## Theoretical Optimization Manifesto

21 posts / 0 new
alphathegreat
Joined Mar 2008
1545 Posts
This comes up from time to time, and it's really annoying, so I'm making this thread to point people to, instead of having to retype it every time.

The situation:
1.  COer posts a theoretical build or concept.  It may be useful, it may be utterly ambiguous rules interpretation, doesn't matter.  It's theoretical, and it's not houserules or homebrew.
2.  Several posters come in and complain "that doesn't apply to CharOp!" or "what's the point of a theoretical build if you can't use it?"
3.  Other people see it and think "oh, theoretical stuff is not welcome anywhere."
4.  I get mad.

So, here's my defense of TO in the form of

The Theoretical Optimization Manifesto

1.  Theoretical Optimization is fun.

Many of us here in the CO optimize for the sake of optimizing.  We revel in the rules, in configuring powerful characters, in being creative and in manipulating the system.  Long before I played in a practical D&D game, I had built many characters for the sake of building them.  Theoretical builds, using rules loopholes or ambiguous interpretations, overly powerful combinations, and clever creative uses of resources, are cool.  Many people don't like them, and that's okay.  The builds aren't for them.  They are for those of us who appreciate and admire the theory.
Pun-pun was not designed to play, but to enjoy the idea that the 3.5e rules allow the creation of a character with unlimited power.  At level 1.
Nanobots exist within the structure of the 3.5e rules.
4e has its own twisted possibilities.
These are cool concepts, cool characters.  They are fun to create, fun to read about for many of us here in the CO.

2.  Theoretical Optimization is a useful resource.

You can divide science into two categories: applied and theoretical.  Theoretical science may have obvious applications, or it may not.  Even when it does not, one day it may...and the theory will be there when it is needed.
Theoretical optimization pushes at the boundaries of the ruleset, exploring territory that may one day be used, or may never be.
Long before I developed the Arcane Slasher, other TOers produced Infinite Minion Bamfing and The Apocalypse Twins.  Both were theoretical, because the concepts weren't really the sort of thing you wanted to pull on a DM (banhammers being what they are).  Eventually I was able to turn the concept into something more practical (and yes, I also pushed some theoretical bounds at the same time).  Without those previous posters, I might never have seen the potential that lay hidden in the Feytouched and Long Night Scion PPs.
Furthermore, many DMs use TO ideas for their NPCs or recurring villains with good success.
Theory is a resource with many dead-ends, and many hidden gems.  It is good for the CO to have that resource available.

3.  Theoretical Optimization highlights rules problems.

One of the objectives of game design, especially in 4e, is a tight ruleset that presents a balanced game.  Balance is generally good for fun.  If there's a problem with the rules, you can either pretend it's not there, or fix it.  DMs and game designers alike have an incentive to know what needs fixing and what could happen if it doesn't get fixed.  Furthermore, DMs have many different ways of dealing with balance issues, and it's good for those DMs to have more information so that their methods can be better.  Information is good.

4.  Theoretical Optimization encourages good rules understanding.

Theoretical exploration of the rules encourages people to learn the rules so they can know what is valid and what is not.  I'm sure we can all agree that it is a good thing for people to know the rules of the game they play.

5.  Theoretical Optimization is still Character Optimization.

Even if you ignore the positive qualities of TO, it is still optimization.  For a time in 3.5e, there was a separate board for TO.  That is no longer the case.  As such, theoretical builds have no proper place outside the CO.  TOers have a right to post here as much as any of us have a right to post on these forums.  TO has a place here even if the only reason you will accept is that this is the only place that it COULD belong.

Theoretical Optimization belongs in the CO.
When someone posts a theoretical build or idea, ensure that people know it's theoretical, then judge it on its own merits.  The fact that it is theoretical is useful only to tell you what kind of discussion to have, not whether the discussion should take place at all.
awaken_D_M_golem
Joined Dec 2006
2977 Posts
Hey, Pun-pun might have survived the Spellplague.
Just take a look at the Sarrukh rituals in FRCG ... (strong hint smiley face)

There's an errata to skill checks, that had only one "loop-hole".
IN combat the PHB aid another, could go higher than the +2 times 4.
So crank up those weird Monster skill checks in-combat Swarm/Mob thingy.
Completely useless.
Completely bonkers in a good way.
(sigh) ... A nerf with my name on it.

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AirPower25
Joined Sep 2009
581 Posts
Alpha, I agree 100%.  Another application, especially in 4th, is that these theoretical builds make excellent NPCs and Villains.  I actually used a NPC version of the early Arcane Slashers as a recurring villain.  Would I ever let one of my players run the slasher, no.  That said, it made a fun, difficult, and rewarding bad guy with a powerset that was cool and still "mostly" within the rules.
ShakaUVM
Joined Feb 2003
3830 Posts
Any sane DM would nerf this Manifesto.
elwyndas
Joined Jul 2008
1753 Posts
what's the point of a theoretical build if you can't use it?
WEContact
Joined Jun 2008
1990 Posts
Define 'use', Elwyndas.
GelatinousOctahedron
Joined Jun 2008
5782 Posts
@ elwyndas: they are fun to come up with.  All the builds I post should be allowable and are useful and playable, but it is fun to see just how much you can optimize turn undead for instance, even though I would never actually play that character.

Right now in another thread people are figuring out how to max their initiative bonus at level 30 and are getting numbers into the 70s and 80s (even higher if you have party support) and even though those characters are not actually that useful, some of the combinations they come up with to get there will be.
Mengu74
Joined Nov 2007
3328 Posts
This reminds me of the age long argument, is art for the people, or for the artist? I guess this makes char-op an art?

