Blast from the past: Quadratic ST from 2002

With special guest star +Peter V. Dell’Orto

Amazing what you find on your computer. Your work computer no less. This file was dated from 2002.

I’m not sure the Quad ST idea will really have legs. Too mathematically intense, perhaps.

Quadratic Strength for GURPS
by Douglas Hampton Cole and Peter V. Dell'Orto
     There has been a long-running debate over how to handle lifting and strength in GURPS for a long time.  The original GURPS 3ed rules, which were that you could lift a certain multiple of your ST depending on how many hands were used, and how braced you were, had the benefit of simplicity.  You can pick up up to 25 times your strength if you lift with both hands.  Extra effort rules allowed you to lift more than this:  for each -1 to the success roll (made against ST), you could bump your lift up by 10%.  
     However, even with this methodology, it can sometimes be a bit difficult in GURPS to whip out an NFL lineman or pro-wrestler type…or even someone who spends quite a bit of time in the weight room.  While they're not found in every household in greater Woebegon, we probably know personally at least a few people who can fairly casually bench press well over 300lbs, and these people are not professional athletes.  This makes figuring things out a bit problematic.  If you declare that this lift is using the "extra effort" rules, how is it they whip out sets of ten?  If you declare that's a two handed lift, that's about ST12!  Implying that Joe Average can bench press about 250. Suddenly I feel the need to go to the gym.
     The difficulty is simply traced--real world lift ability varies by more than a factor of two from "average" to "upper limits of human potential," which is what strength scores of 20-25 are supposed to represent.  Linear ST (where lift is a multiple of the ST stat) doesn't quite have the range to cover human variation.
     One of the more popular alterations to how lifting ability is calculated in GURPS is to calculate lift based on the square of the ST score.  Referred to as "Quadratic ST" or "Quad ST," it has the advantage of being a bit more grounded in real-world physics, but more importantly expands the range of lift that "normal" humans can hoist.  Instead of ST20 lifting twice as much as ST10, your budding bodybuilder can lift four times as much (twice the stat yields four times the lift).
Lift Basis and Real World Lifting
     All the calculations of lift ability, and also encumbrance (the two primary bits that are derived from the ST score that would change using Quad ST) are currently based on the ST score directly.  To move to Quad ST, it will be useful to define a number that replaces ST in all the lift calculations, called "Lift Basis," equal to ST x ST / 10.  By itself, this small change allows much more diversity at the extremes of ST scores, while keeping the "average" character much the same as they always were. 
    Now that you've done that, how much can you actually lift?  The basic would indicate that "one handed lift" is six times Lift Basis, and "two handed lift" is 25 times Lift Basis.  While those are good generic descriptions, they don't necessarily connect well to what people might do in a weight room--it might be fun to be able to tell your fellow players "my character can easily curl over a hundred pounds…in one hand!"
   So how much can a character lift?  Here are some guidelines, based on 

> 1. The Quad ST formula and “lift basis” methodology

Okay, cool. The “Designer’s Notes” on why 6xST for one handed lift and 25xST for two-handed lift imply Benching X or Squatting Y would be very useful.

> 2. Extra effort rules and options (base off of HT, ST, DX; what
> happens when you fail)

Fine with me. Naturally, I like HT.

> I’d also like to incorporate your suggestion that Extra Effort be limited in most circumstances to a relatively small amount, but include the “scale” for super-heroic lifting – which fits in as well for Conan as for Superman.

An explicit mention that EE in the article can be substituted in Linear ST games would be nice – just takes a sentence, and I’m pretty sure it works there. I’m using it now, and it is working fine.

> 3. Some simple examples of real-world weightlifting records 4. Equipment used to set those records and what it does to the HT roll (I”m assuming HT because I like it best)

Yeah, me too. I’ve been swayed away from ST, and I was never really convinced on DX (too many lifters are big, blocky guys who couldn’t outlumber a slug but could pick up a house…). I also like the effect having one roll determine both success and possible injury, which is another pointer towards HT.
We should do this the same way I suggested last time this came up – you be the primary author, so you get the final word on what goes in or not. It works better if someone can end things with “I like it this way so it stays.” Since you’ve done most of the work, it’s only fair that you get to yea/nay parts of it.


2 thoughts on “Blast from the past: Quadratic ST from 2002

  1. " it will be useful to define a number that replaces ST in all the lift calculations, called "Lift Basis,""

    A lift basis? Oh yeah, as if a stat for some kind of "basic lift" score would fly in GURPS, man. That's crazy.


    1. The funny thing is after over 10 years, how some of this is old hat (Quadratic Lift and Basic Lift), but some of it, such as not making ST rolls, but rather using DX or HT, is still on the table as an optional rule.

      Once the weight-related penalties from Technical Grappling see the light of day, I'm totally going to use them as the basis for a rewrite of how lifting works with ST, HT, and DX. Go go Gadget Pyramid article!

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