Rewarding non-optimized builds

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I've been trying to think of ways to reward players for building their characters without immediately zeroing in on all the go-to feats and powers you see again and again on the optimization board.  I wouldn't try to discourage optimization, but I do think optimization is its own reward.

On the other hand, players who choose character options based more on RP reasons don't get much in the way of tangible rewards.

Any ideas?  Beyond quest-related XP rewards and such, I mean.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
well back in my old group our dm rewards good roleplaying with a system of karma.
pretty much good acts of roleplaying or tatics would rewards karma which in turn can be use to reroll an attack roll, skill check roll, or any other kind of roll....
Drop the PC nonsense. Laying waste to thousands of enemies by raining fire and death from the sky is women's work, dammit! By: Boraxe
On the other hand, players who choose character options based more on RP reasons don't get much in the way of tangible rewards.

Great question! How to best approach the situation will probably depend largely on the individual RP choices made by the player. 

For example, if a player chose the Linguist feat for RP reasons rather than going with a combat-related feat, a good way to reward that player might be to introduce an important NPC who doesn't speak common yet does speak one of player's chosen languages. Alternatively, you could have an NPC who does speak common, yet is impressed with the character's education, and favors that character as a result. Or the party might discover a long lost tome which written in one of the chosen languages, or a magic weapon with properties that are invoked by speaking in that language.

For a second example, imagine a player took Skill Training to become trained in History, or some other skill that isn't generally considered a combat skill. Imagine if that character's knowledge of history allowed him certain insights while viewing ruins of an ancient city, like "it was said the deceased King had a love of grapes," and other odd tidbits of information. Later, when the players are picking through the ruin, a faded still-life painting of grapes might stand out to the player trained in history. Further investigation might reveal an hidden passage behind the painting, apparently undiscovered and undisturbed. What lies within?

The problem with such characters is that since they're not optimized for combat, there are rarely good opportunities for you as a DM to make them useful in combat. While you can sometimes find exceptions, this is just a natural outgrowth of the choices the player has made when building their character. So the trick becomes to make them shine outside of combat, as a direct result of those same RP choices. This way everyone gets their turn in the spotlight.

At least that's my take. I'll be curious to hear how others deal with situations like this.
For RP reasons?  Custom magic items with deep history,  tweaked feats, and/or a tailored arch-nemesis usually do the trick.  This could mean giving them something that would be a bit too powerful in the hands of a hardcore optimizer or facing bosses that aren't dependent on flawless coordination/mathcraft to take down.  For me, what it usually comes down to is making their challenges slightly sub-optimal, but still full of flavor that everyone likes to see.
Really, whether a character is optimized or non-optimized, I think that as a DM, all you need to do is cater the adventure towards the PCs in some way. If somebody's good at combat, then make sure that there are some combats they can shine in. If someone is good at stealth, let that come into play. If someone has a wacky magic item they love (Wallwalkers), then make sure that they have some opportunity to use it.

This way, you aren't rewarding players for picking non-optimal builds, but you are giving each character, no matter how they are built, the opportunity for spotlight time and cool points. 

Also, I think it's important to treat optimized characters that way in combat. If the ranger is popping off tons of damage in melee, then the monsters are going to target him at range, and try to take him out as a high priority. That's NOT punishing the PC (or the player). That's sensible tactics.

If, on the other hand, someone has a build with a wide variety of effects and powers, then the enemies aren't going to be prepared for him. If someone has a subtle build, and isn't a clear powerhouse, then he isn't going to be the focus for enemy fire that a damage monster will be. 

Sometimes, I think that the optimizers can get a free ride because their DMs don't want to 'pick on' them.  The opportunity cost of being really effective is that you are the clear threat.
The problem with such characters is that since they're not optimized for combat, there are rarely good opportunities for you as a DM to make them useful in combat.

Hey wait a minute - there's a difference between "not optimized for combat as much as he could be" and "not useful in combat"!
"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
The problem with such characters is that since they're not optimized for combat, there are rarely good opportunities for you as a DM to make them useful in combat.

