D&D General Comparing editions: What is Strength?

JEB

Legend
Looking at comparing equivalent things from different editions, for reasons, and randomly decided to see what Strength actually meant in different editions.

Original D&D
  • Prime requisite for fighters, meaning that higher scores increase XP earned (by 5% or 10%), and lower scores decrease it (by 10% or 20%). Clerics can - if I understand this correctly - add 1/3 their Strength score as a virtual bonus to their Wisdom, for the purposes of determining bonus XP; however, that only applies to Strength of 9 or higher.
  • Aids in opening traps "and so on." (They never really explain how; closest we get is that anyone can force open a door on 1 or 2 on d6, unless they're "smaller or lighter". Chainmail doesn't address Strength either.)
  • Scores seem to max out at 18.
  • And that appears to be it in the original rules!
Original D&D plus Greyhawk
  • Adding to the above...
  • Strength now affects your to-hit, damage, encumbrance limits, and ability to open doors (modified from the 1-2 on d6 above). Positive benefits only apply to fighters, however.
  • Percentile Strength (18/01-18/00) is introduced for fighters with an 18, which can raise the above bonuses even further (and allowing a fighter to open magically sealed doors at a lower chance than normal doors).
  • Fighters with exceptional Strength can also "bend iron bars and perform other feats of strength with ease."
  • Non-human PCs can raise their fighter level limits if they have exceptional Strength.
Holmes Basic (1977)
  • Prime requisite for fighters, as in 0E, with the same effects on XP. Clerics can't use their Strength score for bonus XP, but magic-users can convert Strength to Intelligence at character creation on a 3:1 ratio.
  • As near as I can tell, that's it! I guess they decided the Greyhawk extensions were better for AD&D alone.
AD&D 1st Edition
  • Strength is "a measure of muscle, endurance, and stamina combined."
  • Strength affects your to-hit, damage (in melee), weight allowance (measured in gp, defaults to 500?, 10:1 ratio with pounds), open doors roll, and bend bars/lift gates percentage.
  • Prime requisite of fighters, granting 10% more experience above 16. Fighters with an 18 can roll exceptional Strength (18/01-18/00). One of the primes for paladins and rangers.
  • Characters can lift 10 x their Strength above their head in a military press.
  • There are maximum Strength scores for specific races, as well as lower caps for females of all species. Higher Strength scores allow non-human PCs to exceed fighter class limits.
  • Strength scores implicitly can exceed 18/00, based on the giant strength in the DMG, but such scores aren't described for normal PCs.
Moldvay Basic (1981)
  • Strength is "a measure of muscle power and the ability to use that power."
  • Strength is now the prime requisite for fighters and dwarves, and one of the prime requisites for elves and halflings. Same adjustments to XP for low/high scores.
  • Strength modifiers (based on high or low scores) add to or subtract from your to-hit and damage (in hand-to-hand combat only), as well as opening doors.
  • Strength ability checks first suggested (roll under score to succeed).
  • No mention of race or gender caps.
Mentzer Basic (1983)
  • Basically the same as Moldvay Basic, though explained less efficiently.
AD&D 2nd Edition
  • Strength "measures a character’s muscle, endurance, and stamina."
  • Strength ability checks are rolled under your Strength score.
  • Prime requisite of warriors, granting 10% more experience above 16. Warriors with an 18 can roll exceptional Strength (18/01-18/00). Only prime for fighters, one of the primes for paladins and rangers.
  • Strength affects your to-hit, damage (generally melee, but does apply to missile weapons under special circumstances), weight allowance, maximum press, Open Doors rolls, and Bend Bars/Lift Gate percentage.
  • No mention of gender caps, but there are race caps. Halflings cap at 18 (their cap was 17 in 1E) but halfling fighters do not roll for exceptional Strength.
  • Strength scores cap at 25, but scores above 18/00 are listed alongside various giants.
  • Non-weapon proficiencies associated with Strength: Blacksmithing, Carpentry, Stonemasonry, Swimming, and Jumping.
Rules Cyclopedia
  • Strength is "the character's physical might."
  • Strength is still the prime requisite for fighters and dwarves, and one of the prime requisites for elves, halflings, and mystics.
  • Strength modifiers (based on high or low scores) affect to-hit (in melee), damage (for melee and thrown attacks), and Open Doors rolls.
  • Retains Strength ability checks from Moldvay and Mentzer (roll under score).
D&D 3.0
  • Strength "measures your character's muscle and physical power."
  • Strength score determines modifier that applies to melee attack rolls; damage rolls with melee or thrown weapons; Climb, Jump, and Swim checks; and Strength checks generally. It also determines your carrying capacity.
  • No exceptional Strength at 18. No upper limit on Strength scores.
  • No race-based ability caps.
D&D 3.5
  • Same as D&D 3.0.
D&D 4th Edition
  • Strength "measures your character's physical power."
  • Ability modifier applies to Strength ability checks, basic melee attacks (including to-hit and damage) and Athletics checks, and may contribute to Fortitude defense.
  • You can carry 10 x Strength as a normal load, x20 as as maximum lift (slowed), x50 as push/drag.
  • No upper limit on Strength scores.
  • Powers for clerics, fighters, paladins, rangers, and warlords may be based on Strength.
D&D Essentials
  • Basically the same as 4E.
D&D 5th Edition
  • Strength measures "bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force."
  • Ability modifier applies to Strength ability checks, including Athletics checks. Example uses include forcing open stuck doors and breaking free of bonds.
  • Strength modifier adds to attack and damage rolls with melee weapons (including javelins), including hand-to-hand and thrown attacks.
  • Strength scores cap out at 30 (20 for PCs relying on ability score increases).
  • Can carry 15 x Strength, and push or drag twice that (slowed). Carrying capacity doubles for every size above medium and halves for every size below it.
Feel free to correct me if I have anything wrong!

EDITS: Added that Moldvay was (apparently) the first version of the core rules to have ability checks. Clarification on 0E + Greyhawk, and on 1E. Added corrections from @Willie the Duck and @Egon Spengler.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

JEB

Legend
TL;DR version:

0E0E+GHHolmesB/XBECMIRC1E2E3E4E5E
Affects XPYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Affects to-hitNoYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Affects damageNoYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Affects carry capNoYesNoNoNoNoYesYesYesYesYes
Ability checksImplied but no rulesOpen Doors, other feats impliedNoOpen Doors, other checksOpen Doors, other checksOpen Doors, other checksOpen Doors, Bend Bars/Lift GatesOpen Doors, Bend Bars/Lift Gates, other checksYesYesYes
Percentile (18/01-00)NoYesNoNoNoNoYesYesNoNoNo
Race capsNoNoNoNoNoNoYesYesNoNoNo
Gender capsNoNoNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNo
Upper score limit18 (implied)18/00 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18 (implied)18/00 (implied)25NoneNone30
 
Last edited:



Two notes:
1) Str affects XP in 2e as well as 1e. It is a prime requisite for the warrior group of classes and contributes 5 or 10% xp boost for them and the occasional specialty priests.
2) I remember there being exactly one spell or magic item in 'BECM' ('I' uses a 1-100 scale) that can net a short term 19 strength (and a +4 bonus). I will try to look for it.

I think that (summary statement about what strength measures notwithstanding) oD&D and basic/classic lines leaned more into the idea of strength as a general level of adhering to the mighty-warrior trope. oD&D being the most clearly so -- it doesn't even change how much you can carry, just makes you better (faster levelling) at being a character archetype that is known for being mighty. Supp. I and the AD&D line leaned farther into the 'it's actually strength.'

Personally, I think they should have left out the max press and stuck to abstract metrics (1/6 vs 1/3 change of forcing a 'stuck door') or things one can argue up and down but in the end no clinical answer (encumbrance levels measure what you can consistently carry, and at what speed, which is arguable but once you add in what D&D does to speeds, you recognize as a gaming construct). By adding max press, it opens the door to comparing to world records (especially gender divergence in), players rating their own scores (and, especially amongst kids, fighting about it), etc. Most importantly it plants a flag in the ground as to where D&D stands on the realistic-cinematic-mythic level of realism (where otherwise it stays vague).

