5E, Acrobatics, and Parkour

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Has anyone created any guidelines for Parkour in 5e? I've got a bunch of roguish players (not all actual rogues) with high dexteritys, low strengths, and a fear of walls, climbing, etc :)

I've been kind of winging it to this point but am thinking of trying to come up with a set of guidelines to allow them to use Acrobatics to parkour through some issues - parkouring up walls in narrow alleys, wall-running to get around pit traps or to reach ledges, etc. The equivalent of how a PC can automatically jump a number of feet equal to their STR score, for example.

I blame it on playing too much Tomb Raider recently.

Before I start inventing these myself, I thought I'd see what others have come up with. Has anyone got anything like that?
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I’m pretty loose about what constitutes ‘difficult terrain’. To me, swinging from the chandelier for 15 feet is just the Characters movement.
Edit: mostly I try to gate as few actions behind die rolls as I can.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
The acrobatics skill covers most of what you want to do. Just don't be tempted to just replace Athletics with Acrobatics to keep a bunch of STR dump players happy. It might be easier to just write up some maneuvers and give them a DC and base stat, with some DEX and some STR.

I'm currently keen on mix and match stat bonuses for edge case skill tests. One way to more adequately model parkour would be to allow up to +2 each from STR and DEX and call it it's own skill (with a +5 total possible if either stat is a 20), covering whatever maneuvers you care to write up. Or don't call it a skill and just use the mixed bonuses plus proficiency if the character has it in either Athletics or Acrobatics.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
If you use feats, I would tell them to take Mobility and Expertise in Athletics. Mobility will remove the difficult terrain and add 10 feet of movement, allowing them to cover distances better.

Either way, while Strength is important to parkour, Dexterity is more important IMO. Agility, reflexes, and balance are all paramount. Strength is important and lower strength could make it harder, but that isn't how skills work in 5E. I would make the check a Dexterity (Athletics) check and set the DC according to the maneuver they are trying to accomplish.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
You could also create a new "Parkour" skill that covers both acrobatics and athletics. :) If the players want to climb walls (where there's some cost of failure, of course) I would ask for Strength check (to which they could add their proficiency bonus if they have the Parkour skill). As for leaping down, I would ask for a Dexterity check (to which they can add their proficiency bonus if they're skilled in Parkour once again).

I don't think it would break anything (and of course if Parkour is popular then baddies could also gain that skill) and it might encourage them to think about approaching challenges in Parkour ways.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Not that it necessarily matters in a 5E skills context, but weak people can't do parkour, just like clumsy people can't. As an endeavor it's pretty neatly balanced right between STR and DEX. Mind you so, for the most part, is real life Acrobatics and that's a straight dex skill, so YMMV. Also, I think DEX has enough toys already that it doesn't need another really cool one.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
"Parkour" could be imagined as an overarching challenge that is divided into specific obstacles, the declared tasks for which may or may not call for ability checks as per the normal rules for adjudicating actions. Strength (Athletics) checks covers "difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping..." (Basic Rules, p. 62). Dexterity (Acrobatics) covers attempts to "stay on your feet in a tricky situation..." (Basic Rules, p. 63). As always, only the DM calls for checks after the player declares an action that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

So, in a rooftop chase or tricky exploration of a section of a dungeon (for example), you present a "parkour exploration challenge." That challenge has a set number of obstacles (say, 3 to 5) that are individually presented to the players via the DM describing the environment and asking "What do you do?" Examples might include a sheer wall with few handholds, a narrow beam connecting two rooftops, a low fence or barrier with sharp protrusions, etc. The players will describe how they try to get past it at which point you can decide if an ability check is required according to the rules for adjudicating actions. When the "parkour exploration challenge" is complete, you can assess the overall success or failure of the PCs based on how they managed the individual obstacles and narrate accordingly.

This sits within the existing rules set and does not require any house rules or the like.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
Mixing and matching Abilities and Skills helps.
Strength (Acrobatics) to get up to a roof by bouncing between two walls or a corner, Dex (Athletics) to run across the sloped roof, Strength(Athletics) to leap from that roof to another across the street, and Dex(Acrobatics) to land in a roll that uses less of your movement. Then Constitution to keep going.