Hey wait a minute - there's a difference between "not optimized for combat as much as he could be" and "not useful in combat"!

Very true. I got a little loose with my phrasing there. I really only meant to say that it can be tricky for a DM to single-handedly make a combat-weak character shine in combat.

I in no way meant to suggest that characters who are not optimized for combat are not useful, or in any way imply that only combat-optimized characters are worth playing. I've made my share of characters who aren't optimized for combat, including one I'm playing now: a low-level changeling rogue|wizard hybrid who took Linguist as his first feat.
Thanks for the suggestions.  I will definitely think about developing some custom magic items!

My monsters already tend to go after the heaviest damage-dealers, so I've got that covered.

I might see if I can do something with that karma idea.  Maybe I can manage to tie level-up choices in with a tweaked version of the Force Point system from Star Wars d20.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
In general it's not always clear when a feat or power is chosen for role play vs combat reasons.

When I originally built my half-orc ranger, I started with a back story. That back story included being a slave and stealing items to make a weapon he used to escape the slaver city. The most logical weapon he could make while living as the slave of a blacksmith, which he could reasonably hide between the blacksmith's drunken binges, was a spiked chain, which could hide in plain sight in a pile of blacksmithing "trash".

So, two things came out of that backstory that were purely role-play, the ranger was proficient with a spiked chain, and he had a background of "criminal" since he was a practiced and accomplished thief.

Of course that background opened up some options for powers, so he took fast hands. Also for role playing reasons he chose the feat "exotic fighting style" which allowed him to shift one square between twin strike attacks while using a double weapon. This was taken because he was a "shifty" character.

Normally optimized rangers don't take fast hands, exotic fighting style and spiked chain. So should he be rewarded for those choices?

Well, it turns out that particular set of choices creates an extremely powerful melee combatant who is very difficult to pin down and hit, plus it allows him to draw and throw a dagger without using a minor action, so he is nearly equally effective with ranged and melee attacks. In the end he turned out to be a very survivable damage producing machine. Now, was I anticipating that these "role play" choices might potentially produce such a melee monster? Well... yes, yes I was...

So if you take this approach, be aware that someone could easily game this by appearing to take non-optimized choices to gain whatever benefit you might want to bestow, while actually having a very nicely stealth optimized character to boot.
So if you take this approach, be aware that someone could easily game this by appearing to take non-optimized choices to gain whatever benefit you might want to bestow, while actually having a very nicely stealth optimized character to boot.

To be honest, I would love for more people to do this, for several reasons.  You clearly put some thought into your character's personality and made an effort to blend story and mechanics.  More important, you did not resort to some obvious cookie-cutter build.

Did you get the build off of a message board?  Maybe, but I neither know nor care.  What matters is that you didn't gravitate to the most over-powered monstrosity you could find, and you're using some unique options that don't see as much play as some flavors-of-the-month.

If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
I will straight out edit rules for good concept characters to make them work better.

My one player was playing a Revenant warlock|paladin devoted to the Raven Queen. I changed all the paladin powers from radiant to necrotic, made up some feats he could take if he wanted, as well as a revenant background that gave a bonus with necrotic powers. I even gave him a +2 charisma.

I know there are people who will go "OMG that's so broken you run a Monty Haul game" but my players were having fun and I was having fun so I think I'm doing the right thing.
So if you take this approach, be aware that someone could easily game this by appearing to take non-optimized choices to gain whatever benefit you might want to bestow, while actually having a very nicely stealth optimized character to boot.

To be honest, I would love for more people to do this, for several reasons.  You clearly put some thought into your character's personality and made an effort to blend story and mechanics.  More important, you did not resort to some obvious cookie-cutter build.

Did you get the build off of a message board?  Maybe, but I neither know nor care.  What matters is that you didn't gravitate to the most over-powered monstrosity you could find, and you're using some unique options that don't see as much play as some flavors-of-the-month.



No, I didn't get any of his backstory, skills, powers or feats off of any boards. He was created at level 8. I think at level 10 I posted a question here on the charop board about how to improve his melee/ranged balance, but I got virtually no response.

I don't like to play cookie-cutter characters, I never have. I try to create unique and interesting characters and I take some pride in being able to go down unusual paths and still end up with a perfectly viable character. My ranger is the standout damage inducing character in our party, which includes an executioner's axe wielding barbarian. Of course I felt that I had some room to play with since rangers can be so easily overpowered.

Just balancing str and dex alone keeps him from being "optimized" since he can't advance both attributes as far as he could advance one or the other.

He just hit level 12 after our last session and our DM offered to let us exchange attributes for Martial Power 2 attributes since MP2 wasn't out when we last leveled up. I've been looking at the MP2 paragon paths and the mobility based feats and I'm seriously considering ditching twin strike itself in favor of throw and stab since that actually fits more with his general melee/ranged balanced concept anyway. But I'm not sure I can make that work with spiked chain, and I'm sorta committed to spiked chain due to his backstory.

What is amazing to me is how close he comes to some of the Charop builds in DPR and in nova damage in spite of his lack of true optimization. Although I did take called shot last level, so perhaps I've been bit more by the optimization bug than I'd care to admit...

Still, he's a dagger throwing spiked chain swinging ranger, how bad can he be?
So if you take this approach, be aware that someone could easily game this by appearing to take non-optimized choices to gain whatever benefit you might want to bestow, while actually having a very nicely stealth optimized character to boot.

To be honest, I would love for more people to do this, for several reasons.

Back before double weapons were nerfed, I found that a hybrid tempest fighter|ranger with a double weapon was a serious HP remover at low levels. For a while the concept was one of the dominant ones in a thread discussing high DPR in levels 1-3. But I discovered it by accident while building a character that is a dancer first and an adventurer second.

(And then my dancer reached level 2 so he could take the weapon proficiency on Saturday, and WotC released the update that nerfed double weapons the following Tuesday.)
"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
I've been trying to think of ways to reward players for building their characters without immediately zeroing in on all the go-to feats and powers you see again and again on the optimization board.  I wouldn't try to discourage optimization, but I do think optimization is its own reward.

On the other hand, players who choose character options based more on RP reasons don't get much in the way of tangible rewards.

Any ideas?  Beyond quest-related XP rewards and such, I mean.



I have an idea. Stop down this path you are going. Do not give preferential treatment to those who go against 'optimized' builds for 'RP' purposes. That undermines what the game is about and in doing so, you might find a slight against those that DO. The game is the game for a reason. RP should have no baring on whether or not someone chooses a Deva/Avenger or a Minotaur/Avenger. Yes, the Deva suits the class more 'optimal' than a Minotaur, but who cares? Optimization is based on perception, and RP needs neither. RP is RP for a reason. Build what you like I say. The system isn't so bloated and heavy that either/or, class/race combo should be rewarded just because  YOU deem it to be less than 'optimal'. With clever RPing, shallow rewards are meaningless, especially in THIS edition where tactical thinking and group dynamics are ALL. You're worried about the wrong thing.


I have an idea. Stop down this path you are going. Do not give preferential treatment to those who go against 'optimized' builds for 'RP' purposes. That undermines what the game is about and in doing so, you might find a slight against those that DO. The game is the game for a reason. RP should have no baring on whether or not someone chooses a Deva/Avenger or a Minotaur/Avenger. Yes, the Deva suits the class more 'optimal' than a Minotaur, but who cares? Optimization is based on perception, and RP needs neither. RP is RP for a reason. Build what you like I say. The system isn't so bloated and heavy that either/or, class/race combo should be rewarded just because  YOU deem it to be less than 'optimal'. With clever RPing, shallow rewards are meaningless, especially in THIS edition where tactical thinking and group dynamics are ALL. You're worried about the wrong thing.


This again shows that many people still don't understand the two aspects of "role play."

Widow here is making the classic "improvisational acting" argument for "role play" and is ignoring the game mechanic aspect of it. Both are important.

