genius Loci. According to the RPG, Summer Magic can be used to heal people (at least, better than most people) as the magic grants some kind of instinctive knowledge of physiology. Miss Gard's Runic Magic and certain forms of Necromancy can also stave off death. A Justified Trope in that the reason healing is so hard is that the body is really complicated and if you try to fix someone without knowing exactly what you are doing, you'll probably kill him or at least make him even worse.
- In the Iron Druid Chronicles, druid magic is very powerful but it cannot do direct healing on others. Using druid magic to directly harm another living being will kill the caster on the spot and any healing process can harm the patient even if only temporarily. Druids can use healing magic on themselves but to heal other people they need to use indirect means like potions.
- In The Inheritance Cycle, magic can heal, but it takes a lot of energy - unless it's life-threatening, it's better to just let it heal on its own. Healing anything more complicated than a surface wound also requires memorizing long and complex incantations in the Ancient Language, which means that many would-be healers are limited to cuts and bruises anyway.
- In Rivers of London magic can do a lot to the human body, Your Head Asplode, blending people and cats, keeping a severed head alive for decades, but sadly for Lesley it cannot heal injuries. A human body is just too complex to put back together again.
- Harry Potter:
- Largely averted since broken bones can be healed with a wave of a wand and injuries that would be serious in the real world are treated rather cavalierly (Harry fracturing his skull is at one point Played for Laughs and fixed fairly easily). Exceptions are some types of serious magical harm. While Healing is a challenging career, it's challenging in the same sense that medical school is challenging in the regular world.
- Played straight, in the sense that Harry never learns any healing spell or potion at Hogwarts. The only healing spell he ever learns is by copying it after Tonks casts it (which is an aversion again).
- In the Smoke series, wizards can use magic to heal. But in doing so you have to endure all the pain you would normally experience over the time it would take for your injuries to heal naturally - all at once! Needless to say, it is not something one would want to go through unless really necessary.
- In the Nightrunner series this is very much the case. Even the Drysians, priests who are known for their healing powers, cannot always cure certain illnesses or negate the affects of poison. The fact that healing magic is so difficult is what drives the villainous side of the plot in a couple of the books, as an evil alchemist undertakes an elaborate effort to produce a superior source of magical healing.
- In Ra, magic is a field of physics and anything that needs doing must be described completely. Human bodies are VERY complex, and the magic it takes to fix them unimaginably more so.
- In The Powder Mage Trilogy, it's noted that healing is an extremely difficult branch of magic. Only Privileged (the most powerful and versatile of the setting's three main types of magic-user) have healing magic, and even most of them aren't very good at it.
- In the Sword of Truth series, healing is common, but a wizard healing an injury does so at least in part by taking on the pain and/or disease of whatever he's healing. So when Zedd regrows Adie's severed foot, he experiences the pain of her lopping it off in the first place. So while a Wizard can heal most things that aren't fatal, they usually need a substantial break between patients to recover their strength. The few times we've seen Wizards acting as mass healers, they work themselves to exhaustion—and even that is still one patient at a time. By contrast, a Wizard can throw Wizard's Fire around over and over for hours before they start to get tired.
- In Star Cursed, healing magic requries knowledge of anatomy and can be very taxing for beginners. The protagonist gets a headache when she heals deep wounds.
- Healing magic in Tough Magic is described as being particularly difficult.
- Journey to Chaos uses the "the body is complicated" example. Healing mages are basically the world's version of doctors which means they go to medical school and learn about how the body works and how magic can be used to fix problems.
- When Nolien is tending to someone's battle wounds in A Mage's Power, he has a ditty that goes along the lines of "stop the bleeding, check infection, reconnect the nerves and veins..."
- As a necro priest, Brother Neuro is capable of healing by directing kon from one area to where it is needed. In this way he can mend serious injuries but he's just accelerating the natural healing process and doesn't truly know what he's doing. That's why he demures Tiza's praise and insists that Nolien is a superior healer.
- In Worm, justified by the fact that nearly all superpowers are intended to be offensive only. The few parahumans with healing superpowers have it either as a side effect of their main power, or an unintended usage. For example, Panacea's real power is manipulation of biological tissue in general, but she only uses it for healing at first.
- In The Wheel of Time, healing is the rarest talent among Aes Sedai, and requires more training than other disciplines to do safely. It's also hard on the recipient, since it essentially takes the body's current resources and fast-forwards the natural healing process — their patients tend to wake up extremely hungry. There is a way to heal without draining the patient's resources, but it's even more complicated and one of many uses of the Power that were lost long ago. And the Elemental Powers used are so different from normal healing that the only character who can do it is assumed to be doing it wrong by all the other Aes Sedai.
