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My party (level 7; Rogue, Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, and Warlock) is investigating a demon portal, and we're trying to obtain as much info as possible before entering it. We learned that it is being kept open by the magical force of something or someone, and it will probably close when we destroy that person or object. We've come to believe that the object might be the heart of a particular NPC.

To make a long story short, the NPC was cursed to do stuff for an evil God, and probably summoned some demons right before we broke the curse. Those demons opened the gate, but the NPC doesn't remember specifics of the time she was cursed, probably to repress all the horrible things she did with undead and stuff.

We felt for her pulse, and she has none. But still, my party is in doubt – it might be because she has no heart, or it might be that she has a heart but it is just not beating.

In my original question (Can the Locate Object spell be used to determine if an NPC has a heart?), an interesting discussion started regarding the use of Locate Object, with the conclusion that officially it is probably not allowed, but the rule of cool might apply.


This left me to wonder:
What other methods would be available to a 7th-level party to determine whether a (human) creature has his/her heart in the right place (literally), without killing/doing permanent damage to the creature?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Temporary death is an option (wouldn't be the first time for this particular NPC), but we have no way of bringing her back. The only high casting class in the neighbourhood has been killed by demons she summoned. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot We're trying to determine whether this human woman has her own heart inside of her body. Being human, we know she is supposed to have a heart. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Obviously the enterprising adventurer determines the existence of a heart in a being by Vivisection :P \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 19:04

3 Answers 3

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There are options that might work:

  • A Wisdom (Medicine) check – it allows diagnosing illness. If you can diagnose heart illness with it, diagnosing heart presence should be possible as well. Of course, this is DM-dependent, and magical reasons may render it impossible.

  • The Divination spell (as mentioned in enkryptor's answer)

  • The Detect Magic spell – if it's human and there is no magic, then she has a working heart, so at the very least it can prove the existence of a heart, even if it can't prove the nonexistence of one. Of course, you will also have to be sure she is human.

  • The Commune spell – similar to Divination. Would require magic item (scroll looks easiest) to use as you probably don't have access yet.

  • The Legend Lore spell – in a very, very specific case: if it all happened before and there was a legend about it.

  • Cutting someone open, and using the Regenerate spell to close the wound – again, DM-dependent because there simply are no rules about such surgeries. Looks reasonable, given that severed limbs reattach immediately under this spell, and all you need is to take one little peek.

In previous editions, there also used to be spells specifically targeting the heart of a target creature, but it looks like they are gone now.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Commune is a 5-level spell, inaccessible for a 7-level Cleric. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor looks like it might be, from a scroll. Added note in my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot: I think you cut open without Regenerate, any healing spell should do. Regenerate's healing hp would of course also work, but the extra effect "The target's severed body members (fingers, legs, tails, and so on), if any, are restored after 2 minutes. " should not be needed. When you cut her open you're not severing any body member -- any normal strike from a sword cuts people open, and can be healed in many ways. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 8:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin it is DM dependent. I would probably allow it, it's just that regeneration seemed like more sure bet to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 8:20
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The Divination spell

A Level 7 Cleric has access to the Divination spell, which allows them to "ask a single question concerning a specific goal":

Your magic and an offering put you in contact with a god or a god's servants. You ask a single question concerning a specific goal, event, or activity to occur within 7 days. The GM offers a truthful reply. The reply might be a short phrase, a cryptic rhyme, or an omen.

Unless you ask out of pure curiosity, I guess you have a specific goal considering her heart. Ask about this goal ("what happens if we do X"). The GM must answer truthfuly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My God used to be in the habit of answering "How am I supposed to know that?" \$\endgroup\$
    – WendyG
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WendyG Hmmm, that seems to me to be going against the spirit of the Divination spell. You used a medium-level spell slot in order to get a specific piece of information, and your DM left you with nothing to show for it but still took your spell slot. I don't think your DM necessarily did anything wrong - it seems like you enjoyed it! - but it's not something I would try without at least talking to my players about it first. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 17:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ She actually then sent me on a quest to find out, i think it was my dm telling me mot yo take the piss. \$\endgroup\$
    – WendyG
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The use of that spell is actually how we got the hint that the heart might be a key factor. Using it again today, would result in a 25% chance of a faulty answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 13:09
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Cut her open

You have a level 7 cleric on your team. They can cast 1st- to 3rd-level cleric spells. Follow this simple procedure:

  1. Cut her open

    If you are careful about it, it should be possible to do so without killing her. Otherwise, there would be no open heart surgery in the world. You might want to wash her chest area and your knife with high-alcohol content spirit before you start to avoid infections.

    She may not sit quietly while you are working on her chest, which may complicate matters, so you need to sedate her. In a medieval fantasy setting, you have at least two options for this:

    • (1) Knock down to 0 to get her unconscious. This carries the risk that someone who is unconscious and stable due to being at 0 hit points might receive two failed death saves when cut, which could be quite deadly. You'd need to act fast.

    • (2) Put her under a Hold Person spell first, so she won't twitch while you are doing the cut. If you have Carrion Crawler saliva or Centipede Poison, those might also work.

  2. Take a peek

    Once you have cut her open, peek inside, and see if she has a heart.

  3. Heal her up

    After you had your peek, cast Cure Wounds and close the cut. Have the paladin lay on hands to cure disease and avoid wound infections if you did not desinfect with alcohol. Done.

    ...

  4. If it went wrong:

    In the unlikely event that your DM asks for a Medicine check to do this cutting right, and you fail dismally and accidentally kill her, not to worry: cast Revivify to bring her back. If she was alive before due to the curse, heart or no heart, you should be able to revive her.


Optional step

There is one risk with this plan: she may be undead. If she does not have a pulse, that seems quite possible. In that case, if your operation goes wrong, and she indeed lacks a heart, you may not be able to bring her back, because Revivify does not replace missing organs, nor would it restore her undead status.

You can cast Detect Evil and Good before you start, to determine if she is undead. Then it is up to your morals if you want to proceed without telling her about that, or if you tell her but sweet-talk her into agreeing to the risk, or if you find out murder-hobo style. Technically, if she is undead, she is not a human and you are not killing her – you are, erm, "putting her down".

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