# What happens to a levitating character catching something heavy in D&D?

I was listening to the Nerd Poker podcast, where

a character fell down a substantial distance (hundreds of feet, down a mine shaft) while another character – who wasn't in a position to intercept – was levitating nearby (2e D&D Levitate spell).

Which got me wondering what would have happened if the levitating character had been in a position to catch this 400-pound falling giant. It's well over the Levitate weight limit, so there's no chance of just catching and levitating back up, but would the Levitate spell slow the general ascent? Or does the spell just "break" at the weight limit and stop functioning altogether, putting both characters into freefall?

There's the concurrent issue of "falling as weight" – assuming I'm hundreds of feet above the ground, there's a substantial difference between having a weight that I'm levitating, a weight that is somehow handed to me, or a weight that is falling toward me at critical mass. I guess I'm picturing some sort of Superman-style "catches falling object, falls a bit, recovers, starts flying back up" scenario, but I'm not sure how it should work.

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Thanks for spoiler-tagging that, SevenSided -- I've wandered over to Exchange from StackOverflow, and didn't know that was a possibility. –  mattshepherd Oct 11 '13 at 16:05

They fall.

The spell levitate has a maximum weight limit, and gives no effect for exceeding it. Since "falling slowly" is a deviation from the norm of how things in mid-air behave, the spell would have to say it does that for it to do that. As it doesn't, and since it has a weight limit, there's no provision for the spell operating in any way once the weight limit is exceeded.

However, it wouldn't "break", as the spell also makes no mention of being dispelled by exceeding the weight limit. It would just fail to have an effect, until the excess weight is removed.

As an aside, D&D doesn't simulate weight-as-force except in the damage rules (where it does not simulate it so much as nod in the general direction of our physical expectations). D&D generally simplifies weight to a pre-Newtonian concept of weight-as-mass. You can ignore added force due to the acceleration of falling in most cases, since the game systems don't benefit from the extra calculus and may actually suffer added weirdness if done.

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In AD&D 2e, the DM improvises.

SevenSidedDie gives a well articulated answer, based in the culture of how D&D (3.x and 4e) are played now: the spell cleanly stops having an effect when it's stated maximums are exceeded.

That said, this question was asked for AD&D 2e, which had a very different culture around how to interpret the rules, and what to do when you encountered fuzzy patches:

Take the time to have fun with the AD&D rules. Add, create, expand, and extrapolate. Don't just let the game sit there, and don't become a rules lawyer worrying about each piddly little detail. If you can't figure out the answer, MAKE IT UP! And whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of believing these rules are complete. They are not. You cannot sit back and let the rule book do everything for you. David "Zeb" Cook, Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Dungeon Master's Guide, Foreword (1989).

In other words, (in 2e) when the players do something outside the bounds of what's spelled out in the rules, the DM isn't encouraged to do a careful textual analysis; she's encouraged to improvise.

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Actually, my answer is based on the culture of how I played D&D before 3.x came along and legalism-d everything. I explain in detail not because I tend toward legalistic interpretations, but because I had to explain what seemed like a common-sense interpretation in detail. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 16 '13 at 8:32
Fair enough, and a very reasonable interpretation of the rules...though I think it's worth noting that (based on Cook's written guidance to DMs) @mattshepherd's "Superman-style" scenario is equally within the realm of the 2e rules. –  Jeff Fry Oct 16 '13 at 18:57