I read a fair few Dungeons & Dragons blogs and stumble upon umpteen D&D discussions a week, in various corners of the web, and one comment I notice pretty often is someone bemoaning how powerful Dexterity is in 5th edition compared to Strength.
It’s hard not to agree with those grumppots. After all, the Dexterity-based character gets the same bonus to attack and damage rolls that a Strength-based character gets (assuming they have equal scores), plus they get a very significant bonus to their AC and to their initiative rolls. Not only that but your Dexterity score is tied to three types of skill check, vs. only one for Strength, plus Dexterity saving throws are far more common than Strength ones.
As a 140 lb weakling (about 120 lbs before quarantine!), I’m totally into the fantasy that the nimble, fast guy/gal is just as badass, if not more, than the brutish thug… but as a realist, that’s simply not the case. You can be as fast and agile as you like, but if you want to plunge a shortsword or shoot an arrow through leather, scales, chain or plate, you want to be as strong as possible… or at the very least you don’t want to be weak.
This, it seems, is not reflected through 5e’s Dexterity-tinted glasses.
If you want to even the scores, so to speak, then here is a Hipster House Rule for that gritty campaign you’re planning…
Punish the Weak
When you make a ranged weapon attack with a dart, sling or bow, or a melee attack which uses your Dexterity modifier, you must include any negative Strength modifier you have to your attack and damage rolls.
I think this is a simple and realistic way of preventing weaklings running around the battlefield like Conan (the frontline fighter with their Strength as a dump stat is rather infuriating IMHO!), while also making the crossbow a more attractive option for the athletically challenged.
If your players start crying at this proposal you could a) point them in the direction of this Youtube video of Bruce Lee doing two fingered push ups and tell them to get ripped or get out or b) try this watered down version instead:
Variant: (Slightly) Punish the Weak
When you make a ranged weapon attack with a dart, sling or bow, or a melee attack which uses your Dexterity modifier, you must include any negative Strength modifier you have to your damage rolls.
UPDATE: A friend of mine just commented that the optional encumbrance rules in the Player’s Handbook are another great way of preventing Dex-based characters as using Strength as some kind of dump stat! They are quite prohibitive actually, and might also stop your PCs becoming tedious hoarders of monsters’ body parts.
Give Strength A Boost
Alternatively, you could approach the problem from a different angle, and give a boon to Strength-based fighters. It could be something simple like they get to double their damage modifier on critical hits, whereas Dex-based characters don’t. It won’t come up too often, but it’s a way of showing your appreciation for all the hours their PC put in at the gym.
Right, I just had this thought today so thought I’d get to publishing… I’ve been pretty quiet of late because I’m at the intense end stage of a year-long project that I will publishing soon(ish) on the DMs Guild. It involves gladiators.
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(And as soon as it does go live I’m gonna blast out the thirty or so new post ideas I have backed up on the blog! So plenty of reading material for regular readers to digest during another winter of Covid-induced discontent… I will do my best to keep our spirits raised dear friends!).