5E Dexterity Vs Strength An In Depth Look - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
    The game works best when you don't optimize your PCs. Optimization is a fun academic challenge, but the game is most balanced when the PCs are operating a few pegs below optimal levels. As such, this is data that is best considered irrelevant.
    Well even a non optimised PC with Great Weappn FIghting is still a beast. Extra cleave attacks as a bonus action and the -5/+10 option. Polearm Master by itself is also very good. Its bad when you start making feat combos though such as Polearm Master+Great Weapon Master+Sentinel.

    The +2 AC for the sword and board PC tends to pale vs X2,X3 or even X5 damage unless you know what you are doing.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
    Well feats may not be allowed
    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Benage View Post
    Dex is better than Str in a D&D Basic Rules game.
    and great weapons tend to overpower the other strength based melee options unless you are very good at char op.
    I disagree.

  3. #13
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    At least for the games I run, Athletics is huge. The ability to lift heavy things like falling portculli, force open doors, climb, jump, swim, all come up regularly in my games. About the only person who isn't hampered by a lack of strength is the Wizard; everybody else relies on strength for any kind of mobility.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salamandyr View Post
    At least for the games I run, Athletics is huge. The ability to lift heavy things like falling portculli, force open doors, climb, jump, swim, all come up regularly in my games. About the only person who isn't hampered by a lack of strength is the Wizard; everybody else relies on strength for any kind of mobility.
    Perhaps because you have a substantially different (IMO better) perspective on how athletics works? Basically, the difference between Str and Dex, at the most fundamental level, is that Dex has several skills, while Str has just one. IF, and only if, you make that one skill more common and more meaningful than any individual Dex skill, i.e. nearly as useful as all Dex skills combined, will you see the two achieve parity (like Endurance in 4e: if you want Con to matter for skills, you have to MAKE it matter). In my experience, very few (non-4e ) DMs do this. Their internalized ideas of the limits of human athletic ability make almost all interesting uses of Athletics impossible, whether by just saying "no you can't do that" or by soft-banning them through impossibly high DCs. Dex isn't all roses and sunshine either, but it suffers primarily from DMs not understating iterative probability, not from overt DM prejudice.

    It really does surprise me to hear that Athletics is so "mobility" related though. Other than Swimming, none of the things you mentioned strike me as "mobility" actions. They're not movement! Maybe jumping, but the others? I'm curious what you mean by using that word to describe them.
    Last edited by EzekielRaiden; Wednesday, 28th October, 2015 at 04:10 AM.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by EzekielRaiden View Post
    It really does surprise me to hear that Athletics is so "mobility" related though. Other than Swimming, none of the things you mentioned strike me as "mobility" actions. They're not movement! Maybe jumping, but the others? I'm curious what you mean by using that word to describe them.
    Climbing, jumping, swimming, and falling all definitely need athletics, and are kind of big aspects of "mobility." I think part of the problem is a lot of people just try and use some rationale for making acrobatics checks when they should be making athletics checks.

  6. #16
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    Exactly what discosoc said; climbing is vertical movement, jumping can be vertical, horizontal, anything you need. Jumping can negate difficult terrain. And he's also right that, largely thanks to stereotypes of "agile" characters being able to climb walls, or somersault over the heads of people, and kung fu movies, we've grown used to the idea that agility has anything to do with jumping high...when all that stuff is brute strength and practice.

    There's a whole lot of the exploration game that, when it comes right down to it, is summed up in the Athletics skill. If you leverage that in your games, Dexterity will probably still be king, but there's at least an opportunity cost for it.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by EzekielRaiden View Post
    Perhaps because you have a substantially different (IMO better) perspective on how athletics works? Basically, the difference between Str and Dex, at the most fundamental level, is that Dex has several skills, while Str has just one.
    If Athletics were Jump, Swim, & Climb would it make Strength better?

    It is a strength of Strength that it has one skill for all of those things.

    That said, Stealth is also good.

    I hope there is a comic out there of a dex based party that is unable to open their jar of food.

