how far can you refluff strength?

896 posts / 0 new
Last post
This came up in another thread and caused a derail. I'm cross linking this to prevent further derailing.

It started with this comment.

Dragoncat;19074786 wrote:
The PHB
A power’s flavor text helps you understand what
happens when you use a power and how you might
describe it when you use it. You can alter this description
as you like, to fit your own idea of what your
power looks like. Your wizard’s magic missile spell, for
example, might create phantasmal skulls that howl
through the air to strike your opponent, rather than
simple bolts of magical energy

Ergo, when my five-foot-nothing, scrawny, ninety-pound orphan with a strength stat of 26 makes a Strength versus AC attack, I have the right as mandated by the Player's Handbook of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition to alter the description to "runes of gears and cogs from the church of Erathis flare up and down her arms, and the ridiculously large blade she carries swings as easily as a feather, cleaving all in twain."

The game itself says you can alter descriptions, thank you very much.

Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
This came up in another thread and caused a derail. I'm cross linking this to prevent further derailing.

It started with this comment.

You were wrong when you claimed he was describing a power there. He's describing how his strength is 26 on a 90 pound body. In this case, he's claiming runes flaring down his arms. To show how he can make this change to a stat, he's using a paragraph that describes players being able to change the descriptions of powers. Strength is not a power and is defined in the PH as physical power.
Strength (Str) measures your character’s physical
power. It’s important for most characters who fight
hand-to-hand.

That is from the 4ed player's handbook. Note: It doesn't say luck. It doesn't say training. It doesn't say feats. It's pure physical power.

The source of "your character’s physical power." need not be muscles by RAW.
Having a character with the power coming from a divine gift wouldn't even alter the Strength description at all.
Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
You were wrong when you claimed he was describing a power there.

He described BOTH.

He's describing how his strength is 26 on a 90 pound body. In this case, he's claiming runes flaring down his arms. To show how he can make this change to a stat, he's using a paragraph that describes players being able to change the descriptions of powers. Strength is not a power and is defined in the PH as physical power.

The source of of your physical power isn't nailed down by RAW.
Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
The source of "your character’s physical power." need not be muscles by RAW.
Having a character with the power coming from a divine gift wouldn't even alter the Strength description at all.

I agree, but an external power source for strength will need to be cleared with the DM. The DM might be running a campaign where such things are not possible, or might be extremely rare. Perhaps low magic. If a player wants it to be anything other than physical, it's not a small change.
I agree, but an external power source for strength will need to be cleared with the DM.

That fine by me. However RAW doesn't disallow it and the mechanic does not need to be changed.

Also note that clearing things with your DM can extend to simply playing a [thread=1215003]Core Race[/thread].
Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
That fine by me. However RAW doesn't disallow it and the mechanic do not need to be changed.

Also note that clearing things with your DM can extend to simply playing a [thread=1215003]Core Race[/thread].

I suppose, but I would expect that if a DM has a campaign that is excluding a core race or races, the players will be informed about that BEFORE making characters. Without such information, I wouldn't expect to have to clear a core race with a DM.
It's up to the player to have the character fit properly in the setting.
Knowing the details of the setting and working with the DM is required for more extreme refluff.

Examples of refluffing strength.

You could for example have a character have there strength originate from implants/alterations make to your body.
Multiclassing into a artificer and taking the Self-Forged paragon path would fit.

Having an odd heritage that grants unusually strength for you size is another way. For example, you would take the Vampiric Heritage feat and play a Dhampyr.

The example that started this seems to have unusual strength as a divine gift.
Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
It's up to the player to have the character fit properly in the setting.
Knowing the details of the setting and working with the DM is required for more extreme refluff.

Examples of refluffing strength.

You could for example have a character have there strength originate from implants/alterations make to your body.
Multiclassing into a artificer and taking the Self-Forged paragon path would fit.

Having an odd heritage that grants unusually strength for you size is another way. For example, you would take the Vampiric Heritage feat and play a Dhampyr.

The example that started this seems to have unusual strength as a divine gift.

Yeah, but at a 26 strength, it pretty much required DM approval through game play. A player can hardly go to 4th level and announce to the DM that a rune granting him increased strength appeared on his arm. Such a thing would have to be approved at that point.
You were wrong when you claimed he was describing a power there. He's describing how his strength is 26 on a 90 pound body. In this case, he's claiming runes flaring down his arms. To show how he can make this change to a stat, he's using a paragraph that describes players being able to change the descriptions of powers. Strength is not a power and is defined in the PH as physical power.

Physical as in power that affects the physical world. It does not necessarily mean muscle power, or else it would have said muscle power. Moreover, the paragraph references how everything in the game can be refluffed, and merely uses powers as the primary example. It does not state that powers are exclusively the only thing capable of being refluffed.
Yeah, but at a 26 strength, it pretty much required DM approval through game play.

Unless you get it through normal means, it would require a houserule.

A starting score of 18 with +2 racial bonus gets as far as you can start.
With normal bonuses for leveling you can hit it at level 24 without the requirement of houserules.
Think you can survive a zombie attack? Click here to find out.

It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
I suppose, but I would expect that if a DM has a campaign that is excluding a core race or races, the players will be informed about that BEFORE making characters. Without such information, I wouldn't expect to have to clear a core race with a DM.

And most people wouldn't expect to have to clear fluff, but the point stands. Everything has to be cleared by a DM, whether it is a concept straight from your imagination or straight built with the mechanics of the books.
If you don't allow refluff of the Strength stat in some cases, you're coming close to ruling out allowing gnome and halfling Fighters simply because it "doesn't make sense for them to be that strong". That, IMO, would be even worse than 3.5's situation of giving STR penalties to the small races.

Of course, the DM gets final say in what's permitted in the game (maybe there aren't any halflings or gnomes at all in the world), but I tend to embrace the "say yes" policy of 4E. So much so, in fact, that I now have a player in my group running a mandrill Monk based on Rafiki from the Lion King using reflavoured halfling stats. And I'm pretty sure that won't even be the weirdest thing that my group comes up with...
Of course, the DM gets final say in what's permitted in the game (maybe there aren't any halflings or gnomes at all in the world), but I tend to embrace the "say yes" policy of 4E. So much so, in fact, that I now have a player in my group running a mandrill Monk based on Rafiki from the Lion King using reflavoured halfling stats. And I'm pretty sure that won't even be the weirdest thing that my group comes up with...

Does your player even go so far as Rafiki's singing? Y'know the part that he claims 'It means you are a babboon and I am not.'
Does your player even go so far as Rafiki's singing? Y'know the part that he claims 'It means you are a babboon and I am not.'

Actually, the whole group's PCs are based on Disney characters, so the threat of singing songs from the movie is ever-present...
You know, more and more, I feel like I need to apologize to someone, somewhere for making that example....
It's possibly worth pointing out the Dragonsoul Heir pic on page 150 of PHB2. She's a paragon tier dragon magic sorceress, so she's going to have a strength score well above the human norm (19 at the very minimum). Does anyone seriously think that strength score is coming purely from her physical muscle mass?

Your character's height, weight and physical appearance are not rules-mechanical concepts.

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

It seems those who object (those? is anyone besides Maxperson objecting?) are focusing on how a 90-pound PC can have a 26 strength. Would it be less problematic if he weighed 120? 150? 225? Where is your acceptability cut-off?

For me, the re-fluffing is not in the stat. If the PC has a 26 strength, the PC has a 26 strength. The fluff is in the PC's weight. If my player says he wants his 26-strength PC to weight 90 pounds, I say fine.

(All of this assumes the 26 strength came through game-appropriate, legitimate means.)
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I don't see how or why anyone could have a problem with this in the current edition. In 4e, with its lack of antimagic fields, Quells, or similar things designed to screw casters, refluffing powers, attributes, or even defenses to be from magical sources like this is perfectly acceptable.

In a 3e game, your character would logically be down to 8 or so strength as soon as she enters an antimagic field.

I've used stuff like this before: A warlock whose AC is largely composed of his shadow whipping out and blocking attacks. A rogue whose sneak attack comes from viewing the lines of life and death and stabbing where they intersect.
For myself in many regards Strength is just a number. So they may have 26 Strength but they need not give an explanation for a "high strength" since they don't, and the abilities that tie into that 26 Strength is actually something else. Like say a Fighter with high Strength his attacks are actually dexterous and clever strikes.

Now if the player does want his 26 Strength to represent strength then yeah whatever means of having this strength he wants is fine by me; magically enchanted, mutations, exoskeleton, etc.
This thread is one of those that has me asking "Why are we having this conversation?"

Do we or do we not want players to come up with creative solutions in the game? Or is the DM the only one allowed to do so? To insist that glowing runes appearing on the arms of the character to explain it's tremendous strength needs prior approval by the DM is a waste of baud rate. It's like having to get DM approval for using a disfiguring scar to explain a low charisma, going through a series of mental excercises every morning because of phenomenal intelligence or staring at a flea pinned to the wall to improve eyesight to explain a high perception skill. It doesn't change any rules or grant the player some kind of advantage. It also does not make the source magical.

It's amazing how much energy has been spent on these boards inventing ways to improve role playing, even to the point of creating "non-optimized" characters, only to require this kind of brilliant thinking needs DM approval. This is the kind of original thinking I want from players whether I'm the GM or a player.

How are Approval Nazis going to stop the players from using this? Tell them "No shiny runes!" at each attack?
An Orc walks into a bar. The Human and the Elf laugh at the hapless Orc. The dwarf walks under it scowling and doesn't laugh. He doesn't see the humor. It was all over his head
So now I have an itch to play a 90 lbs weakling with 20 Str. I'll describe any feats of strength as an phantasmal image of Kord super-imposed over the PC. Hulk-out fantasy style ;).

I'm with MistWolf on this: This is just the kind of imagery that should be encouraged from both players and DMs. The rules are unchanged and the player doesn't gain any advantage; so it's fair.
/\ Art
Having seen an actual 90-lb. woman (actually, she was probably more like 110) who looks incredibly scrawny, is quite short, but is also one of the top competitors in the world's female strength contests, I have to say that muscle-bulk is almost completely removed from actual muscle-mass. When the woman flexes as she picks up a 400-lb. dumbbell-bar-thingy, it's like she just ate a can of spinach or something. Otherwise, yeah, she looks totally normal.

On-Topic, if this tiny woman can pick up a grown man and throw him in the Real World, why would anyone limit DnD? :S
Resident Logic Cannon
Here are examples of characters from fiction whose strength is completely unrelated to their mass. Obviously there are hundreds more, but these were the ones that occur to me off the top of my head.

Now, I suppose if you want to play a warden whose source of strength is a gift from the spider spirit, a cleric whose strength is a gift from the god of rage, a wizard/ranger whose strength is granted by his arcane magic, or a fighter who was blessed by the gods of his people as a young boy a DM would have to approve it, but honestly I've never played with a DM who would even expect to be asked about such a minute background element. Such concepts can be easily refluffed to be consistent with just about any world that contains magic.

I have a hard time seeing a blind insistence that the only possible source of strength that "makes sense" is muscle mass as anything but a failure of imagination. If you can deal with eladrin, gods, and the physical impossibilities that arise from these concepts, I have a hard time understanding how you can't deal with the physical impossibility of a character who can make devastating attacks without having bulging muscles (if such a thing is even physically impossible, which is an unrelated debate in my opinion).

In fact, insisting that a character with high strength must be huge and muscular seems like it would be contrary to many of the default assumptions. Hell, in 3.5 you can boost your strength just by changing your belt.
Heehee! Shall we discuss the physics of Dragons, flight, and wing-span? XD
Resident Logic Cannon
Just to add: Yeah, quality of strength can sometimes 'outweigh' any quantity of size. A slender but athletic person might be surprisingly stronger than a larger but less active person.
/\ Art
Heehee! Shall we discuss the physics of Dragons, flight, and wing-span? XD

While were at it, how do giant ants breathe? The only reason we don't have giant hard body insects in our world is because their respiratory apparatus can't circulate oxygen to their entire body. Otherwise their body plan is more than capable of supporting a larger creature – although at a certain point the supportive joints of their carapace would have to be made of diamond (not necessarily a physical impossibility given how effective organic creatures are at manipulating carbon). At some point you just have to roll with these things.

Also, there is a good reason the races' size modifiers are divorced from their strength modifiers.
While were at it, how do giant ants breathe? The only reason we don't have giant hard body insects in our world is because their respiratory apparatus can't circulate oxygen to their entire body. Otherwise their body plan is more than capable of supporting a larger creature – although at a certain point the supportive joints of their carapace would have to be made of diamond (not necessarily a physical impossibility given how effective organic creatures are at manipulating carbon). At some point you just have to roll with these things.

Also, there is a good reason the races' size modifiers are divorced from their strength modifiers.

Well, with the prevalence of so much giant creatures and bizarre plants in DnD, it's probably fair to assume that the base DnD world has a higher atmospheric oxygen level than Earth.

An alternate theory about giant ants: perhaps they have a large oxygen bladder somewhere in their bodies that helps supplement their respiration, but gives them a very short life (which allows for faster evolution). Or, they have some symbiotic plant inside of them that absorbs their carbon dioxide and replaces it with oxygen.
Card Dump!

Keywords
Challenge: When ~ comes into play, all opponents may put a Legendary creature card with the same or smaller converted mana cost as ~ into play without paying its mana cost.
Here are examples of characters from fiction whose strength is completely unrelated to their mass. Obviously there are hundreds more, but these were the ones that occur to me off the top of my head.

