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Luccan
2019-09-30, 12:49 AM
In my very early days as a player, the people I played with (my family) had a houserule that dwarves sank in water (I say houserule because this was definitely not RAW or RAI in 3.X, which we usually played). I never questioned it, assuming they knew what they were talking about. Then many years passed without more than one or two dwarf PCs and even fewer going near water and I completely forgot about it. But as I was thinking about making dwarves stand out in a home game, I suddenly recalled it. I assumed it had come from old-school DnD, which my father played, but my internet search capabilities have failed me. I've found a few scant references to the idea coming from rpgs, but nothing concrete. So, does anyone know where this idea came from? Was it ever a real rule, or just a popular houserule in old editions or even other rpgs? Maybe it was much rarer than I think it is and I just happened to find related results in my own research?

Xuc Xac
2019-09-30, 02:16 AM
I think it started as a joke when someone looked at the average height and weight of dwarves and noticed that they are too dense to float in water.

Maelynn
2019-09-30, 03:55 AM
It might have stemmed from one of the possible origin stories for dwarves, being that the first dwarves were carved from stone. And since stone sinks, so do dwarves.

There might also be a possible link with people who suffer from dwarfism. Their disproportioned body and the top-heavy head make it very difficult to keep the head above water, so it's often thought they can't swim at all (which they can, just with a lot of training).


I think it started as a joke when someone looked at the average height and weight of dwarves and noticed that they are too dense to float in water.

Bit like how some people argue that bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly because their wings are too small for their fat body.

Eldan
2019-09-30, 04:35 AM
There's also a few larger creatures in D&D 3.5 that are, like, denser than rock. I think a handful of (organic) creatures are denser than some metals.

Kaptin Keen
2019-09-30, 05:48 AM
Well - I guess it came from Dragonlance? Didn't Flint Fireforge say something like that? Anyways, I don't suppose it's far from the truth - if any single race has a specific prediliction towards heavy armor, it's the dwarves. They could remove it, I suppose, but would they really want to, when they could built a bridge instead?

HouseRules
2019-09-30, 07:38 AM
I think it started as a joke when someone looked at the average height and weight of dwarves and noticed that they are too dense to float in water.

The people who confuse height with volume.
Dwarves have greater volume than humans for the same height because they have a much greater girth.

denthor
2019-09-30, 09:11 AM
A dwarf feel kinship with the plane of Earth by culture. Water covers Earth, and with erosion carves it. So dwarves don't swim is closer to the thuth.

In humans lower lung capacity will affect swimming. Less air inside less buoyancy in the water.

gkathellar
2019-09-30, 09:29 AM
Elf propaganda, no doubt.

Willie the Duck
2019-09-30, 10:56 AM
I certainly think I recall something vaguely like that from the TSR era, but it was more along the lines of 'Dwarves do not make good sailors.' They are mountain/hill-dwelling miners and craftsmen and goblin/orc-fighters, not sailors and marines. It was more theme and interest rather than physical ability. Throw in their tendency to be fighters (and thus wear lots of armor), and swimming requiring a separate skill/proficiency (if late 1e, late BECMI, or 2e) that might never come up, and the number of dwarves seen out there swimming laps was pretty small.

Mastikator
2019-09-30, 11:04 AM
Dwarves can do better than swimming, they utilize their density and strength and streamlined roundness just like hippos and run on the bottom.

Snowy-
2019-09-30, 12:02 PM
Birthright calls out Dwarves as tending to sink in water (and gives them some damage reduction too if I recall correctly)

The Random NPC
2019-09-30, 12:32 PM
Bit like how some people argue that bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly because their wings are too small for their fat body.

This legend stems from a bunch of drunk aeronautics engineers using fixed-wing fight equations. After they sobered up they immediately realized the problem, but the non-aeronautic engineers had already left the symposium by then.

Mark Hall
2019-09-30, 01:19 PM
In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, specifically Road to Ehvenor (https://amzn.to/2miJUGS), one of the characters, Ahira Bandylegs, specifically notes that dwarves cannot swim, due to density... and, in true fashion, is promptly knocked off the boat they are on.

Humans float ok, and better the more fat that they have. Someone with a lot of muscle floats poorly. A dwarf, with a lot greater density, and often a lot of muscle, is going to have trouble floating, but I don't see it implemented very often.

notXanathar
2019-09-30, 02:23 PM
It might have stemmed from one of the possible origin stories for dwarves, being that the first dwarves were carved from stone. And since stone sinks, so do dwarves.

so what do you do with stone?
You build bridges out of it.
But can you not build bridges out of wood?
ooh.
do stones burn?
no, no, they just get hot.
so what also does not burn?
apples,
horseshoes.
leather.
very small twigs.
cider.
grape gravy.
some water.
exactly, so logically...
if he's the same temperature as some water, he must be a dwarf.
and therefore, i think, I shall use my largest thermometre.

Right, remove the stops!

A dwarf! burn him burn him!!
it's a fair cop.

I'm sorry for the overlong and not very good conversion, but I just had to.

FaerieGodfather
2019-09-30, 06:56 PM
It's actually a rule in HARP (and I suspect in Rolemaster) where Dwarves get the equivalent of +1 to-hit and +1 AC for a -5 Swim penalty.

rax
2019-10-01, 02:40 AM
The AD&D 2e Monster Manual has this line about dwarves and the sea:

For a dwarf, the earth is something to be loved because of its stability and the sea a thing to be despised - and feared - because it is a symbol of change.
So, not so much can't swim, as won't swim.

Rolemaster and a number of other games I've played has this codified as direct penalties to swimming and often sailing as well.

It seems likely that the origin is somewhere in Tolkien. A quick googling doesn't turn up anything specific concerning dwarves and the sea (or water in general), but the fact that they awoke from stone and spend all their time in mountain delvings may have led to the inference that dwarves have an active dislike or fear of open water.

Glorthindel
2019-10-01, 03:20 AM
It seems likely that the origin is somewhere in Tolkien. A quick googling doesn't turn up anything specific concerning dwarves and the sea (or water in general), but the fact that they awoke from stone and spend all their time in mountain delvings may have led to the inference that dwarves have an active dislike or fear of open water.