  8. #18
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    I do agree that Dex is far better for a majority of classes, but lets bring a counterview for those who have access to Heavy Armor and all Weapons:

    Strength Advantages vs. Dex:
    * More Damage (Two-Handed Weapons)
    * Better Armor (+1 with Heavy Armor compared to the other types)
    * Can use far more Weapons (including Finesse).
    * Need only one Skill to cover the Attribute-checks (Athletics)
    * Have also access to ranged weapons and while thrown weapons have not the range of bows, they are more flexible since the can be used in melee and with a shield
    * Great Feat Access (Polearms and Great Weapon Fighting only works with Str. Weapons)

    My main Problem is that non-martial classes have nearly no reason to put any points in it, Dex is far more usefull to them and you simply need a bit of Dex for non-heavy Armor.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ad_hoc View Post
    If Athletics were Jump, Swim, & Climb would it make Strength better?

    It is a strength of Strength that it has one skill for all of those things.
    I'm not saying that it should be subdivided into even more narrow skills. That's entirely unrelated to my argument.

    Dexterity has Stealth, and the completely distinct Acrobatics, and the almost as distinct Sleight of Hand as well. If we were going to split up Athletics into Jump, Swim, and Climb, we should also split up Stealth into Move Silently, Hide, and Escape Artist; Acrobatics into Tumble, Balance, and possibly also Escape Artist; and Sleight of Hand into Open Lock, Sleight of Hand, and (bleugh) Use Rope. No matter what (post-TSR) D&D system you look at, Dex has a greater number of distinct skills.

    That said, Stealth is also good.
    Stealth is great. In many other games, stealth alone is enough of a mechanic to hang an entire game on it, an entire genre even (the Thief games, Dishonored 1 and 2, Assassin's Creed...) It has both combat and non-combat applications, can save significant resources when used successfully, and provides a lovely form of not-strictly-combat-related tension. And then Sleight of Hand, aka Thievery, is great for acquiring resources at low cost (the "cost" usually being the risk of combat), and those "resources" can be material, information, or something else entirely. And "pick a lock" (as well as "disarm a trap," I'd assume) is a general Dexterity check which can benefit from Thieves' Tools proficiency.

    Again: Not trying to say Athletics is bad. Just that, when looking at raw uses, I feel like either Acrobatics or Stealth alone is just as useful as Athletics, and that's before you even consider the typical anti-Athletics DM bias.

    I hope there is a comic out there of a dex based party that is unable to open their jar of food.
    Heh. Unlikely. Almost seems like most DMs prefer parties that solve problems primarily through "wit" and "alacrity" rather than ever using physical strength. It's possible I've just had a bad experience with D&D DMs. What I've heard from others doesn't suggest that to me though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Baumi View Post
    I do agree that Dex is far better for a majority of classes, but lets bring a counterview for those who have access to Heavy Armor and all Weapons:

    Strength Advantages vs. Dex:
    * More Damage (Two-Handed Weapons)
    * Better Armor (+1 with Heavy Armor compared to the other types)
    * Can use far more Weapons (including Finesse).
    * Need only one Skill to cover the Attribute-checks (Athletics)
    * Have also access to ranged weapons and while thrown weapons have not the range of bows, they are more flexible since the can be used in melee and with a shield
    * Great Feat Access (Polearms and Great Weapon Fighting only works with Str. Weapons)
    I do think it's important to note that the "more damage" leans pretty heavily on specifically being melee--as does your "use more weapons" comment. If you go Dex, your ranged weapon options explode. That there is only one Str skill helps...only if that one skill actually comes up proportionately more often, as I was saying above. If every skill occurs with roughly equal frequency, Dex wins, because 60% success rate at skills that show up in 30% of cases (.6*.3 = .18) is, statistically, more useful than 90% success rate at a single skill that shows up 10% of the time (.9*.1 = .09--ironically, it's exactly twice as useful).

    Can all Str-based thrown weapons be used with a shield? That would surprise me. I know some can, though the cost with those is that you throw one and you're now empty-handed. But if you're using a shield, you're giving up the bonus weapon damage from weapons that need Str, so we're getting divergent benefits here! It's true that ranged damage isn't purely the domain of Dexterity.

