[RPG] Are there rules for falling in water vs. diving vs. just jumping in for various depths of water


Just realized that in DMing 5e I have unconsciously used a falling-in-water rule-of-thumb that I inherited from somewhere (maybe 2e or AD&D or maybe even Pathfinder). The ruling I've been using is as follows:

  • No damage for 20 feet of falling.
  • Half-damage next 20 feet.
  • Normal damage beyond that.

Realizing there should be a Strength (Athletics) for "swimming" (in context, "diving") to take even less damage with a proper dive in sufficiently deep water, I started to look for specifics on that. Am I just missing it somewhere? (Also didn't find it searching this stack.)

Are there clear 5e rules for both jumping and diving in water of various depths?

Best Answer

There are no core rules for falling or diving into water

Right now, this is an area the rules don't touch on at all. It is left completely to the DM.

The only rules listed in any of the rule books for falling in any medium is the basic rule in the PHB and the optional rules for flying creatures and falling from great heights in XGE. Other than that, nothing else is mentioned about water or otherwise.

Jeremy Crawford (prior to the release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) confirms this and offers up a personal house rule in this tweet:

There's no official rule for falling into water. As DM, halving the falling damage is what I typically do.

As of November 2020, there is now a falling rule in a supplemental book

In Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (p 170) it says:

A creature that falls into water or another liquid can use its reaction to make a DC 15 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to hit the surface head or feet first. On a successful check, any damage resulting from the fall is halved.

As with the majority of non-core rules, it is entirely up to the DM if and whether to include it.

Please see this answer for more details.