A plague doctor was a special medical physician during this period who saw to those who had contracted the Red Death. They were specifically hired by towns that had many plague victims in times of plague epidemics. Since the government was paying their salary they treated everyone, the rich and the poor. While it was not the original intent of the governments that employed them, Plague Doctors were not normally professionally trained experienced physicians or surgeons, and often were second rate doctors not able to otherwise run a successful medical business or young physicians just out of school trying to get a medical business going. They were not otherwise a general practitioner or "family doctor". Plague doctors by their covenant treated only plague patients.
Plague Doctors very quickly fell into the custom of wearing masks while working. The beak that became iconinc with Plague Masks was a filter for what they believed to be bad, infected air. Being a plague doctor was unpleasant, risky, and difficult. The chances of survival in times of a plague epidemic were slim. Because of the dangers and difficulties involved, plague doctors were very hard to find, particularly since even those who were immune to conventional disease were for some reason not immune to the Red Death.
The first epidemic of Red Death dates back to 2650 of the Third Age. The largest epidemic was the Crimson Blight of Mokosh in the year 2792 of the Third Age. In those times the large loss of life due to the plague in various regions created an economic disaster. Community plague doctors were quite valuable and were given special privileges. For example, a normally well guarded procedure of autopsies was freely allowed by plague doctors to allow research for a cure of the plague. This rather substantial freedom led to severe abuses. As plague doctors were given more freedom they became more reckless. Around 2801 of the Third Age, a religious cult formed in the Mokosh region known as the Coven of the Sanguine Blight. This group was composed almost entirely of Plague Doctors, and very rapidly fell into the worship and veneration of Perdita. It was their belief that the plague was a gift to the races of the Blessed Living that was intended to help weed out the weak from the strong. This cult attracted a great deal of negative attention and was eventually wiped out by commoners in the year 2809 of the Third Age. Around that time the Plague Doctor mask and iconography was mostly abandoned in favor of newer equipment that had been developed by Dwarven engineers that was believed to actually defend against the worst effects of the Red Death. Elven and Chatûl scientists would later discover (11 of the Fourth Age) that the Red Death was not generally transmitted through inhalation, but that the rapid rate of transmission was due to its ability to travel in *all* bodily fluids - including saliva and sweat. Combined with a surprisingly high rate of survivability outside of the body, the disease was extraordinarily easy to spread.
Historically, plague doctors wear the beak-shaped mask while they worked. However, the mask was not the only part of the outfit. Their protective suit consisted of a heavy fabric overcoat that was waxed, a mask of glassed eye openings and a cone shaped like a beak to hold scented substances. Some of the scented materials were amber, balm-mint leaves, camphor, cloves, laudanum, myrrh, rose petals, and storax. A wooden cane pointer was used to help examine the patient without touching. Plague Doctors rarely used magic, especially since the number of practitioners of Divine and Nature magic had so badly dwindled during the late Third Age. As such, they relied on Alchemy and more conventional medical techniques - resulting in a rather high rate of mortality. Plague doctors were also referred to as the Chiruregon, from the Arcane (Latin) word " chīrurgia".
After plague doctors saw patients they were quarantined for a typical period of about forty days. Plague doctors could not generally interact with the general public because of the nature of their business and the possibility of spreading the disease. Generally, this translated in to Plague Doctors avoiding wearing their professional garb whenever they engaged with common folk.