Personally, I think they should have left terms like strength and intelligence (and definitely comeliness) out of it and had attributes like Might, Learnedness, Presence, etc.
 


Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
I prefer to use all of the stats after the fashion of Str, Int, and Wis in LBB OD&D — they're mainly there just to give small adjustments to earned XP based on your chosen class, so that after you roll stats, you're gently nudged in the direction of picking a class that matches your abilities, without having the decision dictated to you by the dice. (The virtual bonuses—see below—serve to make the scores even less dictatorial than they otherwise would be.)

Philosophically, this has two implications for my games. (1) It means that Strength at my table isn't "strength" per se, it's just a character's natural inclination towards being a fighter. It's "Fighteryness." Wisdom is "Clerickyness," Intelligence is "Mageyness," and so forth. (2) It means that scores of 3 and 18 are limits for adventurers, not for humanity in general. A Str 18 is not "peak human" muscularity — it doesn't represent Batman or an Olympic weightlifter or Hercules. It's just… above average for an adventurer. Likewise, Str 3 doesn't mean nadir human or invalid levels of musculature, just below average for an adventurer. But all adventurers are assumed to be within a standard deviation of "normal" (whatever that is) in all six abilities.

Clerics can - if I understand this correctly - add 1/3 their Strength score as a virtual bonus to their Wisdom, for the purposes of determining bonus XP.

1/3rd of any Str points above 9. So, for example, an LBB cleric with Str 15, Int 7, and Wis 13 would get to treat their Wisdom as if it were 15 (just enough to net the +10% XP bonus in LBB OD&D) thanks to their high Strength. Their Int is below 9, so it doesn't contribute to the cleric's "virtual" prime requisite.
 
Last edited:

Other than terminology, what would the difference be?
It would be the terminology, or at least the effect it has. Fewer complaints that so-and-so had out-deadlifted 18/00 (and for that reason the game was 'broken'); fewer suggestions that someone's Atalanta or Joan or Arc expy shouldn't be allowed max levels in the 'warrior-ness' stat; fewer playground battles over who would have the higher Int score if they were D&D characters; less confusion as to whether the great orc chieftain would have an exceptionally high or low Influence-style stat. Minor changes, for the most part, but still positive effects, to my mind.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
What is strength?
1653675806091.gif

That’s how you hurt me.
Don’t hurt me
No more…
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
It would be the terminology, or at least the effect it has. Fewer complaints that so-and-so had out-deadlifted 18/00 (and for that reason the game was 'broken'); fewer suggestions that someone's Atalanta or Joan or Arc expy shouldn't be allowed max levels in the 'warrior-ness' stat; fewer playground battles over who would have the higher Int score if they were D&D characters; less confusion as to whether the great orc chieftain would have an exceptionally high or low Influence-style stat. Minor changes, for the most part, but still positive effects, to my mind.
Ok, just checking. I feel such issues stem more from just what people want to say/do when it comes to the game. What it is called really makes little difference IME, but YMMV of course. I wanted to see if you had something else in mind as well.
 

JEB

Legend
1) Str affects XP in 2e as well as 1e. It is a prime requisite for the warrior group of classes and contributes 5 or 10% xp boost for them and the occasional specialty priests.
Whoops, corrected. Good catch.

2) I remember there being exactly one spell or magic item in 'BECM' ('I' uses a 1-100 scale) that can net a short term 19 strength (and a +4 bonus). I will try to look for it.
Thanks!
 

JEB

Legend
1/3rd of any Str points above 9. So, for example, an LBB cleric with Str 15, Int 7, and Wis 13 would get to treat their Wisdom as if it were 15 (just enough to net the +10% XP bonus in LBB OD&D) thanks to their high Strength. Their Int is below 9, so it doesn't contribute to the cleric's "virtual" prime requisite.
Ah, I missed this part in Men & Magic:
Note: Average scores are 9–12. Units so indicated above may be used to increase prime requisite total insofar as this does not bring that category below average, i.e. below a score of 9.

Gotta love that organization in the first boxed set... will correct, thanks!
 




Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top