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I have my own thoughts on this, but I am looking for a wider sampling of thought on the subject.

In the Desolation RPG core rules, the difficulty of using magic manifests as a painful and exhausting experience they call Burn. Burn taken from spell casting is described as being a form of Non-Lethal Damage.

In the description of Necromancy, one of the primary effects is restoring health lost to lethal and non-lethal damage from injury and fatigue.

If a group in a Desolation game were to have two spell casters, one of whom practiced Necromancy, (social issues and prejudices aside), would you rule that the Necromancer could, if willing, use their art to 'heal' the other caster's Health Levels lost to Burn?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I'd judge the answer no.

It's important to first understand† that Desolation generally, and its magic system very specifically, are heavily fiction-driven. The rules tell you how to accomplish something given a particular fictional situation, relying on the GM and players to apply their own good sense when figuring out how the raw rules fit the fiction their characters are enmeshed in. These days this has become a somewhat unfashionable way of designing and playing RPGs, with the fashion lately to make the rules be the alpha and omega of what happens, regardless of the internal logic of the fictional world. Given this understanding of Desolation, the answer is a straightforward "no" judging by what the text says about the natures of Necromancy and of Burn.

Necromancy's healing ability is a specifically physical thing, repairing the corporeal body of damage. It can't handle even physical ailments that aren't material damage: it can't handle "diseases, poison or other more subtle ailments" (p. 143), though it can reverse aging and close wounds. We can conclude that Necromantic magic can deal with any kind of physical damage, from the macro-structures to the level of cellular damage. Looking at Burn, we can see how it doesn't fall under Necromancy's domain of power.

Burn isn't physical damage to the body and doesn't manifest as a wound. Burn damage causes a combination of physical and mental fatigue and discomfort (p. 135), but Burn itself is not its mere effects. For better or worse, Burn is not mechanically defined within the text, but it's clear that it's not a physical wound of the sort that Necromancy could handle.

There are more hints at the nature of Burn damage in each of the magical traditions. In every case it's something insubstantial—psychic damage from spirits, the strain of holding and redirecting raw magic, mental pain caused by shattering the veil between mundane reality and magic, and so on. All of those fall into a non-physical realm of "damage" that is untouchable by Necromancy's healing arts.

And to top it all off, the thread "Healing Burn with magic" on the official forums goes through most of these arguments and then the publisher contributes saying that healing Burn with magic could be a house rule if you wanted, pretty clearly indicating that it's not possible without a house rule.

† This pedantic opening is aimed at those unfamiliar with the game and with a fiction-first concept of RPGs, for the sake of a complete answer – not to imply that you personally didn't catch this from the text.

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@ SevenSidedDie A great response, as always~ – Runeslinger Jun 27 '11 at 8:47
To be fair, this question was answered long ago, pretty completely on the Greymalkin Designs forum for Desolation Using Magic to Heal Burn, but I wanted to see if there were any strong support for the other side of the issue, and how that case might be made. That thread does get off track in whether the caster can heal his own burn, but most of it is clear. SevenSidedDie's answer addresses all the main points as I see them, most notably playing the game, not the rules. – Runeslinger Jun 28 '11 at 6:15
@Runeslinger Ah, the contents of that thread is exactly why I went into the fashions of rules over fiction! Anyway, linking to and summarising that thread would make a good answer of its own. – SevenSidedDie Jun 28 '11 at 17:09

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