They just need to ride in barrels :smallwink:

rax
2019-10-01, 04:54 AM
As long as they don't have to row or sail 'em I guess. Bloody stowaways...😉

Anonymouswizard
2019-10-01, 02:09 PM
if any single race has a specific prediliction towards heavy armor, it's the dwarves. They could remove it, I suppose, but would they really want to, when they could built a bridge instead?

This. It's probably a mixture of dwarves tending to carry relatively heavy items and mostly not living near water. In fact, in most settings the majority of PCs shouldn't be that great at swimming, with most of them (potentially even sailors) not having been properly trained. If you want to model dwarven density making it harder for them a small penalty might be appropriate, but as an untrained human can keep their head above the water an untrained dwarf should be able to.

Widespread swimming ability is a relatively recent development, IIRC for the majority of history being able to swim was a special skill for a sailor, and sometimes considered a downside (because they can jump off the boat and swim back to shore if you press-gang them). A dwarf is highly unlikely to be living near a coast or a lake, and so unlikely to be able to practice swimming, and even if they did they might not want to. Plus although you can swim in plate armour the more weight you're carrying the harder it is (although body fat mitigates this by making you less dense), so once you've taken the battle axe, the town axe, the formal axe, the wood cutting axe (ideal for annoying elves), the pickaxe, and the sleeping axe into account they might not have it so easy.

Knaight
2019-10-01, 05:59 PM
Widespread swimming ability is a relatively recent development, IIRC for the majority of history being able to swim was a special skill for a sailor, and sometimes considered a downside (because they can jump off the boat and swim back to shore if you press-gang them). A dwarf is highly unlikely to be living near a coast or a lake, and so unlikely to be able to practice swimming, and even if they did they might not want to. Plus although you can swim in plate armour the more weight you're carrying the harder it is (although body fat mitigates this by making you less dense), so once you've taken the battle axe, the town axe, the formal axe, the wood cutting axe (ideal for annoying elves), the pickaxe, and the sleeping axe into account they might not have it so easy.

There's some major regional variation here - especially when it comes to sailors. Inland cultures generally didn't have lots of particularly strong swimmers, though there are significant exceptions for areas with rivers, and for coastal cultures it often depended more on water conditions than anything. Temperature especially seemed to play a huge part here. Polynesian and Carribean cultures, where the water is exceedingly warm and the land temperature leans towards hot tended to have really extensive swimming cultures. Southern China and India, both of which have notable rivers that aren't pparticularly fast flowing and are fairly warm by the time the south is reached also had significant swimming cultures, which tapered off a fair bit towards the north where rivers were colder. In Europe Mediterranean cultures tend towards more swimming than Atlantic cultures, and the Atlantic is a far colder body of water - and you also tend to see less swimming in rivers, many of which are particularly mountain fed and chilly compliments of the Urals and the tendency for them to be smaller, faster flowing streams. You can also see a similar dynamic in the Americas, though the Amazon river is a bit of a weird case there in terms of not really knowing the history. Still, you tend to see a lot more in the way of swimming in more equatorial zones, with the cutoff line running more or less through the modern day US.

Kane0
2019-10-01, 09:17 PM
Plus although you can swim in plate armour the more weight you're carrying the harder it is (although body fat mitigates this by making you less dense), so once you've taken the battle axe, the town axe, the formal axe, the wood cutting axe (ideal for annoying elves), the pickaxe, and the sleeping axe into account they might not have it so easy.

As an aside, this is brilliant and now all my dwarves will have weapons for each and every occasion.

Kapow
2019-10-04, 04:04 PM
In "The Dark Eye" (THE german RPG), dwarves get penalties in the swimming skill and have to spend more points to raise it.
The reasoning is actually, that they are too dense, don't live near water AND their culture

Zilant
2019-10-04, 05:14 PM
In the Tolkien stories I seem to remember dwarves not being comfortable with the open sea. The sound or the vast ocean fills them with dread.

Anonymouswizard
2019-10-04, 07:37 PM
There's some major regional variation here - especially when it comes to sailors. Inland cultures generally didn't have lots of particularly strong swimmers, though there are significant exceptions for areas with rivers, and for coastal cultures it often depended more on water conditions than anything. Temperature especially seemed to play a huge part here. Polynesian and Carribean cultures, where the water is exceedingly warm and the land temperature leans towards hot tended to have really extensive swimming cultures. Southern China and India, both of which have notable rivers that aren't pparticularly fast flowing and are fairly warm by the time the south is reached also had significant swimming cultures, which tapered off a fair bit towards the north where rivers were colder. In Europe Mediterranean cultures tend towards more swimming than Atlantic cultures, and the Atlantic is a far colder body of water - and you also tend to see less swimming in rivers, many of which are particularly mountain fed and chilly compliments of the Urals and the tendency for them to be smaller, faster flowing streams. You can also see a similar dynamic in the Americas, though the Amazon river is a bit of a weird case there in terms of not really knowing the history. Still, you tend to see a lot more in the way of swimming in more equatorial zones, with the cutoff line running more or less through the modern day US.

I was generalising to make the point that 'not able to swim beyond instinctual ability' is more likely to be the default. Of course there was massive variation, but if we take the population of the setting/the world au ab equivalent historical era then dwarves being unable to swim doesn't make them outliers, especially if you consider the terrain they tend to inhabit.


As an aside, this is brilliant and now all my dwarves will have weapons for each and every occasion.

I'm glad you like it, although amusingly the setting I'm hoping to run next actually goes in an entirely different direction (that's just been my traditional depiction of them). While most dwarves in that setting own weapons few carry them every day, dwarves tend to carry the tools of their craft (which has been their focus since early childhood, dwarves specialise where elves diversify) with only dedicated warriors seeking the most aesthetically vibrant forms of weaponcraft carrying them every day. There's a note in the players' document that dwarves tend to keep their beards neatly trimmed, long beards/locks means you have no work for it to get in the way of.

There's quite a bit more, I really like how I took some of their common traits and built something less standard out of them. I really struggled to do the same with Elves.

Peelee
2019-10-04, 10:13 PM
I think it started as a joke when someone looked at the average height and weight of dwarves and noticed that they are too dense to float in water.


In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, specifically Road to Ehvenor (https://amzn.to/2miJUGS), one of the characters, Ahira Bandylegs, specifically notes that dwarves cannot swim, due to density... and, in true fashion, is promptly knocked off the boat they are on.

