A jacked man using cable weights in a gym, yelling at the camera
5e: Calculating Carrying Capacity

Written by Phil

Phil was a world-traveler, writing, playing games, and exploring. Now he lives in Toronto and plays D&D, Root, and Terraforming Mars online. Most recently, he has been exploring the asymmetric games by Leder Games. Links to Other Writing: Persuasive Writing; Coffee Website.

On the go? Listen to the audio version of the article here:

Have you ever wondered how much your character can carry and how strength or size affect it? Does your DM ask you to keep track of weight? Here’s a simple breakdown for calculating carrying capacity, according to the Player’s Handbook (pg 176):

For carrying capacity, multiply your STR score by 15 lbs. If you have a STR score of 12, you can carry a maximum of 180bs (15×12). Creature size matters, some have modifiers: Tiny (x0.5), Large (x2), Huge (x4), and Gargantuan (x8).

Those’re the basics of the mechanics, but there’s slightly more to it.

Are there any other factors that can affect carrying capacity?

Size

Size can either increase or decrease your carrying capacity. For creatures that are at least above medium size, double this capacity for each size above medium. For instance, if my character is huge and has a STR of 12, I would do the following computation:

12 STR x 15 x 4 = 720 lbs 

However, if you are a tiny creature, you can’t carry as much. As a result, always halve your carrying capacity. For instance: 

12 STR x 15 x ½ = 90 lbs 

For easier reference, here is a table to show you various sizes and their carrying capacity multipliers: 

Size Multiplier 
Tiny x½ 
SmallNone
Medium None
Large x2 
Huge x4 
Gargantuan x8 

When Your Strength Score Changes

Carrying capacity is not static—it will change when your strength does. Keep this in mind, especially when encountering the oh-so-fun (and optional) encumbrance rule


Looking to challenge your players?

Puzzles and Riddles can be tricky! Too easy and they’re pointless; Too hard and it’s pure frustration. What is a DM to do?

Well, our friends over at Dungeon Vault have an assortment of puzzles, riddles, and tokens to enhance your gaming experience. They even have a murder mystery and a political intrigue system!

For easy-to-use resources for any D&D game, check out the selections at Dungeon Vault!


How does Encumbrance work?

It depends on how much you are over capacity. The rules are actually quite strict if you decide to follow them, but I personally see them as a suggestion.

They go like so:

Amount CarriedHindrance
STR x 5Lightly Encumbered; -10 ft Speed
STR x 10 to 15 Heavily Encumbered: 
20 ft Speed;
Disadvantage on any ability checks, attack rolls, saving throws related to STR, DEX, or CON.

Note: these penalties still happen while you’re under max capacity.

How it works once you go over your total carrying capacity, it’s unclear. The rules only seem to think that people will be able to carry up to the max capacity, implying that you can’t move at all if you exceed the limit.

When using this variant rule, ignore the strength column on the armor table. Anyone can wear any armor regardless of strength, so long as they’re proficient. However, the weight is liable to set you back.

All of this is even more fun if you factor in the weight of coins! (/s) In case you’re wondering, 50 coins (any kind) is 1 lbs. Best bust out them platinums.

How Does Carrying Capacity Affect Push, Drag, or Lift? 

Your carrying capacity will be used when attempting to push, drag, or lift an object. Simply double your carrying capacity to know how much you can do any of these actions. 

For instance, your character has a carrying capacity of 90 lbs; you can push, pull, or lift objects of up to 180 lbs without strenuous effort. 

If you push, pull, or lift something heavier than your carrying capacity, reduce your speed to 5ft. This writing implies that you can drag at normal speed, though it’s up to your DM whether it’s part of your action, movement, or bonus action.

Are There Easier Ways to Track What I’m Carrying? 

If your DM tracks encumbrance, you might wonder how to keep track of everything. It is simple but tedious – all Rules-as-Written (RAW) items have their weights listed in their description, which can be found in the Player’s Handbook (PHB), Dungeon Master’s Guide, and other volumes. 

A simple way to track this is using a digital spreadsheet. Apps like Microsoft Excel, Google sheets, or DnD Beyond can help with inventory management and weight. Much less messy than accounting for every pound on your character sheet. 


Frighten Your Players

In a dark room, Jon is on the edge of his seat. He’s afraid his next act will be his doom.

Everyone holds their breath—except you, the DM. You enjoy watching them sweat as tension comes to a head.

Do something!” Sara shouts, causing everyone to jump. Rattled, Jon does something stupid.

