Graveyard Keeper – Autopsy and Grave Rating Guide

Other Graveyard Keeper Guides:

Understanding Corpse Symbols

These symbols pictured on any corpse when placed on the autopsy table or in a grave represent the base rating of the grave itself, and these can be altered with appropriate care of the corpse. These symbols include:

White skulls: This is the basic symbol for corpse quality. You want as many of these as possible. The reason is that the quality of the grave cannot exceed the number of white skulls. Even if you have a gravestone and grave fence that are top-notch, a corpse with nothing but a single white skull would only allow a grave to have a rating of +1.

Red skulls: These can be thought of as “corrupted” white skulls. Each of these contributes a -1 rating to the corpse (and grave). These are taken into account before any white skulls, so a single red skull will always subtract from any bonuses, regardless of the number of white skulls and quality of grave dressings.

Green “sick” faces: These appear over time as the corpse degrades and act the same as red skulls. Once these appear, however, there is nothing that you can do about it.

Corpse Decay

The integrity of the corpse (percentage) degrades over time, starting the moment the donkey rings the delivery bell. If it falls to 90% or below, it will add a green “sick” face to the corpse. Allowing the corpse to continue to degrade may result in more “sick” faces.

Ways to slow the decay of a corpse include:

  • Putting the corpse within the morgue area. Corpses in the morgue decay at a slower rate than they do while sitting outside. If you repair the chute to the morgue (both inside and outside), then the donkey will drop corpses directly in the morgue. This will save you some of the stress of getting back home if you are out mining coal or fishing when you hear the bell.
  • Putting the corpse on a table or a pallet. Pallets seem to stop the rate of decay indefinitely, while having a corpse on the autopsy table slows decay to a snail’s pace. This allows you to rest up and save during the process of preparing a body. 
  • Embalming (see section below) can halt and even reverse decay. However, this does not unlock until late in the tech tree, so it is best not to rely on this too heavily.

Dealing With Failed Bodies: Cremation and the River

It is possible to toss bodies into the river in order to get rid of them. The location for doing this is just below the bridge to the west of the church. However, this is not recommended, as the river leads into town and may result in consequences that are currently unknown.

Instead, it is a good idea to cremate bodies that are full of mistakes, spoiled, or just don’t have characteristics that you like. You can do this at any point in time, so remove all of the useful parts that you would like to keep from the body beforehand.

To cremate a body, go south from the morgue and slightly to the west. There is a large tree with a blueprint nailed to it. Interacting with this will allow you to construct places for cremating bodies at the cost of 8 wood billets each. They may only be used once, but wood is plentiful.

Cremating a corpse gives 5x ash, 1 salt, and a burial certificate. You may do whatever you like with the ash without any consequences, including just destroying it, but always remember that you still get paid for a cremated body. In crafting, the ash may be used to make ink, making it useful to cremate a body every once in a while.

As you unlock technologies, you gain the ability to craft clay or porcelain jars for interring the ash. The individual urns with these remains cannot contribute to the graveyard, but you can construct a columbarium (a fixture with a series of niches for storing cremated remains) on the grounds of your graveyard once you have enough of these. How this contributes to graveyard rating needs further testing, but a botched body interred in a columbarium will not hurt your overall score.

Managing Corpse Delivery Frequency

The donkey will continue to deliver corpses as long as the number of corpses in the morgue is not full. Exhumed bodies do NOT contribute to this, so the donkey will still come while you are working on a body that you have exhumed. He comes pretty frequently, and building pallets in the morgue will only increase this number, so be prepared for that if you are already feeling overwhelmed. You can also stop the donkey from coming by putting a corpse in a grave and NOT BURYING IT! The corpse will stop decaying, but will count as still in-progress, meaning that the donkey will not come with another one until you close that grave. Naturally, if your body cap is higher than 1, then you will have to do this with an appropriate number of graves. If you want the benefits of a pallet without the increased intake, then have one interred (but not buried) corpse, and you can still manage others one at a time.

