Undergrowth: Whether they’re crops or natural vegetation, the tall grasses of the plains function like light undergrowth in a forest. Particularly thick bushes form patches of heavy undergrowth that dot the landscape in grasslands.
Light Rubble: On the battlefield, light rubble usually represents something that was destroyed: the ruins of a building or the scattered remnants of a stone wall, for example. It functions as described in the desert terrain section above.
Trench: Often dug before a battle to protect soldiers, a trench functions as a low wall, except that it provides no cover against adjacent foes. It costs 2 squares of movement to leave a trench, but it costs nothing extra to enter one. Creatures outside a trench who make a melee attack against a creature inside the trench gain a +1 bonus on melee attacks because they have higher ground. In farm terrain, trenches are generally irrigation ditches.
Berm: A common defensive structure, a berm is a low, earthen wall that slows movement and provides a measure of cover. Put a berm on the map by drawing two adjacent rows of steep slope (described in Hills Terrain, above), with the edges of the berm on the downhill side. Thus, a character crossing a two-square berm will travel uphill for 1 square, then downhill for 1 square. Two square berms provide cover as low walls for anyone standing behind them. Larger berms provide the low wall benefit for anyone standing 1 square downhill from the top of the berm.
Fences: Wooden fences are generally used to contain livestock or impede oncoming soldiers. It costs an extra square of movement to cross a wooden fence. A stone fence provides a measure of cover as well, functioning as low walls. Mounted characters can cross a fence without slowing their movement if they succeed on a DC 15 Ride check. If the check fails, the steed crosses the fence, but the rider falls out of the saddle.
Other Plains Terrain Features: Occasional trees dot the landscape in many plains, although on battlefields they’re often felled to provide raw material for siege engines (described in Urban Features). Hedgerows (described in Marsh Terrain) are found in plains as well. Streams, generally 5 to 20 feet wide and 5 to 10 feet deep, are commonplace.
Stealth and Detection in Plains: In plains terrain, the maximum distance at which a Spot check for detecting the nearby presence of others can succeed is 6d6×40 feet, although the specifics of your map may restrict line of sight. Plains terrain provides no bonuses or penalties on Listen and Spot checks. Cover and concealment are not uncommon, so a good place of refuge is often nearby, if not right at hand.
Aquatic terrain is the least hospitable to most PCs, because they can’t breathe there. Aquatic terrain doesn’t offer the variety that land terrain does. The ocean floor holds many marvels, including undersea analogues of any of the terrain elements described earlier in this section. But if characters find themselves in the water because they were bull rushed off the deck of a pirate ship, the tall kelp beds hundreds of feet below them don’t matter. Accordingly, these rules simply divide aquatic terrain into two categories: flowing water (such as streams and rivers) and nonflowing water (such as lakes and oceans).
Flowing Water: Large, placid rivers move at only a few miles per hour, so they function as still water for most purposes. But some rivers and streams are swifter; anything floating in them moves downstream at a speed of 10 to 40 feet per round. The fastest rapids send swimmers bobbing downstream at 60 to 90 feet per round. Fast rivers are always at least rough water (Swim DC 15), and whitewater rapids are stormy water (Swim DC 20). If a character is in moving water, move her downstream the indicated distance at the end of her turn. A character trying to maintain her position relative to the riverbank can spend some or all of her turn swimming upstream.
Swept Away: Characters swept away by a river moving 60 feet per round or faster must make DC 20 Swim checks every round to avoid going under. If a character gets a check result of 5 or more over the minimum necessary, he arrests his motion by catching a rock, tree limb, or bottom snag—he is no longer being carried along by the flow of the water. Escaping the rapids by reaching the bank requires three DC 20 Swim checks in a row. Characters arrested by a rock, limb, or snag can’t escape under their own power unless they strike out into the water and attempt to swim their way clear. Other characters can rescue them as if they were trapped in quicksand (described in Marsh Terrain, above).
Nonflowing Water: Lakes and oceans simply require a swim speed or successful Swim checks to move through (DC 10 in calm water, DC 15 in rough water, DC 20 in stormy water). Characters need a way to breathe if they’re underwater; failing that, they risk drowning. When underwater, characters can move in any direction as if they were flying with perfect maneuverability.
Stealth and Detection Underwater: How far you can see underwater depends on the water’s clarity. As a guideline, creatures can see 4d8×10 feet if the water is clear, and 1d8×10 feet if it’s murky. Moving water is always murky, unless it’s in a particularly large, slow-moving river.
It’s hard to find cover or concealment to hide underwater (except along the seafloor). Listen and Move Silently checks function normally underwater.
Invisibility: An invisible creature displaces water and leaves a visible, body-shaped “bubble” where the water was displaced. The creature still has concealment (20% miss chance), but not total concealment (50% miss chance).
Land-based creatures can have considerable difficulty when fighting in water. Water affects a creature’s Armor Class, attack rolls, damage, and movement. In some cases a creature’s opponents may get a bonus on attacks. The effects are summarized in the accompanying table. They apply whenever a character is swimming, walking in chestdeep water, or walking along the bottom.
Ranged Attacks Underwater: Thrown weapons are ineffective underwater, even when launched from land. Attacks with other ranged weapons take a –2 penalty on attack rolls for every 5 feet of water they pass through, in addition to the normal penalties for range.
Attacks from Land: Characters swimming, floating, or treading water on the surface, or wading in water at least chest deep, have improved cover (+8 bonus to AC, +4 bonus on Reflex saves) from opponents on land. Landbound opponents who have freedom of movement effects ignore this cover when making melee attacks against targets in the water. A completely submerged creature has total cover against opponents on land unless those opponents have freedom of movement effects. Magical effects are unaffected except for those that require attack rolls (which are treated like any other effects) and fire effects.
Fire: Nonmagical fire (including alchemist’s fire) does not burn underwater. Spells or spell-like effects with the fire descriptor are ineffective underwater unless the caster makes a Spellcraft check (DC 20 + spell level). If the check succeeds, the spell creates a bubble of steam instead of its usual fiery effect, but otherwise the spell works as described. A supernatural fire effect is ineffective underwater unless its description states otherwise. The surface of a body of water blocks line of effect for any fire spell. If the caster has made a Spellcraft check to make the fire spell usable underwater, the surface still blocks the spell’s line of effect.
Table: Combat Adjustments Underwater
————— Attack/Damage —————
Slashing or Bludgeoning
Freedom of movement
Has a swim speed
Successful Swim check
quarter or half2
None of the above
1 A creature without a freedom of movement effects or a swim speed makes grapple checks underwater at a –2 penalty, but deals damage normally when grappling.
2 A successful Swim check lets a creature move one-quarter its speed as a move action or one-half its speed as a full-round action.
3 Creatures have firm footing when walking along the bottom, braced against a ship’s hull, or the like. A creature can only walk along the bottom if it wears or carries enough gear to weigh itself down—at least 16 pounds for Medium creatures, twice that for each size category larger than Medium, and half that for each size category smaller than Medium.
4 Creatures flailing about in the water (usually because they failed their Swim checks) have a hard time fighting effectively. An off-balance creature loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, and opponents gain a +2 bonus on attacks against it.