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I run a B/X game for a few guys, most of whom have only played 3E before. It leads to a lot of talk about the change in power level between basic and 3E. One of the things that came up was the somewhat lower attribute modifiers and bonuses.

"Oh man!" I exclaimed. "I bet you guys don't know about percentile strength!"

So, I pulled up the 1E PHB and I was blown away myself to see just how much more powerful 18/00 was compared to plain old 18. A cleric with 18 strength gets +2 damage, while a fighter with 18/00 gets +6. Wow! I remember loving the extra roll being a possibility as a player, and hating the possibility for such a massive bonus as a DM. I don't think it ever came up in play, either way.

Where did this system come from? Was it just invented for AD&D 1E, or was it prefigured in a Dragon article, or what?

UPDATE: Given that aramis pointed out its origin in OD&D's Greyhawk, I doubt we'll find anything on the motivation for it, but if anyone finds that, I would still be quite interested. (Speculation like "Gary wanted to give more damage bonus to strong character" can be omitted, unless we find evidence.)

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Actually, Gygax answered that questions many times. Here is the first one Google found for me. “At first blush I decided that 18 was the maximum for a human, but then to make fighters more viable, and because the concpt of degrees of strength in the 18 cap followed logically, I used the percentile measurement. As for strength over 18, any such ability is superhuman and must be magically endowed in my view. The 18/% did give the fighter a real boost.” (Sigh...limited formatting in comments) –  Robert Fisher Jun 4 '13 at 13:18
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up vote 13 down vote accepted

The first rulebook including it was D&D Supplement 1: Greyhawk, on page 7. This predates AD&D by several years.

It also places it squarely into Gygax's purview.

They're in Hackmaster 4E and AD&D 2E as well, plus in OD&D.

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