Optimization Vs. Non-Optimization: Inherent based on Reading Comp & Math Skill, Not Subjective Pref.

First of all: Optimization and Min/Maxing are not the same thing so don't use the terms interchangeably.

Provocative title I know, it doesn't stop it from being true and something that needs to be discussed as it does have a large impact on the game. In my many years of GMing across half a dozen systems I have stumbled on a universe truth when it comes to RPGs. People with better reading comprehension and math skills are innately better at making characters and playing. They don't need to sit down and think about how to make a great character, they do so instinctively in often less time than a non-optimizer takes to make an inferior character.

Now why is this thread worthy you may ask, well there is this perpetuated lie on this board and several other that optimization is a preference and that other play styles exists and are just as valid. Well I am here to challenge that. Not the validity of the other styles but that Optimization is not a style, its just something that automatically happens when a smarter person plays the game. I've never met an optimizer who didn't also fall into one of those other style, the fact that their character was optimized was incidental due to their superior grasp of the rules that comes from having superior language and math abilities. Min/maxing is a style but it is not the same thing as optimization. This has been covered else where, if you don't know what I mean do a Google search. The gist of it is that Min/Maxing is results in one or two trick ponies with a narrow scope of abilities, they may or may not have glaring weaknesses depending on the task they were Min/Maxed to preform. Optimization is just when a character is better at their intended purpose without sacrificing other elements.

Therefor any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone for being better at math and reading than you. If you can't handle someone with optimized characters that is a personal failing, not a failing of the system or them and you need to fess up and accept it.
Therefor any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone for being better at math and reading than you. If you can't handle someone with optimized characters that is a personal failing, not a failing of the system or them and you need to fess up and accept it.



This is terribly elitist and mean towards people who simply aren't as good as math. I've been the best at math in my social circle for pretty much all my life, although I'm not as big an optimizer as some of the CharOp here. I also played with people who can genuinely be categorized as (to put it politely) "not very smart". Why should the system punish them for this? Why can't they have a character who is roughly equivalent to an optimized one? Why the disparity?

Life is mean enough already, for pity's sake, a game shouldn't be yet another way to press the fact that you're not as good at maths or language or whatever, it should be fun for everyone. Not just the naturally gifted, not just the lucky ones who didn't experience problems, not just those who enjoy a certain playstyle. It should be fun for everyone.
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E


Therefor any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone for being better at math and reading than you. If you can't handle someone with optimized characters that is a personal failing, not a failing of the system or them and you need to fess up and accept it.



Well, that wasn't snobbish at all, no ... buh-bye.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Phried,

As a teacher and history/Latin/Greek instructor, I agree with you that some people are simply more knowledgeable than others (and, if psychologists ever fully agree on what "intelligence" is, some are genetically more gifted regarding intelligence). That having been said, people can, as I'm sure you would agree, become more knowledgeable through time and hard work. I find that time is really the key for learning anything---kind of the most theory proposed by psychologists and described in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: "10,000 hours to mastery" ("mastery" being defined as, in the example of playing and writing classical music, having Mozart-like abilities) of a given subject/hobby/skill.

 So, if this is the case, then let's consider that someone could, although at first hindered by limited critical thinking capability, after some time, learn the rules so well as to know how to optimize a character successfully.

I agree with you that character optimization, as you seem to indicate, is partially a natural process. After all, in any system with rules, there will be a "better way" to do something.

Surely we want the other players, who may not be as bright as the rest, to be able to have a good time playing D&D regardless. And, as I'm sure you would agree, not every skilled player chooses to play an optimized character, right? Do you think the non-optimized players could be helped in some way by the more skilled players at the table, and therefore have more fun?
...I also played with people who can genuinely be categorized as (to put it politely) "not very smart". Why should the system punish them for this? Why can't they have a character who is roughly equivalent to an optimized one? Why the disparity?



The answers to these questions may become clearer if we continue to discuss it---what do you think the answers to your questions are?

Let's shift away from D&D for a moment and consider a generic game, from which we might be able to understand this better through analogy. How about chess! Chess has rules, and those rules are simple, are they not? And chess features rules which make both sides completely equivalent in power, so neither player has an advantage. Yet, would you agree that there is a disparity between chess players, and that some can be more effective than others?
Chess is a competitive game in which the players are trying to defeat each other.  D&D is supposed to be a friendly game in which the players work as co-equals.  A system that rewards mastery is, in my opinion, not furthering the goal of a cooperative game because it rewards a mindset in which a goal is to be able to contribute more than your fellow teammates.

