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In earlier editions, they had rules for creatures that were small or smaller and their occupation of the same square. Are there rules for that in 5th edition?

Before, I think it was 4 tiny creatures could occupy a 5 foot square. I'm mostly curious because of the animate objects spell and how to optimize damage with small and tiny objects.

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D&D 5e doesn't have a specific rule on this because the fifth edition of the D&D ruleset doesn't make use of 5' squares when determining positioning of creatures -- it relies more heavily on an abstraction of what is happening mechanically in the game to determine this. Note that there are variant rules in the DMG for using a grid where 1" square = 5' square.

That being said, what we do have is a general idea of what space a creature of a given size "controls":

Size       Space
Tiny       2½   by  2½  ft.
Small       5   by  5   ft.
Medium      5   by  5   ft.
Large      10   by  10  ft.
Huge       15   by  15  ft.
Gargantuan 20   by  20  ft. or  larger

Source: 5e SRD pg 92

And just below that, in the SRD:

A creature’s space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions. A typical Medium creature isn’t 5 feet wide, for example, but it does control a space that wide. If a Medium hobgoblin stands in a 5-foot-wide doorway, other creatures can’t get through unless the hobgoblin lets them.

A creature’s space also reflects the area it needs to fight effectively. For that reason, there’s a limit to the number of creatures that can surround another creature in combat. Assuming Medium combatants, eight creatures can fit in a 5-foot radius around another one.

Because larger creatures take up more space, fewer of them can surround a creature. If five Large creatures crowd around a Medium or smaller one, there’s little room for anyone else. In contrast, as many as twenty Medium creatures can surround a Gargantuan one.

Based on the amount of space a tiny creature takes up (2.5 x 2.5, or 1/4 of a 5 foot square) I think it's safe to say that the breakdown is the same as in previous editions -- you could fit four 2.5' squares inside a single 5' square, so you could fit 4 2.5' tiny creatures in the space occupied by a creature who occupies a single 5' area.

However, I think it's important to remember that things are not often so neatly organized into 5' squares, and that's one of the reasons grid-based combat in 5e is a rule variant and not the base assumption. Allowing combat and positioning to occur more organically might be a bit more work than using a grid system but in my experience it has allowed for much greater creative freedom from players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Also worth noting are the rules for squeezing into a smaller space, taken from the same section of the PHB. It allows small creatures to crowd together with the same density as tiny creatures, albeit with various penalties. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrew Apr 14 '16 at 13:45
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In addition to the other answer, it seems worth pointing out that due to rules of reach, of the 4 tiny creatures that can stand in a 5-foot square, two can move adjacent to a given edge and thus reach a Medium creature standing in the next square over. If they fly, 8 creatures can fit in a 5-foot cube, which means 4 can reach the medium creature they're attacking.

Thus, a normal Medium character standing on the ground and surrounded by Tiny creatures could be swarmed by up to 20 Tiny flying creatures at a time (five exposed 5'x5' sides x four creatures per side) or 8 tiny land-based creatures. If they're flying, it jumps up to 24 flying creatures because they also expose the side under them.

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The table on page 251 of the DMG notes 4 tiny per square, 1 small or medium per square; 2x2 for large, 3x3 for huge, 4x4 for gargantuan.

This matches the table on page 191 of the PHB. It is explicit in the PHB that one and only one creature may fight effectively in that space, btu more can occupy it.

MOVING AROUND OTHER CREATURES

You can move through a nonhostile creature's space. In contrast, you can move through a hostile creature's space only if the creature is at least two sizes larger or smaller than you. Remember that another creature's space is difficult terrain for you.

Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can't willingly end your move in its space.

If you leave a hostile creature's reach during your move, you provoke an opportunity attack, as explained later in the chapter.

(Page 191)

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