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Basic Information

Historically chirurgy (Gk. "working of the hands") was an archaic term for surgery (indeed the word is an etymological ancestor). In RPG/fiction terms, however, it is generally used to imply magically enhanced surgery - effectively applied biothaumaturgy - whether performed as part of healing magic or for less admirable ends.

The use of chirurgy in a setting allows for a grittier approach to injury and recovery - not the "poof, you're healed" of higher fantasy, where damage is simply zapped away, but a device that still allows major injuries to be addressed. Great for dungeonpunk settings, as well as any where the emphasis is on ritual magic and general restricted access to the arcane. Doesn't generally fit with theurgic healing - "take up your bed and walk" takes precedence over "and here we re-graft the atrophied muscles and re-align the channels of vital energy to restore function to the legs".

In a wainscot setting, especially a modern one, the chirurgeon is an ace in the hole who gives a magic faction abilities over and above that of the mundanes - grafting missing organs and eyes, repairing severed spinal cords and generally bringing people back who should not have been retrievable. Often this can also be achieved without months of rehab that follow mundane surgery.

Of course, the lack of "poof, you're healed" makes this approach somewhat harder work - likely chirurgy takes hours of hard work, much like mundane surgery, and it may be painful and have other costs. It is also unlikely to generate anything out of thin air - organs, limbs, tissue … anything that is required will have to come from somewhere. Cadaveric donations may or may not be acceptable.

As hinted above, this can also be the process the mad wizard used to make his horrific creations, whether turning people into living sculptures or bolting extraneous limbs and things onto them.

See also the alternate take on psychic surgery.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The source of spare parts for chirurgy may be plot significant. Especially if you need a live donor…
  • Vampire: The Masquerade's Tzimisce clan had something like this (called vicissitude in game) as their hat. They did not use their powers for good. They were very much of the horrific creations school of thought, with the added delight of being prone to self modification.
  • In the TV series Angel the law firm Wolfram and Hart employ demon-assisted chirurgy as part of their employee health package, including an explicit example where one of their employees has a missing hand replaced with that of a cadaveric donor. Unsurprisingly there are side effects.
  • Where theurgic healing and chiurgy coexist, expect plenty of rivalry between them.
    • A way for both to exist would be that the cleric absolutely needs magic in order to heal, but can get effects beyond their own (or any mortal) knowledge; while the chiurgeon is more limited, but still useful once spells-per-day are exhausted or in a dead zone.
  • For a Terry Pratchett reference: "Mossy" Lawn is a very skilled surgeon (especially in the standards of the setting), whilst the Igors are an entire race/species/conglomeration of inherent chirurgeons.
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