For less than a Starbucks coffee, gift a thrilling night for you and your crew;

Check out Weeping Walls, our haunted house intended to fit into any campaign.


How to Avoid Encumbrance and Carrying Too Much

While this doesn’t directly have to do with calculating your weight, you may be wondering how to carry more while weighing less. Impossible you say? Well, magic saves the day alongside old-timey approaches.

Mounts

Mounts can be bought from most cities and vary in their cost and ability. Generally, you don’t want to ride them into combat unless you have proficiency in Animal Handling, and they may not be the best to bring into dungeons or caves, as they can trigger traps or draw unwanted attention.

That said, here are your options:

AnimalCostSpeedCapacity
Camel50 gp50 ft480 lbs
Donkey or mule8 gp40 ft420 lbs
Elephant200 gp40 ft1,320 lbs
Horse, draft50 gp40 ft540 lbs
Horse, riding75 gp60 ft480 lbs
Mastiff25 gp40 ft195 lbs
Pony30 gp40 ft225 lbs
Warhorse400 gp60 ft540 lbs

More information on mounts and vehicles can be found here.

Extradimensional Spaces

The fancy and most convenient way to carry extra stuff is by using extradimensional space items. There are likely more options, but the most common ones are:

  • Bag of Holding (DMG pg 153): Always weighs 15 lbs, but can hold up to 500 lbs—up to 64 cubic feet. You could fill it with liquid if you wanted, but bear in mind it’s inside acts like a big compartment, so it’ll soak everything inside.
  • Handy Haversack (DMG pg 174): Always weighs 5 lbs, this backpack has two side pouches (each hold 20 lbs, or 2 cubic feet) and a central pouch (holds 80 lbs or 8 cubic feet), each with their own extradimensional space. In total, can hold 120 lbs, or 12 cubic feet of materials. Not bad.
  • Portable Hole (DMG pg 185): Less convenient for retrieving things, the portable hole’s advantage is that it weighs nothing. The description doesn’t explicitly state the volume it can hold, but the math (6 ft diameter; 10 ft deep) implies that it can hold a volume of 282.74 cubic feet. In terms of carrying capacity, this is by far the best item. Weighs nothing and has no weight limit explicitly stated. Fill it with a tube of gold and diamonds—all is fair game.
  • Genie’s Vessel (Warlock Subclass, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, pg 73): Less common than the above three, but the last extradimensional object I’ll be touching on. This is a class feature you get immediately with the genie patron, you can jump in there once per long rest to deposit or retrieve stuff. It has much greater uses than that, but this is one option. How much can it hold? Again, no explicit weight limit, but it is a 40 ft diameter cylinder, 20 ft tall; the math says that’s a whopping 25132.74 cubic feet, and no weight limit.

As always, you should know that these benefits do come with some costs. If you ever place an item like the above four inside of an extradimensional space, watch out! It’s the D&D equivalent to a nuke—both items are destroyed and any creature within 10 feet is sent to a random location on the astral plane. No save, just gone.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the astral plane is like a void inhabited by departed souls with nowhere to go, so… not somewhere you generally want to be. The ticket is one-way, and time passes faster there—every second in the astral plane is roughly 4 days in the real world.

As a Redditor rephrased this comedy skit:

You violate topology like that, they put you in Astral Plane. Right away. No saving throw, no nothing. Portable hole in bag of holding: Astral Plane. Bag of holding in portable hole: also Astral Plane. Instant summons on genie vessel while inside the vessel, believe it or not, Astral Plane, right away. We have the best warlocks in the multiverse because of Astral Plane.

/u/Evil4Zerggin

Discover Ancient Treasure

The party is tired, hurting, and in need of shelter when they discover a mysterious, ancient stone crypt.

The dusty tomb could hold immense treasure, danger, or both – depending on how they approach it.

Perhaps they’ll foolishly wander into this setting-agnostic, densely-written classic dungeon that provides plenty of unique choices and twists on old favorites.

Check out the promotional version (on the product page) before you buy the Mound of Harald the Conqueror!


