Sep 26, 2011

Shadowrun 4th Ed. - Strength and Lifting

In Shadowrun 4th Edition, how much a person can lift or carry is based on the character's Strength, modified by the successes from a Strength + Body roll.  Human Strength and Body attributes lie on a 1-6 scale, and the manual says that average humans have scores of 3.  With the average person's STR + BOD = 6, it is possible to roll up to 6 successes to modify his base lifting amount (though very unlikely to get all 6 successes).  Each success rolled adds 15 kg to the amount that can be lifted.  Here is a graph of the average lifting abilities (after rolling) for characters of average Body and any given Strength:
We see here that the average real-world person is as strong as a Shadowrun character with a Strength of 2, one level below average given an average Body.  The perfectly average Shadowrun character will (on an average roll) be stronger than about 70% of real people.  With the randomization in the game mechanics, it is possible for characters with strength of 2 to lift more than shown on this graph about 26% of the time.  So, it gets a little messy comparing the probability distributions of game characters to the single limits I have for real people.  Real people just do not have wide variance for how much an individual is able to lift.  A person's max lift will fluctuate a little based on factors like rest, warm-up, time of day, and how long it's been since working out, but the fluctuation will not come anywhere close to the 90 kg variance an average Shadowrun character has.

Shadowrun's mechanics have the typical trend that average characters are stronger than average real-world people, but on average the difference is not as severe as other popular systems.  What is quite deviant in the mechanics is the huge variance within a single person due to rolling so many dice to determine lifting ability during each attempt to lift something.

Here is a table of probabilities of successes based on die pool:

Here is the table of base lifting amounts and modifiers:
Rolled successes add 15 kg to lifting, and 10 kg to carrying.  I would prefer the system to have less randomization.  It is also unfortunately messy to use the real strengths that I have in comparison to Shadowrun characters all of Body 3.  I have no clear way to break real world people into six Shadowrun-equivalent groups by body size to create separate graphs by Body and Strength.  This is one of the least clear comparisons I'm making for strength, but I hold to the opinion that less randomization is better in a simulation mechanic.


  1. Actually, in SR4, average human stats are a 2. It was a 3 in the previous editions, but the new stats are 2. Also, maximum unaugmented human effort, i.e. Olympic-class athletes, is now a 6, maybe 7 is you use Exceptional Attribute. I'm not sure why they did this, maybe to reflect a more logarithmic stat base (which fits better when you use opposed die rolls as a mechanic) than a linear one.

  2. In the SR4 manual that I have (from 2005), on page 62 it says under Attribute Ratings, "The standard range of natural human attributes is rated on a scale of 1 to 6, with 3 being average." I don't know if that was errataed later, and I have no supplements. Having 2 be the average would make the system a better simulation at lower strength scores, but a strength of 6 should allow for consistent lifts of at least double what occurs in-game.

  3. Actually, I checked my Twentieth Edition and they have it listed the same as well. However, "2 as average" is more of an unlisted change made obvious by looking at the official SR3-to-SR4 conversion, found on the Game Resources page of the SR4 site. In there, all stats from SR3 (and essentially previous editions) are reduced to 2/3 for SR4. An average human stat of 3 becomes a 2, the max. human stat of 6 goes to 4. In addition, in Runner's Companion and Contacts and Adventures, many of the contacts, secretaries, janitors, snitches, pawn brokers and other average people, have 2s in their stats.

    The way I read that is 2 is what someone would call truly average (SR4 says this is "underdeveloped", which is an apt description), while 3 is someone who is averagely built but fitter and more active (a thing I found in my own research into RPGs and carry/lifting stats would classify this as someone whose on a beginning bodybuilder regime in a middleweight class), while 4 is someone whose remarkably fit, like a professional athlete or special forces soldier. At 5, I'd say Mr. Universe-class musclemen, and at 6, they're Olympic-class weightlifters.

    But that's my personal perspective on the subject.

  4. I just remembered something else going through the books just now. The lifting capacity is actually weaker, because the "15kg per point" is more equivalent to deadlifting, because it's only managing to lift the object off the ground. The world record for raw deadlifting (without a support girdle or other equipment) is about 460kg. That's something like 24 to 25 successes.

    It's "10kg per point" if you're lifting the object to the sternum, so I guess it would be a snatch lift, which the world record for that is 213kg.

    The equivalent to a clean and jerk, which is considered a better standard due to all the muscles being used to perform the lift, in SR4 is at 5kg per point to lift an object over the head. World record for that is 265kg, or the equivalent of 47-48 successes.