This section covers the various rules that come with exploring the world and some important ways PCs interact with the environment.

Tracking Time

During the majority of gameplay, time passes much as it does in our world. Actions and events are measured in minutes, hours, days, and years. Gameplay during encounters is often measured more closely in rounds and turns.

When passage of time matters, the GM determines how long a task takes. A GM should always feel free to shift between scales to match what’s happening in the game and to keep the story moving.

Minutes. In tense environments like a dungeon full of patrolling monsters, a GM is likely to track PC progress in a scale of minutes. It might take a minute to creep down a long hallway, another minute to check for traps on the door at the end of the hall, and a good 10 minutes to search the chamber beyond for anything interesting or valuable. Minutes are also used in some dangerous situations, like measuring how long a PC can hold their breath before suffocating. Minutes also factor into spellcasting. Many spell durations are measured in minutes and ritual spells always take 10 minutes or more to cast.

Hours. In less time-sensitive situations like touring a city or exploring a large forest, a scale of hours is more appropriate. Hours also factor into how often PCs need to rest and how much time passes during a short rest versus a long rest. Hours also factor into how much a PC can accomplish by engaging with downtime activities.

Days. For long journeys, a scale of days works best. For example, a journey could take multiple days that are (mostly) uneventful. A GM might roll on a random encounter table once per day to see if anything notable happens during the journey. If it does, the time scale might shift into hours to explore, minutes to investigate, or rounds to fight! Days also factor into how often PCs can use some abilities or magic items.


Swimming across a rushing river, sneaking down a dungeon corridor, scaling a treacherous mountain slope—all sorts of movement play into fantasy adventures.

The GM can summarize movement without calculating exact distances or travel times: “You travel through the forest and find the dungeon entrance late in the evening of the third day.” Even in a large dungeon, the GM might summarize movement between encounters: “After killing the guardian at the entrance to the ancient dwarven stronghold, you consult your map, which leads you through miles of echoing corridors to a chasm bridged by a narrow stone arch.”

Sometimes though, it’s important to know more precisely how long it takes to get somewhere. Rules for this depend on a few factors: the speed and travel pace of the creatures moving and the terrain they’re moving over.


Every creature has one or more ways to move through the world, called speed. Speed is the distance a creature can cover with a move. On a character sheet or in monster statistics, speed is always listed with a number measured in feet.

All creatures have a base walking speed. Creatures that have no ground-based movement have a base walking speed of 0. In addition to base walking speed, creatures can have one or more of the following additional movement speeds.


Creatures with a burrowing speed can move through sand, earth, mud, or ice. A creature can’t burrow through solid rock unless it has a special trait for that.


Creatures with a climbing speed can move with ease on vertical surfaces. Unlike most creatures, a creature with a climbing speed doesn’t need to spend extra movement when climbing.


A creature with a flying speed can use all or part of its movement to fly through the air. Most creatures with a flying speed must stay in continual motion to remain airborne, but some can hover. If a creature can hover, it is noted in parentheses after its flying speed.


Creatures with a swimming speed can move with ease in water or similar liquids. Unlike most creatures, a creature with a swimming speed doesn’t need to spend extra movement when swimming. In addition, creatures with a swimming speed don’t make melee weapon attacks at disadvantage while underwater.

Special Movement Rules

Adventurers often find themselves traversing dangerous environments or navigating perilous situations that require special kinds of movement. PCs might have to climb, crawl, swim, or jump to get where they need to go. In such circumstances, the following special movement rules apply.


While climbing, you move at half speed—each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot. If you climb in difficult terrain, each foot of movement costs 2 extra feet. At the GM’s option, climbing a slippery vertical surface or one with few handholds might require one or more successful STR (Athletics) checks. Failing such a check might cause a creature to fall.


While crawling, you move at half speed—each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot. If you crawl in difficult terrain, each foot of movement costs 2 extra feet.


Several factors determine how far and how high a creature can jump.

Long Jump. When you make a long jump, you can cover a number of feet up to half your walking speed if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing long jump, you can leap only a quarter of your walking speed. Either way, each foot you clear on the jump costs 1 foot of movement.

This rule assumes that the height of your jump doesn’t matter, such as a jump across a stream or chasm. At the GM’s option, you must succeed on a DC 10 STR (Athletics) check to clear a low obstacle (no taller than a quarter of the jump’s distance), such as a hedge or low wall. Otherwise, you hit it.

