How to force players to optimize?

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We play a dungeon crawl, 3rd level, 5 players, 3 of them optimize. The other 2 and the DM thinks this is bad roleplaying. I do not agree with this, but you would think after 9 character deaths in 5 sessions will convince them to optimize anyway.
I do care about their subpar characters being killed, as it slows the game down, but what really infuriates me is that their incompetence got my precious killed. Smile
Leaving the game is not an option, this is the only game in town. To give examples really how bad they really are, one of them played a ranged Avenger, the other one a wizard with Hypnotism and Magic Missile. No forced movement, no area damage, nothing really.
We have offered several times to help them "improve" thier characters, but they mostly refuse it. I do not want to offend them, so could you share some of your experience how I should deal with this?
Do they notice how much more effective you and the other two players are in combat? You can use that as an "in" to show them a bit more about optimization. 

Be aware that this may be a slow process. But just informing them on some of the basics, like "you need a good to-hit bonus so always have an 18 in your attack stat at level 1 and take Expertise as one of your first feats", can set them on the right track. 

After that, just inform them of an awesome feat you've seen for one of their characters (just look at one of the CharOp handbooks) and ask them to consider it. In time, they will warm up to optimization. Just don't expect them to start placing it before roleplay stuff. Your goal should be to make them effective, not overpowered. 

Or you could suggest they only play Essentials characters. Those practically build themselves, not a lot that can go wrong with those.
I would point out that in the extremely violent world that D&D takes place in, making characters better at combat isn't somehow "bad roleplaying," it's role-playing them as people who know that they are living in a very violent world and want to learn how to keep living.

If I may use my idea for a 3.5 Catfolk as an example of what a character might feel in-game about "optimization:"
(16+4 DEX, 14 CON, 13 INT, 12 STR, 10 WIS, 8+2 CHA)


His version: he knows that he is a lot faster than he is strong, so he has learned specific swordfighting techniques that depend on speed instead of strength

(My version: I would start him at level 1 as a Fighter so he can take the Weapon Finesse feat to take advantage of his +5 DEX modifier over his +1 STR)


His version: he learns everything he can about vital organs, vulernable areas, and how to go for them specifically (lethally or otherwise) in order to get the fight over faster. His opponents would have to be surprised or distracted for him to be able to attack them that precisely without them blocking him, but he is very good at catching enemies off-guard and more importantly has friends who would back him up in a fight.

(My version: exclusively adding levels of Rogue after 1 level in Fighter [the SA damage would more than make up for a smaller STR bonus to damage], taking the Improved Initiative feat [possibly in exchange for the Shaky flaw to get it at level 1], racially he already has faster movement [40 vs. 30] and +2 Move silently checks)


His version: he has had bad experiences being unable to defend himself or his friends without his sword, so he learns everything he can about martial arts that don't require weapons in case his gets stolen/confiscated again.

(My version: gradually taking the Improved and Superior Unarmed Strike feats)

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

I would point out that in the extremely violent world that D&D takes place in, making characters better at combat isn't somehow "bad roleplaying," it's role-playing them as people who know that they are living in a very violent world and want to learn how to keep living.

I tried this one, they just did not get it.

Obviously you can't "force" them to do anything they don't want to in a game.

Its so easy to differentiate mechanical features from roleplaying flavor hopefully they can grasp that, or maybe just try and coach them toward greater effectiveness without compromising their sillyness, get the wizard to take the theme which grants magic missile for free and hope he takes something useful as his 2nd at-will; see if the avenger, well, that one is harder, hybrid seeker? I don't know...
Do they notice how much more effective you and the other two players are in combat? You can use that as an "in" to show them a bit more about optimization. 

Be aware that this may be a slow process. But just informing them on some of the basics, like "you need a good to-hit bonus so always have an 18 in your attack stat at level 1 and take Expertise as one of your first feats", can set them on the right track. 

After that, just inform them of an awesome feat you've seen for one of their characters (just look at one of the CharOp handbooks) and ask them to consider it. In time, they will warm up to optimization. Just don't expect them to start placing it before roleplay stuff. Your goal should be to make them effective, not overpowered. 

