A character can lift as much as double his maximum load off the ground, but he or she can only stagger around with it. While overloaded in this way, the character loses any Dexterity bonus to AC and can move only 5 feet per round (as a full-round action).

A character can generally push or drag along the ground as much as five times his maximum load. (...)

The rules don't seem to indicate any penalties to pushing/dragging but I assume the penalties for lifting off the ground are implied again?

Also, do you apply Heavy Encumbrance penalties such as the Check Penalty in this case, or is it a separate thing?

EDIT: I'm opening up this question to D&D 3.5 since, after checking, it happens to say exactly the same thing about dragging.

I'd also like to list a few cases to see how people think they should be ruled:

  • Dragging a bag, the weight of which doesn't put you past your maximum carrying limit. How different from carrying is this? Should the bag be considered 1/5 of the weight, since dragging allows 5 times the normal maximum, and apply regular encumbrance rules?
  • Dragging a bag, the weight of which puts you past your maximum carrying limit but within Lifting Off limit. Is dragging easier?
  • Dragging a bag, the weight of which puts you past Lifting limit but within Push/Drag limit. This is the main case of the question.

I'm going to assume that we're not in a worst or best case scenario for the above cases, so the ground is not made of ice, there are no wheels, but it's not friction hell either. The rules seem to imply that, per GM-fiat, slippery ground or wheels would be favorable circumstances and allow dragging even more, while a high-friction ground or object surface would limit further the total weight that can be moved. It would still be interesting to see if you have specific situations in mind that would help or hinder, and how much.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing about lifting is that you'd have to set it down to dodge. Pulling or dragging simply doesn't burden you in the same way! \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @starwed: I tend to agree with this. Thus, I have the feeling it shouldn't give the same penalties as Lifting. But we're still left with the question: what penalties then? \$\endgroup\$
    – leokhorn
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ This came up in a campaign I run because the players realised that it was cheaper to put their excess gear in a sack and drag it around than it was to buy a bag of holding. They soon realized that yes, it's cheaper, but it's a little awkward to let go of the sack when a fight breaks out on a slope or near a pit. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 4:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe: Huhu. Definitely thought of the various ways this could come back and bite the players :) \$\endgroup\$
    – leokhorn
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 9:10

3 Answers 3



I’m not convinced that dragging should involve the same penalties as being overburdened. Seems to me you can stop pushing or pulling at a moment’s notice, and then simply have some obstacle next to you (whatever it was you were pushing or pulling). I don’t think the lack of penalties is an oversight.

Do note, however, that in the Move Actions in Combat section (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 version, Pathfinder version), we have Table: Move Actions, with this entry:

Move Action Attack of Opportunity
Move a heavy object Yes

So while there aren’t penalties per se, the maneuver does put you at risk. That makes sense to me.


The lack of information about how fast you move is a problem though; that’s important information, and there doesn’t seem to be any RAW answer to it. One would assume that there are some cases where pushing or pulling a heavy object slows you down.

Skip Williams, one of the authors of the Player’s Handbook for both 3.0 and 3.5, as well as several dubious articles on Wizards.com, offered this in his All About Movement (Part Two) article:

Move a Heavy Object: Use this action to drag something (a treasure chest, an unconscious ally, or a slain monster's carcass), push something (a loaded cart or a barn door), or manhandle something big and bulky into position (a statue or a banquet table). You and whatever you're moving travel across the battlefield, so moving a heavy object counts as movement. Since moving something heavy usually occupies your full attention, the very act of moving the object provokes attacks of opportunity. In addition, if you leave a threatened square while moving, you also provoke attacks of opportunity for doing that.

The rules don’t give movement rates for moving heavy objects or for dragging things, but as a rule of thumb, there's no effect on your movement if what you're moving weighs less than your light load rating. You move as though encumbered if you move something that weighs more than your light load rating but no more than your maximum heavy load. If you use the dragging rule (see page 162 in the Player’s Handbook) to move something that exceeds your maximum load, you move at half speed.

The first paragraph is, as far as I can tell, an accurate description of how the rules work as written (not always a given with these articles). The second paragraph certainly doesn’t count as RAW, but the rulings do seem reasonable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I really really like all this. Nice find on the AOO! I think this makes a great point for the lack of any penalties per RAW. And the speed ruling seems quite appropriate (I was thinking of doing just that before reading it). The only difference is that I'd hesitate with applying Lifting penalties to movement if the weight is within that range. \$\endgroup\$
    – leokhorn
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great find, that seems perfect for this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Styphon
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 19:25

I don't remember exactly where I saw this, probably SRD or some obscure supplement. It's for D&D 3.5, but you can adapt the rule without much trouble for Pathfinder.

While pushing/pulling/dragging something that's heavier than your max load, WITH NO WHEELS, the rules are the same as for carrying double max load (Max 5ft, no AC, no Running/Marching, Moving becomes full action).

However, if said 'thing' has wheels, the rules are almost as carrying something in your Heavy Load (Max Dex +1, -6 check penalty) but with no running whatsoever.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would make sense and I'll go with this unless someone can point out a different rule. If you do find the source at some point, including it in the answer would be nice, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – leokhorn
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 7:17

There are no specific rules mentioned about how it exactly affects you. I don't think the rules for lifting apply, as that's a very different type of strain and encumbrance on the body.

My interpretation of the rules is that dragging more than a heavy load applies all the penalties for being heavily encumbered, plus would reduce maximum speed as appropriate for the weight of the item, the ease of dragging it, and the terrain it is being dragged across. Below are some example situations on how I would apply the rules.

NB: These are my interpretations of the rules and are not RAW.

Ideal Conditions

If the terrain is slippery, such as mud, and the person has suitable footwear not to slip, then pulling 5x max weight would be 20' (for a 30' base speed) per round, and they could potentially pull up to 10x at 10' per round. For ease of management I would keep it at up to 5x = 20' and up to 10x = 10'. The same would be true on normal terrain with some sort of wheels, or air cushion under the item to reduce friction.

Normal Conditions

If the terrain is fairly flat, with little in the way to impede the character dragging then I would rule that they could drag up to 5x at 10' per round. If it's under 2x then I'd rule it to be 20' per round, as being just over your maximum seems a little harsh to drop straight to 10' per round.

Difficult Conditions

If the terrain is up or down hill (controlling a large item going downhill is difficult), or particularly rough, or if the item is particularly bulky or difficult to manage, then I'd limit them to a maximum of 3 or 4x (depending on severity), and reduce movement to 5' a round.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your note about the source of these rules, but it’s unclear: are you “interpreting” some rules somewhere (if so, which ones?), or are you adding new rules to cover a gap in the published rules (which isn’t really “interpreting” so much as original creation)? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question links to the rules, I was just expanding on them. I guess you're right, they are more creating rather then interpreting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Styphon
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 17:09

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