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A mostly theoretical rules question. Assume a Medium creature ("Grappler") has grappled another Medium creature ("Heavyweight"). For unimportant reasons, Heavyweight is very heavy- heavier than Grappler's carry capacity, but not so heavy as to exceed Grappler's push/drag/lift capacity.

The rules for moving a grappled opponent (PHB p.195) state:

When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you.

The rules for dragging a weight (PHB p.175) state

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.

If Grappler were to attempt to drag Heavyweight, in what order should these rules be adjudicated to determine how far Grappler could move?

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2 Answers 2

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How I would adjudicate this: Use the more limiting effect

The rules for combining effects in the DMG errata states:

Different game features can affect a target at the same time. But when two or more game features have the same name, only the effects of one of them—the most potent one—apply while the durations of the effects overlap. [...] Game features include spells, class features, feats, racial traits, monster abilities, and magic items. [...]

The limits to the grappler's movement are not the result of one of the items on the list above, but the intent when there are conflicts of this nature seems to me "use the largest effect."

Narratively speaking, it makes sense to use the more limiting factor in this scenario. The grappled creature is probably unwilling (else why would the grapple be necessary) which would make the task of pushing/dragging it more difficult than if it were just a deadweight object.

With this in mind, as a DM, I would go with the 5 foot movement restriction and leave it at that, ignoring the halved movement of the grapple.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ it's not a penalty, it's '[reduced] to 5ft'. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 13:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ancient I was using the word casually. Is there something in the rules that is prompting you to point that out? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I possibly misread your conclusion, but what you said makes sense. I'm going to make a quick edit that I think is clearer, but please do amend/rollback if you like. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ancient Totally fine with the edit :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 2:46
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Grappling is for creatures; dragging and carrying is for objects

The fact that the grappling rules are meant to be used for creatures is fortunately clear from the rules themselves. Besides saying at the outset that they are to be used when you want to "grab a creature", the grapple is contested by the target's choice of a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check - and objects cannot choose between two abilities they do not have.

However, the rules for lifting and carrying do not make it explicit whether they are to be used for moving creatures, objects, or both. Instead, they simply refer to the weight you wish to move. A quick word search of my PHB finds that the word weight is used 48 times, and about equally between the weight of creatures (mostly characters) and the weight of objects (mostly equipment) - twice it is even used metaphorically to mean worth or importance. So weight is clearly not a game term, and thus interpreting any rules passage in which it occurs has to rely on context to determine natural use. Looking at the very next passage on the encumbrance variant though, one finds the interesting phrase (emphasis mine):

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.

There is thus some textual support for the idea that the lifting and carrying rules are meant to be used only for objects, not creatures.

Stat Blocks contain size, not weight

More convincing than the weak textual evidence, for me, is a purely pragmatic approach. Monster stat blocks list size; they do not list the weight of creatures. The grappling rules are modified, twice, by the size of the creature grappled; "The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you", and "you can drag or carry the Grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you." For any creature a player would like to grapple, the DM knows the size class from its Stat Block and can thus adjudicate the grapple. This assumes the creature is a typical weight for its size class.

If the DM were expected to also apply the lifting and carrying rules to a grapple, however, they would need to know its weight, information that is critically missing from nearly every creature's description. It is difficult to believe that this is the intent of the lifting and carrying rules, or further that a living creature struggling against your grapple can be treated as fundamentally the same as the 'dead weight' of an object.

I find it far more practical to conclude that the grappling rules apply when you are moving creatures against their will, and the lifting and carrying rules apply when you are moving objects which do not resist.

But what if 'Heavyweight' is very heavy?

Some creatures may be much heavier than their size alone would indicate - for example, a Steel Predator. In this case, a DM should simply modify the grappling rules as they see fit - disallowing the grapple entirely, imposing disadvantage on the attempt, or further restricting the move that the grappler can make. The alternative - stopping the combat to calculate the exact weight of the creature, and then applying it what is left of a character's lifting and carrying capacity after deducting their current equipment - is simply too impractical to seriously consider.

If the DM has permitted the grapple but has already determined that in this case the 'Heavyweight' is "heavier than Grappler's carrying capacity, but not so heavy as to exceed Grappler's push/drag/lift capacity", then a restriction to moving not more than 5 feet a round is entirely appropriate. Positing this case as OP does, however, ignores what was involved in the DM making this decision to begin with - that they knew the weight of the creature as well as the surplus carrying capacity of the character. Those were not arrived at trivially and are unlikely to be immediately available in any given combat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ this is more satisfying an answer to me \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ For future context, @AncientSwordRage is referring to my posting this answer here, in response to his question elsewhere that was deemed to be a duplicate of this one. It is worth checking out his question, if only for the GIFs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 18:25

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