My PC is running down a hallway. She comes across a section that is blocked by beer barrels (3' tall, 2' round). She finds a place where the blockade is only one barrel deep.

She asks for an Acrobatics check to "vault over the barrel". She has at least a 10' running start. What should the DC be?

The floor is wood and level other than these barrels. The ceiling is 10' high. She has nothing in her hands at the moment (so she can use her hands to assist w/ the vault).

Given that the hurdle is 2 feet wide as well as 3 feet tall, the rules for just high jumping do not seem to me to be accurate to me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just FYI unless it is a modern setting if it is 3ft tall and 2ft around its a barrel not a keg, kegs are much smaller, usually under 15 gallons or less. Your barrel is several times that. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Jun 27, 2019 at 17:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @John Keg for a giant? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2019 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


DC 6

To get this number I added: DC For high jumping 1 ft (see reasoning below) + DC for long jumping 2 ft = 4 + 2 = 6

I wasn't sure how "vaulting" should impact the DC, or whether an additional penalty (beyond adding DCs) should be introduced because the PC is trying to jump both vertically and horizontally, so you might fudge it a little one way or another, but I would be inclined to make the final DC lower, not higher (I personally think adding DCs is good enough, and think use of the hands should lower it to DC 4 or so).

Why not use High Jump rules for a height of 3 feet?

I think it's a mistake to treat this as a High jump of 3 feet.

The rules say that "A high jump is a vertical leap made to reach a ledge high above or to grasp something overhead."

Real life experience shows that "getting over something 3 feet tall" and "jumping 3 feet up" are (very) different difficulty tasks. After looking at some real world examples of jumps in this range, I think the high jump rules make sense for the latter, and the former should be handled by first calculating (or guestimating) how high the PC actually needs to raise their Center of Mass (COM) and then using the High Jump rules for that.

In real life

College students use hurdles that are 42 inches tall, and many (non hurdle specialist) members of said track team could clear a series of these hurdles with only a few minutes of instruction and practice (doing it quickly and efficiently is another matter). I struggled to find hard numbers on how high they jump, but this site claims that a top US women's hurdler only raises her COM by 11 inches when she clears a 32 inch hurdle.

For contrast the NBA draft has a "max vertical jump" component which allows an (admittedly small) run-up and is measured by how much higher an athlete can touch the tips of their fingers compared to when they are standing flat on the ground. The highest this year was 43 inches, and only 2 NBA draftees (which is a much more selective group than college track in general) cleared 42". See NBA site for more information

Clearly, these are two very different things (my personal experience in track and field with long jump, high jump, and hurdles supports this as well).

Mediocre high school athletes (like myself) who can guarantee clearing 39" hurdles are not on the same level as PCs who can guarantee passing a DC 12+ Acrobatics check in Pathfinder (and anyways, it just doesn't seem reasonable that jumping over a 1 ft obstacle would have any chance of failure for any reasonable person, even DC 4 seems excessive for that).

Back to the Game

Thus, I would rule that High jump applies to raising your COM by X feet.

You only have to raise your COM by ~1 ft (DC 4) to clear a 36 inch obstacle, two feet is barely a legitimate long jump, but we'll count it anyways (DC 2). I'm not sure whether adding the DCs is the best way to handle trying to jump both vertically and horizontally at once, but even if you add a further penalty I think being able to use your hands to assist in a vault should offset that.

Why add DCs for Jumps with a vertical and horizontal component?

Caveat: This is the part of my answer I'm least confident in, and would welcome any corrections or suggestions on how to combine DCs that's backed by at the table experience: the main thrust of my answer is to encourage DMs to treat "clearing X ft obstacle" differently from "Jump up X ft" for the vertical component of the jump, I only chose a method for combining DCs because it was necessary to arrive at a complete final answer. I think this is necessary even though other answers currently ignore the horizontal component because in the other answers the DC of the horizontal component (2) is very small compared the DC of the vertical (12) and can be somewhat safely ignored. In my answer the horizontal component (DC2) is half the DC of the vertical component (DC4), which feels wrong to fully ignore. My reasoning for adding them follows:

Reasoning: The rules don't say what to do. Looking at all the simple rulings we could make (to keep the game fast and not turn it into a physics simulator), the others have obvious flaws.

