Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If Two Strength-13 Fighters Arm-Wrestle, Which One Wins?


Is there a D&D mechanic to simulate this sort of contest, or would each of you simply roll a d6, high number wins?
What about if a Stength 14 fighter arm-wrestled a Strength 13 fighter? Would the Strength 14 fighter win every contest?
I ask because Dying Earth RPG has an interesting dice-pool mechanic, where your attribute score is the number of dice you receive. Potentially, in that circumstance, a lower strength character could beat a higher strength character, if the former was lucky or the later unlucky.

25 comments:

Jeff Rients said...

My thought is d6+Str to determine winner. If your foe had 7 points over you then you would always lose.

2eDM said...

The way I've always handled this is to have both characters make a strength check. Whoever succeeds on their check by the greatest amount wins. Thus in your 2 STR 13 example, if one rolls a 4 and the other a 3, the one who rolls the 3 wins. If they both fail their check or get the same roll, they have to check again the following round.

Trey said...

d20s plus Strength bonus (or penalities) I think, though d6 as Jeff suggests would work as well.

BigFella said...

Just make the actual players arm wrestle! Diceless game mechanics!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Some good suggestions. What about if one spends a lot of time arm-wrestling, and has therefore developed better technique? Would you factor in level or hit points into the equation?

Thinking about professional athletes (boxers, golfers and the like) has me musing about this.

For example, the difference between a casual golfer, amateur golfer and professional golfer. Those differences are significant.

On the other hand, the differences between professional golfers is miniscule.

As a casual gamer, I don't want to create a whole complicated sub-system, just to simulate a boxing or arm-wrestling contest. On the other hand, you want to have some sort of mechanic that is at least a gross simulation of reality...

shimrod said...

It comes down to balancing a "realistic" outcome with a fast resolution. Depends on what you're looking for. IRL the guy who's only a little bit stronger will still reliably win.

Some of the common quickie rules have already been covered above. Another I've heard of is having both characters roll equal to or under the relevant ability score, but the one who rolled HIGHER (while still succeeding)is the winner.

The weakness of using a d20 is that the stronger character has only ~5% better odds per point stronger he is. Using ability bonuses is even worse. For example, in Basic D&D, a character with an 18 STR (+3) would have only a 15% better chance of winning the contest over a character with a 10 STR.

If I were going with a quick one-roll resolution, I'd say have each of them roll 3d6 equal to or under STR, and highest successful roll wins. This way the bell curve you get from rolling multiple dice gives you more reliably middle-of-the road outcomes, and you don't have as many occasions of the weaker guy getting lucky.

If you really want a dramatic scene, you'll want an extended challenge, with multiple checks. Say, adopt one of the above systems and plot out a little chart- middle (starting position), and two or three notches on either side (the one furthest from the middle being the win). Each time one of the competitors wins a roll-off, they move the position one spot closer to a win for them.

As far as skill/technique goes, I'd say give a point or two adjustment on the roll (or a point or two of "virtual" STR) which only applies to the contest in which they're skilled.

DrBargle said...

I really like that idea of a creating a dramatic scene. Of course, each 'notch' on the 'clock' would also need to have modifiers for the advantage the character currently winning. That way only the stronger characters can come back from nearly being beaten, but even they are at a disadvantage once they have started to lose.

Over the top!

Alexis said...

Which one wins? Well, obviously, the one that wants it more.

Winning is in your head, right?

kelvingreen said...

Chaosium BRP resistance table. Job done.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Alexis said...
Which one wins? Well, obviously, the one that wants it more.

Winning is in your head, right?


Problem is, you can only ever measure "the winner wanted it more" after the fact!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

kelvingreen said...
Chaosium BRP resistance table. Job done.

Does that use % stats? How would you translate that over to D&D's bell-curve stats?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

DrBargle said...
I really like that idea of a creating a dramatic scene.

The dice-pool mechanic allows you to simulate a dramatic scene. But do I really want to sit through 13 dice-rolloffs?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Jeff Rients said...
My thought is d6+Str to determine winner. If your foe had 7 points over you then you would always lose.
I was thinking about how boxers get put into weight categories. Even within a weight category, you have certain people who dominate. Same with Strength. I wonder if you could use a secondary attribute as the decider?

Sadly, the game doesn't have a "stength of will" attribute, otherwise, I could simply use Alexis' suggestion that the person who 'wants it more' (greater strength of will) wins in the case of a tie in the prime attribute...

A Paladin In Citadel said...

2eDM said...
The way I've always handled this is to have both characters make a strength check. Whoever succeeds on their check by the greatest amount wins

Alternately, you could calculate 'by how much' you beat your strength, to determine the winner.

Eg. Str 15 and Str 13 fighters arm wrestle.

