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In Pathfinder, How far does one sink after failing a swim check?

Can't seem to find any ruling on it. Do they sink deeper? If so is it based on how much they fail the swim check by? Or set amounts like 5,10,15 feet per fail? Or just Float just under the surface?

I know you move at 1/2 your speed as a fullround action. So to me, most characters move 15feet on a success, so failing wouldn't make sense to sink at the same speed of a character purposely swimming a certain direction in the same 6 seconds. Logically anyways. Perhaps encumberance / weight / materials of items worn effect buoyancy? (Seems like that would over complicate things though)

Anyone know if there is a certain Pathfinder ruling/book that expands on this? Or is it left completely up to the DM? Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

A swim check states:

Check: Make a Swim 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.

You only just go under the water, you don't sink. Imagine a large wave crashing over someone and them floundering under the water for a few seconds before coming back to the surface, that's a failed swim check. Obviously they only come back to the surface when they pass a swim check.

Someone would only sink if they were either unconscious or if they had a heavy load (although there are no rules on it as a house rule I add +10dc for medium encumbrance and automatic sink for heavy encumbrance).

Now as for how fast they would sink, this would depend on a lot of factors, such as the persons body mass, what they are wearing, total weight etc. So the average swimmer with no equipment carried and lungs full of air won't sink, they'll float. But if they're unconscious and have expelled most of that air, they may well sink but it wouldn't be very quickly. 5' a round seems about right. You will simply have to make a judgement call on a case by case basis.

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Medium and heavy encumberance apply “armor” check penalties, which apply to Swim checks. –  KRyan Feb 24 '14 at 1:56
So sinking from failed swim saves is not a rulebook rule, it would be more of a house rule then. It would be more RAW to just struggle under the surface of the water until you pass your swim check successfully. Then any sinking added then on would just be up to the DM's discretion? –  Jeff Feb 24 '14 at 2:04
@kryan can you point me to where that's in the rules please? Under skills the acp says it may be affected by encumbrance, but I've not seen an actual rule for it. –  Styphon Feb 24 '14 at 7:11
@jeff failing a swim check isn't meant to hurt the characters too badly. They can hold their breath underwater for CON rounds. The rules do say if doing anything more than a standard action remove one round from that, so you could house rule that as they weren't expecting to go under, and as they are struggling to get back to the surface, they only have half CON rounds until they start drowning. It's at that point you could say they start sinking if you like, or if they keep failing swim checks, for dramatic tension each failed check could have them slip under a little deeper. –  Styphon Feb 24 '14 at 7:13
@Styphon Table: Encumbrance Effects, with all the other encumbrance rules. –  KRyan Feb 24 '14 at 12:50

After failing a swim check by five or more, sinking is at the GM's discretion. Once you're underwater, drowning becomes a concern. You can keep trying to make swim checks which, if you pass, means you can take full-round or move actions to head back to the surface for a breath of air.

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