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Athletics (Str; Armor Check Penalty)

You are skilled at climbing vertical surfaces, from smooth city walls to rocky cliffs, and taking long and high jumps. You also know how to swim and dive and can do so even in stormy water.


This skill has four distinct uses: climbing, jumping, swimming, and diving.


With a successful Athletics checks you can advance up, down, or across a slope, wall, or other steep incline (or even across a ceiling, provided it has handholds) at one-quarter your normal speed. You can move at half your speed, but you take a penalty of –5 on your check. A slope is considered to be any incline at an angle measuring less than 60 degrees; a wall is any incline at an angle measuring 60 degrees or more.

An Athletics check made to climb 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.

The DC of the check depends on the conditions of the climb. Compare the task with those on the following table to determine an appropriate DC.

Example Surface or Activity Athletics DC
A slope too steep to walk up, or a knotted rope with a wall to brace against. 0
A rope with a wall to brace against, or a knotted rope, or a rope affected by the rope trick spell. 5
A surface with ledges to hold on to and stand on, such as a very rough wall or a ship’s rigging. 10
Any surface with adequate handholds and footholds (natural or artificial), such as a very rough natural rock surface or a tree, or an unknotted rope, or pulling yourself up when dangling by your hands. 15
An uneven surface with narrow handholds and footholds, such as a typical wall in a dungeon. 20
A rough surface, such as a natural rock wall or a brick wall. 25
An overhang or ceiling with handholds only. 30
A perfectly smooth, flat vertical (or inverted) surface cannot be climbed.
Example Surface or Activity Athletics DC Modifier*
Climbing a chimney (artificial or natural) or other location where you can brace against two opposite walls. –10
Climbing a corner where you can brace against perpendicular walls. –5
Surface is slippery. +5
* These modifiers are cumulative; use all that apply.

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. While climbing, you can’t move to avoid a blow, so you are considered flat-footed. You also can’t use a shield while climbing. Anytime you take damage while climbing, make an Athletics check against the DC of the slope or wall. Failure means you fall from your current height and sustain the appropriate falling damage.

Accelerated Climbing

You try to climb more quickly than normal. By accepting a –5 penalty, you can move half your speed (instead of one-quarter your speed).

Make 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 5 feet of distance. As with any surface that offers handholds and footholds, a wall with pitons in it has a DC of 15. In the same way, a climber with a handaxe or similar implement can cut handholds in an ice wall.

Catch yourself when falling

It’s practically impossible to catch yourself on a wall while falling, yet if you wish to attempt such a difficult task, you can 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).

Catch 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 forgo 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, and that character can now attempt an Athletics check (DC = wall’s DC + 10). Success indicates that the falling character immediately gets a hold of the wall and can support himself. If the falling character fails this check, you can hold him, but his 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.


You can use Athletics to make long or high jumps. The base DC to make a jump is equal to the distance to be crossed for a long jump, or four times the height to be reached for a high jump. These DCs double if you do not have at least 10 feet of space to get a running start. If you fail this check by 4 or less, you can attempt a DC 20 Reflex save to grab hold of the other side after having missed the jump. If you fail by 5 or more, you fail to make the jump and fall (or land prone, in the case of a vertical jump). Creatures with a racial base land speed above 30 feet receive a +4 racial bonus on Athletics checks made to jump for every 10 feet of their base land speed above 30 feet. Creatures with a racial base land speed below 30 feet receive a –4 penalty on Athletics checks made to jump for every 10 feet of their base land speed below 30 feet. No jump can allow you to exceed your maximum movement for the round. For a running jump, the result of your Athletics check indicates the distance traveled in the jump (and if the check fails, the distance at which you actually land and fall prone). Halve this result for a standing long jump to determine where you land.

Jumping Down

If you intentionally jump from a height, a DC 15 Athletics check allows you to ignore the first 10 feet fallen. You do not need a running start to jump down, and the DC is not doubled if you do not get a running start.

As a full-round action, you can jump down upon an opponent as part of a charge with a DC 15 Athletics check. If you fail either the Athletics check or your attack roll, you land prone in a random square adjacent to the opponent and take falling damage. If you succeed, and the result of your check equals or exceeds the opponent’s combat maneuver defense (CMD), you deal an additional 1d6 damage per 10 feet dropped. You still take falling damage, but you can to ignore the first 10 feet fallen if your check succeeded against DC 15. You can also use the Acrobatics skill to soften the fall.


Make an Athletics check once per round while you are in the water. Success means you may swim at up to half your speed (as a full-round action) or at a quarter of your speed (as a move action). If you fail by 4 or less, you make no progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you go underwater.

If you are underwater, either because you failed an Athletics check or because you are swimming underwater intentionally, you must hold your breath (See Endurance). The DC for the check depends on the condition of the water, as given on the following table:

Water Condition Athletics DC
Calm water 10
Rough water 15
Stormy water 20*
* You can’t take 10 on an Athlethics check in stormy water, even if you aren’t otherwise being threatened or distracted.

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


If your Athletics check to swim is successful, you can dive beneath the surface. You can dive to a depth of up to 5 feet below the surface for every 2 point that your result exceeds the DC. For every 10 feet below the surface, reduce the water condition by one step.


Climbing and jumping is part of movement, so it's generally part of a move action. Each move action that includes any climbing requires a separate Athletics check. Catching yourself or another falling character doesn't take an action. A successful check allows you to swim one-quarter of your speed as a move action or one-half your speed as a full-round action.


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 creature with a climb speed has a +8 racial bonus on all Athletics checks made to climb. The creature must make a Athletics check to climb any wall or slope with a DC higher than 0, but it can always choose to take 10, even if rushed or threatened while climbing. If a creature with a climb speed chooses an accelerated climb (see above), it moves at double its climb speed (or at its land speed, whichever is slower) and makes a single Athletics check at a –5 penalty. Such a creature retains its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (if any) while climbing, and opponents get no special bonus to their attacks against it. It cannot, however, use the run action while climbing.

A creature with a swim speed can move through water at its indicated speed without making Swim checks. It gains a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform a special action or avoid a hazard. The creature can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered when swimming. Such a creature can use the run action while swimming, provided that it swims in a straight line.

If you have the Athletic feat, you get a bonus on Athletics checks.