    And while Polearm Master and GWM only work with Strength weapons, Sharpshooter and (obviously) Crossbow Expert can only be used with Dex, same with Defensive Duelist. Meanwhile, several feats are largely agnostic (Shield Master, Dual Wielder, Sentinel)--having only two "high-optimization" feats isn't much when there are four or five perfectly cromulent other options, and at least as many good Dex-favoring feats. Overall Strength breaks even, unless you factor in Grapple-related stuff...but again, that forces you to give up the polearm/greatweapon benefits (and the shield, too).

    Not saying any of the things you've pointed out are bad--just that for nearly all of them, Dex either can do just as good, or has it better. Had I been making a list of "pro" Strength stuff, I'd have said:
    • Potentially highest weapon damage (greatweapons and polearms)
    • Higher initial AC, and you can improve your AC purely with money instead of ASIs
    • Wider variety of melee weapons (all Finesse weapons can also use Str)
    • Just one skill, so IF Athletics comes up often, it can pay off more often
    • Still has access to "short" range weapons (large enough for most fights)
    • GWM and PM feats are very strong, roughly on par with the ranged Dex damage feats (SS/CE)


    And of them, "higher initial AC" is the only one I'd say is an unequivocal win for Str. High weapon damage is nice, to be sure, but in order to get it you have to give up the AC benefit: melee Dex characters can get +1 AC from the dual-wielding feat, or +2 from a shield--negating or even reversing the AC benefit from heavy armor. It's also very one-trick-pony, IMO, while Dex can easily support a variety of styles (dual-wielding, archery, and sword-and-board) all with a simple change of equipment. And, on the subject of equipment, that heavy armor is extremely expensive--even if you start with chain, upgrading to splint and then plate costs a total of 1700 gold--meanwhile, the Dex person starts the game able to afford the best protection they can get.

    But--and this is a big but--that expense is an ephemeral resource, gold. ASIs are permanent resources, you can't just go out and get a couple more. So for the lucky, or the clever, the high "consumable" cost of heavy armor is merely a speedbump, and that is a substantial benefit for which Dexterity has no direct answer, other than saying "well you get better at all the other Dex things too!" I still think those inherent benefits (+1 Initiative, +1 to both AC and a common save, +1 to three solid skills including one that is both mobility and defense, +1 hit and damage with the best ranged weapons and solid melee weapons) are a too-tempting package, but it's hard to question the clear utility of "you can buy AC with gold, and spend your ASIs on powerful/interesting feats instead."

    My main Problem is that non-martial classes have nearly no reason to put any points in it, Dex is far more usefull to them and you simply need a bit of Dex for non-heavy Armor.
    Yeah. It's not even like Con, since everybody likes having HP. Strength is almost worthless for anyone else. Acrobatics can be used to defend against Grapple, even. That's part of why I said what I said. Unless a DM goes out of their way to make specifically Strength-based checks commonplace, anybody that doesn't actually carry a melee weapon can, essentially, ignore it. Add in that most DMs handwave carrying capacity as well, just for good measure.

    Hence why what I really wanted was to get a reply from @Salamandyr -- I'm curious how his game operates. (Also, did you change your screenname, Salamandyr? I swear I saw someone else with that icon...)

    Edit: Gah! I missed it, you DID reply, just not to me. Anywho...
    Quote Originally Posted by Salamandyr View Post
    Exactly what discosoc said; climbing is vertical movement, jumping can be vertical, horizontal, anything you need. Jumping can negate difficult terrain. And he's also right that, largely thanks to stereotypes of "agile" characters being able to climb walls, or somersault over the heads of people, and kung fu movies, we've grown used to the idea that agility has anything to do with jumping high...when all that stuff is brute strength and practice.
    Which, I think, really just gets into how artificial--indeed, gamist--the "Strength"/"Dexterity" divide really is. Because I also know that all sorts of people who do "dextrous" things in fact need to be powerfully athletic in order to do them. A "real" archer has to have strong arms--you can't draw a high-tension bow (say, an English yew longbow) if you don't have strength. Real ballet dancers must have rock-solid leg muscles--and often abs and arms, too, for throwing other dancers around and getting into group formations. Monks, trapeze artists.

