Monster Abilities Part 1 – Strength

Recently, I was putting together a few higher level monsters and I had to select Strength for one of my beasties. When you’re up in the CR 20+ range, Strength 20+ isn’t too uncommon. Dragons have it, the tarrasque has it, even Horned Devils have it. But what does each point of Strength mean?

In this article I cover:

  • What does each point in Strength mean?
  • Where do all the Monster Manual monsters stand in terms of Strength?
  • Observations on 5e monster Strength.
  • New rules for opposed Strength checks.

What does each point in Strength mean?

According to the Player’s Handbook, Strength measures bodily power, athletic training, and the extent to which one can exert raw physical force (PHB, p175).

Page 173 tells us that a score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average for any given ability. Of course, monsters and adventurers are a cut above average. Next, a score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches and adventurers can get as high as 20. Meanwhile, monsters and divine beings can get all the way up to 30.

Strength: Ability Checks and Skills

In Dungeons & Dragons 5e, Strength has only one skill tied to it: Athletics. But it’s also used to:

  • Force open a stuck, locked, or barred door
  • Break free of bonds
  • Push through a tunnel that is too small
  • Hang on to a wagon while being dragged behind it
  • Tip over a statue
  • Keep a boulder from rolling

Basically, it’s Conan the Barbarian type stuff.

Strength: Attacks and Damage

Of course, Strength is also key to melee weapon fighters as creatures add their Strength modifier to attack and damage rolls. It’s also used when you throw certain weapons in a ranged attack.

Strength: Lifting and Carrying

Another important thing that Strength is used for is lifting and carrying. The carrying capacity of a creature is its Strength score multiplied by 15.

Then, a creature can push, drag, or lift up to twice its carrying capacity.

Finally, bigger creatures get to double their carrying capacity for every size category above Medium. Meanwhile, Tiny creatures half the weight.

Strength: Jumping

Another important use for Strength is calculating jumping distances.

For the long jump, a creature covers a number of feet up to its Strength score as long as it moves at least 10 feet on foot immediately before that jump. A standing long jump is done at half that value.

And for high jumps, a creature leaps into the air a number of feet equal to 3 + its Strength modifier as long as they move 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. And then half again if its done standing.

Strength: Saving Throws

Strength is occasionally used for saving throws, too. While it’s not one of the “big three” (Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom), it can prevent you from getting knocked back by a Thunder Wave or thrown across the room by a beholder’s Telekinetic Ray.

 

D&D 5e Monsters by Strength

Okay, so now we know what we can accomplish with certain Strength scores. Time to see how that all shakes out.

We’ll start off with Tiny creatures with a Strength score of 1 and move our way all the way up to Gargantuan creatures with a Strength score of 30.

 

 

raven-5e

Tiny Monsters

Tiny Strength 1 (-5)
Carrying Capacity: 7.50 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 15 pounds
Monsters: demilich, flameskull, frog, sea horse, will-o’-wisp

Tiny Strength 2 (-4)
Carrying Capacity: 15 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 30 pounds
Monsters: bat, crab, lizard, pixie, poisonous snake, quipper, rat, raven, scorpion, spider

Tiny Strength 3 (-4)
Carrying Capacity: 22.50 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 45 pounds
Monsters: cat, faerie dragon, owl, weasel, sprite

Tiny Strength 4 (-3)
Carrying Capacity: 30 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 60 pounds
Monsters: badger, flying snake, homonculus, stirge

Tiny Strength 5 (-3)
Carrying Capacity: 37.50 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 75 pounds
Monsters: hawk, quasit

Tiny Strength 6 (-2)
Carrying Capacity: 45 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 90 pounds
Monsters: imp, intellect devourer, pseudodragon

Tiny Strength 7 (-2)
Carrying Capacity: 52.50 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 105 pounds
Monsters: slaad tadpole

Tiny Strength 13 (+1)
Carrying Capacity: 97.50 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 195 pounds
Monsters: crawling claw

 

commoner-5e

Small and Medium Monsters

Small and Medium Strength 1 (-5)
Carrying Capacity: 15 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 30 pounds
Monsters: banshee, shadow demon, shrieker, specter

Small and Medium Strength 3 (-4)
Carrying Capacity: 45 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 90 pounds
Monsters: awakened shrub, swarm of insects, violet fungus

Small and Medium Strength 4 (-3)
Carrying Capacity: 60 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 120 pounds
Monsters: octopus