Magic

While there are many spells that can likely help with this, I’m sure I’ll overlook many possible applications. Let’s stick with the most obvious examples:

  • Floating Disk: For 1 hour, conjure a 3 ft diameter platform that hovers 3 ft from the ground and can hold up to 500 lbs—all for the rock bottom price of a 1st-level spell slot! Convenient for stopping yourself from being crushed by a statue, too. Be mindful that some DMs rule that it doesn’t hover over liquids, but only solid ground. Be sure to read the fine print.
  • Find Steed: An intelligent, telepathically bonded pack animal of your choosing that can also fight in combat and understand language? Yes, please. Only for Paladins, it’s pretty great for all the reasons mentioned in the Mounts section. Not so great for tight spaces.
  • Conjure Animals: One of my favorite spells, it can wreak mayhem and serve as a multitool. In this context, you can conjure a number of strong animals to carry things for you, and even fight if the need arises. 3rd-level spell slot, lasts for an hour; and your options are quite broad (from eight 0.25CR beasts to one 2CR beast), that means you can call forth eight riding horses for an hour—per the chart above, that’s 480 lbs each, totalling 3840 lbs. Alternatively, conjure two giant eagles, who also carry 480 lbs each (16 STRx15x2 (large)), likely being able to carry a party of four.
  • Telekinesis: 5th-level spell slot and it only lasts 10 minutes, but you can carry up to 1000 lbs. You’d need a vessel to contain all the things you’re wanting to carry, but that could be a fellow Player Character (PC) who is holding it all or a giant vat, if you came across one.
  • Levitate: 2nd-level spell, 10 minute length—but hey, 500 lbs. Again, it can only affect one object or creature, so you need some sort of vessel.

You could also argue Arcane Hand or Enlarge/Reduce might be useful, but the severe limitation on time (1 min) makes them hardly seem worth a 5th-level or 2nd-level spell slot, respectively.

Summary

Carrying capacity is easy:

  • Multiply your strength score (STR) by 15 lbs for medium creatures.
  • Creature size matters:
    • Tiny: STR x 15 x 0.5
    • Large: STR x 15 x 2
    • Huge: STR x 15 x 4
    • Gargantuan: STR x 15 x 8
  • Push, Pull, Drag (PHB, pg 176): Double your carrying capacity; that’s your limit. Anything heavier than your base carrying capacity will lower your speed by 5ft.
  • Encumbrance (Variant rule): STR score x 5, and you are mildly encumbered. Hold (STR x10 to x15), and you’re heavily encumbered. See the table in the section How Does Encumbrance Work?—it’s not fun, in my opinion. The upside is it removes strength requirements for heavy armor!
  • You can avoid carrying weight by using a variety of

As a DM, consider not tracking carrying capacity for an easier time for you and your players! After all, this is a game—not weight accounting. Unless they’re particularly hardcore, players may not enjoy having to continually tabulate their weight.

Best to reserve these rules for when you have a party who takes everything, nailed down or otherwise.

You May Also Like…

D&D 5e: Beginner DM Tips

D&D 5e: Beginner DM Tips

You accepted the challenge: next game, you'll be the Dungeon Master.  What now? Where should you start? DMing is...

5e: How to Run Horror Adventures

5e: How to Run Horror Adventures

The hungry dead crash into the run-down cottage like a ghoulish tide. The adventurers within fight desperately to keep...

5e: Slow vs Haste

5e: Slow vs Haste

Your wizard just leveled up, and you are ready for the best part: choosing new spells. You just reached level 5, and...

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5e Drowning Rules: Underwater Misadventures — Make a Skill Check - […] of 1. Then, drop to 0hp, dying. You cannot regain hp or stabilize until you can breathe again. Encumbrance…
  2. 5e Drowning Rules: Underwater Misadventures — Make a Skill Check - […] min of 1. Then, drop to 0hp, dying. You cannot regain hp or stabilize until you can breathe again.…
  3. 5e: Armor Guide — Make a Skill Check - […] weight does count toward your carrying capacity (PHB, pg 176), too, but heavier armor users tend to be stronger,…
  4. 5e Weapons: All You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive — Make a Skill Check - […] weights (which are likely to only ever come up if you use encumbrance in your game (more on that…
  5. 5e Weapons: All You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive — Make a Skill Check - […] If you hit a Large or smaller target with it (more on size here), they are restrained by it…
  6. D&D 5e Shop Ideas: Magic Shops — Make a Skill Check - […] his shop, one can acquire various potions, bags with extradimensional spaces inside (more on those here), a Periapt of…
  7. D&D 5e Shop Ideas: Magic Shops — Make a Skill Check - […] his shop, one can acquire various potions, bags with extradimensional spaces inside (more on those here), a Periapt of…
  8. 5e Weapons: All You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive — Make a Skill Check - […] weights (which are likely to only ever come up if you use encumbrance in your game (more on that…
  9. 5e Gold: All that Glitters Shouldn't be Gold — Make a Skill Check - […] many coins can a PC carry, though? The answer depends on their strength and size (we have a whole…
  10. Google - Google One of our visitors just lately recommended the following website.