Generally Parkour is going to be in a competitive or race situation, so it allows you the opportunity of several different checks in a round-by-round format.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Seems like a classic use of Acrobatics. I’d allow bypassing reasonable obstacles at full speed of a distance equal to the same distances as long jumps and high jumps, but with Dex as the base stat.

I also allow Acrobatics checks to ignore difficult terrain entirely, usually DC 15.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
It might be easier to just write up some maneuvers and give them a DC and base stat, with some DEX and some STR.
That pretty much my plan.

Edit: mostly I try to gate as few actions behind die rolls as I can.
I also agree with this - it solved a lot of my players problems when I realized climbing mostly didn't require rolls unless its particularly dangerous.

Not that it necessarily matters in a 5E skills context, but weak people can't do parkour, just like clumsy people can't.
This is true, but thieves need to be able to climb walls!

"Parkour" could be imagined as an overarching challenge that is divided into specific obstacles, the declared tasks for which may or may not call for ability checks as per the normal rules for adjudicating actions. Strength (Athletics) checks covers "difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping..." (Basic Rules, p. 62). Dexterity (Acrobatics) covers attempts to "stay on your feet in a tricky situation..." (Basic Rules, p. 63). As always, only the DM calls for checks after the player declares an action that has an uncertain outcome and a meaningful consequence for failure.

So, in a rooftop chase or tricky exploration of a section of a dungeon (for example), you present a "parkour exploration challenge." That challenge has a set number of obstacles (say, 3 to 5) that are individually presented to the players via the DM describing the environment and asking "What do you do?" Examples might include a sheer wall with few handholds, a narrow beam connecting two rooftops, a low fence or barrier with sharp protrusions, etc. The players will describe how they try to get past it at which point you can decide if an ability check is required according to the rules for adjudicating actions. When the "parkour exploration challenge" is complete, you can assess the overall success or failure of the PCs based on how they managed the individual obstacles and narrate accordingly.

This sits within the existing rules set and does not require any house rules or the like.
This is a really good way to look at it - I am definitely wanting to keep things within the existing rule set and not get too outlandish. I have a challenge of this sort coming up in the next couple of sessions that has kind of crystallized my need to create some more concrete guidelines.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
I'm with other, don't weaken Str by making all your stuff Dex based. Keep separate Parkour 'tasks' related to their appropriate skill. (Many/majority will be Dex, but some are Str.)

For instance;
- running up two close walls, Strength (Athletics).
- jumping off a stair case and landing in a small area and not falling, Dexterity (Acrobatics)
- jump distances based on Str, landing as desired so you can keep running Dex.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Here's some of my ideas. Taking the three key actions that I mentioned earlier: parkouring up a wall in a narrow alley, wall running, and running up a wall to catch a ledge.

The core idea is that, like jumping, parkouring is keyed to 10+dexterity or acrobatics bonus.

Parkouring up a wall in an alley or narrow corridor: Alley must be narrow enough to allow this: 5 feet max width (could be larger for larger enemies. The idea of a parkouring Fire Giant amuses me). Movement up the wall costs double, the PC must end movement on a flat surface or by grabbing onto something or they will fall. The PC can parkour up to 5 ft + acrobatics and then grab a ledge above that according to their height (1.5 times their height, same as for Jumping). So a six foot tall PC with a +6 in Acrobatics could parkour up 11 feet and be standing on top of a wall, or grab a ledge 20 feet up.

Movement in subsequent rounds is handled by the climbing skill unless they can get a running start somehow.

Running up a wall to catch a ledge would work the same way.

Wall running: a PC can wall run up to 5 ft + acrobatics in distance, but height of the ceiling limits this: ceiling height must equal or exceed the distance run. So using the PC with a +6 acrobatics, they could wall run 11 feet; but only so long as the ceiling is also 11 feet high as you need to run UP as well as horizontally. PC must end their turn on solid ground or fall.

