How to tell a dying character from a dead one?


Rules Questions


Dose anybody here knows what skll check (if any) is used to estimate if a character is dying, stabilized or dead?
Is it possible to tell the difference from outside?And how?

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Heal would be the right skill and I wouldn't ask a player to make a check to tell the difference between someone that's dead and someone that's unconscious, unless they were trying to check from across the room or something.

Some things should be pretty obvious and not require you to roll dice.

-Skeld

Liberty's Edge

Yeah the only time you should have to make the roll is if they're mostly dead, but not all dead. If they're breathing, clearly you should think they're alive.


Unless it is in the middle of combat I just let the players know who is dead most of the time.


Skeld wrote:

Heal would be the right skill and I wouldn't ask a player to make a check to tell the difference between someone that's dead and someone that's unconscious, unless they were trying to check from across the room or something.

Some things should be pretty obvious and not require you to roll dice.

-Skeld

I'm not sure how obvious it is. I mean, a character in my opinion must be reached in the first place and than you need physical contact with him to be sure if he is dead or not ( put two fingers along the neck to check the pulse or to see if he is breathing and perception may be involved.)

Above all, to do this should be at least a full round action in my opinion ( to kneel down and check the overall conditions takes not less than 6 seconds).
My question rise because if we can determine the "not dead" status of a character in a blink of an eye with no check or action involved , a creature can do the same and you can see how this change everything in a fight.
( If my drow knows an enemy mage is one point from the death but stabilized he is going to spend one attack to finish him even if he is not a treat anymore because in the next round he can be healed and able to come back in action again).
If I can't tell if he is dead or not if I see a fallen character I assume he is dead and I move on leaving the chance to him to be healed or saved in a way.


wraithstrike wrote:
Unless it is in the middle of combat I just let the players know who is dead most of the time.

You are right I've forgot to say "during a fight".


Deighton Thrane wrote:
Yeah the only time you should have to make the roll is if they're mostly dead, but not all dead. If they're breathing, clearly you should think they're alive.

What kind of roll? Perception, heal or...? The cd? I think to see if some one is breathing or not is not so easy especially during a fight.

I think at least a very high perception CD must be rolled to do that, are you agree?


The rules actually do not say. If you wish to come up with an in-combat rule I would say a DC 10 or DC 15 heal check.

It is a free action to drop to one knee. It does not take long to notice the someone has no pulse and/or is not breathing. If you can stabilize someone using a standard action then it should take less time to determine that they are dead.

Quote:
Action: Providing first aid, treating a wound, or treating poison is a standard action.

I know that it takes longer in real life to bandage someone up or treat a poison, than it does to determine they are no longer alive so going by that in Pathfinder I would rule it is a standard action to determine death.

Grand Lodge

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I've always seen it run as Heal DC 15. It should be a move action, like an active Perception check. Agree that if there's plenty of time outside of combat, there's no need for a check.


wraithstrike wrote:

The rules actually do not say. If you wish to come up with an in-combat rule I would say a DC 10 or DC 15 heal check.

It is a free action to drop to one knee. It does not take long to notice the someone has no pulse and/or is not breathing. If you can stabilize someone using a standard action then it should take less time to determine that they are dead.

Quote:
Action: Providing first aid, treating a wound, or treating poison is a standard action.

I know that it takes longer in real life to bandage someone up or treat a poison, than it does to determine they are no longer alive so going by that in Pathfinder I would rule it is a standard action to determine death.

I agree. Maybe not so realistic but pathfinderistic If I may.


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Starglim wrote:
I've always seen it run as Heal DC 15. It should be a move action, like an active Perception check. Agree that if there's plenty of time outside of combat, there's no need for a check.

Heal CD 15 as standard action I would say, but it's just my humble opinion.

I think it's a huge bug in the game if it's not stated anywhere how to act in this circumstances because it means the players and the Gm must do meta game.
( another example, a mage wants to cast a wall of fire with the damaging side against two undead but a warrior lies down near them.Well, if the mage knows the warrior is dead he has no problems to cast it but otherwise if he knows the warrior is unconscious he will certainly take another course of action)


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For my part, I consider it's included in the DC 15 Heal check to stabilize someone.

I do not roll for stabilization until someone bother to check on the state of health of their fallen friend, I just count the time elapsed. It's only when someone remember to play medic that the fallen PC is allowed to roll N times to see if he managed to stabilize himself or died from exsanguination.

Same thing in case of magical healing : when the cure is applied we roll to see how far below the character went.

The only exception is an ongoing Status spell, which gives real time info on the matter.

This way, we entirely avoid metagame thinking ("no need to check on him, he rolled a 20 !"). A downed PC is still seen as an emergency, as no one (including the player) knows how he fares.