Once the church is open, the donkey will go on strike. He will refuse to move until you meet his demands. He wants you to build a carrot box, fill it with 10 carrots, and give him a bottle of seed oil for his cart. Once his demands are met, he says that he will no longer deliver corpses on Prayer Day (“Sunday”), and he will only deliver bodies as long as you keep the carrots coming. He will take 5 carrots per corpse, which you must deposit in the box in increments of 10. For players who do not want to farm, the seed oil may be purchased from Dig (the bearded hemp salesman), and carrots may be purchased from the farmer on the south side of the wheat field. In the long term, carrot seeds are cheap enough to grow hundreds of carrots for only a couple of silver up front.

Understanding Autopsies

The autopsy is the main mechanism by which you can change the skull rating of a corpse. To get the most out of your autopsies, you need to understand that each part that you can remove has a different effect on the skull rating. This can help you to plan out your autopsy strategy. These effects are as follows:

  • Blood and fat will each remove one red skull and add one white skull when they are removed. Every corpse you autopsy should have blood and fat removed. It will always add the white skull, even if there is no red skull to remove. 
  • Skulls will add one skull (yes, yes, I know) to the total skull rating when removed. This will always start out as a red skull, though, so you need to have a method in place to deal with it. 
  • Skin will subtract a white skull and add a red skull when removed. You don’t want to do this unless you plan on cremating the body.
  • Bones and flesh will decrease the total number of skulls on your meter when removed, starting with white skulls. Sometimes you can remove one of these without changing the number of skulls, but you can inadvertently lower your meter for a corpse that you are wanting to prepare for burial if you remove any of these. 
  • Hearts, brains, and intestines are a gamble. These will remove at least 2 skulls from the meter, but it is possible for hearts, brains, and intestines to remove white OR red skulls from the meter when removed. There are three possible base results from removing one of these: remove 2 white, remove 1 red and 1 white, or remove 2 red. From this base result, it is possible that additional white skulls may be taken off, especially from corpses with long meters. The result of removing the heart, brain, or intestines seems to be determined on generation of the corpse, so SAVE before cutting into your corpse! If you don’t get a good result, you can load your game and try removing a different part. With three parts and three possible results, there is one part assigned at random to each result, meaning that you can always get the desired result from removing something else. Furthermore, the number of additional white skulls that may be lost is randomized each time, so it is worthwhile to save beforehand, even if you pick the right part. For example, the brain may remove two red skulls, but it may also remove an additional 0, 1, or 2 white skulls. If you pick the brain the first time, but you lose another 2 white skulls, you will want to reload so that you can remove it without the loss of white skulls.

Whenever a part is removed, there is always a chance that it will result in a failed surgery. This will add a “failed surgery” icon to the other parts, and it cannot be removed. The result is that removing the part will not have the indended effect, but will have a negative effect, instead. You can research perks that reduce this chance, but it is always a possibility. It is best to save first and reload if this happens.

What Do I Do With All of these Brains?

It is tempting to remove all parts from a body when you are first starting out. Some of these parts do not stack and can quickly clutter up your inventory.

“But what if I need them later?”

Well, never fear. Below are the functions of each part that can be removed:

  • Flesh can be used with the stamp and clean paper to make meat authorized for sale to Horadric. It can also be sliced for use in cooking recipes. Barf. There is a point in the Inquisitor’s quest line where it is necessary to prepare gold-quality burgers, so it may be worthwhile to save some of this for later. It should be noted, though, that you can get meat from other sources, as well, so this is not necessary. 
  • Fat can be used to make candles to boost church quality. It can also be broken down through alchemy to make drops of oil, which are also obtained through hemp seeds. Oil is used in cooking and to make other substances like black paint, which is in turn used to make ink. 
  • Blood can be used directly at the alchemy bench, or it may be used to craft a bucket of blood for Snake. 
  • Skin can be crafted into pigskin, which can in turn be crafted into clean paper or used to make covers for books. 
  • Bones may be used at the alchemy mill to get white powder, used in other alchemy recipes. 
  • Skulls are used in decorating the underground shrine by the dungeon. There is also one that is needed for the Astrologer. 
  • Brains, hearts, and intestines are broken down for alchemy ingredients. 
  • Ash can be used to make black paint, and salt is used in cooking. 

One of the harder things to get going is writing, but you can get most of what you need from a body. Take the skin for paper, the fat for oil, then cremate the body. Combine the ash and oil to make black paint. You will still need to buy feathers and make glassware, but this is most of what you need from a single corpse.

