Can DnD 3.5 be made optimizer proof?

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Hi optimizers,

I was having a lengthy conversation over in the What's a player to do forum: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

The main question is if DnD 3.5 can be made optimizer proof.

So instead of asking you to optimize a character build, I'm asking you if yo know ways to optimize DnD 3.5 in such a way that it can't be broken any more. I'm not an optimizer but I have the feeling that the core of the problem is the rules for stacking and the amount of material available, even though with Core druid only I think the game is breakable.

What I mean with breakable is that players can get to a point where they perform well above what the CR/ECL mechanic should indicate.

I'm asking for a set of houserules that would make it very hard to impossible to optimize to the point where a CR+5 monster isn't a TPK and a CR monster isn't more than a speedbump.

Thanks

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Simplest tips I know of for this is to be aware of the tier system (I maintain that tier 3 is a sweet spot), restrict the availablility of anything that mucks with the action economy (this usually includes shapechanging effects), be very careful when policing custom items, and remember that the game assumes four encounters of CR=party's ECL per day (I can't begin to tell you how often I saw this point ignored). With this in mind, your criteria are more or less met (barring a few particularly badly-designed spells, i.e. Gate and Simulacrum, or creative work with effects like Contingency; it's kind of disgusting how many problems with 3.5 occur in the core books). The problem with this is that they tend to focus on gentlemens' agreements unless you flat-out ban out-of-tier classes or custom items.

Another point is that tier differences and power curves go up really fast as the levels increase. Houserule patches like E6 are popular as a result (I don't have a handy link, but it's discussed in a lot of places. Short version of that idea: stop power level increases at level 6, but continue to allow player advancement).

We've also had a "discussion" (well, if you can call getting yelled at a discussion) with another forumgoer about the raw power of wealth-by-level optimization. I would very much like to see his suggestion of writing up a guide to why WBL is the ripest avenue for gamebreaking effects, as I haven't really explored the higher end of WBL optimization yet.

The problems with 3.5 optimization in its extremest forms - i.e. LordofProcrastination's Dirty Tricks, Tleilaxu_Ghola's attempts to slay Pun-Pun without DM fiat, and so on - isn't so much the diversity of material available so much as it's the ability to bring all such material to the fore at once. This isn't actually "stacking" in the mechanical sense, it's more about optimizing available actions more than anything else. There's the odd mathematical trick involved here and there, but even then, it almost always tends to come back to the action economy.

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

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These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

I knew about the Tier system for classes and PrCs. By the looks of it, your link has the same information as the links I have:
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...

The E6 concept looks interesting, I will discuss it with my group.

Your description of being able to bring everything to the fore at once is what I mean by stacking. It's not just the action economy though, but also the availability, some tricks require 20 rounds of buffing, so aren't very action economy friendly.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

I've got to say, while I admire the ambition of this thread I suggest that the key point is made by Tempest in that the key to not breaking the game comes down to a gentlemans agreement, regardless of how well or how poorly balanced the engine is. I've seen this with Rifts, GURPS, Shadowrun, D&D, and more through various editions of each.

At the end of the day, the only way to have a game that's not broken is to have players who understand hat playing in a game your GM can't keep up with, is going to be less than fun and likely short lived. It also involves having a DM that understands he's there to entertain and challenge the players, not just to kill their characters, or to hand feed them everything. 
I don't believe you could make any kind of "design" game where there isn't optimization on some level.  When I say a "design game" I'm refering to any kind of game where there are parameters that you can chang each time you play and/or as you play.  Unless the play experience is always the same there will always be optimization

When tempest mentions that groups should be facing four encounters with EL = average eCL each day I'd also add that it could be broken down to less then that.  I'm sure there are some who will disagree but if you put more encounters at a party with a lower EL you should see the 'weaker' classes often do a little better as the power classes can't/shouldn't be blowing their "I WIN" stuff all day.  The idea here is simply that a wizard 20 may fair much better against the "infinite horde" the a fighter 20 if that horde comes slowly enough the wizard should (at least in theory) "run out of gas" while the fighter 20 can keep going and going.
Everyone so far has made rather decent points, defiantly spot on in my opinion, so I guess this will be my two cents. Another aspect you have to look at when it comes to optimization, as tempest said, the major key to not breaking a game usualy comes from a mutual agreement between players. However, this agreement of where the "line" is, and why it shouldn't be crossed, also dictates that with proper planing you can however simply walk up to the line and stand just in front of it. Knowing the play style of your DM can be key to figuring out what is a strong option and what isn't. For example If you have a DM who favors role playing scenarios and social interaction encounters over beat em' up game play style, max ranks in bluff and diplomacy can be just as devastating as starting a level 1 barbarian out with a 30 strength.

The point being, optimization is not only a function of knowing the numbers of the game, but also when and where to apply them to maximum advantage. Seeing as how so many different play styles are out there, people who will start out with an ability score array of straight 18's and people who will role dice maybe 3 times a game in lue of simple story telling methods, trying to find a way to "break prof" a game like this is pretty imposable because the definition of broken can be solely defined by it's individual players.
It certainly should be possible to do in the theoretical sense, it just involves a lot of work in the practical sense.  There are some elements that you'd need to cut off at the knees outright, a lot of interaction effects to limit or clarify, and perhaps some degree of adjustment to the basic function of the game to accomodate ideas that the design team just weren't familiar with at the time (since we have the advantage of hindsight).

On the gentlemen's agreement front, the way I express it to my players is "Don't use it if you don't ever want your enemies to use it."  In theory, you could throw everything in as-is, with both players and their opponents using the most "broken" tricks available, and it would technically be balanced, if brutally short and somewhat arbitrarily resolved.  It generally won't be like this because playing rocket tag with ultimate power is rarely what the players enjoy.