Smarnil le couard wrote:

For my part, I consider it's included in the DC 15 Heal check to stabilize someone.

I do not roll for stabilization until someone bother to check on the state of health of their fallen friend, I just count the time elapsed. It's only when someone remember to play medic that the fallen PC is allowed to roll N times to see if he managed to stabilize himself or died from exsanguination.

Same thing in case of magical healing : when the cure is applied we roll to see how far below the character went.

The only exception is an ongoing Status spell, which gives real time info on the matter.

This way, we entirely avoid metagame thinking ("no need to check on him, he rolled a 20 !"). A downed PC is still seen as an emergency, as no one (including the player) knows how he fares.

I like that. Easy, elegant and explain ( according to me) why not a word is wrote about this topic on the manual. I love also the "not trowing for stabilization" part to avoid meta game.Brilliant.

Grand Lodge

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
max00 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Unless it is in the middle of combat I just let the players know who is dead most of the time.
You are right I've forgot to say "during a fight".

During combat, I wouldn't require a check. I would tell them to spend a Move action to determine whether or not the other character is alive.

Out of combat, I'd just tell them who's alive and who isn't.

-Skeld


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Dead is, typically, dead. It's fascinating how clear that can be. Certainly, there are situations where someone can still be breathing just a tiny bit, or there is still a pulse somewhere, but mostly those situations look good in movies. It's a world of difference looking at a dead and an unconscious person. Sure, in combat it's more difficult, but a simple DC 15 Heal check solves all you need.


This makes me want to mention the one theatrical thing I can never seem to pull of in any D&D esque game

And that is the scene where the heroes defeat the monsters who were attacking the (insert one, village guard, local sheriff, harmless beggar) and then rush to the injured and dying character they tried to save, only to have that npc look up into their eyes, clutch at them in a firm grip and with their last breath whisper

"beware the dwarf..." or something to that effect

Because if the party has any healing ability available to them they are going to use it and then expect the npc to not die.

I've pulled this scene off a few times, but only by using DM caveat, and telling the players that despite their best efforts and casting of healing spells/forcing potions down the throat, the npc simply wasn't going to make it.

I recently had a scene in a game where an NPC was supposed to be the expert who was going to help the party do some serious cliff face climbing, and the npc was attacked in a "set up" encounter and was wounded, breaking his leg. And after the Cleric cast Cure Wounds, removing the hit point reduction, I informed the group that the bone was set, and the wound mostly healed but that a splint would still be required for at least a week, and boy did that cause an uproar...


Terquem wrote:

This makes me want to mention the one theatrical thing I can never seem to pull of in any D&D esque game

And that is the scene where the heroes defeat the monsters who were attacking the (insert one, village guard, local sheriff, harmless beggar) and then rush to the injured and dying character they tried to save, only to have that npc look up into their eyes, clutch at them in a firm grip and with their last breath whisper

"beware the dwarf..." or something to that effect

Because if the party has any healing ability available to them they are going to use it and then expect the npc to not die.

I've pulled this scene off a few times, but only by using DM caveat, and telling the players that despite their best efforts and casting of healing spells/forcing potions down the throat, the npc simply wasn't going to make it.

I recently had a scene in a game where an NPC was supposed to be the expert who was going to help the party do some serious cliff face climbing, and the npc was attacked in a "set up" encounter and was wounded, breaking his leg. And after the Cleric cast Cure Wounds, removing the hit point reduction, I informed the group that the bone was set, and the wound mostly healed but that a splint would still be required for at least a week, and boy did that cause an uproar...

Because none of that is in the rules. If you as a GM or going to step outside of the rules for theatrical affect that has an actual mechanical repercussion in the game, that style of play should be noted up front.

There is nothing wrong it, but certain things should be made aware to players so they know what they are getting into. It would be like if I was determined to pass or fail a diplomacy check based on how well I(the player) was at making a convincing speech as opposed to my character with the +45 diplomacy check. If I am not a good speaker then I know up front to avoid playing a bard, and I should still to killing things or casting spells.

Many players also don't like GM Fiat stopping what should work, such as you forcing the NPC to die. That also falls in like with my first paragraph.

How much is too much? Well, that depends on the player, and the situation.


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It depends. Are you checking for Mostly Dead or All Dead ...?


Terquem wrote:
This makes me want to mention the one theatrical thing I can never seem to pull of in any D&D esque game

You might like the Alexandrians Death & Dying houserules then...


