J Is for Jumping

In Pathfinder, the Acrobatics skill has several uses, among them determining how far a character can jump. Leaping out of the rules about jumping is this sentence: “No jump can allow you to exceed your maximum movement for the round.”

Which prompts me to ask, “Why?”

Consider a 1st-level human rogue with a 16 Dexterity wearing leather armor who has put one rank in Acrobatics. His base speed is 30 feet, or a maximum movement of 60 feet for the round. His total skill bonus is +7. Assume a roll of 20 and no surface modifiers affecting his DCs. Without a 10-foot running start, he jumps horizontally 13.5 feet or vertically 3.375 feet. With a 10-foot running start, those distances increase to 27 feet and 6.75 feet, respectively. This rogue consistently puts one skill point in Acrobatics each time he levels up, granting a steady improvement in his jumping distances. At both 4th and 8th levels, he bumps his Dexterity by one point. At 6th level, he acquires a stat booster item that bumps his Dexterity by +2. Let’s crunch some numbers (and continue assuming a roll of a 20). In each column, the first distances are without a 10-foot running start.

Level ~~~Horizontal Jump~~~ ~~~~Vertical Jump~~~~~
1st 13.5 ft./27 ft. 3.375 ft./6.75 ft.
2nd 14 ft./28 ft. 3.5 ft./7 ft.
3rd 14.5 ft./29 ft. 3.625 ft./7.25 ft.
4th 15 ft./30 ft. 3.75 ft./7.5 ft.
5th 15.5 ft./31 ft. 3.875 ft./7.75 ft.
6th 16.5 ft./33 ft. 4.125 ft./8.25 ft.
7th 17 ft./34 ft. 4.25 ft./8.5 ft.
8th 18 ft./36 ft. 4.5 ft./9 ft.
9th 18.5 ft./37 ft. 4.625 ft./9.25 ft.
10th 19 ft./38 ft. 4.75 ft./9.5 ft.

Since Acrobatics itself is not an action, but takes place during another action, it seems reasonable that a jumping character should have to declare whether he is going to make a single move action jump (normal 30-foot maximum in the case of our rogue’s base speed) or two move actions (normal 60-foot maximum in the case of our rogue’s base speed), and that this declaration should take place prior to the Acrobatics check. In the latter case, the rogue makes two Acrobatics checks and adds the distances together, getting more bang for his buck at the cost of both of his actions for the round.

This means, assuming a 10-foot running start with single move action, that our 1st-level rogue could potentially exceed his normal maximum speed by 17 feet with a maximum die roll (10-foot run up plus 27 feet on the jump). On average, he’ll travel 27.5 feet with the long jump, 17.5 feet of that being the actual jump. It isn’t until he reaches 4th-level that he’ll, on average, travel farther than his base speed with a single move action running jump. This is after putting four skill points into Acrobatics and an ability score bump into Dexterity, which seems to me a noteworthy investment toward being good at things acrobatical. If we allow the rogue to declare a double move as part of a single jump, we simply double the distances in the best case scenario, which assumes two d20 rolls that result in 20s. At 1st level, he travels 64 feet, including the 10-foot running start, barely more than his 60 feet maximum. By 10th level, he’s traveling 76 feet with the 10-foot running start.

None of this seems like a game breaker. Adding in other modifiers, such as for base speeds higher than 30 feet or feats such as Skill Focus (Acrobatics), obviously yield higher results, but still not to any great extent. If our rogue had a base speed of 40 feet and Skill Focus (Acrobatics), we’d add 7 feet to each running horizontal jump.

It would be possible for an Acrobatics-focused character to exceed his base speed with a jump check, at least some of the time. This would require a deliberate expenditure of limited resources (skill points and feats) to accomplish, and that seems a fair trade to me. If a character spends resources to be good at something, the character should get to be good at that something. In general, jumping isn’t a better way of moving than running. Jumping may get a character over rough terrain, for example, but it’s awfully hard to change direction once the character is airborne. Also, don’t forget that terrain modifiers affect Acrobatics checks. That 10-foot running start isn’t as easy on a frozen lake or the loose rocks of steep incline.

For added fun, let characters “rebound” from appropriate surfaces to change direction during a jump. Add +5 to the DC for each rebound. So, for instance, our exemplar 1st-level rogue could do a 27-foot running jump, or cover 22 feet with a direction-changing rebound from a wall. He could then jump over a pit in the corner of an L-shaped hallway, vaulting off the wall to effectively move along a right angle to the other side.

After all that, what’s my point? Simply this: Ignore the rule that says, “No jump can allow you to exceed your maximum movement for the round.” It won’t break your game, and it might even make it a tad bit more awesome.

April 11th, 2012  in RPG No Comments »

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