I think on theoretical build threads (or maybe any thread), next to the "reply" weapon, we need an "ignore" button. Just the ability to click "ignore" will probably have people feel like they took an action they can be pleased with (maybe even a thumb up thumb down feature), without cluttering the thread with their philosophical musings.
Seeten
Joined Jul 2005
525 Posts
OMG Word Wrap, people, use it!
Khan_the_Destroyer
Joined Apr 2004
3484 Posts
Maybe we need to split the CO Forum into two separate forums, one for Practical Optimization and one for Theor---- oh wait... that didn't work last time.

Hey, Pun-pun might have survived the Spellplague.
Just take a look at the Sarrukh rituals in FRCG

ADMG, you may have just cost me 30 bucks. It'll be like my first time flipping through Serpent Kingdoms all over again. (Well, probably not.)
elwyndas
Joined Jul 2008
1753 Posts
@ elwyndas: they are fun to come up with.  All the builds I post should be allowable and are useful and playable, but it is fun to see just how much you can optimize turn undead for instance, even though I would never actually play that character.

Right now in another thread people are figuring out how to max their initiative bonus at level 30 and are getting numbers into the 70s and 80s (even higher if you have party support) and even though those characters are not actually that useful, some of the combinations they come up with to get there will be.

Sorry I was only quoting the OP:
2.  Several posters come in and complain "that doesn't apply to CharOp!" or "what's the point of a theoretical build if you can't use it?"

I wanted to make sure that the statement is factual, thus I posted the question.
awaken_D_M_golem
Joined Dec 2006
2977 Posts
umm ... Khan, you probably can spend your money elsewhere, and get more bang/buck etc ...
but if you do, it's FRCampaignG not the players guide.

It's completely open ended, with no crunch at all. It's just there.

(I think they put it in there just for you) (conspiracy)

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alphathegreat
Joined Mar 2008
1545 Posts
To be clear, I'm not talking about false rules interpretations.  If a build relies on things that are genuinely wrong, they are worth discussing and pointing that out.  But many theoretical builds DO rely on interpretations of rules that are ambiguous, or can be construed in a fashion that is contrary to what you'd expect.  Such things can make a build theoretical because the rule works in theory, but may not pass the DM test.  Or the "I would be willing to try this in a real game" test.
Its a fun exercise to practice or see others produce.

You guys often push the machine to its utter limits and beyond, to point break and backlashs and or infinite loops even. You break thing and more...but i am sure some of your work have pushed an Update into existance on more than once occasions.

I am just happy you are not playing those "prototype" IMC

But oh definitly a fun (and teaching) read everytime.
The_Crimson_Dawn
Joined Oct 2005
2552 Posts
Maybe we need to split the CO Forum into two separate forums, one for Practical Optimization and one for Theor---- oh wait... that didn't work last time.

Hey, Pun-pun might have survived the Spellplague.
Just take a look at the Sarrukh rituals in FRCG

ADMG, you may have just cost me 30 bucks. It'll be like my first time flipping through Serpent Kingdoms all over again. (Well, probably not.)

Didn't work last time and there is far far less TO in 4e than back in 3.X.  Less loopholes I guess and more updates to the rules.  I am sure you know that though but for newer people that don't know...look up the older stuff they could be crazy in a fun way.
awaken_D_M_golem
Joined Dec 2006
2977 Posts

Didn't work last time and ...

Wait-a-minute ... what exactly are you refering to there ?!

(evil grin)

5E mini- SRD available now in HTML here:  http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop/players-basic-rules

Krika
Joined Nov 2009
777 Posts
Because if it is what I think you are referring to, I have one angry kobold that wishes to see you. :D
Take a look at my Handbook: The Pet Store: A Familiar Keeper's Handbook Nacht: "Vecna can do ANYTHING given preptime. He's like an undead lich god Batman."
vonlazuli
Joined Dec 2009
392 Posts
He he...

We have a running joke in our gaming group that any time a kobold aquires a viper familiar the gods descend upon the hapless (and likely witless) kobold, killing him where he stands.

Anyway, good work Alpha, TO is definitely CO, although I would be a little loathe to bring a completely cutting edge optimized build to the table if I didn't know what style of game we were playing before hand. Thus, for me, most builds on this board I consider theoretical.

Laz
The_Crimson_Dawn
Joined Oct 2005
2552 Posts

Didn't work last time and ...

Wait-a-minute ... what exactly are you refering to there ?!

(evil grin)

The fact that people posted TO builds in PO all the time.  It just wasn't worth the hassle.

Now if you want to talk Kobolds...I would never speak about my over-Deity in a negative way...
warrl
Joined Apr 2009
5268 Posts
One advantage of engaging in TO is that we have a group of people here who can - as a matter of reflex, without evidence of taking time for conscious thought - accurately assess a feat or power's power level, and even identify combos that push it.

So when the new issue of Dragon contains an article with a level-3 power that ought to be named "Epic Win Button For Eladrin Starpact Warlocks With Gloaming Shroud", it will be at most a couple of hours before that is pointed out. And the article will shortly be pulled for reworking.

(No, I don't know if there has been a power where that exact name would be appropriate. It seems unlikely. But I have seen comments identifying overpowered combos appear literally within minutes of an article becoming available to download, and seen an article pulled within a couple hours.)

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose