I don’t get D&D jump rules. Why isn’t it just an athletics check?

2 thoughts on “I don’t get D&D jump rules. Why isn’t it just an athletics check?

  1. D. Walker says:

    “Or you could leap a distance in feet equal to your Strength score. ”

    …assuming you have 10 feet of running room, of course. Otherwise it’s only half your STR score in feet.

    …also assuming you’re not jumping vertically. Then it’s your Strength MODIFIER, for some reason, added to a base distance of 3 feet.

    …oh, and that vertical jump? That’s assuming 10 feet of running room too. Otherwise, it’s (3 + Strength Modifier) / 2.

    …oh, and if your game table uses 5 ft grids for movement, you’re kind of in a pickle. It feels really bad that a Strength 19 character can only jump 3 tiles, not 4, despite only being 1 foot short, because the rules inexplicably don’t let you round to the nearest tile. Leave that to the DM to decide, for some reason, I guess… not like that’s going to start any needless arguments at the table or anything…

    …oh, and that feeling gets worse if you don’t have the 10 feet of running room. Now you can only jump 8.5 feet of distance. So wait… how do you handle that half a foot? Round up? Ah, no, actually I believe you round down to a flat 8 feet. Which then gets rounded down AGAIN to only 5 feet.

    …oh, and that means that a Strength 10 character and a Strength 19 character both can jump only one tile when they don’t get a running start, which feels absolutely awful and unfair.

    …oh, and once again, that’s all assuming you’re not jumping vertically. Then, even a STR 20 character can’t jump a single tile high unless they getting a running start. If you try to make a standing jump, you can only move (3 + 5) / 2 = 4 feet, which gets rounded down by default.

    …also, every other method of movement is nowhere near this complicated.

    You want to swim? Half your walking speed, unless you have a swimming speed. You want to climb? Half your walking speed, unless you have a climbing speed.
    Difficult terrain? Half your walking speed, unless an effect mitigates it.

    Jumping is needlessly complicated and frustrating. It needs revamped.

  2. D. Walker says:

    So jumping sucks. Let’s fix it.

    My solution? Simplify it, and adjust the way a “running start” affects distance.


    The baseline for all other forms of movement seems to be 1/2 Speed. So for the sake of simplicity and consistency, which will make it easier to remember and use these rules in actual play, let’s try to use that baseline for jumping.

    Most races have a Speed of 30 – they can move 15 feet (3 tiles) when Climbing, Swimming, or moving through rough terrain without aid.

    The “short” races of Dwarves, Gnomes, and Halflings have a Speed of 25 – they can move 12.5 feet (2 tiles) moving in those ways without aid.

    Let’s make jumping work the same way – at least under ideal conditions.


    Running Long Jump
    [1/2 Speed]
    Requires 10 feet of movement as a running start.

    Half-Running Long Jump
    [1/2 Speed – 5 ft]
    If you don’t have the distance to get up to speed, you lose 1 tile of jump distance.

    Standing Long Jump
    [1/2 Speed – 10 ft]
    If you jump from a standstill, you lose 2 tiles of jump distance.


    Looking good so far. The numbers are neat and clean, easy to remember, and play nicely on a grid. You lose 5 feet of distance for every 5 feet of runway you don’t have. And as a bonus, the numbers are even actually pretty realistic.


    Next up, vertical jumps. These are a lot trickier, but we’ll try to keep things simple.

    In reality, people are TERRIBLE at vertical jumps. Even the best jumpers in the world have a hard time leaping much more than 5 feet off the ground, and modern Olympic athletes use a specialized type of jump (the Fosbury flop) that lets them reach higher but prevents them from landing on their feet.

    That said, this is a fantasy adventure game, and a little lack of realism isn’t that big a deal. That said, jumping 10 feet straight up is solidly superhuman levels. We can allow it in some cases, because we’re talking about fantasy heroes, but we certainly shouldn’t go beyond it. A 15 foot high jump, without magic, is lunacy.


    One final wrinkle to consider is that vertical jumps are currently measured in two different ways, from two different points of reference.

    If you can perform a 5 foot high jump, that means you can reach an elevation that high with your -feet- specifically. But the game also tells you how to calculate for your overall reach with your -hands- separately, based on character height.

    That’s too complicated, too hard to remember, and makes vertical jumping even more inconsistent with other game mechanics than it already was.

    Let’s take it in the complete opposite direction, and make it super simple instead.


    High Jump
    5 ft

    Running High Jump
    + 5 ft
    Requires a full 10 foot running start. Any less gives no benefit.

    “Short” Races
    -5 ft

    High Jump Reach
    + Melee Reach

    The minimum distance for a jump needs to be at least 1 tile – less than that makes jumping effectively useless.

    The “short” races naturally are penalized, but while they can’t make a 5 feet jump from a standstill, they can still make it if they get a running start.

    As for reaching something, like jumping to grab hold of a dangling rope, or clinging onto the side of a ledge and then climbing up, the simplest and most sensible solution is to just add normal melee reach.

    If a Dwarf is trapped in a pit, and his friends lower a rope that hangs down to 10 feet above the pit floor, he can make a Running High Jump to lift himself 5 feet above the ground, and then add his 5 foot reach to grab the rope, then climb out.

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