Encumbrance: Do You Even Lift? (Part 2)
This is the second part of my Encumbrance retrospective. Oddly it was "too long" to be posted as a single blog post.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition (19892000)
Weights and Encumbrance is now no longer measured in gold pieces/coin, but instead in pounds. This is a trend that will continue from this point forward.
Player’s Handbook (1989)
This quote is abridged to remove irrelevant bits like Specific Encumbrance (more detailed effects on movement), mounts, stowage capacity and magic armor.
[Original Printing, Pages 7678]
Encumbrance (Optional Rule)
A natural desire is to have your character own one of everything. Thus equipped, your character could just reach into his pack and pull out any item he wants whenever he needs it. Sadly, there are limits to how much your character, his horse, his mule, his elephant, or his whatever can carry. These limits are determined by encumbrance.
Encumbrance is measured in pounds. To calculate encumbrance, simply total the pounds of gear carried by the creature or character. Add five pounds for clothing, if any is worn. This total is then compared to the carrying capacity of the creature to determine the effects. In general, the more weight carried, the slower the movement and the worse the character is at fighting.
Basic Encumbrance (Tournament Rule)
Encumbrance is divided into five categories: Unencumbered, Light, Moderate, Heavy, and Severe Encumbrance.
To calculate your character's encumbrance category, first figure out the total weight he is carrying (including five pounds for clothing). Then look across the row corresponding to your character's Strength on Table 47 until you come to the column that includes your character's carried weight. The heading at the top of that column shows his level of encumbrance.
Use Table 49 to figure out the encumbrance category of your character's mount or beast of burden.
The Max. Carried Wgt. column lists the most weight (in pounds) your character can carry and still move. But movement is limited to 10 feet per round, as your character staggers under the heavy load.
Table 47: Character Encumbrance
Character Strength 
Unencumbered 
Light Encumbrance 
Moderate Encumbrance 
Heavy Encumbrance 
Severe Encumbrance 
Max. Carried Weight 
2 
01 
2 
3 
4 
56 
6 
3 
05 
6 
7 
89 
10 
10 
45 
010 
1113 
1416 
1719 
2025 
25 
67 
020 
2129 
3038 
3946 
4755 
55 
89 
035 
3650 
5165 
6680 
8190 
90 
1011 
040 
4158 
5976 
7796 
97110 
110 
1213 
045 
4669 
7093 
94117 
118140 
140 
1415 
055 
5685 
86115 
116145 
146170 
170 
16 
070 
71100 
101130 
131160 
161195 
195 
17 
085 
86121 
122157 
158193 
194220 
220 
18 
0110 
111149 
150188 
189227 
228255 
255 
18/0150 
0135 
136174 
175213 
214252 
253280 
280 
18/5175 
0160 
161199 
200238 
239277 
278305 
305 
18/7690 
0185 
186224 
225263 
264302 
303330 
330 
18/9199 
0235 
236274 
275313 
314352 
353380 
380 
18/00 
0335 
336374 
375413 
414452 
453480 
480 
Effects of Encumbrance
Encumbrance has two basic effects. First, it reduces your character's movement rate. If encumbrance categories are used, Unencumbered has no effect on movement, Light reduces the movement rate by ⅓ (round fractions down), Moderate reduces it by ½, Heavy reduces it by ⅔, and Severe lowers the movement rate to 1. If the optional system is used, the character's movement rate is reduced to the amount found by using Table 48. The movement rate determines how far your character can move in a round, turn, hour, and day. As his movement rate gets lower, your character moves slower and slower. See "Movement" in Chapter 14: Time and Movement for more details.
Encumbrance also reduces your character's combat abilities. If encumbrance reduces your character to ½ of his normal movement rate, he suffers a −1 penalty to his attack roll. If he is reduced to ⅓ or less of his normal movement rate, the attack penalty is −2 and there is an additional AC penalty of +1. If your character's movement is reduced to 1, the attack roll penalty is −4 and the AC penalty is +3. Clearly, the wise thing for a heavily encumbered character to do is to quickly drop most of his gear before entering battle.
Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd & 3.5 Edition (20002008)
The Carrying Capacity and Encumbrance rules didn’t change between 3e and 3.5, so only the 3e PHB is quoted.
In a surprise move, 3e actually simplifies the Encumbrance rules compared to 2e.
Player’s Handbook (2000)
[Pages 141142]
Carrying Capacity
Encumbrance rules determine how much a character’s armor and equipment slow him or her down. Encumbrance comes in two parts: encumbrance by armor and encumbrance by total weight.
Encumbrance by Armor: Your armor (as shown on Table 7–5: Armor) defines your maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, your armor check penalty, your speed, and how fast you move when you run. Unless your character is weak or carrying a lot of gear, that’s all you need to know. The extra gear your character carries, such as weapons and rope, won’t slow your character down any more than his or her armor already does.
If your character is weak or carrying a lot of gear, however, then you’ll need to calculate encumbrance by weight. Doing so is most important when your character is trying to carry some heavy object, such as a treasure chest.
