Perhaps I have just missed it when reading, but what tests do you use for swimming? It doesn’t seem to be a skill of any kind. Is there a recommended stat to use?

Speed for swimming someplace in a time sensitive manner. Forte for swimming a long ways.

I’d say Power/Speed for swimming against a strong current in a time sensitive manner, or just plain Power in really crazy surf. And don’t forget Agility for diving and synchronized swimming.

We usually play it as Peregrine wrote.

Swimming as a skill beyond basic flotation and fortitude didn’t really develop until the 16th Century, and isn’t very useful or that interesting. If you don’t panic, it’s really not hard to stay buoyant enough that you don’t drown, and then to make forward motion.

And, on the other hand, if you have even one piece of metal armor on you, you drown, unless the water is low enough to grant a test to stand before choking. Simple as that :slight_smile:

That largely depends on geographic setting. Peoples living near warmer water started swimming thousands of years ago. There are references to it in the Bible, Beowulf, etc.

Swimming’s an odd thing, when you think about it. Almost all animals can swim, so it seems to be a sort of natural instinct. Yet, many people who never learn to swim simply sink and drown. Most likely due to panic, but there is a certain amount of skill to it. I think, if you wanted to represent anything beyond basic forward locomotion in water, swimming would be a training skill, with special techniques allowing freer mobility bring classified as separate skills, or extra training skills. Thing is, including swimming skills really isn’t necessary in a medeival RPG. After all, how much time do you count on spending in the water? If I were to run a pirates themed BW game, or Burning Hawaii, I’d stick swimming in there as a skill, but for the basic BW setting, it’s really irrelevant.

For an Hawaiian (or Polinesian) game, totally. It might even make sense to have lifepaths for pearl divers, for surf heroes and so on (and maybe sharkmen, who knows).

For pirates? Forget it.
Almost none of the sailors knew how to swim to save his life (be it regular military vessels, commercial ones, or pirates). Which, for people that live on the sea seems not to make very much sense. But really, if you fall into the sea during any kind of big-wave storm, or navigating treacherous cold waters… you’re not really expecting the boat to stop and pick you up, are you? And you’ll drown and/or freeze in minutes anyway (and if you fall during calm weather… what kind of landlubber are you, anyway??).

Probably an urban legend, but didn’t some sailors consider it unfortunate to know how to swim?


Uhm… never heard of that. More realistically they never had much occasion to learn: you stay ON the boat, at all times. And often you come from the country, with no training, and maybe even press-ganged into service.

But I guess it’s possible :slight_smile:

Its probably a tall-tale from Lofotfiske in Norway during the 1800s.Something that stuck to my mind somehow. From a practical point of view the sailors of that age weren’t stupid.


I’m guessing those pesky elves have something like a Synchronized swimming skill.

Well, notice the several skills dedicated to walking, running, climbing stairs, and so forth. Oh, wait… You mean that’s all handled with Speed tests too? Classically, swimming and whistling have been “decide if your character can do it” abilities. If for some reason it’s really interesting in your game to know who can and can’t swim, you could make it a training, sure.

Yes, if I felt the need to implement swimming I’d do it as a training skill and then resolve rolls just like running, with Speed or Forte.

Eh, I’d still throw a swimming training skill into a pirates campaign. I’d just limit it as a lifepath skill. The poor farmboys who get press-ganged into service wouldn’t get swimming. Neither would the lifepaths that dictate you pretty much just stay on your boat. But many pirates spent lots of time moored in the tropics. They weren’t always out at sea. Lots of opportunities to go for a dip, and if I were a pirate, I’d jump on the chance to learn how to swim if it was presented to me.

Anyways, yeah, as was said above, unless it’s important to your campaign somehow, no point in sweating the irrelevant details, right?

Well, notice the several skills dedicated to walking, running, climbing stairs, and so forth. Oh, wait…

Yes, I also noticed that in real life people fall over dead when running as often as they drown, and I noticed a roughly equivalent number of people know how to walk and know how to swim. Don’t even get me started on how wearing boots and absorbent clothing makes it almost impossible to climb stairs.

Sarcasm aside: a training skill makes a lot of sense. I don’t think people are so different in swimming ability that skill makes up for differences in physical abilities.

Given in Western countries like the US & Australia have a strong beach and aquatic culture, we are all pretty much trained as kids how to swim. Without much exposure to water and training, people tend to drown if they try anything other than a dog-paddle in calm water. I guess Swim Training allows you to lower the Obs for swimming tests for speed and endurance.

Panic is the real killer. Any time you enter the water without preparation, CLEARLY* there is a Steel test involved.

*Depending on how murky the water is.

Actually, walking is pretty dangerous. I don’t know fatality stats offhand, but hiking causes a lot more casualties than swimming or boating in the US (of course, that doesn’t account for folks who didn’t mean to be in the water, but it also doesn’t account for people falling on the stairs or walking to work or…) That said, I wasn’t trying to argue that they were identical, just that basic movement doesn’t generally get a skill in BW. Sure, swimming is less basic than the others, but also less important: how often in your games has it mattered how well someone swam? How about how well they ran?

I am generally opposed to putting swimming on your character sheet, to make that clear. I think in most cases, it’s obvious what happens when you fall in the water: You drown in your chainmail, or you tread water for thirty seconds until fished out, or you’re a Tongan surf hero and you leap out looking like a badass, or whatever. Most of the time, the situation tells you everything you need to know. Plenty of people who “can’t swim” wouldn’t drown if they fell into calm water while lightly clothed, while few “strong swimmers” would survive a fall in any combination of heavy clothing, a strong current, or severe weather. It’s rarely interesting to know if you can swim, and it is annoying to have to spend two skill points just to be able to (kinda like if shoes cost 20 RPs instead of 1). You’ll never FoRK it, and in terms of making interesting characters I’d rather you spent those points to open Death-Statistics-Wise and Internet Arguing.

To justify my running analogy, BWR had a running skill (not sure if it’s in Gold): Sprinting Training. It’s not there to let you run, but rather to make you a running badass. If being a swimming badass is interesting to your game (but it’s not a surf heroes vs. sharkmen game where everyone swims like a fish), you should totally put in a training that makes it so that rather than being an indifferent swimmer, you’re an excellent swimmer.

Durand, you nailed it: unless your setting grants for dramatic scenes where people “race” swimming to get to the Red Herring in time, the most dramatic and interesting thing that water and swimming can give you is the initial shock.

You are fighting at the top of the lighthouse, in the middle of the night, you are tackled and shoved in the water.

You fall several meters and bam! Cold, dark water. Steel test!.

I guess each beat of hesitation is you with your head underwater, panicking and thrashing around. What kind of damage would you take though?
A Forte test with Ob 1+ hesitation to see if you hold your breath long enough to recover?

Even that is not universal. A surprisingly large percent of NYC natives don’t know how to swim, and that’s in a relatively small geographic area entirely on islands.

I could only really see a Swimming skill being needed for BW if you have a pearl diving culture or similar.