Skills >

Swim (Str; Armor Check Penalty)

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You know how to swim and can do so even in stormy water.

Common Uses


Make a Swim check once per round while you are in the water. Success means you may swim at up to half your speed (as a full-round action) or at a quarter of your speed (as a move action). If you fail by 4 or less, you make no progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you go underwater.

If you are underwater, either because you failed a Swim check or because you are swimming underwater intentionally, you must hold your breath. You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to twice your Constitution score, but only if you do nothing other than take move actions or free actions. If you take a standard action or a full-round action (such as making an attack), the remainder of the duration for which you can hold your breath is reduced by 1 round. (Effectively, a character in combat can hold his breath only half as long as normal.) After that period of time, you must make a DC 10 Constitution check every round to continue holding your breath. Each round, the DC for that check increases by 1. If you fail the Constitution check, you begin to drown. The DC for the Swim check depends on the water, as given on the table below.

Water Swim DC
Calm water 10
Rough water 15
Stormy water 20*

* You can’t take 10 on a Swim check in stormy water, even if you aren’t otherwise being threatened or distracted.

Each hour that you swim, you must make a DC 20 Swim check or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage from fatigue.


A successful Swim check allows you to swim a quarter of your speed as a move action or half your speed as a full-round action.


  • Swim Speed A creature with a swim speed can move through water at its indicated speed without making Swim checks. It gains a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform a special action or avoid a hazard. The creature can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered when swimming. Such a creature can use the run action while swimming, provided that it swims in a straight line.
  • Feats If you have the Athletic feat, you get a +2 bonus on Swim skill checks. If you have 10 or more ranks in Swim, the bonus increases to +4.
  • Size The rules for familiars say “Small animals like these use Dexterity to modify Climb and Swim checks.” Note however, that not all familiars are size Small. For example, bats are size Diminutive and cats are size Tiny. Therefore our guess is that the sentence, “Small animals like these…” isn’t referring specifically to size “Small” but instead to creatures size Tiny or smaller (note though that not even all creatures size Tiny or smaller appear to have this applied to their skills.)

Swim Unchained

Source PFU

About This Section Optionally, a character who reaches 5, 10, 15, or 20 ranks in a skill unlocks various bonuses and abilities unique to that skill. The unchained rogue uses these rules extensively, but others can gain access to them with a new feat.

In this system, characters unlock additional abilities when they attain 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. The skill unlocks system interfaces with the unchained rogue to make the rogue the true master of skills.

Skill unlocks give characters new abilities and ways to use their skills upon reaching 5, 10, 15, and 20 ranks in a skill. Any character with the Signature Skill feat can earn skill unlocks for a single skill, and they are a prime feature of the revised version of the rogue who uses her rogue’s edge ability to gain skill unlocks for several of her most iconic skills. Alternatively, you might make skill unlocks a universal part of the game, but you should be aware they add significant power and flexibility to skills, so giving them for free to all classes would grant power boosts to other highly skilled classes such as the investigator and bard, particularly in comparison to the rogue. Another alternative is to eliminate access to the Signature Skill feat, limiting skill unlocks to rogues and rogues alone.

With sufficient ranks in Swim, you earn the following.

5 Ranks: You gain a swim speed of 10 feet, but only in water with a Swim DC of 15 or lower.

10 Ranks: You gain a swim speed (though you do not gain the +8 racial bonus on Swim checks) equal to your base speed in water with a Swim DC of 15 or lower, or 10 feet in all other water.

15 Ranks: You ignore the penalties for using slashing or bludgeoning weapons underwater, as freedom of movement.

20 Ranks: You gain a swim speed equal to your base speed in all water. If you have both hands free, you gain a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks.


Should all Tiny creatures use Dex instead of Str for Climb and Swim skill checks, or is that just for familiars?

Any creature of Tiny or smaller size should use its Dex modifier instead of its Str modifier for Climb and Swim checks.


FastPlay Rules
See this skill in FastPlay format.
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.