One specific thing I will note is that the action economy can work both ways if you're trying to balance things out; some (but not all) of the excessive options wouldn't be as bad if you just made them take longer to use.

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Fulminating Crab, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome LurkerIronglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.
My recommendations would be to

1) Talk to the players

2) allow "broken" combos, as the Rules of Awesome trump the Rules of Lawyering

3) emphasize non-combat skills at least as much as combat, if not significantly more, so that the "munchkins" don't feel the need to go overboard in just one of the areas (combat) if they know how important everything else will be

OR they could role-play their characters as extremely focused on martial training to the point of reduced ability to function in the world of non-violence, and the others might not mind as much "taking up the slack" for everything else in the game if they know that

a) they will still get at least as much credit for being able to function in the entire rest of the game world without feeling overshadowed in that one other regard

b) they will still have "impossibly" powerful fighters (not necessarily Fighter-class) for when the group actually needs to fight for their lives. In a world as violent as the ones in D&D, why not role-play an adequate fighter as being thankful for being friends with somebody who can protect them from something stronger than s/he could handle alone?

4) As Slagger mentioned, if the party's enemies find out that something can be done, they could very well tell their own allies. Once all of the enemies involved know that something can be done, and the strongest among them devote themselves to learning it for themselves, a couple of them might very well turn out to be able to do it

5) See "1)"

If anybody would like to see a few of TVTropes' perspectives on the basic subject:
tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWi...

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
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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

Simple answer is: No. D&D cannot be made optimization proof. This is because optimization is the act of choosing from a number of options, the best option for one or or more circumstances. Even when it comes to race/class/ability score combinations there are better combinations than others. For example a half orc Sorcerer with a Cha score of 1 is not as good at spellcasting as a Dwarven Wizard with an 18 Int. The CR system has no ability to cope with swings in capability like that.

When roleplaying is throw into the mix, things can get even more out of whack. Players can manupulate fights to their favor or get their hands on things they shouldn't with unexpected decisions, unforeseen consequences, or just a few badly forged documents.

Complex answer is: Sort of. It requires a lot of effort on the DM's part though.

#1: Understand what breaks the system. If you don't know what causes problems, you'll never be able to keep them from popping up. The biggest perpetrators of this are:
Spell and monster creep (more books = more spells and monsters).
Spells and abilities which allow characters to act more often than they are assumed to be allowed. Includes "Breaking the Action Economy" like plymorphing into a Choker and "Infinite effect Loops" like persisted Vigor.
Spells and abilities that allow characters to act well outside their role.
Spells and abilities which cause core abilities to become obsolete. (flight, anti-archery)

#2: Understand what character's are doing. You can't prevent any character from getting out of control without knowing what abilities they have and what they are going to use. This ties back into the "Gentleman's Agreement" when a potentially powerful character (Wizard) doesn't use powerful options. And finally, when you don't like an ability or how someone plans to use it...

#3: Be able to say "No" in a convincing way to anything you deem to be too powerful. This involves micromanaging players options and setting rules, sometimes arbitrarily, but I believe is the most effective way to keep things from getting out of control. This also often involves enforcing restrictions on metagaming. Things like "Classes" or "Saving throws" are abstractions of the system and not necessarily within the scope of characters to understand their able to exploit them, even if players can.

#4: Be able to put up with everyday deviations from the CR system. Less-so than the breaks listed under #1, these are times when balance is not spot on but it is expected with the system or setting. A Ranger that's ultra-specialized in hunting Goblinoids for example should have a much easier time against Goblinoids than mere CR can account for.

Final Note: Not all Optimization is bad. Oftentimes optimization makes characters perform much better than they should within the constraints of the story, plot, and challenges that you as a DM set forth. This kind of optimization is the bad kind. It disrupts play, makes it hard to bring challenges to the party, and points out only too strongly that the character is just a character in a D&D game.

Sometimes however, optimization has a better side. It makes characters live up to what the other players and DM see the character as, it enhances the plot and gaming experience, and/or it fills in a much needed party roll. Rather than earning a book to the head for "broken bullsh*t", this is the time when an optimized character's exploits earn anything up to and including applause from the other players.

Lastly, remember that opinions differ. Some players might feel left out when an optimized character steals their spotlight, while others enjoy a better performing ally. DMs may feel that an optimized character has destroyed their deathtrap of a campaign while players are thankful for the increased survival rate.  As the old quote goes...
You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

I just took a look at the original thread. It looks like your problem is that the players in question have different values, and that's the bigger problem. The rules can't fix interpersonal problems.

I submit to you this. Basically, as long as players place reasonably similar emphasis on the RP aspect of the game and on the optimization aspect of the game (that is, if RP is one axis and minmaxing is another, that people's locations on that grid are close together), then you should be fine. However, expecting changes in the system (which alter how the minmax axis behaves) to patch up problems with RP (a completely separate axis) is kind of setting yourself up for failure.

That said, there is a solution. From the link above:
Finally, the third point that I've noticed people committing the fallacy frequently make suggests that people are immutable, that munchkins should be booted from the table since they just hurt the game. (They also tend to use "munchkin" differently than I do - I read it as "immature player", not "optimizer". You can have a drama queen munchkin, but since D&D is a game of numbers, optimizer munchkins are probably more common.) The simplest rebuttal to this: Teach them. Seriously, all that matters for people to have fun at the game is to have everyone involved fall reasonably close together along both axes - that way, everyone's happy with how the game unfolds. If you have a high RP group and That One Min/Maxer, teach him how to act in character, put the team in situations where value decisions come to the fore, and be patient as he learns to act. And, contrariwise, consider having him offer suggestions on tactics and letting your team work better together - subject to the restriction that the choices must be justified in-character. If you're in the reverse situation, with a group of optimizers and That One Drama Queen, work outside the game to improve his character (not necessarily building his character for him, but certainly helping him see synergy). Similarly, you can get his creativity flexing in a different direction by challenging him to come up with histories or descriptions for particular game elements, even if they don't appear on his character - this is good practice for reflavoring, and it may let him see that his Split Rose Technique is really just a fancy description of Deft Opportunist or something. People can learn - and you can teach them most of the time.



