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DC Heroes RPG – Human strength and durability benchmark

(STR and BODY scores for humans discussed)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

This article discusses Strength (STR) and Body (BODY) numbers in the DC Heroes tabletop Role-Playing Game.

It’s primarily useful for people who play DCH. But it’s also nice if you don’t – yet want to understand some of the numbers.

The pictures are of Mariusz Pudzianowski  and Jang Mi-Ran , who are sort of strong.


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A benchmark for some STR scores in DCH

On the subject of STR you can also peruse :


STR 01

The person suffers from a significant physical handicap, is frail, and/or is very young or old.

The official Mayfair scores are very reluctant to have characters with a STR of 01. So err toward a 02 if you have any doubt. We’ll discuss that later in this article.

Examples: Aunt May, 500Z-Q of the Hero Hotline, Merryman of the Inferior Five.


STR 02

If there isn’t a strong reason for a person to have something else, then they have a STR of 02.

This score covers the *vast* majority of people you’ll see on the street, despite their variations in age, mass, fitness, etc..


STR 03

The main types with this score are :

  • Markedly larger-than-average guys without intensive strength training. For instance, a bouncer picked for their intimidating height.
  • Persons who aren’t exceptionally tall or large, but seriously trains for strength and hitting power. A seasoned, large boxer or full-time athlete in a suitable sport (hammer-throwing, body-building, rugby, gridiron football…) will likely qualify. Note that most soldiers train for endurance, not “strength” in the sense we use here.
  • Super-heroes and adventurers who don’t quite qualify by the other two criteria, but have little problem taking down common thugs in hand-to-hand combat.

Writeups.org is more stringent than official Mayfair writeups when it comes to clearing a character for STR 03.

Examples: Huntress (Helena Bertinelli), Jericho (Joseph Wilson), Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness), Rock Howard, stock beefy thug.


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STR 04

This is an heroic level of strength. In many settings, it will be the peak human strength level. People with a STR of 04 tend to be :

Writeups.org is more stringent than official Mayfair writeups when it comes to clearing a character for STR 04.

Examples: Daredevil (Matt Murdock), Warlord (Travis Morgan), Green Lantern Alan Scott, Wildcat (Ted Grant), Joe Higashi.


STR 05

Five APs of Strength can *easily* be a superhuman level of brawn, given how much weight five APs can represent near their upper bound.

Allowing human characters to have such strength levels seems to have been done with some reluctance. It mostly comes from some depictions of Batman being stronger than any real-world weightlifter.

This level of strength allows for breaking trees, snapping heavy chains, flipping large cars over and other incredible feats of brawn.

The main types with this STR are :

  • People with an impossible level of physical training and strength development.
  • “Giant strongman” types, of the sort who could punch a horse unconscious in one blow.
  • People who actually have a low degree of superhuman strength.
  • Humanoid monsters such as Dungeons & Dragons ogres.

Examples: Batman (Bruce Wayne), Conan the Barbarian, the Atom (Al Pratt), classic Hawkman.


STR 06

This strength is superhuman for all intent and purpose, though the material might swear it’s not.

This is the level where you can win wrestling matches with grizzly bears, bench-press a small car or do unpleasant things to brick walls.

Every case there is unique.

  • It might be a monstrous physique and level of strength training, as with the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk).
  • It might be a 240 lbs. super-soldier with a borderline superhuman muscle mass, physique and muscle fibre efficiency, as with Captain America.
  • It might be a gigantic man who is likely a low-level mutant, such as the Ox (the Bloch brothers).
  • It might be a superhumanly strong alien (as with Starfire) or mutate (as with the Creeper).

More

Some supposedly human characters have *obviously* superhuman strength, lifting several tonnes or performing equivalent feats of strength. An obscure but telling example would be General Wo.

What can we say ? Fnord .


Let’s talk about STR 01 for a minute

Mayfair’s stats have few STR 01 scores, barring children, elders or tiny persons. STR 02 is the common score, even for persons who seem physically weak.

So for a long while we just went “STR 02 is normally the floor, unless it looks ridiculous.”

But. We have many examples, especially in older stories, of lighter characters (mostly women) who can’t engage a semi-fit guy in fisticuffs.

In these stories, Pretty Princess knows she just ain’t gonna clobber Mustachioed Ruffian with her delicate fists. Mr. Ruffian doesn’t look that tough, but he has 70 lbs. on Ms. Princess. So she’ll need a cast iron pan, or a shotgun, or something.

Would STR 01 make sense ?

I’d say yes. There’s a clear difference in tier between Ms. Princess and Mr. Ruffian.

STR 01 means struggling to lift 100lbs. That does seem low at first glance.

But looking at charts of bench press averages used by physical trainers, that seems about right. The waifish character who can’t hope to punch Mr. Ruffian in some 1930s pulp  fiction probably is a 105-ish pounds woman. Who’ll need a fair bit of physical conditioning to lift three figures.

But ! There’s a known issue with how APs of weight correlate to human-scale STR scores. We discuss that in this article. So STR 01 might mean 50 pounds, if you make adjustments. That’s low.

But ! We were discussing *bench* pressing. Lifting something during an adventure is closer to a military press.

Looking at more training charts, that still works. Our 1930s pulps 110 lbs. damsel-in-distress would require an “intermediate” level of physical conditioning to reliably military press 50 pounds.

So long story short, giving STR 01 to a pugilistically impotent character doesn’t have incoherent side effects as to their ability to lift objects.

Does assigning a STR 01 otherwise do what we want ?

Not quite, and that’s presumably why Mayfair seldom bothered.

Because there’s only one column for 1 and 2. So the RAPs when punching Mustachioed Ruffian are probably going to be the same. A small effect appears if you use the optional final roll modifier rule for the higher value in the column, but that only applies if Mr. Ruffian has BODY 02.

On the other hand…

Low-powered games are encouraged to use single-AP-Columns house rules, or to resort to Double Scale DCH rules. They don’t need a table that goes to 100. They might barely need to go to 10 ! So having more granularity when it comes to Columns is fine.

This would mean that a EV of 01 vs. a RV of 02 could have an expected RAPs of zero, only getting to score one RAP — at most — if the attacker gets a Column Shift.

Which does match the story beats for, say, the Famous Five . Or Buttercup . Which was the goal. Triumph !


A benchmark for some BODY scores in DCH

This is not too different than STR scores, really. But let’s spell it out :


BODY 01

Such a low BODY score is presumably the result of disease, handicap or age (either very young or very old).

This score is very rare. If there’s any doubt, go for a 02 instead.

Example: Aunt May.


BODY 02

As with STR, this is the catch-all score. The vast majority of people have a BODY of 02.


BODY 03

As with STR 03, there is a clear something working in the character’s favour. Common examples would be :

  • Being plain big and robust.
  • Constant exercise that promotes endurance, resolve and a tolerance for hardship. Thus, most soldiers (regular and irregular) and many field cops will have a BODY of 03, because that’s what they exercise toward. Ditto for other people who tend to get into brawls and fights, such as pub tough guys.
  • This is the baseline score for heroes and adventurer types, even if they don’t look that tough. In this case the BODY score is based in part of their courage, resolve and a little bit of narrative immunity.

BODY 04

This is the elite level of durability. People who can keep going after taking an amount of punishment that would kill ordinary folks. People with that score tend to be :

  • Elite soldiers who are *constantly* training for fitness and staying power. That usually means Special Operations troops.
  • Elite unarmed fighters who do the same. Such as boxing champs and full-contact/MMA champs.
  • Unusually large persons in superb shape and health. It’s the sort of person who, in a big brawl, nearly ignores punches and kicks from ordinary combatants. Because these have an EV of 02 to the person’s RV of 04 and thus score no RAPs in most circumstances.
  • People with a rare amount of pain tolerance.
  • The typical super-hero with their highly developed physique and superiority to the common thug.

BODY 05

Heroic, cinematic level of durability. In many settings, this the maximum BODY score you’re going to encounter in human beings.

Like the BODY 04 fighter could usually ignore EV 02 punches and kicks from ordinary Joes, the BODY 05 fighter can frequently ignore EV 03 attacks. So that includes truncheons, wooden chairs, small-calibre holdout pistols, being slashed with smaller knives…

We’re in the territory of, say :

  • The giant henchman.
  • The professional wrestler who’s almost as tough as their ring persona.
  • The axe-wielding barbarian warrior who can afford to fight with little or no armour.
  • The martial arts master with special blocking and body hardening techniques…

Interestingly, BODY 05 breaks the usual dynamic in DC Heroes where the RV is slightly under the EV in the same class, with Hero Points bridging the gap. Here the RV is one AP higher than the EV in roughly the same class.

Keep that in mind in low-powered games. As high BODY scores could result in characters that are more durable than they should be for that story.

Examples: The Netflix version of Daredevil is a solid example of BODY 05, as is Sarge Steel (“Toughest man in the world !”). Batwoman (Katherine Kane) is another spiffy example.


BODY 06

Like with STR 05, this is an exaggeration and would be considered a superhuman score in most settings.

The main impetus for having BODY 06 scores in the game seems to have been for Batman to withstand lucky attacks and superhuman assaults. Which probably would have been handled better though Hero Points use fine-tuning but heh, hindsight is 20/20.

So this corresponds to the more over-the-top versions of Batman or the Punisher. Or human tanks such as Travis Clevenger, Conan of Cimmeria or Riddick.

Stabbing them with a knife or hitting them with a baseball bat will likely achieve nothing. Shooting them with 9mm handguns or arrows isn’t going to stop them. Punches and kicks won’t achieve much unless delivered by an elite martial artist or a superhuman.

Remember, the more over-the-top versions of Batman can take multiple hits from an assault rifle burst and keep going without that much of a hindrance. Alfred will have to get the bullets out and do bandages ASAP, but it likely won’t be a vital emergency. That’s what we’re talking about when it comes to BODY 06.

BODY 06 Batman is the one who has to be reminded by Alfred that he was shot with a handgun bullet hours ago and has been bleeding all the while.

This BODY score is meant to exist where EV 07+ is a common occurrence among the character’s opposition. This likely means Martial Artist-substituted EV and low-superhuman opponents. Or maniacs with high Hero Points total to burn.

Character with a “low superhuman” durability could easily have BODY 06. See the discussion in our deathclaws profile of how an RV 06 monster can be amazingly hard to kill in a low-powered setting.


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By Sébastien Andrivet.

Helper(s): Sean MacDonald, Ethan Roe.

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