Waste Not, Want Not

How many times, after battle, does your party start scouring the bodies of fallen foes for armor, weapons, magic items, and loot? If they’re like mine, the answer is “every time.” If I don’t bring up encumbrance, they’ll try to haul off every piece of gear in the hope it may be magical or valuable, leaving nothing but naked bodies behind.

But what do they do when they defeat a nonhumanoid creature? Does your party skin their fallen mammal foes for the furs? Do they scavenge the poison glands of giant spiders or reptiles? My party has actually done both, and often more. It’s made me think more about what parts of various creatures may be useful, or of great value. 

Historically, at least pre-industrially, cultures have made use of every part of their prey or livestock. Many still do — Americans are uniquely squeamish about eating organs, like heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. — but many cultures eat blood sausage or something similar, bone marrow, etc. Hooves are rendered to produce gelatin, blood is made into glue, brains are used to tan leather. Little goes to waste. Composite bows are an impressive combination of economy and mechanics, with sinew for tensile strength, horn for compression strength, and glue — all of these components usually taken from the same animal.

In my campaign, I make up a lot of new creatures for the party to encounter. They’ve been on a subcontinent inhabited in one region by fire-creatures, in another by water-creatures. The party’s penchant for harvesting anything they can has led me to include details on the uses for various parts in my creature descriptions. Fantastic creatures  (a.k.a. “Beasts” in Rolemaster taxonomy) can be useful for ingredients needed by alchemists or for magical rituals, but some parts can have more direct uses.

In this land of fire, Bastrekah, I created a type of salamander. The larvae roam the volcanic wastes and scrub, eating anything it can find, while the adult (8-10 meters long) burrows into the ground and spends its life eating precious metals and gems, and the miners who dig for them. 

The bones and sinews of the larvae make exceptionally strong composite bows, with a bonus to hit/damage. The skin of both larvae and adults can be used to make excellent soft leather armor that provides partial protection from heat and fire attacks. It won’t work as rigid leather, because the heat used to make the leather rigid doesn’t affect salamanders or their skin. Adult salamanders produce nodules the size of large-eggs in the rock they burrow through. These can be used by alchemists as power point multipliers when enchanting fire-related items, but they’re consumed in the process.

Not all creatures yield so many notable or powerful products, and many have none. But these are very powerful creatures, and while they don’t hoard treasure for the party to acquire, the value of their parts can be a reward of its own. Adding these details to creatures can also provide plot material. A leatherworker might pay handsomely for a large swath of salamander skin. An assassin might be interested in another creature’s venom, a barbarian may go after exotic hides or skulls to adorn themself, and just about any part of a rare creature might interest a mage. 

If your party routinely leaves the animals and beasts they fight laying to rot, consider encouraging them to think again. Let someone start following them, cashing in on the valuable bits. Eventually, they may start looking for work hunting creatures for their parts, or asking around town about what they can glean. And that brings more opportunities for interesting nonplayer character interactions. Personally, the challenge of thinking “what parts are cool?” and learning what real-world cultures have done with what nature gives them makes game prep much more fun.

Rolemaster Healing

A big part of Rolemaster’s color is the gruesome flair of the critical charts – shattered bones, sundered organs, arrows through both ears, 5 HP/round flesh wounds. To match that, the system has an exceptionally detailed set of spell lists for healing these injuries and putting characters back into play. Eyes destroyed by a Krush crit? “Major Eye Repair” will fix it at 11th level. Third degree burns? Frost/Burn Relief III is on an Open Channeling list, and it’s the same list any channeler should have for healing basic hit point damage. 

Character Law also includes extensive, fairly straightforward guidelines for recovery from injuries. Is it Light, Medium, or Severe? Roll for recovery time, and once the injuries have been healed, that’s how long you need to recuperate. Healing spells and herbs often include information on how long it takes to recover after they’ve been applied. 

There’s a missing step though, one that escaped my notice for four decades. Using the example from the books, Onree in his unsound tower that collapses will need 33.5 days of recovery time “assuming he is healed.” But what if he isn’t healed? What if he didn’t die in the collapse, but managed to drag himself out with his injuries, and there’s no one to set bones, splint limbs, etc.? His body will heal, but does that 33.5 days still apply? What state will he be in, with unset limbs and a severe head wound that went untended?

All of the recovery guidelines for time and permanent effects implicitly, and in some places explicitly, depend on medical attention of some sort, whether it’s first aid, spells from a magical healer, herbs, or a nonmagical medic’s help. There is no information to guide a GM in the absence of these.

In my own campaign, this came up with a fire crit that says the victim’s leg suffered “massive tissue damage, limb is useless” and the victim is at -80. The victim is the cleric, who doesn’t happen to have Concussions Ways high enough to throw Burn Relief III. They’re fugitives from the law, in a wilderness. What is her fate, without spells or other healing? How long does the party have, before her leg fixes itself but with lasting nerve and mobility damage? Assuming she’s healed, she’s rolled 10 days of recovery time, and rolled high enough to avoid permanent damage.

I’m now seeing the greater arc of “healing” as “treatment” and “recovery.” The guidelines given in Character Law assume treatment, and go straight to recovery. I’ve got to figure out the specifics for the burned cleric, but I never make specific calls on something when it looks like this big of a gap. I’m not medically trained (except for years of looking up the real-world implications of Rolemaster crits!) so these may be naive. But I’ve aimed for quick, easy, and consistent with the existing rules.

First, double the recovery time rolled on the “Healing Recovery Chart.” Healing with no treatment is going to be slower. Second, assume there’s going to be some permanent damage, as the body knits back together in a less than optimal way. A bone may not be straight, an organ may be permanently damaged. 

Each day that passes brings a bit of healing, but also a bit of permanent damage. I’m going to divide half of the starting penalty by the duration. Each day, that much of the penalty goes away, but the same amount becomes permanent. Proper treatment partway through the recovery period removes all penalty except for the permanent penalty accrued so far. (Following the existing rules, round the daily increment down and apply any necessary extra recovery to the first day. I would apply that extra increment of the permanent penalty to the last day, so the character has the greatest chance to avoid it.) 

For the burned cleric, the 80 penalty points will diminish over 20 days by 2 points per day, and the permanent penalty will increase from 0 by 2 points per day. At the end of the 20 days, the 80 has dropped to 40, and that matches the permanent penalty. If she gets treated 3 days in, she’s going to have a permanent -6.  Treatment after 12 days, she’ll have a permanent -24.

This would be my starting point. The penalty could be changed to apply to specific actions only, or left general. Other events could mitigate or exacerbate the recovery and penalties. “Permanent” can also be reduced to long-term. In my world, a lay healer couldn’t fix a bad injury that healed untreated, but a Channeling healer could transfer the badly healed damage to their own body, which would then heal.

What do you think? Too complex? Too simple? Too severe?