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Levitate has a 500 pound limit and provides a CON saving throw chance when used offensively, but there are few references to a creature's weight in the monster manual.

I've mostly been working with the idea that only medium-or-smaller creatures weigh little enough to levitate, unless they're made of something weightless (fire, air, shadow).

Does that seem a reasonable approach? Does anyone have any other solutions? Is there a reference with monsters' weights of which I'm unaware?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airtome your answer in a comment got flagged already... Put it in an answer to keep it from getting deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Mar 16 '16 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: In the 3.5rd edition monster manuals, most creatures had listed weights. Fire elementals were remarkably lightweight. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 1 '16 at 0:56
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Short answer

The acid test is: take your monster, and take something half the creature's size that's like it (for example, if you saw a 12ft tall giant, you would pick a 6ft tall human). If the smaller thing is significantly heavier than 60 pounds, you cannot levitate the larger thing, because the square-cube law would make that thing be heavier than 500 pounds.

Long answer

Weight stats for monsters have always been a bit of a crapshoot. Game designers, as it turns out, are usually not very good at biology.

Page 6 of the MM refers us to the PHB for rules on sizes and spaces, but the only relevant section I can find (Movement and Position) has precious little information. So we are forced to extrapolate.

The square-cube law is your friend here. Essentially, when your physical size doubles, your weight is multiplied by 8. You can use this to extrapolate weight of creatures from similar but smaller creatures whose weight is known. You might not know how heavy a Huge Giant is, but you know how heavy a Medium Human is (let's say 150 pounds for ease of math). The giant is therefore 64 times heavier - 8 times heavier for Medium > Large, and then 8 times heavier than that for Large > Huge. This puts the giant at 9600 pounds, more or less. This can vary with different types of giants (a skinny or short giant could weigh as little as 5000 pounds).

You can get more specific if you know the precise height (for example, a 12ft tall giant is only double that of a 6ft human, and if the 6ft human is 200lbs, the giant will only weigh 1600lbs). Still, this means that many Large creatures are unlikely to be affected by the spell.

Other methods

For creatures with real-life analogues of a similar size, just use the real life counterpart's weight. For example, an Aboleth is a fish, roughly the size of a great white shark. A typical great white is 2000lbs, so we can assume an aboleth is like that too. When your only concern is "more or less than 500lbs?" you don't need to be precise.

You can also try and refer to older edition materials, at least ones where the art makes the monsters look more or less the same. The D&D 3.5 SRD contains weight information on most of its monsters, and it's not terribly likely that a monster would have gotten much chubbier or skinnier over time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For explaining the cube rule, too many people forget that. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Mar 16 '16 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ No idea why, it's easy to remember - double weight for being twice as tall, double weight again for being twice as wide, and double weight a third time for being twice as thick. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel Mar 16 '16 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Square cube is good for a rule of thumb, but it would mean that a three foot tall person would weigh about 25 pounds, which is about the 5th percentile for that height. Proportions matter. I'd stress that using the square/cube law is only good for a very rough ballpark. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 31 '16 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I think it's fine for this particular question, where the only concern is "is it more than 500 pounds?" In the case of the 3ft tall person the answer is "obviously yes" so you don't even need to do the math. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel May 31 '16 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I only used the 3 foot tall person, since there are no growth charts that go to 12 feet. :) I agree it's probably OK for a rough rule of thumb. A closer reading shows that you did address this, so I'll slink off to a corner and bury my head. :) \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 31 '16 at 19:42
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I think your first rule-of-thumb of: yes for Medium or smaller, no for Large or larger, is a pretty good starting point. Mathematically, humanoids up to the size of a Bugbear are probably below 500 lbs; Ogres and larger are heavier. Beasts will be under 500 lbs up to about a decent-sized bear, lion, or pig. Judge monsters by comparing with those. And apply common sense to special cases. e.g. A warhorse is much more than 500 lbs, but a skeleton warhorse might not be.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This simple heuristic seems much easier to apply for games, easier to help players understand and strategize around, and seems to generally fit mathematically as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles May 19 '18 at 3:36

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