Friday, November 4, 2011

Evolution of Ability Scores: Strength

There is a great dichotomy in the treatment ability scores between the LLB, Greyhawk+Eldritch Wizardry , AD&D, and B/X. While I've always noticed the difference, actually analyzing the way abilities change over time yields some fascinating results.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be going through each ability in detail, looking at the similarities and differences between abilities as they progress through different editions of the world's most popular role playing game.

Today, I'll be looking at Strength.

In Men &Magic Strength only really directly effects the rate of advancement for Fighting-Men. There is no mention of any to bonuses to hit or melee damage or even breaking open stuck doors. On the other hand, there is a peculiar reference to traps mentioned on page 10: "Strength will also aid in opening traps and so on." I'm not exactly sure of meaning here, but it seems that, at least during the time of OD&D, mechanical traps could be broken (literally), perhaps in accords with opening stuck doors as mentioned in Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. Regardless, this mention dropped altogether in later editions of the game.

Supplement1: Greyhawk expands the use of Strength to inuring a bonus or penalty to hit, melee damage, carrying capacity, and the chance to open doors for particularly high or low scores. Most interesting, however, is that only Fighting-Men may take advantage of any bonus to hit or damage from an good score (13+), while a penalty extends to members of any class. Unlike AD&D, where only exception strength (18/XX) is limited only to Fighters. Furthermore, it does not appear that these bonuses are specifically restricted to melee, but may apply to all types of attacks.

AD&D also raises the minimum score for a positive strength adjustment to 16. I find it interesting that while most people are under the impression that AD&D has larger adjustments than previous editions of the game (which is generally true), even minimal adjustments only start to show up when a score reaches the 15/16 range (rather than 13 in both Greyhawk in B/X). Even with 18 Strength, a character still only has a +1 to hit and +2 to damage, making it less valuable than an 18 in either Greyhawk or B/X. Only with exceptional strength do the numbers start skyrocketing. Finally, AD&D gives a specific chance for those with exceptional strength to force open magically locked doors - a specification not made in previous versions.

With more unified ability score adjustments in B/X, character receive the most bang for their buck in terms of (unexceptional) strength scores. Character with only a 13+ in Strength receive a +1 to melee to hit and damage rolls as well as a bonus to open stuck doors. Furthermore, a character with 18 strength receives a +3 modifier, an increase from any previous rendition.

At least in terms of Strength, I find that roll 4d6 and dropping the lowest die does not provide any significant increase in the overall combat prowess of non-Fighters, a trend I'm interested in keeping an eye on in later posts.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea. I like the idea of perusing Strenght concepts and the like.

    "Finally, AD&D gives a specific chance for those with exceptional strength to force open magically locked doors "

    the mere fact that only they who possess this exceptional amount of strenght can afford to do that, this very point has fascinated me for ages, it is a rule written in stone to my eyes.
    We can understand WHY Cona the barbarian was able to strugglw with beings from the underworld and demons, when we grasp the concept which became this rule in AD&D.It is the truth.