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Worlds of Adventure | Main / Athletics

Athletics

Str ACP: Yes Untrained: Yes

Use this skill to scale a cliff, to get to the window on the second story of a wizard’s tower, or to climb out of a pit after falling through a trapdoor, as well as to leap over pits, vault low fences, or reach a tree’s lowest branches.

Check

Athletics may be used to climb, jump, and perform similar tasks. (You may also use Athletics to swim, though you are considered untrained unless you have the Practiced Swimmer skill trick. You can use Athletics to fly if you have a means of powered flight—wings or similar—but you are considered untrained unless your flight ability is innate or you have the Born Flyer feat.)

Climbing

With a successful Athletics check, you can advance up, down, or across a slope, a wall, or some other steep incline (or even a ceiling with handholds) at one-half your normal speed, as a move action (or as part of any kind of movement action). A slope is considered to be any incline of less than 60 degrees; a wall is any incline of 60 degrees or steeper.

A climb check that fails by 4 or less means that you make no progress, and one that fails by 5 or more means that you fall from whatever height you have already attained (but you might be able to catch yourself as you fall).

The DC of the check depends on the conditions of the climb. Compare the task with those on Table: Climbing to determine an appropriate DC.

You need both hands free to climb, but you may cling to a wall with one hand while you cast a spell or take some other action that requires only one hand.

You can’t take a short step, or disengage defensively, while climbing (unless you have a listed climb speed, either naturally or due to magic).

Being attacked while climbing

While climbing, you take a −2 penalty to attack rolls and Armor Class. You can’t use a shield while climbing, nor can you make combat reactions.

If you take damage, or if you are subject to a push, grab, overrun, or trip attack (even if you successfully resist the maneuver), you must immediately make another Athletics check at the DC of the surface. Failure means you fall from your current height and sustain the appropriate falling damage. The same applies if you encounter any other hazard that would distract or endanger you.

You must still make this check even if you aren’t moving (i.e. if you’re simply clinging to a surface), or if you haven’t moved more than one-quarter your speed in the past round, but you gain a +5 bonus on your check (as per Cautious climb, below).

Making your own handholds and footholds

You can make your own handholds and footholds by pounding pitons into a wall. Doing so takes 1 minute per piton, and one piton is needed per 3 feet of distance. As with any surface with handholds and footholds, a wall with pitons in it has a DC of 20. In the same way, a climber with a handaxe or similar implement can cut holds in an ice wall.

Cautious climbing & rapid climbing

If you climb more slowly (at one-quarter your normal move speed instead of half), you get a +5 bonus on your check. If you try to climb more quickly than normal (at your full move speed), you take a −5 penalty on your check. (You can’t run or charge while climbing.)

Catching yourself when falling

It’s practically impossible to catch yourself on a wall while falling. Make an Athletics check (DC = wall’s DC + 20) to do so. It’s much easier to catch yourself on a slope (DC = slope’s DC + 10).

You can also try to catch yourself on a ledge or surface if you fall off it (such as if you trip off a ledge, or fall into a pit trap). Doing so requires a DC 20 Athletics check.

If you have only one hand free (such as if you were clinging to a wall with one hand while holding something in the other), you take a −5 penalty on your Athletics check to catch yourself when falling. (If both your hands are occupied, you can’t try to catch yourself at all.)

Catching a falling character while climbing

If someone climbing above you or adjacent to you falls, you can attempt to catch the falling character if he or she is within your reach. Doing so requires a successful melee touch attack against the falling character (though he or she can voluntarily forego any Dexterity bonus to AC if desired). If you hit, you must immediately attempt an Athletics check (DC = wall’s DC + 10). Success indicates that you catch the falling character, but his or her total weight, including equipment, cannot exceed your heavy load limit or you automatically fall. If you fail your Athletics check by 4 or less, you fail to stop the character’s fall but don’t lose your grip on the wall. If you fail by 5 or more, you fail to stop the character’s fall and begin falling as well.