Obviously there is no way to eliminate system mastery.  Any sufficiently complex system will have some people who are more quickly able to master the intricacies than others and those people will have an advantage.  But the game shoudl try to minimize the disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters to the extent that doing so does not unduly interfere with other enjoyable aspects of play.
Chess is a competitive game in which the players are trying to defeat each other.  D&D is supposed to be a friendly game in which the players work as co-equals.  A system that rewards mastery is, in my opinion, not furthering the goal of a cooperative game because it rewards a mindset in which a goal is to be able to contribute more than your fellow teammates.

Obviously there is no way to eliminate system mastery.  Any sufficiently complex system will have some people who are more quickly able to master the intricacies than others and those people will have an advantage.  But the game shoudl try to minimize the disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters to the extent that doing so does not unduly interfere with other enjoyable aspects of play.



I'd like to thank Wrecan from typing my post for me. ;)
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Thanks wrecan, for writing the answer before I did. It saved me some time. ;)

EDIT: You little pony ninja you... 
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
Yeah if I could make each option perfectly equal I would.  I just don't want the answer to be - let's get rid of options since invariably they result in system mastery.   I think we can do better but I agree eliminating every last shred of system mastery will probably ruin the game for other reasons.   I mean classes without feats or spells would go a long way to avoid system mastery but do any of us want to play it?

What I do as a DM, is I take the "less gifted optimizers" under my wing and I help them with their characters.  Instead of throwing the book at them I tell them here are some builds and here are the advantages and disadvantages.  If they dislike the builds and want something else I look at what they want and I give them pointers on how to make what they want as good as possible.   This usually works.  I've had kids in a campaign once too.  Father son combo.  The son was 12.  The kid played a simpler class and had great fun.  This might be an argument for some people but not all people.  I'm not saying everyone who is of lesser intelligence should get a simple class.  I'm just saying some might prefer it for that very reason and we should offer them some that are basically optimized well enough right from the start.

The CharOp forums are nothing I've ever frequented for a pnp game.  I have for mmos.  If someone wanted to be a better character builder even if not as bright then I might point them to those forums as well.  I don't want to squelch a new guys concept so hopefully there are ways to make it good.

Also I reiterate that while a tendency, experience also matters.  I'm sure I could take a 140 IQ guy who has never roleplayed and he'll start out bad.  He might learn in time yes.  But he'll start out bad compared to the die hards who've been playing for 30 years.

 

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Thanks wrecan, for writing the answer before I did. It saved me some time. ;)

EDIT: You little pony ninja you... 



"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
fun quotes
58419928 wrote:
You have to do the work first, and show you can do the work, before someone is going to pay you for it.
69216168 wrote:
If you can't understand how someone yelling at another person would make them fight harder and longer, then you need to look at the forums a bit closer.
quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
People all seemed to have missed my point that I don't think people who are bad at math and language should be punished. Their group should be playing a different game. There are many other systems in the same genre less dependent on church or systems mastery better suited to running narrative based games. Changing D&D so it no longer fills its current niche as the crunch heavy fantasy rpg will anger more people than it will bring in so WotC is better off publish admitting and embracing the niche instead of trying to be everything to everyone because it will never, I mean never be as good as any game that specializes. It won't even be able to accommodate people with differing preferences at the same table.
People all seemed to have missed my point that I don't think people who are bad at math and language should be punished. Their group should be playing a different game. There are many other systems in the same genre less dependent on church or systems mastery better suited to running narrative based games. Changing D&D so it no longer fills its current niche as the crunch heavy fantasy rpg will anger more people than it will bring in so WotC is better off publish admitting and embracing the niche instead of trying to be everything to everyone because it will never, I mean never be as good as any game that specializes. It won't even be able to accommodate people with differing preferences at the same table.



Except that D&D currently is, in my opinion, not based on system mastery, not dependant on crunch (nor church), not crunch heavy, quite good at handling narrative-based games and in fact the best system I have ever encountered for running the type of game I like. 
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
@Phried: I'm one of those hardcore optimizers (aka a munchkin). I do agree with you when you say that the system shouldn't penalize the optimizers. And that's precisely why I think that the options that have a mechanical impact should be limited.

I may be a munchkin but I still have an imagination. Sometimes I have this character concept and I like being able to play that character without thinking "god this character sucks". I personnally wouldn't mind sacrificing a little bit of hardcore brutality for a nice character concept; but if some choices are so increadibly better than others that you can't live without them,  that's bad game design.