What the OP is trying to do is to try to have characters who are unique and interesting instead of characters that follow a cookie-cutter optimization path where one pit-fighter ranger looks more or less just like every other. That means pursuing less frequently utilized feats and powers which won't fit into an "optimized" mold, but which can be role played (game mechanic style) to provide a different flavor to both combat and non-combat play.

That's not "badwrongfun" it's just a goal. If the DM and players agree to it, then that's all that matters. For quite a while in the 2e and 3.5 world, after I and my normal group got tired of playing super-heroes we would eventually start building characters with significant flaws and limitations just to make the game more of a challenge. It can be a lot of fun to play such characters and in my experience it can enrich the role playing experience. So I am completely in favor of the OP's suggestion and wish the group well.
Thanks, baboon, that pretty much sums up what I've been thinking.

Another issue is this -- when there is a mix of optimizers and non-optimizers in the group, the game itself is going to punish one group or the other.  If the DM creates encounters that are a challenge to the optimizers, the others often have trouble being effective.  OTOH, if the encounters are built to be on the less difficult side, optimizers are going to have it way too easy and will likely get bored.

So yes, I think it is appropriate to give the non-optimized character a little boost.  Some campaigns may be a sort of competition to make the "best" (most optimized) character, but that is not what my game is about.  Mine is about everyone having fun and being a part of the story, and that means being able to contribute both in and out of combat.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.

I don't think of the group when i design, i think of the player.

YOu see, it doesn't matter in the end if some people optimize and some don't if you give each player an encounter where they shine.

OF course this only works if there isn't overlap in your group, if you have two rogues, it's difficult to set up a shinig moment for one without giving the option to the other.

… and then, the squirrels came.
I like what you're trying to do, but it runs into some fundamental problems. I think they can be overcome, though.

First: Don't reward obviously idiotic choices. A half orc who loves to get in the fray early and takes improved initiative on top of thirst for battle? No. 
Second: make sure you gain a backstory from each player in advance.
Third: Allow players to reflavor to taste. The dragonborn sorcerer wants to call himself a wizard? fine, as long as he keeps int out of the gutter and takes learned spellcaster or something
Fourth: don't confuse sub-optimal with flavorful, we have a paladin tank in one of our games who has no feat choices that are flavor-heavy, but has managed to skip weapon expertise going into 18th level now...
Fifth: I'd start handing out bonuses in combat for roleplaying attacks well

Beyond that, the way you help the non-op characters shine is to do a few things:

1: Divide and Conquer. Use monsters that can teleport some of the players to a slightly different area to spread the battle out over a big-ish map. This will mean the less op characters will have a chance to get star time

2: Powerful melee striker? Daze + difficult terrain. Leave something close to him so he gets to lay into it, but if he can't be everywhere, then other players will have time to shine

3. More generally, if your BBEG is smart, then target the OP characters more, it makes them feel important, and if they're a little bit diminished from that, then the other characters will again get more star time

4. cater to specific paragon paths, if you have a dragonslayer, well..... if you have a knight of the chalice throw in some devils if you have a champion of order, an elemental or demon would be nice(but not necessary, as order is just nutty anyway) 
 If the DM creates encounters that are a challenge to the optimizers, the others often have trouble being effective.  OTOH, if the encounters are built to be on the less difficult side, optimizers are going to have it way too easy and will likely get bored.

 

As I DM I tend to see the group as a whole rather than split between optimisers or non-optimisers, at least in terms of combat. Differences may occur if the group are drastically different in attack bonus' but overall the tactics and team play seem to benefit the group far more than builds. It seems exceptionally difficult to build a truly useless character in 4e. The difference can be bigger if one player maxes out a non-combat skill like perception for example, but again this usually just benefits the group overall so isn't necessarily a big problem

  Some campaigns may be a sort of competition to make the "best" (most optimized) character, but that is not what my game is about.  Mine is about everyone having fun and being a part of the story, and that means being able to contribute both in and out of combat.



