What are the rules for being small in DnD 5e?

Most playable races are medium in size, but a few are small. Unfortunately, the rules that affect small creatures are scattered around the Player’s Handbook. In this FAQ, I’ll bring all these rules together so you know what advantages and limitations you have if you play a small character.

First of all, a creature is defined as small by its designation in the creature’s racial description, so look there to know if the race you want to play as is a small creature. There’s not a specific height designation for small creatures as their overall mass comes into play here too, but typically, small creatures seem to be about 2-4 ft tall. Below are all the playable races that are designated as small (or can be small, many have the option to be small or medium):

  • Aasimar
  • Changeling
  • Fairy
  • Genasi
  • Gnome
  • Goblin
  • Grung
  • Hadozee
  • Halfling
  • Harengon
  • Kender
  • Kenku
  • Kobold
  • Owlin
  • Plasmoid
  • Tabaxi
  • Thri-Kreen
  • Tortle
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood

A lot of the rules affecting small creatures are ones that require interactions with other creatures where the size of the creature matters such as the ability to grapple another creature or manoeuvre around it. To better understand the relation between sizes, I’ve listed these out below:

Tiny2 1/2 by 2 1/2 ft.Imp, Sprite
Small5 by 5 ft.Halfling, Kobold
Medium5 by 5 ft.Elf, Dwarf
Large10 by 10 ft.Ogre, Wyvern
Huge15 by 15 ft.Storm Giant, Adult Red Dragon
Gargantuan20 by 20 ft. or largerKraken, Tarrasque

Heavy weapons

Weapons with the “heavy” property are difficult to wield, especially if you’re small. Because of this, small creatures have disadvantage when attempting to wield a heavy weapon, even if they’re proficient with that weapon. This affects most two-handed weapons though great clubs, shortbows and light crossbows are all two-handed weapons without the heavy property.

The Player’s Handbook states:

Heavy. Creatures that are Small or Tiny have disadvantage on attack rolls with heavy weapons. A heavy weapon’s size and bulk make it too large for a Small or Tiny creature to use effectively.”

Player’s Handbook

Carrying capacity

Although size factors into the amount a creature can carry, being small doesn’t impact this. Small creatures can carry as much as medium creatures.

The Player’s Handbook states:

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.”

Player’s Handbook

Moving through another creature’s space

One of the advantages of being small is you have a little more manoeuvrability when in combat against larger creatures. While you can always move through the spaces of allies, you can only do so for enemies that are 2 sizes larger or smaller than yourself. This means you can slip through the spaces of large enemies (which medium-sized characters can’t do). Just remember, moving through an enemy’s space counts as difficult terrain.

“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.”

Player’s Handbook

Grappling and shoving

You’re restricted in the types of creatures you can grapple and shove. You can only do this to creatures that are medium or smaller whereas medium creatures can also do this to large creatures.

“The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach.”

“The target [of your shove] must be no more than one size larger than you and must be within your reach.”

Player’s Handbook

Acting as a mount

Small creatures are a little more limited in when they can act as mounts too. Essentially, it’s limited to carrying tiny creatures (medium creatures can also act as a mount for small creatures).

Of course, you do need the appropriate anatomy to comfortably carry that creature. Some would rule that a Human could act as mount to a halfling by giving them a piggyback but I don’t think this would be comfortable over an extended period of time. The rule is thinking about creatures like horses where both creatures can be comfortable on a long journey. As such, you’re unlikely to be affected by this rule anyway.

“A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount…”

Player’s Handbook

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Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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