So bottom line, if all options are the same, I would find the game quite boring. I like having options. I like character optimization. But if the difference between an optimized character and an unoptimized character is too significant, you actually lose the option to customize your character. Chosing between a crap character and a playable one is simply not having an option.
People all seemed to have missed my point that I don't think people who are bad at math and language should be punished. Their group should be playing a different game.

Thanks for clarifying.  Now I disagree with you even more. I would rather play with someone less intelligent than a narcissist. 

Role-playing transends intelligence, and role-playing is still at the heart of D&D.

Celebrate our differences.

I just don't want the answer to be - let's get rid of options since invariably they result in system mastery.


Which is why I also said "to the extent that doing so does not unduly interfere with other enjoyable aspects of play." 

Now people will disagree with "unduly".  But the OP seems to not care about other aspects of play.   Anybody who isn't interested in becoming a system master should "be playing a different game".  He also believes that "any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone."  (His words, not mine.)  I think that's a horrific atitude.  If you want a game where only aspiring system masters play, you should find a different game.  D&D is the gateway RPG and it should be open to system masters, but also to people who are not system masters and who have no desire to become system masters.

Changing D&D so it no longer fills its current niche as the crunch heavy fantasy rpg


Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG".  I categorically reject that.  Hackmaster is the definitive crunch heavy fanatsy RPGs.  D&D is the gateway fanatsy RPG, the one equally appropriate for greybeards and newbies, for parents with children, for pre-teens after school, for college kids playing week after week, for casual Encounters-style pickup games, for dedicated Lair Assaulters, for drama queens and system masters.  Whether you were introduced to fanatsy through Tolkein, Moorcock, Piers Anthony, George R. R. Martin, or J.K. Rowling, you should have a home in D&D, with one caveat.

You need to accept that all the other people I just mentioned have a home here too.  And if you can't accept that, you, not the rest of us, need to find a different game.

WotC is better off publish admitting and embracing the niche instead of trying to be everything to everyone because it will never, I mean never be as good as any game that specializes.


It's not trying.  It's trying to be a great fantasy RPG for all sorts of people.  People who find their niche and want something designed for the niche can find a game for that.  But that's not what D&D should be.
Chess is a competitive game in which the players are trying to defeat each other.  D&D is supposed to be a friendly game in which the players work as co-equals.  A system that rewards mastery is, in my opinion, not furthering the goal of a cooperative game because it rewards a mindset in which a goal is to be able to contribute more than your fellow teammates.

Obviously there is no way to eliminate system mastery.  Any sufficiently complex system will have some people who are more quickly able to master the intricacies than others and those people will have an advantage.  But the game shoudl try to minimize the disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters to the extent that doing so does not unduly interfere with other enjoyable aspects of play.



I'm glad that you wrote this response. This is precisely the thought which I wanted to reach, and I'm glad that you thought of it. Indeed, D&D is a cooperative game; I certainly agree, except in those few circumstances when the group decides to have a bit of inner-party conflict. And, you are certainly correct when you say that there is no way to eliminate system mastery, and that some people will master it more than others. You are correct in this belief that there will never be a perfect kind of equality between players. 
As a DM I always try to give each character a chance to shine. Min/Maxing is one of the worst things that can arrive at a gaminggable, because it almost invariably means that player will try to ignore and/or spoil anything that isn't a situation where they can be 'the best'.

So when I encounter it, I make sure at least half of the encounters are ones where the other characters are going to have glory moments. It's easy enough to counter over use of min max by encounter design, or just making monsters that aren't susceptible to the particular exploit the minbass player has used.

One player being the centre of attention will kill any campaign, so you need to cater to the player, without them ruling the table. 
My thoughts on what works and what doesn't in D&D and how D&D Next may benefit are detailed on my blog, Vorpal Thoughts.
Chess is a competitive game in which the players are trying to defeat each other.  D&D is supposed to be a friendly game in which the players work as co-equals.  A system that rewards mastery is, in my opinion, not furthering the goal of a cooperative game because it rewards a mindset in which a goal is to be able to contribute more than your fellow teammates.

Obviously there is no way to eliminate system mastery.  Any sufficiently complex system will have some people who are more quickly able to master the intricacies than others and those people will have an advantage.  But the game shoudl try to minimize the disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters to the extent that doing so does not unduly interfere with other enjoyable aspects of play.