Small and Medium Strength 5 (-3)
Carrying Capacity: 75 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 150 pounds
Monsters: dust mephit, giant centipede, steam mephit, swarm of bats

Small and Medium Strength 6 (-2)
Carrying Capacity: 90 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 180 pounds
Monsters: blood hawk, cockatrice, eagle, flumph, shadow, smoke mephit, swarm of ravens, twig blight, wraith

Small and Medium Strength 7 (-2)
Carrying Capacity: 105 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 210 pounds
Monsters: ghost, giant rat, kobold, ice mephit, magmin, vulture, winged kobold

Small and Medium Strength 8 (-1)
Carrying Capacity: 120 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 240 pounds
Monsters: baboon, giant fire beetle, goblin, jackal, magma mephit, mud mephit, myconid sprout, spectator, succubus/incubus, swarm of poisonous snakes

Small and Medium Strength 9 (-1)
Carrying Capacity: 135 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 270 pounds
Monsters: drow mage, swarm of rats

Small and Medium Strength 10 (+0)
Carrying Capacity: 150 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 300 pounds
Monsters: aarakocra, commoner, drow, drow priestess of Lolth, dryad, giant poisonous snake, giant wasp, gibbering mouther, goblin boss, kenku, lemure, mane, medusa, merfolk, monodrone, myconid adult, piercer, skeleton, spined devil, wererat

Small and Medium Strength 11 (+0)
Carrying Capacity: 165 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 330 pounds
Monsters: deer, doppelganger, duodrone, dretch, giant weasel, hyena, jackalwere, lich, mindflayer, scarecrow, yuan-ti pureblood

Small and Medium Strength 12 (+1)
Carrying Capacity: 180 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 360 pounds
Monsters: blink dog, bullywug, flying sword, giant frog, giant wolf spider, goat, githzerai monk, fire snake, gray ooze, harpy, needle blight, quadrone, tridrone, pteranodon, satyr, thri-kreen, wolf

Small and Medium Strength 13 (+1)
Carrying Capacity: 195 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 390 pounds
Monsters: boar, drow elite warrior, ghoul, giant badger, giant crab, githzerai zerth, hobgoblin, kuo-toa, mastiff, rust monster, sahuagin, sahuagin priestess, swarm of quippers, zombie

Small and Medium Strength 14 (+2)
Carrying Capacity: 210 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 420 pounds
Monsters: animated armor, duergar, ettercap, gnoll, grick, kuo-toa whip, mule, nothic, panther, rakshasa, reef shark, troglodyte, white dragon wyrmling

Small and Medium Strength 15 (+2)
Carrying Capacity: 225 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 450 pounds
Monsters: black bear, black dragon wyrmling, brass dragon wyrmling, bug bear, copper dragon wyrmling, death dog, deep gnome, gargoyle, githyanki warrior, green dragon wyrmling, grell, hobgoblin captain, lizardfolk, lizardfolk shaman, pony, vine blight, werewolf, wight, yochlol

Small and Medium Strength 16 (+3)
Carrying Capacity: 240 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 480 pounds
Monsters: ape, basilisk, barbed devil, bearded devil, couatl, darkmantle, ghast, githyanki knight, gnoll pack lord, grimlock, half-red dragon veteran, hobgoblin warlord, invisible stalker, kuo-toa archpriest, mummy, orc, orc eye of Gruumsh, peryton, sea hag, ultroloth, vampire spawn, yuan-ti malison

Small and Medium Strength 17 (+3)
Carrying Capacity: 255 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 510 pounds
Monsters: arcanoloth, azer, blue dragon wyrmling, bronze dragon wyrmling, bugbear chief, gnoll fang of Yeenoghu, gray slaad, hell hound, lizard king/queen, mimic, mummy lord, quaggoth, quaggoth spore servant, wereboar, weretiger, xorn

Small and Medium Strength 18 (+4)
Carrying Capacity: 270 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 540 pounds
Monsters: cambion, chain devil, deva, erinyes, green hag, helmed horror, merrow, mezzoloth, night hag, orc war chief, orog, revenant, vampire

Small and Medium Strength 19 (+4)
Carrying Capacity: 285 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 570 pounds
Monsters: flesh golem, gold dragon wyrmling, red dragon wyrmling, silver dragon wyrmling, werebear