Now, I suppose if you want to play a warden whose source of strength is a gift from the spider spirit, a cleric whose strength is a gift from the god of rage, a wizard/ranger whose strength is granted by his arcane magic, or a fighter who was blessed by the gods of his people as a young boy a DM would have to approve it, but honestly I've never played with a DM who would even expect to be asked about such a minute background element. Such concepts can be easily refluffed to be consistent with just about any world that contains magic.

I have a hard time seeing a blind insistence that the only possible source of strength that "makes sense" is muscle mass as anything but a failure of imagination. If you can deal with eladrin, gods, and the physical impossibilities that arise from these concepts, I have a hard time understanding how you can't deal with the physical impossibility of a character who can make devastating attacks without having bulging muscles (if such a thing is even physically impossible, which is an unrelated debate in my opinion).

In fact, insisting that a character with high strength must be huge and muscular seems like it would be contrary to many of the default assumptions. Hell, in 3.5 you can boost your strength just by changing your belt.

Well, solely to play devil's advocate, I'd like to note that the Incredible Hulk does increase in mass as he gains strength.

However, your example of Samson is a perfect example of a character who doesn't have the mass for his strength. The man was described in stories as being average in physical bulk (albeit the portraits of him never match that). If it wasn't his body mass that granted his strength, what was it? How about a nazarite oath that imbues him with superhuman strength so long as he never cuts his hair or drinks alcohol?

Hell, Hercules is another great example of a character who doesn't have the mass for his strength. He was the strongest man on earth at birth. It didn't matter what age he was, he was always stronger than any other human there was. Unless Maxperson is arguing that Alcmene gave birth to a 300 pound infant that looked like something out of a strongman competition, he is proof that fantasy is filled with people who have strength disproportionate to mass.
Well, solely to play devil's advocate, I'd like to note that the Incredible Hulk does increase in mass as he gains strength.

Not in most depictions. Although the hulk increases in mass, both his appearance and his strength reflect his rage. There have been several instances when his rage was channeled in such a way that his strength increased while his size decreased.

In a recent storyline, he was described as being stronger than any god. He was depicted, however, as being about the size of a very large human.
Well, with the prevalence of so much giant creatures and bizarre plants in DnD, it's probably fair to assume that the base DnD world has a higher atmospheric oxygen level than Earth.

An alternate theory about giant ants: perhaps they have a large oxygen bladder somewhere in their bodies that helps supplement their respiration, but gives them a very short life (which allows for faster evolution). Or, they have some symbiotic plant inside of them that absorbs their carbon dioxide and replaces it with oxygen.

All perfectly viable explanations, but they make no more or less "sense" than a 90 lb. character who is very strong.

(Actually, I'm not sure how much of the problem would be solved by higher atmospheric oxygen. It still has to circulate the body somehow. Having more of it outside doesn't necessarily translate to moving it around inside better.)
As for my opinion, the Topic:

how far can you refluff strength?

is easily answered:
As far as the DM/Table allows, and no further.
Through the ages, many would wonder "Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?" I wonder "Does the art of discourse on the internet imitate the art of discourse in life or does the art of discourse in life imitate the art of discourse on the internet?"
All perfectly viable explanations, but they make no more or less "sense" than a 90 lb. character who is very strong.

(Actually, I'm not sure how much of the problem would be solved by higher atmospheric oxygen. It still has to circulate the body somehow. Having more of it outside doesn't necessarily translate to moving it around inside better.)

Higher oxygen certainly helps, during the Carboniferous period, about 360 - 300 mya, oxygen levels were much higher then they are today. The largest known fossil insects lived in this time. They were certainly no-where near D&D giant insect size, but big by today's standard.
Higher oxygen certainly helps, during the Carboniferous period, about 360 - 300 mya, oxygen levels were much higher then they are today. The largest known fossil insects lived in this time. They were certainly no-where near D&D giant insect size, but big by today's standard.

I'm familiar with it. The fact that insects didn't get quite as big as giant insects in DnD is exactly the reason that I didn't think it would resolve the problem.

This whole conversation assumes that things like atmospheric oxygen are of any concern whatsoever in the DnD world, or that chemistry even operates in the same way.

At a certain point you will run into the problem that the world so little resembles our own that nobody can relate to it, but I don't think the molecules that creatures breathe are high on anybody's list of factors that make a world impossible to relate to. How the characters behave and why the do the things they do are far more important than how they breathe. Or where their strength comes from.
I'm familiar with it. The fact that insects didn't get quite as big as giant insects in DnD is exactly the reason that I didn't think it would resolve the problem.