I'm on board with this.
On a related tangent I think there is a difference between the game rewarding system mastery during combat and the game rewarding system mastery during character creation and leveling up.  

Personally I think ideally D&D should reward system mastery and effective decisions during play in and out of combat. However I think the system should try to minimize the amount of benefit gained from system mastery during character creation and leveling up. In other words it shouldn't matter that much, within reason, what type of character you play or how they're built. Character creation should largely be focussed on creating a "character", ie on roleplaying and personality. You should be able to create the type of character you'd like to play without having to worry that your specific choices of feats and build, etc, will put you at a significant disadvantage to your opponents during play.  During play, though, your decisions should directly impact your degree of success.


Of course that's just my personal opinion but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone that most people would like to feel free to design the type of character they'd like to roleplay, and then while controlling that character be rewarded for wisely using the character they built.
The game needs to be something that can be optimized... as that type of thing drives interest and sales.  

However, that doesn't mean that optimization should give a HUGE advantage over efficient, but not optimized, PCs.  In 4E, an optmized PC can do 200-300% more damage than an efficienct, but not optimized PC.  That doesn't need to be the case.  If you prevent some of the gross breaches of balance, you can pull the optimization down to doing no more than 25 to 50% more than an unoptimized, but efficient PC. 
D&D & Boardgames If I have everything I need to run great games for many years without repeating stuff, why do I need to buy anything right now?
The game needs to be something that can be optimized... as that type of thing drives interest and sales.  

However, that doesn't mean that optimization should give a HUGE advantage over efficient, but not optimized, PCs.  In 4E, an optmized PC can do 200-300% more damage than an efficienct, but not optimized PC.  That doesn't need to be the case.  If you prevent some of the gross breaches of balance, you can pull the optimization down to doing no more than 25 to 50% more than an unoptimized, but efficient PC. 



I'm not going to agree that it needs something to be optimized but it isn't something you can prevent some choices are always going to be better in certain games.  Either way we agree on the end result, you should reduce it as much as humanly possible.

Also I think Bodyknock is right, I don't think rewarding optminzing good decisions in game are bad (knowing when to flank, etc.) but rewarding people who are willing to spend hours on outside the game stuff not so much.
What we want is lots of equal choices so we can vary what we play but not do it for power reasons. When one option is good and the others are not so good it ruins the choosing. You either pick smart and are good or dumb and are subpar.

Even a smart guy must realize that unbalanced choices destroys choice.

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What we want is lots of equal choices so we can vary what we play but not do it for power reasons. When one option is good and the others are not so good it ruins the choosing. You either pick smart and are good or dumb and are subpar. Even a smart guy must realize that unbalanced choices destroys choice.



Agreed. A player should be able to make choices for thematic reasons and not have their character end up subpar to that of a player that made choices based on more "gamey" reasons.
@OP:

This is a particularly good example where bringing the noise got in the way of having something useful.  You were deliberately inflammatory, saying things you knew would piss people off.  Even were you to have a useful point to be made, you've managed to completely obscure it because now people are mad at you, rather than accepting your challenge to their strongly-held beliefs.



That said, to Salla et. al. - There is a difference between meaningful character choice and ignorance of optimization.  When I create a character, I have a concept in mind, and I see very little reason to not be as good at that concept as I can be.  That's the definition of optimization.  My sense is that what you mean when you say you disagree with that sentiment is that you want the freedom to play a character that has a lower target for power - but that in and of itself is not a choice not to optimize, but rather a change of the goals for the character.

Saying "I want to be an awesome wizard!" is not the same thing as saying "I want to be a wizard who just barely graduated Wizard School because his int sucks!"  That's a meaningful, valid choice for your character.  What's not a meaningful choice is going "I want to be an awesome wizard!" and then not paying attention because you don't value 'system mastery' and ending up with a low Int because you're ignorant of how one becomes an awesome wizard. 

Maybe it's very elitist of me, but no, I don't think blindly ignoring the mechanics of the game is a point of honor.  Understanding the mechanics and choosing to be less-than-optimal?  Awesome, more power to you.  But being anti-mechanics as some sort of principled stand?  That I would call elitism.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Hello,

Optimization sells.

A good example is Magic the Gathering. People buy a deck, and then proceed to spend more money and time tracking down just the right card to destroy their opponent. Just when they have the perfect deck, 'bam' another set of cards come out that are better or nutralize the the cards they have.

Now D and D is cooperative, however why does everyone buy the extra books, they are optimizing. There is some new feat or spell or power or path that they think will make their character shine in the next combat. Anyone beyond the most indefferent player does some optimizing.

Yes D and D is a gate way RPG, but part of what it teaches is optimization even if it is just picking a high int if you are a wizard or a high strength of a fighter.

While the OP has come off as elitist, he does have a point for some cases that occur in play.

It has happened to me, and I have seen it in many games.  Every game seems to have a couple of players who cannot build a good character to save their lives.  Now, by "Good" I don't mean a fully optimized, full on munchkin power build derived from over 20 splat books that rely on obscure rules to create the pinnacle of cheese, but, rather, they can't build a competent, solid character derived from the "core" material that are allowed to all players of the game.

I have no issue with players of characters with weak or gimped builds, and I will seek to help them out both in building a character and by helping their weaker characters excel during play.  I will even offer to remove or scale down my character if he proves to be to powerful for the current party make up.  That is not what my gripe here is about.

My issue is this:  There are many of these players who declare that anyone possessing a character perceived to be more powerful than theirs is a "power gamer" or "Munchkin," and these gimped players whine about it often; demanding that the offending "power gamer" remove the "offending" character.  In short, they demand that others play at their level and will complain and grandstand until they get their way.

Frankly, that attitude needs to go. 

In Pathfinder, I have a paladin/cleric that uses only the main Pathfinder book.  I have no special feats, the character is human, has a +2 weapon as his best gear, and he totally rocks.  The problem is, I get called a munchkin because he is better than a couple of the players' characters due to the fact they can't be bothered to read the rules and, therefore, know many of the options.  My paladin/cleric is not the most powerful character in the game, for there are 2 characters that out DPR me and are also mainline casters.  They too get dogged upon as being "power gamers," even though they have only used the main books. 

What really gets me, as that even when we offer to help them out, we get poo-pooed upon as being, "All about power and nothing about Role-play."  The funny thing, is that my character has the most personality of them all, and yet, because I excel as healer and tank, and I was smart enough to have great cleave so I can hit multiple opponents, while tanking, that makes me a munchkin.

I agree that players of all skill levels should be allowed and encouraged to play.  However, when players who cannot, or will not build characters that can hold the line start to force their view upon the other players, it is they who are the elitists.  I call these types who think that all should be at their, lower power level "Under gamers," and they are every bit as bad as a power gaming munchkin.
F
Therefor any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone for being better at math and reading than you.


Quite the opposite.

I am good at optimising. It's easy for me.
(I'm also a great mathematician, and quite a fast reader, but I'm not sure they're that connected)

If they curb optimising, they'll be doing me a favour.

Why? Because then I won't have to do it myself.

I game with people who're nowhere near as good at optimising as me.

3e punishes me for being good at optimising, by making me overshadow my comrades.
I am not a powergamer: I don't WANT to overshadow my comrades.
Making a game where optimisers overshadow their comrades punishes me for being good at it.

I want a game where I can design the very best character I can, and still be able to share the table with someone less mathematically minded than me.
4e is reasonable in that regard. I have to avoid the occasional cheese build, and give them occasional pointers*  but it's generally fine.
Probably helps that I play the leader of course :p

*(2 of the 4 people who can't fully optimise at the table use cheesy comboes that have been errataed out of existence. One of them has a houseruled ability to make him more effective [he generally forgets it's been houseruled])

EDIT: Just to be clear: I want optimising to be possible. I just don't want it to make my character too powerful to share a table with my friends.

I agree that players of all skill levels should be allowed and encouraged to play.  However, when players who cannot, or will not build characters that can hold the line start to force their view upon the other players, it is they who are the elitists.  I call these types who think that all should be at their, lower power level "Under gamers," and they are every bit as bad as a power gaming munchkin.



For brevity's sake, those type of gamers are colloquially known as "scrubs". They lie in the extreme opposite end of the position the OP occupies, but aren't any less disagreeable.
Well, apart from the OP's nastyness, I think everybody agrees on the following:

  1. Balance is good, when achievable, because it increases the possible choices you have within the system. A heavily unbalanced system has fewer choices.

  2. People who optimize in order to be more powerful than their fellow party members (aka munchkins) are bad.

  3. People who cry munchkinism for no real reason (aka scrubs) are just as bad.

  4. People who optimize because it comes natural for them, but are not actively trying to overshadow other people (aka optimizers) are punished by lack of balance, as they have to restrict themselves.

  5. People who do not optimize and don't even bother reading most of the rules, reading just what is needed to create their characters (aka casual gamers) shouldn't be punished by the system, and in fact, their characters should be roughly equal to those of optimizers. Optimization will kick in with any ruleset as it is a secondary product of all complex rules, but it shouldn't be enhanced.

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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG"...



Something Awful, that where he's getting it, that's where I get it, we are both members there, same screen names and everything. D&D has only every been a gateway fantasy RPG because its name, not because of its suitability for it. The pure lack of experience with multiple systems that most of the forum goers here display astounds me, if you had actually played even one or two of the following games: WHFRP, Savage Worlds, Exalted, The Riddle of Steel, PFRPG, Any of the FATE based fantasy games you would see how true OPs statement is.

In my games players have always been Exceptional individuals, not Exceptions to the internal logic of the game world.
Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG"...



D&D has only every been a gateway fantasy RPG because its name, not because of its suitability for it.

I disagree.  The various basic versions of the editions have always done a very nice job of keeping it very simple for new players.  Heck, even the new board games (sans Conquest of Nerath) are 4E light and introduce a lot of the fundamentals of D&D and make a great gateway into D&D and RPGs in general. 

Even without the basic editions or board games, I have not seen very many problems getting a new player up and playing in minimal time; 10-15 minutes basic overview if the character is pregenerated.  The core mechanics are simple enough and the more complex items can be introduced over time, as needed.

Celebrate our differences.

The game needs to be something that can be optimized... as that type of thing drives interest and sales.  

However, that doesn't mean that optimization should give a HUGE advantage over efficient, but not optimized, PCs.  In 4E, an optmized PC can do 200-300% more damage than an efficienct, but not optimized PC.  That doesn't need to be the case.  If you prevent some of the gross breaches of balance, you can pull the optimization down to doing no more than 25 to 50% more than an unoptimized, but efficient PC. 



I'm not going to agree that it needs something to be optimized but it isn't something you can prevent some choices are always going to be better in certain games.  Either way we agree on the end result, you should reduce it as much as humanly possible.

Also I think Bodyknock is right, I don't think rewarding optminzing good decisions in game are bad (knowing when to flank, etc.) but rewarding people who are willing to spend hours on outside the game stuff not so much.

You also want to make it harder to self-nerf, but it pretty much is something that will always be there. I've seen people
1. Take a feat to improve a skill, which they don't actually have. (A feat to improve tracking speed, but his ranger had no ranks in nature.)
2. Take a feat to improve a type of attack, which they didn't have. (Something to beef up bursts, but they had no burst spells.)
3. Take a power which didn't fit their build at all. (They built an implement bard, with a songbow, and then took a couple melee powers.)
4. Use their attribute increases to boost 11s to 12s.    
Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG"...



D&D has only every been a gateway fantasy RPG because its name, not because of its suitability for it.

I disagree.  The various basic versions of the editions have always done a very nice job of keeping it very simple for new players.  Heck, even the new board games (sans Conquest of Nerath) are 4E light and introduce a lot of the fundamentals of D&D and make a great gateway into D&D and RPGs in general. 

Even without the basic editions or board games, I have not seen very many problems getting a new player up and playing in minimal time; 10-15 minutes basic overview if the character is pregenerated.  The core mechanics are simple enough and the more complex items can be introduced over time, as needed.



Maybe you just have a good group. Now I definately admit that 4e was a huge step up in this regard but pre-4e only once did successfully bring a new player into RPGs with D&D if the entire group wasn't also brand new players. I've found that if even two of my other players had any experience at all with D&D was easier to run other games for new players.
In my games players have always been Exceptional individuals, not Exceptions to the internal logic of the game world.
Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG"...



D&D has only every been a gateway fantasy RPG because its name, not because of its suitability for it.

I disagree.  The various basic versions of the editions have always done a very nice job of keeping it very simple for new players.  Heck, even the new board games (sans Conquest of Nerath) are 4E light and introduce a lot of the fundamentals of D&D and make a great gateway into D&D and RPGs in general. 

Even without the basic editions or board games, I have not seen very many problems getting a new player up and playing in minimal time; 10-15 minutes basic overview if the character is pregenerated.  The core mechanics are simple enough and the more complex items can be introduced over time, as needed.



Maybe you just have a good group. Now I definately admit that 4e was a huge step up in this regard but pre-4e only once did successfully bring a new player into RPGs with D&D if the entire group wasn't also brand new players. I've found that if even two of my other players had any experience at all with D&D was easier to run other games for new players.

Or maybe you have had unlucky experiences with your players.  Over the 33 years I have played, I would guess that there's been about 40-50 brand new players (with the majority being 2E) that have sat down in my campaigns.  Out of all of those, I can remember that only 2 could not pick up the game.

Also, some people are just not as good at teaching D&D.  That's not a knock on you or whomever was teaching your players.  Some people's styles of teaching may not align with what is required with D&D.

Celebrate our differences.

Yeah, I completely disagree with SantaClaws about D&D's suitability for beginners.  I've been playing for 30 years.  I've run seminars introducing newbies to D&D.  The only people who I've ever seen not get it are people who have no interest in fantasy and were pressured to try the game by friends, family, or significant others who were.

I can't tell what SantaClaws actually thinks "gateway" is supposed ot entail.  Warhammer and Pathfinder are based no or derivative of D&D are in no way less complicated or daunting than the original of the time.  Savage Worlds has simplified mechanics but a very specific milieu (pulp) making it, in my opinion, ill-suited as a gateway to fantasy RPGs.  I don't know too much about Riddle of Steel, but what I have heard about it, it sounds like it uses White Wolf's dice pool resolution system and has a very specific genre (Conan-like sword-and-sorcery), along with some mature character creation.  I could be wrong, as I've never played it.

From 1977 to 1997, imo, there was no game that was as easy to get into and could handle such a variety of fantasy styles as BECMI.  The d20 OGL replaced that nicely and most people could figure out how to play 3rd edition pretty quickly.  4e was a snap, and the Red Box made it even easier.

D&D has always positioned itself as the introductory fantasy roleplaying game, with other roleplaying games distinguishing themselves by genre (White Wolf's gothic horror or Savage World's pulp action) or by playstyle (Hackmasters' table-heavy ruleset, GURPS anything-goes universality, or FUDGE's improvisational technique).  It's not merely that D&D was first.  D&D was always simple in the basics of class, race, and die resolution (with expansions and supplements that complicated it exponentially), and broad in genre.  Heck, the AD&D DMG even gave rules for expanding the game to Westerns and Sci Fi.
Where did you get the idea that D&D's current niche is the "crunch heavy fantasy RPG"...



Something Awful, that where he's getting it, that's where I get it, we are both members there, same screen names and everything. D&D has only every been a gateway fantasy RPG because its name, not because of its suitability for it. The pure lack of experience with multiple systems that most of the forum goers here display astounds me, if you had actually played even one or two of the following games: WHFRP, Savage Worlds, Exalted, The Riddle of Steel, PFRPG, Any of the FATE based fantasy games you would see how true OPs statement is.




Eh. WHFRPG is a lot more rules heavy than 4E. Exalted is... strange, and IMO has way more problems than even 3.5. Pathfinder is 3.5. FATE is cool, very close with 4E for being my favorite RPG, but 4E is better due to better combat system.

The rest, I admit I don't have much experience with. I'm going to take a look at Savage Worlds if I have a chance to, since it seems good. Never heard of Riddle of Steel, though. 
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
I'd say that being able to get my group (my 50-some year old mother, my 20-some year old brother, my wife and my brother's fiance, along with myself), all of whom (past my mother) have played only CRPGs, and have them all, their first game out, enjoy D&D through 4th edition be a ringing endorsement for the gateway ability of 4th edition.
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
First of all: Optimization and Min/Maxing are not the same thing so don't use the terms interchangeably.

Provocative title I know, it doesn't stop it from being true and something that needs to be discussed as it does have a large impact on the game. In my many years of GMing across half a dozen systems I have stumbled on a universe truth when it comes to RPGs. People with better reading comprehension and math skills are innately better at making characters and playing. They don't need to sit down and think about how to make a great character, they do so instinctively in often less time than a non-optimizer takes to make an inferior character.

Now why is this thread worthy you may ask, well there is this perpetuated lie on this board and several other that optimization is a preference and that other play styles exists and are just as valid. Well I am here to challenge that. Not the validity of the other styles but that Optimization is not a style, its just something that automatically happens when a smarter person plays the game. I've never met an optimizer who didn't also fall into one of those other style, the fact that their character was optimized was incidental due to their superior grasp of the rules that comes from having superior language and math abilities. Min/maxing is a style but it is not the same thing as optimization. This has been covered else where, if you don't know what I mean do a Google search. The gist of it is that Min/Maxing is results in one or two trick ponies with a narrow scope of abilities, they may or may not have glaring weaknesses depending on the task they were Min/Maxed to preform. Optimization is just when a character is better at their intended purpose without sacrificing other elements.

Therefor any effort to curb optimization is effectively trying to punish someone for being better at math and reading than you. If you can't handle someone with optimized characters that is a personal failing, not a failing of the system or them and you need to fess up and accept it.

I've had many opportunities to min/max, but didn't, because it didn't match my concept or theme. I think by attaching more clearly defined fluff to abilities, and then in the DMG warning DMs about characters who step outside their theme without plot backing it (i.e., intentionally the DM's storyline), then they simply cannot take ability X with that character, because it doesn't make any sense.

For example, Divine powers vs. Arcane powers, or Eastern vs. Western fighting styles. A swashbuckler themed bonus might make a Barbarian more powerful, but it doesn't make any sense. Perhaps the Bard would be the least subject to these restrictions, since they are supposed to learn a little bit of everything. You see similar ideologies behind pirates who will have weapons and armor from one continent and explosives or fighting styles from another. After characters go into play, where they end up in the world should determine what kinds of things they can pick up - but during character creation and self guided downtime, the DM should collaborate with the player to make sure the Theme of who they are, where they come from, and where they are now makes sense, otherwise you end up with a broken mess and a pile of bonuses.
Options are Liberating
Well, apart from the OP's nastyness, I think everybody agrees on the following:

  1. Balance is good, when achievable, because it increases the possible choices you have within the system. A heavily unbalanced system has fewer choices.

  2. People who optimize in order to be more powerful than their fellow party members (aka munchkins) are bad.

  3. People who cry munchkinism for no real reason (aka scrubs) are just as bad.

  4. People who optimize because it comes natural for them, but are not actively trying to overshadow other people (aka optimizers) are punished by lack of balance, as they have to restrict themselves.

  5. People who do not optimize and don't even bother reading most of the rules, reading just what is needed to create their characters (aka casual gamers) shouldn't be punished by the system, and in fact, their characters should be roughly equal to those of optimizers. Optimization will kick in with any ruleset as it is a secondary product of all complex rules, but it shouldn't be enhanced.




+1 QFT

Mark it down folks.  I 100% agreed with theMormegil.  This comet only comes around every 100 years.  Wink 

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Well, apart from the OP's nastyness, I think everybody agrees on the following:

  1. Balance is good, when achievable, because it increases the possible choices you have within the system. A heavily unbalanced system has fewer choices.

  2. People who optimize in order to be more powerful than their fellow party members (aka munchkins) are bad.

  3. People who cry munchkinism for no real reason (aka scrubs) are just as bad.

  4. People who optimize because it comes natural for them, but are not actively trying to overshadow other people (aka optimizers) are punished by lack of balance, as they have to restrict themselves.

  5. People who do not optimize and don't even bother reading most of the rules, reading just what is needed to create their characters (aka casual gamers) shouldn't be punished by the system, and in fact, their characters should be roughly equal to those of optimizers. Optimization will kick in with any ruleset as it is a secondary product of all complex rules, but it shouldn't be enhanced.



I agree with this assessment.
Well, apart from the OP's nastyness, I think everybody agrees on the following:

  1. Balance is good, when achievable, because it increases the possible choices you have within the system. A heavily unbalanced system has fewer choices.

  2. People who optimize in order to be more powerful than their fellow party members (aka munchkins) are bad.

  3. People who cry munchkinism for no real reason (aka scrubs) are just as bad.

  4. People who optimize because it comes natural for them, but are not actively trying to overshadow other people (aka optimizers) are punished by lack of balance, as they have to restrict themselves.

  5. People who do not optimize and don't even bother reading most of the rules, reading just what is needed to create their characters (aka casual gamers) shouldn't be punished by the system, and in fact, their characters should be roughly equal to those of optimizers. Optimization will kick in with any ruleset as it is a secondary product of all complex rules, but it shouldn't be enhanced.




I would disagree that there is actually a set value of "balance" that would be suitable for Casual, Scrub and Optimizer without one or another being penalised by the system.

In fact I have seen a lot of posts by people who's idea of balance is wildly different and basically can be distilled down to the face that DnD has no set win condition.  Therefore everyone who plays has a different idea of what they want to achieve and what may be balanced for one person is not for another.

It would be much better for the DM to be given the tools to balance the game to his players rather then for the game to be artifically balanced for one type of player.

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