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Have I missed something, or is Strength really only worth it when it is the only option?

Let's say you want to hit someone in close combat, no matter the weapon. Each die has 50% probability to grant you a success when rolling for damage and 10% to lose one success, so 0.4 successes on average. That's all that Strength dice do: providing you with 0.4 average health level of damage per die, given that you have already hit successfully.

Dexterity is used when you roll to hit, with the same 0.4 average successes per die. But if you roll more successes than needed, they are added as damage dice too! So by increasing Dexterity, not only do you increase your damage, but also your chances to successfully hit. For example, with Dexterity 2 you roll 0/1/2 successes with a chance of 35%/40%/25% respectively, and with Dexterity 3 chances of 0/1/2/3 successes are 26%/31.5%/30%/12.5% (against standard difficulty of 6).

This is especially important when your enemy performs a defensive maneuver (parry, block, dodge).

The only case when you probably want to look for more damage is when difficulty to hit increases, such as if your enemy uses a shield. If the difficulty to hit is 7, each Dexterity die only gives 0.3 successes on average, while each Strengh die still gives 0.4.

But even then Strength is not the best solution! Go for Potence: it gives you automatic successes on all Strength-related rolls (even though you need to spend blood points for it in V20 edition). It is a plain +1 success per level. Yes, Potence is a bit more expensive — at character generation it costs 7 freebie points, and attributes cost 5 — but it gives exactly 2.5 times more damage for that, and is far more stable! Plus sometimes, when you don't feel that you need to spend blood, you can just go with the Strength bonus alone. For XP, Potence cost equals current rating × 5 if it is in-clan Discipline, or ×7 if out-of-clan, and Strength cost is always current rating × 4. The only moment when you should buy Strength as a neonate to get more successes on damage rolls on average is when your Strength costs less than (cost of Potence × 2.5). If Potence is an out-of-clan Discipline, this only happens when Potence is on level 4 and Strength is on level 1$ if the latter is on level 2, on Potence level 4 if you buy Strength, you buy the same average amount of successes per attack with less stability.

OK, let's say Potence is already at level 5, so is Dexterity, and you can't increase it further. Then Celerity is the answer: each level effectively gives you the ability to attack more times per turn.

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The main answer to your question is "when you want to play a character who is more naturally strong than naturally dexterous." But you're looking for an optimization strategy, so that's not a complete answer.

From a purely optimization standpoint, I'd say:

  1. You don't explicitly call out in your math favoring an extra Dexterity level that the extra die is worth 0.4^2 = 0.16 damage. It reads like you might be operating from the assumption that it's the same 0.4 you get from a Strength die.
  2. Potence and Celerity aren't available to all characters; if your question is specifically about Vampire and its variants, I'd suggest changing the title of your post.
  3. Strength is used for many things besides damage. It's hard to work that into an optimization algorithm, but you may need to kick down doors, lift a car off someone or whatever else, which Dexterity won't get you very far at (but Potence will).

Really, though, all of these are mitigating factors toward the basic fact your question is pointing at: in the classic World of Darkness rules combat is far more ruled by having a high Dexterity than anything else. This is a pretty widely-accepted interpretation of the system, that nearly any time the system has an opportunity to make Strength or Stamina relevant, there's some shortcut that makes Dexterity even better at it. You probably won't find many people arguing against that conclusion; whether that's a feature or a bug, however, is pretty hotly contested.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it is not only WOD related, but generally so for ALL systems that use dex to hit and give the ability to increase damage the better you hit (at least from a few dozen rpg systems). \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Aug 13 '16 at 4:44

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