Humans float ok, and better the more fat that they have. Someone with a lot of muscle floats poorly. A dwarf, with a lot greater density, and often a lot of muscle, is going to have trouble floating, but I don't see it implemented very often.


In "The Dark Eye" (THE german RPG), dwarves get penalties in the swimming skill and have to spend more points to raise it.
The reasoning is actually, that they are too dense, don't live near water AND their culture

For all this talk of density, I feel the need to point out that swimming is specifically the act of constantly not sinking when you otherwise would sink. Whether a dwarf floats or not isn't terribly relevant to swimming. I can swim, but I can still sink if I stop swimming.

Mark Hall
2019-10-04, 10:48 PM
For all this talk of density, I feel the need to point out that swimming is specifically the act of constantly not sinking when you otherwise would sink. Whether a dwarf floats or not isn't terribly relevant to swimming. I can swim, but I can still sink if I stop swimming.

Yes, but humans don't have to fight it nearly as hard.

If you drop a person in calm water, and they themselves remain calm, depending on the fat content of their body and composition of the water, they'll reach buoyancy pretty close to the surface... practically on top of it, if there's enough salt in the water.

A dwarf, though? With their far smaller volume (Shadowrun put it that they tend to be able to wear human shirts, but need different pants; similar weight, similar x and y, much smaller z), but similar weight, is going to have a neutral buoyancy far deeper than a human... a human has to bob up for air, a dwarf has to swim up for it.

Luccan
2019-10-05, 01:23 AM
Lots of ideas all around, which I'm kind of surprised by. It seems that, in my case, it was probably born from what was suggested earlier: that just going by weight and height, dwarves should be denser than humans. And somebody in probably a long line of DMs and tables decided to implement it as a houserule. Where it was eventually passed on to me. OTOH:


The people who confuse height with volume.
Dwarves have greater volume than humans for the same height because they have a much greater girth.

This is probably a good enough reason for them to swim easily enough, at least in the games I've played. Much joking has been made of dwarves being two feet shorter than humans and twice as wide.

Jay R
2019-10-05, 09:01 AM
Someday someone’s first D&D game will have a rule that dwarves are afraid of trees, and they will never know the idea came from a joke in The Order of the Stick.

Knaight
2019-10-06, 02:07 AM
I was generalising to make the point that 'not able to swim beyond instinctual ability' is more likely to be the default. Of course there was massive variation, but if we take the population of the setting/the world au ab equivalent historical era then dwarves being unable to swim doesn't make them outliers, especially if you consider the terrain they tend to inhabit.

Outliers, no. But between coasts having way higher population densities than inland areas for the vast majority of history (also the present) and the tendency for warmer areas to also have higher population densities the idea that sailors wouldn't be expected to swim is a major quirk, where most people most places had at least some swimming practice.

Tanarii
2019-10-06, 08:37 AM
the idea that sailors wouldn't be expected to swim is a major quirk,A quick google search seems to indicate that most sailors not being able to swim was a historical fact, not a quirk.

Corneel
2019-10-06, 10:25 AM
I'd say that the ability to swim is only light lightly correlated with the presence of water, but strongly correlated with the presence of publicly accessible pools. This based on living for over a decade in Africa where according to a lot of people in this thread swimming should be skill possessed by many (living close to the coast or large rivers) but in fact very few possessed it, including fishermen, and those that possessed it had learned it in pools.

Jay R
2019-10-06, 04:24 PM
A quick google search seems to indicate that most sailors not being able to swim was a historical fact, not a quirk.

Years ago, I got a Keeshond. Since they were bred to be barge dogs, I assumed we’d have fun playing in the water with him

We took him to the lake, but he would not go in the water. We eventually realized that barge dogs are bred to stay on the barge.

Similarly, a sailor is supposed to stay on the ship.

Knaight
2019-10-07, 03:28 AM
A quick google search seems to indicate that most sailors not being able to swim was a historical fact, not a quirk.

What regions did you check? The anglophone internet tends to prioritize history from certain regions (Europe, especially western Europe, especially England proper). This doesn't extend out particularly well to the rest of the globe, and if you look at the regional population distribution estimates by era Europe has never really had a particularly large population. Probably because it's really not that large a land area, and the more northern areas have pretty wintery climates that don't really support large populations. There's a reason Sweden isn't exactly rich is large metropoli.

blackjack50
2019-10-07, 08:15 PM
In my very early days as a player, the people I played with (my family) had a houserule that dwarves sank in water (I say houserule because this was definitely not RAW or RAI in 3.X, which we usually played). I never questioned it, assuming they knew what they were talking about. Then many years passed without more than one or two dwarf PCs and even fewer going near water and I completely forgot about it. But as I was thinking about making dwarves stand out in a home game, I suddenly recalled it. I assumed it had come from old-school DnD, which my father played, but my internet search capabilities have failed me. I've found a few scant references to the idea coming from rpgs, but nothing concrete. So, does anyone know where this idea came from? Was it ever a real rule, or just a popular houserule in old editions or even other rpgs? Maybe it was much rarer than I think it is and I just happened to find related results in my own research?

Well my group keeps a suspicious eye on dwarves. They are only slightly more trustworthy than the completely untrustworthy halflings and their dirty halfing lychanthropy. Ugh. Halflings.


I’m guessing a joke just like the vague anti halfings mentality my party has now due to multiple bad experiences with halfings.

TexAvery
2019-10-10, 01:46 PM
In the Tolkien stories I seem to remember dwarves not being comfortable with the open sea. The sound or the vast ocean fills them with dread.

I thought it was hobbits who distrusted ("mistrusted") water, though it could be both.

Brookshw
2019-10-10, 01:52 PM
Well - I guess it came from Dragonlance? Didn't Flint Fireforge say something like that? Anyways, I don't suppose it's far from the truth - if any single race has a specific prediliction towards heavy armor, it's the dwarves. They could remove it, I suppose, but would they really want to, when they could built a bridge instead?

I recall Flint couldn't swim and wouldn't be surprised if that had an influence on the perception.

Kaptin Keen
2019-10-11, 12:46 AM
I recall Flint couldn't swim and wouldn't be surprised if that had an influence on the perception.

There was something. Flint couldn't swim, and I'm fairly sure he said dwarves can't, period. But I threw out the books many years ago, so I can't check =)

They were awful, anyways. No matter how much I loved them at the time.

Willie the Duck
2019-10-11, 07:51 AM
There was something. Flint couldn't swim, and I'm fairly sure he said dwarves can't, period. But I threw out the books many years ago, so I can't check =)

They were awful, anyways. No matter how much I loved them at the time.

I wonder how influential they were. I mean, every gaming nerd *I* knew at the time read at least the original trilogy, but do they have long-lasting influence (such that a reference to dwarves not swimming in them could have lasting influence)? I guess I really don't know.

Beleriphon
2019-10-12, 04:14 PM
I suspect its a combination of dwarves being traditionally mountainous people and liking to wear heavy armour in most fiction. Combine not having any reason to know how to swim, with wearing armour that makes it really hard to swim and you have dwarves that don't (rather than can't) swim.

Kaptin Keen
2019-10-12, 04:43 PM
I wonder how influential they were. I mean, every gaming nerd *I* knew at the time read at least the original trilogy, but do they have long-lasting influence (such that a reference to dwarves not swimming in them could have lasting influence)? I guess I really don't know.

If I had to guess, I'd say they were hugely influential. Both good and bad. Dragonlance is the primary driver behind my enduring revulsion towards dragons. It's also the driver behind my attempts at making many races more than they are in the Monster Manual - be it minotaurs, gnolls, centaurs, whatever.

Simply because so many aging gamers read those books, I think it has seeped into most everything since then.

What's more, I think since Dragonlance - along with Stephen King and Anne Rice - used up my tolerance for bad litterature, they're the reason I never read a lot of other things .. Twilight, for instance. I read Game of Thrones, but I did that out of spite. I realised in book one it was utter crap (sorry fans), and only read on because a friend told me 'you cannot judge the series on just the one book'. So I read the first five, all that were out at the time - and it's still ... very, very bad.

The tv show is infinitely better, and even that is only good at times. Specifically, whenever Tyrion is on-screen.

This is off topic. Sorry. Please don't let me derail the thread.

Anonymouswizard
2019-10-12, 05:31 PM
If I had to guess, I'd say they were hugely influential. Both good and bad. Dragonlance is the primary driver behind my enduring revulsion towards dragons.

Interestingly it was Game of Thrones that killed the dragon hype for me, combined with an interesting note in the Keltia rulebook about how it uses dragons as symbols rather than creatures. I now find them too overdone, I'd much rather have an interesting take on humanoids or include demons than let a dragon anywhere near my games (Wyverns are allowed though, because the D&D wyvern had enough differences to make them just cool enough in their own right). Although A Song of Ice and Fire is also one of the series that pushed me towards human-only settings (Fullmetal Alchemist being another big influence on that).

Interestingly my view of A Song of Ice and Fire is opposite to yours, I can't stand the show (partially because of things like making Tyrion nicer and having to simplify things) but find the books to reach alright at times.

Mutazoia
2019-10-13, 03:16 PM
I would imagine that living underground, there is a dearth of oceans/rivers/lakes/swimming pools in which to learn the skill.

CharonsHelper
2019-10-13, 08:12 PM
In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, specifically Road to Ehvenor (https://amzn.to/2miJUGS), one of the characters, Ahira Bandylegs, specifically notes that dwarves cannot swim, due to density... and, in true fashion, is promptly knocked off the boat they are on.

Humans float ok, and better the more fat that they have. Someone with a lot of muscle floats poorly. A dwarf, with a lot greater density, and often a lot of muscle, is going to have trouble floating, but I don't see it implemented very often.

Maybe they could be like hippos and basically just run along the bottom. Though - I don't believe they get more lung capacity aside from the small bit they get from having a higher CON score.

The Library DM
2019-10-13, 11:26 PM
In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series, specifically Road to Ehvenor (https://amzn.to/2miJUGS), one of the characters, Ahira Bandylegs, specifically notes that dwarves cannot swim, due to density... and, in true fashion, is promptly knocked off the boat they are on.

This is where I first encountered the idea, and I even suspect this series is indeed the origin of the concept. (And in fact, IIRC the idea occurs in a much earlier novel in the series, quite possibly even the first book. The dwarf character is always nervous about this, and avoids boats, which is a recurring character trait.)

Though one might mention that in The Hobbit (novel, not film), a significant moment in Mirkwood occurs when Bombur falls into the Enchanted River and sinks, barely grabbing on to a hastily thrown rope. Although the text never states that he sinks because he’s a dwarf (it could be just his wet clothes), it might have inspired the idea of “sinking dwarves.”

Either way, I don’t think it really began in D&D (and isn’t officially a part of it), but came from outside the game.

Archpaladin Zousha
2019-10-14, 12:43 AM
I thought it was from Dwarf Fortress. Something to do with undead carps or something? :smallconfused:

Quizatzhaderac
2019-10-18, 03:10 PM
I would imagine that living underground, there is a dearth of oceans/rivers/lakes/swimming pools in which to learn the skill.Water flows downward, so it's more the exception to have caves filled with air than water.

Maybe one of the favorite pastimes of dwarfs is to relax at the under-beach, soaking up the dark-sun, with a nice room-temperature koruna™ beer? Maybe enjoy a game of volley-axe, or do some shadow-surfing.

I thought it was from Dwarf Fortress. Something to do with undead carps or something? :smallconfused:Reference is definitely too new for that. Also, DF dwarfs can swim (even untrained), it's just a matter of finding water without high CR monsters in it (like carp).

Strigon
2019-10-18, 06:07 PM
In humans lower lung capacity will affect swimming. Less air inside less buoyancy in the water.

Under this assumption dwarves would likely make very good swimmers. Or, at least, they have this particular advantage.
Assuming dwarf physiology is similar to humans, their dimensions would give them huge lung capacity relative to their body size. This is even backed up in recent editions of D&D, where they get a bonus to CON, which determines (among other things) how long one can hold their breath.

Shoreward
2019-10-18, 07:35 PM
There was something. Flint couldn't swim, and I'm fairly sure he said dwarves can't, period. But I threw out the books many years ago, so I can't check =)

They were awful, anyways. No matter how much I loved them at the time.

To my memory, Flint was afraid of the open water and boats because of a traumatic incident as a child involving a drowning. I don't recall it being a racial trait, despite being basically cited as one in the current PHB, though my memory is far from perfect. It wouldn't be the first example of a character trait being turned into a racial trait in later fantasy media.

Mark Hall
2019-10-19, 10:44 AM
To my memory, Flint was afraid of the open water and boats because of a traumatic incident as a child involving a drowning. I don't recall it being a racial trait, despite being basically cited as one in the current PHB, though my memory is far from perfect. It wouldn't be the first example of a character trait being turned into a racial trait in later fantasy media.

Dragonlance, like Star Wars, suffers from a lot of Greedo syndrome... we see one prominent example of the alien, and so all the aliens become like that one. If Flint is a dwarf, and Flint cannot swim, it follows that all dwarves cannot swim.

Beleriphon
2019-10-21, 02:19 PM
Dragonlance, like Star Wars, suffers from a lot of Greedo syndrome... we see one prominent example of the alien, and so all the aliens become like that one. If Flint is a dwarf, and Flint cannot swim, it follows that all dwarves cannot swim.

Gimli doesn't like water, and neither do any of the dwarves in The Hobbit. So, I suspect its more that they don't swim, rather than can't swim. By and large they have no reason to learn to do so.

Luccan
2019-10-21, 03:33 PM
Gimli doesn't like water, and neither do any of the dwarves in The Hobbit. So, I suspect its more that they don't swim, rather than can't swim. By and large they have no reason to learn to do so.

Which makes sense in a psuedo-medieval setting where dwarves very much stick to the mountains. But in context of D&D it doesn't really make sense. Just like most characters can be assumed to be literate in at least their native tongue, it seems to be assumed everyone else has at least a decent chance of swimming. Which makes the houserule so odd in retrospect. I can only remember one time it came up prominently (a two player game in which the elf had to push a raft carrying the dwarf across a slow part of a river), but I actively elected to ignore the idea myself later. It's only years after I've come to realize that it wasn't some holdover from a particular edition.

Duff
2019-10-21, 06:14 PM
There's also a few larger creatures in D&D 3.5 that are, like, denser than rock. I think a handful of (organic) creatures are denser than some metals.
{{Scrubbed}}

Archpaladin Zousha
2019-10-22, 10:01 AM
Reference is definitely too new for that. Also, DF dwarfs can swim (even untrained), it's just a matter of finding water without high CR monsters in it (like carp).
I see! Shows how much I know about Dwarf Fortress, doesn't it (that is to say, diddly scut!)? :smalltongue:

Anonymouswizard
2019-10-22, 10:37 AM
I thought it was from Dwarf Fortress. Something to do with undead carps or something? :smallconfused:

I thought it was just that whenever you needed to cross water you just engaged the magma pumps?

Kelb_Panthera
2019-10-22, 03:12 PM
I don't think it's a matter of dwarves can't swim in that they're incapable so much as it's a matter of dwarves can't swim in that those dwarves who know how are so vanishingly rare as to not be noteworthy. People that live on and under inland mountains and tend toward wearing and carrying heavy gear have little reason to learn to swim and serious impedements when they find the need suddenly.

FWIW, in 3.5 the stormwrack supplement introduced a dwarven subrace that live in coastal mountains and seaside cliffs and have a strong sailing tradition. IIRC, they get some racial bonuses on swimming.

FabulousFizban
2019-10-27, 02:38 AM
dwarves have negative buoyancy due to their compact nature and bone density. THIS IS KNOWN!

Brother Oni
2019-10-27, 02:53 AM
What regions did you check? The anglophone internet tends to prioritize history from certain regions (Europe, especially western Europe, especially England proper). This doesn't extend out particularly well to the rest of the globe, and if you look at the regional population distribution estimates by era Europe has never really had a particularly large population. Probably because it's really not that large a land area, and the more northern areas have pretty wintery climates that don't really support large populations. There's a reason Sweden isn't exactly rich is large metropoli.

During the Age of Sail, most Royal Navy sailors couldn't swim, simply because being able to swim meant you just prolonged the inevitable of drowning at sea, miles away from any land.

That said, sources dodn't mentioned whether the aforementioned sailors were volunteers or pressganged urban poor and other caught unfortunates, who wouldn't be expected to be able to swim.

Imbalance
2019-10-27, 07:30 AM
dwarves have negative buoyancy due to their compact nature and bone density. THIS IS KNOWN!

Citations, please?

Knaight
2019-10-28, 06:20 PM
During the Age of Sail, most Royal Navy sailors couldn't swim, simply because being able to swim meant you just prolonged the inevitable of drowning at sea, miles away from any land.

That said, sources dodn't mentioned whether the aforementioned sailors were volunteers or pressganged urban poor and other caught unfortunates, who wouldn't be expected to be able to swim.

I assume you're talking about the British Royal Navy? An island with a cold current pointed basically right at it, with an institutional culture that reflects this? Because that's a good example of exactly my point regarding expected swimming skill varying highly by region.

Brother Oni
2019-10-28, 07:19 PM
I assume you're talking about the British Royal Navy? An island with a cold current pointed basically right at it, with an institutional culture that reflects this? Because that's a good example of exactly my point regarding expected swimming skill varying highly by region.

Oops, sorry, yes. I keep on forgetting there's more than one Royal Navy. :smallredface:

However you're right and I concede the point. That said, I was under the impression that the Gulf Stream warmed the British Isles, making them far more inhabitable than their latitude would normally permit.

The Library DM
2019-11-02, 12:24 PM
Citations, please?

I suspect the citation is the previously mentioned Guardians of the Flame novel series, ‘cause I’m pretty sure that’s where I encountered it, way back when.:smallwink:

Imbalance
2019-11-03, 08:22 AM
I suspect the citation is the previously mentioned Guardians of the Flame novel series, ‘cause I’m pretty sure that’s where I encountered it, way back when.:smallwink:

I think you're right.

If the only printed mention is a throwaway setup to a comedic event, that hardly qualifies as an all-caps declaration of established fact. Until this thread, how many had ever even heard the concept of dwarves being remotely incapable of swimming in any fiction? This is not foundational, this is not common, and I doubt that is even canon in the one (and apparently only) series that gives it an actual mention. I was asking for evidence that "THIS IS KNOWN!"

A handful of vague, anecdotal recollections about a singular obscure blurb along with speculative interpretations of various other events is hardly convincing. I'm not arguing one way or the other, but I am curious that if this is the trope, why isn't it more widely acknowledged?

