I know you don't take penalties to attack/damage with any type of weapon, but I'm actually looking at movement and the like.

Are you able to swim freely, by choice? Do you ignore currents? Do you ignore the fact that water is there and simply fall?


2 Answers 2


The Aquatic Adventures campaign setting addresses several new rules for water environments, shows tips to survive underwater and how things works in different situations that is not covered by the core rulebook.

Freedom of Movement

Here are some new rules and clarifications for Freedom of Movement in the book:

In addition to preventing a character from being grappled and several other nasty conditions, freedom of movement enables the target to move and attack normally while underwater. Thus, a creature benefitting from freedom of movement can swing weapons without penalties (though objects that leave its possession, like thrown weapons or ammo from ranged weapons, lose this benefit), lift objects without drag, and walk along the bottom at full speed. The creature automatically succeeds at all Swim checks as the water offers no significant resistance to its movement. If the creature has the ability to do so, it can fly or use spells like air walk to freely move around as if it were in air. Creatures who need just the movement benefits from freedom of movement without the benefits against grapple, paralysis, and magic effects that hinder movement should consider the lower-level spell free swim on page 59.

So, on top of avoiding the weapon penalties for being underwater, you can also ignore some of the underwater mechanics, like swim checks to remain in place and not be pushed away by the water currents.


Most aquatic creatures are adapted to survive a certain pressure threshold, but non-aquatic creatures do not have such defenses, and thus, they take pressure damage. This is reflected as 1d6 damage per minute under 100 feet underwater, and an additional 1d6 for every 100 feet after that. The DC to avoid this damage is 15 plus 1 per minute after the first. Depending on the native range of each creature, sudden changes could also result in pressure damage.

For instance, if Valeros swims down 220 feet, he is 120 feet outside his native range of 0 to 100 feet, so he needs to attempt a Fortitude save every minute to avoid taking 2d6 points of damage. If he succeeds at five Fortitude saves, his native range shifts to 100–200 feet, and he must attempt Fortitude saves to avoid taking 1d6 points of damage each minute. After five more successful Fortitude saves, his native range is now 200–300 feet, and he takes no further damage from pressure, but if he ascends back to the surface, he must resume attempting Fortitude saves to avoid taking 2d6 points of damage from the reversing pressure.


Spells like freedom of movement and life bubble prevent pressure damage. Pressure adaptation and stabilize pressure on page 61 are more focused and lower-level options.

Freedom of Movement avoids this damage completely.

Currents and running water

Water sometimes is not static, its moving and characters swimming are being moved by water currents. Oceans and rivers work similarly in this matter, meaning that characters have to always make a Swim check with a DC based on the current strength, as described on the Swim skill. With a caveat, oceans are always at least rough water (DC 15), and faster ocean currents count at least as stormy water (DC 20).

Freedom of Movement removes the necessity of this check.

Off-balance and prone underwater

Yes, the core rulebook says that neither flying nor swimming creatures can drop prone. However, aquatic and swimming creatures can go off-balance when underwater, which works similarly to the prone condition: opponents gain +2 to all attacks against it and all attacks it makes take a -2 penalty using piercing weapons and cause half damage.

But how a creature becomes off-balance? By failing Swim checks. A trip attempt against a creature underwater forces them to make a Swim check with a DC equal to the result of the maneuver, and if they fail, they go off-balance. Many aquatic creatures can't be tripped, and can take 10 on swim checks, so this is hardly a problem to most of them. They can return their balance by making another swim check on their turn.

Freedom of Movement allows you to automatically keep your balance.


This is the last, I promise. Basically buyoancy makes a creature go up or down when swimming. Whenever they fail a DC check by 5 or more, or when they do not spend any actions to swim, the creature either rises or sinks due to buoyancy. It has three normal states: sinking, rising and neutral.

Land creatures usually have a sinking buoyancy, unless they are carrying a substantial amount of low-density gear (like many wooden items) and little or no high-density gear (items made of metal or stone). The book presents air tanks and gear that can change your buoyancy on demand.

Buoyancy also has two extreme states: swiftly sinking and swiftly raising. If they are swiftly sinking, their carried gear is so dense that they can walk at the bottom of the body of water, and must make a DC 20 check to stay off the bottom. If they are swiftly raising, they must make a DC 20 Swim check to stay submerged, or they will move to the surface of the body of water.

The speed of this buoyancy-based movement depends on your Swim checks. Whenever you fail (or do not make) a Swim check, you move up or down 10 feet, and every turn after the first that you do not attempt to fix that, the speed increases by another 10 feet to a maximum of 30 feet per round after 3 rounds. When swiftly sinking or swiftly rising, a failure means you immediately move 30 feet in that direction. Also, while moving like this, the creature is considered off-balance.

When moving against your buoyancy, your movement is hindered, much like a flying creature flying upwards. As such, each 5 feet of movement in the opposite direction of your buoyancy costs you 10 feet of your movement.

Freedom of Movement allows you to automatically keep your buoyancy controlled.


As a rule, spells do precisely what they say they do. No more. There are no secret rules or secret effects. If there is a special condition surrounding a spell (such as using lightning or fire spells underwater), then that will be explicitly spelled out, such as in an Underwater Combat Adjustments section such as the one here, on the SRD.

The spell says:

The spell also allows the subject to move and attack normally while underwater, even with slashing weapons such as axes and swords or with bludgeoning weapons such as flails, hammers, and maces, provided that the weapon is wielded in the hand rather than hurled.

Normally, while swimming...

A successful Swim check lets a creature move one-quarter its speed as a move action or one-half its speed as a full-round action.


Melee Attacks made with non-piercing weapons are made with a -2 to your attack roll, and deal half damage.

Freedom of Movement removes both of these penalties. It does not render you immune to currents any more than it renders you immune to other forms of forced movement (if an ogre Shoves you while you're under the effect of FoM, you still get shoved). Neither does Freedom of Movement cause you to ignore the existence of water and just plummet through it.

There is one further clarification made with how Freedom of Movement interacts with what, in that it removes penalties made to attacks made between one individual in the water, and another on land.

Characters swimming, floating, or treading water on the surface, or wading in water at least chest deep, have improved cover (+8 bonus to AC, +4 bonus on Reflex saves) from opponents on land. Land-bound opponents who have freedom of movement effects ignore this cover when making melee attacks against targets in the water. A completely submerged creature has total cover against opponents on land unless those opponents have freedom of movement effects.

You can swim at your full Speed, and you can make Weapon Attacks unhindered. That is all the spell does with regard to being underwater. If it did anything else, it would say so--either in the spell description itself, or in a section describing Underwater Combat. Which it does not, in any book I could find, or in the SRD.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If it did anything else, it would say so. Yes, however, you are looking only at the spell, and not at everything that could affect the spell behavior. It is known that some spells do not behave like their spell effects described when underwater, and that is not described under the spell effects, but in clarifications published on later books. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to show an example: "magical electricity spells hold their integrity enough to have normal effects underwater, with one exception: visible and audible lightning bolts and sparks are the result of combusted air, and they don’t happen underwater. Because of this, creatures that fail to identify an electricity spell that requires a ranged touch attack are flat-footed against the first such ranged touch attack during a fight, as they don’t realize they need to dodge the invisible projectile" (Aquatic Adventures, p. 46) \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras True. However, I also reviewed the sections on Aquatic Terrain and Combat Adjustments for fighting underwater. And none of those had any adjustments either. I'll addend the answer to reflect this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 20:16

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