Weight: If you want to determine whether your character’s gear is heavy enough to slow him or her down (more than the armor already does), total the weight of all his or her armor, weapons, and gear. Compare this total to the character’s Strength on Table 9–1: Carrying Capacity. Depending on how the weight compares to your carrying capacity, you will be carrying a light, medium, or heavy load. Like armor, your load gives you a maximum Dexterity bonus to AC, a check penalty (which works like an armor check penalty), speed, and run factor, as shown on Table 9–2: Carrying Loads. A medium or heavy load counts as medium or heavy armor for the purpose of abilities that are restricted by armor. Carrying a light load does not encumber a character.
If you are wearing armor, use the worse figure (from armor or from weight) for each category. Do not stack the penalties.
For example, Tordek the dwarf is wearing scale mail. As shown by Table 7–5: Armor, it cuts his maximum Dexterity bonus to AC down to +3, gives him a –4 armor check penalty, and cuts his speed to 15 feet. The total weight of his gear, including armor, is 71 1/2 pounds. With a Strength of 15, his maximum carrying capacity (maximum load) is 200 pounds. A medium load for him is 67 pounds or more, and a heavy load is 134 pounds or more, so he is carrying a medium load . Looking at the medium load line on Table 9–2: Carrying Loads, Monte sees that these figures are all as good or better than the penalties that Tordek is already incurring for wearing scale mail, so he incurs no extra encumbrance penalties.
Mialee has a Strength of 10, and she’s carrying 28 pounds of gear. Her light load capacity is 33, so she’s carrying a light load (no penalties). She finds 500 gold pieces (weighing 10 pounds) and adds it to her load, so now she’s carrying a medium load. Doing so reduces her speed from 30 feet to 20 feet, gives her a –3 check penalty, and sets her maximum Dexterity bonus to AC at +3 (which is okay with her, since that’s her Dexterity bonus anyway).
Then Mialee is knocked unconscious in a fight, and Tordek wants to carry her out of the dungeon. She weighs 104 pounds, and her gear weighs 28 pounds (or 38 pounds with the gold), so Tordek can’t quite manage to carry her and her gear. (It would put him over his 200 pounds maximum load.) Jozan takes her gear (and the gold), Tordek hoists Mialee onto his shoulders, and now he’s carrying 175 ½ pounds. He can manage it, but it’s a heavy load. His maximum Dexterity bonus to AC drops to +1, his check penalty increases from –4 (the armor check penalty for scale mail) to –6 (the check penalty for a heavy load), and now he runs at ×3 speed instead of ×4.
Lifting and Dragging: A character can lift up to the maximum load over his or her head.
A character can lift up to double the maximum load off the ground, but he or she can only stagger around with it. While overloaded in this way, the character loses any Dexterity bonus to AC and can only move 5 feet per round (as a fullround action).
A character can generally push or drag along the ground up to five times the maximum load. Favorable conditions (smooth ground, dragging a slick object) can double these numbers, and bad circumstances (broken ground, pushing an object that snags) can reduce them to onehalf or less.
Bigger and Smaller Creatures: The figures on Table 9–1: Carrying Capacity are for Mediumsize creatures. Larger creatures can carry more weight depending on size category: Large (×2), Huge (×4), Gargantuan (×8), and Colossal (×16). Smaller creatures can carry less weight depending on size category: Small (¾), Tiny (½), Diminutive (¼), and Fine (⅛). Thus, a human with a Strength score magically boosted to equal that of a giant would still have a harder time lifting, say, a horse or a boulder than a giant would.
For example, Mialee, an elf with 10 Strength, can carry up to 100 pounds. Lidda, a halfling with 10 Strength, can only carry 75 pounds.
Tremendous Strength: For Strength scores not listed, determine the carrying capacity this way. Find the Strength score between 20 and 29 that has the same ones digit as the creature’s Strength score. Multiply the figures by four if the creature’s Strength is in the 30s, 16 if it’s in the 40s, 64 if it’s in the 50s, and so on. For example, a cloud giant with a 35 Strength can carry four times what a creature with a 25 Strength can carry, or 3,200 pounds, multiplied by four because the cloud giant is Huge, for a grand total of 12,800 pounds.
TABLE 9–1: CARRYING CAPACITY
Strength 
Light Load 
Medium Load 
Heavy Load 
1 
Str up to 3 lb. 
4–6 lb. 
7–10 lb. 
2 
Str up to 6 lb. 
7–13 lb. 
14–20 lb. 
3 
Str up to 10 lb. 
11–20 lb. 
21–30 lb. 
4 
Str up to 13 lb. 
14–26 lb. 
27–40 lb. 
5 
Str up to 16 lb. 
17–33 lb. 
34–50 lb. 
6 
Str up to 20 lb. 
21–40 lb. 
41–60 lb. 
7 
Str up to 23 lb. 
24–46 lb. 
47–70 lb. 
