Over the course of the next few weeks I will be looking in depth at all the Ability scores in D&D 5e. Starting with the Strength stat. I will explore what the numbers mean. As well as give examples of characters from all forms of media that match the various values. .
Page 175 in PHB defines Strength as.
Strength measures bodily power, athletic training and the extent to which you can exert raw physical force.
The only skill that relates to strength is Athletics. In essence this skill rates how well your character can climb, jump or swim. So with skills covered neatly I will now take a look at what a characters score in Strength means.
With such a low strength score a character is likely bedridden most of the time. They can only manage to carry 15lb of gear and on a good day bench a single car tyre(30lbs). Animals with this low a score include Seahorses. With this in mind a good example of a character with Str 1 is Professor X in Logan. As a result of age and trauma he is weak and can barley move without aid.
Str 2 – 3.
The next bracket is more impressive than the last but still very weak. Due to the very low score they would be extremely frail and unable to perform most manual tasks. This character could just about manage 30lbs of gear and lift 60lbs. This equates to roughly a crate (24 cans) of beer in gear and two car tyres lift. Snakes and rats rate at this level of strength. A possible example of a character with this low level of strength is Hans Moleman from the Simpsons. He is so weak that he falls over under the weight of his own knife in one episode.
Str 4 – 5.
At this level the character is able to perform light manual labour. But probably only for a short time. Children and old people would rate at this level of strength. Also a badger is on the same level as this character. At best they can carry 75lbs of equipment and lift around 3 car tyres or an old portable TV (120 to 150lbs). Elijah Price from Unbreakable and Glass could be a good example of this level of strength. While he has the strength to lash out at times he is ultimately impotent physically.
Str 6 – 7.
Any form of light labour would be possible for this level of strength. However they would struggle with such tasks. The not so mighty Eagle has the same value in this stat. Any character in this bracket would be puny but not enfeebled. They could carry up to 100lbs on their back and bench press the equivalent for around 7 tyres (210lbs). Any of the main cast members of the Big Bang Theory would be about right as an example. Penny however would not be in this category as she is no doubt stronger than the guys.
Str 8 – 9.
A character with this sort of strength is still weak but not vastly below the norm. They might have to work hard to get any serious manual labour done. But they would be able to do the job in the end. Baboons are equal to this character in strength. Max lift would be around 270lbs and they could carry about 135lbs at most. Steve Rogers prior to his becoming Captain America would fit this description. While he is a weedy little man he can hold his own in a small way.
Str 10 – 11.
This is the very middle of the road. The lift is dead on for the average male lift at 330lbs. According to -source- the average male could with a year of training lift on average 330lbs. They can also carry a respectable 165lbs on their back. This is equivalent to 11 Raccoons in a sack! Deer get this same average level of strength. Characters who fit this bill are Luke Skywalker before he gets all Jedi and any role (except in Road to Perdition) played by Mr Everyman Tom Hanks.
Str 12 -13.
Characters with 12 or 13 strength are a cut above the rest. They are tough guys who can throw a good punch when required. What they are not is professional fighters or warrior gods. In the animal kingdom this is on par with mastiffs and goats. These characters can bench a solid 390lbs and tote around 195lbs on their back. That’s up to 13 car tyres they can lift. Or 13 badgers. Examples would be Han Solo, Indiana Jones or Captain Mal from Firefly. They are rugged individuals but by no means super men.
Str 14 – 15.
We now move up the ladder to legit hard men. They can smack guys around and lift heavy objects the rest of us can’t. On par with Panthers and Mules for raw physical power they can lift around 450lbs (lots of badgers) and carry over 225lbs. One character that springs to mind is Charles Vane from Black Sails. He is well built and handy in a fight but no man mountain or super man.
Str 16 – 17.
We are now reaching the apex of raw power. These characters are born warriors and athletes with a strength that few can match. Topping out at a mighty 510lb lift and 255lb carry they rival Apes and Lions for pure physical strength. Few normal men are this strong, but some are. Ivan Drago, The Rock (any role) and the Hound from Game of Thrones are all solid examples of the sort of man mountains that fill this level of strength.
Str 18 – 19.
Those with strength this high are vastly strong beyond that of ordinary men(or women). They are almost supernatural in the sheer brute force they can bring to bear. They can compete with Sharks and Sabre Tooth Tigers for pure power. These powerhouses can bench 570lbs easy and are able to carry a vast 255lbs on their backs. However they are still moral men. The best example of this sort of brute is Sir Gregor Clegane, The Mountain from Game of Thrones. This monster of a man can swing a two handed sword in one hand without breaking a sweat.
Str 20 -21.
The very apex of strength, people who’s prowess is beyond that of mere mortals. They have the strength to wrestle a Polar Bear or hold back a charging Rhino. This rare breed of warrior gods lifts an inhuman 630lbs and carries a huge 315lbs on their great shoulders. They can tear down doors with their fists and bend steel bars like spaghetti. Few characters can reach this level of strength. Examples of these powerhouses are Wolverine of the X-Men and the Mighty Chewbacca.
A few last words…
I have listed the animals of equal strength from the Monster Manual. However due to the size of some of these creatures they will have less lift or carry strength. Those who are tiny (hello seahorse) will have less and those who are large will get more. They are listed only as a rough guide. Furthermore the max lift is not 100% in line with actual real world stats. For example the world record lift is 1104lbs and is currently held by Hafthor Bjornsson who played the Mountain in Game of Thrones. But the max lift of a character with 21 strength is only 630lbs.