Small and Medium Strength 20 (+5)
Carrying Capacity: 300 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 600 pounds
Monsters: death knight, death slaad, galeb duhr

 

troll-5e

Large Monsters

Large Strength 5 (-3)
Carrying Capacity: 150 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 300 pounds
Monsters: gas spore

Large Strength 10 (+0)
Carrying Capacity: 300 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 600 pounds
Monsters: beholder, beholder zombie, death tyrant, fire elemental

Large Strength 11 (+0)
Carrying Capacity: 330 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 660 pounds
Monsters: dao

Large Strength 12 (+1)
Carrying Capacity: 360 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 720 pounds
Monsters: giant sea horse, myconid sovereign

Large Strength 13 (+1)
Carrying Capacity: 390 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 780 pounds
Monsters: carrion crawler, giant owl

Large Strength 14 (+2)
Carrying Capacity: 420 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 840 pounds
Monsters: air elemental, axe beak, cloaker, gelatinous cube, giant spider

Large Strength 15 (+2)
Carrying Capacity: 450 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 900 pounds
Monsters: bone naga, chasme, constrictor, crocodile, giant bat, giant lizard, giant scorpion, giant toad, giant vulture, ochre jelly, pentadrone, phase spider

Large Strength 16 (+3)
Carrying Capacity: 480 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 960 pounds
Monsters: black pudding, blue slaad, camel, drider, elk, giant hyena, green slaad, lamia, otyugh, red slaad, riding horse, worg

Large Strength 17 (+3)
Carrying Capacity: 510 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,020 pounds
Monsters: ankheg, dire wolf, giant boar, giant goat, giant octopus, half-ogre, hippogriff, lion, manticore, rug of smothering, tiger, vrock

Large Strength 18 (+4)
Carrying Capacity: 540 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,080 pounds
Monsters: balgura, bone devil, centaur, displacer beast, draft horse, grick alpha, griffon, gynosphinx, hook horror, hunter shark, marilith, merrow, minotaur, minotaur skeleton, nightmare, pegasus, plesiosaurus, spirit naga, water elemental, young remorhaz, roper, saber-toothed tiger, salamander, shambling mound, shield guardian, troll, unicorn, warhorse, warhorse skeleton, winter wolf, yeti, young white dragon

Large Strength 19 (+4)
Carrying Capacity: 570 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,140 pounds
Monsters: allosaurus, brown bear, bulette, chimera, chuul, giant eagle, guardian naga, hezrou, ogre, ogre zombie, oni, sahuagin baron, wyvern, young black dragon, young brass dragon, young copper dragon, young green dragon, yuan-ti abomination

Large Strength 20 (+5)
Carrying Capacity: 600 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,200 pounds
Monsters: clay golem, earth elemental, glabrezu, gorgon, ncyaloth, owl bear, polar bear, umber hulk

Large Strength 21 (+5)
Carrying Capacity: 630 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,260 pounds
Monsters: aboleth, djinni, ettin, ice devil, nalfeshnee, rhinoceros, young blue dragon, young bronze dragon

Large Strength 22 (+6)
Carrying Capacity: 660 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,320 pounds
Monsters: androsphinx, efreeti, horned devil, marid, stone golem

Large Strength 23 (+6)
Carrying Capacity: 690 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,380 pounds
Monsters: young gold dragon, young red dragon, young red shadow dragon, young silver dragon

Large Strength 24 (+7)
Carrying Capacity: 720 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,440 pounds
Monsters: iron golem, planetar

Large Strength 26 (+8)
Carrying Capacity: 780 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 1,560 pounds
Monsters: pit fiend, solar

 

storm-giant-5e

Huge Monsters

Huge Strength 19 (+4)
Carrying Capacity: 1,140 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 2,280 pounds
Monsters: ankylosaurus, awakened tree, giant constrictor snake, giant crocodile, giant elk, killer whale

Huge Strength 21 (+5)
Carrying Capacity: 1,260 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 2,520 pounds
Monsters: hill giant

Huge Strength 22 (+6)
Carrying Capacity: 1,320 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 2,640 pounds
Monsters: adult white dragon, cyclops, elephant, triceratops

Huge Strength 23 (+6)
Carrying Capacity: 1,380 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 2,760 pounds
Monsters: adult black dragon, adult brass dragon, adult copper dragon, adult green dragon, behir, fomorian, frost giant, giant ape, giant shark, stone giant, treant

Huge Strength 24 (+7)
Carrying Capacity: 1,440 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 2,880 pounds
Monsters: abominable yeti, adult black dragon, adult brass dragon, adult copper dragon, adult green dragon, behir, fomorian, frost giant, mammoth, stone giant

Huge Strength 25 (+7)
Carrying Capacity: 1,500 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 3,000 pounds
Monsters: adult blue dracolich, adult blue dragon, adult bronze dragon, fire giant, goristo, tyrannosaurus rex

Huge Strength 26 (+8)
Carrying Capacity: 1,560 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 3,120 pounds
Monsters: balor

Huge Strength 27 (+8)
Carrying Capacity: 1,620 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 3,240 pounds
Monsters: adult gold dragon, adult red dragon, adult silver dragon, cloud giant

Huge Strength 29 (+9)
Carrying Capacity: 1,740 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 3,480 pounds
Monsters: storm giant

Huge Strength 30 (+10)
Carrying Capacity: 1,800 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 3,600 pounds
Monsters: empyrean

 

tarrasque-5e

Gargantuan Monsters

Gargantuan Strength 25 (+7)
Carrying Capacity: 3,000 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 6,000 pounds
Monsters: dragon turtle

Gargantuan Strength 26 (+8)
Carrying Capacity: 3,120 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 6,240 pounds
Monsters: ancient white dragon

Gargantuan Strength 27 (+8)
Carrying Capacity: 3,240 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 6,480 pounds
Monsters: ancient black dragon, ancient brass dragon, ancient copper dragon, ancient green dragon

Gargantuan Strength 28 (+9)
Carrying Capacity: 3,360 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 6,720 pounds
Monsters: purple worm, roc

Gargantuan Strength 29 (+9)
Carrying Capacity: 3,480 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 6,960 pounds
Monsters: ancient blue dragon

Gargantuan Strength 30 (+10)
Carrying Capacity: 3,600 pounds
Push, Lift, Drag: 7,200 pounds
Monsters: ancient gold dragon, ancient red dragon, ancient silver dragon, kraken, tarrasque

 

Observations on 5e Monster Strength

That’s a lot of data! And there’s some interesting things to be learned here.

Average Strength scores for each size category vary.

Here’s how the average Strength scores for 5e monsters shake out:

  • Tiny monsters have an average Strength score of 3.35.
  • Small and Medium monsters have an average Strength score of 12.57.
  • Large monsters have an average Strength of 17.69.
  • Huge monsters have an average Strength of 23.53.
  • Gargantuan monsters have an average Strength of 28.14.

Not all Strength scores are created equal in D&D 5e.

A Large fire elemental has a Strength of 10. That means it can carry 300 pounds (we’ll pretend it doesn’t set anything on fire when it does this). However, for a Medium or Small creature, it would take a Strength score of 20 to be as strong as a fire elemental.

The only Strength score that exists in more than two size categories (at least in the Monster Manual) is the 19. Six monsters have a Strength 19 that are Small/Medium, eighteen that are Large, and six huge. That means that a flesh golem is really only half as strong as a brown bear when it comes to carry or push/lift/drag. And a giant constrictor strength has double the relative strength of the brown bear.

Strength Score of 1 is for insubstantial or very weak Tiny animals.

The only monsters that get awarded the super low 1 Strength score are those that are either ghostly such as the banshee and specter, or are Tiny and don’t have an easy way of physically picking things up like floating skulls (demiliches and flaming skulls) or frogs. After Small and Medium, the lowest score is 5 in Large and that’s for gas spores which are essentially just giant beholder-shaped balloons.

Gargantuan Strength scores are broken.

Using the math from the Player’s Handbook, we learn that tarrasque can only carry 3,600 pounds and push/lift/drag 7,200 pounds. To put that in perspective, a modern forklift can carry 4,000 lbs. In fact, a modern forklift unloaded weighs 9.000 lbs. The tarrasque can’t even pick the forklift up!

5e Tarrasques are reported to weigh 130 tons. That means it’s only capable of carrying 1.4% of their total body weight.

Taking this conversation to social media, I learned that there’s something called square-cube law that affects the carrying capacities of large things. I’ll spare you the math, but it’s why blue whales can only live in the oceans and skyscrapers are harder to create when they get bigger and bigger.

But the tarrasque is a fantasy creature! Screw your maths!

Where Strength scores make sense: attacks.

Regarding attacks, Strength scores are somewhat balanced thanks to the fact that larger creatures use larger weapons and larger weapons roll more dice.

For example: a Medium sized greatclub wielded by a Strength 19 PC fighter deals 8 (1d8 + 4) damage. Meanwhile, a greatclub swung by a Large ogre does 13 (2d8 + 4) damage. That’s 1.63 times more damage than the adventurer despite having the same Strength mod. I can dig it.

Where Strength scores get dumb: opposed checks.

The trouble, though, is when there’s a contest of Strength between that same fighter and the ogre. Under the grappling rules, for instance, that same fighter can maintain a grapple with the ogre by using its own Strength (Athletics) check contested by the ogre’s Strength (Athletics) check. We’ll pretend that the fighter has only his Strength modifier for Athletics (+4). That means the ogre–which deals 1.63 times more damage with its great club and can lift twice what the fighter can, mind you–has an even chance of resisting the grapple.

And vice versa, if a Huge hill giant has a grapple with that same Strength 19 fighter (because creatures two size categories bigger than their target can still grapple them and not the other way around), the opposed Strength (Athletics) checks are again on even ground.

I call bullshit.

By the way, the same applies to shoving. Or any other opposed Strength check.

A potential fix to this issue.

I believe it’s tacky to create a problem without a solution. Therefore, here’s the fix:

Creatures one size larger get advantage on opposed Strength checks.

When it comes to Strength checks, creatures that are one size larger are awarded advantage to their opposed Strength checks. This works because an advantage on a roll is effectively a +5 bonus. And a Strength 20 (+5) creature is comparatively only a Strength 10 (+0) creature to one that’s a size larger than it if you go by the carrying, lift/push/drag rules.

So if a Strength 19 fighter tries to grapple an ogre, the ogre gets to roll advantage on the opposed roll. On average, the fighter’s d20 should roll 10-11. Meanwhile, the ogre’s average with 2d20 will be around 15-16. Now that makes more sense.

Creatures two sizes larger than the opposition get advantage on opposed Strength checks AND creatures two sizes smaller than the opposition get disadvantage on opposed Strength checks.

RAW states that a creature two sizes smaller than its target can’t initiate a grapple or a shove. But that’s boring! Plus, if it’s being grappled by a creature two sizes larger than it with roughly the same Strength, it has an even chance of getting away.

Instead, give the creature that’s two sizes larger than its opposition advantage on its Strength roll to maintain and escape grapples. Then, on top of that, give the creature that’s two sizes smaller than its opposition disadvantage on its own Strength roll.

Looking back at the Strength 20 fighter, if it tries to grapple with a hill giant using its Strength modifier, it gets disadvantage, effectively making its average roll a 5. And the hill giant will get advantage, too, giving it an average of 15 on its rolls. In other words, it’s unlikely the fighter will grapple the hill giant, but not impossible. And if we turn the tables, the hill giant has a pretty excellent chance of grabbing the fighter if the fighter uses only its Strength to try to escape.

Creatures three sizes larger than the opposition automatically succeed on contested Strength checks.

Finally, for size differences of three or more, creatures three sizes larger automatically succeed on opposed Strength checks. If an ancient red dragon has grappled ourStrength 20 fighter, the fighter ain’t getting away unless he uses another method to escape (more on that in a moment). Flip the tables and the same if the fighter tries to start a grapple with the Ancient Red Dragon: it just ain’t happening.

What about Dexterity (Acrobatics) vs Strength (Athletics)?

Note: for grapples and shoves, the target can choose to use its Dexterity (Acrobatics) score to avoid being grappled or shoved. When this occurs–when it’s Strength (Athletics) vs Dexterity (Acrobatics)–it’s a pure opposition roll without either side getting advantage or disadvantages due to variance in size.

A Strength 20 fighter caught in the jaws of the tarrasque has no hope in prying himself free with just his muscles alone. However, if he manages to slip out between its teeth using his quickness and skill, then there’s a pretty good chance he’ll get away.

Conclusion

I’ll probably look back in on this a few times more in the future and make necessary adjustments. Hopefully, the information here is helpful for you and your game and you have a better understanding of how Strength works in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

Chances are I’ll probably put together an infographic with the monsters, too as well as a chart that better clarifies how the differences in size matters for advantages on opposed Strength checks.

Anyways, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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See you soon!

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