I am not a fan of ST rolls as skill tests in GURPS. Quick Contests or Regular Contests . . . meh, at best.

ST is not like IQ, DX, and HT, which are all fairly well described in game mechanical terms as to what they do, though in a way they do it a bit too well. ST is extrinsic to the game, not intrinsic. It is tied to real-world parameters through Basic Lift. It’s totally easy to imagine what ST 45 looks like. You may have even seen an animal that strong (if not presently, maybe a T-Rex or something). You have certainly seen or heard of machines that are many times stronger than a human, and so could be rated with ludicrously high ST skills and be both realistic and believable.

So I would propose the following (in less-specific terms) were I looking at revising.

All rolls should be based on DX or HT.

DX is when you’re using ST for fine control over something. HT is when you’re exerting yourself against another or against your own physical limits. There are a few ways to do this.

But in either case, your ST really should be used to calculate Basic Lift, and from there figure out what you’re doing in terms of a Object Weight-to-Basic Lift ratio. That’ll give you a bonus or penalty.

As examples:

Throwing a shot-put as far as you can, not caring where it hits. It’s a 16-lb cannonball, so the Basic Lift to weight ratio for even “Joe Average” is more than 1 (1.25). The world record is something like 75 feet! That would probably be a DX roll to perform the motions, and a HT roll to prevent injury. Yes, two rolls. The HT roll would be optional if your adjusted roll is (say) 19 or more; you’re just not exerting yourself hard enough to injure yourself. The DX roll might be required to earn any bonuses to skill or ST from skill (such as the “training bonus” that appeared in The Last Gasp . . . and you’ll see it again in Technical Grappling!).

Weight Lifting: This is very nearly a purely HT-based roll, where you are basically moving the weight up and down until your ST falls low enough (due to local depletion of FP – or AP, really) that you really are pushing high multiples of your effective Basic Lift.

When you think of it already, this is more or less what happens – with both thrown non-weapons (DX-based roll to hit, p. B355) and weapons (DX-based skill roll to hit). Range is a multiple of your ST (seems linear, right?) but the distance modifier based on ST-to-Weight ratio is best described by a power law (about 0.44 x Ratio^-0.8, if you must know. R^2 = 0.987).

A force-to-weight ratio is an acceleration. That is, in most circumstances, ALL you need to know to establish maximum range. If you apply your skill correctly (DX or skill roll), you can achieve both range and accuracy. If you push yourself too hard, you can injure yourself.

But by and large, I would, almost always, rather look at even Contests of ST as opposed DX or HT rolls, with ST-to-Weight or ST-to-ST ratio as a modifier.

6 thoughts on “ST rolls must die

  1. I agree that ST rolls must die, and 4th ed removed most of them. I however find that your suggestoins fail to consider (or maybe it's just me) some cases:

    – Using ST to break free of a Binding or escape a grapple (contest of STs, in the case of a Binding, it has no other attribute). Also, in the case of (small b) binding such as a rope, how do you model using strength to break free?
    – Constriction attack, for things like constrictor snakes. It's currently a ST roll vs ST or HT, dealing damage equal to margin of victory. How would you handle that?

    1. Technical Grappling offers solutions to both of these.

      It introduces an effect roll, based on ST, that will be rather familiar to GURPS players. So ST is used to describe the magnitude of an effect, which is applied to the chains or the snake.

      Worked out well in test, though we'll see how the world at large likes it!

  2. I agree.
    there is Too Little HT IMO. Long trips on horseback should be HT. Running on uneven ground should be DX. Jumping should be HT more than DX (I see HT as the engine and a feat of jumping is more of an extra effort roll – getting as much energy as needed in the right time). Climbing is a HT roll when it comes to speed. ST is purely a benchmark IMO and HT is the variable.

  3. Many years ago, in GURPS 3e, I house-ruled away ST and replaced it with a new attribute called Muscle. Muscle scaled like all other attributes and was not extrinsic. Your (Muscle^3) x mass / 200,000 determined your basic damage (swing). For "Contests of ST" I used contests of swing damage. Otherwise, ST rolls were eliminated.

    It worked very well, but like all house rules it required a lot of work on the GM's part when converting existing material, adapting advantages, new advantages, etc., so I dropped it in GURPS 4. But I always felt that the idea was very sound and was a better fit for GURPS.

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