Understanding Carrying Capacity in D&D 5e

Published on January 15, 2024

While the calculations for carrying capacity in D&D 5e are simple, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when determining how much loot you can carry around.

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Carrying Capacity 5e

Welcome, intrepid adventurers, to the often overlooked but crucial aspect of dungeon delving and dragon slaying – managing your loot and gear without turning into a walking storage unit! Today, we’re diving into the world of carrying capacity in D&D 5e. Buckle up your backpacks get prepared to shoulder this load of information!

How to Calculate Carrying Capacity 5e

In D&D 5e, carrying capacity is determined by a simple formula: your Strength score multiplied by 15. This number represents the weight in pounds that you can carry, which is easy enough to calculate but often ignored until your DM asks, “Are you really trying to carry three chests of gold, a statue, and a sleeping ogre?”

Example: If your character has a Strength score of 10, your carrying capacity is 150 pounds. That’s like carrying around a whole other person or a very, very hefty pile of treasure!

What happens if a character exceeds this limit? Well, in games that play with vanilla carrying capacity, a character simply cannot carry more than their allotment. But, for games that want a bit more complexity to inventory management, you can use the encumbrance variant rule:

Variant Rule for Carrying Capacity: Encumbrance

If you’ve played Baldur’s Gate 3 and like the way they managed carrying capacity, good news! The game uses a variant rule (which can be found in the Basic Rules) that is supposed to add a bit more nuance to carrying capacity.

Within this rule, if you carry more than 5 times your Strength score, you are encumbered. Being encumbered means your speed drops by 10 feet.

If you carry more than 10 times your Strength score, you are heavily encumbered. This is a lot more of a serious state than simply being encumbered. When heavily encumbered you suffer these effects:

  • Your speed drops by 20 feet
  • You have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

But, one interesting upside to using the encumbrance variant rule is heavy armor no longer requires a minimum Strength requirement to wield. This is because the weight of the armor and the devastating impact of heavy encumbrance already provide enough motivation to get your Strength up before donning heavy armor.

Push, Drag, or Lift

Sometimes, you need to push, drag, or lift something heavy for short periods of time, like if you need to drag a heavy bookcase out of the way of a secret passage.  You can push, drag, or lift up to twice your carrying capacity. If you go over your carrying capacity while pushing, dragging, or lifting, your speed drops to 5 feet.

This situation won’t allow you to balance the bookcase on your back and walk away with it, but you’ll be able to shove it aside so you can sneak in, at least!

Size and Carrying Capacity

In D&D, your creature size directly affects how much weight you can carry. Being Small or Medium means you have the standard carrying capacity. For each size category above Medium, the creature’s carrying capacity is doubled. And, unfortunately for those fairy characters, being Tiny means your carrying capacity is halved.

Size Carrying Capacity Modifier Carrying Capacity With a Strength Score of 10
Tiny x0.5 75 pounds
Small 150 pounds
Medium 150 pounds
Large x2 300 pounds
Huge x4 600 pounds
Gargantuan x8 1,200 pounds

Spells to Ease Your Burden

  • Tenser’s Floating Disk: This is the go-to spell for any loot-laden adventurer. It creates a circular, horizontal disk that floats 3 feet off the ground and can hold up to 500 pounds. It’s like having a magical trolley that follows you around for an hour. Perfect for hauling that dragon’s hoard out of the cave!
  • Levitate: This spell can lift a target that weighs up to 500 pounds.
  • Telekinesis: For the more advanced magic users, this spell can move objects that weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
  • Enlarge/Reduce: Using the Reduce option reduces the target’s weight to one-eighth of normal. Keep in mind this spell only lasts a minute, so you’ll have to work quickly!
  • Bigby’s Hand: This magical hand has a Strength score of 26, meaning its carrying capacity is 390 pounds.
  • Enhance Ability: Using the Bull’s Strength option in this spell not only grants the target advantage on Strength checks but also doubles the target’s carrying capacity.
  • Summon/Conjure/Find Spells: While find steed is the perfect spell to increase your party’s carrying capacity over the long term, never underestimate how much 3 brown bears summoned with conjure animals can get done in an hour!
  • Mage Hand: While it only lifts 10 pounds, it’s perfect for those moments when you need that extra hand.

Clever spellcasters have been known to combine spells for optimal effect. For example, using Reduce from enlarge/reduce to shrink a heavy object, then moving it with mage hand (or levitate if you have two casters that have their concentration slot free).

Race and Subclass Abilities That Affect Carrying Capacity

  • Racial Traits: Some races, like the firbolg or orc, have the Powerful Build racial trait, which allows them to treat their carry capacity as if they were a size larger. Seeing as most character races are Medium, this would double your carrying capacity because you’d be considered Large.
  • Subclass Abilities: Certain classes offer unique ways to enhance carrying capacity. For example, Totem barbarians with the Bear Aspect of the Beast at 6th level double their carrying capacity. You could also rely on subclass effects that increase your size, like the Rune Knight’s Giant’s Might to become Large, thereby doubling your carrying capacity.

Packing Smart: Tips for the Encumbered Adventurer

Traveling heavy? Here are some quick tips that can make encumbrance less of a burden:

  • Magic Items: Items like the bag of holding, which weighs 15 pounds regardless of what you put in it, or a portable hole are a packrat’s dream.
  • Teamwork: Remember, you’re part of a team! If you can’t push, drag, or lift something because it’s too heavy, ask your party members to put their backs into it. A party of 5 average adventures should be able to move something weighing 1,500 lbs (5 adventurers x (150 carrying capacity x 2))
  • Mounts and Vehicles: A draft horse is 50 gp, and a cart is 15 gp. 65 gp to never have to worry about the loot you’re carrying around (until you find a bag of holding) is well worth it!

Do You Even Lift?

Carrying capacity might not be the flashiest aspect of D&D, but it’s crucial for keeping your adventures realistic (well, as realistic as a game with dragons and magic can be). Remember, it’s not just about how much you can carry, but how you carry it. Smart packing and resource management can be the difference between a successful quest and being squashed under a pile of your own loot.

So, next time you’re tempted to loot every weapon in the goblin’s armory or carry a spare suit of armor ‘just in case,’ remember these guidelines. Your back (and your DM) will thank you!

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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