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I believe the best answer to this question is to pepper them with arrows until you're very, very sure that they're dead.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
Terquem wrote:

This makes me want to mention the one theatrical thing I can never seem to pull of in any D&D esque game

And that is the scene where the heroes defeat the monsters who were attacking the (insert one, village guard, local sheriff, harmless beggar) and then rush to the injured and dying character they tried to save, only to have that npc look up into their eyes, clutch at them in a firm grip and with their last breath whisper

"beware the dwarf..." or something to that effect

Because if the party has any healing ability available to them they are going to use it and then expect the npc to not die.

I've pulled this scene off a few times, but only by using DM caveat, and telling the players that despite their best efforts and casting of healing spells/forcing potions down the throat, the npc simply wasn't going to make it.

I recently had a scene in a game where an NPC was supposed to be the expert who was going to help the party do some serious cliff face climbing, and the npc was attacked in a "set up" encounter and was wounded, breaking his leg. And after the Cleric cast Cure Wounds, removing the hit point reduction, I informed the group that the bone was set, and the wound mostly healed but that a splint would still be required for at least a week, and boy did that cause an uproar...

Because none of that is in the rules. If you as a GM or going to step outside of the rules for theatrical affect that has an actual mechanical repercussion in the game, that style of play should be noted up front.

There is nothing wrong it, but certain things should be made aware to players so they know what they are getting into. It would be like if I was determined to pass or fail a diplomacy check based on how well I(the player) was at making a convincing speech as opposed to my character with the +45 diplomacy check. If I am not a good speaker then I know up front to avoid playing a bard, and I should still to killing things or casting spells.

Many players also don't like GM Fiat stopping what should work, such as you forcing the NPC to die. That also falls in like with my first paragraph.

How much is too much? Well, that depends on the player, and the situation.

I'm fine with sacrificing a little bit of the game in favor of the story from time-to-time. Some story arcs will occasionally need a boost, a possibly a nudge in a different direction, or (my favorite) a bit of misdirection.

Some GMs and players refuse to go that route, but I have a policy of "use in moderation."

-Skeld


Skeld wrote:
max00 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Unless it is in the middle of combat I just let the players know who is dead most of the time.
You are right I've forgot to say "during a fight".

During combat, I wouldn't require a check. I would tell them to spend a Move action to determine whether or not the other character is alive.

Out of combat, I'd just tell them who's alive and who isn't.

That's pretty close to our house rule. ("House rule? Really?" you might say? Yes, it comes up quite often in our games, actually...)

- In combat, it's a move action to determine if a someone is dead or unconscious (or stabilized). No checks.
- If the creature was reduced to below -15 hp, then no move check is required - we rule it's obvious then (guts all over the place, etc.). No checks.
- Outside of combat, we just say whether someone is dead or not. No checks.


Even in combat the DMs I play with just say, "OK, he's dead", and remove the NPC.


daimaru wrote:
Even in combat the DMs I play with just say, "OK, he's dead", and remove the NPC.

I do that sometimes also depending on how dead they are. Sometimes I declare them dead if they are not dead yet if it will save time. After playing with certain groups you know if they will try to take prisoners or gain more information. If they like to investigate I will actually be more diligent about tracking their hit points if they are bleeding out.


I do a standard action Heal check. You are either visually inspecting or physically inspecting the body (breathing, pulse, pupil dialation etc.)

Normally I would say a full round action, the typical person probably needs at least 6sec to find a pulse, spot breathing or check responses. I play on the characters being the heroes of the story and make it quicker for them.

Silver Crusade

Sissyl wrote:
Dead is, typically, dead. It's fascinating how clear that can be. Certainly, there are situations where someone can still be breathing just a tiny bit, or there is still a pulse somewhere, but mostly those situations look good in movies. It's a world of difference looking at a dead and an unconscious person. Sure, in combat it's more difficult, but a simple DC 15 Heal check solves all you need.

On the battlefield, when someone has been hit hard enough to be knocked unconscious, has lost a lot of blood, and is generally a mess underneath their body armor-- it's not as easy as you seem to think it is to be certain whether they are dead or alive. Now, it's not rocket science (unless they're really close to death)-- but in the noise and racket of the battlefield, with adrenaline in overdrive and enemies either actually or potentially still active in the area-- one has to be careful and thorough. It's easy for the untrained to mistake weak breathing for not breathing at all under those conditions, and it's also easy to mistake a weak pulse for no pulse at all... and badly wounded personnel whose bodies are going into shock usually aren't breathing too well and have weak pulses.

Maybe on the medieval battlefield, it's a little easier without all the explosions and gunfire that mark modern warfare... but on the other hand, it's a lot harder to get under plate armor to check for a pulse than it is to open up modern protective gear.