I certainly applaud you in this regard. It's commendable to have the main goal as 'fun' regardless of how much combat you have in the game. If all the player's were trying to make the 'best' striker, then that's one challenge, but in a game where most players play in different roles then the only comparison is whether they can work well as a group, both in and out of combat, and whether they are involved and enjoying the story!
I've basically clamped maximum stats at 18 for the players.  This results in a much more diverse set of ability stats. i.e. Drow Rogue doesn't have 20 in dex, and instead has 18 in dex and Charisma. and so on.  The point is that you get a different kind of character capable of more when you do this.  You may find the players more interested in other capabilities afterwards, and no more 10 CON characters.

Often its overlooked that your low stats give you low defences outside of your class's AC.

Backgrounds often give your characters a capability or skill option that really makes for the kind of diversity you're looking for. Access to an arcana skill means you can get ritual casting.  You can get it with a 13 intelligence and a feat, a background, a race, or a class.  Currently my party has no magic user so the Eladrin/Rogue is a ritual caster instead.

I have a Goblin Rogue with Stealth Specialization.  He's well nigh undetectable.  He can probably move full speed and not be detected.  Its not obvious, but if you look at it, skill specialization is particularly kick a*s.

Players may not always see what all the alternatives really are.  For instance, the Feats to use "STAT for basic combat" really gives you another at-will power.  Beef up your basic attack, and make your at-wills things that knock down or push the opponent and not necessarily damage oriented.  Now you have a way more interesting character on the battle field.

One thing to do with a character in Character Builder is see what he's going to look like in 5 levels, 10 levels, and 15 levels.  If the players have a goal they may choose differently.  Often, you need many feats, and a set of stats to bring out more in a character.  Also.. Low level is really about survival (ie all the same feats being chosen), after that is taken care of I think the players don't really have a direction.


On the other hand I have to tell you... Half Orc-Barbarian-Execution Axe maxed out is a lot of fun.
I find the fact that my Ranger/Pit Fighter is touted as the stereotypical "cookie-cutter, all CharOp, no CharDev" Ranger build extremely amusing because if you actually take a look at him, the first thing that is displayed on the thread after the title is a sketch for it that I drew myself. It's not cookie-cutter if you're the first to develop it, folks.

That said, if a player consciously chooses to deviate from optimizing for a particular thing, reasonable accommodations to give him a fair share of shine time aren't out of the question. Emphasis on reasonable, though: Str 10 on a Fighter is dumb, regardless of how in line it is with your character concept. In that case, I recommend refluffing another class to fit the concept instead.
LDB: You did a great job creating the build. It certainly wasn't cookie cutter when you did it. But you must realize that it's one of the first things that a ranger player looks at when they visit this site. When I was invited to play with the group I am now playing with, they specifically requested a ranger, and the description they gave of a ranger was quite obviously based on your build.

I chose to go in a different direction, but I check out your build as a way of comparing whether my ranger is at least in the ballpark for his role.

For people to refer to your creation now as "cookie cutter" may be an indication that they'd like to see something different, but that's still quite a compliment on what you've done since it clearly has become a standard for the class.

I certainly am impressed not only by the end result, but by how carefully you've thought out each and every level. I learned a lot about how to build my own ranger from seeing what you did, even if I only have a few powers and feats in common with yours. Many of the concepts are suitable for different flavor.

Certainly I salute your efforts.
I certainly never meant to imply that I would reward a player who intentionally misallocated his ability scores.  That's just perverse.  I mentioned seldom-used feats and powers taken to build an RP theme; that's all.

If a player showed me a fighter with 10 STR, I would send him back to the drawing board, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 gp.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
Yeah, I see your point. You mean making some room for situations to use Linguist, Jack of all Trades (though this one does show up in CharOp builds that buff untrained skills to the point that you don't need to train them), Light Step, and others like them. That is perfectly reasonable in my book.

@brassbaboon: Thanks, man. Appreciated. I just wanted to point out that the character is not just an optimized collection of numbers, though he is certainly as optimized as I could make him be; I actually took the time to define my vision of his appearance and put it on paper, and then share it. He is meant to be a complete character.
As a player, I prefer the reward to be content-based.  Situations that allow for a suboptimal character choice to be instrumental in the success of the party justify concept over crunch better than anything else as far as I'm concerned.

