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Grafting

Grafting is the highly hazardous practice of acquiring, manipulating and using body parts from a living being, often aimed at transplanting them on a different being. Grafters are an unethical lot of creative surgeons who define themselves as 'flesh sculptors' and practice their illegal trade in secret, trying to overcome the limits of nature by merging and molding bodies as they deem fit.
Further Reading: A Primer to Trades, Crafting Skills

Contents


[top]Abstract

A grafter employs a range of tools to separate, preserve, activate, join and command mostly any type of organic material. The transplanting of tissue is the activity they are best known for, giving them the ability to remedy traumatic limb losses and, at high levels, augment living people with powers of other races and beings. However, the single best quality needed to excel at this profession is fantasy. The tools are general-purpose in nature, and allow for the creation of a range of organic abominations the likes of which are rarely seen in the world. In fact, when a grafter is captured and sentenced to death, it is customary to burn the body and scatter the ashes to the winds to prevent his colleagues from somehow reassembling and reactivating the fallen doctor.

Grafting is available throughout Aelyria as an illegal, underground trade. It tends to be more widespread in rural areas than it is in cities, and it numbers more practitioners where the church's influence is less marked.

[top]History

Throughout the history of the empire, medics and surgeons have often been viewed as the poor man's Thaumaturgists. While a holy mage can merely cleanse a body from trauma and disease with the power of his faith and sheer magical prowess, doctors are usually the cheap alternative for those who cannot afford the services of a high-level caster. Aelyrian surgery is a dangerous practice that often leaves permanent marks upon the body unless aided through arcane means, and its results are not nearly as elegant as Thaumaturgy. When a soldier takes a heavy hit to the head and the choice lies between casting a healing spell and getting his cranium perforated by a surgeon, the decision is surprisingly easy to make, no matter how skilled the doctor. This obvious handicap created frustration, especially in the most brilliant medical minds of Aelyria, who were constantly trying to achieve something through their art that a Thaumaturgist would not be able to imitate.

It was a young navy surgeon by the name of Viktor Von Schmidt, born in the northern lands of the empire but serving under the banner of Olympia, in Eunesia, that first came up with the idea of transplanting gills in order to allow a human to breathe underwater. In his first book, 'A New Man for a New Age', now very difficult to come across since even the tolerant Eunesian authorities ordered the manuscript to be burnt, Viktor theorized that the ultimate act of self-improvement, both physical and spiritual, consists of augmenting the body with foreign tissues and organs in an attempt to create the perfect life-form. This, he believed, is done with the blessing and approval of Aetheria since, according to his ideas, it would lead to a New Age of harmony filled with superior, near-immortal beings. Needless to say, Viktor's revolutionary ideas won him few friends and many enemies, and the young medic soon found himself running for his life on multiple charges of heresy and worshipping the Aeternians. Far from willing to abandon his idea, though, the man fled and decided that, in order to prove his theories to the world, he should translate them into tangible reality.

Looking for test subjects, Viktor soon found that those always came in large supplies; it sufficed to travel wherever a large battle had taken place, an ever so frequent event in the troubled history of the empire. Of those who lay on the battlefield, many were still alive even if horribly mutilated, and the scientist would carry them on a specially designed wagon to his improvised laboratories. Over the eras, he attempted many kinds of grafting, transplanting almost any body part, with disastrous results. Less than one percent of the victims would even survive, and those who did would never feel the implanted tissue as their own. The long chain of failures drove Viktor's already unstable mind beyond the subtle line of insanity, and he experimented with hundreds if not thousands of subjects, moving from one city to the next, and even beginning to kidnap people, amputating their limbs only to graft them back into their places. Researching medical herbs, he found several recipes that would allow foreign tissues to be manipulated and merged together with ease, and the success rate became decent. It was then that Viktor began to accept chosen students, and the horrifying art of Grafting became more than the folly of one man.

To this brightening, grafters practice their trade in the utmost secrecy, since they have been equated to Necromancers by the Church and their 'patients' are not much more popular. Grafting is always practiced in secrecy, the artisans of flesh taking every precaution as they roam the lands of the empire turning man into monster, Schmidt's 'New Age' dream into a collection of revolting abominations. Still, their services are in higher demand than one would believe possible, for the world is full of warriors desiring more strength, thieves in need of enhanced perception, or simply unfortunate people who cannot resign themselves to living without their arms.

[top]The Grafting Process

Grafting revolves around the concept of tissue. Manipulating tissue in convenient ways is what the craft is all about. To a grafter, a patient is merely a mass of tissue waiting to be tampered around with. There is a lot of trial and error involved, mostly because these doctors usually have a hands-on approach to problems. A few notions are borrowed from alchemy and herbalism, but training in these fields is not mandatory.

The main operations that can be performed on tissue are:
  • Acquire. Acquiring usable tissue from a source, generally called a donor, whose survival is irrelevant to the process. This also includes the problem of preserving the part for future uses.

