In the wild, one cannot count on a handy bridge or access to boats when the need to cross a river arises. While magic such as fly or water walk can aid in the crossing of a river, at other times the traveler has no choice but to attempt to swim, unless the river is shallow enough to cross by wading. Fording a river in this way can be dangerous, especially when mounts or vehicles are involved.
When wading through moving water, a creature must succeed at a Strength check each round to avoid losing its footing and being dragged along by the current. The DC for this check depends on the relative depth of the water and the speed of the current, as outlined on the table below. Deeper water usually has a higher CR, as determined by the GM.
|Condition||Strength Check DC|
|Water is knee deep||5|
|Water is waist deep||10|
|Water is chest deep||15|
|Water is deeper than creature is tall||20|
|Per 10 feet/round of current’s speed||+2|
Attempting to ford a river with a vehicle is similarly difficult, but the vehicle’s driver must attempt a Profession (driver) check rather than a Strength check. Unless the vehicle was specifically designed to be able to travel in water, the driver takes a –5 penalty on this check. If the vehicle is being pulled by one or more creatures, each of those creatures must also succeed at a Strength check to avoid losing its footing, and failure by any creature pulling the vehicle also causes the vehicle to be carried along by the current.
A creature that gets carried along in this way is forced to swim in the water and is moved by the water’s current at the start of its turn each round, as per the normal rules for swimming in flowing water. As long as the creature remains in an area of water where it can reach the bottom, it can attempt a Strength check to catch itself as a full-round action (DC = the normal DC + 5). If a vehicle is carried along by the current, it moves downstream the appropriate distance each round based on the current’s speed, and unless it was specifically designed to be able to travel in water, it takes 4d6 points of damage each round it remains adrift in this fashion.
Some bodies of flowing water are rife with large rocks, logs, and other debris that can prove dangerous to those pulled into the current. In such conditions, a creature or vehicle being moved by the current at a rate of 60 feet per round or more takes 2d6 points of bludgeoning damage per round from such obstacles, plus an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10 feet beyond 60 that the current moves per round.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Alexander Augunas, John Bennett, Robert Brookes, John Compton, Dan Dillon, Steven T. Helt, Thurston Hillman, Eric Hindley, Mikko Kallio, Jason Keeley, Isabelle Lee, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Alex Riggs, David N. Ross, David Schwartz, Mark Seifter, Jeffery Swank, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.