Why do RPGs use "Strength" to denote attack power?

jonthefox

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Whether it's a JRPG that has changed the default parameter names to Strength, Vitality, Intelligence, etc., or a D&D inspired world... "Strength" is the stat that gets used to determine melee attack damage.  I find this puzzling, since it's relatively common knowledge that strength plays a relatively minor role in terms of how much damage you can inflict on an opponent, and by the "skill" of the attacker has by far the most bearing on this.    I was curious if other people were bothered by this, or if not how they accept that schema both when playing or designing games.  
 

felsenstern

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I think most of the people who are using RPG-Maker are more focused on the story than some highly detailed technique which anyway never comes close to reality. Of course you can circle around and rename stats put in highly complex formulas and sequences to achieve some nice effects, but in my opinion RPG-Maker's goal is to allow everyone to create a game very quick and easy and those stats are easy understandable and easy to use.
 

trouble time

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Whether it's a JRPG that has changed the default parameter names to Strength, Vitality, Intelligence, etc., or a D&D inspired world... "Strength" is the stat that gets used to determine melee attack damage.  I find this puzzling, since it's relatively common knowledge that strength plays a relatively minor role in terms of how much damage you can inflict on an opponent, and by the "skill" of the attacker has by far the most bearing on this.    I was curious if other people were bothered by this, or if not how they accept that schema both when playing or designing games.  

This isn't actually true though, the skill inherent in throwing a punch or swinging a sword is about maximizing the amount of strength you can put out through proper movement. It's not a "relatively minor" role, it's the whole enchilada unless we're talking about Aikido or a similar martial art. Even with a sword your strength plays a major role in how much damage you'll do. Skill directs strength, it doesn't replace it, there's a reason for things like weight classes in boxing. The reason a more skilled fighter wins isn't because they can do more damage it's cause they know how to avoid being damaged by not overcommiting when they attack.


Source: A little bit of Jeet Kune Do training and a lot of street fights.
 

Alexander Amnell

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   First of all it depends on the weapon (and often time weapons like daggers and such are treated with different calculations to reflect this), and secondly when you are talking physical contact strength does hold a very valid part in the equation no matter what 'common knowledge' claims. Yes, an expert martial artist that's a 110 pound woman can throw a 200+ pound dimwitted brute around all day using his own inertia and frick him up so badly he won't know up from down, but the instant you replace that dimwit with an equally skilled and in shape man of 200 pounds it becomes  impossible for the smaller fighter to win in a fair fight, it's simple physics.


   You also have to consider stamina in the equation once you consider weapons, the more you use a weapon the harder it becomes to keep using it, and physical strength holds a key role in your ability to keep fighting effectively. It doesn't matter how skilled you are if you don't have the physical acumen to continue the fight, as your muscles convulse in protest to effort that is beyond them you'll slow down, get sloppy, your attacks that were once deadly if ignored are suddenly swatted away with ease and ultimately you end up killed when your stronger opponent's weapon flies by yours because your muscles are cramping and you just can't match his speed any longer. This rule applies to anything from a 2-3 pound sword to a massive battleaxe (you'd be amazed how heavy a sword can become after you've been swinging it around for an hour or so) and determines the types of weapons one can effectively wield in the first place.


   I think the disconnect is in thinking these things through, in rpg's especially so much is represented in stats and numbers that it's hard to bridge the reality that they are trying to represent. If you look at the standard health for example, it should bother you that equates to being sliced open and bled dozens of times without falling, which is even more offputting as far as realism goes. Instead I generally look at the rpg health gauge as an indication of a characters overall physical acumen as described above, seeing each chip off of the gauge not as a deep, bleeding wound but as a blitz that wears him down, barely deflected that just accumulates until at 0 health, the blow that finally gets through all of his defenses and strikes true. If you look at agility, well how do you actually become faster in the first place? A lot of cardio of course, but you also have to work your muscles and improve them in order to run faster, dodge and swing your weapon faster. Cardio is stamina, strength is speed, all is one. You can go stupid with it and do nothing but lift weights until your strength encumbers you (at which point you'll even look inhuman in your bulk) but you'll never be capable of performing the opposite and letting your muscles atrophy while training yourself to be faster and faster, because one is the path to the other and cannot be achieved except through it.
 
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jonthefox

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@trouble time 2 questions.  1) if you're using a rapier or saber, or any similar kind of weapon, the damage you inflict should be more or less proportional to your skill and not your strength, no?  2) even if you are using a heavier weapon, isn't the ability to be accurate and precise with your strikes of much greater value than the increase in force a higher strength would yield?   in other words, whether someone has an extra 15 lbs of muscle on me, wouldn't matter if he's only going to hit me with glancing blows at non-vital areas whereas my strikes on him are going to hurt him a lot more.  