Str 15 rolls a 10 ... he's 5 under.
Str 13 rolls a 9 ... he's 4 under

Str 15 wins because he bested his Str by 5, which is better the Str 13 who only bested his Str by 4.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Trey said...
d20s plus Strength bonus (or penalities) I think, though d6 as Jeff suggests would work as well.

That would be quick and simple to apply at the table. My only concern would be it's swinginess.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

BigFella said...
Just make the actual players arm wrestle! Diceless game mechanics!

Player skill!

:D

5stonegames said...

We used a d20 vs stat, highest margin wins. If you want something a bit more matching with little "wiff" 3d6 vs stat, high margin wins.

Dr Rotwang! said...

RE: BRP Resistance Table: Well, it doesn't use percentage abilities, it just uses percentage chances.

A STR 13 fighter arm-wrestling another STR 13 fighter has a straight 50% chance of winning. If his opponent's STR is 1 higher, his chances drop by 5%. If the other dude's STR is 1 point lower, our guy's chances go up by 5%.

However, I think Jeff's answer is the coolest. It's fast, it makes sense and I like d6es.

troth said...

Each player rolls 2d6+Stength. If either rolls doubles, the roll again and add the new roll to the first roll. Whoever gets the highest total wins.

Wait, we are talking about Tunnels & Trolls, right?

George said...

You could give a +1 bonus to the one with the highest wisdom and another +1 for the highest constitution. After that, it will be down to the roll, and I do tend to use d20’s for checks.

steelcaress said...

I'm with 2E DM, I use the Strength Check mechanic. Another mechanic I use is unique; descriptors to the stats exist in my game. If two people of equal Strength were arm-wrestling, and one had a descriptor of "Mighty" and the other had a descriptor of "Hale & Hearty," then likely the person who had the "Mighty" descriptor would win in matters of pure brawn. Note: the descriptors are chosen by players, and made up from terms from their own imagination, though I do provide a generous list of samples.

Alexis said...

A better answer would be to either compare the player's charismas (to show which one was more likely to awe in their opponent), constitutions (to see which one would go longer), dexterities (to see who had the better grip), wisdom (to know when to push or when to let the opponent push), or intelligence (to see which has trained their arm better prior to the event). Two 13-strengths does not mean they have the same strength in their arms; some are stronger in the back, or legs, or shoulders, or neck.

Moreover, unless one has gone to get training after the match, or the other has allowed their training to degrade, the one who wins will always be the one who wins.

There's also the backgrounds of the two competitors, since life habits or age can be relevant. So, too, can be their ethnicity, as certain genetic traits are carried through some physical types more than others.

If the two contestants have exactly the same abilities across the board, come from the same lifestyles and are the exact same age, and the same heritage, THEN you can roll dice.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

That answer's a little more nuanced than 'the one that wants it more'. Well thought out; I like it. Thank you.

Now, if I were asked to adjudicate this situation, on the fly, i'd probably make a snap call based on player skill, for good or ill, to keep the game moving along. That might mean accepting the player's pronouncement that his character was a circus strong-man before his foray into adventuring. Or being swayed by his argument that a secondary stat (any of your above examples) gives him the edge. I might even permit the player to bribe the referee, or arrange some diversion or subterfuge to distract his opponent, allowing the character to win through cunning. And dice might never get rolled.

Or they might, if the outcome of the contest was incidental to the game session.

John said...

I like the strength check with modifers. If a character is known for arm wrestling, then a +2 circumstance check could be applied.

In case of a tie, then it would come down to a stamina/endurance check.

I do like the "dramatic" check as well. Such as system could really enhance the tension to the roleplaying aspect.

Doc said...

Back when I was GMing 2nd edition I would have said "Roll under your skill!" I was a big fan of using the ability scores as numbers you had to roll under in order to accomplish things in.
Want to scale a wall without falling? Roll under your Strength.
Want to jump from one roof to another? Roll under your Dexterity.
In direct conflicts like this I would have both players roll and whoever "beat" their own Strength by the greater amount would win. So if Greg rolls a 6 and Brad rolls a 9, Greg won.

I'd probably do something very similar, but as I don't use 4th edition I don't know what kind of mechanics they might have built into that. With 3rd edition, it's easy to translate the roll as a DC. So Greg and Brad are still both rolling d20s to compete, but now the contest is who rolls *highest*! - provided they beat the DC, which I would arbitrarily make 13. With a 13 Strength they both have +1 to their rolls, so they both *need* to roll a 12, but again it just comes down to who rolls highest. If Greg rolls a 12 and Brad rolls a 13, Brad wins this time.

Strength 13 (+1) versus Strength 19 (+4) is a little different, as I would make the DC for one competitor 19 and for the other 13, and so the stronger character has a significant advantage - but arm wrestling IS a competition of strength.

/long