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An upcoming adventure will have the party exploring the depths of the ocean. Breathing underwater shouldn't be an issue for them, as there are both items and rituals to take care of that, however, I was wondering what to do about about pressure, since none of these options mention it. I'll have to split my question into two, since they are closely related.

  1. Is pressure an issue in 4e adventures? Is it mentioned in any of the published material? Has it been ruled anywhere that options that enable water breathing also grant immunity to pressure?

  2. Should it be an issue? This is somewhat subjective, but I really am wondering what other people have done. Would it be unresonable to assume that these options grant immunity to pressure? Should the players work to find another solution?

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Note that, in real life, if you're "breathing" water or something equivalently dense, you don't have to worry about crushing pressure either. That's why fish don't implode. (You do have de-compression concerns then, and there are respiratory strength/muscular issues with very dense breathing media, but if you're getting into biokinetics then you're far off the standard fantasy tropes already...) –  SevenSidedDie May 11 at 17:21

1 Answer 1

Water pressure appears to not exist in D&D 4e.

There are no rules for water pressure that I am aware of, though it is difficult to prove a negative. A search for the word "pressure" in the Online Compendium's Glossary category yields nothing, and that's where environmental rules would be. A flick through the Rules Compendium Chapter 5, Exploration and the Environment, also yields nothing.

4e isn't interested in simulating the physics involved here. That's not surprising, because it is universally uninterested in stuff like this.

There are rules for underwater combat, but without mention of depth, and there's rules for making endurance checks to not suffocate after several minutes underwater, but that doesn't really relate to body-crushing pressure. (Did you know the average PC can hold their breath for over three minutes?)

Guybrush – Gee, I don't know how much longer I can hold my breath.

Consider other challenges instead.

Since it doesn't exist, it also means there's basically nothing the players can do about it. There aren't features for mitigating concepts which don't exist.

You're asking if water breathing features should grant water pressure resistance: the answer is mu. There is no water pressure; there can be no water pressure resistance. If you want to introduce the concepts of water pressure and its resistance, the answer to this is up to you.

I haven't flung my players into the deep sea myself, so I can't advise you on how it'd play out, but given the complete absence of rules to assist you with this topic, I would suggest you find other better-supported challenges to offer the players.

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Somehow I think that there should be a link or image of guybrush threepwood on that holding breath for three minutes reference. But then again, I'm insane. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 11 at 9:40
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@BrianBallsun-Stanton happy to oblige –  Lohoris May 11 at 17:27

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