Saturday, July 29, 2017

So You Rolled a 3: Strength


What does a STR of 3 mean in old school games?

Well, first let's talk about AD&D 1st Edition.  At the break point of 1E, the Strength stat was for the first time assigned a value.

Chart Copyright 2000-2002 by Stephen Nispel
We can see that the STR 3 guy can lift an astonishing 10 pounds over his head!  And he has a 0% chance of bending steel bars or lifting a portcullis (clearly two especially important actions in 1st Edition.)  In later editions and up until the present day, we have imagined that a STR of 3 correlates to the weakest of the weaklings across the spectrum of people everywhere.  

But in old school play, this simply is not so!  A Strength score of 3 has no exact weight correlation.  A STR of 3 can certainly mean someone who is a complete weakling, but it doesn't make sense that a veteran adventurer would be too feeble to carry his own gear, does it?  No, it does not.  Instead, a STR of 3 just means your man is very weak compared to other adventurers - perhaps he would have little chance of winning an arm wrestling contest.  Certainly he would have little chance to bend iron bars or break down a door with his bare hands, among other feats of strength.  

But a STR 3 character is strong enough to carry his gear, wear his armor, and swing a weapon (just perhaps not as forcefully as Conan might do).  As far as other strength-related tasks, he would likely fail most of the time.  That's all it means.

So therefore what can we say about your man when you roll a 3?  Perhaps he is a child.  Perhaps he is very old.  Perhaps he is as strong as a normal person but so grand that it takes all his might just to propel himself around on his two tree-trunk legs!  And this will get me in trouble to say in this day and age, but perhaps he is actually a she* instead?  If you really want to get kooky, maybe you say your man only has one arm or his legs do not work.  He's unable to perform a wide range of feats of strength because of this drawback.

Do not despair when you roll a 3 for Strength.  Let it inform you about your man.  You will be all the more heroic for overcoming such a limitation.

*There ought to be no mechanical difference between male and female characters, so you are free to play a woman with an 18 STR.  However in the real world almost all women are less strong than almost all men.  It's just a fact of biology.



3 comments:

  1. Before I fully embraced old school play, I came up with a mechanism for calculating what you could carry based on your strength. You had a grid of a certain amount of squares (based on your strength) and then you had to fit your items on it - a sword was two squares, a suit of mail was ten squares or whatever, etc. I put my guinea pig players - ten year olds- through psychological trauma, bravely trying to fit their dearly purchased items on their own personal grid. I thought it was for realism, but it increased the time for character preparation by 30 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One thing children love is geometry torture.

      Delete
  2. One way that I like to think of attribute ratings -and I realize that this won't work for everyone- is as a measure of how efficiently the character uses his or her given attribute. Someone may look perfectly 'average' with a stack of 3s for everything, but will simply underperfrom on them all.

    And since my games don't take place in the real world, I consider an 18 STR to mean "stronger than a 17", no matter what your character's plumbing. It's just easier that way.

    ReplyDelete