Or you could suggest they only play Essentials characters. Those practically build themselves, not a lot that can go wrong with those.

I do not even have to look at the guides to find better feats/items/powers. But every time I suggest something, they just ignore it. One of them just made another wizard, one of the feats does literally nothing (enhances a racial feature his racial variant does not even have) the other one gives 5 cold fire and thunder resistance. In the 5 sessions these never came up. The At-wills are Hypnotism and Phantom Cage. An improvement over Magic Missile, but still. The sad part is he knows the character is not strong, but he explicitly said he does not want strong.



Obviously you can't "force" them to do anything they don't want to in a game.

Its so easy to differentiate mechanical features from roleplaying flavor hopefully they can grasp that, or maybe just try and coach them toward greater effectiveness without compromising their sillyness, get the wizard to take the theme which grants magic missile for free and hope he takes something useful as his 2nd at-will; see if the avenger, well, that one is harder, hybrid seeker? I don't know...

The DM does not allow Themes. I told him we obviously need any form of extra power we can get, but he "does not see the need".
At least one of the two deliberatly builds subpar characters. "It is more fun".

The sad part is he knows the character is not strong, but he explicitly said he does not want strong.


Make it clear to them that there's a difference between 'strong' and 'pulling your weight'. You don't have to win a race, but it's nice to actually finish it.

From your story, I feel they don't actually realize how the combat roles in 4E work (striker, defender, controller, leader). Ask them to consider picking a role and building for it, since otherwise they won't be pulling their weight in combat. If they don't understand how a role works, help them figure it out.

Also, if their underpowered characters are actively interfering with your fun, tell them that. D&D is a team game, and you can't make your characters survive without their help (as evidenced). Tell them you're not fine with your character dying every few sessions, and that you need their help for that too.
Actually TELL the other players that them getting killed all the time is making the game less fun for you, and tell them why.  Offer to help them build the character one more time and explain that character builds don't have to have any relation to how they are roleplayed.  Emphasize that having a weak character is not the only way to be interesting.  CHALLENGE THEM TO ROLEPLAY A STRONG CHARACTER, and show them how.  Be aware that they will probably not take ALL your suggestions, but be glad if they just take some of them.  STOP BEING AFRAID OF OFFENDING THEM.  Their play style is bothering you by making the game less of what you like.  Make sure you let them know that in a polite and honest way and if they don't respond positively ... I guess that says how much they think of your opinion.

Finally, leaving the game is ALWAYS an option.  No D&D is better than bad D&D.  This obviously has bothered you enough to ask for help about it.  If it really bothers you that much, quit and perhaps start your own game.

Bottom line, don't be afraid to OFFEND.  If other players get bent out of shape when you reasonably and politely request that things change, then that's THEIR problem, not yours.  Just state openly, politely and honestly what you want and why you want it.  Your desires are just as important as everyone else's.  If the rest of the group can't accomodate you in some manner, either deal with it and carry on, or leave.

Or, if you want to be snarky, ask the other players how much fun they have playing their character being unconscious.  Inform them that you thought the way just sat on the floor like that and did nothing really was cool.  You could also suggest interesting ways for them to roleplay making death saving throws.  Things like seeing how long they can be quiet, leaving the room to simulate being dead, tearing up their character sheet to inspire them to act out their dramatic death scene etc.  ;)

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

Ultimately, the characters are their own.  You cannot force them to build their character how you want them to, and attempting to do so will just create bad feelings.  RedSiegfried is right when he says not playing D&D is better than playing a game you are not enjoying.

If they do not want your advice, then there is no point in offering it.  Until they realize that their ability to optimize and their ability to roleplay are unrelated, there is nothing you can do.  They might even start making their characters even worse, just to spite you, or conspire to otherwise irritate you further so that you either leave or the DM/group ejects you.

Either grin and bear it, or depart.
Let them play their characters how they want.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Bottom line for me is that if you want someone to change the way they are doing things, you have to come out and say so.  That doesn't mean you'll always get what you want, but you certainly won't unless you ask.  Regardless, be polite, patient, and be willing to take no for an answer.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Bottom line for me is that if you want someone to change the way they are doing things, you have to come out and say so.  That doesn't mean you'll always get what you want, but you certainly won't unless you ask.  Regardless, be polite, patient, and be willing to take no for an answer.

Or do this.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Let them play their characters how they want.


Ahh, but are they letting him play his character the way he wants to: somebody that doesn't get killed multiple times per session?

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

It also bears noting that the DM should be adjusting the encounter difficulty to the abilities of the PCs.
Let them play their characters how they want.

Ahh, but are they letting him play his character the way he wants to: somebody that doesn't get killed multiple times per session?

That's not a way to play a character, that's an outcome determined (if the DM still insists on boring failure mores) in part by the way one plays that character. It's also determined in part by how others play their characters, and other factors, but one is still allowed to make one's own choices during play.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

It also bears noting that the DM should be adjusting the encounter difficulty to the abilities of the PCs.

Or setting up ways to fail that are more interesting than character death. Do we all see how this would be less of a problem if death wasn't on the line and the game was still interesting for the poster despite the party's failures?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Go with a perma stealth character so when they die you get to sneak away and play the same character.
I need to get this straight in my head.  You are a player, right? 
They are having fun running what they want.  Let them run what they want.  You can insinuate, you can point out every bad move they make, you can keep asking them.  But in the end, what they see is you constantly pestering them to play your way.  If you keep bringing this up, they are just going to get rid of you.  Stop bothering them about it. 

Ultimately, you should leave if it is keeping you from having fun.  Don't tell me this is the only game in town.  Either run a game yourself, or do it online with maptools or something.  It's better to not play, then to force yourself.  You will just ruin it for yourself and others.
I need to get this straight in my head.  You are a player, right? 
They are having fun running what they want.  Let them run what they want.  You can insinuate, you can point out every bad move they make, you can keep asking them.  But in the end, what they see is you constantly pestering them to play your way.  If you keep bringing this up, they are just going to get rid of you.  Stop bothering them about it. 

Ultimately, you should leave if it is keeping you from having fun.  Don't tell me this is the only game in town.  Either run a game yourself, or do it online with maptools or something.  It's better to not play, then to force yourself.  You will just ruin it for yourself and others.




I think his point, which he may have not made clear in this thread, is that the other player's unwillingness to contribute in combat is making the part of the game he enjoys the most less fun for him.  This culminated in the recent death of the character he was playing and liked.  He is trying to find a solution to this problem other than "leave the game" because he still wants to play.
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Characters die.

You cannot force players to make characters the way you want, nor can you tell them how to play them.

I suggest talking to them about your frustrations.  If that doesn't work seek another game.

I was in game D&D 3.5 where I played a Rogue who was a Guild Leader the other Rogue was an assassin.

One day we came to a large door of a Temple we were going to rob and eliminate the Head Cleric.

As we came to the door it was locked.  It was then I realized that my Open Lock skill was horrible for my level since I had put all my points into social skills.

So I asked the assassin to open it.  He had put all his points into Stealth, Move Silently and such.

Between us we couldn't pick the lock.

We found this hilarious, the other players...not so much.

After that we talked about it with your DM and requested to modify our skills around to be more party friendly.
9 deaths in 5 sessions is too much.  If the players refuse to optimize, the DM needs to lower the difficulty of the encounters.
9 deaths in 5 sessions is too much.  If the players refuse to optimize, the DM needs to lower the difficulty of the encounters.



Eh, high mortality can be fun in a pure delve.  As long as you don't get too attached to your characters.  Like, say, attached enough to call it your precious.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
9 deaths in 5 sessions is too much.  If the players refuse to optimize, the DM needs to lower the difficulty of the encounters.



Have you ever played Hackmaster?
9 deaths in 5 sessions is too much.  If the players refuse to optimize, the DM needs to lower the difficulty of the encounters.



Have you ever played Hackmaster?



