Learn how different types of movement work in D&D 5e
When playing D&D, you control a character and how they interact with the world created by your dungeon master. Rules are used to guide how characters can act and what they’re capable of. This is particularly important in combat scenarios where players take turns, performing certain activities in the 6 second space of time at which their turn occurs. One of the activities players can perform is movement which is crucial for positioning your character in the right place in the environment.
Of course, characters can move in many different ways whether that’s walking, sneaking, climbing swimming or even flying. To help you understand what your character can do, we’ve amde this guide that explains everything you need to know about movement in D&D 5e
How does movement work?
Outside of combat, characters can move around their environment in a way that is logical and fits their abilities but once in combat, movement becomes more rules-focused to ensure balance during encounters.
Encounters work in rounds and each round, every creature gets a turn. Within your turn you can perform certain actions including movement. A typical turn will involve an action, movement and perhaps a bonus action as well. Each character is given a movement distance which is typically 30 feet but can vary depending on the speed and capabilities of the character. This is how far the character can move in 6 seconds (which constitutes a turn) while on foot.
On a typical battlemap, the board is split into squares on a grid. Each of these squares represent 5 feet so a typical character with a 30ft movement speed will be able to move 6 squares during their movement.
Types of movement at a glance
Moving in different ways will affect how quickly you can move and cause additional effects to be aware of. I’ve summarised these in the table below and detailed them further in the guide:
|Walking||Costs 1ft of movement speed for every 1ft travelled|
|Climbing||Costs 2ft of movement speed for every 1ft travelled|
|Swimming||Costs 2ft of movement speed for every 1ft travelled|
|Flying||same as the creature’s flying speed (or the flying speed described in the spell or ability)|
|Falling||500ft per round|
|Crawling||Costs 2ft of movement speed for every 1ft travelled|
|High Jump||Can jump the same height as 3 + your strength modifier with a run up (or half as much if standing still). Every 1ft you travel costs 1ft of your movement speed|
|Long Jump||Can jump the same distance as your strength score with a run up (or half as much if standing still). Every 1ft you travel costs 1ft of your movement speed|
|Stand up from being prone||Half your movement speed|
|Difficult terrain||Costs 2ft of movement speed for every 1ft travelled|
|Move while grappling||Speed is halved unless the creature is 2 or more sizes smaller than you|
Climbing is obviously more difficult than simply walking and for most races, will take more time. To calculate how far you can climb in a turn, you simply take your movement speed and have each foot you climb cost an extra foot in movement so if your movement speed is 30 feet, then you can climb 15 feet in one turn.
If the DM decides that what you’re climbing also constitutes difficult terrain, then it takes 2 extra feet to move each foot when climbing (so a character with a 30 foot speed could climb 10 feet in one turn). A DM might also decide that a slippery or challenging surface to climb might require a successful athletics check as well.
The only difference to these rules is if you have a creature that is a capable climber, they may have a climbing speed in their stats, in which case, you can use their climbing speed to determine how far they can move while climbing.
Swimming works in a similar way to climbing. For every foot of movement the character travels, they must use an extra foot to determine the distance they can move (or 2 extra feet if they’re travelling through difficult terrain like a stormy sea). This means that if swimming in calm waters, a character with a movement speed of 30 feet can swim 15 feet.
Again, the exception here is if the creature is a natural swimmer like triton, they might have a separate swim speed which can be used instead.
Crawling also works in a very similar way to climbing and swimming. You simply expend an extra foot of movement for every foot you move. This means that a creature with a movement speed of 30 feet can crawl 15 feet in one turn.
Most characters don’t have a natural ability to fly, even in the fantasy world of D&D, but if they can, they might have a fly speed. This is the case with the aarakocra for example. If this is the case, they are able to fly and can move as far as the move speed states for flight in one turn.
Some creatures can fly or glide, but only for a limited spell so in some cases, you may have a limit to the amount of time that can be spent flying which might be as short as a single turn.
The distance you can jump is equal to your strength score so a creature with a strength score of 15 can jump 15 feet as long as they can travel at least 10 feet on foot before making the jump. If a character makes a standing jump, their jump distance is halved.
Attempting to jump over an obstacle requires a successful athletics check DC 10+. In addition, if you’re jumping onto difficult terrain, then you’ll need to make an acrobatics check of DC 10+ or land prone.
If you want to jump a certain height, you can jump a height equal to 3 + your strength modifier if you move at least 10 feet for a run up. If you make a standing high jump, the height is halved. Your DM might allow you to make an athletics check to see if you can jump higher than this. You can also use your arms to reach for a ledge to extend the height you can reach.
Difficult terrain is any terrain that is difficult to traverse at a normal speed. This might include the thick undergrowth of a forest, a marshy bog or the rubble of a ruin. When travelling through such areas, you must use an extra foot of movement for every foot you travel so a creature with a movement speed of 30 feet can only travel 15 feet in their turn. The impact of difficult terrain can combine with the impact of other forms of movement such as swimming or climbing to reduce movement further.
Do you have to use all your movement in one go?
No. When it’s your turn, you can choose to use parts of your movement between other actions you perform, for example, you can move 10 feet, make a melee attack, move again next to another foe and cast a spell as a bonus action. You can even split your attack action between movements so could move, attack, move, attack and even move again, as long as you haven’t exceeded your movement speed for that turn.
Can you fly/swim/climb and walk in the same turn?
Yes. If you have multiple types of movement speeds, you can use each of those movement types in the same turn, you just subtract the motion already made from the available movement. For example, if you have a swim speed of 20 feet and a movement speed of 30 feet, then you could swim 20 feet and be able to get to land and walk 10 feet afterwards.
Do you have to keep moving when flying?
No. A creature that is flying can remain in the same place. Presumably they use their wings (or whatever they use to fly) to hover in the same spot.