Last Updated: April 5, 2023
The Athletics Skill
The Athletics Skill represents a character’s ability to perform several physically demanding tasks like Swimming, Climbing, Jumping, and Breaking Objects. Additionally it is used for offensive maneuvers in combat such as Disarm, Grapple, Shove, and Trip as well as defensively in the form of Escape. The key ability modifier for Athletics is Strength.
While the Athletics Skill may be more important to some characters than others, everyone can reach all the way to Legendary in any skill of their choosing. Yes, your Wizard can very much put a Troll in a headlock if you want to do it. In the long run, Level + Proficiency becomes a far larger value than ability score modifiers, which catch up rapidly as well. So your Muscle Wizard might start with a 14 Strength to the Wrestle Fighter’s 18, but come level 10, MW is rolling a +20 to WF’s +21.
Table of Contents
- The Athletics Skill
- Proficiency Levels
- Athletics Skill Actions
- Athletics Skill Feats
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
- : Even if you’re not interested in the Combat Maneuvers available with Athletics, the movement and exploration options are somewhat essential to the typical adventurer.
- : Follow the Expert requires at least one Expert. This is especially helpful if somebody in your party cannot spare a skill option to reach Trained. If your party isn’t utilizing Athletics in Combat, this is the highest you’ll need. You really don’t want someone slipping and falling down that ravine you’re crossing.
- : If you’re investing up to this level, you’re either using this stuff in Combat or you want the Climbing, Jumping, and Swimming Master skill feats.
- : Just like Master rank before it, especially as all of those mentioned feats automatically get way stronger when your Athletics skill is Legendary.
Athletics Skill Actions
Empty Hands and Weapon Traits
The Athletics Attack Actions all require at least one hand free. Alternatively, a weapon with the relevant trait can be used to perform such actions, such as Grappling with a Fangwire.
Almost all Athletics Skill Actions can be used Untrained.
- Climb: Adventuring and Exploration will occasionally require ascending and descending such things as caverns and fortresses.
- Force Open: You don’t typically think of it, but it’s not uncommon to have a door or other obstruction bar your path and require a hearty shout of “Oh Yeah!”
- Grapple: An opponent with the Grabbed condition is better than an opponent that is free to move wherever they want. Just be strategic about this. Some foes have rather outrageous Fortitude DCs for their level.
- High Jump: Anyone can leap up 3 feet of height. This 2-action activity is used to increase that to 5 feet with a DC 30 check. You might never have to use this, but it’s good to know it’s a thing.
- Leap: Not technically an Athletics action. Included here as an honorable mention.
- Long Jump: These are a little more likely to come up than High Jumps, but still somewhat uncommon. The DC for these are instead the number of feet you intend to Leap. Not bad in theory, but in practice most creatures can Leap 10 feet without a check, or even 15 feet with a land speed of 30.
- Shove: You might wonder why you want to increase the distance between you and your opponent, but that’s thinking too narrowly. Let’s say your party of four adventurers is fighting one or two strong opponents. The rest of your team closes in and everyone makes their swings. You’re up next before it gets back around to the monster. You walk up to bat and Shove it away 5 feet, maybe throw in a Demoralize to get around MAP. Well now this thing you’re fighting has to waste ⅓ of its actions just to move back into position because you’ve used 1/12 of your party’s actions to Shove it. These situations don’t happen in every combat but they happen often enough to think about it.
- Swim: It’s better to know how to swim than not, but it wont come up in many Campaigns.
- Trip: Prone is almost as good as Grabbed, but unlike Grapple, Trip targets Reflex DCs. Use this on bigger, tougher, clumsier monsters.
- Disarm: In a cruel twist, the only trained Athletics action is almost worthless. First, the target has to be wielding an actual weapon and not just have a natural weapon like a claw or jaws. Then you have to get a Critical Success against their Reflex DC. If all of that lines up, you have successfully Disarmed a target. If you only get a normal Success, then basically nothing happens as the target receives a -2 circumstance penalty to attack rolls with the weapon until the start of their next turn.
Athletics Skill Feats
Consult the Archives of Nethys for a complete list of Athletics Skill Feats.
- Armor Assist: Rarely, if ever, will cutting the time to don armor in half matter. For reference, it takes 1 minute for light armor and 5 minutes for medium or heavy.
- Combat Climber: Fighting while climbing is not a common activity. but the important part here is being able to climb with only one free hand.
- Hefty Hauler: Encumbered Bulk is 5 + your Strength modifier while maximum is 10 + that same modifier. If your Strength is on the lower side, this is a pretty good feat for boosting that capacity. If you’re quite strong already, this might be less important to you. You can also supplement your carrying capacity with items like the Lifting Belt.
- Quick Jump: This cuts the action cost of High Jump and Long Jump in half by removing the need to Stride beforehand, but those actions are still quite uncommon. Leap usually does the job well enough on its own.
- Titan Wrestler: If you’re here to perform actions like Grapple and Shove, then you need this to use those actions on larger creatures.
- Underwater Marauder: Fighting underwater is fairly rare unless your campaign is built around such things. If it is some kind of nautical adventure, then of course this increases to Blue.
- Lead Climber: If you’re spelunking, a common activity for adventurers, this gives you the ability to save an ally from falling by being that good at Climbing.
- Powerful Leap: Instead of making High Jump or Long Jump better, this effectively turns Leap, which just happens and has no skill check to perform, into High Jump and Long Jump for most situations.
- Rapid Mantel: If your Dexterity isn’t great and your Reflex save isn’t as good as your Athletics, this is very important for letting you use Athletics instead for the Grab an Edge reaction.
- Slippery Prey: This makes your escape attempts agile. Decent if you want to attack your target before breaking the grab.
- Say That Again! (Rare): This is a very narrow reaction that allows you to Shove someone that critically fails a Demoralize or Lie check against you. Perhaps it makes sense within the Adventure Path it was published in, but otherwise this is a rare trigger condition.
- Quick Climb: For most people, this means Climbing 10 ft on a Success and 20 feet on a Critical Success, doubling your ascent. If climbing seems to come up enough or you want it to be a part of your fighting style, this might be worth taking. Gaining a Climb speed at 15 if you become Legendary in Athletics is nice, but somewhat late in the game since by that level you have abundant options for magical flight.
- Quick Swim: Just like Quick Climb, but for Swimming. Same analysis applies: if swimming comes up enough in your game, such as a nautical pirate adventure, then take this.
- Wall Jump: I’ll be honest, I don’t know why you would take Wall Jump if you can instead take Quick Climb except in one very narrow situation: You need to scale a 10-15 foot wall and you have stuff in both hands. This is also a game with magical flight.
- Water Sprint: You can stride across water as long as you fulfill some special restrictions. Also you fall in if you stop on top of the water. The upgrade for becoming Legendary lowers some of the restrictions, but you still fall in when your movement ends. I can’t tell if this means you can chain Strides together or not to cross a small pond, but I would argue that you can just to keep it in line with what Wall Jump gets as an upgrade. For how infrequently you’ll likely use this, you could buy scrolls of Water Walk.
- Cloud Jump: You’re level 15 and you’re Legendary in Athletics. That gives us +23 before adding Ability Score and any other bonuses from items or spells. That’s a minimum Long Jump of 72 feet and a minimum High Jump of 24 feet. If you are aiming for this feat, it becomes much more worth it to pick up Wall Jump to scale large cliffs or walls with multiple jumps.