Can Sub-Optimized Characters Be Effective in 4E?

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In the DDN Discussion Forum, I postulated the theory that 4E’s mechanics are based on the assumption that your character has an “18” in its primary stat, and therefore makes character optimization a requirement.


 


I had based this idea off of my experiences as a player and a DM in three different gaming groups.  In every group, in every instance whenever someone tried out a sub-optimal race/class combination it resulted in a character that was ineffective in combat.


 


So far, at least three people have claimed to have different results, and I would like to pursue this topic further…


 


What experiences have you had with “sub-optimal” characters, and in what way were they “sub-optimal”?

I think the issue is that "sub-optimal" is largely based on the views of each people.  Someone might think a build is sub-optimal while another might not.  So that's the first problem.  For example a bard taking the feat linguist twice to get all languages is not optimization of the character from a combat perspective.  But for it to be called sub-optimal ?  The bard might think doing so is optimal for his goal which is to make a bard with all languages.  While someone looking at his build might think otherwise since he used two feats to do this and those two feats could have instead gone to help healing, buffing, enabling or damage dealing.

Now as for stats, most builds will use point buy to get 16 in the characters main stat and then get a +2 bonus from the race chosen for an 18.  This is considered a standard in 4E character building.  A total 20 would be character optimization but you rarely see a 20 in a stat at character creation because of how expensive it is.  Going for 14 and then a bump to 16 from race will cause you to be below the expected margin.  It's still doable and some builds can still do fine (like an avenger for example since you roll twice when attacking with OoE) however most builds will suffer from this.  The math is simply not on your side if you lower your starting main ability score below an 18.
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It has been my experience that the hit ratio for level 1 without modifiers like combat advantage boils down to something like;

+5 to hit with melee weapons is acceptable but not particularly good.
+6 to hit is good, and you will still be fairly accurate.
+7 or more to hit is exceptional

For casters you will want to have at least a +4

Of course this is just a generalization, and might not apply to every class. (Avenger in particular comes to mind.)

What makes an optimal build also tends to change around how the rest of the party is built. Feats geared around roleplaying can be optimal in their own right if you DM likes to have that sort of thing in a Roleplaying game, or uses skill challenges.
The 4E playtest assumption was stated to be a 16. Whether that remained the assumption later on is a good question, but we do know that some of the math didn't hold up the way it was intended to (and thus the introduction of patch-feats like Expertise).
It has been my experience that the hit ratio for level 1 without modifiers like combat advantage boils down to something like;

+5 to hit with melee weapons is acceptable but not particularly good.
+6 to hit is good, and you will still be fairly accurate.
+7 or more to hit is exceptional

For casters you will want to have at least a +4

Of course this is just a generalization, and might not apply to every class. (Avenger in particular comes to mind.)

What makes an optimal build also tends to change around how the rest of the party is built. Feats geared around roleplaying can be optimal in their own right if you DM likes to have that sort of thing in a Roleplaying game, or uses skill challenges.



This. And as Noctaem said, "optimization" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Over on the Char Op boards, there are a lot of classes dismissed as sub-optimal and "worthless" or "sucky." But experience has taught me that they deal in game theory, not the reality of game play. The great thing about 4E is that every character can contribute during a combat, and can contribute during non-combat situations (not equally, mind you), even if it means taking actions that aid someone else.

Ultimately, it all comes down to fun. If you are having it, and feel like your chracter contributes in combat, don't sweat "optimization." If you are not, change your character accordingly. I've let people completely re-build their characters until they come up with something they like. 

I think many people don't want to play "optimized" characters because they simply don't care about "optimal" performance. I believe optimizers are actually a minority among players. Most people don't want to worry or restrict themselves to certain "optimized" builds because they like the "flavor" of their characters. And it isn't even because they like to role play, to which I think many players are uncomfortable with. I don't know how much my opinion counts because of my lack of experience, but I play with a group that neither likes hardcore optimizing nor hardcore roleplaying, and has fun getting slaughtered in combat and being awkward with skills and social encounters. A DM who can adapt to his players is essential to good D&D experiences, that's what I think.
This. And as Noctaem said, "optimization" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Over on the Char Op boards, there are a lot of classes dismissed as sub-optimal and "worthless" or "sucky." But experience has taught me that they deal in game theory, not the reality of game play. The great thing about 4E is that every character can contribute during a combat, and can contribute during non-combat situations (not equally, mind you), even if it means taking actions that aid someone else.

Ultimately, it all comes down to fun. If you are having it, and feel like your chracter contributes in combat, don't sweat "optimization." If you are not, change your character accordingly. I've let people completely re-build their characters until they come up with something they like. 




+1

I also find that the math used on the Character Optimization to determine class ranking is fundamentally flawed on several accounts, but that is a whole other discussion. The ultimate goal of any character should be to have fun, and if optimization is what makes it fun for your group then that is good.

In regards to seeing non optimized characters work, one of the groups that I used  DM  didn't have a single clue how to begin optimizing, and they managed to get through combat at the same speed as the optimizers. They even had one of those bottom tier strikers these boards tend to dislike.
In my regular game not a single character in the party of six would be considered optimal but in just over three years we've only had a single death and managed to get through everything the DM has thrown at us and have a lot of fun.

I would agree with Boromancer that much of this is down to the input of the DM.  I'm sure he could have made the experience of playing much more difficult and unenjoyable for us as a result of our builds but he hasn't. 
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I've played 4th edition almost solely with people you would call powergamers. 95% of the characters I've seen in these games have used one of two ability score arrays: the most common being 18, 13, 13, 10, 10, 8 and the other being 16, 16, 12, 10, 10, 10. I can't remember a single instance where any of these players ever went a race that didn't boost their primary attack stat. As a result, the DM's we've had (including me) have simply increased the difficulty of encounters a little and we always had fun playing.

If we were the other way around, the DMs would have adjusted the other way and we would have still had fun.

I'd say that the only time a character will ever not be effective is if you have optimized characters in the same party as very sub optimal ones or if your DM is unable to adequately adjust the difficulty of encounters and makes them too hard anyway. Whether or not a character is effective in general is too complex of a question to answer without knowing the context such as the party and DMing style. Even combat tactics would play a large part, if you're even talking solely about combat effectiveness.
16 starting stat (post-racial) and a +2 weapon is the baseline.  Most "optimized" characters are far above that - to the point where people start to think of them as the new baseline.

Simple answer?  Yes, sub-optimal characters can be effective in 4e.  Like most things, it's more a question of DM style and adventure design than anything else.
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I have a STR 16 Fighter with a Longsword, and he works decently enough. I think once you start to go below a 16 in your primary stat, you'll have problems.

of course, why you would want to dump your PRIMARY stat is beyond me.

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The biggest issue is that everyone at the table needs to be on the same page.  If one or two platers are playing a high op build and everyone else is just picking powers with cool sounding fluff the DM will have a hard time building encounters that challenge the high op PCs without making the other players feel useless.

Most classes and builds work fine in real games without optimization.  There are a few good builds that will have serious trouble if you don't build them right, usually concerning AC issues (starlocks, con shamans, barbarians, swarm druids for instance) but you can usually fix those problems with very little effort. 

Almost all builds work ok at low levels, but some of these struggle to contribute at higher levels without optimization, such as most beast master rangers, the older versions of strength clerics and most seekers until a few weeks ago when they finally got some good support.  A few builds have real troubles if you don't really work to build them right like correllon and death warpriests and classes like cavaliers and vampires will struggle in a high op game at higher levels.

If you do something really off the wall like build that starts with a 14 primary stat or not picking equipment that normally works for the class without a really good reason you are going to have troubles.  There was one game I played in where someone built a ranger using a halberd who charged a lot.  It did not really contribute that much, but when he rebuilt that PC as a slayer it worked fine.  Nothing was wrong with his build goal, but he picked a class and tried to cram the concept onto it.
I think the OP's concern sounds like it is mostly with the situation where you have a bunch of players that just don't optimize at all, or even pick super sensible options all the time. So you end up with a character that may not have made any horrible choices, but they also haven't attained any sort of synergy in their options. It is for instance pretty easy to make a fighter that has a 16 STR, a +2 weapon, and then pretty much ignores any sort of accuracy/damage enhancing feats for 8 levels. This character will be rather stunningly blah. A fight with 5 PCs of this ilk will be a long drawn-out affair where the monsters are maybe at-level or not even, damage output will be quite low on both sides, and just in general not much interesting will be brought to the table by the character's built-in options in a fight. The DM in this case really does have to work harder to make things equally interesting. It isn't a tragedy, but it isn't ideal either. If by chance you have some players that actually insist on playing 14 STR fighters and such, well, it gets quite snoozeful real fast at that point. In such a situation the DM is probably best off to heavily de-emphasize combat, since clearly the players aren't that interested in it!
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I appreciate the feedback.  It has been helpful, but I may need to have clearer goals and definitions.  

When I say “Sub-Optimized”, I mean without a race/class synergy resulting in a starting primary stat bonus of less than “+4”, in order to better guarantee combat effectiveness.  In this case, I define combat effectiveness as being able to hit the broad side of a barn with your powers…


I’m not asking for a lecture on how to role-play “properly”.   I know that there are loop holes and workarounds, and I know that there is more to the game than combat…


…but if, when the fighting DOES inevitably start, your job is to stand off to the side providing buffs, zones and other types of “auto-success” support while the rest of the race/class synergized characters deal all of the damage, it means that you can’t afford to waste your actions missing on your to-hit rolls, and you are (by this definition) not combat effective. 


I also know that some people enjoy providing that sort of combat support, and I’m saying that it is not important.  Yes, you are still a part of the team, but no matter how essential making sandwiches for the party may be, it still isn’t putting warheads on foreheads… which is what combat boils down to.  There is a distinction between the people who participate in combat, and those who provide help & support from the sidelines.


I started this thread, because I want to know if what I’ve seen is the norm… like my Eladrin Warlord that never managed to hit anything with his Tratnyr… or my friend’s Minotaur Wizard that had to be rebuilt with an "18" in Intelligence so that his spells would actually work… and my new party’s Dragonborn Monk who only ever lands about 1-in-5 punches. 


That’s three specific examples that come immediately to mind, and they are leading me to suspect that there is a CharOp requirement built into 4E.  I know that “CharOp” is a dirty word in many circles, but I am NOT trying to imply that all 4E players are Munchkins.  I’m also not asking for solutions that can be achieved through house rules or DM fiat.  What I’m trying to determine is if you can make a “combat-effective” character, using the 4E game mechanics as given, without having an “18” in your primary stat and/or maximizing your feat selection?


It seems to me, that if you can’t do that without making DIY home repairs to the game mechanics, then it means that CharOp is a requirement for characters to achieve combat effectiveness.

I think that the real key is that everyone in the part is in the same "zone" of optimization.  I person is super non-optimal or super optimal then you end up with a condition where that character is overshadowed by the rest of the party or outshines the rest of the party.


In general, I go with an 18 in the primary stat, post racial.  If I'm min/maxing I'll may go with a 20 post racial, but then you have to sacrifice in other areas. I guess you could survive fine with a 16, and it would give you other options for skill bonus, maybe higher CON...


I think I would find it hard in my brain to build a character, with a point buy system and racial bonuses and no racial penalties, and not have an 18 in the primary stat.  I think the thing is that your primary goes right into your to hit bonus and it always a lot more fun to hit than miss.


TjD 

Eladrins get at least a darkblue rating in the warlord charop handbooks for what its worth.  They bring a lot to the table and were designed to be good warlords even without a strength boost and I believe that rating is assuming they only have a starting 16 strength.

In general in 4E it really helps to have a starting 18 in your attack stat.  And you need to take an expertise feat at some point in heroic unless your DM gives you the bonus for free.  And your DM needs to either give you inherent bonuses or make sure you have level appropriate items.  And its really helpful to find a way to get consistent CA if possible.  If you are not doing some or all of that level of charop you won't hit much if your DM is using above level enemies and smart tactics.

The same this applies to defenses and PCs struggle with at least one defense falling behind at higher levels unless you optimize a little for it.

The other thing is that a lot of the published material for 4E isn't that good.  A ton of feats are repetetive, outdated, or highly situational so they go to waste.  A lot of powers don't work that well or are poorly desinged.  So its easy for even people making an effort to come up with stuff that looks good at first glance, but is not that effective.

And to top it off the advice on how to build PCs that comes from Wotc in publications is often not very good and the online/offline character builders often give nonsensical or terrible recomendations.  Sometimes the advice Wotc gives out goes so far as to directly contradict what people in the Charop forums who know the class very well recommend.
I think if a player thinks his/her character is far below the par compared to the rest of the group, the DM should allow that player to rebuild that character for the next session. And sometimes, the player is not fluent in suitable combat strategy. I've had one in my group, and his bladesinger would spend every round casting magic missile in the back, despite the fact that bladesong with melee basic attacks is the focus of the class. And then I also had a knight who didn't know what tanking was all about and preferred to stand at the outskirts of battle because he disliked losing hp. I'll admit those are beginner fallacies, and it almost led to TPK, had the DM not roleplayed an "internal conflict" in the enemy group and caused enemy units to attack one another.

I think optimization is the true fluff for some players who like to pride themselves with building the strongest characters that could be built. The stark reality is that even optimized characters can struggle if the DM wills it (by swarming players with monsters or have specially modified monsters with "optimized" templates, by using a modified damage table, or by using the terrain against them).

Eladrins get at least a darkblue rating in the warlord charop handbooks for what its worth.  They bring a lot to the table and were designed to be good warlords even without a strength boost and I believe that rating is assuming they only have a starting 16 strength.


Which is why I was surprised when he performed so poorly. Surprised

Mr Durriken, GelatenousOctahedron and Boromancer, I am reading your posts to mean:


“4E. Some Optimization Required”


Is that a fair assessment of your positions?
... of course, why you would want to dump your PRIMARY stat is beyond me.



Not so much dumping the stat, as not selecting the ideal race/class combination... like a Dwarf Rogue, for example.
I think people forget the one basic truth of D&D.... the DM sets the difficulty level, not the players. The DM designs the encounters, picks the monsters, uses the monsters, and controls the social and exploration parts of the game. In essence, the DM can dial it up or down however they want to.

If everyone in the party is sub-optimised, the DM can easily choose a difficulty level that is appropriate to them. Likewise, when the DM is faced with a party full of optimizers, the DM slides the difficulty up and in essence the optimized party is facing the same level of threat as the sub-optimized.

The problem comes when you have a mixed party. If two members of the party are char-opped min/maxed to the limit while two other members of the party have 15 in their main ability score, then the DM has a big problem. This is not just a problem with 4e, all editions of D&D have had this problem.

There's no easy way to fix it. In my experience, discussing it as a group is the most effective option and try and get everyone to agree to a baseline level of optimization. (for example, every 3rd feat should be a non-combat feat, or agree that everyone or no-one will roll for ability scores).
Yes some optimization is required, with more optimization the higher level you are.

But all D&D requires some optimization.  Its a game built around rolling dice and a near infinite different combinations of abilities that can effect those dice rolls.  3.5 required a lot more IME and at higher levels there was a lot more of a potential gap between optimized and non optimized PCs. 

In 4E you can pick almost any race/class combo and come up with a decent PC without that much effort.
This goes back to one of my previous posts, but If your pc has 16 in his main stat and you take a high proficiency weapon like a longsword, rapier, or a feat to use an accurate implement if you are a caster, you will still have a fairly decent hit to miss ratio and be effective enough in combat.

GelatinousOctahedron has already stated any other point I was going to make.

I don't think you need to match race and class to get a racial bonus in your primary, but when you don't, put an 18 in your primary and get a racial bonus in your secondary.  Dwarves don't get a bonus in dex, but you can build a wonderful dwarven ranger with con/wis bonus.  There are plenty of races that don't get an INT bonus, but you can build very nice wizards with them.


It's not necessarily about optimizing as not willfully "un-optimizing"  Some classes can be build with different primaries.  Cleric and paladins have attacks that run off different primaries depending on how you want to go.  With the cleric you can pick mostly strength powers and build strength primary, or dump strength and go with all wisdom based powers.  You run into problems when you try to go for both.  Pick one and give that an 18 or 20 post racial.


I have built a character with 16 primary, but it was a min/maxing situation - a sentinal druid gains alot from a high con - so I have built with a 20 con and 16 wis.  Might miss more, but the build is for effects and durability, not necessatily hitting. But that was a special situation.  


The thing about 4e is that the math is pretty transparent, so unless the whole party is suboptimal and the dm dials it back, you really have to find some way to make up for a lower score.  If I was your DM, and you had a character concept that required you to go with a 16 primary, I would say go for it.  If it wasn't working we'd find an agreeable way to fix it.


TjD


 I’m also not asking for solutions that can be achieved through house rules or DM fiat.  What I’m trying to determine is if you can make a “combat-effective” character, using the 4E game mechanics as given, without having an “18” in your primary stat and/or maximizing your feat selection?

It seems to me, that if you can’t do that without making DIY home repairs to the game mechanics, then it means that CharOp is a requirement for characters to achieve combat effectiveness.



Short answer: yes.

Long answer:  Where do you draw the line on "DIY home repairs to game mechanics"?  So long as you don't have heavily optimized and rather unoptimized characters in the same group, the "fix" is as easy as actually taking the party's strength into account when designing encounters.  I don't consider this "fixing" anything, it's something I do for groups of any Op level. 

The other question is where you draw the line between "combat-effective" and the nigh-useless PCs you were describing above.  I don't expect you to be able to accurately verbalize this difference(I can't), so think of it as a rhetorical question.  I would say, though, that it isn't a plain line, that it isn't an on/off switch.  +1 to hit simply isn't a huge bonus, and that's what the difference between a 16 and an 18 is.   

Furthermore, I'd say "4e: some amount of party understanding about acceptable optimization required."  but I'd only say it if I can also extend it to "D&D: some amount of party understanding about acceptable optimization required." 4e is pretty easy-going on this issue, in my experience.  3.5 is much harder.  There's such a wider gap between less and more optimized characters.  AD&D tends to seem easier on it, mainly because there's less optimization(in the modern day sense) possible.  There are less build choices overall and stats were generally rolled.  However, you still got all the same issues when some people rolled high and some rolled low.  
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Mr Durriken, GelatenousOctahedron and Boromancer, I am reading your posts to mean:


“4E. Some Optimization Required”


Is that a fair assessment of your positions?


Required for what? For fun?

I think for fun all you need is a DM with imagination and flexibility. You can have a blast playing an orc wizard who likes to run into the fray to hit stuff with his pathetic melee basic attack, and another player playing a paladin who's trying to use a heal check every turn to heal allies, while lacking any wisdom to do so. The same group could have optimized players who do all the real fighting. The DM just has to realize that this group of players is mixed, and give the power players a real challenge, while having the casual players and clowns handling shenanigans and laughing at the fact the DM just pit them against a frat boys wielding "greatpaddles" and initiates who lug "stale beer" and "hot sauce" at you.

Edit: I realize that I've forgotten your original post. If you want to be effective, you do have to think about how each decision you make on your character affects the character's ability to perform.

You need to have an idea what roles your character will have in the party, and what your character should do to handle those roles. They don't need to be "optimized" to have an effective performance, in the sense that the character can still do his job, but you still need to be able to hold your own and not drag the party down provided that the DM wants to push your team hard.
Here is the system math at lvl1

Soldiers are AC 17, skirmisher, lurker, controller are AC 15, brutes/artillery are AC13 as are everyones other defenses.

Assume a 20 in attack ability race opt for +5 modifier and a +3 proficiency and +2 combat advantage, thus AC respectively require a 7, 5, or 3 roll, respectively 70-90% odds to hit. 

Lets knock down to a 16 primary, no race opt for a +3 modifier use a +2 proficiency weapon and no combat advantage, now you need a 12, 10, or 8 or 45-65% success, also known as a moderate to easy task difficulty.  Last I checked this is not a game about kill counts, it is about cooperative play.   Work with your teammate and focus fire a NPC in the back you are doing nearly as good as the front line soldiers going at it.   

This does not factor in the variance of the d20 not hitting the average consistently within one encounter.   That could be as much as a +/-3 variance!

Those complaining are doing so because they do not hit every time need to be made aware the game is balanced for missing just over 1/3 the time, otherwise you could just skip the combat and say I win.   Obviously the min-maxer can push his ability stack higher than I did with good feats and magic items or race picks, and so can the weak ability character.  Given that the target is 65% you can go over/under that char opt or  not easily I would say it is balanced.

Try a randomized point buy on your players, this is where you use your favorite bounded method to roll ability (2d6+8, 4d6d1 etc) in random ability order until you exhaust your point buy points, and you can also lower the point buy budget, do this before class selection.  If they did a good roleplay creating their character reward them with some roll play buying back down to an 8 to tweak higher another attribute, or swap an attribute assignment if they hate it but encourage them to try and reroll on death first .   My favorite character ever was a paladin with mostly 13 for abilities, he died early to undead but a very memorable RP.  

With lower scores people play more strategically together as a team, the game becomes less of a "I hit it with my axe" board game.
My original group which got to level 20 had a drow fighter and a shadar-kai warlord (pre dragon article even). Neither character suffered because they were lacking a racial buff to their hit stat. Class strength has a much more noticible impact.

-1 hit/damage than is optimal isnt going to be an issue.


I'm pretty sure dwarven fighters (with axes/hammers no less) were considered good before they got a strength buff.  
Janx is correct, Dwarfs were widely considered the best warden and one of the best fighter and paladin races even before they got a strength bump because their features and feat support were perfect for defenders.

If a race has the proper support or has powerful enough racial features it doesn't need a stat bump to be considered a good choice by charopers.  I have tieflings as dark blue in my shaman handbook and I think at least one of the warlord handbooks has them as skyblue even though they don't get a wisdom or strength bonus.  Unfortunately not enough races have gotten that support and pixies are the only essentials era race that I can think of that started out powerful for off stat builds.

If I ever DM 4E I will reward players with a slightly higher point buy if they pick an off stat build.  I might be interested in doing a random selection of race/class for PCs too since some goups have had fun with that.

All quite interesting, potentially helpful, and great comments/suggestions… but like I’d said, I wasn’t necessarily looking for advice on how to “make ‘sub-optimal’ work” in 4E.


The reason why I am asking is, as follows:


I like the way that the DDN developers are doing the racial stat bonuses. 

To me, adding just +1 to a “racial” stat is a great way to highlight a race’s strengths without predetermining its class options. 


I was informed, however, that having a +2 racial stat boost doesn’t predetermine race/class combinations… and that any race, can be any class with equal effectiveness.




What I have experienced is; giving a particular race a “racial” stat bonus, that is high enough to create a mechanical advantage, in turn, discourages players from not taking full advantage of the race/class synergy that said bonus provides.


Whenever a player makes the decision to break from racial stereotypes, their “creativity” is rewarded with reduced effectiveness.



I’m not trying to fix a “problem” with my game, or even with 4E, in general.  I was trying to see if there is a pitfall, that needs to be avoided… so that we don’t find ourselves fixing these issues (if they even are issues) in the future of DDN. 



I am pretty confident that I’m not the only one who’s seen the “sameness” that building a significant race/class synergy into the system creates.  For example, I will never forget the RPGA D&D 3.5 event that I went to in San Diego, where my Warforged Druid had the opportunity to adventure with three differently-named, yet otherwise completely identical Half-Orc Fighter/Barbarian/Rogue/Rangers.  Then there’s my current 4E group, where the hyper-optimized Goliath Barbarian’s secondary character is… drum roll, please… an identical Goliath Barbarian.



“Some people just enjoy the challenge of CharOp”, you might say… or “That’s just what’s fun to them, there’s no wrong way to have fun”… but these games aren’t supposed to be about ONE person having THEIR fun, it’s about having fun as a group.



I would like to see a D&D where “rewards” for an option aren’t high enough to be mechanically relevant when viewed alone… it wouldn’t be until after you’d made several choices that your character’s strengths and weakness would be fully realized.  It would be a system where it would take more than a simple "race x + class y + tactic (or feat z) = battlefield dominance" equation to CharOp your character... and then CharOpers and RPers could contribute equally to the collective narative of the game.


... of course, why you would want to dump your PRIMARY stat is beyond me.



Not so much dumping the stat, as not selecting the ideal race/class combination... like a Dwarf Rogue, for example.



Erm. I'm at work, so I can't hop on Builder and play with this concept, but....I don't see anything wrong with this at all. What's the problem? Is it that Dwarves don't get a bonus to dex? 'Cause, again, you can work around that. Put a 16 or 18 in your primary stat, don't neglect your secondary stats, don't ignore your tertiary stats, don't pick stuff that doesn't work with your class (Rogue with a Greatsword and Plate, for example).

I have class tonight and tomorrow, and...I might have a shindig Friday night, but I'm not sure. I'll check back to see how much this thread has progressed on Friday or Saturday, but I'd be more than happy to hammer out any concept you can think of. No dictating classes, though, or requiring specific class features.

Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid

Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade.

"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all." -Kipling

 

Defenders: We ARE the wall!

 

I've replaced the previous Edition Warring line in my sig with this one, because honestly, everybody needs to work together to make the D&D they like without trampling on somebody else's D&D.

 

Miss d20 Modern? Take a look at Dias Ex Machina Game's UltraModern 4e!

 

57019168 wrote:
I am a hero, not a chump.
16 or more in primary stat, and wielding a weapon with proficiency is the baseline. This can contribute against at-level monsters for sure. Every chance (except, optionally, the level 21 ED bonus) you should put one of your +1s in your primary stat, and you should get some form of Expertise (I usually pick it up at level 8, but you can do so earlier or later. It's hard to ignore in paragon when it's +2). Keep your weapon or implement enhancement bonus level appropriate.
That's what you need as bare minimum to be effective. 
You can beat that by about another +5 at level 1, plus CA or other temporary bonuses/penalty. Basically every +1 means you can be effective against monsters one level higher. So if the DM likes to throw level + 3 monsters all the time, you will struggle a bit if you aren't sporting an extra +3 to hit from somewhere, and even then you may struggle on the defensive side.
Really though, the bulk of optimization is choosing good powers, creating synergies, and stacking bonuses. Having an 18 or 20 in your attack stat is handy, but a good charopper can easily make a character with no stat above 16 that can put a plain-vanilla 20 str/16 dex slayer to shame. Some will do so by finding a pile of +1s to attack and damage and combine that with multiattack or something. Others will go off and make some terrifyingly effective controller that simply shuts down encounters. I have Sin the Librarian, who is simply a black hole into which enemy damage disappears, who has created far more frustration in DMs facing against him than any striker from what I've seen.

The +2 to hit and damage from a 20 instead of a 16 is handy, but it can definitely be significantly exceeded by other means, both directly (you can have a 16 primary character with better accuracy and damage than a less optimized 20 primary character) and by simply optimizing for a different goal.   
I'm not sure if a party that's considered optimized can actually handle every situation thrown at them in the best way possible. Factors such as player personalities, player synchronization, player adaptability and strategic skill, DM creativity, DM personality and mood, DM strategic skill, and dice rolls affect game performance as well.

To put it simply, I think CharOp is fun, but not very important.

As for BatFett's inquiry about race and class synergy, I think it exists, but it really depends how you want to play the class and how the DM wants to run the campaign. I'm not experienced as a DM at all, but I think a combination of well played soldiers, lurkers, artillery, skirmishers and controllers can make an optimized Goliath barbarian sweat, especially with difficult terrain and concealment in favor of the enemies.
Something a DM could consider if he's facing a party with mixed levels of optimization is granting free 'boons' specifically engineered for underpowered characters during the course of a campaign. What these boons are - whether bonuses to hit, damage, or whatever - should boost them up to par.

Of course, this will only work with certain types of groups, particularly those where the optimizers accept they aren't going to get these power-crutches (and the players receiving the boons don't get insulted by them).
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
I dont think the +1 vs +2 really fixes anything "pigeonholely"-wise.  Classes in DDN give +1 to their main abilities dont they? so picking an optimal class/race combo still puts a you Modifier point head of other races.

A half-orc fighter in 4e has say 18 strength (16 +2 from race), while an elf has 16 strength

A half-orc fighter in DDn has 18 strenth (16 + 1 from race +1 from class), while an elf has 17 strength.

       
Now, the less optimal races will likely get that catch up to the optimal race quicker, but only until the next boost comes along.  


I'm not sure when or how you get ability score boosts, but assuming 4e progression, the two characters would have a +4/3 mod at level 1, a +4/+4 mod at level 4, a +5/4 mod at 8, etc.


So for alittle way your on par, and for alittle while you're behind.  
I dont think the +1 vs +2 really fixes anything "pigeonholely"-wise.  Classes in DDN give +1 to their main abilities dont they? so picking an optimal class/race combo still puts a you Modifier point head of other races.

A half-orc fighter in 4e has say 18 strength (16 +2 from race), while an elf has 16 strength

A half-orc fighter in DDn has 18 strenth (16 + 1 from race +1 from class), while an elf has 17 strength.

       
Now, the less optimal races will likely get that catch up to the optimal race quicker, but only until the next boost comes along.  


I'm not sure when or how you get ability score boosts, but assuming 4e progression, the two characters would have a +4/3 mod at level 1, a +4/+4 mod at level 4, a +5/4 mod at 8, etc.


So for alittle way your on par, and for alittle while you're behind.  




... but in DDN the standard starting scores are (currently) 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.  That means that the half-orc fighter would have a 17 strength (15 + 1 from race +1 from class), while the elf has 16 strength.

... and even if WOTC modifies the stat cap rule to allow variation between races, the proposed method would result in the half-orc fighter with a 21 strenth (20 cap + 1 from race), while the elf has a strength capped at 20.
There are players who don't like optimization and wish for the rules to change so that this behavior disappears. Changing the rules won't stop optimization. It'll just change the choices of optimizers. The only way to get rid of optimization is to eradicate stats, class, themes, backgrounds, powers, and feats. Now, every character is the same, because there is no variation, and thus customization is not possible. Might as well play Monopoly instead.
Optimized on paper and optimized in play are two different things.  

I mean you can hand someone a CharOp's wetdream, but if they use powers at terrible times, get stuck next to monsters without any escape route and play like Mr. Bean they're going to be terrible at the table.  

I think what often happens is that CharOp players ALSO learn good tactics and, since 4E is a very tactical game, this has an exponential effect on the strength of their character. 
yep like most things in life, having a toy does not mean you know how to use it !  See for reference all those vids on youtube where some guy/gal crashes his/her brand new car or whatever because they were showing off.  The person who buys a magnum 500 and shoots it on camera to show off the new gun only to have it fly into their face when they shoot.  This is a universal truth in life, I think.

But to get back to DnD, GreyICE is correct in his statement.  You can give a player any build from the hundreds that are considered top notch in CharOP, that does not mean the player will perform anywhere near what's expected.  In fact the player might not understand the build he is trying to use at all leading to choices during play that don't actually make sense with the options that are actually available.

A player who knows what he/she is doing, vs a player who doesn't, has an invaluable advantage. 
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

But to get back to DnD, GreyICE is correct in his statement.  You can give a player any build from the hundreds that are considered top notch in CharOP, that does not mean the player will perform anywhere near what's expected.  In fact the player might not understand the build he is trying to use at all leading to choices during play that don't actually make sense with the options that are actually available.

A player who knows what he/she is doing, vs a player who doesn't, has an invaluable advantage. 



This is absolutely true in general.
However, many of the top-notch charop monstrocities are designed to do unreasonable damage, with all else being secondary. If you understand that portion (which may involve some wierd shinanegans, but is often fairly straight forward and explained in the post about the build), then you can just apply that and win. The less strikery char-op builds do definitely need more understanding, but the damage spammers just need to know how their conditional damage works.
In a sense, they're a lot easier to play at the table than an unoptimized build.

As a general rule though it's true: char-op skill and tactical skill tends to run in the same players. Perhaps in part because of the level of understanding needed for char-op helps understand tactical situations, and perhaps part just that the same intellectual qualities apply to some degree to both. (that's not to say they're the same thing and you can't be good at one but bad at the other or anything.) Also, in 4e especially, tactical skill is a team thing. You need to work together to get the most out of your abilities. Maybe one tactician can guide a party, but only if they want to listen and really.. who wants to be the tactician's puppet? Or, for that matter, to boss all your friends around? It's much better (and more fun) if everyone has a handle on tactics and can follow their own ideas to great effect.    
To be honest I laughed when I read "monstrocities" haha.

Warlord= Alright fighter hit that guy !
Fighter= No.
Warlord= :'<

"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)