This whole conversation assumes that things like atmospheric oxygen are of any concern whatsoever in the DnD world, or that chemistry even operates in the same way.

At a certain point you will run into the problem that the world so little resembles our own that nobody can relate to it, but I don't think the molecules that creatures breathe are high on anybody's list of factors that make a world impossible to relate to. How the characters behave and why the do the things they do are far more important than how they breathe. Or where their strength comes from.

Oh yeah, I absolutely agree with you. D&D games work best when you don't try to come up with exact explanations on how everything works. You will ultimately not come to realstic conclusions and you will just cut off good stories. I'm just a paleontology student and like to talk about it at any opportunity.
Not in most depictions. Although the hulk increases in mass, both his appearance and his strength reflect his rage. There have been several instances when his rage was channeled in such a way that his strength increased while his size decreased.

In a recent storyline, he was described as being stronger than any god. He was depicted, however, as being about the size of a very large human.

To be fair, his muscle density has supposedly increased dramatically. His mass is still supposedly increasing proportionate to rage and strength, but his body volume is much lower than it was in older comic renditions of him due to the way his muscles are packed.
The typical "it has to be straight from Real Life, if you're a fighter!" mindset, that is. It applies not only to the fighter but to classes and characters that are generally mundane for the most part. As long as it's magical items, spells and creatures affecting those characters all is fine. But don't dare and mention that Strength could come in the form of inherent magic, you heretical !!! HOW DARE YOU MAKE MY MUNDANE CHARACTER MAGICAL?!

Maybe it's because mundane characters (Martial Power source in 4e) aren't supposed to have magical sources for their power?

Makes sense for a Cleric (or Divine source) to claim anything and everything about their character (including Str, level bonus to AC or skills, etc) is divinely inspired or provided. Ditto for Wizards with Arcane, Barbarians with Primal, or Monks with Psionic. But when you claim that your Fighter, who has no magical training and by definition gets his abilities from training and natural skills has a high Str because of a magical or divine source ... it's going to rub some people the wrong way. He's supposed to get his power from mundane sources!

Of course, nothing says that mundane sources really do have to define every aspect of the mechanics of mundane character. Just the source for the actual powers, and even then in 4e you're supposed to be able to fluff as you like.
To be fair, his muscle density has supposedly increased dramatically. His mass is still supposedly increasing proportionate to rage and strength, but his body volume is much lower than it was in older comic renditions of him due to the way his muscles are packed.

I disagree, but it's impossible to tell because of artistic license, so it hardly matters anyways.

The reason I disagree is that his weight doesn't increase proportionally. A creature the size of a man who could punch through a planet is simply an impossibility. Hulk's muscles don't work like human muscles. Full stop. His strength comes from his rage, and that's all.
Isn't it a well established bit of comic lore that the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets? That's essentially 'magic', so size prolly doesn't matter much (if at all). If he gets mad enough, the Hulk is able to SMASH! anything out of existence. He may be a pip-squeak, comparatively speaking, but the planet doesn't stand a chance ;).
/\ Art
So why then, do players and DM's who think as I stated above, make use of Magical Weapons? They are a very large part of the power of said characters. Why would a Fighter at L30 do without Magical powers? -5 armor and defenses, -5 attack, a lot less powers.

To be fair, that's not an internal part of the character. It's an external item. Whereas Str is easily viewable as an inherent trait this non-magical character has, that can't be removed or seperated from the character. Just like a Power.

But yes, I agree there is no particular reason that your Hulk character can't be getting his Str from an infusion of godly power (which can't be stolen, disenchanted or removed in any way) even though he's not a Divine Power source. It's just understandable why some folks might see that as breaking the source of their power.
I disagree, but it's impossible to tell because of artistic license, so it hardly matters anyways.

The reason I disagree is that his weight doesn't increase proportionally. A creature the size of a man who could punch through a planet is simply an impossibility. Hulk's muscles don't work like human muscles. Full stop. His strength comes from his rage, and that's all.

Proportionally is an unknowable. We know that he gains mass with strength, but to what pace is an unknown (technically, if he gained an ounce for every hundred thousand pounds he could lift, then there's an explicit weight gain). That said, he is still an impossibility for many merits. One thing, neither your strength or your mass can increase solely based on your anger levels in real life. More to the point, we know for a fact nowadays that gamma radiation (unfortunately) cannot produce a being like the hulk. He is a work of pure fantasy.