8 
Str up to 26 lb. 
27–53 lb. 
54–80 lb. 
9 
Str up to 30 lb. 
31–60 lb. 
61–90 lb. 
10 
Str up to 33 lb. 
34–66 lb. 
67–100 lb. 
11 
Str up to 38 lb. 
39–76 lb. 
77–115 lb. 
12 
Str up to 43 lb. 
44–86 lb. 
87–130 lb. 
13 
Str up to 50 lb. 
51–100 lb. 
101–150 lb. 
14 
Str up to 58 lb. 
59–116 lb. 
117–175 lb. 
15 
Str up to 66 lb. 
67–133 lb. 
134–200 lb. 
16 
Str up to 76 lb. 
77–153 lb. 
154–230 lb. 
17 
Str up to 86 lb. 
87–173 lb. 
174–260 lb. 
18 
Str up to 100 lb. 
101–200 lb. 
201–300 lb. 
19 
Str up to 116 lb. 
117–233 lb. 
234–350 lb. 
20 
Str up to 133 lb. 
134–266 lb. 
267–400 lb. 
21 
Str up to 153 lb. 
154–306 lb. 
307–460 lb. 
22 
Str up to 173 lb. 
174–346 lb. 
347–520 lb. 
23 
Str up to 200 lb. 
201–400 lb. 
401–600 lb. 
24 
Str up to 233 lb. 
234–466 lb. 
467–700 lb. 
25 
Str up to 266 lb. 
267–533 lb. 
534–800 lb. 
26 
Str up to 306 lb. 
307–613 lb. 
614–920 lb. 
27 
Str up to 346 lb. 
347–693 lb. 
694–1,040 lb. 
28 
Str up to 400 lb. 
401–800 lb. 
801–1,200 lb. 
29 
Str up to 466 lb. 
467–933 lb. 
934–1,400 lb. 
+10 
×4 
×4 
×4 
Table 9–2: Carrying Loads
Load 
Max Dex 
Check Penalty 
–—— Speed —–— 


(30 ft.) 
(20 ft.) 
Run 

Medium 
+3 
–3 
20 ft. 
15 ft. 
×4 
Heavy 
+1 
–6 
20 ft. 
15 ft. 
×3 
Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition (20082014)
4e throws out the tables for determining how much characters can carry and simplifies things greatly.
Player’s Handbook (2008)
[Page 222]
Carrying, Lifting, and Dragging
Adventurers carry a lot of gear. When that quantity becomes extreme, it might be enough to slow you down and otherwise hamper your capabilities. The amount you carry should rarely be an issue, and you don’t need to calculate the weight your character is hauling around unless it’s likely to matter.
More often, you’ll need to know how much weight you can push or drag along the ground—are you strong enough to slide the statue covering the trapdoor? This information is contained in your Strength score.
Multiply your Strength score by 10. That’s the weight, in pounds, that you can carry around without penalty. This amount of weight is considered a normal load.
Double that number (Strength × 20). That’s the maximum weight you can lift off the ground. If you try to carry that weight, though, you’re slowed. Carrying such a load requires both hands, so you’re not particularly effective while you’re doing so. This amount of weight is considered a heavy load.
Five times your normal load (Strength × 50) is the most weight you can push or drag along the ground. You’re slowed if you try to push or drag more weight than you can carry without penalty, and you can’t push or drag such a heavy load over difficult terrain. This amount of weight is referred to as your maximum drag load.
Your DM might rule that you can’t carry certain objects at full speed no matter what your Strength score is, just because they’re so bulky or unwieldy. Your DM can also ask you to make a Strength check to push or to lift something heavy in a stressful situation, such as in the middle of combat.
Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition (2014?)
Basic D&D (2014)
[Page 60]
Lifting and Carrying
Your Strength score determines the amount of weight you can bear. The following terms define what you can lift or carry.
Carrying Capacity. Your carrying capacity is your Strength score multiplied by 15. This is the weight (in pounds) that you can carry, which is high enough that most characters don’t usually have to worry about it.
Push, Drag, or Lift. You can push, drag, or lift a weight in pounds up to twice your carrying capacity (or 30 times your Strength score). While pushing or dragging weight in excess of your carrying capacity, your speed drops to 5 feet.
Size and Strength. Larger creatures can bear more weight, whereas Tiny creatures can carry less. For each size category above Medium, double the creature’s carrying capacity and the amount it can push, drag, or lift. For a Tiny creature, halve these weights.
Variant: Encumbrance
The rules for lifting and carrying are intentionally simple. Here is a variant if you are looking for more detailed rules for determining how a character is hindered by the weight of equipment. When you use this variant, ignore the Strength column of the Armor table in chapter 5.
If you carry weight in excess of 5 times your Strength score, you are encumbered, which means your speed drops by 10 feet.
If you carry weight in excess of 10 times your Strength score, up to your maximum carrying capacity, you are instead heavily encumbered, which means your speed drops by 20 feet and you have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.