You have a munchkin (immature player) with emphasis on optimization. Rather than compete with him, have him try to teach the others what he knows. You'll notice the whole party improving as a result - all of a sudden the munchkin sees the challenge in bringing the rest of the party up to par, and it's the team that matters rather than his own personal glory. Likewise, the rest of the team will be better suited to whatever the DM can bring to the table.

Cancer prognosis: I am now cancer-free.

Weekly Optimization Series

Show
These are NOT all my creations! The lead authors are identified as follows: [TS] Tempest Stormwind, [AR] Andarious Rosethorn, [RT] Radical Taoist, [SN] Sionnis, [DH] DisposableHero_, [SH] Seishi.

[TS] The Pinball Brothers: Large And In Charge (Melee, Lockdown, Charge, Juggling)
[TS] Ashardalon Reborn: I Will Swallow Your Soul (Melee, Fear, Negative Levels, AoE, Theme)
[AR] "A"-Game Paladin: Play That Funky Music, Knight Boy! (Team Support, Melee, Theme, Single-Class)
[RT] Uncanny Trapsmith: Get in, make it look like an accident, get out. (Skillmonkey, Stealth/Scout/Infiltration, Unorthodox Methods, Theme)
[AR] Wizsassin: *Everything* is permitted. (Spellcaster, Support, Sneak Attack, Utility)
[TS] Phantom Rush: General Gish Gouda. (Gish, Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Early-Entry PrC)
[TS] Storm Knight: Another kind of gish. (Melee/"Gish", Theme, Setting-Specific(Eberron), Unorthodox Methods)
[TS] Inevitable Nightmare: The weapon you only have to fire once. (Melee, "Unorthodox" Methods (no charging), Reliability)
[AR] Captain Constitution: The number one threat to America. (Melee, TOUGHTOUGHTOUGH, Defense, Theme)
[AR] Nuker: I casts the spells that makes the peoples fall down! (Spellcaster, damage, blasting, damage)
[TS] Dread Lord of the Dead: Let the Reaping Begin! (NPC-only, Variable (combat/casting/leadership), Iconic Villain, Theme)
[AR] Heavy Crusader: No Rest. No Mercy. No Matter What. (Melee, Damage (No charging), Variable, Theme).
[TS] Gun Fu: It's bullet time (Ranged, THEORETICAL, Twin weapons, Theme)
[RT] Face First: We should talk. (Psionic, social, mind-control, info-management)
[SN] Chaingun Porcupine: Never Enuff Dakka. (Ranged, Skirmishing, Spike Damage, Incarnum)
[RT] Always On Edge: The Mortal Draw deals death. (Melee, Generalist, Dungeoneering, Stunt)
[AR] Feral Druid: Real feral taste. Zero druid calories. (Melee, offense, damage, murder)
[RT] Rusty!: Man's Best Friend (Sentry, Support, Backup, Rearguard)
[RT] The T3 (Tashalatora Triple Threat): My Kung Fu is More Powerful (Hybrid, Flex-Function, Melee, Caster)
[RT] The #1 Snoipah: Boom. 'Eadshot. (Caster, Theme, Spike, Trapscout)
[AR] Dreamblade: Rest in Pieces. (Melee, Damage, Single-Class, Combo/Momentum)
[AR] Evasion Tank: “When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.” (Melee, Tank, Unorthodox Methods (attack negation), Theme)
[DH] Psycarnum Warrior: ↑↑↓↓←→←→BA Start (Melee, Tank, Psionics, Incarnum, 1337 h4x)
[AR] Heavy Weapons Elf: WHO TOUCHED MY BOW? (Ranged, Cohort, Damage, Unorthodox Methods (ranged ToB))
[RT] Gnowhere Gnome: A little man who wasn't there (Caster, Stealth, Single-Class, Elusive)
[AR] Uberflank: I got your back. (Melee, support, stunt, teamwork)
[TS] Flip the Bird: Everyday I'm shuffling (Ranged, harrier, unorthodox methods (ranged ToB / off-turn movement), support)
[DH] Eat Sleep Gank: Real Ultimate Power (Stealth, Assassination, Spike, Magic Versatility)
[AR] Slash and Burn: Mind, Body, Blade, Flame / Aspects of a greater whole / which delivers death. (Melee, Theme (flex-style), Damage, Stunt)
[RT] Edge of the Light: Cut, Fade to Black (Melee, Defense/Offense, Momentum, Tactical)
[RT] Quiet Murder: Cut throats, not corners. (Melee, Stealth, Harrier, Tactical)
[TS] Wand Overdrive: Say Hello to my little friends. (Caster, support/artillery/variable, wand specialist)
[RT] God Hand: What did the five fingers say to the face? (Melee/Gish, Unarmed, SAD, Theme)
[AR] Zero Buff Time Gish: Try to keep up! (Gish, Speed, Movement, Opportunity)
[TS] Robo Tackle: I Am Iron Man. (Melee, setting-specific (Eberron), positioning, theme, stunt)

[TS] Holy Fire: Just getting warmed up! (Casting, damage, theme (fire), theme (sacred), blasting)

[TS] Groundhog Mage: ♪Let’s do the time warp again♪ (Casting, stunt, setting-specific (Faerun), spell stamina / versatility, spontaneous wizard)

[RT] Captain Charisma: All she wants to do is dance (Hybrid (melee/support), SAD, Theme (criticals), Theme (flex-style))

[TS] Assassin's Speed: A blade in the crowd (Melee (technical), iaijutsu, SAD, theme (Assassin's Creed), tutorial)

[RT] Something for Everyone: A.K.A. The Last Sorcerer RT Will Ever Build (Caster, Damage, Trapscout, Takedowns)

 

Want to see how the entire group rolls?
[All] Party Optimization Showcase: Dead for Nothing
[TS/RT/AR] Optimization Article: The Flash Step
[RT] Optimization Article: Kung Fu Witchcraft

 

Seishi: I think it might be fun to have a one-off [game] tuned fairly, but with the intention of wiping the party. 