Cutting Strategy for Best Results

Make a strategy for yourself before you start cutting. There are some corpses where you can’t guarantee perfection, but you can maximize your chances for success. Remember that if you mess up, or if the skull meter is too short for your liking, you can always dump it in the river. The autopsy sequence is different depending on the number of red skulls on the meter. Here are some sample strategies:

  • 1 red skull: Remove blood and fat. This will increase your meter by 1 skull without any red skulls. 
  • 2 red skulls: Remove blood and fat. This will convert your red skulls so that you have the same number of skulls you started with, but all are now white. 
  • 3 red skulls: Remove the heart first. This has the possibility of removing two of these at the cost of a shorter meter, but may also remove two white skulls or one red and one white. Remember to save first, and you can try again with the brain or intestines. Then remove the blood and fat. The white skull will be added for both, even with no red skulls remaining. The end result is that the meter will be shortened by one, but all skulls will be white. 
  • 4 red skulls: Follow the same strategy as with three skulls, but the meter will be shortened by two. These bodies are good candidates for cremation, unless you are embalming.


Embalming is a way of further boosting the rating of a corpse and counteracting decay. Unlike autopsies, the effects of each fluid are explicitly stated in-game and can easily be viewed on the tech tree, so they will not be listed here. The fluids used are obtained through alchemy, and are applied by putting the corpse on an embalming table.

Embalming is necessary to get the most of a corpse, as the highest-tier headstones and fences would require a whopping TWELVE white skulls to get the most out of their use. Furthermore, you cannot remove more than four red skulls through autopsies alone, so a particularly corrupt corpse may need to be embalmed to deal with this.

Each fluid may only be used once, and any fluid that removes red skulls requires that there are a sufficient number of red skulls to remove. This means that, once you start embalming, you may want to exhume and cremate many of your corpses as you go to make room for optimized corpses that have been embalmed. Regarding the best way to go about embalming, the following step-by-step guide was posted on Reddit by u/Olanatan for bodies with long meters containing 4 red skulls:

  • Start with Golden Injection this will remove 2 red and add 2 white.
  • Next do a Silver injection this will remove 1 red and add 1 white.
  • Lye injection will add 1 white and 1 red.
  • Then lastly Glue Injection this is adds 1 white.
  • So far just from embalming you’ll be able to remove 2 (3-1) and add 5 white.
  • Then remove blood, as it removes a red and adds a white (3 red gone, and 6 white added)
  • Then remove fat, as it will remove a red and add a white. ( 4 red gone, and 7 white added.)
  • This -should- give you a 10-12 white skull body.

You will notice that this does not include brains, hearts, or intestines in any way. There are two reasons why this is a good thing. First, these are only able to remove skulls. They cannot add more white skulls, as with blood and fat. Your meter can only get shorter by removing these parts. Second, there is the random component of additional white skulls being lost. Your results should be much more consistent with less save scumming with this strategy.

To get 12 white skulls, the body should start with 4 reds and 5 whites. If you have 3 reds to start with, then remove the skull to bring things up to 4. Bear in mind that this is all with optimal results in mind; with the rate at which the donkey delivers bodies, it could become tedious to hold out for only the best bodies. Still, remember that cremated bodies may be interred in a columbarium to contribute to graveyard rating, or you may simply dispose of the ash without any consequences.

How Bodies Contribute to Grave Ratings

An open grave has a base rating of -2. This changes to the corpse rating when there is a body put in it. A properly-managed corpse will produce a grave with a rating of zero when buried. Each grave dressing will then add to the grave rating, but keep in mind that this cannot exceed the number of skulls on the corpse’s meter. A first-tier stone gravestone comes at a cost of only 1 stone and gives a +2 rating. A first-tier stone fence costs 2 stone and gives a further +2 rating. Since wooden grave markers require nails, this actually makes them less than ideal. Wooden fences give only a +1 bonus. Higher-tier markers can give a greater bonus, but require significant technological advancement. Your basic grave early on should consist of a corpse with at least 4 white skulls (and no red skulls or green faces), a stone gravestone, and a stone fence. This will give you a grave with a +4 rating.