With acquiring tissue the basics of such an operation are very simple and straightforward, as a cleaver takes care of most external amputation needs. More delicate parts will require scalpel work and more skill on the grafter's part.

Tissue tends to quickly degenerate and rot once separated from the body, making it useless, a phenomenon often called nostalgia. The doctor will make use of two specially made substances, Stasis Balm and the Reactivator; the former can be rubbed on the amputated part to greatly delay the effects of nostalgia. Coupled with storage in a cold environment, this allows one to stock tissue almost indefinitely. The latter liquid, when applied, tricks the tissue into believing it is still alive, causing it to feel warm and activate its functions for a period. The Reactivator serves as the base of a number of substances that induce taxis reactions.
  • Condition. By using appropriate substances, grafters can educate tissue to act and react in specific ways, as if it were moved by an intelligence. Conditioned tissue can, for example, react to such stimuli as light and humidity in simple ways, like a muscle flexing as temperature rises.

Conditioning tissue by modifying and adding to the basic Reactivation formula, the grafter can condition the tissue he is working with. A simple reaction to an environmental stimulus is called taxis. For example, tissue can be conditioned to respond to such factors as light, temperature, humidity, time intervals, pressure, contact and more. These may be mixed at will and, at high levels, it is possible to devise new taxis types and reactions.

Reactivated tissue will only work for a short period before it shuts down again, unless it is merged with a living host. This period can be lengthened considerably by using a Diffusor, basically a small container with a needle sticking out of it. Once filled with the desired Reactivator and attached to the tissue, it can keep it running for a long time, and indefinitely if refilled regularly.
  • Merge. The grafter can merge two different tissues into one, with a series of caveats if one (or both!) of those are live people. This can be the transplanting of a limb or organ, or something else entirely, such as the creation of organic machinery.

Merging tissue implies that the two parts will become one, and in the case of transplanted tissue it will become a full-fledged part of the host's vis. A special substance called der Kleber (the glue) is applied on both ends of the joint prior to contact. Then the parts are stitched together using a simple thread and needle. Better tools of course mean better grafts, and the best tools are highly resistant spider silk thread and a magically charged needle. Imbuements can only sustain a set number of operations, whereas enchantments can be used any number of times; different spheres may have different properties and the best grafters have several needles that they use depending on the circumstances.

Grafting tissue is never a pleasant operation, and as the two parts fight for supremacy, they tend to shut down spontaneously for a while. A live patient will pass out after the operation (assuming he did not do so before) and spend several candlemarks in a comatose state before waking up, if they do wake up. Tissue which is transplanted on a live patient will also take time to be trained and educated; besides, it takes an exceptional grafter to integrate specific racial benefits into a transplant, meaning that a dracon wings eye on a human will not provide flight to the host unless implanted by a high-level grafter.

[top]Notable Tools

Stasis Balm
Blood and any type of oil mixed together and boiled into a paste. This paste is the stasis balm. This balm is rubbed on the severed limbs and will essentially stop all rotting of the tissue.

Reactivator
The blood of multiple species and any type of alcohol are mixed together with tea leaves to create this substance. The purer the alcohol, the stronger the Reactivator. This substance is used to bring a dead, detached limb to life for a time before it is grafted on a new host. It is also a basis for the multiple Taxis Reagents and the secret Remembrance.

Taxis Reagents
A specialized version of the Reactivator, also created with mainly blood, alcohol, and tea leaves along with other different ingredients, to endow tissue with the ability to react to environmental stimuli. Depending on the added ingredients, different properties can be achieved. Taxis reagents can be inverted by freezing them and then heating them back to liquid state; for example, if a reagent would normally activate tissue when exposed to light, its inverted version will react to darkness. Standard reagents are known for the following: light, temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, time intervals (dilute to change the frequency of activations). Special reagents are made by more skilled grafters and include: sound, emotion, and essence (proximity to a specific essence type).

Remembrance
The most powerful form of Reactivator, its recipe is shrouded in mystery. It is permanent, meaning that after the first application the part will keep working until destroyed. It is also the only liquid that allows the grafter to reactivate a recently dead head to provide mind power to their most advanced creations. The reactivated brain will make use of imprinting, pledging loyalty to the first creature it sees. It is rumored that it is created with the perfect mix of blood and a special type of alcohol, but these rumors have not been confirmed.

Der Kleber (The glue)
The glue is one of the most important tools in a grafter's arsenal, mainly because without it no operation can ever succeed. The basic form of the glue is obtained through a mix of blood, a paste-like substance, and a common healing herb to help facilitate the healing process. These are mixed together until there is only a consistent gluey paste. The glue when applied over an open wound, will stop the flow of blood and allow different vis configurations to merge. The glue makes two different bodies recognize each other as the same entity, thus keeping the host's immune system from attacking and killing the graft.

