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Just realized that in DMing 5e I have unconsciously used a falling-in-water rule-of-thumb that I inherited from somewhere (maybe 2e or AD&D or maybe even Pathfinder). The ruling I've been using is as follows:

  • No damage for 20 feet of falling.
  • Half-damage next 20 feet.
  • Normal damage beyond that.

Realizing there should be a Strength (Athletics) for "swimming" (in context, "diving") to take even less damage with a proper dive in sufficiently deep water, I started to look for specifics on that. Am I just missing it somewhere? (Also didn't find it searching this stack.)

Are there clear 5e rules for both jumping and diving in water of various depths?

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There are no core rules for falling or diving into water

Right now, this is an area the rules don't touch on at all. It is left completely to the DM.

The only rules listed in any of the rule books for falling in any medium is the basic rule in the PHB and the optional rules for flying creatures and falling from great heights in XGE. Other than that, nothing else is mentioned about water or otherwise.

Jeremy Crawford (prior to the release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) confirms this and offers up a personal house rule in this tweet:

There's no official rule for falling into water. As DM, halving the falling damage is what I typically do.

As of November 2020, there is now a falling rule in a supplemental book

In Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (p 170) it says:

A creature that falls into water or another liquid can use its reaction to make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to hit the surface head or feet first. On a successful check, any damage resulting from the fall is halved.

As with the majority of non-core rules, it is entirely up to the DM if and whether to include it.

Please see this answer for more details.

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Originally, falling was falling

The rules on falling(Basic Rules, Chapter 8) don't specify differences of what you land on.

A fall from a great height is one of the most common hazards facing an adventurer. At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6. The creature lands prone, unless it avoids taking damage from the fall.

Falling into water is no different than falling on land with regard to the rules. I'm not a fan of bringing real world physics into answers, but water not being compressible along with surface tension make falling onto water from great heights still quite dangerous.

And it still is, but there is an optional rule to consider

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything(page 170) includes an optional rule a table can incorporate for handling falling into water:

A creature that falls into water or another liquid can use its reaction to make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to hit the surface head or feet first. On a successful check, any damage resulting from the fall is halved.

Whether or not this rule becomes an active table rule will be up to the DM and the table.

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There are now rules for falling into water.

With the release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, we received rules for this specifically among other things, although this does not account for diving at various depths (or the depth of the body of water into which one might be falling into).

To quote the relevat ruling on page 170 of TCoE:

A creature that falls into water or another liquid can use its reaction to make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to hit the surface head or feet first. On a successful check, any damage resulting from the fall is halved.


As a footnote: this rule is optional. In spite of it appearing in an officially published expansion book, it is not featured in one of the three core rulebooks.

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I'll give my two cents worth.

In the event that there is no system, I would allow the falling character to have a Dexterity check to ensure that they fall into the water "correctly" i.e. proper dive form or feet first. If the character fails, depending on the degree of failure, they could end up dissorientated for a round in the water, or suffer from some damage if the did a really big belly-flop. For a bas / critical fail (and you hate the player) you could have them winded as well. Mwahahaha

Now to the question at hand, what is the difference between falling intentionally, and dropping. Well, if the character is being pushed, or made to fall into the water, then the above Dex check would be at a negative. If they intend to jump into the water, they gain a bonus. (If they have a good swimming skill, or aquatic background, or anything similar, they get another GM made up bonus)

Regarding the depth of falling into the depth of water. The high board at my local pool when I was a kid was 10 metres tall and the water was 3 metres deep (scared the poop out of me - unrelated).

The Highest dive in history was 60 metres, and this guy had serious skill. Anything higher than that withough magical protection, I would just roll the falling damage. That is like hitting concrete.

Hope This helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to our stack! Please take the tour to learn more about how we operate and you can also visit the help center for more information. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 25 '20 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ We are a bit different than traditional forums in that opinions aren't what answers should really be about. If you have tried these rules out and can talk about the pros and cons of their use at your table, that would back up your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 25 '20 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry for breaking the rules :( \$\endgroup\$ – EdCase Nov 26 '20 at 10:25

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