AD&D Strength – A look at the numbers



Strength in Game Terms

For this entry, and all others in this vein, I reiterate “in game terms”. Looking closely at strength and abilities in game mechanics always shines a light on flaws of physics, reality, or dice rolls. We have to suspend some amount of disbelief for the fun of the game.

What 3-18 MeansMilitary Press

In AD&D (1E) E Gary Gygax abbreviates the numbers to physical upper body strength. A person with a 3 is assumed to Military press 30 lbs over their head. Those of 18 – 180 lbs.  A military press is lifting the weight from the shoulders, then over the head.

What’s interesting is the following charts from Cody Blog.

Military Press: Women

Bodyweight Un-trained 6-9 mo. training
114 36 49
123 38 52
132 40 55
148 44 60
165 48 65
181 51 70

Military Press: Men

Bodyweight Un-trained 6-9 mo. training
132 61 84
148 69 94
165 75 102
181 81 110
198 85 116
220 89 122

It would appear that (No surprise) Gary did his homework again. Over-all the average runs into about 9-11. The variant from women to men is a bit surprising, although I know a number of ladies who laugh at these numbers. These numbers are, however, meant to be averages of average folks. In real world terms, I think this assumes more weight to mean muscle weight.

AD&D DOES make the maximum numbers different based on sex. This may sit awkwardly with many gamers now, and usually gets house over-ruled. It would appear that some research was done on averages pertaining to gender.

Exceptional or Not

In AD&D 1E only fighters are allowed exceptional strength. Most DMs rule that that means only single classed fighters are allowed this benefit. What is interesting, and often not considered, is that no penalties apply until a character has a 7 STR. A bonus doesn’t appear until STR 16, where there is also a 10% XP bonus. On the STR table pg 9 that means a “regular” character strength is between 8-15 (80-150lb military press).

In later editions a fighter with a 9 Strength is laughed at, or thought of as a ‘dirt’ character. In the classic beginnings, a 9 strength for a fighter, the minimum requirement, is also completely feasible and without penalty.

The lesser benefits are affected, Opening doors, weight, etc. but the core of the battle mechanics remain.

So What?

I think this “mediocrity” range explains a number of things in 1E modules. +1, +2, +3 swords flew around like leaves in the wind. Magical rings, helmets, and shields were standard fare for characters level 2 or 3 and up. These items don’t upset the balance of the game because common characters were frequently without bonus. Adventures were also famously deadly.

A closer look at the numbers gives a little inspiration to play the “average joe” turned fighter.

Where some see AD&D abilities, caps, and limits to be restrictive, I find them to be a challenge, and liberating. A cause for strategy, planning and clever spell use. It is cause for a DM to let loose with legendary items of great power, items that drive epic stories.

Have you ever played average stats in an epic character?

It might be time.



Also see the articles on Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma.

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