Just as Jumping allows you to jump 10 ft + Athletics bonus in feet without a roll, these are all passive checks. They also all require running starts of at least ten feet (as does Jumping) and distances are halved if starting from a dead stop. This doesn't preclude the value of climbing - it only gets you a slight head start if the climb is more than 15-20 feet.

Extra movement (monk speed, rogues with dash) doesn't give you a bonus to your check but the movement may allow you to go further depending on circumstances. A 9th level monk can run up walls much more effectively than even the most skilled rogue, which is appropriate. Tricky circumstances would require checks, etc.

That's my rough first draft.

EDIT: I'd allow someone with athletics to do all of the same basic manouvers - though they might appear different. Think of the opening parkour chase in Casino Royale. The bad guys parkours all over the place, Bond mostly powers through obstacles but to the same eventual effect.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Unless it was a mapped out tactical challenge with grid and minis including elevation, I wouldn't go this complicated with it.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
I agree in general - but I do have a specific challenge in mind for an upcoming session that is motivating me to put this down on paper.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
This is true, but thieves need to be able to climb walls!
Then playing a thief who is rather unathletic and weak in comparison with their weight such as the couch potato (typical Str 8 example) is definitely playing against type. Such a thief would likely climb walls using grapples, ropes and other methods that might take more time, but allow easier rolls, or remove the need for rolls to climb altogether.

Parkouring up a wall in an alley or narrow corridor: Alley must be narrow enough to allow this: 5 feet max width (could be larger for larger enemies. The idea of a parkouring Fire Giant amuses me). Movement up the wall costs double, the PC must end movement on a flat surface or by grabbing onto something or they will fall. The PC can parkour up to 5 ft + acrobatics and then grab a ledge above that according to their height (1.5 times their height, same as for Jumping). So a six foot tall PC with a +6 in Acrobatics could parkour up 11 feet and be standing on top of a wall, or grab a ledge 20 feet up.

Wall running: a PC can wall run up to 5 ft + acrobatics in distance, but height of the ceiling limits this: ceiling height must equal or exceed the distance run. So using the PC with a +6 acrobatics, they could wall run 11 feet; but only so long as the ceiling is also 11 feet high as you need to run UP as well as horizontally. PC must end their turn on solid ground or fall.
Both of these strike me as iconic use of Strength in 5e. - Although both Athletics or Acrobatics proficiency could be applied. They're all about power and maintaining momentum rather than balance and grace.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
Players want to climb with parkour ... that is athletics.
Players want to jump really far ... that is athletics.
Players want to flip over something ... that is acrobatics
Players want to slide down something ... that is acrobatics
Players want to run across something narrow ... that is acrobatics
players want to leap off a buildings and land with out dying ... that is acrobatics to avoid some of the damage and athletics for distance.

What Acrobatics isnt is the ability to climb something by using dex or jump really far by using dex.

See THIEF 2nd story work. That sounds like what people are looking for but they dont want to play the Thief.

Parkour masters are those who are athletic and acrobatic.

edit: I liked the ability to bypass difficult terrain as an ability check.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Players want to climb with parkour ... that is athletics.
Players want to jump really far ... that is athletics.
Players want to flip over something ... that is acrobatics
Players want to slide down something ... that is acrobatics
Players want to run across something narrow ... that is acrobatics
players want to leap off a buildings and land with out dying ... that is acrobatics to avoid some of the damage and athletics for distance.

What Acrobatics isnt is the ability to climb something by using dex or jump really far by using dex.

See THIEF 2nd story work. That sounds like what people are looking for but they dont want to play the Thief.

Parkour masters are those who are athletic and acrobatic.

edit: I liked the ability to bypass difficult terrain as an ability check.
Keep in mind that 5E presents checks as ability checks, not skill checks. So what you're actually supposed to be doing is saying "What ability works here? Strength or Dexterity?" then ask "Is a character Proficient in X and would it apply?"

This allows you figure out what any character can do, and the those that are proficient are better at that thing. Works for any skill.
 

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