This is similar to this question on fire damage underwater but a little broader. How do other energy types work underwater? I'm plumbing through the underwater level of Castle Whiterock and my kineticist Psion is mowing through the opposition with energy cone/energy missile. Due to the kineticist abilities I can change the energy type between fire/cold/electricity/sonic easily so the question quickly became: "What effects does being underwater have for each energy type?"

My DM house-ruled the effects for different energies but I was wondering if either Pathfinder or D&D 3x had specific rulings for each type.


2 Answers 2


In D&D 3.5, if a character is swimming, floating, or underwater, it affects stealth, AC, attacks, damage, and movement. Being underwater also affects fire-based spells and spell-like effects (as you mentioned). There is no mention in the DMG of effects on other energy types (DMG p. 93). The other combat effects are listed in Table #3-22.

In Pathfinder, the rules for making attacks and impacting AC differ from 3.5 (see Pathfinder Core p.432). Spells with the [Fire] descriptor require a caster level check (DC 20+spell level) to cast; supernatural fire effects are ineffective unless the spell says otherwise, and the surface blocks line of effect. In addition, a creature that cannot breathe water must make a concentration check (DC15+spell level) to cast any spell underwater. "Some spells might function differently underwater, subject to GM discretion."

So, the short answer is, "no, there isn't" - at least not in the core rules.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 That's true of Pathfinder as well, AFAIK, but I'd personally house-rule electricity effects to work differently underwater...because, well, they would. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jun 22, 2011 at 14:40
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Adding physics to a fantasy game? Madness :) \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Jun 22, 2011 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea, we kinda half followed physics in the game. Sonic did 1.5 times damage but electricity/cold act normally. Fire didn't work at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – mirv120
    Jun 22, 2011 at 16:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mirv120 sound travels farther while underwater, but needs more energy to do so. At best, it should have done less damage than normal. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Feb 6, 2019 at 15:19

Each energy type has different effects while underwater. Originally, it was GM Fiat, but since the release of Aquatic Adventures, we got official rules about each energy type.

Acid spells from the Conjuration school does not work underwater at all (like Acid Arrow), but Evocation spells work normally (like Dragon Breath or an acid fireball).

Cold spells that simply deal cold damage, but does not create ice, will deal half cold damage and half piercing damage, due to the cold creating ice shards underwater. Spells that create ice will work normally.

Electricity spells will not disperse nor conduct (unlike mundane electricity). They also will look invisible underwater, so any target who fails to identify an electricity spell being cast will be flat-footed against ranged touch attacks caused by the spell. But melee touch attacks work normally.

Fire spells have a chance to become steam, instead of not working at all underwater. This requires a caster level check (DC 20 + spell level). The steam will deal fire damage normally, but has no chance of setting things on fire, nor it will extend beyond the water body (so a fireball couldnt hit targets outside of the water). There is no check required if you got the Steam Spell feat.

Sonic spells work the same. But at GM's discretion, the caster may double the range or area, halve the damage and decrease the spell's DC by 2 instead of the normal effects.

Those aren't really energy spells, but for completeness, they are also listed here:

Cloud and Weather spells, like fogs, will not work underwater. Except those affected by the Murky Spell feat. Spells like Sleep Storm or Ice Storm will not work underwater. But Twilight Haze, being an illusion, works normally.

Invisibility spells will work underwater, but the water is displaced. Meaning that anyone can still locate the creature, but they still benefit from total concealment. The Invisibility Bubble spell will not displace the water.


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