Evasive climbing

If you have a climb speed (either naturally, or due to magic or similar), you may use your check result in place of your Armor Class against any attacks of opportunity your movement may provoke (use whichever is higher).

Apply any dodge bonuses to Armor Class that you may have to your Athletics check result (for the purpose of using your check result in place of your Armor Class only; these bonuses are not counted when determining whether you climb successfully, etc.). (You cannot, however, use a combat reaction to dodge the attack, if you are using your Athletics check result as your AC.)

Jumping

When you jump (either for height, a.k.a. a “high jump”, or for distance, a.k.a. a “long jump”), you jump a minimum distance plus an additional distance depending on the amount by which your Athletics check exceeds 10. The maximum distance of any jump is a function of your height. See Table: Jumping for details.

The distances listed are for characters with a speed of 30 feet, such as an unencumbered human. If you have a lower speed (e.g. due to encumbrance, or due to your race), reduce the total distance jumped proportionally. If you have a higher speed (because you’re a barbarian or an experienced monk, for instance), increase the total distance jumped proportionally (but not the maximum distance).

(Note: Instead of actually calculating the distance you jump each time you roll a jump check, you can consult Table: Jump Distance, which provides pre-calculated values for a range of speeds and check results.)

Distance moved by jumping is counted normally against your movement in a round. (For example, as a move action, Krusk—who has a move speed of 40 feet—runs 20 feet toward a chasm, leaps 10 feet over it, and then moves an additional 10 feet to be next to a hobgoblin. He can now attack the hobgoblin, since he only moved a total of 40 feet—within the limit of what he can cover with a single move action—so he still has a standard action left.)

You can’t take a short step, or defensively disengage, by jumping.

Long jump

A long jump is a horizontal jump. You can use a long jump to leap across a gap (like a chasm or stream), or to leap over an obstacle (such as a low fence, or a creature that’s in the way of an opponent you’re trying to reach). When making a long jump, your leap reaches its peak (a height equal to one-quarter the horizontal distance jumped) at the halfway point.

If you are trying to leap across a gap, and you clear a distance at least equal to the span of the gap, you land on your feet at the far end. If you undershoot by your melee reach (5 feet for a Medium humanoid character) or less, you can make a DC 15 Reflex save to grab the far edge of the gap. You end your movement grasping the far edge. If that leaves you dangling over a chasm or gap, pulling yourself up requires a move action and a DC 15 Athletics check (see Climbing).

If you are trying to leap across an obstacle as part of movement and fail to clear the obstacle’s height, you fall prone immediately in front of the obstacle (which ends your movement). (Depending on the nature of the obstacle, the DM may impose other effects instead or in addition; for example, failing to clear a roaring fire may result in you taking damage and possibly catching on fire, but still making it across; on the other hand, if you were trying to leap across an opponent but didn’t manage to jump high enough to make it over his head, you may slam into your opponent—provoking an attack of opportunity, knocking him down, or both.)

High jump

A high jump is a vertical leap. You can use a high jump to reach a ledge high above or to grasp something overhead, such as a tree limb. You can also use a high jump to leap up onto a table or similar.

The distance you can cover with a high jump (as indicated on Table: Jumping and Table: Jump Distance) does not include vertical reach. A 6-foot-tall human’s vertical reach is 8 feet, for example; thus a human would only need to jump up 1 foot in order to grasp a ledge or a branch that’s 9 feet off the ground. (Creatures of other shapes and sizes have different vertical reach.) If you make a high jump to grasp something overhead (such as a ledge or branch), you can pull yourself up with a move action and a DC 15 Athletics check (see Climbing).

If you fail a jump check for a high jump (i.e. you don’t reach the height needed to hop up onto the surface in question, or the height needed to grasp the object you were aiming for), you land on your feet in the same spot from which you jumped.

Jumping down from a height

If you intentionally jump down from a height, you might take less damage than if you just fall. If you succeed on a DC 15 Athletics check, you take damage as if you had fallen 10 feet less than you actually did. (This reduction stacks with using Acrobatics to soften a fall.)

Whenever you fall or jump from a height, if you take any damage from the fall, you land prone. If you take no damage, you land in a crouch.

Swimming

With a successful Athletics check, you may swim at up to one-half your land speed, as a move action. If you fail by 4 or less, you make no progress through the water. If you fail by 5 or more, you go underwater. (If you are already underwater, then failing by 5 or more means that you get swept along with prevailing currents, if any, or sink toward the bottom, or simply fail to make progress, as per the DM’s discretion.)

Even if you don’t want to move, you must still take at least one move action per round to make a swim check to maintain your position (i.e. tread water); if you don’t, then you’re considered to have failed your swim check (with the usual consequences).

The DC for the swim check depends on the prevailing conditions of the water (see Table: Swimming).

Each hour that you swim, you must make a DC 20 Endurance check or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage from fatigue.

You can’t take a short step, or disengage defensively, while swimming (unless you have a listed swim speed, either naturally or due to magic).

Holding your breath

If you are underwater, either because you failed a swim check or because you are swimming underwater intentionally, you must hold your breath.

You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution score—but only if you do nothing other than take move actions or free actions. If you take a standard action or a full-round action (such as making one or more attacks), the remainder of the duration for which you can hold your breath is reduced by 1 round. (Effectively, a character in combat can hold his or her breath only half as long as normal.)

After that period of time, you must make a DC 10 Endurance? check every round to continue holding your breath. If you fail the Endurance? check, you begin to drown (see Suffocation and Drowning).

Being attacked while swimming

While swimming, you take a −2 penalty to attack rolls and Armor Class. You can’t use a shield while swimming, nor can you make combat reactions.

If you take damage, or if you are subject to a push, grab, overrun, or trip attack (even if you successfully resist the maneuver), or if you encounter any other hazard that would distract or endanger you, you must immediately make another Athletics check at the DC of the prevailing conditions. Failure means you go under (or are swept along with prevailing currents, etc.). (If you have neither a listed swim speed nor the Practiced Swimmer skill trick, you automatically fail such checks.)

Furthermore, if you were holding your breath when you failed this check, you must make an immediate Endurance? check against the same DC or lose all remaining rounds of breath (and begin to drown in the following round).

Cautious swimming & rapid swimming

If you swim more slowly (at one-quarter your normal move speed instead of half), you get a +5 bonus on your check. If you try to swim more quickly than normal (at your full move speed), you take a −5 penalty on your check. (You can’t run or charge while swimming.)

Evasive swimming

If you have a swim speed (either naturally, or due to magic or similar), you may use your check result in place of your Armor Class against any attacks of opportunity your movement may provoke (use whichever is higher).

Apply any dodge bonuses to Armor Class that you may have to your Athletics check result (for the purpose of using your check result in place of your Armor Class only; these bonuses are not counted when determining whether you make progress in the water, etc.). (You cannot, however, use a combat reaction to dodge the attack, if you are using your Athletics check result as your AC.)

Flying

With a successful Athletics check, you can fly at your flight speed as a move action. If you fail by 4 or less, you stall; you make no progress, and you take a −5 penalty on the fly check for your next movement action. If you fail by 5 or more, or if you stall twice in a row, you begin falling. You fall 150 feet in the first round, and 300 feet per round thereafter. You can attempt to right yourself, but you take a −5 penalty on fly checks until you do so.

The DC for the fly check depends on how complex or difficult your movement is (see Table: Powered Flight).

You must take at least one flying movement action per round in order to stay aloft. If you do not, you are considered to have failed your fly check, and begin to fall (as if you’d failed by 5 or more).

Each hour that you fly, you must make a DC 20 Endurance? check or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage from fatigue.

You can’t take a short step, or disengage defensively, while flying (unless you have an innate means of powered flight, or have the Born Flyer feat).

You can’t run while flying. You can charge by diving at an opponent (you must be flying downward to do so).

