# What does a strength check of 24 actually mean?

In the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, barbarians receive this ability;

Indomitable Might

Beginning at 18th level, if your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.

As a level 20 goliath barbarian, with a strength score of 24 (base 18, +2 from race, +4 from barbarian final level ability), Indomitable Might means that without fail I can always apply the outcome of a 24 or higher on any strength check. What does that translate to, in real world physics?

With a strength of 24, and the powerful build racial ability, I can use rules within the system to determine the maximum amount of weight I can lift. (24 str x 30 max lift x 2 for large size = 1,040 lbs). Knowing that I can lift half a ton of weight, I am able to understand how strong my character is, and what his strength actually enables me to do in a role-playing sense.

I can not find rules that translate in this way what a 24 strength check result actually allows. Normally, it would not be a problem, as it's simply a case-by-case basis. I could not get that result consistently, so it would be very unlikely I'd be able to do anything that relies on me doing it consistently. However, Indomitable Might changes that.

As an example of what I'm looking for; In another game system I use, objects have a 'break DC,' which represents the amount of strength needed to just break them. By comparing what a check of 24 allows me to break in this system, I could translate that into real-world numbers to determine what kind of feats of strength I'd actually be capable of. Are there any lists of strength-checks in 5e D&D that I could use like this? If not, are there any strength check DCs predetermined by the book that could be used for comparison? These would be examples of bench marks that could be used to help determine what a strength check of 24 would represent, in real-world terms.

• Feb 6, 2020 at 22:59
• You are asking for what the outcome of DC 24 strength is in terms of real world capabilities as defined by the system? If so, I think this is scoped reasonably (ie. not too broad), but that you should more clearly emphasise the single question. As it stands it might look to a reader to be two different questions, which your bolding of both does not help. Feb 7, 2020 at 0:02
• @Someone_Evil Edited it for clarity. Yes, my main concern is what a DC 24 strength check is in real-physics terms. Other systems I've used have defined it more clearly, while 5e is a bit more vague. Being D&D, I've also had a harder time getting access to works beyond the players manual and DMG. I mentioned the lists, etc., in the hopes that there was a book/module I just hadn't found which would serve as a fairly ideal answer to my question.
– Zach
Feb 7, 2020 at 0:35
• There isn't a list unfortunately, there aren't even that many examples in sourcebooks and published adventures. In absence of practically any official guidance, what kind of answer would help you? "Knowing that I can lift half a ton of weight, I am able to understand how strong my character is, and what his strength actually enables me to do in a role-playing sense." I feel like that should actually tell you a lot, and I'm not sure what more I can add. One thing to keep in mind is that you can always test or estimate your skill at a check, lifting something isn't all or nothing Feb 7, 2020 at 0:47
• I think that you are making basic mistake of assuming that check difficulties are in any way relatable to real world phenomena. Think about strongest men in the world doing what he knows very well (for total check around +10) versus average weakling doing something he never attempted (check +0). For DC 17, expert succeeds in 70% cases, while noob manages it in 20% of cases. Now, go to the gym and find a strength based experience where top athletes fail in 30% of attempts, but random person can suceed 1 attempts in 5... D&D checks are purely game mechanic with no relation whatsoever to reality Feb 7, 2020 at 10:51

## Ah! A hard one but not a very hard one

From the DMG p.238:

When you do so, think of how difficult a task is and then pick the associated DC from the Typical DCs table.

Typical DCs

$$\ \begin{matrix} \text{Task} & \text{DC} & \text{Task} & \text{DC}\\ \text{Very easy} & \text{5} & \text{Hard} & \text{20}\\ \text{Easy} & \text{10} & \text{Very hard} & \text{25}\\ \text{Moderate} & \text{15} & \text{Nearly impossible} & \text{30}\\ \end{matrix} \$$

With 24 Strength you have +7 if you are non-proficient and +13 if you are proficient. So we can rewrite the table for you:

$$\ \begin{matrix} \text{Task} & \text{DC} & \text{Task} & \text{DC}\\ \text{Very easy} & \text{100%} & \text{Hard} & \text{100%}\\ \text{Easy} & \text{100%} & \text{Very hard} & \text{20% or 50%}\\ \text{Moderate} & \text{100%} & \text{Nearly impossible} & \text{0% or 20%}\\ \end{matrix} \$$

Also from the DMG:

• It's Very Hard to pull yourself out of quicksand if you have sunk 15 feet into it (p. 110)
• It's Hard to pry open a locked pit cover (p. 122)
• It's Hard to slow a Rolling Sphere trap (p. 123)
• It's Hard to pull another creature out of a Bag of Devouring (p.153)
• It's Nearly Impossible to move an Immovable Rod (p. 175)
• It's Hard to break the Iron Bands of Bilarro (p. 177)

Everything else in there is Moderate or easier.

