It really sucks to be poor in AD&D

So, I was reading an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about paleopathology, specifically about working the remains of renaissance nobility and essentially doing “cold case work” in determining the actually causes of death. What I found interesting (though not surprising) was that despite being nobility they were still plagued by abscessed teeth, cancer, and the common diseases of the day – not to mention the toxic results of what passed for medical care at the time.

This had me thinking, Cure Light Wounds doesn’t do anything about infection – so while it might heal the wound associated with a abscessed tooth it would cure the actual infection – potentially setting someone up for series of further infections. What you need is Cure Disease, and that is a third level spell.

Now, I don’t think it is too hard to find 1st level priests around to take care of the odd broken bone or gashed hand, but finding a 5th level priest is a bit harder…

So what this means is that nobles, the wealthy middle-class, and the adventuring-class most likely regularly benefit from a Cure Disease spell. Adventurers simply from the normal travails of the adventuring life and either have a priest with them or are paying for the spell, and nobles because they have a household priest casting it on them when they get sick enough or when they (also) pay someone for it, and the wealthy middle class because they’ll just pay for it when they get sick enough.

(And don’t get me started on the stupid ridiculous prices in the DMG – I hate to say that whatever “the sainted EEG” was, an economic genius is not a good description)

So, being poor, you might (and probably would in my world) get a Cure Light Wounds if you had a serious injury – what good is the local, village priest otherwise? But, if you waited too long (or the injury was something like a tooth abscess) you wouldn’t get cured of any resultant infection. As near as I can figure, this means that what is likely to happen is that if, post-wound, they don’t toss off the infection, they will develop blood-poisoning from a free-floating infection or simply redevelop some sort of abscess at the same location or another spot in the body.

This has some potentially interesting effects on the demographics of a game world. But instead of looking like “the ancient world” this somewhat replicates the modern world but where the upper and adventuring classes look more like the first world citizens when it comes to both health and overall physical well-being and the lower and poorer classes look more like third world citizens. The health and welfare of a class tends to breed (literally and metaphorically) more of the same, which in turn will increase class stratification save in the few folks who can “break into” either the merchant class or the adventuring class.

So think about this sort of thing when you are designing your own world!

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