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So, as I go into detail on the spells I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. For example, with Fly, it states:

The subject of a fly spell can charge but not run, and it cannot carry aloft more weight than its maximum load, plus any armor it wears.

I had always assumed that armor weight counted toward the carrying capacity and so it often pushed characters into carrying a medium load on its own. However, this implies it might not. In the starting of the Adventuring chapter, however, it explicitly states:

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 the character’s items, including armor, weapons, and gear.

Are one or other of these a misprint or am I missing something in understanding why it would say the gear plus the weight of armor? Can encumbered characters become unencumbered by a flight spell, if subtracting the weight of their armor makes the difference, for example?

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2 Answers 2

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Armor does usually count toward a creature's maximum load

The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell fly [trans] (Player's Handbook 232) offers a very specific case wherein the above is not true, but the general rules typically apply to all other creatures. So, yes, to determine the creature's load "total the weight of all the [creature's] items, including armor, weapons, and gear" (161 and emphasis mine).

To be clear, the exception offered by the fly spell is as follows:

The subject can fly at a speed of 60 feet (or 40 feet if it wears medium or heavy armor, or if it carries a medium or heavy load).… The subject of a fly spell can charge but not run, and it cannot carry aloft more weight than its maximum load, plus any armor it wears. (232)

This is complicated but not contradictory. For example, Gniylfmi, a human wizard, possesses Str 7 and casts on herself a fly spell.

  • If she's only wearing studded leather (PH 123, 126) (25 gp; 20 lbs.), her fly speed's 60 ft. due to light armor and a light load.
  • If she's only wearing a chain shirt (123, 124) (100 gp; 25 lbs.), her fly speed's 40 ft. because of the medium load caused by wearing the light armor.
  • If she's only wearing chainmail (ibid.) (150 gp; 40 lbs.), her fly speed's 40 ft. because this is both a medium load and medium armor.
  • If she's carrying 70 lbs. of gear and wearing full plate (ibid.) (1,500 gp; 50 lbs.), her fly speed's 40 ft. because the spell lets her ignore the armor's weight when she's carrying her maximum load. However, were she to attempt to use her land speed, "she can only stagger around…, loses any Dexterity bonus to AC[,] and can move only 5 feet per round (as a full-round action)" (162) because this is more than her heavy load but less than over twice it.

This could put Gniylfmi in the unusual position of saying, "Yeah, I'll carry it. I'll already be at a heavy load and I've a few more pounds I can carry because of my armor." That is a little bit more bookkeeping, but in a game that already requires acres of bookkeeping I'm not sure the impact is that great.


Note: Neither Player's Handbook errata (Feb. 2006) nor the premium edition Player's Handbook (2012) that includes stealth errata touches the fly spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. They could have improved these a lot by simply being more explicit about some rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – VeronicaTS
    Dec 24, 2019 at 16:50
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Maximum Load Exception for Fly and Master Air spells is inconsistent

The spells, as written, are inconsistent with regards to the maximum load that can be carried aloft. The standard definition of maximum load includes the weight of armour, except that these spells specifically exclude it. However, it is problematic as to how one would actually carry a load plus armour whilst under the influence of the spell where the weight exceeds that which can be carried normally.

How does one transition to carry the excess weight when the spell takes effect?

For example, at the limit, a creature with Strength score 7 can carry up to 70 lbs. Wearing full plate armour adds 50 lbs, leaving 20 lbs for other items. If a fly spell is cast, then the creature can carry an additional 50 lbs of other items, but no mechanism exists for having the additional weight in the possession of the creature before the spell is cast.

Additionally, the spell's duration may expire whilst the creature is flying and the spell provides details on how the creature returns to the ground. However, does the creature's maximum load revert immediately to the standard definition once the spell has expired, and if so what happens to the additional items in the creature's possession that exceed it's maximum load?

The simplest solution to resolve all of these inconsistencies is to regard the wording as another instance of a typo that has been missed, and change the spell to specify that a creature cannot carry aloft more weight than its maximum load, including any armor it wears.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se. While you are here, please take the tour to familiarise yourself with the site's workings. I don't think that there are any inconsistencies here and that the issues you describe come up frequently and have clear solutions, but your proposal of handwaving also has its merits. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Feb 14 at 10:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Welcome! Maximum Load is a misnomer. The mechanism mentioned in paragraphs 3 & 4 exists: "A character can lift as much as double his or her maximum load off the ground, but he or she can only stagger around with it" (PH 162). This prospect is alluded to in bullet 4 of my answer. Thank you, though, for making me double-check! Have fun!) \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14 at 10:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the clarification. The overloaded definition does seem to account for the issues I raised. However, even these definitions are somewhat ambiguous. A character can lift up to the maximum load over his head. So does this mean that a character with a maximum load of 70 lbs who is already wearing full plate with 20 lbs of items in a backpack can then lift another 70 lb item over their head? Or indeed stagger about lifting a 140 lb item? \$\endgroup\$
    – esb
    Feb 14 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fortunately, whether a character already bearing a heavy load can hoist & stagger with weight equal to another heavy load or equal to another two heavy loads isn't an issue with regards to this question: once a heavy load's been exceeded by the creature's armor weight, the creature can't fly. :-) Feel free to pose the hoist-and-stagger thing as a standalone question, though! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 14 at 20:41

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