When running Pathfinder one of the players wanted his character to investigate how a walking corpse had originally died. This obviously calls for some skill check, as the task if far from easy (the corpse had been mutilated by the player characters as it tried to kill them) and there are several skills that could apply: Heal, perception, relevant knowledge such as arcane or nature, depending on the original cause of death (magic or wild beast, say).

A thread on the Paizo forums hints at heal, but mostly references D&D3 sources and "most adventures".

Is there any official ruling on this matter? Any example difficulty classes?


I personally allow use of Perception to find obvious things - like "Oh look he has a bunch of big slash wounds." But I require Heal, as the general doctoring skill in Pathfinder, to make any definitive medical sense out of them, like "those slash wounds are/are not what killed him" (DC 15) or "those slash wounds were postmortem" (DC 20). Generally I'd just use the DC of a disease or poison as its level to be correctly identified as well, so a DC 25 poison is quite hard to detect. (It would be better if Heal had broken things up into diagnose and treat in the first place, but they didn't, obviously it's not a focus point of the system - you could easily expand the rules to have separate diagnose/treat DCs though). Perception should be a suboptimal choice here - it might give some evidence of symptoms but the player's on their own as to their significance. "He had a rash? Uh... Measles? Poison ivy? Bubonic plague? Who knows?"

If someone's tried to doctor up a body to conceal cause of death, it would be an opposed check - I had a group of PCs do this once. They had an NPC with them they meant to off, and they all got into a fight with a giant spider, then took the opportunity to kill him. Then they spider-fanged him etc. and did an opposed Heal (Bluff and Disguise assisting) vs the local priest they took the body to's Heal (Sense Motive assisting) to pass the guy off as having been killed by the spider instead of them. It worked!

If someone wanted to really be all House all the time (think Johnny Depp from Sleepy Hollow or even Samuel Le Bihan from Brotherhood of the Wolf) I'd make them take a more focused Profession skill (physician, forensics, detective, whatever). Heal should really only get you what decent medieval medicine would and not CSI level info.

Further evaluation of clues found would come under other skills. Heal could get you "killed by magic; there's weird burns on him that don't seem natural" (DC 15) but Knowledge: Arcana could then explain "it was magic missiles" (DC 20). Or Heal would get you "killed by poison" but probably require a more knowledge:relevant (nature, etc.) to figure out exactly what beast bears that poison.

In general this should be "really hard" - it's hard nowadays with modern medicine. "Died by poison via a big ol' injection mark; the clawing was postmortem" (DC 25) is a reasonable limit. "It was manticore poison"should be deduced or be a really, really high check DC (35).

I'll also note that if you really want to get into more forensic and detectivey Pathfinder games you should consider Pelgrane Press' Lorefinder (called Pathshoe when I playtested it), which adds more detailed investigation skills and approach from the GUMSHOE system into Pathfinder.


Simple answer: No, there are no official rules for this.

But, I would recommend the following: Perception to notice clues, Healing to determine the nature of the wounds. Knowledge Arcana if a spell was used. Religion if he died from negative energy? (Thinking outloud). Even Survival or Arcana to know the difference between a natural lightning or a spell with lightning as damage component.

DC for the Perception should vary from super obvious (arrow in the head DC0) to really hard to notice (traces of black powder left near a wall carried there by the wind DC30).

In some situations you could even have a Survival check to know how far an arrow could be shot with a particular wind strength and direction.

If someone would like to hide or fake some factors of the combat it should be an opposed Perception vs. Bluff. Some investigation could be complex. A man could have some wounds from another fight that could give a boost to the DC. Or if the man was already dead when he got a blow to the head..

Healing check to know the nature of the damage type should be low. DC5 to know if it was slashing, piercing or bludgeoning. To know what kind of weapon could be higher (DC15 and above).

Epic level check could be DC40 to know if the attacker was left handed, right handed etc.


I'm not sure if there's an official ruling on the matter, but I'd say that it's both Perception and Heal. Since Heal is described as being able to be used for Treating wounds, diseases, and the like, it also follows that being trained in heal means you know enough about conditions and medicine that you can make a proper diagnosis. So, Heal would be used to make sense of wounds and make a hypothesis.

Perception on the other hand is described in the SRD as (emphasis mine)

Your senses allow you to notice fine details and alert you to danger.

From this, I would rule that Perception would be used to find particular hard to find clues, similar to examining crime scenes or bodies in LA Noire. While you don't need a roll to say, "That's a body", you do to notice the signs of rope burns or to learn their significance in the victim's death.

As far as DCs, that's a little trickier. For sure the battle damage would count as a -2 unfavorable circumstance modifier, but it doesn't say much beyond that. Perhaps setting it to equal searching for hidden doors or panels.

Edit: Forgot to add, but the SRD listed finding an average hidden area as DC 15. I think that's a good baseline, adjusting by 5s for strangeness or bulk of the creature. Finding critical wounds on a jelly would be ridiculously tougher than finding one on an elf.


The forensic physician archetype of investigator implies that heal can be used for forensics. The following quote is from the medical expertise special ability:

A forensic physician adds half his investigator level (minimum 1) on Heal checks. This bonus doubles on Heal checks to notice tampering with medical evidence, such as those used to defeat dress corpse.


I would be inclined to require both a Heal and a Perception check. As mxyzplk said, the DC should be high.

Perception to find the clues, heal to know what they mean. I wouldn't use just the heal skill because what you're looking for is too different than in a normal heal check.


You need to make a Heal checks to determine the cause of death of a character. Although this use is not directly stated in the description of the Heal skill, scenarios with this particular event will let the GM know that a player can make a Heal check to determine a certain person's cause of death, the DC required will vary based on how the corpse looks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the answer. Can you cite some examples of where this is done? That would improve the answer a lot by providing support for its correctness. \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Jul 30 '17 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour and the help center; they're a useful introduction to the site. Can you back up your answer, for instance with the names of the scenarios you refer to? \$\endgroup\$ – Luris Jul 30 '17 at 16:57

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