Say Yes or Roll the Dice

Consistently, players and the designers discuss issues related to when DMs should call for a roll versus when they should just say something happens.  At the same time, there are a lot of discussions related to the issue of dice rolls creating results that are incompatible with previously established narrative detials (e.g. As a player, I give a rousing Braveheart-esque speech, then roll a 1 on my Charisma check).

Inevitably, these questions/discussions lead to a rambling 5-minute line answer of nuanced recommendations that essentially say, "Umm... make it work and use common sense."  Answers never really seem to offer a good, easy to remember guideline for handling situations like these.

I think that the answer comes from a development that happened in indie RPG design a few years ago.  In the game Dogs in the Vineyard (and then cheerfully adopted by the very D&D-like The Burning Wheel), the designers described a rule of thumb called "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" that served as the guiding principle for handling situations like these, as well as really for the entire game.

What "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" means is that, so long as players are doing things that really don't matter for the story or for the game, the DM should just say yes. Only when a conflict becomes meaningful, and there are interesting possible outcomes for both success and failure should the check system be used.  For example, when the fighter wants to kick in the door to the dungeon, unless something interesting is going to happen if he fails, he should just succeed.  So, if failing the check means that the monsters the party is running from catch them or they are too late to save the hostages on the other side, then a check should be made and dice should be rolled.  If, however, failing the check just means that they have to try again and again until they make it, then there is no point is wasting play time by rolling a bunch of dice.  Just let them in.  Only when the outcome actually matters are the dice rolled.

The flip side of this rule is that, when the outcome matters, the dice should be rolled.  From my perspective, the situation where the player gives a rousing speech then rolls a 1 and fails the check is a situation where the dice were rolled at the wrong time. The outcome of that speech mattered.  Let's say that the check was to convince the king to send an army to stop the invading orcs.  The course of the campaign could be drastically changed by the outcome. In that case, it would be appropriate according to "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" to call for a check and roll some d20s. The time for rolling, though, is not after the player makes the speech, but before. If a player makes something a narrative reality, such as essentially saying, "My character makes an awesome inspiring speech", then dice should shut them down. So, if dice are to be used in a situation like this, they should be rolled first, then the player can describe a narrative reality that makes sense given the result.  So, if I roll a 1, then I should roleplay stumbling over my words or making a huge social faux pas.

Think of it this way--we are all pretty familiar with this flow in combat--Player declares intent ("I attack the orc with my sword").  Player rolls dice ("I got a 16").  DM describes the outcome of the action ("Light glints off your blade as you cleave through the orc's neck, sending its head flying away").  Very few of us routinely change this flow by saying something like--Player declares intent ("I attack"). DM describes result ("You behead the orc"). Player rolls dice ("I got 2"). DM backtracks and corrects the narrative ("Actually, forget about the beheading. The orc laughs at you and attacks back.").  The second flow is kind of silly and clearly is less fun than the first.  Thing is, that second flow is how most of us do social encounters.  I don't really get why.  If we are going to roll dice, then the idea should be that the dice are rolled first, before lengthy descriptions of outcomes occur.

I know that recommending this flow in social encounters is pretty new to many long-standing players and I know that not everyone wants to play a game where they roleplay the outcomes of the dice like that, but given the jarring problems that frequently occur when you roll dice after description, I would say that those players should just not roll the dice at all in that situation.

I think that the designers would do very well to make the very first piece of advice or "tool" they give to the DMs an admonition to "Say Yes or Roll the Dice".  When the outcome matters, when there are interesting, meaningful, fun outcomes to both success or failure, roll the dice.  When failure isn't interesting, either because the check can just be repeated, has no consequences, or really just stops the adventure or because previous description has rendered failure jarringly inappropriate (Braveheart situation), then leave the dice alone and just say yes. If you want to roll dice, make sure you do at a time when failure can still be interesting (i.e. before you desribe the gorey beheading of the orc).

I have used this rule of thumb in every game I have played since reading it in Burning Wheel, and I must say, no piece of advice has ever improved my games as much as this one.  When I realized that demanding constant checks that essentially were asking, "Can you start the adventure?" was not fun or interesting, my games became faster, more exciting, and more fun.  Besides teaching me to call for fewer checks, the advice also helped to reminding me to think about failure could be interesting, rather than just a roadblock,  when I do call for a check. When the rogue is picking a lock and fails, that could mean that he made too much noise and the nearby guards heard him and attacked, rather than simply meaning that he has to try again.  When the diplomat fails his check to convince the king to give them a ship to sail to the lost temple, rather than the PCs being unable to go to the cool adventure site, it could mean that they get the ship, but have to take along the king's annoying and incompent son to "teach him to be a man."

"Say Yes or Roll the Dice" is a simple saying that has had profound benefits for my game, not least of which is reducing the amount of talk necesary to describe when to call for check versus just going along with the players and helping to avoid the silly Braveheart situation.  Given that Luke Crane (author of Burning Wheel) and many other indie designers have already adopted the concept from Vincent Baker (author of Dogs in the Vineyard), I can't imagine there is any issue in the designers of DnD Next making a similar phrase part of their DM toolbox.

What are your thoughts? 

What "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" means is that, so long as players are doing things that really don't matter for the story or for the game, the DM should just say yes. Only when a conflict becomes meaningful, and there are interesting possible outcomes for both success and failure should the check system be used.  
What are your thoughts? 



This is how I have been DMing D&D for the last 20+ years.

As a matter of fact, the DM Guide in the playtest packet for DDN specifically states:

""When a player wants to take an action, it’s often appropriate to just let the action succeed. A character doesn’t normally need to make a Dexterity check to walk across an empty room, or a Charisma check to order a mug of ale in a tavern. Only call for a roll if you think it’s worth taking the time for the rules to come into the flow of the game.
Ask yourself two questions to aid your decision.
Is the action being taken so easy, so free of stress or conflict, or so appropriate to the situation that there should be no chance of failure?
“So easy” should take into account the ability score associated with the intended action. It’s easy for someone with a Strength score of 18 to flip over a table, though not easy for someone with a Strength score of 9.
Is the action being taken so inappropriate or impossible that it would never work?
Hitting the moon with an arrow is, for instance, impossible in almost any circumstance. If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind of roll is appropriate."

So, while it does not use the specific phrase "Say yes or roll", it amounts to the same thing. 
I don't think that the way it is stated now really gets to the heart of the matter, though.  It's not really about it being too easy or hard, though that can be part of it.  More, it is a matter about whether the roll is important and fun.  As it is written now, it makes it an issue of simulation--do the physics of the world make the task easy or impossible?  From my perspective, it's an issue of narrative fun.  The lock might be very hard for the rogue to pick, but does the rogue failing mean that everyone just waits for the adventure to start when the rogue finally rolls a big enough number?  It's not about about when failure is impossible, it's about when failure is unimportant.
I think that's why they put the part in that states:

"Is the action being taken so easy, so free of stress or conflict, or so appropriate to the situation that there should be no chance of failure?"



Emphasis mine, naturally.

I agree that making people role simply for the sake of making them roll does little but drag the situation out. Using your example (with the rogue lock-picking), if the door is locked but is not trapped, the party is not being directly followed, or time is not of the essence, then yes, I would gladly state that the rogue can pick the lock with no rolls needed. It is just as likely, though, that unless the door is trapped, monsters are on the PCs' heels, or time is, indeed, of the essence, that I would not present a lock to the PCs that needed picking in the first place. A locked door where there would be no stress to the rogue to unlock it is not appropriate to the situation (as stated above), so it probably wouldn't be there.
I'm going to disagree, but.....




Or is it "disagree, and....."



Regardless - I think the flaw of "Say yes, or roll the dice" is that it leads to too simple resolutions.


To combine the various "say Yes" cliches...



Say "Yes, but....." or roll the dice. 

Just because the player wants something, that doesn't mean that the players get exactly what they want or get what they want right now, or that what they get doesn't come with consequences.  Give them what they want (or roll the dice) -and then ask yourself what unintended consequences might come with it, or hwo interesting plot twist might complicate it.  And if you can't come up with something, then roll the dice.

And you could even (if appropriate) give the player the option:  "Yes, but
Carl
If you can take a 10 on it and succeed, then you don't need to roll. 

If for some reason you can't take a 10 on it and succeed, then you must roll.

I think that how it should be.  
If you can take a 10 on it and succeed, then you don't need to roll. 

If for some reason you can't take a 10 on it and succeed, then you must roll.

I think that how it should be.  



That is the strict interpretation.  But it also leads to a lot of wasted time and meaningless rolls.

If you want it put into strict rules, I'd word it this way:


If it can be done at all and if there is no consequence for repeated attempts - then you succeed (Say yes).  If there is a consequence for failure (including time pressure) then you roll.


Or, if you prefer - "If you can Take 20, Say Yes; otherwise roll the dice".

Although, note:  The real value of "Say Yes" advice is for situations where the rules don't clearly cover the action, so the DM is trying to decide whether or not the PCs succeed.  It boils down to: If there isn't any reason why they won't eventually succeed (even if they have to try more than once) - just assume they do succeed rather than forcing repeated rerolls with no signifcance.

Carl
If you have a contingency plan for PC failure, roll the dice.
If you have a contingency plan for PC success, roll the dice.
Otherwise, issue a DM Fiat.

Think of it this way--we are all pretty familiar with this flow in combat--Player declares intent ("I attack the orc with my sword").  Player rolls dice ("I got a 16").  DM describes the outcome of the action ("Light glints off your blade as you cleave through the orc's neck, sending its head flying away").  Very few of us routinely change this flow by saying something like--Player declares intent ("I attack"). DM describes result ("You behead the orc"). Player rolls dice ("I got 2"). DM backtracks and corrects the narrative ("Actually, forget about the beheading. The orc laughs at you and attacks back.").  The second flow is kind of silly and clearly is less fun than the first.  Thing is, that second flow is how most of us do social encounters.  I don't really get why.  If we are going to roll dice, then the idea should be that the dice are rolled first, before lengthy descriptions of outcomes occur.



It doesn't work for social encounters because you need to know what the character is saying. Social stuff isn't just a magic wand you wave in front of an NPC and he magically changes his mind. If you want to tell a believable story, your NPCs need to act believable, so what the PCs say to them has to matter. Because what they say explains the "how" part of thier action.

It would be like saying "I want to destroy the adamantine door" without saying how the character wants to do that. In fact, without knowing how, you can't adequately understand the situation. If the character answered "by biting through it", you'd hit him with an auto failure, don't even bother rolling. If he used a weapon, he might have to roll a damage roll. If he cast a disintegrate spell, it might be an auto-success.

It's the same for social skills. If what you say is so convincing that it doesn't really take charm to say it, then you should automatically succeed. If what you say is so incredibly dumb it doesn't matter how well you say it, then you should auto-fail.

 





It doesn't work for social encounters because you need to know what the character is saying. Social stuff isn't just a magic wand you wave in front of an NPC and he magically changes his mind. If you want to tell a believable story, your NPCs need to act believable, so what the PCs say to them has to matter. Because what they say explains the "how" part of thier action.

It would be like saying "I want to destroy the adamantine door" without saying how the character wants to do that. In fact, without knowing how, you can't adequately understand the situation. If the character answered "by biting through it", you'd hit him with an auto failure, don't even bother rolling. If he used a weapon, he might have to roll a damage roll. If he cast a disintegrate spell, it might be an auto-success.

It's the same for social skills. If what you say is so convincing that it doesn't really take charm to say it, then you should automatically succeed. If what you say is so incredibly dumb it doesn't matter how well you say it, then you should auto-fail.



I disagree that you need to know what the character is saying.  This is definitely a difference of play style, but I think that all that should be declared before dice are rolled in social challenge is the general intent of the player (i.e. "I am going to try to convince him by describing the plight of the victims" or "I am going to lie to him about his daughter's involvement" or "I am going to throw down a legal loophole that lets us through"), just enough description to help the player and DM decide what the appropriate ability and skill to check is.  Once that intent is declared, the dice are rolled.  Only when I know how well I rolled do I go into play-acting mode and give speech appropriate to the result.  In the example with the lie about the daughter, if I rolled low, I might call her obscene names or give an account that the target knows could not possibly be true because he was with her at the time.

I'm not saying that this is the best or only way to play, but I don't think there is any better way for the dice and narrative to flow if the dice are going to be rolled.  If you want to just talk through social scenes and resolve conflicts through acting, more power to you, but I don't think it makes to roll dice to decide an outcome after events have already been established through role-play.
Consistently, players and the designers discuss issues related to when DMs should call for a roll versus when they should just say something happens.  At the same time, there are a lot of discussions related to the issue of dice rolls creating results that are incompatible with previously established narrative detials (e.g. As a player, I give a rousing Braveheart-esque speech, then roll a 1 on my Charisma check).

Inevitably, these questions/discussions lead to a rambling 5-minute line answer of nuanced recommendations that essentially say, "Umm... make it work and use common sense."  Answers never really seem to offer a good, easy to remember guideline for handling situations like these. 



Players should describe the goal broadly and a general method (either may modify difficulties and are required really), roll the dice AND then describe the actual performance... no giving rousing braveheartesque speaches before you roll the dice. In other words player performance reflects the quality of the roll.


  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Interesting. I'd say if the action attempted is very easy, or if it can be attempted repeatedly without consequences for failure, then Just Say Yes. But if the action is difficult, and there is a consequence for failure (and if waiting another round would give the villain more time to flee, that's a consequence), call for a roll. If you do call for a roll, you should have a plan for what happens if the character succeeds AND for if the character fails.
There's also the option to Just Say No. This is discouraged by WotC, but sometimes there simply is no chance of the character succeeding on a check. If one of my players said, "I try and lift the castle out of the way", then I would just tell him he fails. I wouldn't call for a roll, because even a 20 wouldn't be enough to succeed. (This assumes the characters are not demigods that lift castles as morning exercise.) I say this last option should be reserved for extreme cases, and not situations where the task is very difficult.
  If one of my players said, "I try and lift the castle out of the way", then I would just tell him he fails.


Hey that could even be No AND... as in No and you get a hernia.
No, but is more useful and likely.
alghough if its easy...
Yes, but is probably the coolest because you introduce twists that extend the story and can use the players ideas and intentions as the starting point.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 


"Say Yes or Roll the Dice" is a simple saying that has had profound benefits for my game, not least of which is reducing the amount of talk necesary to describe when to call for check versus just going along with the players and helping to avoid the silly Braveheart situation.  Given that Luke Crane (author of Burning Wheel) and many other indie designers have already adopted the concept from Vincent Baker (author of Dogs in the Vineyard), I can't imagine there is any issue in the designers of DnD Next making a similar phrase part of their DM toolbox.

What are your thoughts? 



Overall I disagree....

But there are bits I agree with.  If a fighter has even a 5% chance of kicking in a door, and time and sound are of no issue, then it's fine if the DM says "The door finally caves in after repeated crushing kicks."  If though doing it in one try is important for any reason then I say roll.  Because kicking a door once is often less noisy than kicking it repeatedly.

I emphatically disagree with your speech example specifically.  I want the roll afterwards but if the PC did give a rousing speech then the reason it failed must not be the speech.  In fact if I don't have a good reason why the King won't help then he'd just help after the speech.  I'd still roll.   I tend to hid social rolls behind the screen.

There are tons of fun ways to fail forward, and say yes but...  and I'm not against any of those ideas as things in your toolbox.  But I really do resent the idea that just saying no isn't the right answer on occasion.  And of course there are times when the answer is always no.  If the King's army is battered from war and the castle undermanned,  the King might just say no.  I also tend to give positive or negative modifiers based on what specifically is being asked for.  Not how well the player asked but the details of what is being asked.


 

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For social situations I use non verbal cue descriptions when the roll fails but the speech was well delivered.

I.e. player delivers an excellent bluff but rolls a 1.

The NPC notices that the character is sweating and that his eyes dart nervously. In addition he swallows hard at the end of his speech and fidgets nervously with the hilt of his sword.

Vocalization is only a fraction of social interactions.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

The problem with a speech is... you are not your character. 

This works in favor of anti-social wallflowers - but it works against public speaking charismatic people. (Just like all the stats work for or against those who do or do not possess them in real life.)

Perhaps you gave your Braveheart speech as your character - but the soldiers are tired and hungry and having none of it.

Or - perhaps they're just THAT scared of the ogre army.

Or you were only decieving yourself that it was "good".

Or a bird **** on your shoulder while you were being "rousing" and you didnt' notice.

Or Office Cromwall was doing rabbit ears behind your head while you were rallying the troops. 

Or rain was getting into your eyes and face - or it was really windy and people couldn't hear it - or it was interrupted by an impromptu attack.

Or any number of in game factors that are the reason we make rolls in the first place.

====

However - a speech is often given at a moment when a roll SHOULD be made.

For player effort - I often will give a bonus. The effort is what counts - not my opinion of what they said. So even that shy wallflower could describ their speech well - and I'd still offer a bonus without requiring a performance.

That being said - I don't add too many things to the game that aren't important to the story. Sure - descriptions, like weather or random events that "just happen" - but they're often really short cut scene type experiences.

Rolling dice at the shop can lead to a whole bevy of events that "mean something" later. Rolling well - perhaps you develope a friend - rolling bad, perhaps your reputation in the town is hurt by this man's bad mouthing. 

If a mage were going to entertain crowds with cantrips - and wanted it to "mean something" - then yeah, he'd have to roll.

So I think I agree with the: "Skip the roll if it's meaningless." I just don't think many things you're doing at the table should have no bearing on the future of the game. ((Unless - it's just chatting and hanging out with friends or whatever - but that's not what I'm talking about.))  
Consistently, players and the designers discuss issues related to when DMs should call for a roll versus when they should just say something happens.  At the same time, there are a lot of discussions related to the issue of dice rolls creating results that are incompatible with previously established narrative detials (e.g. As a player, I give a rousing Braveheart-esque speech, then roll a 1 on my Charisma check).

Inevitably, these questions/discussions lead to a rambling 5-minute line answer of nuanced recommendations that essentially say, "Umm... make it work and use common sense."  Answers never really seem to offer a good, easy to remember guideline for handling situations like these.

I think that the answer comes from a development that happened in indie RPG design a few years ago.  In the game Dogs in the Vineyard (and then cheerfully adopted by the very D&D-like The Burning Wheel), the designers described a rule of thumb called "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" that served as the guiding principle for handling situations like these, as well as really for the entire game.

What "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" means is that, so long as players are doing things that really don't matter for the story or for the game, the DM should just say yes. Only when a conflict becomes meaningful, and there are interesting possible outcomes for both success and failure should the check system be used.  For example, when the fighter wants to kick in the door to the dungeon, unless something interesting is going to happen if he fails, he should just succeed.  So, if failing the check means that the monsters the party is running from catch them or they are too late to save the hostages on the other side, then a check should be made and dice should be rolled.  If, however, failing the check just means that they have to try again and again until they make it, then there is no point is wasting play time by rolling a bunch of dice.  Just let them in.  Only when the outcome actually matters are the dice rolled.

The flip side of this rule is that, when the outcome matters, the dice should be rolled.  From my perspective, the situation where the player gives a rousing speech then rolls a 1 and fails the check is a situation where the dice were rolled at the wrong time. The outcome of that speech mattered.  Let's say that the check was to convince the king to send an army to stop the invading orcs.  The course of the campaign could be drastically changed by the outcome. In that case, it would be appropriate according to "Say Yes or Roll the Dice" to call for a check and roll some d20s. The time for rolling, though, is not after the player makes the speech, but before. If a player makes something a narrative reality, such as essentially saying, "My character makes an awesome inspiring speech", then dice should shut them down. So, if dice are to be used in a situation like this, they should be rolled first, then the player can describe a narrative reality that makes sense given the result.  So, if I roll a 1, then I should roleplay stumbling over my words or making a huge social faux pas.

Think of it this way--we are all pretty familiar with this flow in combat--Player declares intent ("I attack the orc with my sword").  Player rolls dice ("I got a 16").  DM describes the outcome of the action ("Light glints off your blade as you cleave through the orc's neck, sending its head flying away").  Very few of us routinely change this flow by saying something like--Player declares intent ("I attack"). DM describes result ("You behead the orc"). Player rolls dice ("I got 2"). DM backtracks and corrects the narrative ("Actually, forget about the beheading. The orc laughs at you and attacks back.").  The second flow is kind of silly and clearly is less fun than the first.  Thing is, that second flow is how most of us do social encounters.  I don't really get why.  If we are going to roll dice, then the idea should be that the dice are rolled first, before lengthy descriptions of outcomes occur.

I know that recommending this flow in social encounters is pretty new to many long-standing players and I know that not everyone wants to play a game where they roleplay the outcomes of the dice like that, but given the jarring problems that frequently occur when you roll dice after description, I would say that those players should just not roll the dice at all in that situation.

I think that the designers would do very well to make the very first piece of advice or "tool" they give to the DMs an admonition to "Say Yes or Roll the Dice".  When the outcome matters, when there are interesting, meaningful, fun outcomes to both success or failure, roll the dice.  When failure isn't interesting, either because the check can just be repeated, has no consequences, or really just stops the adventure or because previous description has rendered failure jarringly inappropriate (Braveheart situation), then leave the dice alone and just say yes. If you want to roll dice, make sure you do at a time when failure can still be interesting (i.e. before you desribe the gorey beheading of the orc).

I have used this rule of thumb in every game I have played since reading it in Burning Wheel, and I must say, no piece of advice has ever improved my games as much as this one.  When I realized that demanding constant checks that essentially were asking, "Can you start the adventure?" was not fun or interesting, my games became faster, more exciting, and more fun.  Besides teaching me to call for fewer checks, the advice also helped to reminding me to think about failure could be interesting, rather than just a roadblock,  when I do call for a check. When the rogue is picking a lock and fails, that could mean that he made too much noise and the nearby guards heard him and attacked, rather than simply meaning that he has to try again.  When the diplomat fails his check to convince the king to give them a ship to sail to the lost temple, rather than the PCs being unable to go to the cool adventure site, it could mean that they get the ship, but have to take along the king's annoying and incompent son to "teach him to be a man."

"Say Yes or Roll the Dice" is a simple saying that has had profound benefits for my game, not least of which is reducing the amount of talk necesary to describe when to call for check versus just going along with the players and helping to avoid the silly Braveheart situation.  Given that Luke Crane (author of Burning Wheel) and many other indie designers have already adopted the concept from Vincent Baker (author of Dogs in the Vineyard), I can't imagine there is any issue in the designers of DnD Next making a similar phrase part of their DM toolbox.

What are your thoughts? 



I agree with this completely. I have been DMing like this forever. In fact if its been used in many games I might just have to put it in the one I'm designing in my signature...
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The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
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