If '9 deaths in 5 sessions' is an endorsement, I never will.
Why are you even trying to force them to optimize?
If they have a character concept they want to play, let them.
I would rather play in a game with a bunch of non-optimized characters that are fun than in a game with 5 cardboard characters that are fully optimized and have 0 personality.
Why are you even trying to force them to optimize?
If they have a character concept they want to play, let them.
I would rather play in a game with a bunch of non-optimized characters that are fun than in a game with 5 cardboard characters that are fully optimized and have 0 personality.



How about 5 optimized characters with full personalities, because optimizing and roleplaying are not inversely proportional?
True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.
True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.



the whole point is that you shouldn't have to choose
True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.



the whole point is that you shouldn't have to choose


True.
But you shouldn't be forced to optimize if you don't want to.
True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.



the whole point is that you shouldn't have to choose


True.
But you shouldn't be forced to optimize if you don't want to.



Right, but there is a certain level of optimization you really should do.  Like a rogue with Cha as their main stat and 10 dex.  That guy isn't "sub optimal" that guy is "useless in combat".  He doesn't need to learn about frost cheese, but he does need to learn a couple of basics of how to not be completely useless.  Just like the player who doesn't want to RP at all should make the barebones of a backstory and participate out of combat with more than grunts.  They are two sides of the same thing and a good character needs some of both to function.
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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Need a few pre-generated characters for a one-shot you are running? Want to get a baseline for what an effective build for a class you aren't familiar with? Check out the Pregen thread here If ever you are interested what it sounds like to be at my table check out my blog and podcast here Also, I've recently done an episode on "Refluffing". You can check that out here
There's a difference between Optimizing and Functionalizing.

Assigning appropriate stats, equipment, and skills is Functionalizing.

Working out all the class-features, feats, magic items, theme, paragon path, and epic destiny features so that the maximum synergy of attack, damage, and side-effect is achieved is Optimizing.
The player in question isn't "functionalizing" either.  His character is so ineffective in combat he spends more time than he should out of the game and that's causing other people to get killed, and that's impacting the enjoyment of the game for others, which is not nice.  The fact that the characters that were described as not optimizing are getting killed while the characters that were described as optimizing are not getting killed indicates that even the DM, who claims he doesn't like optimizing, is running scenarios that are balanced for latter type of characters.  So sidetracking the thrust of the argument with symantics doesn't change the fact that the player in question should put forth a little effort to not suck, for the sake of the other players. 

Nor does it change the fact that the OP should in clear terms let the other player know that he has a problem with the way his character is built and nicely request that he change things up a bit.  And if that doesn't work out he should either smile and deal with it (haven't we all?) or leave the game if it upsets him that much.

A good player should be a good RPer AND be effective in combat to the extent that group consensus requires.  If you're falling down on one or both of those legs, others in the group have a right to ask you to change things, and a responsibilty to help you do that if you want help.

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.



You don't have to choose.

-------------------> The point
Cry                       Your head
True.
But good role playing does not require optimization. And if I had to choose, RP beats OP every time.



You don't have to choose.

-------------------> The point
                       Your head


No.
The point, as already stated, is that you do not force other players to optimize.
And if the player does not want to make a Functional character, well, you can't force that either. But I would question whether this player actually wants to play, or just be a sphincter.

Functional: highest stat into primary skill. Pick the powers that make sense for your build.

Optimize: you have to put your highest stat in this, and it has to be a base 18 at first level, and you need this race so you get the racial bonus, And you really should play this race so that you get the bump to the secondary class stat, and you should take this feat....
like talking to a wall
Op. I've dealt with this problem before, and I did eventually manage to solve it. At first I focusing on making my characters highly self sufficient. You are the Leader, Defender, and Striker by your lonesome. A really sturdy fighter build was what I went with. Try something like a Longtooth Shifter or Dwarf Battlerager. Brawlers are cool too, and aren't even that gear intensive. This just started to piss off the other players because I was hogging the Limelight. Step one, complete.

After that campaign got done we did some delves, so I did a standard charge package Thief, to show them what really frontloaded damage looks like. This is somewhat misleading, because Thief itself isn't especially optimized, but the charge package really just sprays dice everywhere, which looks impressive.

Couple weeks after that, we started up a new level 1 campaign, so I built a skirmishing Rogue that didn't use any magic items, just to rub it in how much better I could do in combat with 0 items than fully geared players, all while having a really rather compelling character to roleplay. Again, this was kind of a dirty trick by me, just because the math of the game lets you get away with crap like that for about 6 levels before it gets truly untenable, but luckily, they didn't know that.

Finally, after a couple of sessions of playing that character, one of the kids asked me how can I make chararacters so cool, and from there, I managed to turn the rest of them.

Long story short, being That Guy worked for me to get them to come around. Maybe it can work for you, maybe no. Good luck at any rate.
If you are going to go the route of being "That guy" what I would recommend is taking something that grinds the game to a halt if your players don't do well, but still lets you "win".  Case-in-point, play a Death's Gatekeeper if you are late heroic or higher.  You will take forever to win, but you won't lose.  Having a whole group of people depending on you to carry the group in combat can get annoying, but if you are just letting the group not fail rather than letting them win it can try to push others to help you "win".

The other option is to play something really overpowered.  Something with the charge package in low-mid heroic, a breather in high heroic, paragon or higher.  A PMC scout (Mia from Erachima for example).  Play something that does something so goofy overpowered that you are just chucking an entire handful of dice at the opponent.  The Rebreather is a great example of this because you are rolling so freaking many dice.

@whisper: That is pointless semantics using a new word to the conversation you just felt like adding.  I know it may seem like a different thing to you, but to everyone else its just the difference between low, med and high op.  All are optimization, just not to extremes.  I understand what you are trying to say, you just don't really say it well.
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Have the other players (and WhisperMagellan) read up on the Stormwind Fallacy. "Gimped character" =/= "good roleplay" and "Optimized character" =/= "bad roleplay"
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I do, however, have one last lesson on this subject. That last one? The only build in this post that can one-shot average opponents[by dealing twice as much damage as they have HP? I would argue that it is not optimized. Why isn't it optimized? Because it's overkill. Overkill is NOT optimizing. This means that there are portions of this build dedicated to damage which can safely be removed and thrown elsewhere. For example, you probably don't need both Leap Attack AND Headlong Rush at the same time. You could pick up Extra Rage feats for stamina, feats to support AoO effects, feats that work towards potential prestige classes, and so on. However, you could also shift our ability scores around somewhat. I mean, if you're getting results like that with 16 starting Strength, maybe you can lower it to 14, and free up four points to spend somewhere else - perhaps back into Charisma, giving you some oomph for Intimidating Rage or Imperious Command if you want. You can continue to tune this until it deals "enough" damage - and that "enough" does not need to be "100%". It could easily be, say, 80% (leaving the rest to the team), if your DM is the sort who would ban one-hit killers.
Tempest_Stormwind on Character Optimization
So when do you think Bachmann will be saying she met a mother the previous night that had a son who got a blood transfusion using a gay guy's blood, and now the son is retardedly gay?
When she meets CJ's mom?
Resident Pithed-Off Dragon Poon Slayer of the House of Trolls
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No.
The point, as already stated, is that you do not force other players to optimize.
And if the player does not want to make a Functional character, well, you can't force that either. But I would question whether this player actually wants to play, or just be a sphincter.

Functional: highest stat into primary skill. Pick the powers that make sense for your build.

Optimize: you have to put your highest stat in this, and it has to be a base 18 at first level, and you need this race so you get the racial bonus, And you really should play this race so that you get the bump to the secondary class stat, and you should take this feat....



Neither of which has anything to do with how well the character is roleplayed.

-----------------------------> The point





Cry                                    Your head
[
No.
The point, as already stated, is that you do not force other players to optimize.
And if the player does not want to make a Functional character, well, you can't force that either. But I would question whether this player actually wants to play, or just be a sphincter.

Functional: highest stat into primary skill. Pick the powers that make sense for your build.

Optimize: you have to put your highest stat in this, and it has to be a base 18 at first level, and you need this race so you get the racial bonus, And you really should play this race so that you get the bump to the secondary class stat, and you should take this feat....



Neither of which has anything to do with how well the character is roleplayed.

-----------------------------> The point





                                    Your head


The point, as already stated, is that you do not force other players to optimize.