I know that I wouldn’t want to come at a white-haired witch with a pair of scissors. It takes a special kind of stylist to tackle special kinds of hair, and Barbarian is all kinds of special. I just wish that the other Strength-based PCs in my life believed they were special too.

No matter what system you’re running in, there’s a tendency to think of strong PCs as “the big dumb guy,” a subspecies of one-trick pony. They’re buff, they’re tough, and they stand at the front during combat. More troubling is the notion that they don’t do much else besides that. No doubt we can come up with any number of mechanical reasons why this might be so, but I think there’s more going on here than rules. In my experience, it’s simply hard to think of cool things for strong characters to do.

YMMV, but a lot of my thinking on this point comes from superhero games. When I was learning Heroclix way back in the day, I remember feeling disappointed in super strength. The ability allowed you to pick up heavy objects. You could bash people with the objects or throw them at your enemies, but that was it. While that’s still an occasionally useful power, it’s a long way from the fantasy of super strength I picture in my head. I want to bust through walls, tie people up with steel girders, maybe hurl a Canadian or two….

I’ve got to be fair to Heroclix though. That’s a tactical minis game, and you can’t do everything you can imagine in a tactical minis game. When it came time for me to sit down for my first Mutants & Masterminds campaign though, I still found myself stuck in the same “pick up and bash” mindset. I’d decided to roll up a buff dude named Dirigible. In addition to being super strong, he also catches on fire and flies at a top speed of 5 mph (Oh, the humanity!). I was happy with the character’s backstory and personality, but the first couple of combats were a slog. It was nothing but a slug-fest! “I guess I hit him again” was my mantra, and no amount of Austrian-accented one-liners could save the experience from tedium. It was only when I looked at the list of strength-related power feats (“ground strike!” “shock wave!” “super breath!” “thunder clap!”), that I began to get a sense of the possibilities. Contrast this to agility-based maneuvers. Running across enemies’ heads, leaping down from the top rope to attack, and swinging Spider-Man style from streetlamps all come naturally. I’ve seen a hundred stunt men and anime protagonists do that stuff, and it’s easy to come up with on the spot. Inventing something for the strong guys beyond “I pick up the thing and hit them with the thing” is harder.

My solution at this point is to take a cue from those Mutants & Masterminds power feats. I’ll do a bit of brainstorming between sessions, and make sure that I’ve got a short list of bullet points ready to go. The current list written on the back of Dirigible’s character sheet includes:

  • “Tent stake” (read: pound an enemy into the ground)
  • “Bring down the house” (read: collapse a building)
  • “Hang time” (throw them up in the air for X rounds)

That’s a pretty short list, so I’m betting you can guess where I’m going with today’s discussion question.

What are some of the best strength-based maneuvers you’ve seen in a game? What should go on every beefcake’s list of “cool feats of strength?” Maybe you’ve even got a few ideas for interesting out-of-combat weightlifting? Let’s hear your best brawny brainstorming down in the comments!


SO WHAT ARE WE PLAYING NEXT? Tell me if you’ve been here. The campaign just ended, and it’s time to choose the next system. You’re dying for a classic dungeon crawl, but the rest of the group is ready to let Steve run his Bunnies and Burrows / Sonic the Hedgehog mashup campaign. That’s not a conversation you want to miss. If you’re the kind of gamer that wants their voice heard, check out the “Quest Giver” reward level over on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. You’ll become part of the monthly vote to see which elements get featured in the comic next!