Is it possible to walk on say the sandy floor of a shallow body of water instead of having to make swim checks?

I ask as a DM with a new player starting and playing a warforged with adamantine body (-5 to swim) but as he does not need to breathe he could be underwater indefinitely...

I am just wondering if swim is used to move forward in water when you are unable to touch the floor and are suspended in water or if it applies to any kind of movement underwater.


Yes, your Warforged player can walk along the bottom of the lake without making Swim checks - there's a whole terrain description for that.

In the Underwater Combat section of the terrain description, there's a table which specifies that a creature with "Firm footing" can move at half speed even without a Swim check.

Firm footing:

Creatures have firm footing when walking along the bottom, braced against a ship’s hull, or the like. A creature can only walk along the bottom if it wears or carries enough gear to weigh itself down—at least 16 pounds for Medium creatures...

A warforged's plating is probably enough to qualify as "enough gear to weigh itself down" (especially the Adamantine plating,due to the Swim penalty, though that's a GM call; either way, keep it consistent!), and my experience says that, aside from the odd monk, most medium characters have 16+ pounds of "stuff" on them while they're adventuring.

Note that, while the warforged would be able to walk indefinitely, it is entirely possible that they will get lost without some method of avoiding that fate (including just being able to see their destination, too).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget that mud, silt, and sometimes sand will not provide a firm footing... and sinking into the ocean bottom equivalent of quicksand would make for a very long sojourn. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Aug 8 '17 at 1:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko: Interesting, I suppose that once firmly ensconced into the mud, the Warforged would then find its equilibrium, and would then have to swim in the mud :) \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Aug 8 '17 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that, by the time those rules come into play, either the warforged is "not dead, but no longer a viable character due to being lost at the bottom of the ocean" or the sole survivor, who can form a new party "a hundred years later" to finish the plot. \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Aug 8 '17 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @minnmass And by that time, there'll be some cloaked and hooded guys waving their hands and saying, "These are not the warforged you are looking for..." ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Aug 9 '17 at 3:53

As the DM, I'd say you have the final say.

Now, for a concrete point of view, imagine you were to tie weights to yourself so that you sink to the bottom. Yes, you wouldn't be swimming, however, because of water resistance you would not be moving like you do outside of water. You'll probably use your hands to help move yourself along.

With that in mind, I would give any player serious penalties to movement. You might want to do one or two swim checks as they move, and if they fail badly enough they become unbalanced and struggle. Maybe have the player's character trip?


firm footing allow you to move 1/2 speed instead 1/4 underwater, not allow you to skip swim check.

It remains the rule

Lakes and oceans simply require a swim speed or successful Swim checks to move through (DC 10 in calm water, DC 15 in rough water, DC 20 in stormy water).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. I think it's possible to read this this way, but Table 3–22: Combat Adjustments Underwater (DMG 92) seems to tacitly disagree, saying that a successful Swim skill check allows moving half or a quarter speed while a separate entry for firm footing allow moving half speed. Also, Stormwrack on Floors says, "Floors usually don’t matter much in submerged dungeons or water-filled chambers, simply because many characters… are swimming instead of walking" (21), implying the modes are different. Can these be reconciled? Anyway, thank you and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 30 '17 at 15:20

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