When you attempt to land in difficult terrain, you must succeed on a DC 10 DEX (Acrobatics) check to land on your feet. Otherwise, you land prone.

High Jump. When you make a high jump, you leap into the air a number of feet equal to 3 + your STR modifier if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing high jump, you can jump only half that distance. Either way, each foot you clear on the jump costs 1 foot of movement. At the GM’s discretion, you might be able to make a STR (Athletics) check to jump higher than you normally can.


While swimming, you move at half speed—each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot. At the GM’s discretion, gaining distance in rough water might also require a successful STR (Athletics) check. Failing such a check might cause a creature to start drowning. Certain weapons are also more difficult to use while swimming.

Difficult Terrain

Adventurers often travel on rough ground: dense forests, deep swamps, rubble-filled ruins, and sheets of ice. Such areas are considered difficult terrain.

You move at half speed in difficult terrain. Moving 1 foot in difficult terrain costs 2 feet of speed. If two or more sources of difficult terrain occur in the same space, you still move at only half speed.

Difficult terrain is often a natural part of the landscape, but some class features or spells, such as entangle, can create it for a short time. The space of another creature, whether hostile or not, also counts as difficult terrain.

Forced Movement

Some effects or consequences move you against your will. Forced movement never provokes opportunity attacks from hostile creatures.


Falling is a common adventuring hazard. At the end of a fall, a creature lands prone and takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell (to a maximum of 20d6) unless it has a feature or trait that allows it to avoid taking damage from the fall. In most cases, falling happens so quickly that a creature takes the damage immediately.

If a flying creature is knocked prone, has its flying speed reduced to 0, or otherwise loses the ability to move, it immediately falls to the ground, unless it has the ability to hover or is held aloft by other means.

Pulling and Pushing

Some effects such as a roper’s Reel bonus action or an ogre using a shove attack can pull or push you away from the source. A creature that has grappled you might also drag you with it during its move.


Traveling is the method of movement used when creatures journey across great distances for long periods of time. When traveling, use travel pace rules to abstract this kind of movement.

Travel Pace

While traveling, the party collectively decides if they move at a fast, normal, or slow pace. Consult the Travel Pace table to find how far a group can move in a period of time for their pace, and whether traveling at the pace has any benefits or penalties. For example, a fast pace makes travelers less perceptive, while a slow pace makes it possible to sneak around and to search an area more carefully. Note that the Travel Pace table assumes a party is moving through normal terrain. If a party is traveling through difficult terrain, the distance they can travel is halved.

Forced March. A standard travel pace assumes that you travel for 8 hours in a day. You can push beyond that limit at the risk of exhaustion.

For each additional hour of travel beyond 8 hours, you cover the distance shown in the Hour column for your pace, and each character must make a CON save at the end of the hour.

The DC is 10 + 1 for each hour past 8 hours. On a failed save, a character suffers one level of exhaustion.

Mounts and Vehicles. For short time spans (up to 1 hour), many animals move much faster than Humanoids. A mounted character can ride at a gallop for about an hour, covering twice the usual distance for a fast pace. If fresh mounts are available every 8 to 10 miles, characters can cover larger distances at this pace, but this is rare except in densely populated areas.

Characters in wagons, carriages, or other land vehicles choose a pace on the table as normal. Characters in a waterborne vessel are limited to the speed of the vessel, and they don’t suffer penalties for a fast pace or gain benefits from a slow pace. Depending on the vessel and the size of the crew, ships might be able to travel up to 24 hours per day.

Travel Pace
 Distance Traveled per . . .
Fast400 feet4 miles30 miles−5 penalty to Perception score
Normal300 feet3 miles24 miles
Slow200 feet2 miles18 milesCan use stealth

Interacting with Items

A character’s interaction with items in an environment is often simple to resolve in the game. The player tells the GM that their character is doing something, such as moving a lever, and the GM describes what happens.

For example, a character pulls a lever. The GM might say that this opens a chute causing a room to flood with water. Or it might open a secret door in a nearby wall.

If the lever is rusted in position though, a character might need to force it. In such a situation, the GM might call for a STR check to see whether the character can wrench the lever into place. The GM sets the DC based on the difficulty of the task.

