Aquatic and Amphibious Animals


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Silver Crusade

Is there any PFS clarification or ruling on application of the Aquatic subtype and the Amphibious special quality to animals?

As it stands, the bestiaries are inconsistent. Frogs and Toads are not Amphibious, even though they are amphibians. Electric Eels are not Aquatic, but Moray Eels are. A good number of animals that live in the water are neither Aquatic nor Amphibious.

For most purposes, this doesn't matter very much. But one instance where it is problematic is the Kraken Caller Druid archetype. The Kraken Caller's wild shape ability, apart from the tentacles variation, is limited to "animals with the aquatic or water subtype or that have the amphibious special quality."

There are zero animals with the Water subtype. There are zero animals with the amphibious special quality. There are a total of 15 animals with the Aquatic subtype. (I'm going off Bestiaries 1-4).

Can this be fixed? Has it been fixed and I haven't seen it? Kraken Callers across Golarion want to know.

Silver Crusade

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It has long struck me as odd that Pathfinder amphibians aren't amphibious. I would much prefer to see the root cause addressed than a special case, but...


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In Pathfinder, "Amphibious" means capable of breathing air or water -- and there are virtually no real world animals with that ability. Water dwelling animals that breathe air are not "Aquatic" in Pathfinder terms -- surprisingly, that is why the electric eel is not considered aquatic. Finally, the "Water" subtype is generally reserved for creatures associated with the Elemental Plane of Water, which again excludes real world animals.

In summary, the first sentence of the Kraken Caller's Wild Shape ability is poorly written because of the three keywords it references, only "Aquatic" is ever applied to animals.

Silver Crusade

Maybe the easiest fix for the Kraken Caller case is to change the wording of its wild shape restriction.

It could be changed to "animals that breathe water or that dwell primarily in water." Would that be easy to adjudicate?

Of course, it would be nice to get water elementals too.


supervillan wrote:
It could be changed to "animals that breathe water or that dwell primarily in water." Would that be easy to adjudicate?

"Animals with the aquatic subtype or a natural swim speed" might be better way to put this. It's more precise from a game mechanics perspective, and thus easier to make rulings on.

Scarab Sages

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Interestingly enough, underwater combat penalizes blunt and slashing attacks. Rightfully so. But animals, such as dolphins, who live their whole life in the water, take the penalty.

Grand Lodge

Tallow wrote:
Interestingly enough, underwater combat penalizes blunt and slashing attacks. Rightfully so. But animals, such as dolphins, who live their whole life in the water, take the penalty.

Well, the Underwater Combat rules start with "Land-based creatures can have considerable difficulty when fighting in water." So I guess we can assume that it's up to GM to decide if water-based creature (or even player character with right racial traits) could ignore the penalty.

Sovereign Court

Streamwalker wrote:
Tallow wrote:
Interestingly enough, underwater combat penalizes blunt and slashing attacks. Rightfully so. But animals, such as dolphins, who live their whole life in the water, take the penalty.
Well, the Underwater Combat rules start with "Land-based creatures can have considerable difficulty when fighting in water." So I guess we can assume that it's up to GM to decide if water-based creature (or even player character with right racial traits) could ignore the penalty.

We should have a new supplement about underwater adventures this summer, which will hopefully clarify this. Until then I'm using the following work solution:

1) Natural attacks of creatures with water/aquatic subtypes (and perhaps even also those with native swim speeds) are not subject to underwater fighting penalties. The same applies to anyone shapeshifting into such a form. Those natural weapons are specifically evolved to work well underwater.
2) Those creatures still take those penalties on manufactured weapons; but they're generally shown using piercing weapons like tridents so that's okay.

I think this is a reasonable interpretation of the vague language in the Underwater Combat rules.


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supervillan wrote:

Maybe the easiest fix for the Kraken Caller case is to change the wording of its wild shape restriction.

It could be changed to "animals that breathe water or that dwell primarily in water." Would that be easy to adjudicate?

Of course, it would be nice to get water elementals too.

Given the context of this thread, I originally refrained from offering a solution since it would not affect what anyone could do in PFS play.

But my personal preferred solution would be to count as a wild shape option for this archetype any animal whose highest speed is its swim speed.

Silver Crusade

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David knott 242 wrote:
In Pathfinder, "Amphibious" means capable of breathing air or water -- and there are virtually no real world animals with that ability.

Are you trying to draw too fine a line for me to recognize? There are 7k+ real-world amphibians. Mostly frogs. Which, weirdly in Pathfinder, are still not treated as amphibious.


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Real world amphibians are not amphibious in the Pathfinder sense. Most of them start out as aquatic creatures who breathe water and not air and eventually become the reverse (air breathers who could drown in water).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
David knott 242 wrote:

Real world amphibians are not amphibious in the Pathfinder sense. Most of them start out as aquatic creatures who breathe water and not air and eventually become the reverse (air breathers who could drown in water).

Nearly every amphibians can maintain some sort of oxygen exchange in water. Rates depend on species, oxygen level, and temperature, but a fair number of amphibians are actually capable of sustained durations in water without air. Some retain gills in adulthood, or gill-like structures. I'm not absolutely sure what the ratio of "can breathe entirely in water forever" to "can breathe for a short while in water" is.

There are also a lot of fish adapted to breathe air. Everyone's heard of lungfish, but an example closer to home is the betta fish.

Still, my biggest gripe is that I can put a toad familiar in a lake and watch him drown in under a minute flat. No swim speed, no ability to breathe water, and 6 con. That's... not a toad.

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