Levitate is a spell that allows the caster to control the elevation of a target. To quote the rules:

You can change the target’s altitude by up to 20 feet in either direction on your turn. If you are the target, you can move up or down as part of your move.

The Player Handbook has this to say about multiple movement speeds:

If you have more than one speed, such as your walking speed and a flying speed, you can switch back and forth between your speeds during your move. Whenever you switch, subtract the distance you've already moved from the new speed. The result determines how much farther you can move. If the result is 0 or less, you can’t use the new speed during the current move.

Assume that I have cast levitate, landed at some point, but am still concentrating. If I use all of my 30 walking speed, am I prevented from ascending using levitate, or is the movement granted via levitate different than other movement speeds?


Levitate doesn't give you a different Speed

The spell Levitate permits you to move yourself in a way you couldn't before. Specifically (PHB, p. 255, bold added):

You can change the target's altitude by up to 20 feet in either direction on your turn. If you are the target, you can move up or down as part of your move. Otherwise, you can use your action to move the target, which must remain within the spell's range.

This may sound like it gives you a "levitating speed" of 20 feet, but the spell does not specify that it does this. Contrast that with the spells Fly or Gaseous Form, which state:

Fly ...The target gains a flying speed of 60 feet for the duration. (PHB, p. 243)

Gaseous Form ...While in this form, the target’s only method of movement is a flying speed of 10 feet. (PHB, p. 244)

In the absence of similar text in the Levitate spell's description, we must conclude that you don't gain any new speed from Levitate. Instead, Levitate does exactly what it says it does: it allows you to move up to 20 feet in either direction "as part of your move."

What difference does that make?

So we've established you move via levitation "as part of your move." What does that mean practically? The rules on movement state (PHB, p. 190):

On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed.

In your given example, a character who has walked 30 feet this turn (their speed) is under the influence of the Levitate spell (which they cast), and wants to immediately levitate upward. But since they've already moved "up to their speed" they cannot move further "as part of their move" this turn (unless they take the Dash action or otherwise give themselves additional movement). Thus, in your example, the character would be unable to rise, but not for the reason you suggested (having to do with multiple speeds).

Note that this can also work in your favor. If you moved 20 feet on the ground and then used your movement to change your altitude via Levitate, you could raise or lower yourself 10 feet with the spell (assuming your walking speed is 30). This would have been impossible if Levitate gave you a new speed (which, again, it doesn't), since you would subtract the 20 feet walked from the 20 feet "levitation speed" and find yourself unable to move via levitation at all that turn (due to the rules on moving with multiple speeds which you quoted in your question).

The difference between "speed" and "movement" is complicated, and this is one of the more sticky examples of them interacting in strange ways. But the bottom line is that you don't have to worry about the rules on multiple movement speeds when using this spell because the Levitate spell doesn't give you a different speed.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that in all the examples I gave above, I deliberately avoided discussing whether or not a character can walk normally while under the influence of the Levitate spell (that they cast themselves). While that is an interesting question, it isn't necessary to answer in order to answer the main question here. In all examples above where a character walks and attempts to levitate in the same turn, you may consider the character to have cast the Levitate spell after walking. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6 '19 at 19:59
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Walking and then casting the spell is a nonissue, because the spell allows you to raise the target up to 20 feet when the spell it cast. \$\endgroup\$
    – xornob
    Feb 6 '19 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xornob Good point! My the last sentence of my original comment is an error, then. But I stand by the rest. I think that it might be worth asking a question about walking while under the influence of this spell (that you cast yourself). There seem to be parts of the spell that are intended to refer only to creatures that are elevated above the ground, but as written apply to anyone under the influence of the spell at all. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6 '19 at 20:17

Levitate on self is up and down movement with 20 speed

The confusion on which type of movement you gain through the levitate spell comes from this line in the spell description (PHB 255):

The target can move only by pushing or pulling against a fixed object or surface within reach (such as a wall or a ceiling), which allows it to move as if it were climbing.

This line suggests that any time a creature is levitated it can only move using a climbing speed. However, if the target is brought down to the ground I don't rule it that way as a GM and here's why:

Firstly, there's this line at the end of the spell description (emphasis mine):

When the spell ends, the target floats gently to the ground if it is still aloft.

By stating here, "if it is still aloft" the description clearly indicates that the spell can end with the target aloft or the target not aloft. If the target is not aloft that means it is on the ground and it can walk, it no longer needs to pull itself and use the climb speed. It also suggests that the target can fluctuate between being aloft and not aloft, which means you can walk, levitate and then walk some more.