Creatures larger or smaller than Medium size get a modifier to their fly checks: +4 for each size category larger than Medium, −4 for each size category smaller than Medium.

Being attacked while flying

While flying, you take a −2 penalty to attack rolls and Armor Class, and you can’t dodge attacks. (Creatures whose means of powered flight is innate, or those who have the Born Flyer feat, do not suffer these penalties.)

If you take damage, or if you are subject to a push, grab, overrun, or trip attack (even if you successfully resist the maneuver), you must immediately make another Athletics check at the same DC as your movement for the round. Failure means you stall (or fall, if you stall twice in a row, or fail the check by 5 or more). The same applies if you encounter any other hazard that would distract or endanger you. (If you have neither an innate form of powered flight, nor the Born Flyer feat, you automatically fail such checks.)

Evasive flying

If you have an innate form of powered flight, or the Born Flyer feat, you may use your check result in place of your Armor Class against any attacks of opportunity your movement may provoke (use whichever is higher).

Apply any dodge bonuses to Armor Class that you may have to your Athletics check result (for the purpose of using your check result in place of your Armor Class only; these bonuses are not counted when determining whether you successfully execute your flight maneuvers, etc.). (You cannot, however, use a combat reaction to dodge the attack, if you are using your Athletics check result as your AC.)

Gliding

Some creatures have no true flight ability, but can glide. Similarly, many birds spend extended periods of time in the air by soaring on thermals. Gliding is easier than true flight (fly check DC 0), and does not require Endurance checks to maintain for any duration. However, in order to remain aloft while gliding, a creature must find thermals, updrafts, etc. Birds and other creatures with innate flight ability do this by instinct; characters who gain powered flight by artificial means (magic or devices) generally need to make Perception? or Survival? checks to do so.

Other uses

The Athletics skill represents a general proficiency and training in athletic endeavors, and can be used to represent a variety of tasks, including sports (a character must still learn to play an unfamiliar sport—which usually requires taking a skill trick—but high rank in Athletics indicates that he performs well once he’s had a bit of practice).

Action

Climbing, jumping, swimming, and flying are part of movement, so they’re generally part of a move action (and may be combined with other types of movement in a move action).

Each move action that includes any climbing, swimming, or flying requires a separate Athletics check. (However, if you’re climbing, swimming, or flying out of combat, you can generally take 10 on your checks.) Catching yourself or another falling character is not an action.

If you run out of movement mid-jump, then your next action (either on your current turn, or, if necessary, in the next round) is a move action to complete the jump.

Taking 10 & 20

You can take 10 on an Athletics check to climb, jump, swim, or fly if you’re not in combat or otherwise rushed or threatened. (Creatures with a natural climb speed can take 10 on climb checks even when in combat or otherwise rushed or threatened. Creatures with a natural swim speed can take 10 on swim checks even when in combat or otherwise rushed or threatened. Creatures with an innate means of powered flight, or creatures with the Born Flyer feat, can take 10 on fly checks even when in combat or otherwise rushed or threatened.) You usually can’t take 20 on a climb, jump, swim, or fly check, because failure means that you might fall, go under, etc.

Special

Climbing

You can aid another character’s climbing attempt, by pulling them up or giving them a boost up, letting them hold on to you, etc. Doing so takes a move action. You can also aid adjacent allies as part of your own movement, but you take a −5 penalty on your own check, and you may not climb faster than your ally’s speed. (This applies when two or more characters are climbing a wall or slope together.)

You can use a rope to haul a character upward (or lower a character) through sheer strength. You can lift double your maximum load in this manner.

A climber’s kit gives a +2 circumstance bonus to Athletics checks made to climb.

Humans with the Heart of the Mountains racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on Athletics checks to climb.

Humans with the Heart of the Snows racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on Athletics checks to climb slippery slopes or walls.

Half-orcs with the Rock Climber racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on all Athletics checks.

Halflings with the Nimble racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on all Athletics checks.

The owner of a lizard familiar gets a +3 bonus on Athletics checks made to climb.