• This outlines fairly well the problem I'm having. Examples of 'moderate' difficulty are easy enough to find, but many involving 'hard' difficulty or greater are tied to magical items, which have no real-world counter parts. The page numbers were very helpful, though, as I'd actually missed the traps.
– Zach
Feb 7, 2020 at 1:54
• +1 I can only hope to play D&D long enough to actually get to see someone successfully move an Immovable Rod. Feb 7, 2020 at 14:26
• @ReginaldBlue It's sort of like moving Thor's hammer Mjölnir! :-) Feb 7, 2020 at 17:34

I'm not aware of a specific list of break DCs for objects in the core rulebooks. The DMG on page 238 does give some general descriptions of DCs, stating that "A DC 25 task is very hard for low-level characters to accomplish, but it becomes more reasonable after lOth level or so." The table goes up to 30, which is described as "nearly impossible." Obviously "very hard" is pretty subjective, and is offset by your character's ability score. For your character, you basically have a possible range of 24-33 in a strength check, so 25 would probably a light amount of effort. Anything below 24 would be essentially effortless.

A good point of reference may be to see what DCs are used in published modules. In the Curse of Strahd, for example, there are some crypts with 5ft x 3ft x 3inch stone slabs covering them. Removing or replacing these slabs is a DC 15 check (pg 85). There is a crypt with a large slab (pg. 93) which is 8ft x 6ft (depth is not listed, I would assume again around 3 inch). This one is a DC 20. Yet another tomb (also pg 93) is guarded by a portcullis (heavy metal gate) which is a DC 25 to lift. I cannot find any strength checks in the book with a DC higher than 25.

On page 33, the module says this about doors in the region:

"Doors. A wooden door can be forced open with a successful DC 10 Strength check, or DC 15 if the door is barred or reinforced in some other manner. Increase the DC by 5 if the door is made of stone, or by 10 if it is made of iron. Decrease the DC by 5 if the door is made of glass or amber, or if the door is weakened in some manner (such as by rot or corrosion). ... A typical padlock can be broken by smashing it with a bludgeoning or slashing weapon and succeeding on a DC 20 Strength check."

The rules for jumping (PHB pg. 182) might also help correlate the strength store to real world terms.

Long Jump. When you make a long jump, you cover a number of feet up to your Strength score if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing long jump, you can leap only half that distance.

...

High Jump. When you make a high jump, you leap into the air a number of feet equal to 3 + you Strength modifier (minimum of 0 feet) if you move at least 10 feet on foot immediately before the jump. When you make a standing high jump, you can jump only half that distance.

For a frame of reference, the Olympic record for men's long jump is 29.2ft (8.9m) and women's is 24.3ft (7.4m). Of course, it's not a perfect analogy, as Olympic long jumpers have trained specifically to be good at this and your character is supposedly just good at this from pure strength built up over the years spent killing monsters. It's also important to remember that D&D is not intended to be 100% realistic, so the constraints of the game may not, and need not, always match up perfectly with real life.

• This is very helpful, especially the last part. By that quote, a stone door, barred on one side, would have a set DC of 20 to open, while a barred iron door would be 25. Assuming best-case scenerio, that gives me a range I can work with to reference what kind of sheer-strength is required to break into a door of that kind. I don't have that module, unfortunately. Could you provide a link to it? If not, additional information about the kinds of doors (such as cultural design, typical dimensions, etc.) would be very helpful, if it's present at all.
– Zach
Feb 7, 2020 at 1:49
• As far as I can tell, they're pretty much just standard doors. The inhabitants of the region are human. That quote came from a sidebar about "common features have these stats unless otherwise stated." Presumably so the author didn't have to provide a DC for every door throughout the text. Unfortunately, I don't have a link to the module itself, here's the product page from WotC: dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/… Feb 7, 2020 at 18:01