DisposableHero_: if [my campaign] has taught me nothing else, it is that with this group, nothing tuned fairly will ever wipe the party

RadicalTaoist: I've been throwing **** at this group that's 5 levels over CRed in DFN, and have yet to wipe the party.

I knew about the Tier system for classes and PrCs. By the looks of it, your link has the same information as the links I have:
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...
brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.p...



Just a heads up, the older BG boards part of BG
will be deleted soon (due to the multiple hackjobs).
But the minmaxboards part of BG will still be there.
The Tiers stuff has been ported over.



3.5e is not C.O. proof-able ... Innocent ... so says the pots + the kettles.
The gentleman's agreement at a home table, is the one "true" way.

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

I just took a look at the original thread. It looks like your problem is that the players in question have different values, and that's the bigger problem. The rules can't fix interpersonal problems.

I submit to you this.

While our party has a large variety on the optimization axis, we're all pretty equal when it comes to roleplaying. I don't think the Stormwind fallacy is an issue here.

You have a munchkin (immature player) with emphasis on optimization. Rather than compete with him, have him try to teach the others what he knows. You'll notice the whole party improving as a result - all of a sudden the munchkin sees the challenge in bringing the rest of the party up to par, and it's the team that matters rather than his own personal glory. Likewise, the rest of the team will be better suited to whatever the DM can bring to the table.


That's the first thing we tried. It resulted in a bit of an arms race, and it ended in a party that can basically steamroll nearly any published monster short of major gods. Only a few things can really scare us, mostly threats based on HD or level as those can't be boosted.

We started to have a different discussion when the DM stepped into another discussion on how to optimize one of the lower Tier characters and asked if this was really what we should be doing as it was getting imposible to come up with plausible encounters.

We all recognized things just got silly and way out of whack. What we've found difficult is to draw a line on the sand and agree on when things "break" or how to solve it when things do end up broken.

We don't need a way to bring the rest of the party up to the level of the most optimized one, we need a way to bring the overall effectiveness of optimization down.

When I mean optimization, our resident optimizer just posted his current character build in the other thread I had created. community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

So I'm specifically looking for ways to make builds like this less powerful, maybe people can make suggestions on that more specific case?


5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Gear
Unless the PC in question, is a dedicated crafter like an Artificer
or an Erudite Spell To Power 7+ with Psychic Reformation abuse,
the DM can always ensure the relative effectiveness.


Monsters
The monster actually want to beat the PCs, so what they do is
beat up on the guy that seems to be most powerful.  They've
got skill checks, or observation time leading up to the fight,
or heard it through the monster grapevine.  Hey this !@#$
PC Hero is trying to waltz through our territory, get him.
What about the other guys?  Worry about them later.


Deities
The God Of War , The God Of Justice , and The God Of Balance
are sitting in a bar and the one says to the others:  "Watch this" ...

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

Gear
Unless the PC in question, is a dedicated crafter like an Artificer
or an Erudite Spell To Power 7+ with Psychic Reformation abuse,
the DM can always ensure the relative effectiveness.


I'm not sure what you mean here, please elaborate.


Monsters
The monster actually want to beat the PCs, so what they do is
beat up on the guy that seems to be most powerful.  They've
got skill checks, or observation time leading up to the fight,
or heard it through the monster grapevine.  Hey this !@#$
PC Hero is trying to waltz through our territory, get him.
What about the other guys?  Worry about them later.


What the monsters are doing is ignoring the stronger character(s) in the party and picking on the weaker. At least intelligent monsters like Dragons. The most optimized charaters in the party are basically untouchable by most monsters.

Deities
The God Of War , The God Of Justice , and The God Of Balance
are sitting in a bar and the one says to the others:  "Watch this" ...


Oh, I think we will have gods starting to get involved. But mostly because they're getting jealous and will gang up on us. The character of our best optimizer will probably ascend to godhood if he survives to the end of the current adventure. We already decided that ± will be his holy symbol and he already has a flock of followers and worshippers.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

I don't want to be rude but I think a lot of this is the munchkin and the dms fault. When someone gets that out of control the dm needs to intervene from letting them get that powerful. Even if that means talking with the player and saying look you can't do this (the obvious gentlemans agreement) if the player doesn't then he probably isn't a good fit to the game and maybe shouldn't be reinvited. Finally the dm needs to make a concious effort on what he is allowing and disallowing. This just asks for a broken campaign if you use cheese tricks and clearly sketchy rules. If you can't come to the gentlemans agreement then youprobably will never have a game that isn't broken
Let's say the party gets a Magic Item and it's so random, that no one can use it.

Do you melt it down = Artificer ... and lots more overpowered fun to be had.
Do you go to the local Magic Mart and diplomance them into buying it = dm fiat ... and lots lots more ov--
Do you pull out some high C.O. craft-o-matic super cheese = dm ought to know better ... and hey lets go Beholder Mage why not?!
or
Does the party decide to change what they're doing, to figure out what this
mysterious Item is, what it does, and who could use it to best (in party) effect.



The Hobbit 2012 , had the Dwarf King square off with the OneArmed (to be) Orc.
Couldn't the party have stopped fighting everyone else and all ganged up on the
lead BBEG, so he's dead, then they could all just mop up the Orc army, and easy (?).
But their story (the rest of them's) is just as important as the KIng.

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

In a word? No. By the definition of optimization. It can only be optimization-proof if all choices were equally valid and effective. So want optimization-proof? Play 4e.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
In a word? No. By the definition of optimization. It can only be optimization-proof if all choices were equally valid and effective. So want optimization-proof? Play 4e.


Or just don't emphasize combat over everything else the PCs could be doing

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

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
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
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

In a word? No. By the definition of optimization. It can only be optimization-proof if all choices were equally valid and effective. So want optimization-proof? Play 4e.

We might just end up trying 4E.

Making all choices equal wasn't what I was looking for though. I can live with inbalance, a Druid is going to be more powerful than a Monk in 3.5, I have no problem with that.
What I was looking for is a simple (set of) rules changes that make it harder for the Druid to not just be powerful, but to completely break the game to the point that large parts of the mechanics just stop working, most importantly the encounter design as the designers intended it.
Or in other words, that things like CR and ECL have no meaning any more because most of the mechanics used to determine them are just ineffective.
I want suggestions on ways to make optimization less effective, not to make the Samurai as good as the Wizard.
Things like:
- Buffs don't stack any more.
- You can no longer use self-only buffs.
- Certain spells have much longer casting times.
- Certain spells no longer can be used.
- The duration of certain spells, maybe all, is very much reduced...."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />
I'm not an optimizer, and not very good at coming up with ideas. I was hoping that those with a much better grasp of the mechanics might have a bright idea or two. A solution that would still make it fun to find interesting combinations of mechanics, but reduce the effectiveness from being +300% to +30%.

In a word? No. By the definition of optimization. It can only be optimization-proof if all choices were equally valid and effective. So want optimization-proof? Play 4e.


Or just don't emphasize combat over everything else the PCs could be doing


Our most OP character at the moment is basically a Bard. He doesn't exacly have a hard time outside combat. Not just the numbers, he also roleplays it well.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

In a word? No. By the definition of optimization. It can only be optimization-proof if all choices were equally valid and effective. So want optimization-proof? Play 4e.


Or just don't emphasize combat over everything else the PCs could be doing

And any caster can easily get their numbers so high there it doesn't matter. Unless you're suggesting doing away with die rolls altogether, in which case have fun, but most people out grew playing pretend well before age 10.

@OP: You want CR to have meaning again? Class up your monsters. Also play with their feats. Don't just take stuff out of the books and hope it works. CR is so incredibly inconsistent anyways, it should be an improvement.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
The main question is if DnD 3.5 can be made optimizer proof.

I'm not sure it can, and I'm not sure it should. However, this is a different question:
I'm asking you if yo know ways to optimize DnD 3.5 in such a way that it can't be broken any more.

The problem is that different people have a different interpretation of the word "broken".
To my mind, "broken" does not mean "optimised" or even "over-optimised". In fact, I'm tempted to reserve that word for things like unintended infinite loops and bad rules interactions (e.g. "I summon a Sarrukh who grants me infinte power!"). Simply remembering that some books were written before others existing and house-ruling accordingly helps a lot here, but sometimes you just have to say "no". Generally it's obvious when something is this wrong.
Then there are things where people read stuff in stupid ways (*cough* Master Specialist). If the RAW aren't clear, picking one which gives you a ridiculous power boost is obviously being done just for that, so a DM should say, "no, it's clearly meant to work like this". That makes a lot of crazy stuff less crazy.

However, you still have the problem of things being "overpowered". That's when they're not broken as per say, they're just stronger than they should be. This is a lot tougher because it's more subjective (a big + number is obviously better than a littler one, but when does the ability to do XYZ make a big difference? That ability may not always be applicable).

Whilst we're on the topic of terminology, I would use "unbalanced" to refer not necessarily to something which is more or less powerful than the norm (and thus not balanced against it) but for something which unbalances the game - that is, something which is potentially very powerful in one situation, and often not in others. Every character should have strengths and weaknesses, so they get chance to shine without hogging the whole game, but this makes those swings too wild. It means they either can't contribute, or they dominate.

So I guess what I'm saying is, you need to decide exactly what you're going for. I played in a L20 game where everyone was like "Wow!" because I cast Time Stop in the first round of combat (and rolled a 4, making it pretty cool but nothing to do with my optimisation) and ever since the DM tried to strong-arm me (actually he had plot reasons I think but he didn't arrange that with me so we wound up in an arms race - which the DM always wins ;)). The level of optimisation there was not so high. You may likewise want to aim for a lower level. However, that's not the same as trying to get rid of "broken" stuff, if you see what I mean.
If there was a way to accurately measure and scale
the various infintely different Cheeses the C.O. dawgs
have managed over the years ... then it'd be as simple
as handing Power Level X (not Class Level W) PCs
challenges appropriate to their Power Level.

As a for instance:
Thrallherd Sacrifice is a level 6 trick.
But it gets you: 1 Wish, unlimited Limited Wishes,
a.h. dark craft gold and exp for items.
OK
Face that off with a monster weilding a decent
pile of level 7 spells on total recharge.
And a DvR 1 proxy of a deity rather ticked about
all of his local followers disappearing; soon after.

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

To leash the power creep, you need to both shoot down the individually unbalanced abilities, and put some controls on the interaction of other abilities.  For example, if no creature could ever have more than a single spell buff and debuff at any one time, you'd kill off a lot of problematic interactions.  That's kind of extreme, but hopefully you get the idea.

Things like the sarrukh need to be fixed at the base level, since there are a lot of ways you could gain access to their special ability, but the problem is that the ability itself is virtually unlimited in scope.  It's about the same with stuff like shapechange, albeit to a lesser degree.
And any caster can easily get their numbers so high there it doesn't matter. Unless you're suggesting doing away with die rolls altogether, in which case have fun, but most people out grew playing pretend well before age 10.

You wouldn't have to necessarily do away with dice rolls; you could, for example, put a hard level-based cap on die results (but that particular solution would be kind of heavy-handed compared to proper fine-tuning).

You can't really outgrow playing pretend if you still play D&D; like other roleplaying games, D&D is basically playing pretend with a ruleset, just like acting is playing pretend with a script.

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Fulminating Crab, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome LurkerIronglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.
To leash the power creep, you need to both shoot down the individually unbalanced abilities, and put some controls on the interaction of other abilities.  For example, if no creature could ever have more than a single spell buff and debuff at any one time, you'd kill off a lot of problematic interactions.  That's kind of extreme, but hopefully you get the idea.

Things like the sarrukh need to be fixed at the base level, since there are a lot of ways you could gain access to their special ability, but the problem is that the ability itself is virtually unlimited in scope.  It's about the same with stuff like shapechange, albeit to a lesser degree

Shapechange gives you free 9s. One can achieve punpun with 9s without sarruhk.
And any caster can easily get their numbers so high there it doesn't matter. Unless you're suggesting doing away with die rolls altogether, in which case have fun, but most people out grew playing pretend well before age 10.

You wouldn't have to necessarily do away with dice rolls; you could, for example, put a hard level-based cap on die results (but that particular solution would be kind of heavy-handed compared to proper fine-tuning).

You can't really outgrow playing pretend if you still play D&D; like other roleplaying games, D&D is basically playing pretend with a ruleset, just like acting is playing pretend with a script.

D&D is a combat simulator first. This is especially obviouswhen you look at both the history and the proportions of rules dedicated to combat as opposed to everything else. And acting is performing. So wrong on both counts.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
Shapechange gives you free 9s. One can achieve punpun with 9s without sarruhk.

Shapechange is indeed one of the elements that needs direct attention.

I don't recall a method for achieving the full Pun-Pun without the sarrukh, though I am open to the possibility that there are other individual methods that might bestow abilities in a similar fashion.
D&D is a combat simulator first. This is especially obviouswhen you look at both the history and the proportions of rules dedicated to combat as opposed to everything else. And acting is performing.

D&D does still include heavy combat elements and they make up a very significant part of its behaviour as a "game", but it's also largely defined by how much it moves away from its origins in a tabletop combat simulation by incorporating "roleplaying".  Put the two together, and you've got a "roleplaying game", rather than a combat simulator.

Acting is indeed performing, but it's also "playing pretend", since the perfomance involves pretending to play the part of a different person.  After all, "playing pretend" is itself just a simpler, less defined form of roleplaying.

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Fulminating Crab, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome LurkerIronglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.
Even if DnD is just a "combat simulator" it is still "playing pretend" as you are not actually killing something.  Now perhaps all acting is not "playing pretend" but there certainly are plenty of cases where it is.  There are many ways people "play pretend" long after they are 10 years old.

If anybody ever asks me to describe what a RPG is it is really easy just to say it is playing "pretend" like when you were a little kid except that there are 'rules' to govern what actually happens.  RPGs often provide a definite answer to the problem that happens when I say "I shot you; you're dead," but you say "no you didn't because you missed." 
Shapechange gives you free 9s. One can achieve punpun with 9s without sarruhk.

Shapechange is indeed one of the elements that needs direct attention.

I don't recall a method for achieving the full Pun-Pun without the sarrukh, though I am open to the possibility that there are other individual methods that might bestow abilities in a similar fashion.


You're welcome
D&D is a combat simulator first. This is especially obviouswhen you look at both the history and the proportions of rules dedicated to combat as opposed to everything else. And acting is performing.

D&D does still include heavy combat elements and they make up a very significant part of its behaviour as a "game", but it's also largely defined by how much it moves away from its origins in a tabletop combat simulation by incorporating "roleplaying".  Put the two together, and you've got a "roleplaying game", rather than a combat simulator.

How odd. By that reasoning, poker is "playing pretend" because there is no real royalty involved.

D&D at its best and most pure is a mathematics and pattern-recognition exercise
Acting is indeed performing, but it's also "playing pretend", since the perfomance involves pretending to play the part of a different person.  After all, "playing pretend" is itself just a simpler, less defined form of roleplaying.

Again, nope. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
You're welcome

Very interesting, thank you.   I wouldn't quite rate all of them on the same level as manipulate form, but they're certainly powerful enough to warrant attention.  Ironically, ice assassin was already one I'd consider problematic, even though I hadn't considered that particular combination.

D&D is a combat simulator first. This is especially obviouswhen you look at both the history and the proportions of rules dedicated to combat as opposed to everything else. And acting is performing.

D&D does still include heavy combat elements and they make up a very significant part of its behaviour as a "game", but it's also largely defined by how much it moves away from its origins in a tabletop combat simulation by incorporating "roleplaying".  Put the two together, and you've got a "roleplaying game", rather than a combat simulator.

How odd. By that reasoning, poker is "playing pretend" because there is no real royalty involved.
Poker is generally excluded by its lack of roleplaying, since you don't attempt to play the role of someone else.  Were you to start pretending that you were one of the royal figures from the cards, then your particular poker game would include "playing pretend", even though it's not a typical feature of poker.
D&D at its best and most pure is a mathematics and pattern-recognition exercise

Math and pattern recognition are good for the game side, but far less valuable for the roleplaying side.  The roleplaying gives the game elements a broader purpose, while the game elements give structure to the world in which the characters exist.
Acting is indeed performing, but it's also "playing pretend", since the perfomance involves pretending to play the part of a different person.  After all, "playing pretend" is itself just a simpler, less defined form of roleplaying.

Again, nope. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

You'll earn no XP with an answer like that.