Under certain conditions, it is possible to start with a grave rating higher than zero. There are several explanations that have been offered for this, including high freshness or a long meter of white skulls, but the most likely explanation seems to be that these corpses have a negative number of red skulls. If a corpse starts with three red skulls and it is autopsies to remove four, then it may start with a +1 rating when it is buried. This is not reflected on its meter, and it is unknown whether this is a bug. During alpha, this score would disappear once grave dressings were added. Further confirmation of how this bonus rating works is needed.

Don’t be afraid to exhume bodies when needed. This costs more than you make with the burial certificate, but it allows you to fix any botched autopsies (sometimes via dumping in the river) and the starting graves, which apparently were not autopsied whatsoever.

Expanding Your Graveyard

Expand your graveyard. This isn’t an immediate need, but if you want to get your graveyard rating to truly soar, you will need more space. Have you noticed the sign on the west side of the graveyard? First, read the sign. This will tell you that the inquisitor is the one who closed it off. You have to read it for your character to have that knowledge. Second, go talk to the inquisitor about it. If your favor is high enough, he will give you a sort of deed or certificate that will open up the other half of the graveyard. All you really have to do to get his favor to that threshold is to give him firewood, so just plan on taking the 20 firewood with you the second time you visit the inquisitor.

Graveyard Fixtures

With additional techs and advancement in the church, there are things that can be added to the graveyard in order to further boost its rating. Once the church has been upgraded once, the fence surrounding the graveyard can be repaired for a +10 graveyard rating, then further upgraded to a stone fence for a +20 graveyard rating.

Other fixtures, most of which must be unlocked through the tech tree, include:

  • Flowers: +2 GR each, limited locations
  • Prayer stations: +2 (wooden) or +4 (stone), limited locations
  • Lawn: +2/3/4 GR each, depending on size
  • Marble flagstones: +3 GR each
  • Lanterns: +4 GR each, limited locations
  • Stone columbarium: +12 GR each
  • Marble columbarium: +20 GR each

I thought that adding columbaria to the game was a nice touch. These are fixtures in a graveyard, mausoleum, or monument with niches for interring urns with cremated remains. That is their purpose in-game as well. They are only slightly larger than a grave (4×4, as opposed to 3×3) and give a higher grave rating than is possible with any single grave. They do require a dozen filled urns to craft, but this is a good way to make sure your cremated bodies are put to good use or that you are still able to get a decent bonus when low-tier corpses need to be exhumed for higher-tier corpses in the late game. If you are not interested in min-maxing your autopsies, collecting reagents for embalming, or you just want to collect as much from each corpse as you possibly can, then you could theoretically get a higher graveyard rating from using columbaria than graves (although the number of corpses required would be obscenely high to do this exclusively).

Lawns, flowers, lanterns, prayer stations, and flagstones are additions that allow you to make use of otherwise wasted space between graves. They are also useful additions to use space and get your graveyard rating up before all grave sites are filled. Lawns are particularly cheap, requiring only peat and stone. However, none of these serve any purpose other than decoration, and they should not take the place of graves in the long run, as graves contribute far more to graveyard rating.

Grave Repair

When your graveyard first comes into your possession, every headstone and grave fence was in a state of disrepair. This would suggest that, over the course of time, your headstones and grave fences will lose durability and need to be repaired.

Thankfully, this does not happen.

However, we do have the occasional intrusion by our bipolar ghost pal, Yorick. He is apparently the elected representative for the tenants of your graveyard, and he is interested in keeping the place nice. He wants you to get rid of all of the red skulls from all of the corpses in the graveyard, which really only helps you out in the long run.

If, however, your graveyard has progressed to a certain point and still has “residents” with red skulls in their rating, then he will call down lightning to damage the graves containing corpses with red skulls. In my own save file, which had no such corpses, he came by once my graveyard had attained a rating of 200 and triggered this scene. Yorick then proceeded to damage several graves that were perfectly fine, since nobody had any red skulls. What a dingus.

You will then need to either repair or replace these graves. Repair kits generally only last for two to four headstones or fences, depending on the tier, but they can be worthwhile. This is especially true if the jerk targets high-tier headstones when he throws his tantrum, since materials such as carved stone require faith to craft.

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13682 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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