The Medicine Skill
The Medicine Skill indicates your abilities to apply mundane medical knowledge to everyday cuts, scrapes, bruises, stab wounds, poisons, and disease. The key ability for Medicine is wisdom.
To understand the importance of the Medicine Skill in PF2 it is necessary to understand a bit about healing. A character must rest for 8 hours a day. When the character rests they gain a number of hit points equal to their Constitution modifier (minimum 1) multiplied by their level. If the place they’re resting is uncomfortable or lacks proper shelter the GM may reduce this healing by half.
As a practical example, I may have a Level 3 Champion with a Con modifier of +3 and 49 HP. This character would only recover 9 HP with an 8 hour rest in the best circumstances, and they can only gain this benefit once per day. Treat Wounds, a Medicine Skill action, will help that champion recover 9 HP on average with Success. With no additional feats this can be attempted once per hour on our Level 3 Champion. If your party is fortunate to have a dedicated magic healer, it is still worth using Treat Wounds out of combat to save spell slots for in-combat emergency healing. Generally, the expectation is that parties will heal themselves after each combat given no time pressure. For a deeper discussion on this, see our Practical Guide to Post-Combat.
With no time pressure a GM might decide to allow for 10 to 12 hours of rest overnight to accommodate several Treat Wounds checks during a night’s rest and declare the party fully healed. Similarly, a caster might spend remaining spell slots to heal the party. A GM should consider the surroundings and time pressure in deciding whether to hand wave the party to full health. The game is balanced, especially at early levels, on healing being nontrivial.
Table of Contents
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
- : A party member with access to Treat Wounds is practically required. Battle Medicine is handy if your party doesn’t already have in-combat healing options like the Heal spell or Lay on Hands, and access to Godless Healing and Mortal Healing may be valuable if your party has no source of Divine healing.
- : Expert proficiency in Medicine provides an option for better Treat Wounds. It also gives access to the Continual Recovery feat for faster healing and the Ward Medic feat for team healing.
- : Master proficiency in Medicine provides further improvements to Treat Wounds as well as allowing the Ward Medic feat to apply Treat Wounds to up to 4 creatures. A focused medic in a party that relies on them might choose to take the Master level proficiency.
- : Legendary proficiency in Medicine doesn’t provide significant benefits to a character beyond the additional +2 to Medicine checks, even if that character’s focus is Medicine.
Medicine Skill Actions
Practicing Medicine requires Healer’s Tools
While recall knowledge does not need one to bear Healer’s Tools, all the actual practice of medicine does.
Note that using Healer’s Tools requires them to be in your hands, which presents a challenge in combat since this requires two hands. If you instead wear your Healer’s Tools (you can wear 2 Bulk worth of tools, or 3 if you have armor with the Storage adjustment), you can use them so long as you have one free hand. If you plan to use Medicine in combat, it’s absolutely essential that you wear your Healer’s Tools.
Without being trained in Medicine, all characters have two actions that use the Medicine skill available: Recall Knowledge and Administer First Aid.
- Recall Knowledge: A mechanism for discovering before the fight that those Giant Rats likely carry Filth Fever.
- Administer First Aid: A mundane way to stop a creature from dying or bleeding out. Given you can use this action on any adjacent creature, if your character was very, very bad at medicine, it might be tempting to go for a Critical Failure by “Administering First Aid” on that enemy that has Persistent Bleeding next to you. The odds of success are likely not in your favor. And so, in the second action of this article, we’ve stumbled upon our first opportunity for a war crime.
- Treat Disease: Despite your warnings, your companions have contracted Filth Fever. If you’re feeling kind you might assist them in recovering. Recognize that you cannot consider these 8 hours as “rest” for the purpose of preventing fatigue, recovering HP, or regaining spells.
- Treat Poison: Similar to Treat Disease, I’m glad this is free as long as you are trained in the Medicine Skill as its use will almost never be necessary.
- Treat Wounds: This is a staple after combat both for restoring hit points and for removing the Wounded condition if someone almost died. Ideally, at least one person in the party is trained in Medicine and continues to invest to keep Treat Wounds as a valid mechanism for healing at higher levels.
Medicine Skill Feats
A complete list of Medicine Skill Feats across source books can be found on Archives of Nethys
- Battle MedicineCRB: If healing is truly necessary in combat, then having Battle Medicine available to you is a great option. Because the target becomes immune to your Battle Medicine for a day afterwards, you will be unable to sustain the target in a death yo-yo. Since this is a separate action from Treat Wounds, it doesn’t benefit from feats like Risky Surgery or Mortal Healing.
- Forensic AcumenAPGr: If your dream is to roleplay as Batman or Sherlock Holmes, I suggest you take this feat and hope your GM leaves the party plenty of bodies.
- InoculationAPG: Situationally useful. If there will be repeated exposure to specific diseases in your campaign, this could be beneficial. In most cases, vaccines will be more effective. A 10% absolute increase.
- Medical ResearcherLO:L: Use Medicine instead of crafting to make many non-magical healing items, including alchemical healing items like Elixirs of Life.
- Risky SurgeryAPG: When you’re using Treat Wounds, you’re rarely in a enough of a hurry that it’s worth the risk.
- Stitch FleshBotD: Situational. Allows you to use Treat Wounds on undead. If you have undead in the party (see Book of the Dead), this is likely essential. Otherwise, skip it.
- ChromotherapyDA (uncommon): Rarrley useful. You must be in dim light or darker, have an artificial light source, and assisting the recovery with two actions is more advantageous than moving adjacent to the target and using one action to roleplay a method for assisting.
- Continual RecoveryCRB: If you only take one skill feat in Medicine, make it this one.The ability to Treat Wounds six times in an hour to a single party member is tremendous, especially if one party member tends to take most of the punishment in combat. Note that this only applies to your Treat Wounds actions.
- Godless HealingLO:WG 2 star: The +5 HP for your character is nice, but I would only consider this if your party doesn’t have a Divine healer, or at least doesn’t depend on Divine healing, making Mortal Healing useful.
- Mortal HealingLO:GM: If the party doesn’t typically depend on Divine healing, and your character can follow the Laws of Mortality, then turning Success into a Critical Success when using Treat Wounds is well worth the Feat for the extra 2d8 of healing. Combining this with Continual Recovery adds on significant capacity for healing.
- Robust RecoveryCRB: If Disease or Poison is common in your campaign, you might consider this. But remember that Remove Disease is a 3rd-level spell on the Divine and Primal spell lists, so many parties will have an instantaneous, fool-proof solution.
- Ward MedicCRB: Being able to Treat Wounds on half, or even the entire party, is a significant increase to healing efficiency. Combined with Continual Recovery, one character can get the full party back to full health in a hurry.
- Kreighton’s Cognitive CrossoverPFS (uncommon): Getting a second chance at a failed Recall Knowledge check using a Skill you’re presumably good at is a great boost to the likelihood of passing the Recall knowledge. But Medicine is rarely used as a knowledge skill, so it’s a poor candidate for one of the two skills which you select when taking this feat.
- Advanced First AidAPG: Allows, with the Administer First Aid action, to remove one of the Frightened or Sickened conditions. Given a character’s innate ability to overcome these conditions (they go down by 1 per turn naturally in almost all cases), this likely has too high of an opportunity cost.
- Paragon Battle MedicineLO:L (Rare) 2 star: If you’ve already invested in Mortal Healing, then this Feat might have value in clearing multiple Conditions quickly in battle.