@Alexander Amnell  Interesting points.   I never thought about the stamina issue - you really think it would affect one's use of a really lightweight weapon (saber, rapier, etc.)
 

Andar

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@jonthefox How much strength and how much skill affects the damage depends on the weapon used, but for exactly that reason a lot of the more complex games give different weapons a different base.


Yes, a rapier would be an agility or skill based weapon, and it does not transmit strength very good (on the contrary, using too much strength might create a risk of a breaking weapon)


On the other hand, there are weapons that can't be used without strength, and strength is transmitted very well to the damage - heavy axes or hammers are an example for that.


And another point is what kind of game/experience you want - do you want a realistic game or a cinematic game?


For cinematic games, strength is often used as a basis because it will look better when fighting - there is a reason why they often use body builders as actors for barbarians in fantasy movies.


And lastly, sometimes you don't want realistic damage in games because a realistic fight is rarely a fun fight - it's over too fast to be fun for the player...
 
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trouble time

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@trouble time 2 questions.  1) if you're using a rapier or saber, or any similar kind of weapon, the damage you inflict should be more or less proportional to your skill and not your strength, no?  2) even if you are using a heavier weapon, isn't the ability to be accurate and precise with your strikes of much greater value than the increase in force a higher strength would yield?   in other words, whether someone has an extra 15 lbs of muscle on me, wouldn't matter if he's only going to hit me with glancing blows at non-vital areas whereas my strikes on him are going to hurt him a lot more.  


@Alexander Amnell  Interesting points.   I never thought about the stamina issue - you really think it would affect one's use of a really lightweight weapon (saber, rapier, etc.)

1. Nope, unless you're counting accuracy as skill, even then a stronger person hitting the same spot would do more damage  2. Oh you ARE counting accuracy as skill well in that case I need to reframe my argument as, skill is useless without strength.


What if you were too weak to actually hit straight on cause the point droops when you thrust. What if you're too weak to swing the sword fast enough to get a solid hit cause they can just dance around you. Skill isn't all it's cracked up to be, it's romanticized by the "common knowledge" that also tells people they only use 10% of thier brain
 

Victor Sant

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I find this puzzling, since it's relatively common knowledge that strength plays a relatively minor role in terms of how much damage you can inflict on an opponent,

Get two fighters with the same level of skill, one is thin and small with about 60kg, the other is a muscular monster with more than 100kg. Take a direct punch from both and tell me if "strenght plays a minor role" on the damage taken...
 
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Alexander Amnell

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@jonthefox The idea that a rapier is so much lighter than other swords is a misconception, at least historically speaking, created through the advent of 'exhibition matches' where traditionally heavier weapons like rapiers, quarter staves, sword and spears have been reduced to mere ounces in favor of 'flash over substance' in competitions. Accidentally brush the tip of one of those light $300 exhibition weapons against a wall however, and they'll snap off cleanly and remind you of how utterly laughable they would serve as an actual weapon. A rapier designed to kill would weigh about the same as a typical arming sword, it's just elongated to a point of brittleness. 


   Incidentally, if you are going to use rapiers as a viable weapon and are so worried about realism, make sure none of your enemies are heavily armored. Contrary to popular belief a rapier can not actually punch through plate mail and the like, and is a very limited weapon outside of single combat/dueling between lightly armored nobility because of it's brittleness when confronted with such defenses.
 

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I never thought about the stamina issue - you really think it would affect one's use of a really lightweight weapon (saber, rapier, etc.)



Many people have already touched on enough points, so I'll avoid the redundancy and focus on this response you had.


If you have a baseball bat then hold it near the bottom (handle) as if it were a sword. Hold it up right so the top is pointing upwards. Very very slowly start to let it fall away from you so that your wrist is bending but your arm is still straight out.


This should take about 30 seconds to go from up right to pointing directly in front of you.


Now, over another 30 seconds, slowly start to flex your wrist and return the bat to pointing upwards.


Keep your arm stretched out directly in front of you the entire time and try not to move it.


Now that it's up right let the bat start to angle to your inside (right or left depending on which hand you're using). Take 30 seconds to accomplish this and eventually the bat will make a straight line in front of you from shoulder to shoulder(ish).


Rotate it back up


Now let it angle to your outside.


Rotate it back up


Depending on how well developed your muscles are. This will be a light workout or you'll be struggling to keep your arm straight out in front of you. Your wrist might start to shake as it tries to work as intended as well.


This 3 minute example should give you plenty of physical and real world information on what it's like to hold a sword just for 3 minutes at various 'ready' positions. Now, compound that by swinging it, meeting resistance, and even halting your own swing to suddenly change direction.


Strength is important even if all you have are your bare fists.
 

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@Alexander Amnell - Games are terrible at presenting weapons historically accurately (and probably always will be). 


Youtube videos showing off real swords (and/or fights) always have a bunch of people talking about how fake the sword looks (cuz they learn from movies and games).  Generally claiming the sword being "wobbly" proves that the blade is fake (although it is the other way around in reality).


Has there ever even been a game that shows what a dual wielder actually wields realistically?  


EX: in real life, one blade is always much smaller then the other when dual wielding (two similar length swords would be more of a hindrance then anything else) and dual wielding is meant to sacrifice offense for utility (since you cannot swing as hard using one arm).


Then again, speaking of realism in rpg games is weird.  In real life fights are over incredibly fast and most fights are over in one clean hit (An rpg game that tried to actually be realistic would be rage inducing due to how punishing it would be).
 

jonthefox

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@AwesomeCool Sure, it would definitely be rage-inducing for a game to try to replicate realism.  However, I don't think it's necessarily wrong or bad (and in some cases I think it's rather cool) for a game to try and represent realism.  The way that Alexander described his interpretation of HP in games, is pretty similar to the way that I look at it too--it is a representation of reality.  In a turn-based jrpg, a boss fight may take 5 or 10 minutes to complete, but each "turn" is a part of the entire fight being a representation of what would've happened in the reality of the game world.  Most game worlds are fantastical, but even in realistic (i.e. non-magic) games I think it makes sense to have an extended fight be a representation of a fight that might've been decided in less than a minute in reality.


@Zortik very interesting.  I guess it's pretty obvious that a certain minimal degree of strength is needed in order to effectively and efficiently wield a specific weapon, but I wonder if after that, the benefits of excess strength are minimal.  I don't know if this is reliable, but the reason I came to this idea is from watching videos like these: 
 

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In real life fights are over incredibly fast and most fights are over in one clean hit (An rpg game that tried to actually be realistic would be rage inducing due to how punishing it would be).

Not to mention unfun, reiterating Andar. :)  For me, longer means more epic. There can be fights that can be finished faster, but if a last boss battle is finished in one hit; was it even a boss battle? lol
 

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@jonthefox


Greater strength allows for more options. For instance, some weapons emphasize force by having a higher weight. Greater strength of course means the ability to use such weapons efficiently and (this is the key term) long enough to win.


The only time strength becomes a hindrance is when the 'right' muscles aren't developed to maximize the effectiveness of the fighting style + weapon you're using. Even then, that excess strength may create new options.


What is ignored/not developed sufficiently is drastically worse than which muscles get all the TLC :)
 

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@Marsigne - This is why there are so few rpg games that use guns and fps perspective (there are many other combinations that are like this). 


People want fps games to be realistic in the sense that they kill fast, but that does not mesh well with rpg elements.


Borderlands and Destiny are the two RPG games that succeeded in making an RPG FPS, but they only did so by being unrealistic in the first place (The Division is currently being hammered hard for enemies not dying in one hit via headshots).


I think the idea of serious games having to be bound by rules of the real world as something that is holding gaming back.


@jonthefox -  I already mentioned dual-wielding (purpose is to sacrificing offense for some utility).  The reason dual-wielding is said to sacrifice offense in the first place is due to each sword only having the strength of one arm to swing it (you would not be able to clash blades someone holding a blade with both hands directly unless much much stronger).


Dual-wieldings purpose is to be more unpredictable and force (plus take advantage of) stiuations that your opponent cannot defend against, if you are curious.
 

Alexander Amnell

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@Zortik very interesting.  I guess it's pretty obvious that a certain minimal degree of strength is needed in order to effectively and efficiently wield a specific weapon, but I wonder if after that, the benefits of excess strength are minimal.  I don't know if this is reliable, but the reason I came to this idea is from watching videos like these:


  The problem with that assessment is that it focuses to much on strength vs speed vs skill when in reality proper strength and conditioning encompass your physical condition as a whole rather than picking and choosing between them. I can give you a great example of why this is a skewed reality. When I was practicing Taekwondo as a teenager there was another guy rising in the ranks beside me who was amazingly fast at competitions, any time you give him a weapon during exhibition he'd bring home the gold metal, whereas by comparison I'd never even place, however I'd always best him (and most of the time anyone else)in sparring.


   This continued throughout our advancement in the dojo, him being known as the 'weapons guy' and me the sparring guy, until we got to 2nd dan and started sparring matches with weapons (shinai practice swords and sparring staves) from then on this cocksure fast guy couldn't touch me in weapons competitions either, I'd outmaneuver him at every turn, my weapon would outpace his. The differences between us were simple, all throughout our training thusfar he had been using ultralight competition weapons whereas I'd stubbornly lugged around an iaito and a traditional wooden quarterstaff. The result of this in practical application was simple, once equalized with similar weapons whether foam staff or Shinai the tables turned, whereas to me the new sparring weapons were light as a feather in comparison to my usual choices to him it was the opposite, even the light shinai easily outweighed the aluminum alloy sword he had so much pride in using, and when it came down to it I was faster than him, more precise in my movements as well BECAUSE I was so much stronger than he was because I'd conditioned myself to be so. Martial arts was never about winning competitions for me, so it never bothered me that I'd never be able to match everyone around me when it came to weapons forms and exhibitions because my goal was always practical self defense anyway. A goal that lead me to pursue the more practical studies of Krav Maga and jujitsu soon afterwards, being burnt out on the 'exhibition and showmanship' focus of my Taekwondo classes and the very fact that I proved them inefficient through shear stubbornness.


   I think exhibition is a large contributor to why the 'common knowledge' concludes that strength is negligible in martial combat, because that circuit of  martial arts excludes the need for it by giving their students frail light-weight toys to use as weapons. Unfortunately, this means that martial artists can often fail once practical application comes into play, because their bodies aren't conditioned to handle an actual combat scenario.
 
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Victor Sant

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@Zortik very interesting.  I guess it's pretty obvious that a certain minimal degree of strength is needed in order to effectively and efficiently wield a specific weapon, but I wonder if after that, the benefits of excess strength are minimal.  I don't know if this is reliable, but the reason I came to this idea is from watching videos like these: 

Also, this video is talking about a normal human vs human scenario. Normal humans are indeed very fragile. and a simple well placed small cut can be lethal.


On this scenario, yes, strength matters little. But now on an hyptetical scenario fighting an armor-scaled dragon, without enough strenght enough it's not even possible to pass through the dragon's endured scales, unless hitting an unprotected part (on rpgs, a critical hit).


Some games deals with the skill/strength factor by making strenght to increase the max damage and dexterity to deal with damage variance.


An skilled fighter will have a more stable damage out, while a stronger one can deals more damage if he connect his attack wll.


Anyway, realism is something I really dislike in my games, and often become a hinder to the gaming experience (unless realism is what you looking for, wich shouldn't be the case with rpg players... because you know, fighting monsters is not realistic)
 

ash55

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It's because that's what people identify with. Realism isn't as important as intuitiveness. Meeting player expectations is super important. Most people will assume that more strength means more power while more dexterity means more accuracy and chance for critical hits. It makes intuitive sense. If you're strong, you hack at people with more force/power. If you're dexterous, you hack at people with more precision. Actual swordfighting really has no bearing on RPG stats (or turn-based RPG combat in general).

You can try to swap the names of terms everyone has been familiar with for 30+ years but TBH you should do that at your own peril. You don't want to needlessly confuse the player.

When I think "skill" I think more about precision, or perhaps even a mage stat. Warrior classes tend to require physical attributes while mages require mental attributes (like skill).
 
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Wavelength

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There are a lot of reasons why "Strength" is a better term to denote what you are referring to than "Skill":

  • "Skill" is often used as a keyword for the category of techniques/moves that aren't the standard Attack or Guard
  • "Strength" is intuitively linked to the idea of power (in the sense of force, which does directly affect an attack's effectiveness), and therefore very easily connected in the player's mind with the amount of attack damage (etc.) done
  • Abstracting the real world, "Skill" with a real weapon takes your strength, agility, dexterity, etc. into account to determine how 'effective' your attack is.  In RPGs, there are separate stats for strength, agility, dexterity, etc., and while some of them don't directly impact damage dealt, they affect things like crit rate or attack speed.  Using "Skill" would realistically mean that a single stat would have to control all of these things, potentially making combat less interesting when abstracted into a tactical game.

I usually use "Attack" (ATK) as the name of the stat that is used to influence damage with basic attacks and physical skills, though occasionally I've gone with "Strength" or "Power" instead.


I think it's also worth noting that some games use different stats for different weapons - for example, in Disgaea, bows use a combination of STR and HIT to determine damage, fists use STR and AGI, axes use STR alone, and guns use HIT alone.  Many pen-and-paper RPGs do the same; my personal favorite P&P Ars Magica uses a huge variety of different stats and ability scores based on what weapon you're using and the action you're trying to perform.
 
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