Although his rulings are certainly not the same as RAW, I think Mike Mearls provides some access to RAI and he agrees with this point in this tweet about a Genasi casting the Levitate spell:

@mikemearls if an air genasi casts levitate on self. Can they still walk normally on the ground and float at will or can they only float?

Mike Mearls

they can walk while on the ground #wotcstaff

Additionally the spell allows you to raise or lower yourself up to twenty feet:

You can change the target’s altitude by up to 20 feet in either direction on your turn. If you are the target, you can move up or down as part of your move.

If you go up 20 feet and then you go down 20 feet you are on the ground. If you are on the ground you can walk, and if you continue to concentrate you can continue to levitate yourself up or down as part of your move on each turn.

The definition of movement speed is, "How far you can move on your turn with a certain type of movement." Or as stated on PHB 189:

On your turn, you can move a distance up to your speed.

You can levitate 20 feet as part of your turn, which means your Levitate speed is 20.

Whenever you switch movement types, subtract the distance you've already moved from the new movement's speed

There are two references to multiple movement types in the PHB.

The first is on PHB 190 under the heading Using Different Speeds, which you've quoted in the question. It also provides this explanation:

For example, if you have a speed of 30 and a flying speed of 60 because a wizard cast the fly spell on you, you could fly 20 feet, then walk 10 feet, and then leap into the air to fly 30 feet more.

This rule is applied if you have two types of movement each with their own speed: If you have more than one speed.

In the example you provide you have two different types of movement, each with an indicated speed, 20 Levitating and 30 Walking. Whichever you use first is subtracted from the type of movement you use next, and if you use one of them again the current total is subtracted again from the total available for that movement type.

Assuming you start your turn and you walk 30 feet, you can no longer levitate on that turn because your levitate speed less the distance you've already walked is less than zero: 20-30=-10, and per the rule above leaves you with no more movements. However if you walk 10 feet, you can levitate 10 feet onto a balcony and then walk another 10 feet. The explanation is that you walked 10 feet (20-10=10) so you can levitate 10 more feet. You have now gone a total of 20 feet and can no longer levitate (20-20=0) however you can walk because 30-20=10, so you have 10 feet of walking remaining.

Note that the order in which you use your movements matters and you'll need to think it through to gain the maximum advantage of both speeds.

The second reference is on PHB 182, under the heading Special Types of Movement:

Climbing, Swimming and Crawling

While climbing or swimming, each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain), unless a creature has a climbing or swimming speed.

(This section, strangely, says nothing about crawling) This section provides a specific rule in reference to 3 specific types of movement: Climbing, swimming and crawling, unless you have a specific climbing or swimming speed. This rule is only for PC's who want to climb or swim and do not have these movement types as a trait with their own speeds. This rule is not relevant to the specific situation you describe because in your case you have two movements, each with their own speed.

However this rule would indeed apply if you levitate into the air and then decide to move yourself by pushing. In that case, as the spell description states, your speed would work the same as climbing. In that case whatever distance you "climb" would count as 2x your walking speed and would subtract from either your levitate or walking speed, depending on what you choose to do next.

Is this a clear RAW ruling?

It is clear to me that the text supports this position, yet I can see why someone else would rule differently. If this is something you see coming up in your campaign it would be worth checking in with your GM about how they would rule it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using walking speed is a bad example, since levitate prevents you from walking normally: "The target can move only by pushing or pulling against a fixed object or surface within reach (such as a wall or a ceiling), which allows it to move as if it were climbing." Perhaps you could edit your answer to use a creature with a climb speed instead, which should be unimpeded by the spell. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 5 '19 at 5:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see now that the OP is asking about that point in particular. I never GM it that way when cast on self, but I see how the wording is not clear on that point. However if you are 20 feet up, and then you are twenty feet down you are on the ground and can walk. Mearls is definitely not the same as RAW but he does appear to agree on this point and provides some RAI: sageadvice.eu/2016/11/16/… \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Feb 5 '19 at 5:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanThompson thanks for clarifying what the OP was asking. I added to the answer to address that issue, though I disagree that levitate absolutely limits self to climb speed only. You can still be on the ground and walk and then levitate some more. \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Feb 5 '19 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the question to help clear up some confusion. My doubt was on whether or not the movement from levitate was considered a movement speed. \$\endgroup\$
    – xornob
    Feb 5 '19 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xornob Thanks. I think my answer addresses that, but if it's not clear I can edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – lightcat
    Feb 5 '19 at 23:18

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