Strength Modifiers to Damage

Here’s a nice, quick, easy one, and it’s a modification that can work with the RSRD rules as written.

Let’s start by reviewing how weapons might work with regards to melee damage.

  • Weapons used two-handed can do more damage than weapons used one-handed.
  • Light weapons tend to depend more on precision for big damage than on hitting hard and could therefore gain a smaller benefit from Strength modifiers to damage.
  • The off hand is weaker in most people and attacks should do less damage.
  • The above should apply whether you have a Strength bonus or a Strength penalty.
    • It would be nice if it applied you have normal Strength too, but this is not a critical goal.

Let’s see if the above goals can be achieved, and if the changes needed are worth the effort to apply.

Current Rules

The current rules are pretty straightforward.

  • Using a one-handed weapon in the primary hand gives you normal Strength modifier to damage.
  • Using a weapon in the off hand halves Strength bonus to damage, leaves Strength penalty the same.
  • Using a non-light weapon two-handed increases Strength bonus to damage by half, Strength penalties are unchanged.
  • Using light weapons two-handed makes no practical difference to Strength modifier to damage.

This leads to the following table.

Situation Net Adjustment Strength Bonus Strength Penalty
One-handed weapon, primary hand None

*1

*1

One-handed weapon, off hand Bonus halved

*0.5

*1

Light Weapon, primary hand None

*1

*1

Light Weapon, off hand Bonus halved

*0.5

*1

One-handed or two-handed weapon, used two-handed Bonus increased by half

*1.5

*1

Light weapon used two-handed None

*1

*1

Changing Strength Modifier to Damage

As a first pass, let’s model the above using adjustments to the Strength modifier to damage.

  • Using a weapon two-handed gives you ‘half-better’ Strength modifier to damage (bonus is multiplied by 1.5, penalty is multiplied by 0.5).
  • Light weapons have their Strength modifier to damage halved.
  • Weapons used in the off hand have ‘half worse’ Strength modifier to damage.

This leads to the following table.

Situation Net Adjustment Strength Bonus Strength Penalty Delta Bonus Delta Penalty
One-handed weapon, primary hand None

*1

*1

+0

+0

One-handed weapon, off hand -Half

*0.5

*1.5

+0

-0.5

Light Weapon, primary hand Halved

*0.5

*0.5

-0.5

+0.5

Light Weapon, off hand Halved, -Half

*0

*1

-0.5

+0

One-handed or two-handed weapon, used two-handed +Half

*1.5

*0.5

+0

+0.5

Light weapon used two-handed Halved, +Half

*1

*0

+0

+1

I suppose this isn’t much different from the RAW.

It gives a slight bump to those with a Strength penalty, which honestly doesn’t come up very much in my experience since low-Strength characters are unlikely to get into melee if they can help it. It does encourage them to use light weapons because it reduces the Strength penalty to damage.

It also encourages high-Strength characters to use one-handed weapons in their primary hand or use weapons two-handed, because doing anything else results in less damage bonus than RAW.

The only thing from the goals (and it wasn’t a key goal) it doesn’t address is normal-Strength characters using weapons two-handed. The damage being unchanged for two-handed weapons makes sense, as it does for using light weapons. It’d be nice to see one-handed weapons used two-handed gain even a slight bonus (and perhaps weapons used off-handed a small penalty – though that might be reasonably addressed by the off-hand attack penalty).

To have these rules make a difference to normal-Strength characters, perhaps we could add a +1 bonus to damage when using a one-handed weapon two-handed, and a -1 penalty to damage when using a one-handed weapon in the off hand. Two-handed weapons used two-handed and light weapons see no difference because they are being used as intended and the base damage is predicated on normal Strength characters.

All in all, this doesn’t look as useful or interesting as I’d originally pictured it. The changes do model the expectations at the beginning of the article, but I’m not sure I like where they go.

Adjust Strength Modifier to Damage

Rather than changing the multiplier applied to the Strength modifier to damage, what if we apply a static adjustment in the ‘same directions’ as above? Let’s say each factor above applies an adjustment of two points to the Strength modifier to damage.

  • Using a weapon two-handed increases the Strength modifier to damage.
  • Using a light weapon makes the modifier smaller (closer to 0, reducing the effect of Strength modifier good or bad).
  • Weapons used in the off hand decrease the Strength modifier to damage.

This leads to the following table.

Situation Net Adjustment Strength Bonus Strength Penalty
One-handed weapon, primary hand None

+0

+0

One-handed weapon, off hand -1 step

-2

-2

Light Weapon, primary hand -/+ 1 step

-2

+2

Light Weapon, off hand -/+ 1 step, -1 step

-4

+0

One-handed or two-handed weapon, used two-handed +1 step

+2

+2

Light weapon used two-handed -/+1 step, +1 step

+0

+4

This… looks like crap.

For a Strength 18 or 19 character (+4 bonus) one-handed and two-handed weapons used normally (not in the off hand) do damage consistent with the RAW. A character with Strength lower than 18 (but no penalty) gets greater benefit for using a non-light weapon two-handed (including Strength 10 characters, which is nice). They will really want to avoid light weapons or weapons used in the off hand – that -4 to damage with the dagger used in the off hand is really going to suck. Characters with higher Strength (20+) do worse under this model than RAW.

A character with Strength penalties to damage, on the other hand, might like this. A character with Strength 2 or 3 has no change when using a one-handed weapon in the primary hand or a light weapon in the off hand, but get some nice bonuses when using a light weapon in the primary hand or (even more) two-handed. Only when using a one-handed weapon in the off hand does a character with very low Strength suffer for this decision. If he only has somewhat low Strength (Strength 4 or higher) he can actually work up to a net bonus to damage. It’s almost impossible to end up with a situation where a character has Strength lower than 2, so the same extreme results as with high Strength can’t happen.

That’s messed.

Conclusion

If I decide this is worth the trouble to implement in Echelon I’ll go with changing the multiplier of the Strength modifier to damage. It does provide results consistent with the goals/expectations in the introduction. I think I’m unlikely to apply these changes in Echelon because I’m prepared to let daggers do greatsword damage if you’re skilled enough (and in the right way). I’m more likely to simplify the effects of Strength modifiers on damage, especially since I expect Strength penalties to be pretty uncommon.

On the other hand, I might be more prepared to apply these changes in a D&D 3.x game. It does exactly what it’s designed to do (high-Strength characters want to not use light weapons and low-Strength characters do want to use light weapons). I think this a worthwhile goal in D&D 3.x.

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1 Comment to "Strength Modifiers to Damage"

  1. hadsil's Gravatar hadsil
    October 6, 2010 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the D&D RAW as a problem here that needs to change. You’re allowing for a Talent to increase Strength. Those who want more damage will take it. That’s its purpose, along with other benefits you include in the Talent Tree.

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