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The rope of climbing is described as:

This 60-foot length of silk rope weighs 3 pounds and can hold up to 3,000 pounds. If you hold one end of the rope and use an action to speak the command word, the rope animates. As a bonus action, you can command the other end to move toward a destination you choose. That end moves 10 feet on your turn when you first command it and 10 feet on each of your turns until reaching its destination, up to its maximum length away, or until you tell it to stop. You can also tell the rope to fasten itself securely to an object or to unfasten itself, to knot or unknot itself, or to coil itself for carrying.


What defines the motion of the rope? Can it ascend vertically into the air? Can it horizontally arc across a river without touching the water?

How much lifting capacity does it have? The text says the rope holds 3000 pounds. How much weight can the rope hold as it climbs into the air? For example, if the rope climbed 50 feet into the air straight, can it only support itself? Could a piece of paper or an apple be attached or would the rope collapse? Or conversely, could someone climb the rope (like Rope Trick)? Could a 3000 pound attached basket of people be moved 10 feet a round across a river?

Could the rope be used to grab someone unconscious down in a pit, lift them up to the edge of the pit, then have the rope continue to climb up to a ledge above while still attached to the person thus lifting them?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For downvotes - please give a justification. The answers below clarifying the motion of the rope (i.e. that it can climb in the air) seem valuable. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Mar 19 '18 at 22:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I added a piece to my answer to help explain why the 'climbing' ability of the rope does not replace the need to climb yourself. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 20 '18 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Revising a question for clarity & detail is okay, but changing it so that the core actual question subject is different isn't. If you want to know about how Rope of Climbing contrasts & compares with Rope Trick, that's a new question that should be asked as its own question. (I've rolled back that change.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 20 '18 at 22:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ The things this question makes me wonder about (and what I suspect is the purpose thereof) are: 'What happens if you tell the rope to move while someone or something is attached to the other end?' and 'Can the rope move to and then stay in an unattached open-air point, regardless of the load (under 3000 pounds) that it subsequently takes?' If this doesn't appear in an edit or get addressed in an answer I may ask these myself... \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Sep 7 '18 at 1:25
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No, it can't lift a party across a river

It can create a single rope "bridge" that the party would then need to climb/walk on to cross the river.

Holding vs Lifting

The Rope of Climbing (DMG, 197) does not Lift anything per the description. What it does is:

If you hold one end of the rope...the rope animates. As a Bonus Action, you can Command the other end to move toward a destination you choose.

This is clear in that you are holding one end of the rope while the other moves towards the destination of your choice. Once the end arrives at it's final destination, you (and others) would then still have to climb the rope. It does allow for easier climbing to limit risk by:

If you tell the rope to knot, large knots appear at 1-foot intervals along the rope. While knotted, the rope shortens to a 50-foot length and grants advantage on checks made to climb it.

It is not meant to carry you up. It simply removes the requirements of using a grappling hook and still requires someone to climb it. If it was meant to carry you up, there would be no need for the climbing mechanics or the knotting to assist in climbing.

As for horizontal/arc movement, that's perfectly acceptable as well. There are no stated limitations on how the rope moves 10' and in fact does state:

move toward a destination you choose

This allows the rope to move in any direction you choose.

No language on what happens if you overload

Frustratingly, there is no language on the results of putting more weight on than the rope can handle. Other magic items do provide such effects, but it is not described in the DMG and is therefore under the purview of the DM. But given that it doesn't say the Rope is destroyed, it's more likely that it just can't continue to lift/move if overloaded.

Get creative

There is language in the description that just begs for creative thinking (emphasis mine):

You can also tell the rope to fasten itself securely to an object or to unfasten itself...

You can not only use it like a grappling hook that'll always find it's mark, but it can be a 60' long extension of your hands as well. Need those keys? Rope gets 'em. Gotta pull that lever across the chasm? Send the rope! It is not just a means of getting from Point A to Point B, but also a means to bring/interact with things at Point B.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I might suggest the addition of an ability that is implied. Whereas you can use it to fasten then climb up, you could use it to fasten to something and pull it to you. Creative uses of the item, like pulling that lever across the chasm, or pulling those keys to you etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Mar 19 '18 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth Added a paragraph on that :) Nice idea and reminder for people to think creatively within the parameters of the item. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 19 '18 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel I'm missing the boundary between what you're saying it can and can't lift. Why can it can grab keys and bring them somewhere for you, but not a person? \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cooper Jr. Sep 3 '18 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr. The boundary I was trying to specify was object. Hence it can grab keys (object) but not person(creature). I'll update. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 6 '18 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Got it. My party was trying to use it to lift a donkey & cart up some stairs, so I was trying to find if there was a question that already addressed it, and it looked like this one tried to but then I wasn't sure if your answer was saying they could or not. Allowing the rope to move an object but not a creature is certainly a reasonable interpretation I now see. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cooper Jr. Sep 6 '18 at 20:31

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