Playing pretend involves playing a role other than yourself; roleplaying by definition.  And the same goes for acting; you play a role other than your own, and you're roleplaying.

What is your definition of "roleplaying" that doesn't involve playing a role?

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Fulminating Crab, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome LurkerIronglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.
Ugh...



Chalk this one up to a difference in values and drop it.
Ugh...

Chalk this one up to a difference in values and drop it.

You should hang out in the Tavern sometime. It'd be good for you.
Customer Disservice of the House of Trolls Resident Secretly Ron Paul God of Spite and Sloth
In the other threat I started, which sparked this thread, the player in my group who sparked most of this discussion posted a few details about hiw character. I'll repeat it in this discussion to give an idea of what I percieve as the main problems and in what direction I was thinking myself for possible fixes.

I see the main problems as:
- A lot of initial content for 3E was already imbalanced. The PHB has both the Monk and the Druid. Later splat books tried to fix this by giving new options to classes like the fighter, bard, monk and ranger in an effort, sometimes misguided, to give them a boost. One of the problems comes if through another splat books, these very reasonable boosts can subsequently be applied to a Druid, Cleric or Wizard.
- 3E allows a lot of stacking mechanics, slightly less in 3.5 but still a lot. This means that a good optimizer, by picking and choosing wisely, can create totals that go well beyond what the designers thought possible.
- 3(.5)E allows specially spellcasters to nova. Assuming game balance will come from 4 encounters per day. The four encounters per day paradigm doesn't always work, it might challenge the suspension of disbelief, especially if something isn't a typical dungeon crawl. Because combat is rather tedious, it also tends to drag te speed of the adventure down. The problem gets worse if the nova form can be made virtually continuous.

Now for the post of my fellow player:
Well, lets make a simple calculation:

Charisma is 40, which is a +15 modifier. Mystic Wanderer (Magic of Faerun) gives a sacred bonus to AC if you're unarmored. Ascetic Mage states: if you would normally be allowed to add your wisdom modifier to your AC (such as for an unarmored, unencumbered monk) you instead add your charisma bonus (if any) to your AC instead. Monks belt on the other hand gives you the AC of a level 5 monk if you do not have any monk levels (with all the restrictions normally applied to monk AC). Normally, you could use a wilding clasp to continue using the belt while polymorphed (costs only 4000 gp), but our group has banned wilding clasps and instead uses the houserule that an item can be made "wilding" for twice the cost (effectively the price of making an item slotless), so the belt instead costs 26000 GP. Third, if I cast the spell Sirene's Grace (Spell Compendium) I can add my charisma to my AC as a deflection modifier. So, from Charisma only I can have an AC of 10+2*15 (Mystic Wanderer + Sirene's Grace) +16 (Monk AC as a level 5 monk)= 56.

Next lets apply polymorph. The most defensive shape I've found in the books is in Monster Manual 5, the Thrym Hound, a 13 HD monster which has a natural AC of +30. Add the simple spell "Barkskin" to this and you've got 35 Natural AC. The Thrym Hound is Huge (-2 AC) and has 12 Dexterity. From spells I get an +8 Enhancement bonus to dexterity (Nixie's Grace + the Ability enhancer feat) and another +6 sacred bonus to AC (Inner Beauty + the Ability enhancer feat). This together with charisma makes the AC: 56+35-2+8 = 87.

Next up I cast "Snowsong" from frostburn which gives a +4 insight bonus to AC and Greater Mage Armor for a simple +6 armor bonus. This then gets up to a grand total of 97 AC. Getting AC even higher is not very hard, but is rather pointless.

Concerning how long I can sustain it: Except for polymorph and Sirene's Grace all my buffing spells mentioned last 10 minutes/level (or longer). Which when extended (Using a lot of Extend rods) when combined with a very high caster level. For this I use beads of karma (+4), a ring of arcane might (+1, arcane only), Create magic tattoo (+1), Hymn of Praise (+2), and Harmonic Chorus (+2) which I let my Familiar to cast on me using the spell "Imbue familiar with spell-like ability". With Practiced spellcaster (twice, both for arcane and divine) I then have a caster level of 16 + 4 + (1/0) + 1 +2 + 2 = 26/25 (arcane/divine). My charisma buffing spells are all arcane. Using a rod of extend my 10 minut/level buffs then last: 520/60 = 8 hours and 40 minutes. For gaining bonus spell from a high Charisma from spells I need 8 hours of rest and 15 minutes of meditation, as such I can keep my Charisma at 40 for 24 hours and 40 minutes (as I currently only have 2 beads of karma, though I could buy another one (as I still have some cash left) so that I'd be able to keep it up for 26 hours per day (using 3 separate buff rounds). I mostly don't bother with Nixie's Grace (deflection bonus to AC, rounds per level, which in combat is only 18 rounds) and only use polymorph to change into something which has a little more offensive value than a Thrym Hound.


Some of you might btw wondering high I can boost my charisma to 40 (it is 40, not 44). In addition to 16 +4 from startin stats and levels I have Spell Focus Transmutation and the feat "Ability Enhancer" from "Dragon Compendium" which enhances each transmutation spell that increases ability scores by +2. I use 2 Transmutation spells which boost Charisma: Inner Beauty (+4 sacred bonus to Dexterity and Charisma) and Nixie's Grace (+8 enhancement bonus to charisma, and other stuff). These spells effectively enhance charisma by +6 and +10 because of these feats. I furthermore have Snowsong from Frosburn which gives a +4 morale bonus to Charisma. 16+4+6+10+4=40.


My point here is that I can't point at a single mechanic that's unbalanced by itself. It's the ingenious combination that creates the over the top result. The Thrym Hound might be pushing it, but there are pleny other froms with 20+ NA and even with 10 NA, the Tarrasque would need a natural 20 to hit, the Thrym Hound is overkill, Triceratops would suffice.
For the record: He usually uses octopus tree, I think from Fiend Folio, with NA 24.

