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In the discern health spell it talks about the ability to identify a debilitating condition.

The name of the creature’s debilitating condition (ability drained, confused, fatigued, etc.).

What would be classified as a debilitating condition? Would any other detrimental effect (eg. Dominate person, charm person, disease, poison) be identifiable by this spell?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the spell in question is from 3rd party material. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Jul 19, 2020 at 6:01

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As it's mentioned - the spell in question is from 3rd party material, so there is no official ruling.

My opinion is that anything causing on-going hitpoint damage and/or any maluses to any rolls and/or statistics would be included, as long as they are physical. Effects like 'charm', 'dominate', 'suggestion', etc, affecting character judgement and not implying any maluses - won't be identified.

Also, I'm tempted to suggest, that magical effects that don't affect character through physical means (i.e. not a magical poison or disease that can be found in character's body) shouldn't be identifiable as well. I.e. this spell used on a character, who touched a cursed thing and got a curse that drains 1 point of his strength every day would confirm that his strength is drained, but won't recognise source of and that he is cursed.

Though, once again - it's 3rd party spell and there are no strict rulings on them, only personal interpretations and it's better to discuss it with your GM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would something being from 3rd party material imply that there's no official ruling? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 8:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because the content itself is not, by definition, official material. 3rd party products tend to use their own language (whereas Paizo material usually sticks to standard terms such as Conditions... usually). Other times the language used does not line up to any game term, so the 3rd party vendor would be the only source that could clarify their intent. In this case, I think your answer is probably right that they meant the Conditions... but it might not have been their intent when including the word 'detrimental'. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's why I support tagging 3pp material separately from base material because it frequently requires knowledge of the material beyond base system mastery (although the community at large disagrees with me) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 11:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso But it is official material, just not first-party material. Official just means somebody with authority formally announced something-- in this case that would be Steven D. Russel rather than James Jacobs, but it's not like there's no entity capable of making official pronouncements regarding this material... \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 16:05
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Conditions are a specific mechanical entity

You can browse the list of conditions here. The confusion comes from the error in the parenthetical-- ability damaged/drained is not a condition, even though energy drained is.

Diseased and Poisoned aren't conditions per se, but many diseases and poisons confer conditions which would themselves be detectable.

Domination and charm do not confer any conditions, normally.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Either we suppose that there is a mistake in the list in parenthical OR we suppose that author of the book meant something different from normal condition list, when they went to specially name then as 'debilitating' and not just 'conditions'. Also, I'm pretty sure that the spell was not intended as lelvel-0 'detect invisibility' (invisible is a condition, too) or register a number of conditions that are on the list of conditions - like 'grappled', 'helpless', etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarge
    Jul 19, 2020 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sarge Parentheticals don't have the power to change how things work, generally; examples do not define the rules. And there's no balance concern with it detecting the invisible condition-- if you tried to cast it on a hostile invisible creature you would have to pinpoint its location at the end of the 1-round casting time and then you would get to know that it was invisible and when it stopped being invisible as long as you maintained concentration throughout that whole time. It would at no point let you know where the creature was, though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Furthermore, while a condition, invisible isn't typically understood as debilitating. If one wants to read into the flavor text, one could use that as grounds to reject Stable, Invisible, and maybe Incorporeal from the condition list. Since it's an adjective applied to 'conditions', though, and those are a specific thing, unless "debilitating conditions" receives its own definition somewhere as a group term (it doesn't), "conditions that are debilitating" is necessarily a subset of "conditions". \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2020 at 16:16
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The makers were future-proofing the spell against an unknown development path.

Rite Publishing, the creators of 101 0-Level Spells, from which Discern Health came, do not have access to the playbook that employees of Pathfinder proper have, and thus do not know if Pathfinder plans to add positive conditions in the future. While it is true that up to this point, all Pathfinder conditions have been negative/deleterious, Rite Publishing has to gamble on whether or not this will continue to be the case once the book is published.

Their gamble comes down to this: does adding one currently-unnecessary word (debilitating) distract from the overall current meaning of the spell so much that they're willing to take the (slight) chance that they'll have to do a reprint of the entire book if Pathfinder decides to make a positive condition? It appears they took the conservative route and decided that an extra word here and there just in case was better than having to reprint if Pathfinder policy changed.

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