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5E Potion of Climbing, Do you Need to Use Your Hands?

A character using a potion of climbing gains a climb speed... But do they need to use their hands to climb? What about to stay still on a wall or ceiling? In short, do they have to use their hands?

I'm thinking to move they need to use both hands and feet, but when not moving they could use one hand for an action.

Thoughts?
 

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fba827

Adventurer
Kind of depends really how your DM wants to do it.

assuming that’s you?

but my personal opinion ( if I’m remembering potion of climbing correctly) just gives you a climb speed and a bonus to climb. That second part is the key for me.... if you’re getting a bonus to climb then you still need to physically climb, even if you can do it well/fast. So you need your hands.

conversely if it just gave a climb speed and you didn’t need to make checks (aka spider climb in older editions) then I would say that you don’t need your hands as you’re just naturally adhering to the surface and can walk up.

anyway, again, really it’s dm ruling ultimately for your game, but the above would be my opinion on the matter
 


Yes I'm the DM, thx.

In 5E it's called a "Potion of Climbing" and the SRD says this;
When you drink this potion, you gain a climbing speed equal to your walking speed for 1 hour. During this time, you have advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks you make to climb. The potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone. Shaking the bottle fails to mix the colors.
It doesn't say what it means to have a climbing speed. Though in general I find the part about advantage to be... strange since in general if you have a climb speed (or fly, or swim, etc) you do not need to make a check to use that type of movement. Maybe that assumption is wrong too?

I've never had a character with a climb speed ever make a check to climb. I guess if something like an earthquake hit or they had to make a save to prevent getting knocked prone I would give them advantage vs Athletics, but I've never had a character with a climb speed make such a check.

And the section on Movement says this;
While climbing or swimming, each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain), unless a creature has a climbing or swimming speed.
Note, of particular relevance, imo, is this part of the description for a Cloak of Arachnida;
You can move up, down, and across vertical surfaces and upside down along ceilings, while leaving your hands free.
So I would tend to think the Potion of Climbing would not grant this feature, but since it's not explicit anywhere, I'm looking for advice.
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Compare the potion to the slippers of spider climbing. The slippers explicitly says you have your hands free, the potion just says you can climb fast but still need to make checks.

So I would rule that the potion doesn't change how you would normally handle any actionsthe PC can or cannot take while climbing.
 



billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It doesn't say what it means to have a climbing speed. Though in general I find the part about advantage to be... strange since in general if you have a climb speed (or fly, or swim, etc) you do not need to make a check to use that type of movement. Maybe that assumption is wrong too?

I've never had a character with a climb speed ever make a check to climb. I guess if something like an earthquake hit or they had to make a save to prevent getting knocked prone I would give them advantage vs Athletics, but I've never had a character with a climb speed make such a check.
The Monster Manual will tell you that having a climbing speed means you don't need to spend extra movement to climb. It doesn't say that you don't have to make climbing checks for situations that warrant them.

The advice on strength (athletics) suggests that you can require a roll, DM's option, for various things that are particularly difficult like dangerous hazards or someone trying to pull or knock the character off the climbing surface. I don't see any reason having a climbing speed would necessarily immunize them from situations like those. And having advantage on those checks would be nice to have.

As a DM, I wouldn't ask for a climbing check on a character with a climbing speed either... under normal circumstances. But I'd probably even roll a spider's check if someone explicitly tried to knock them off a wall.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
ok, but what actions can a character take while climbing?
The rules don't cover it, so it's up to you. Personally I allow actions that require a single hand but you need to do another athletics check. So you can cast that spell while clinging to a wall, but you might fall. Anything that requires two hands I probably wouldn't have called for an athletics check in the first place.

There can be exceptions of course if you're using a climbing harness or something, although there may be other impacts.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yes I'm the DM, thx.

In 5E it's called a "Potion of Climbing" and the SRD says this;

It doesn't say what it means to have a climbing speed. Though in general I find the part about advantage to be... strange since in general if you have a climb speed (or fly, or swim, etc) you do not need to make a check to use that type of movement. Maybe that assumption is wrong too?

I've never had a character with a climb speed ever make a check to climb. I guess if something like an earthquake hit or they had to make a save to prevent getting knocked prone I would give them advantage vs Athletics, but I've never had a character with a climb speed make such a check.

And the section on Movement says this;

Note, of particular relevance, imo, is this part of the description for a Cloak of Arachnida;

So I would tend to think the Potion of Climbing would not grant this feature, but since it's not explicit anywhere, I'm looking for advice.
Having a climbing speed means you can move at that speed while climbing, instead of spending 2 feet of movement per foot climbed as usual. It does not allow you to climb in situations where climbing would not otherwise be possible, nor does it exempt you from having to make Strength (Athletics) checks if they would otherwise be necessary. However, it is up to DM discretion when a check is necessary, so you could rule that a character with a climb speed doesn’t need to make a check in a situation where a character without a climb speed would need to. That’s just not one of the default benefits of a climb speed. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t have a climbing speed, climbing doesn’t normally require you to make a Strength (Athletics) check, unless the surface is slippery, lacks hand and footholds, or there are similar complicating factors that would create a risk of and consequences for failure.

Personally, I would not allow a character under the effects of a potion of climbing to climb without their hands. If they are using proper climbing gear, I would probably allow them to stop climbing and use their hands to do something else, while remaining suspended by the climbing gear. If they’re free climbing, I would rule that they must keep at least one hand on the surface they’re climbing at all times to avoid falling, and if they use one hand to take another action (such as attacking), I might call for a Strength check to keep hold with the other hand.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
Two things make me think hands are required:

1.) The PHB says that if there are few handholds, a check may be required. This indicates to me that you need to have handholds to truly climb something of any difficulty.

2.) I have never pictured it being done without handholds. In truth, I picture them being able to climb like a monkey does.

As a DM, I'd likely allow a player that drank the potion to traverse some pretty vertical terrain without using their hands, but would require them to use their hands to really climb a vertical wall, a tree, etc...
 

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