Kelb_Panthera
2019-11-03, 02:22 PM
While I wasn't surprised to see the question, I had never heard anything canonically declaring dwarves can't swim as an official "thing" anywhere in fiction.

Anonymouswizard
2019-11-03, 06:45 PM
While I wasn't surprised to see the question, I had never heard anything canonically declaring dwarves can't swim as an official "thing" anywhere in fiction.

I can't think of anything either. I mean, I know of references to it being a problem for particular dwarves, but no cases of 'dwarves sink like stones'. Although on that note I can see it being true in Runequest.

I guess it's like vegetarian elves, although that one is more common in fiction, in that it comes up because people think it fits the species's style.

Mark Hall
2019-11-03, 07:03 PM
I guess it's like vegetarian elves, although that one is more common in fiction, in that it comes up because people think it fits the species's style.

It's canon in Shadowrun and Earthdawn.

Lemmy
2019-11-04, 08:41 AM
I never heard of it as canon anywhere either... Over thr years I've occasionally heard it as joke, but even that was rare.

In my setting dwarves in general are usually bad swimmers (i.e.: have no skill ranks in Swim and no feats or abilities related to swimming) because it's not a very useful skill in the places they live... And "Dwarves can't swim" is only mentioned in-game as a stereotype or joke.

I suppose it would make sense to give them a penalty to Swim and Fly checks, given that they are much denser, but not stronger than humans and have short limbs... But that feels unnecessary (and kinda mean).

Besides, taking things like body density and limb length in consideration is a can of worms I definitely don't want to open!

Anonymouswizard
2019-11-04, 06:14 PM
It's canon in Shadowrun and Earthdawn.

Eh, certainly not universally in Shadowrun (never played Earthdawn).

It's always confused me a bit. If elves are supposed to live in harmony with nature, and elves are omnivores, then why would they avoid meat? They probably don't eat it as much as humans, but they're meant to eat it.

Seto
2019-11-04, 07:24 PM
Not sure where it comes from, but it reminds me of a funny anecdote from my first-ever DnD campaign.

I was playing an elven Wizard, and my friends were a Halfling Rogue and a Dwarven Fighter. We'd had a rough trek through the wilderness, and the Halfling was covered in dried blood and entrails. He positively stank. So we had him bathe in a body of water before entering the city. The DM wasn't that much more experienced than us, and sort of overlooked the "you only need to make Swim checks if you're threatened or the current is strong" part of the rule.
So, the Halfling fails several Swim checks and begins to drown. I, the nimble and light elf, jump after him to catch him. I start drowning too. The stout, heavy Dwarven warrior clad in full plate jumps in the water to try and save us. ...He passed his rolls and brought both of our unconscious bodies back to the shore.
Yeah, Dwarves can swim.

Imbalance
2019-11-04, 10:29 PM
It's canon in Shadowrun and Earthdawn.


Eh, certainly not universally in Shadowrun (never played Earthdawn).

It's always confused me a bit. If elves are supposed to live in harmony with nature, and elves are omnivores, then why would they avoid meat? They probably don't eat it as much as humans, but they're meant to eat it.

In Elder Scrolls, the Bosmer, or Wood Elves, strictly eat meat in defense of their luxuriant homeland forests. No word on whether the missing dwarves, or Dwemer, were averse to aquatic travel that I remember reading.

dehro
2019-11-11, 10:54 AM
more often than not, Dwarves wear heavy armour.. maybe that's what makes them sink...

Studoku
2019-11-16, 11:05 AM
According to all known laws of buoyancy, there is no way a dwarf should be able to swim. Its arms are too short to keep its fat little body above water.

The dwarf, of course, swims anyway. Because dwarfs don't care what humans think is possible.

Grey Watcher
2019-11-16, 11:12 AM
It's not that they can't swim, but would you go swimming if you had that much facial hair to dry out afterwards?

Anonymouswizard
2019-11-16, 11:38 AM
According to all known laws of buoyancy, there is no way a dwarf should be able to swim. Its arms are too short to keep its fat little body above water.

The dwarf, of course, swims anyway. Because dwarfs don't care what humans think is possible.

You know that rule only applies to fixed wing watercraft, the dwarf swims by moving it's arm in a more circular fashion at incredible speeds.

Imbalance
2019-11-16, 12:55 PM
You know that rule only applies to fixed wing watercraft, the dwarf swims by moving it's arm in a more circular fashion at incredible speeds.

The party is traveling on a mountain in a blizzard, and every member rolls to see if they fall from the cliff. A dwarf warrior doesn't pass the check due to his armor, and falls.

DM: You fall from the cliff but have some time to do something. What do you do?

Dwarf: I flap my arms really hard.

DM: Really?

Dwarf: Not like I have any other options.

DM: Ok, roll the dice.

Dwarf rolls a 20.

DM: ... roll again.

Dwarf rolls a 20 again.

DM is abash.

DM:*sigh. With an astonished look on their faces, the party beholds a miraculous sight. A dwarf in heavy armor is slolwy rising up above the cliff, flapping his arms really, really hard.
~multiple sources

Peelee
2019-11-17, 03:17 PM
It's not that they can't swim, but would you go swimming if you had that much facial hair to dry out afterwards?

You underestimate my love of swimming!

Durkoala
2019-11-17, 07:10 PM
Which is similar to how they fly (https://****myplayerssay.com/post/160277656072/context-the-party-is-traversing-a-mountain-pass).

Just so you know, the censors have broken your link.

RifleAvenger
2019-11-17, 09:57 PM
There's also a few larger creatures in D&D 3.5 that are, like, denser than rock. I think a handful of (organic) creatures are denser than some metals.
On the reverse end, I had a druid with an earth elemental companion in 3.5 that could float in water. 4ft tall, assumed at least small human width, and only 80 pounds RAW.

Alexvrahr
2019-11-18, 03:11 AM
On the reverse end, I had a druid with an earth elemental companion in 3.5 that could float in water. 4ft tall, assumed at least small human width, and only 80 pounds RAW.
The four elements: Fire, Water, Air and Pumice.

Starbuck_II
2020-01-01, 10:50 AM
Could also be they live in mountains so never needed to learn to swim.

Eldan
2020-01-03, 03:26 AM
On the reverse end, I had a druid with an earth elemental companion in 3.5 that could float in water. 4ft tall, assumed at least small human width, and only 80 pounds RAW.

I think someone also once calculated that a Balor should probably sink even in magma and probably even in dry earth.

hamishspence
2020-01-03, 05:19 AM
A being roughly as dense as water, the height of a balor, would weigh roughly 1600 pounds (200 pounds, 6 ft - corresponds to 1600 pounds, 12 ft, scaled up without changing the density)

A balor is 4500 pounds - so 2.81x the density of water.

Lava is about 2.80x the density of water, at its densest. Low density lava can be as little as 2.1x the density of water.


So yes, a balor would eventually sink.

As to ground pressure generated - that would be roughly 5.62 x the ground pressure generated by an average human (since the 1600 pound humanoid would generate 2x the ground pressure of the 200 pound humanoid). So, 45 psi instead of 8 psi. Very slightly more than a mountain bike, but less than a racing bike.

sawbladex
2020-01-03, 06:32 AM
Homelands from Magic the Gathering had a clan of sea based dwarves.

Of course, sailors not being able to swim is not impossible, (and depending on the ocean, swimming might not be particularly useful.)

Knaight
2020-01-06, 03:14 PM
I think someone also once calculated that a Balor should probably sink even in magma and probably even in dry earth.

Which is a pretty common screwup - especially as scaling up often runs into either this or density problems.

I'll take this over lighter than air whales in Pokemon, or the hilarious numbers Starfinder uses for spaceship weight*, which has led my group to the descriptive phrase "aerogel star needles" - though at the upper end you start seeing densities more associated with interstellar hydrogen than aerogel.

*Not using the term mass was the first warning sign.

Anonymouswizard
2020-01-06, 05:28 PM
Which is a pretty common screwup - especially as scaling up often runs into either this or density problems.

I'll take this over lighter than air whales in Pokemon, or the hilarious numbers Starfinder uses for spaceship weight*, which has led my group to the descriptive phrase "aerogel star needles" - though at the upper end you start seeing densities more associated with interstellar hydrogen than aerogel.

*Not using the term mass was the first warning sign.

I mean, the numbers in Starfinder are realistic, if you're measuring within a small asteroid's gravity field.

But yeah, people seem to forget how as your size increases linearly surface area increases quadratically and mass increases cubically. Otherwise you get balrogs made out of balsa wood allowed with interstellar hydrogen, and spaceships that must be made out of 99% vacuum.

DrewID
2020-01-06, 09:36 PM
I mean, the numbers in Starfinder are realistic, if you're measuring within a small asteroid's gravity field.

But yeah, people seem to forget how as your size increases linearly surface area increases quadratically and mass increases cubically. Otherwise you get balrogs made out of balsa wood allowed with interstellar hydrogen, and spaceships that must be made out of 99% vacuum.

You don't wanna push too hard for realistic numbers, though. In that direction lie the GURPS Vehicles rules. There be madness!

DrewID

Anonymouswizard
2020-01-07, 02:15 AM
You don't wanna push too hard for realistic numbers, though. In that direction lie the GURPS Vehicles rules. There be madness!

DrewID

While I've not seen GURPS Vehicles I have seen the starship constriction system in GURPS Space 2e, and honestly I'd take something that complicated over numbers as hilarious as those in Starfinder. But really, how hard is it to take the mass and volume of an actual rocket (2,970,000kg, roughly 1,100m for a Saturn V) and base your mass and volume numbers on that (with maybe some mass savings to represent advancements in spaceship tech). Because mass and volume scale linearly we know that a ship ten times the size masses somewhere around 30Gg (that's gigagrams for those who have forgotten their SI units). One thousand times the size means roughly one terragram. It's not that hard to have your numbers in the right ballpark.

Eldan
2020-01-07, 03:53 AM
Which is a pretty common screwup - especially as scaling up often runs into either this or density problems.

I'll take this over lighter than air whales in Pokemon, or the hilarious numbers Starfinder uses for spaceship weight*, which has led my group to the descriptive phrase "aerogel star needles" - though at the upper end you start seeing densities more associated with interstellar hydrogen than aerogel.

*Not using the term mass was the first warning sign.

Clearly, that's all elvencraft metals. You can finesse those spaceships.

DrewID
2020-01-07, 01:55 PM
While I've not seen GURPS Vehicles I have seen the starship constriction system in GURPS Space 2e, and honestly I'd take something that complicated over numbers as hilarious as those in Starfinder. But really, how hard is it to take the mass and volume of an actual rocket (2,970,000kg, roughly 1,100m for a Saturn V) and base your mass and volume numbers on that (with maybe some mass savings to represent advancements in spaceship tech). Because mass and volume scale linearly we know that a ship ten times the size masses somewhere around 30Gg (that's gigagrams for those who have forgotten their SI units). One thousand times the size means roughly one terragram. It's not that hard to have your numbers in the right ballpark.

GURPS Vehicles for 3rd edition has been called the "GURPS book for BOEING engineers". And it was supplemented by the GVB (GURPS Vehicle Builder) software aid to balance all the fidly interrelationships that (to be fair) real vehicles have to deal with. And by all report, if you wanted to build a Fnord F150, then Vehicles would produce numbers astonishingly close to an actual Fnord F150. But the general feel back on the GURPS Usenet group was that without the GVB, it was nigh on unusable. I gather that for 4th edition, they were able to keep most of the accuracy and shed enough complexity that it was playable.

This, of course, has nothing to do with Dwarves swimming. To at least point in the direction of the topic, I gather that GURPS Vehicles does make it possible to design a Dwarven submersible, which could serve as an adjunct to either swimming or non-swimming Dwarves.

DrewID

dehro
2020-01-08, 07:02 AM
it possible to design a Dwarven submersible, which could serve as an adjunct to either swimming or non-swimming Dwarves.

DrewID
Aren't dwarves naturally submersible?
:smalltongue:

Lord Torath
2020-01-08, 11:40 AM
In the Death Gate Cycle (https://www.goodreads.com/series/41764-the-death-gate-cycle) book 4 Serpent Mage (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28507.Serpent_Mage) (by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman - Dragonlance writers) dwarves couldn't swim. They tended to sink, instead, due to body density issues - too much muscle, not enough fat, and heavy, dense bones. Still used submersibles, though.

Anonymouswizard
2020-01-08, 12:56 PM
Clearly, that's all elvencraft metals. You can finesse those spaceships.

