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Here are the rules for "squeezing" from the SRD (the PHB text is identical; emphasis mine):

A creature can squeeze through a space that is large enough for a creature one size smaller than it. Thus, a Large creature can squeeze through a passage that’s only 5 feet wide. While squeezing through a space, a creature must spend 1 extra foot for every foot it moves there, and it has disadvantage on attack rolls and Dexterity saving throws. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage while it’s in the smaller space.

What does this mean for Medium-sized creatures? Small creatures take up the same amount of space in combat as medium creatures (5' x 5'), so by RAW it would seem that Medium creatures cannot squeeze.

But that doesn't seem right to me; after all, in real life people often fit into spaces that are 2.5' or less. Does "large enough for a creature" mean something other than the space occupied in combat?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how by Raw it doesn't apply to medium creatures? "A creature can squeeze...." Doesn't mention anything about it not applying for medium creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jihelu
    Jan 8, 2017 at 6:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jihelu If you apply RAW, you get the conclusion that a medium creature can only squeeze through a 5'x5' space... which medium creatures already occupy, so there is no point to squeezing. That's so unintuitive that you would have expected them to call it out specifically in the rules text, particularly since a vast majority of characters are medium-sized. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2017 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm.... perhaps it's meant for out of combat movement and a bit of help on the DM's part to take advantage of, but that isn't really a good answer to this. Hence why it's not an answer. You're right though, it's very strange. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jihelu
    Jan 8, 2017 at 7:29

2 Answers 2

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Space doesn't only mean the area you physically inhabit in combat

An ogre isn't 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide, they simply command a 10 X 10 combat square area. It would have a penalty to Dex moving through a 5 foot wide square because it can't effectively dodge when the walls are brushing up on it's sides.

This is the same for Medium and Small creatures, who command a 5 X 5 square. They don't command that area because they're that big, they command it because they're actively engaged in combat inside of it and moving within it.

Basically, you've equated combat squares with obstacles to movement in general.

For example: A space large enough for a medium creature to move freely through would be a standard door. However an ogre would need to squeeze through because they're wider and taller than a standard door.

So when you're looking at a medium creature squeezing through a small creatures opening, it's akin to an average person trying to move through a crawl space. While the small creature would be able to do it easily, the medium creature would need to squeeze.

For example, I ran a game with a bunch of small creatures pestering the party and retreating to bolt holes with an opening that would only accommodate small creatures. That means the opening isn't 5 feet wide. By squeezing rules, a party member of medium size could have traversed the tunnels, albeit slowly and at significant disadvantage. Whereas the enemies could freely move and attack using the tunnels for cover and being an extreme and persistent annoyance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer doesn't make any sense given the example used in the text quoted in the question: if this were true, a Large creature would be able to squeeze through a passage smaller than 5' wide, rather than the 5' indicated. Also, there would be little point in defining rules for squeezing through space and then not indicating clearly how wide that space can be. A Goliath and an Elf are both Medium creatures. Which of these creatures is to be considered when determining the maximum width that a Large creature can squeeze through? It's far too vague to be useful in game terms. \$\endgroup\$
    – intuited
    Mar 16, 2021 at 20:00
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As written, a medium creature can squeeze through a space that a small creature doesn't have to squeeze through- in practice, this means a medium creature cannot squeeze.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the absence of errata (which presumably would have been brought up here by now), this appears to be the correct answer, as unintuitive and irrational as it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – intuited
    Mar 16, 2021 at 20:02

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