- Merlin seems to be this way. Merlin has a lot harder time when it comes to healing Arthur the couple of times he does it than he does doing other spells.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, supposedly they couldn't use magic to fix Joyce because "The Mystical and the Medical do not mix". Given what Willow would later do, this seemed like a cheap cop-out. It's apparently easier to turn someone into a rat than it is to heal. On the other hand, Joyce's condition following the removal of her tumor was undetectable until it was too late. Also, Osiris mentions that it is impossible to revive humans who have died by either natural means or at the hands of another human in the season six finale, following Tara's death at Warren's hand.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, healing spells have traditionally been the prerogative of the clerics, who not so much cast magic as channel the godly powers of the their patron deities.
- Only in the 3rd and 3.5 editions did Arcane healing spells (i.e. ones that don't require godlike powers) begin to proliferate. Oddly enough, Bards (and anyone with shenanigans to take spells from the bard list) are fully able to heal through arcane spells. The other group who can pull that off are dragons, but they are dragons.
- Forgotten Realms in AD&D era already had The Simbul's Synostodweomer converting arcane spells into healing magic. Of course, it's high-level, and the developing wizard already was able to do it at will, though with some risk, as a daughter of the goddess of magic.
- In the original Iron Kingdoms RPG, despite being based on D&D 3.5, healing magic was rare and difficult even for clerics. Raising the dead was almost non-existent. In the new version, healing magic is still rare.
- Played with in Spheres of Power; you can give temporary hit points for free, but actual healing is more expensive.
- In Ars Magica, you can heal someone easily, but the injury would come back a relatively short while after, and just as bad. Permanent healing required expenditure of vis, i.e. a scarce magical resource.
- One observation in the 4th edition Hero System supplement Mystic Masters is that comicbook wizards in the mold of Dr. Strange for all their flashy powers generally don't do much magical healing, and that conversely what magical healers exist often aren't all that powerful when it comes to doing anything else — as though "active" combat magic and the "passive" art of healing were to some extent mutually exclusive. Consequently the book recommends keeping healing magic relatively scarce (especially among player characters) to help the game feel more like the comics.
- Unknown Armies. Two Adept schools (Nacro-Alchemy and Eperidermomancy) have decent potential for healing, and neither of them are easy to work with. There is an Avatar of The Healer, and a complicated, long ritual to make a magic item that speeds up natural healing and protects against ailments. That's about it. Resurrections? Fuck you.
- Healing magic is available to mages of the Creation school, which is said to be the hardest of the four to master, in Dragon Age, but it cannot hold a candle to the Spirit Healers' abilities, which draw upon the energies of powerful benevolent spirits, which puts them at an even greater risk of Demonic Possession than a normal mage. Furthermore, the basic heal spell has been outright removed from Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Spirit Healer no longer counts among the available mage specializations. A different specialization gets a full party heal, but it still counts as this because it is a Focus Spell instead of a standard ability.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Restoration School, due to its (mostly) non-combat nature, is the slowest magic school to increase in level. (Especially in Oblivion, where it increased at half the speed of the next slowest school, Destruction, and one tenth the rate of the fastest, Conjuration.) In-universe, this has lead many of its practitioners to bemoan the lack of students and perceived respect they get. Somewhat ironically, despite their deep mistrust of magic, Nords greatly value this school. One can only wonder why?
- In Tales of the Abyss, people that can use the Seventh Fonon, which allows for healing, are noted to be extremely rare. When someone who isn't born with the ability tries to use it, at best nothing happens. At worst, those healed by those without natural ability go insane.
- Most "healing" spells in Pillars of Eternity actually only restore Endurance—a limited pool of hit points that regenerates quickly on its own out of combat and knocks you out if it runs out. Health points, on the other hand, are lost at a much slower rate but cannot be restored by magical means at all: Resting Recovery and some out-of-combat special abilities are the only way to get them back.
- In Homestuck, healing is generally limited to certain class(es) that may or may not be part of a (game) session, and may also be limited by one's Aspect (probably best described as abstract concepts such as nothingness and the soul in the form of elemental affinities). However, all players with the Life aspect have the ability to revive the dead, regardless of class. Jane Crocker and Feferi both demonstrate this. The catch is, this seems to be limited to once per person. This hasn't come into play as of this writing, (mainly because Death Is Cheap in Homestuck and there are a variety of ways for the dead to come back), but it's bound to figure into the plot at some point, as everyone is running out of extra lives.
- Psychic healing is possible in Zap!, but it takes a very strong telekinetic who has studied anatomy extensively and had a lot of practice.
- Played horrifically straight in Sleepless Domain. Tessa is the most powerful member of Team Alchemical, and she completely burns out her magic trying to heal the one surviving member of her team. She flat-out says that healing is the most advanced form of magic while she's doing it.