    Though there are also things that, I'd wager, you would expect to need "Strength" that really don't. Parkour, for example, often doesn't actually demand that much brute strength, or so I've been told. It's almost purely a matter of training, hand-eye (or rather body-eye) coordination, and letting go of irrationally fearful self-protection responses. And that's absolutely a "mobility" thing, from the very core of it.

    There's a whole lot of the exploration game that, when it comes right down to it, is summed up in the Athletics skill. If you leverage that in your games, Dexterity will probably still be king, but there's at least an opportunity cost for it.
    I agree--on the caveat that it needs to be "If the DM leverages it in your campaigns." I just find that most don't--often, but not always, intentionally.
    Last edited by EzekielRaiden; Wednesday, 28th October, 2015 at 01:52 PM.

  10. #20
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    EzekielRaiden,

    Sal's always been my pen name, but Snarf is a generic Enworld avi, so a few people have it. I usually use the Dave Trampier salamander elsewhere, but I've never gotten around to updating my avatar here. Plus, I kind of like Snarf.

    Agreed on the rather artificial Str/Dex divide. It's funny; in real life, almost any deficiency in actual dexterity can be overcome with practice, but you've got to have that strength--the opposite of most roleplyaing games. I would say Parkour actually requires more strength than free runners give it credit though. They need enough strength to support and move their bodies, and the smaller their bodies, the less strength they need. Plus there's a diminishing returns that strength exercising has for parkour. You've got to move those big muscles, so free runners tend to abjure powerlifting. I've had an interest in Parkour, but at over 100 kilos, I need a lot more strength to do the things those 50 kilo guys can do with similar levels of strength as I currently have. So in my case, if I want to do parkour (and I do), I need to first be really strong (about a third more strong than I am now-working on it).

    In game, if I was putting together a 4e style skill challenge for parkour it would be about 50/50 athletics and acrobatics. Clearing obstacles-going over, under tables and other obstacles as well as taking long falls without damage is the tumbling aspect of acrobatics. Long and high jumps, free climbing walls, and such is athletics.

    Also agreed on your last point about most campaigns. Most DM's let acrobatics poach most of athletics stuff (RAW, acrobatics lets you keep your balance, and that's about it-well tumbling, but there is no mechanical effect to tumbling unless the DM allows it) like jumping, and climbing. But they shouldn't; not only is strength/athletics the correct skill to use in those situations per RAW, it's the right one from a real world standpoint as well.

    That's not to say that Dexterity is not, in general, superior to strength in game; just that, in the kinds of games I try to run, with lots of physical obstacles to overcome, there is a very real opportunity cost for dumping strength.*

    *Caveat: as always, magic can and often does negate many of these challenges, but in 5e I notice they can usually only do so for themselves, rather than for the entire party. The wizard in our party manages to get by usually with well placed misty steps. Personally, I find that a feature rather than a bug. There should always be multiple ways to accomplish a task, and misty step uses a resource in a way that Athletics does not.

    **Thinking about parkour got me thinking about more about the str/dex divide. It occurs to me that that thing about little guys needing less strength than the big guys is pretty common to things like climbing and, well, any activity that involves moving ones body through space. And that's probably where we get the idea that Dexterity is more important to those activities than strength. A 150 pound guy who can lift 160 pounds can do a lot with is body that a 225 pound man who can lift 200 pounds cannot do, simply because his strength exceeds what it needs to move his body, even though the bigger guy is undoubtedly stronger. But the 225 pound man who can lift 300 pounds can do all the things the 150 pound man can do, plus a whole lot more. One other real world complicating factor-heavier bodies stress the joints more in high impact exercises, so lighter guys don't hurt themselves as much doing things like Parkour, but I think that's sufficiently occult that we don't really need to simulate that in game.
    Last edited by Salamandyr; Wednesday, 28th October, 2015 at 03:13 PM.

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