Characters can also damage objects. Objects are immune to poison and psychic damage, but otherwise they can be affected by physical and magical attacks. The GM determines an object’s AC and HP and might decide that certain objects have resistance or immunity to certain kinds of attacks (it’s hard to cut a rope with a club, for example). Objects always fail STR and DEX saves, and they are immune to effects that require other saves. When an object drops to 0 HP, it breaks.

A character can also attempt a STR check to break an object. The GM sets the DC for any such check.

Types of Items

Certain rules, spells, and abilities affect items in different ways. In such scenarios, it’s often important to further define the item’s type. This section breaks down the various categories of items and provides examples of what kinds of items belong to each.


Items is the highest-level category. It includes almost everything that isn’t a creature or natural terrain. Items include equipment, objects, structures, and vehicles, and it’s a catchall for things that don’t fit neatly into another category.


The equipment category includes all items that can be carried or wielded by characters. Most weapons, armor, adventuring gear, tools, and magic items fall into this category. Typically, equipment doesn’t have AC or hit points, and it can’t be broken or damaged like other kinds of items.


The object category includes all items that can’t be carried or wielded or items. Objects generally have an AC and hit points. Typically, objects can be broken. In many cases, it makes more sense to treat Huge or Gargantuan objects as structures.


The structure category contains items that are massive in scale or composed of many smaller objects. For example, a single wall might be an object, but an entire castle would be a structure. Like objects, most structures can be broken. However, due to their scale, they often possess unique rules around breaking.


The vehicle category includes items that are similar in size to structures and composed of many smaller objects. Vehicles specifically have their own vehicle stat block. Vehicles work differently from other items and are governed by their own rules.

Lifting and Carrying

Your Strength score determines the amount of weight you can bear. The following terms define what you can lift or carry.

Carrying Capacity. Your carrying capacity is your Strength score multiplied by 15. This is the weight (in pounds) that you can carry, which is high enough that most characters don’t usually have to worry about it.

Push, Drag, or Lift. 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.

Size and Strength. Larger creatures can bear more weight, whereas Tiny creatures can carry less. For each size category above Medium, double the creature’s carrying capacity and the amount it can push, drag, or lift. For a Tiny creature, halve these weights.

Variant: Encumbrance

The rules for lifting and carrying are intentionally simple. For more detailed rules to determine how a character is hindered by carried weight, try this variant. When you use this, ignore the Cumbersome property of armor sets on the Armor table.

If you carry weight in excess of 5 times your Strength score, you are encumbered, which means your speed drops by 10 feet.

If you carry weight in excess of 10 times your Strength score, up to your maximum carrying capacity, you are instead heavily encumbered, which means your speed drops by 20 feet and you have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.


Fundamental adventuring tasks—noticing danger, finding hidden objects, hitting an enemy, and targeting a spell—rely heavily on a character’s ability to perceive the world around them.

Vision and Obscured Areas

Creatures primarily perceive the world by sight. This is called vision. Creatures usually have secondary senses of hearing, smell, and touch that also allow them to interact with the environment, but vision is considered the “standard” primary sense.

Darkness and other effects that obscure vision can prove a significant hindrance. Areas of darkness or other effects that interfere with vision are labeled as either lightly or heavily obscured.

Lightly Obscured

In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on WIS (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Heavily Obscured

In a heavily obscured area, such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage, a creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area. A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

Special Senses

In addition to basic vision, creatures can have one or more of the following additional senses.


A creature with darkvision can see in darkness. Within darkvision range, the creature can see in dim light as if it were bright light and can see in darkness as if it were dim light. A creature can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.


A creature with keensense can perceive its surroundings using a sense other than vision. Creatures without eyes typically have this sense, as do creatures with echolocation or an extraordinary sense of smell. If a creature has no other form of sensing, it has a parenthetical note to this effect, indicating that the radius of its keensense defines the maximum range of its ability to perceive the world.


A creature with tremorsense can detect and pinpoint the source of vibrations when it and the source are in contact with the same ground or substance. Tremorsense typically can’t detect flying or incorporeal creatures.


A creature with truesight can see in dim light, darkness, and magical darkness as if it were bright light. It also sees creatures and objects with the invisible condition, it automatically detects visual illusions and succeed on saves against them, and it perceives the true form of a creature with the Shapechanger tag or a creature that is transformed by magic. Furthermore, the creature can see into the Ethereal Plane within truesight range.

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