  • Max of DCs Taking the higher of the two DCs and ignoring the lower ignores an important component of the difficulty (no extra difficulty at all for jumping up 4 ft if you long jump 20 ft?)
  • Multiplying DCs Multiplying the DCs leads to very high DCs very quickly and doesn't pass basic sanity checks when applying it to real world situations (you naturally raise your COM on any jump. A long jump of 20 ft will definitely cause your COM to raise by 1 ft, but under multiplication rules a 20 ft long jump with a 1 ft vertical component would be DC 20 * DC 4 = DC 80 -- an impossible task).
  • Separate Rolls Making two separate rolls (one for the vertical component to see if they get the height required and one for the horizontal component to see if they get distance required) is the other option I considered most heavily. I rejected it after considering the following case: if a PC has a bonus of 19 to his Acrobatics rolls, he's guaranteed to be able to high jump 5 feet, or long jump 20 feet, but only just barely. He would not be able to guarantee a long jump of 21 feet, but he would be able to guarantee a long jump of 20 feet while also jumping up 5 feet which seems fishy.
  • Adding DCs Adding DCs is the simplest method of combining the DCs that makes reasonable DCs for realistic situations I have a good intuition for (in the range where the PC is high jumping 0-5 ft and long jumping 0-20ft). As noted in the multiplication section, in reality anyone long jumping 20ft (DC 20) will definitely raise their COM 1 ft as well (DC 4), so one could argue the final DC should remain 20, not 24, but it's A) less broken than the other simple options and B) a small enough margin of error that I wouldn't complicate the rules with exceptions or fancier math to try to eliminate it (play speed is important too).

One thing all of these methods have in common is that they produce a DC <=10 for your PC in this situation, even before considering the fact the PC used their hands to "Vault" the barrel:

  • Max of DCs: Max(DC4, DC2) = DC4
  • Multiply DCs: DC4 * DC2 = DC8
  • Separate Rolls: DC4 (without bonuses) = 85% of success; DC2 (without bonuses) = 95% chance of success, overall chance of success ~80% = DC5
  • Adding DCs: DC4 + DC2 = DC 6

Regardless of how you choose to combine the DCs, in this particular case the DC should not be greater than 8.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you expand on your reasoning on why the DCs should be added together, rather than some other form of combination? That's the only thing holding me back from accepting the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoshuaD
    Jun 28, 2019 at 1:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaD I've added my reasoning to the bottom. Please let me know if that clarifies things \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2019 at 11:26

The base DC to make a high jump of 3 feet (with a running start) is 12, according to the description of the Acrobatics skill in the Core Rulebook:

The base DC to make a jump is equal to the distance to be crossed (if horizontal) or four times the height to be reached (if vertical). These DCs double if you do not have at least 10 feet of space to get a running start. The only Acrobatics modifiers that apply are those concerning the surface you are jumping from.

This could be modified by other factors, such as whether the floor is wet or obstructed in some other way.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The player rolled exactly a 12. The difficulty I have in interpreting the rules is that it's both a high jump and a distance jump. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoshuaD
    Jun 27, 2019 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is accurate but incomplete. That is the DC for jumping as high as the keg is tall, but the PC also needs to clear the space the keg occupies. In other words, the PC must jump so that he's in the air for a number of ft. equal to keg's depth. and stay at least 3 ft. up the whole time. (I deleted my answer because I couldn't quickly (and, to be honest, probably ever) do that math. :-)) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2019 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaD To be honest, I just find the horizontal distance pretty irrelevant in this situation. If they failed a roll to leap horizontally over a pit or chasm a character would fall, but leaping over a solid object like a barrel they would just land on top of it, which shouldn't prevent them from continuing their movement. If you felt like making it harder you could certainly rule that it's unstable or fragile and have them tip it over or fall through, but by default I would assume a full cask is sturdy enough to stand on briefly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kyle Doyle
    Jun 27, 2019 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ If that's how you're imagining this taking place then the rules that should be used are those for hop up, also in the description of the Acrobatics skill. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2019 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ But vault does not mean jump over without touching. It means to vault over and use your hands on the top. Which should mean the difficulty is lower than a full clearance jump. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2019 at 18:08

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