In my experience, whenever a character falls because of a pit trap or a botched climb check there is always at least one player that that tries to catch them. I can't seem to find any specific rulings to this.

I'm not the sort of GM that likes to say, 'no, you can't do that' so I at least let an adjacent player make a reflex save if they ask (using the same DC as the trap save seems like a good idea).

Then perhaps a Strength check to pull them up (or avoid being pulled in themselves).

Does anyone have an official rule to this, or at least a solid house rule that can be used consistently?


Edit I've done a bit of snooping around and found SRD rules for catching character whilst climbing, which covers part of my question.

Catching a Falling Character While Climbing

If someone climbing above you or adjacent to you falls, you can attempt to catch the falling character if he or she is within your reach. Doing so requires a successful melee touch attack against the falling character (though he or she can voluntarily forego any Dexterity bonus to AC if desired). If you hit, you must immediately attempt a Climb check (DC=wall’s DC + 10). Success indicates that you catch the falling character, but his or her total weight, including equipment, cannot exceed your heavy load limit or you automatically fall. If you fail your Climb check by 4 or less, you fail to stop the character’s fall but don’t lose your grip on the wall. If you fail by 5 or more, you fail to stop the character’s fall and begin falling as well.

It would make sense that catching a character who is falling into a pit would use a similar mechanic, though probably replacing the climb check with something else.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1: I just wanted to having asked this question myself. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 8:41
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I think you may have found the complete answer. It's OK on SE to post your own answer to your question, so I'd encourage you to go ahead and do that! \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to know how a character on the ground could catch someone who is falling on him (or at least avoid her some damage). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ For that, i'd play it like an 'assist other' bonus on the falling character's Tumble/Athletics check to reduce the falling damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Macona
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ To further confound the matter, how would one who is already in a pit catch an ally who is also falling into said pit? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 20:32

2 Answers 2


There's no official rule for this, but it's a common enough house rule. In D&D 3e (and AD&D) I allow them to make whatever check is situationally sensible to try to catch them, and then require a Strength check for them to not be pulled over as well. Some DMs seem to feel like it is being "too soft" on the players to give them a second chance, but in my experience, giving them a chance to catch their comrade with a house rule is not unbalancing at all. Because it's not unbalancing to give them a chance, the actual DCs and checks you use don't really matter for balance purposes either.

The implications of this house rule are actually rather interesting. It feels like giving the PCs a break, but it actually just ups the ante on the trap. Instead of having one character fall in on a bad roll, that bad roll triggers a double-or-nothing gamble: neither PC falls in, or both fall in. It's actually rougher on the PCs because the stakes are higher, and it makes it more likely that there won't be anyone at the top who can help them out of the pit.

Hilarity ensues when a third PC tries to stop the second one from being pulled in, and so on. I've had an entire party rope themselves together, forget to tie the rope to anything other than a PC, and all of them fall down a chute to a nastier level of the dungeon due to bad rolls.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're feeling even more "generous" (and by that I mean the opposite) state that attempting to save someone is an Immediate Action, which even if they're successful means they can't use a swift action on their next turn. </evil> \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos isn't that 4e specific? \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C. Ross - Which part? I'm channeling Pathfinder here, but Immediate Actions: d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/combat#TOC-Immediate-Actions \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos Immediate action? I don't remember that from 3.X, but I know they added swift in at the end of 3.5. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C. Ross - Edited, Pathfinder has em. Makes things like Feather Fall nice because it's an immediate action to cast. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 21:09

We have usually played with the house rule at DM discretion of a reflex save by an adjacent character to be able to try and catch someone who begins falling via a pit trap, or off the side of a ledge, followed by a melee touch attack and/or strength check. The DC is always up to the DM, but is usually moderately high. For two characters climbing a wall together, you do have that other rule you added in your edit.


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