Even out of combat-- when dealing with very seriously injured personnel who are at "death's door" but could still be saved (including things like cardiac arrest from a severe heart attack or electrocution), it is NOT "a world of difference" to the naked eye. I wouldn't make it harder on adventurers than the DC 15 Heal check (as a move or standard action, usually)-- but I'd presume that's because the PCs are heroes and are supposed to be very good at what they do, not because it's easy.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What about the deathwatch spell?

I've never seen anyone use it, but it should be the best wat to tell.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Terquem wrote:

This makes me want to mention the one theatrical thing I can never seem to pull of in any D&D esque game

And that is the scene where the heroes defeat the monsters who were attacking the (insert one, village guard, local sheriff, harmless beggar) and then rush to the injured and dying character they tried to save, only to have that npc look up into their eyes, clutch at them in a firm grip and with their last breath whisper

"beware the dwarf..." or something to that effect

I do this, but I use Con bleed instead.

The Exchange

Rules-as-written answer: You can't. (Whether this means 'even loudly insisting that they are alive isn't proof' or 'you always know the difference, don't worry about it' will vary by table.)

House rules: Assuming the character doing triage doesn't have lifesense (safe bet) or deathwatch, I'd probably class it as a Perception check rather than Heal - I agree that Heal comes close to fitting the bill, but Perception has that neat range penalty built in which make it harder to see the signs if you're not at close range.

Although I hate giving Perception even more power.


If they don't want to go on the cart?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

As a divine caster take experimental spellcaster for the undeath word. As a standard action, try to animate them. If they don't stand up, they are not dead.

Scarab Sages

justaworm wrote:
It depends. Are you checking for Mostly Dead or All Dead ...?

Either way, the party is going to go through their pockets and look for loose change.


If the head is no longer attached it's a good assumption that they are dead.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Lincoln Hills wrote:

House rules: Assuming the character doing triage doesn't have lifesense (safe bet) or deathwatch, I'd probably class it as a Perception check rather than Heal - I agree that Heal comes close to fitting the bill, but Perception has that neat range penalty built in which make it harder to see the signs if you're not at close range.

Although I hate giving Perception even more power.

Why not just apply the Perception range penalties to Heal, like the rules do for Spellcraft checks?

Liberty's Edge

wraithstrike wrote:
Terquem wrote:
"beware the dwarf..." or something to that effect
Because none of that is in the rules. If you as a GM or going to step outside of the rules for theatrical affect that has an actual mechanical repercussion in the game, that style of play should be noted up front.

As a side-note, there is a Paizo AP with this exact scene.

Spoiler:
Our Reign of Winter group is just past a scene like this. When our healing failed, the GM said something about plot-damage.


Finn Kveldulfr wrote:
Sissyl wrote:
Dead is, typically, dead. It's fascinating how clear that can be. Certainly, there are situations where someone can still be breathing just a tiny bit, or there is still a pulse somewhere, but mostly those situations look good in movies. It's a world of difference looking at a dead and an unconscious person. Sure, in combat it's more difficult, but a simple DC 15 Heal check solves all you need.

On the battlefield, when someone has been hit hard enough to be knocked unconscious, has lost a lot of blood, and is generally a mess underneath their body armor-- it's not as easy as you seem to think it is to be certain whether they are dead or alive. Now, it's not rocket science (unless they're really close to death)-- but in the noise and racket of the battlefield, with adrenaline in overdrive and enemies either actually or potentially still active in the area-- one has to be careful and thorough. It's easy for the untrained to mistake weak breathing for not breathing at all under those conditions, and it's also easy to mistake a weak pulse for no pulse at all... and badly wounded personnel whose bodies are going into shock usually aren't breathing too well and have weak pulses.

Maybe on the medieval battlefield, it's a little easier without all the explosions and gunfire that mark modern warfare... but on the other hand, it's a lot harder to get under plate armor to check for a pulse than it is to open up modern protective gear.

Even out of combat-- when dealing with very seriously injured personnel who are at "death's door" but could still be saved (including things like cardiac arrest from a severe heart attack or electrocution), it is NOT "a world of difference" to the naked eye. I wouldn't make it harder on adventurers than the DC 15 Heal check (as a move or standard action, usually)-- but I'd presume that's because the PCs are heroes and are supposed to be very good at what they do, not because it's easy.

Well, there are reasons why ye olde coffins had elaborate bell systems that could be rung from inside the coffin. Because pre 20th century medicine sucked.....

Now, usually, things aren't that ambiguous. If someone is bleeding out, 99% dead is little different from 100% on the battlefield.... but that is for a world without Cure Light Wounds. No fear of catching gangrene or other nasty mundane diseases from your wounds when you have healing magic.

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