For instance, if you want to reward the guy who plays the ranger for neglecting to pay his feat tax in favor of a tracking feat because he fancies his character to be an expert tracker, put scenes into the campaign wherein the party has to find and follow tracks frequently enough that the player feels that he traded +1 to hit for something as extremely useful as +1 to hit.  Ignore the defender's mark (and get punished for it) a little more often because she wanted to play a halfling fighter - people don't consider the little lass a threat until it's too late.  Don't just toss them some item that will equalize their power with the optimized characters; make the suboptimal choice stop being suboptimal by shaping the story more closely around the character!
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
As a player, I prefer the reward to be content-based.  Situations that allow for a suboptimal character choice to be instrumental in the success of the party justify concept over crunch better than anything else as far as I'm concerned.

For instance, if you want to reward the guy who plays the ranger for neglecting to pay his feat tax in favor of a tracking feat because he fancies his character to be an expert tracker, put scenes into the campaign wherein the party has to find and follow tracks frequently enough that the player feels that he traded +1 to hit for something as extremely useful as +1 to hit.  Ignore the defender's mark (and get punished for it) a little more often because she wanted to play a halfling fighter - people don't consider the little lass a threat until it's too late.  Don't just toss them some item that will equalize their power with the optimized characters; make the suboptimal choice stop being suboptimal by shaping the story more closely around the character!

This.
these choices should tend to reward themselves to be perfectly honest. If you're building your own module, put a variety of NPCs and situations in it just like a prepacked adventure would have.  Playing through the scales of war adventure path and you will find tons of opportunity to use things like your knowledge skills, languages and things of this nature. it really should be up to the player to find ways to use his own gifts. honestly if youve got a group of all combat oppers who have NO RP skills or features, you probably are gonna get stuck in quite a few places if you're playing WOTC modules. just make your adventures like that. don't think about whether youve got opper or RPer, build a workld, throw out your hooks and fill the world with colorful characters. I guarantee you the RPers are going to fin d ways to use those "sub-optimal" choices, otherwise they wouldn't have picked em. in a real game these will not be considered sub-optimal, because the story and the RP should be a good half of what you are doing. that language skill might save you an hour or two of rolling dice by avoiding a few good skirmishes.
I've never really agreed with the thought of giving players who don't pick the optimal choices extra stuff just because. It's an example of opportunity costs. They want to pick a feat or power that they like for their character to have they can. They get a meaningful and flavorful option instead of a powerful one. If they choose for themselves that they'd rather have the option they picked instead that's a choice they willingly made and thought worth it. To just give them free stuff for no other reason than that seems to spit in the face of the players who chose to specialize. What's the point in specializing to the point where they're really good at something when other players are essentially just given it for free by the DM because said DM likes how they chose to make their character more.
Zyr'iel Statblock
AC: 32 HP: 89/89 Fort: 23 Surges: 7/7 Reflex: 33 Surge Value: 22 Will: 27 Initiative: +14 AP 1/1 Passive Perception/Insight: 17/17 Senses: Darkvision Languages: Common, Giant
I feel that giving a mechanical benefit for mechanically sub-optimal flavour choices is somehow off.  It's implying that the mechanical benefit is still what really matters.  Being mechanically effective does mean that you have more impact on the game world during the fight scenes, and that does add to enjoyment.  The solution is I think to adjust the gameworld slightly so that the suboptimal choices get their day in the sun.

I remember a Pendragon campaign a long time ago, in which we had the chance to specialise in two skills.  One of us took sword as a speciality, and obviously dominated all the combat scenes.  Since the campaign had a lot of combat scenes (we were young) they were much more effective in their impact and the rest of us wanted to redesign our characters.  But the solution wouldn't have been to give the rest of us combat bonuses: the proper solution would have been to include scenes where other skills were important.

Reward flavour with flavour.  If the characters are negotiating with someone important, roleplay their reaction to the characters that give them such a hook.