A creature that has a listed climb speed (either naturally, or due to magic or similar) moves at its given speed with a move action. It takes no penalty to attack rolls or Armor Class, can take short steps, and can run and charge while climbing (taking a −5 penalty to its Athletics check to climb). A creature with a climb speed has a +8 racial bonus on all Athletics checks made to climb, and it can always choose to take 10, even if rushed or threatened while climbing. Also, a creature with a climb speed can take combat reactions while climbing, and it can use a shield (if its anatomy permits it to do so). Finally, a creature with a climb speed may attempt evasive climbing (to improve its AC against attacks of opportunity provoked by its movement).

A barbarian with the Raging Climber rage power gets a bonus on climb checks while raging.

Jumping

The rules for jumping mostly assume a creature of roughly humanoid shape. Some creatures (such as elephants) may be unable to jump altogether, no matter high good their Athletics skill. Other creatures (such as crickets or frogs) may have much greater maximum jump distance limits. In these and other cases, the DM will modify the rules given above to make them work for each creature’s anatomy, natural abilities, etc. (Note that jump distances do not scale with creature size; this means that smaller creatures can jump proportionately further and higher, relative to their size, while larger creatures can’t jump as high or as far relative to their size. Larger creatures do usually have higher move speeds, so their actual jump distances will typically be somewhat greater, though not nearly in proportion to their size.)

Some spells, such as expeditious retreat, increase your move speed (and therefore your jump distances, though not your maximum jump distances).

The jump spell gives you a +30 bonus on jump checks, and removes your maximum jump distance limits.

Halflings with the Nimble racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on all Athletics checks.

If you use a pole (such as a standard 10-foot pole, or a spear, etc.) during a long jump, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus on your jump check (but you must let go of the pole in the process).

A barbarian with the Raging Leaper rage power gets a bonus on jump checks while raging.

Swimming

Without special equipment or magical aid, you can dive to a depth of no more than 10 feet per rank of Athletics. If you dive deeper, you must make a DC 10 Endurance check each round (+1 to the DC for each consecutive round, and +1 per additional 10 feet of depth) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.

You can aid another character’s swimming attempt, by holding them above the water, letting them hold on to you, etc. Doing so takes a move action. You can also aid adjacent allies as part of your own movement, but you take a −5 penalty on your own check, and you may not swim faster than your ally’s speed. (You may aid up to two allies at once in this way.)

Swim checks are subject to double the normal penalties for encumbrance (including encumbrance from armor).

A creature that has a listed swim speed (either naturally, or due to magic or similar) moves at its given speed with a move action. It takes no penalty to attack rolls or Armor Class, can take short steps, and can run and charge while swimming (taking a −5 penalty to its Athletics check to swim). A creature with a swim speed has a +8 racial bonus on all Athletics checks made to swim, and it can always choose to take 10, even if rushed or threatened while swimming. Also, a creature with a swim speed can take combat reactions while swimming, and it can use a shield (if its anatomy permits it to do so). Finally, a creature with a swim speed may attempt evasive swimming (to improve its AC against attacks of opportunity provoked by its movement).

Humans with the Heart of the Sea racial trait get a +2 racial bonus on and swim checks. They can hold their breath twice as long as normal, and get a +4 racial bonus on concentration checks when attempting to cast spells underwater.

A barbarian with the Raging Swimmer rage power gets a bonus on swim checks while raging.

Untrained

A character who does not have the Practiced Swimmer skill trick doesn’t apply a training bonus to swim checks (even if he has ranks in Athletics), and automatically fails swim checks made as a result of being attacked or encountering a hazard.

A character who does not have the Born Flyer feat doesn’t apply a training bonus to fly checks (even if he has ranks in Athletics), and automatically fails fly checks made as a result of being attacked or encountering a hazard.

Feats & Skill Tricks

The following feats allow a character to use the Athletics skill in additional ways.

The following skill tricks allow a character to use the Athletics skill in additional ways.

Category: Skills
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Athletics