In DnD Why is Medicine Wisdom-Based?

If you’ve roleplayed a wisdom-based character, you’ve probably wondered why Medicine checks reference your character’s Wisdom stat. The common question is, “Why would being ‘wise’ have anything to do with mending wounds?” So, if you’ve been wondering in DnD why is Medicine Wisdom-based, here’s the answer:

Something important to keep in mind here is that DnD is modeled after the middle ages, meaning many characters have superstitious beliefs and intuition, both of which are directly applicable to wisdom. It makes sense because, unlike the world we live in, magic and gods are real in the DnD world.

Having said all that, let’s take a further look.

Understanding Wisdom in DnD

We know that Wisdom is a reflection of how attuned a character is to the surrounding world and is a representation of the character’s perceptiveness and intuition.

Again, think about it. We’re in the middle-ages here. It’s interesting because Intelligence and Wisdom in DnD could be compared to being book smart and street smart. With Intelligence, a creature’s mental capacity, recall and reason come into play. It makes sense with Wizards being Intelligence based, having learned skills over time.

Wisdom, on the other hand, represents being street smart. Someone who is street smart has learned, through observation and experience, how to interact with the people around them. It’s essentially the same thing in DnD.

What skills are Wisdom in DnD?

Now, let’s take a look at the types of skills that are wisdom-based in DnD, or that allow characters to intuitively read the world around them. Knowing this gives us a better understanding of why Medicine checks would fit in the same category. Here’s a complete list of the wisdom-based checks in DnD:

  • Animal Handling – Whenever a character is interacting with an animal, the wisdom-based Animal Handling check is rolled.
  • Insight – Insight allows a character to determine another character’s true intentions. This typically comes into play when someone is trying to figure out if someone or something else is telling the truth or not.
  • Medicine – Medicine checks are done in order to stabilize a dying creature, or diagnose illness.
  • Perception – One of the more commonly used checks, Perception allows a character to detect the presence of something. Generally, it measures a character’s awareness to its surroundings.
  • Survival – Survival checks are made when a character is attempting to navigate to a destination, and is typically made in unfamiliar territory. It also is used to identify/follow animal tracks, understand or predict weather, and even perceive and avoid natural danger.

What do all of the above have in common, Medicine included? Every single one of the checks above force a character to intuitively perceive something. With Animal Handling, the character is perceiving the temperament of an animal. With Survival, it’s the surrounding territory. With Medicine, it’s a perception of a creature’s health, and what needs to be done to ensure they stay alive.

What 5E Classes Use Wisdom?

Again, Wisdom has to do with a creature intuitively perceiving the world around them. So it makes sense why Wisdom is the main stat for the following characters:

  • Clerics
  • Druids
  • Monks
  • Rangers

All of the classes above are known for being in-tune with the world around them, as well as picking up on often-subtle hints and clues. That’s as true for the Cleric identifying a broken bone is it is for the Ranger guiding a group through a forest.

Why is wisdom important for Druids?

The technical answer is that Druids, as a Cleric sub-class, are inherently Wisdom-based. Thinking a bit more intuitively, it makes sense. If Wisdom requires being in tune with your surroundings and picking up on subtle clues, then what class is better to be Wisdom-based than a Druid. The Druid class is known for being in-tune with nature.

Why is Medicine a Wisdom-Based Check?

A lot of people confuse Intelligence with Wisdom. Off the top, it makes sense why. When you take a deep look, they are quite different. Having said that, here’s my laundry list of reasons why Medicine is a Wisdom Check in DnD:

  1. Wisdom is about perception. Medicine is a Wisdom-based check because it involves a character intuitively understanding the health of a character and what needs to be done.
  2. In the DnD world, healing typically comes from gods. It’s important to remember, again, the time period. Being in the Middle Ages, Wisdom would be more at play because the people who treat the sick are acting upon beliefs in a higher power; this lines up perfectly with the types of characters in D&D (as well as those characters’ gods). Generally, wisdom-based classes are those who heal, or have access to healing spells that other classes don’t. Think about it: There would be no need to “study” Medicine or healing spells in the DnD world because there are actual gods that exist who fix serious injury. “Healing” someone is as simple as channeling a god’s power.
  3. Wisdom requires judgment. Applying this logic even more to what we go through every day, you can have all the training in the world around what medicines do what, but it’s almost more important to know when not to do something. It’s the discretion and judgment that differentiates a good doctor from a great doctor. And so it is in the DnD world.
  4. It’s not about knowing what, it’s about knowing how. This may be the best explanation of the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom. A wizard can know what magical influence hurt a creature, and also know that a specific healing spell is needed, but they may not know how to apply that healing spell.
  5. Experience vs knowledge. I would argue that wisdom is gained after doing something and gaining experience over time, whereas knowledge is having the exact knowledge of what something is and how it works. A great comparison I’d personally give is that I know quite a bit about how a car runs, but I have virtually no actual experience fixing cars. If I were to attempt to fix a problem with my car, I could get lucky and get through it. A mechanic, however, would have the background experience to know specific issues and things to look at for that I would have never known.

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