Hoard: may earn you gp; Horde: may earn you xp.
I've never really agreed with the thought of giving players who don't pick the optimal choices extra stuff just because. It's an example of opportunity costs. They want to pick a feat or power that they like for their character to have they can. They get a meaningful and flavorful option instead of a powerful one. If they choose for themselves that they'd rather have the option they picked instead that's a choice they willingly made and thought worth it. To just give them free stuff for no other reason than that seems to spit in the face of the players who chose to specialize. What's the point in specializing to the point where they're really good at something when other players are essentially just given it for free by the DM because said DM likes how they chose to make their character more.

I'm not spitting in anyone's face.  As I said before, optimization is its own reward.  I will not run my campaign as a competition between players to see who can be the most uber.  That is not the atmosphere I want to foster.

And it certainly is not "just because."  There is a very good reason for it.  An optimized character can easily hold his own in the RP portion of the game if he wants to.  The non-optimized character doesn't have that ability when it comes to combat.  It's a very minor flaw in the system that I will do my best to work around when I can.

In the end, if optimization is all you care about, you probably won't be happy in my campaign anyway, and I won't enjoy DMing for you, so I guess it all works out, doesn't it?  I'll just state my intentions up front so no one is disappointed or bitter.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.
The problem I see with what you propose is that you seem to neglect that fact that flavorful choices are also their own rewards. Actually, let me put it like this. Are you willing to give the people who have optimized free flavorful stuff such as skill training/focus in order to balance things out? The problem is you're creating an inequality. Some players built their character using, lets call it Style A, while others built their characters using Style B. Style A is mechanically superior to Style B, while Style B is flavorfully superior to Style A. You give the people who have chosen Style B things to balance them out with the people who built their characters using Style A, but now while they're comparable in that aspect now, there is still an imbalance flavor-wise. Are you just going to leave it as is telling the people that chose Style A to get over it or are you willing to balance things out?

If not, you have the reason why I said you're essentially spitting in the other players faces.
Zyr'iel Statblock
AC: 32 HP: 89/89 Fort: 23 Surges: 7/7 Reflex: 33 Surge Value: 22 Will: 27 Initiative: +14 AP 1/1 Passive Perception/Insight: 17/17 Senses: Darkvision Languages: Common, Giant
See, that's not really how it works.  You take it as given that things start out balanced between Style A and Style B.

In practice, the game very heavily favors Style A, and there's not a lot I can do about it.  I can very easily inject flavor where there is none, without bending any rules.  I cannot, however, make someone's character better in a fight.

I cannot bridge, say, a 15% accurace spread between two strikers.  Am I suggesting it's a good idea to give the less accurate striker a +3 attack bonus "just because"?  No, I'm not, and I think that's where you misunderstand me.  If it were that simple, I would not have needed to create this thread.

I would much rather find a solution that makes combat fun for the less accurate striker, even when he misses a lot.  Ideally not something that gives him an undeserved mechanical advantage, but something that can make him feel like he's contributing to everyone's enjoyment of the game.

This is one reason I like the karma idea.  Everyone can benefit from it, but my sense is that those who are into the RP aspect of the game are more likely to rack up the karma points.

If you happen to be someone who is good at both optimization and playing in interesting ways, fine.  You win D&D, congratulations.  But I still get my way because I've tricked you into being interesting, where maybe you wouldn't have bothered before.
If your position is that the official rules don't matter, or that house rules can fix everything, please don't bother posting in forums about the official rules. To do so is a waste of everyone's time.

What you do to compensate for a 3 point spread is going to depend on what the other guy got instead of +3 to hit.  To bridge the gap, we've got to know exactly what caused it.

In other words, a good fix should be case-by-case.

"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider

What you do to compensate for a 3 point spread is going to depend on what the other guy got instead of +3 to hit.  To bridge the gap, we've got to know exactly what caused it.

In other words, a good fix should be case-by-case.


Reward?  There is no easy mechanic to reward non-optimized players.  All you can do is smile warmly at them, and enjoy the fact that they're playing to the spirit of the character/ class rather than some over-optimized twink monstrosity.  As a DM, just treat them a little nicer to compensate. 

No mercy for the Twinkies.
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