There are creatures, such as the hunter shark, which has a 40-foot swim speed and a 0-foot "normal/walking" speed; it's longest range attack is 5 feet. Does this mean you could (by some means) drag this creature onto land, and then stab it with a reach weapon?

To me this is just somewhat of a disconnect (though I know 5e is not simulationist) since a creature with only a "walking/normal" speed can swim through the water but a creature with only a swim speed cannot walk on land.

If you'd like a creature that can more reasonably survive on land there is the dolphin and the ixitxachitl, which can breathe even on land.

Can a creature with only a swim speed even move while on land?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ They may have a flopping speed. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2019 at 10:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @gburton magikarp used splash \$\endgroup\$
    – Yates
    Dec 11, 2019 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it was on land how did it manage this??? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2019 at 14:49
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is easy to demonstrate in real life. Get a fish. Put it on land. Watch. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2019 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neutral evil science. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 11, 2019 at 17:21

3 Answers 3


No, they can't

The base speed refers to the land speed of any creature, and a speed of 0 means they can't move on land. This is further reinforced in the Monster Manual section on speeds (p. 8):

All creatures have a walking speed, simply called the monster's speed. Creatures that have no form of ground-based locomotion have a walking speed of 0 feet.



A creature's standard movement speed is its movement on land (the default). The Swim speed is specifically for underwater (movement rules and pg 8 of the Monster Manual).

If both are specified then the creature is able to move on land but is also at home in the water. In this case I would expect a listed Swim speed to be greater than half its normal movement, otherwise there wouldn't be much point.

If a creature has no movement listed then its default movement (on land) would be 0, though a DM may determine it can flop about a bit.

You are right that there isn't a rule the other way around (stating that creatures with only a Swim speed can move at half-movement on land). But this a realistic "disconnect" and pretty much as per real life. I have a walking speed and I can also swim (badly) as many land creatures can. My goldfish has a swim speed but would certainly not be able to move on land!

An entirely aquatic creature would also not be able to breathe on land and would suffocate as per the suffocation rules (which do apply either way around). Some creatures can breathe both water and air, and these are pointed out in the Monster descriptions.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ ", otherwise there wouldn't be much point." -> having a listed swim speed negates the penalties for fighting underwater, so there is certainly usefulness to having one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 11, 2019 at 8:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Noting the "flop about a bit", the GM should be able to apply this reasonably intelligently. Small fish can't exactly move on land, but they can flick themselves around in the hope of getting back in the water, albeit without any control over where they go. OTOH dolphins and anything larger are basically screwed. Turtles can travel in the direction they choose, but their movement rate is single-digit centimetres per minute so it's essentially zero from a practical level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Dec 11, 2019 at 13:26

I gave it a little thought and decided that the rules do offer something for this: crawling. I would take a fish (or any other aquatic creature limited to only swim speed) out of water as being prone, moving only 5' as a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity and receiving all the penalties from being prone. And as mentioned above, there is the suffocating part to take into account as well. Unless they are undead fish, which would make for a unique encounter.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi mogrii, welcome to RPG.SE. Have you tried this house-rule? Answers are generally better received when they have support either from the rules or from experience (or both). \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Mar 27, 2021 at 3:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .