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Strength, Dexterity, and AC


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

Star Voter 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It seems to be taken as an article of faith that allowing Dexterity to add to damage would automatically be overpowered "Because Dexterity adds to so much" but that got me thinking about how Strength, Dexterity, and AC are interrelated. So I put some numbers up on a spreadsheet to get to looking at them all at once. And I have come to two conclusions. One, Strength and Dexterity are both important stats for AC. The second - unless you are a light armor user, Strength is by far the more important.

First, the obvious - How does Dexterity add to AC. That's relatively simple, every 2 points of Dexterity adds one point to AC. This starts at -3 for 5 Dexterity (the lowest you can reasonably expect to start a PC at.) So obviously, you need some Dex if you're planning to make a character who will survive on the front lines.

Now, how does Strength play into this? Well, the relationship here is quite a bit more complex. The AC bonus that can be derived from Strength always starts at +0 (because not wearing armor doesn't give a penalty), and is tied to carrying capacity. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to assume you don't want to carry an encumberance penalty on top of movement penalties for armor, and thus we'll reference the "Light Load" carrying capacity column. Thus, at a Strength of 5, you can carry 16 pounds. Assuming your class can wear any armor at all, This is enough for Leather armor, or a +2 AC bonus out of the gate. (If you can't, you're almost certainly a d6/poor BAB class and Dexterity-to-melee-damage isn't really a concern.)

Continuing to reference across, for light armor this means that the best AC return will be a chain shirt, requiring a mere 8 strength for a +4 to AC. Choosing to ignore the Agile property (Mostly because it's non-Core), Medium armor has the Breastplate at a strength of 9 and a +6. And Heavy armor gives the best return at 13 Strength, with full plate giving a +9.

Of course, the above argument has a serious issue - it assumes the only thing you're going to be doing with your carrying capacity is wearing armor. No weapon, no shield, no magical equipment, and no mundane equipment of any kind. Since it isn't really possible to function like that, for the sake of argument let's assume that you'll never want to wear more than half what you can carry as armor.

Doing that, the chain shirt effectively requires a Strength of 13. The Breastplate requires you to have a strength of 15, and Full Plate requires a whopping 18 strength.

So, now we have some numbers to compare.

13 Dex = +4
13 Str = +4

15 Dex = +5
15 Str = +6

18 Dex = +7
18 Str = +9

20 Dex = +8
20 Str = +9

Well, that's interesting. Looks like the overall effect of the stats is roughly equal up through the range where PCs exist. I didn't really look at shields since they seem to be out of favor at the moment, although that would probably tilt things in favor of even more strength for defense. Also, remember that these additive effects are mutually exclusive - the more AC derived from Strength, the less you're allowed to gain from Dexterity. Further, I just took the raw amount added - the game assumes a baseline AC of 10, and Dexterity (counting from 0) starts out behind Strength.

So which is more important if you want a high AC? Honestly, while they both have some meaning, Strength seems to give the better return for AC up through the 'sane' range.

Obviously, this doesn't look at anything else Dexterity does for you. It still adds to a number of key skills (as long as you're not wearing heavier armor) and of course to Reflex saves. On the other hand, Strength also adds to-hit and damage.

So which is "better?" After going through this....I'm really not sure. I'll leave that up to others to decide.


The difference being that Str has no direct impact on AC whatsoever, merely an indirect relationship that can be mitigated or done away with completely by using magic items.


Does anyone really the encumbrance rules... I dont think I have met anyone who does. whice makes str Damage and to hit only unless its ranged

So in the end Str is a Stat for certain play types a if you wanted to make a certain type of character you are saying that Str is a total Dump stat unless the encumbrance rules are followed... because the the properties that give you damage from dex will replace it entirely with the right build....

On the Flip side of this argument where are the feats and Enchantments that let me bump my AC up based on Str... Deflect blows, Shield barracades... Bring on the Str love so that everyone can do what they want!!!


My group definitely uses encumbrance rules. I don't like the idea of a character being able to take equipment for every situation and not looking like a mule while still be able to fight properly.

If we want to have that option, bags of holding and handy haversack is the way to go.

I recently built a level 5 fighter with full plate, heavy steel shield, and as much weapons as I could carry with STR 18 and had to take out a few things to stay under light load (cooking pot, swap heavy mace for flail etc). So I definitely see the OP's point, but I feel it only really applies to characters who require the use of medium and heavy armour.

Scarab Sages

Chris Kenney wrote:
It seems to be taken as an article of faith that allowing Dexterity to add to damage would automatically be overpowered "Because Dexterity adds to so much" but that got me thinking about how Strength, Dexterity, and AC are interrelated.

Dervish Dance says Hi.

Dervish Dance:
When wielding a scimitar with one hand, you can use your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier on melee attack and damage rolls. You treat the scimitar as a one-handed piercing weapon for all feats and class abilities that require such a weapon (such as a duelist’s precise strike ability). The scimitar must be for a creature of your size. You cannot use this feat if you are carrying a weapon or shield in your off hand.


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*Lights a candle* My name is Vincent and I use encumbrance rules.


@Cao Phen: I think the OP's point was that by default DEX does not add to damage. Sure, there are ways you can use it instead of your STR - but they all require feats or specific class features.

As for encumbrance, my groups use them also.

While this could result in more builds being MAD, at one point I pondered a house rule of allowing you to substitute\add your DEX mod on crit confirmation and crit damage rolls (respectively), but I'm afraid that it would make MAD builds even MADder and make critical feats and high crit-range weapons almost a necessity.


Vincent Takeda wrote:
*Lights a candle* My name is Vincent and I use encumbrance rules.

+1

I would add though, that it's not difficult to get around to a certain extent (strength belt or heavyload belt)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Chris Kenney wrote:


Now, how does Strength play into this? Well, the relationship here is quite a bit more complex. The AC bonus that can be derived from Strength always starts at +0 (because not wearing armor doesn't give a penalty), and is tied to carrying capacity. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to assume you don't want to carry an encumberance penalty on top of movement penalties for armor, and thus we'll reference the "Light Load" carrying capacity column. Thus, at a Strength of 5, you can carry 16 pounds. Assuming your class can wear any armor at all, This is enough for Leather armor, or a +2 AC bonus out of the gate. (If you can't, you're almost certainly a d6/poor BAB class and Dexterity-to-melee-damage isn't really a concern.)

And there is where your analysis fail, as you forget this:

PRD wrote:
If your character is wearing armor, use the worse figure (from armor or from load) for each category. Do not stack the penalties.

Wearing medium armor, with the exception of the hide armor, you are already limited to a dexterity bonus of +3 and you already receive a penalty of +3 or worse, the same as having a medium load.

Wearing heavy armor you have a +1 or worse maximum dexterity bonus and a penalty of -6 or worse to your checks, the same as heavy encumbrance.

So, until you start using masterwork, special material or magic equipment your strength make no difference for your AC.
After that point magic and special materials change everything, included the equipment weight and carrying capacity.

The Exchange

THat is a pretty roundabout way to stack an argument in someone's favor....I wonder if the OP works in government, perhaps stacking survey info in favor of a particular side.
Strength is carrying capacity, hit and damage. Dex is ranged hit, AC, and reflex saves. The 2 stats, as they are, are very equal right now. Add Dex to damage and you give Dex the decided advantage....even if you decide to try to trivialize some of either's contributions to make your own biased point.

Scarab Sages

Fake Healer wrote:

THat is a pretty roundabout way to stack an argument in someone's favor....I wonder if the OP works in government, perhaps stacking survey info in favor of a particular side.

Strength is carrying capacity, hit and damage. Dex is ranged hit, AC, and reflex saves. The 2 stats, as they are, are very equal right now. Add Dex to damage and you give Dex the decided advantage....even if you decide to try to trivialize some of either's contributions to make your own biased point.

A few points:

1. Dex builds will not typically be wearing armor. Unless they are adding a second stat to AC, they will never compete with a character wearing full plate.

2. Dex-to-Damage deals less damage than a strength build. Dexterity never receives the x1.5 modifier that strength builds receive from a two handed weapon.

3. Dexterity builds incur additional expenses that strength builds do not. This is either in the form of purchasing the agile property or by expending limited feats.

Unless a class is already MAD and trying to reduce the number of stats it is forced to invest in or the build is limited in weapon selection there is very little advantage to investing in dexterity to damage. Strength is simply more efficient.


I still think a Feat would be awesome for adding Str to AC...

For Example

Feat Tough As Nails

Your Strength along can absorb the force hits delivered by a physical Beating

Benefit: You can your Str Bonus to AC and your encumbered level is Medium it becomes a Light Load...

Bwahaha


Handy Haversack and Ant Haul. I don't dump strength, but Ant Haul + 10 strength gives you a 99 pound light carry capacity for 1 hour/level. That is more than enough to get by until you can get a handy haversack.


Dex adds a lot more than you are giving it credit for. If the general thrust of your argument was "dex could add to damage and it wouldnt break the game" -which I think it was- you're fogetting some rather important facets.

1. Dex adds to a number of important skills. Stealth, Disable Device, acrobatics, ride.... STR based skills are largely unimportant (swim, climb) and are eclipsed by magic beyond low levels.

2. Dex adds to the all-important Initiative. This is such a huge benefit you can't just not mention it.

3. Dex adds to reflex saves, another large component of your character's defense.

Str is the better offensive stat. For things like power attack, 2h weapons, Str is overall more useful when it comes to hitting things. Dex, however, is a far better *general* stat.


Artanthos wrote:
Fake Healer wrote:

THat is a pretty roundabout way to stack an argument in someone's favor....I wonder if the OP works in government, perhaps stacking survey info in favor of a particular side.

Strength is carrying capacity, hit and damage. Dex is ranged hit, AC, and reflex saves. The 2 stats, as they are, are very equal right now. Add Dex to damage and you give Dex the decided advantage....even if you decide to try to trivialize some of either's contributions to make your own biased point.

A few points:

1. Dex builds will not typically be wearing armor. Unless they are adding a second stat to AC, they will never compete with a character wearing full plate.

I disagree for 3 reasons

1. Mithril is a lot cheaper for light armor than for heavy armor. A mithril chain chirt is 1250 gold and gives you a +4 AC with a +6 max dex bonus. Full plate is 1500 gold for a +9 AC with a +1 max dex bonus. By the time the full plate user gets mithril full plate(10650 gold) or +3 full plate(11650), the chain shirt user has a +3 mithril chainshirt(10250 gold)
2. Three words: armor check penalty, try climbing, tumbling, or sneaking in full plate....
3. Celestial Armor, +9 AC with a +8 max dexterity bonus for 22500 gold. +3 mithril full plate is +12 AC with a +3 max dex for 19650.

Quote:


2. Dex-to-Damage deals less damage than a strength build. Dexterity never receives the x1.5 modifier that strength builds receive from a two handed weapon.

TWF, Dual Slice, and Two Weapon Rend can will make up the difference and then some.

Quote:


3. Dexterity builds incur additional expenses that strength builds do not. This is either in the form of purchasing the agile property or by expending limited feats.

Unless a class is already MAD and trying to reduce the number of stats it is forced to invest in or the build is limited in weapon selection there is very little advantage to investing in dexterity to damage. Strength is simply more efficient.

I agree. This is the only thing that is keeping dex build in balance at the moment. Right now a good well build fighter TWF dex build is slightly better than two hand strength fighter build while have equal AC and better initiative and reflex saves, but it take more time and effort to properly optimize. This is not a problem because the fighter is one of the few classes that has feats to burn, but if you remove restrictions on dex to damage, or otherwise make dex to damage easier to obtain, the balance will favor dex builds over strength builds.

Silver Crusade

Artanthos wrote:
Fake Healer wrote:

THat is a pretty roundabout way to stack an argument in someone's favor....I wonder if the OP works in government, perhaps stacking survey info in favor of a particular side.

Strength is carrying capacity, hit and damage. Dex is ranged hit, AC, and reflex saves. The 2 stats, as they are, are very equal right now. Add Dex to damage and you give Dex the decided advantage....even if you decide to try to trivialize some of either's contributions to make your own biased point.

A few points:

1. Dex builds will not typically be wearing armor. Unless they are adding a second stat to AC, they will never compete with a character wearing full plate.

2. Dex-to-Damage deals less damage than a strength build. Dexterity never receives the x1.5 modifier that strength builds receive from a two handed weapon.

3. Dexterity builds incur additional expenses that strength builds do not. This is either in the form of purchasing the agile property or by expending limited feats.

Unless a class is already MAD and trying to reduce the number of stats it is forced to invest in or the build is limited in weapon selection there is very little advantage to investing in dexterity to damage. Strength is simply more efficient.

I'll agree with your second and third points, but not the first. I actually have a dex based build and a heavy armor build in Pathfinder Society, and their total AC from Dex + Armor (before other magic items, and with the same +1 enchantment bonus on their armors) happens to be exactly the same.

Qassir: Currently rogue 4/Dawnflower Dervish bard 1, heading towards Halfling Opportunist prestige class next level. At level 5, he has 22 dex and +1 mithral chain shirt, for a total of 21 AC at a cost of 2100 gp.

Gorjo: Level 4 Battle Oracle, has +1 MW full plate and 12 dex, for a total of 21 AC at a cost of 2650 gp.

Due to the max dex bonus on their armors, neither of them will ever get any additional AC benefit from improving their dex in the future. Being a dex based build, Qassir will upgrade his dex belt in the future anyway, because it will help him on so many other things.

But although Qassir is a fun and effective build, I had to really work to make him effective. He's a perfect example of why adding dex to damage is not overpowered.

Scarab Sages

Fromper wrote:
I'll agree with your second and third points, but not the first.

A full on dexterity build can exceed the restrictions of a mithral breastplate very early in his career. Certainly by 5th level. By 7th level that same character can exceed the limits of a mithral chain shirt.

As dexterity continues to rise, the dexterity build will reduce armor worn in order to continue receiving the full benefits of his primary stat. The net effect is a trade off between armor bonus and dodge bonus. Flat foot AC vs touch AC.

This trade off stays in place until higher level when the dexterity build can afford bracers of mage armor. An item that costs somewhat more than an equivalent suit of armor.

The only character leaping ahead in AC due to being dexterity primary are monks and characters with canny defense. Adding a second (or third) stat into AC creates a defensive build, at the cost of being MAD.

A second point: don't assume the strength primary character is receiving zero benefit from dexterity. Strength primary combatants frequently have a 14+ dexterity unless they are non-fighters planning on wearing full plate.


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Artanthos wrote:
Fromper wrote:
I'll agree with your second and third points, but not the first.

A full on dexterity build can exceed the restrictions of a mithral breastplate very early in his career. Certainly by 5th level. By 7th level that same character can exceed the limits of a mithral chain shirt.

As dexterity continues to rise, the dexterity build will reduce armor worn in order to continue receiving the full benefits of his primary stat. The net effect is a trade off between armor bonus and dodge bonus. Flat foot AC vs touch AC.

This trade off stays in place until higher level when the dexterity build can afford bracers of mage armor. An item that costs somewhat more than an equivalent suit of armor.

The only character leaping ahead in AC due to being dexterity primary are monks and characters with canny defense. Adding a second (or third) stat into AC creates a defensive build, at the cost of being MAD.

A second point: don't assume the strength primary character is receiving zero benefit from dexterity. Strength primary combatants frequently have a 14+ dexterity unless they are non-fighters planning on wearing full plate.

I generally assume that an optimized character will pick their stats and armor to max their total armor + max dex bonus.

I am not sure I agree with you on the bolded statement.

Assuming you start with a 18 dex with a +2 racial, get a +4 belt of dexterity, and put all your points from leveling up into dexterity at level 7 you have a 23 dexterity and at level 8 you will have a 24 dex and start hitting the dexterity cap. So yes, in theory, you could be scaled past a mithril chain shirt as early as level 8, but ....

A +4 belt of dex is 16000 gold and thus eats up almost 70% of your recommended wealth by level, and that leaves you no money for weapons, armor or other things. It is also plain stupid from an optimizing standpoint, because the +1 to hit/damage/AC/ that you are paying 12000 gold for could be obtained for 5000 gold by getting a +1 weapon, +1 cloak of resist, and a +1 ring of protection.

A more reasonable usage of wealth for a level 7 character would be +2 weapon, +1 mithril chain shirt, +1 ring of deflection, +2 belt of dex, +1 cloak of resist, +1 amulet of NA(19000 gold total). That means you would be ok using a mithril chain shirt until around level 9 to 11 range at which point celestial armor becomes an viable option.

And all of that assumes you use your point buy to start with an 18 + 2 racial dexterity. If you have a more MAD character, you will probably start with a 16 + 2 racial. That means you will not be moving past mithril chain until around level 12.

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