Diffusor
A Diffusor is a small container with a needle sticking out of it. It is generally used by filling it with Reactivator or a Taxis reagent and then attaching it to tissue which is not meant to be merged with a live being. It will slowly release its contents over time, allowing the part to function for long periods.

Common Medical and Surgery Tools
Grafters employ a wide range of tools, from knives, cleavers, and scalpels, to needles and thread, bandages, and splints. Really, a grafter uses anything a regular surgeon or medic would use, just in a different way.

[top]Risks of Grafting on Living Bodies

Grafting tissue onto a living creature is not something that should be taken lightly. Most notably, given the unique structural changes to the host's vis, undoing a graft is a dangerous task. However, the skilled grafter will have learned ways to modify the body, no matter the risk. It is because of this that he is able to undo the work of a less skilled grafter and replace it with one of his own with no penalty to the host. Of course there is no guarantee that the host will survive the new operation. Given the vast range of hazards that the potential host will face, this fact alone should provide food for thought.

The following is a list of consequences that might be experienced by a host, with relative frequencies and special conditions that may trigger the undesired effect.
Loss of Arcane Potential (Always)
Unfortunately, the insertion of an external element into one's vis pattern is highly disruptive and reduces the maximum quantity of vis which can be used for the purpose of spell casting. Each grafting operation reduces the total usable quantity of vis by one initiate spell's worth. This means that an initiate mage can only cast two spells before they feel exhausted. A journeyman mage would be able to cast two journeyman spells and two initiate spells before becoming exhausted, etc. It has been reported that some master level grafters have been experimenting with fixing this "vis penalty" but there has been little news about their success.

Loss of Shapeshifting abilities (Depending on grafter's proficiency)
If the grafting operation was not performed by a highly skilled grafter, the subject can shapeshift everything except for the affected area. For example, if any part of the arm is grafted, the subject cannot shift that arm. If highly skilled, the graft can be shifted to match the new body, but the shifted graft will look like it is diseased or crippled.

Loss of Skills (Common, depends on area and grafted part)
It is quite obvious that implanting a new piece into an existing machine will cause it to behave differently. As such, if the grafted part is heavily involved in the performing of a combat or trade skill, the host might lose one or more proficiency levels and have to retrain in order to update his knowledge to reflect his new body. The wider the difference between the old body and the new one, the more levels will be lost. There may also be caps on maximum skill levels if the new grafted part is unfit for the intended use; for example, ogre arms are almost certainly guaranteed to spell the end to a violinist's career.

Pain and Discomfort (Uncommon to Common, depending on grafter's proficiency)
A person who underwent a grafting will commonly feel random pains and general discomfort, though this varies wildly from subject to subject. Indeed, one should consider themselves lucky if this is the worst side effect resulting from the operation. This also includes the discomfort from using a body that is no longer balanced.

Loss of Functionality (Uncommon, follows heavy usage of grafted part)
It has been reported that sometimes, if the host abuses the graft for prolonged periods, usually spanning candlemarks, the part will simply shut down temporarily, causing pain and possibly blood loss.

Dead Limb (Uncommon to Common, depending on grafter's proficiency)
For no apparent reason at all, the grafted part will suddenly stop functioning. It is assumed that this is caused by the poorly made connections between the graft and the host. These lapses of inability last between a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Afterwards, the grafted part will start working again as normal. Rarely, if the grafter's ability is particularly limited, these dead limbs will not resume function without further grafting.

Rejection (Rare)
In a few cases, especially those where the grafting is particularly impressive or confers incredible abilities, even if the host's body seems to accept the foreign part, it keeps attacking it to eventually expel it, with dire consequences. In order to keep the process under control, the subject must ingest a small quantity of the glue on a monthly basis. Failure to do this might cause the graft to blacken, rot, and if left unchecked, lead to deadly infections.

Fast Aging (Rare)
A few cases have been documented where the host started growing older at alarming rates, up to one hundred times faster than normal. Needless to say, this is a particularly terrifying side effect, and most grafters will not even mention it due to its rarity, or the fact that they do not care.

Insanity (Rare, mild variants are Uncommon)
In a few occasions, a grafting is just too much for a mind to handle. Having to adjust to such a drastic change can drive someone insane, cause hallucinations, paranoia, excessive salivation, multiple personality disorders, bursts of violence, masochism against the grafted tissue, mood swings, mild anxiety or depression.

Other (Very Rare)
Every once in a while, patients are said to experience different symptoms from those described above. Such effects are completely unpredictable, but the lack of research on the topic makes it impossible to verify the rumors.

[top]Credit

Credit goes to Odyleon for the original write-up.


Created by Nimh, August 3, 2014 at 02:30 PM
Last edited by Nimh, January 28, 2015 at 08:43 AM
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