As a side side note, I hate both of those. I think Finesse weapons are a stupid concept that make Strength completely pointless as it's own stat, and the idea that 'solud things having the density of a gas or less is fine if they're made out of "magical fantasy material"' is stupid. In fact I pretty much don't like 'magical fantasy materials' at all anymore.


GURPS Vehicles for 3rd edition has been called the "GURPS book for BOEING engineers". And it was supplemented by the GVB (GURPS Vehicle Builder) software aid to balance all the fidly interrelationships that (to be fair) real vehicles have to deal with. And by all report, if you wanted to build a Fnord F150, then Vehicles would produce numbers astonishingly close to an actual Fnord F150. But the general feel back on the GURPS Usenet group was that without the GVB, it was nigh on unusable. I gather that for 4th edition, they were able to keep most of the accuracy and shed enough complexity that it was playable.

This, of course, has nothing to do with Dwarves swimming. To at least point in the direction of the topic, I gather that GURPS Vehicles does make it possible to design a Dwarven submersible, which could serve as an adjunct to either swimming or non-swimming Dwarves.

DrewID

Ah, okay, so the spaceships system was a stripped down version.

Honestly, GURPS has always been better when it's eschewed player-focused detail in exchange for fun, and things like the complicated vehicle building rules are weird because the game is usually so goof at sacrificing realism for playability. I believe that the 4e got rid of the overly complex vehicle building system and used what I tend to prefer. 'The answers are in the right ballpark, but building a Fnord F150 Turbo will probably leave you a little bit out due to fewer variables.'


On that note, dwarves are in the same ballpark of density as compared to humans, and not in the ballpark of granite. Humans float in water, granite doesn't, therefore dwarves are more likely to float in water than to sink. So I suspect that even if a dwarf was dense enough to sink normally they could keep themselves afloat via swimming.

On another linked note, I now want to put the following in the 'Things I May No Longer Do While Playing' thread:
* Even if dwrves have been observed to sink in water I may not use them as ballast for my submersible.

DrewID
2020-01-08, 02:47 PM
Aren't dwarves naturally submersible?
:smalltongue:

Once.*

DrewID

* I refer you to Maxim 11 (https://www.schlockmercenary.com/2008-04-15) of "The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (https://schlockmercenary.fandom.com/wiki/The_Seventy_Maxims_of_Maximally_Effective_Mercenar ies)".

Luccan
2020-01-08, 04:45 PM
As a side side note, I hate both of those. I think Finesse weapons are a stupid concept that make Strength completely pointless as it's own stat


You still need Strength for grapplers and without magic (which can also benefit Strength builds) or specific classes, Dex based AC can't get quite as high as heavy armor (which is the domain of Strength characters). It's definitely a king stat, in particular ideal for multiclassing, but I've never had a Strength character I felt really fell behind. Finesse weapons also do less damage.

Anonymouswizard
2020-01-08, 06:02 PM
You still need Strength for grapplers and without magic (which can also benefit Strength builds) or specific classes, Dex based AC can't get quite as high as heavy armor (which is the domain of Strength characters). It's definitely a king stat, in particular ideal for multiclassing, but I've never had a Strength character I felt really fell behind. Finesse weapons also do less damage.

Eh, I've never seen a grappler build, and the only time somebody I know used one was a 3.5 Monk who I believed focused on Dexterity over Strength. But a big problem for me is that, while a little bit gamey, Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks works, and I've seen non D&D systems get into toruble when a good hit gives you extra damage, and so the additional damage of Strength-based weapons tends to be neglected in favour of the benefit of being able to pump Dexterity for both offence and defence. I'm rea;;y. really uncomfortable with ffence and defence on a single stat as well.

Another thing is, I don't really get why Strength an Consitution tend to be two stats but Dexterity and Aglity aren't. My original build for my homebrew system used quite a few stats, inclusing Strength, Dexterity, Agility, and Consitution, but currently has shifted down to using three stats of Physique, Grace, and Intellect, although I'm considering adding a separate Spirit stat, I just saw no reaspon why I couldn't fold Strength and Constitution together seeing as I've never seen a high Strength, low Constitution character, and if a low Strength character has a high Constitution there's a good chance that everybody is pumping it. There's other small bits, each stat has an associated school of magic (Physique=Qi, Grace=Elementalism, Intellect=Mentalism), and I'm on the fence about adding in a fourth stat to stop sovial ability being split between Grace and Intellect.

Really, it boils down to 'why two stats for melee', and an utter lack of Strength-focused characters in groups I play in. I once intentionally built a character in a game who could do no damage with a dagger (to point out that, RAW, I'd heal people via stabbing them).

Luccan
2020-01-08, 06:15 PM
Eh, I've never seen a grappler build, and the only time somebody I know used one was a 3.5 Monk who I believed focused on Dexterity over Strength. But a big problem for me is that, while a little bit gamey, Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks works, and I've seen non D&D systems get into toruble when a good hit gives you extra damage, and so the additional damage of Strength-based weapons tends to be neglected in favour of the benefit of being able to pump Dexterity for both offence and defence. I'm rea;;y. really uncomfortable with ffence and defence on a single stat as well.

Another thing is, I don't really get why Strength an Consitution tend to be two stats but Dexterity and Aglity aren't. My original build for my homebrew system used quite a few stats, inclusing Strength, Dexterity, Agility, and Consitution, but currently has shifted down to using three stats of Physique, Grace, and Intellect, although I'm considering adding a separate Spirit stat, I just saw no reaspon why I couldn't fold Strength and Constitution together seeing as I've never seen a high Strength, low Constitution character, and if a low Strength character has a high Constitution there's a good chance that everybody is pumping it. There's other small bits, each stat has an associated school of magic (Physique=Qi, Grace=Elementalism, Intellect=Mentalism), and I'm on the fence about adding in a fourth stat to stop sovial ability being split between Grace and Intellect.

Really, it boils down to 'why two stats for melee', and an utter lack of Strength-focused characters in groups I play in. I once intentionally built a character in a game who could do no damage with a dagger (to point out that, RAW, I'd heal people via stabbing them).

As far as D&D is concerned, it's the way it is because it was always that way. Sacred cows and all that (though I'm not personally chomping at the bit for any designers to start completely changing the way stats work). I just think that maligned as it is, I still see plenty of Strength builds that do good work and aren't really overshadowed by their Dex-based counterparts.