Can dwarves float in your games?

Its an oddball question I know, but can dwarves float in your games? They weigh almost as much as a man does but are shorter and more compact. There was a series of books I read long ago, Guardians of the Flame, and in it they pointed out that the density of dwarves was such that they couldn’t float and so avoided water when possible.

I know in the real world runners often have the problem that their bodies become unable to float because of the concentration of muscle mass in half their body; they basically become human bobbers and sink if they aren’t actively swimming.

So, I am saying that a dwarf could still swim, but would they also be able to naturally float or do they need to keep attempting to swim at all times in your games?

Most people in armor can’t float either, but it is still possible for them to swim with a harder roll. I’d just use the normal rules for simplicity, but you could institute a -1 or -2 penalty if you insist. I would lean toward dwarves having little affinity for the water, but some settlements could be clear exceptions, especially if shipping and trade was of particular importance.

Of course. Their beards are so thick and luxurious, that they contain hundreds of thousands of miniature air pockets that cannot be flooded with water.

They just lie back, wrap their arms around their beards, and relax.

I think if one wanted to be a real jerk, you could divide the character's STR by his height in feet and if the number exceeds 3, he has too much muscle and too little fat to float!


Alex (me): STR 7, Height 6.1 = 1.14, floats well
Conan: STR 18, Height 6.1 = 2.95, barely floats
Bob the Dwarf: STR 18, Height 4' = 4.5, SINKS!

Heh, heh.


That’s a rather clever bit of math that works well Alex. A nice little tweak to it all.

So “sinking” in this context just has to do with the buoyancy of someone, so it won’t stop a character from swimming per-se, right? Should this be a small penalty on swim checks, make swim checks more tiring, only come up when a situation prevents someone from swimming (like death), or just be a role-playing thing?

Nerdnumber1, that was my thinking on it. I was going to allow them to still swim so as to not make any watery area deeper than shoulder height be a deadly trap for all dwarves. As long as the character can swim or get to something they can use as a floatation device they are okay. But if unconscious in water then this can be dangerous.

While rare I have had multiple occasions where characters ended up near death in water and would need to make the “butter side up” roll to see if they were face up or face down in the water. If the dwarf were too dense to float they would just be in trouble if there were no friends about.

Ahhhh…butter side up…I am still laughing as I type this!