Now I could give the Tarrasque 18 levels of Sorcerer and have it cast Energy Drain and True Strike before it goes to town. Or 15 Cleric levels and Blasphemy and it would be over right then and there. But things very quickly become ridiculous. It's not likely that any level appropriate CR 15/16 monster will be any kind of real challenge.

The biggest problem is that the area of real challenge, between a minor speedbump and TPK, becomes too small.

I don't want to critisize this specific build. This is not the first this guy came up with, and it will not be the last. I just want to use it to clarify what I'm trying to make less effective. I don't want to have to ban every ability he uses, because for a weaker character these things are actually useful or even needed.
I just want to make it much harder or less effective.

His previous heavily optimized character was a pure melee build, so it's not just spellcasting either that should be the focus.

I'm still interested in hearing suggestions. I prefer radical and simple over more conservative but complex.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Again, it largely comes down to the Gentlemen's Agreement.
If that's not an option, my suggestions would be to ban any Dragon mag material, and cap ability scores at 30. Another really easy thing to do is limit which splatbooks the players can access, or at least limit the material they can use from each one. For example, limit him to monsters from MM1, MM3, and the appropriate setting book.
Also, the multiple prayer beads is just cheese. Don't let him do it.
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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
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When she meets CJ's mom?
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Again, it largely comes down to the Gentlemen's Agreement. If that's not an option, my suggestions would be to ban any Dragon mag material, and cap ability scores at 30. Another really easy thing to do is limit which splatbooks the players can access, or at least limit the material they can use from each one. For example, limit him to monsters from MM1, MM3, and the appropriate setting book.


I think we will need some form of gentlemens agreement. "Don't break the game" would work for me, but I don't think like an optimizer. For an optimizer it needs to be a bit more specific than that.
I was hoping other optimizers might give suggestions exaclty like you're doing right here.

The difficulty is where to draw the line. As I said, a lot of things that are fine or even needed for weaker characters become OP in a build like this. Something we allowed our Bard or Monk to make up for their weakness then bites us when an optimized build like this comes allong. My previous character was a Bard and we did have a Monk in the party until about a year ago so this is not hypothetical.
We hve tried to come up with a rule that is somehow linked to which Tiers of classes and PrCs are used so that things that a Bard or Monk would be allowed to do, might not be ok for a Druid or Wizard.

Also, the multiple prayer beads is just cheese. Don't let him do it.


If I understand it correctly, he's not stacking them, but he's using one prayer bead, and then 8 hours later when his buffs run out, he uses another and then 8 hours later again. He needs to buff roughly every 8 hours to keep his buffs running.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Heh, Bards don't suck. I thought they did myself, some time ago, but I was wrong. There are a lot of feats and prestige classes that can make a Bard amazing. Most of the PRC's lose some abilities to focus on others, but still tend to be neat. The class even running core only vanilla D&D doesn't need any sort of a buff.

Monks on the other hand? Fundamentally broken. The class isn't designed to work at all. "You're really fast, and you hit a lot, cool? Oh you can't move and hit more than once..." "Dick move." The Monk gets some neat abilities, all of which are easily rendered useless (Stunning Fist, for example), or usable so infrequently they often don't get used at all (Abundant Step, Quivering Palm). Another foundational flaw? Unarmed Strike Damage and Ki Strike, these abilities are great but RAW the only real way to enhance them is an overpriced amulet which won't allow anything other than + to hit and damage. This reserves you to using a sub par weapon, losing access to some class features or house ruling a better option for unarmed (such as allowing the Savage Species item from 3.0).

Again, though it really comes down to allowing things to stack that maybe shouldn't and polymorph cheese that makes your players build redardinsane. If something adds an ability to a roll or damage, nothing else should do the same unless one of the two abilities explicitly implies it stacks (Even if the bonus types are different, or untyped). Polymorph needs a fix in general, and most people agree that the best fix is to just not use it at all. One fix I like requires that it replace racial ability modifiers, rather than your ability scores outright and that regardless of form the spell never adds more Natural Armor than your HD. It's simple but it fixes a lot. Oh, finally a few people add the "NO HP Change, regardless of Con change" rule. The last one will take it out of most casters.
This all comes back to the same end results, a Gentleman's Agreement as to how nasty the players are able to get and micromanaging the combos they're allowed to pull off. For the example above, I could easily spin off 4 house rulings that no one would think twice about to defuse the whole thing.

  1. Polymorph prohibits spellcasting (plus the nerfs of your choice)

  2. More than one spell cannot add to a single ability score

  3. No roll or stat can benefit from the same ability score more than once.

  4. Feats and other features of a class or HD (by and large) do not work with abilities granted by magic items

Suddenly, the problem has been torn apart into much smaller combos that, while still leaving the option to combo intact, greatly lower the numbers you're dealing with. This is the kind of micro-managing you have to work with to keep 3.5 in any kind of a working shape amongst a band of optimizers.

If you play in the realm of optimizers fantasies, then your gentleman's agreement will be "Lrn2ply n00b". On the other hand, your gentleman's agreement might entail that one or more house rules need to be instituted to ensure that the game flows well and that Gandalf isn't soloing the Balrog at 6th level while the rest of the party struggle with mere orcs.
Too build off draco don't ever allow dragon material except on a case by case basis. These feats spells acfs ect. Are all unbalanced and generally can split the game open. Also it is generally on a higher power scale then many splat books. Mind you if your playing with someone like Erudite_ape it probably wouldn't matter since he seems to love munchkining.
This all comes back to the same end results, a Gentleman's Agreement as to how nasty the players are able to get and micromanaging the combos they're allowed to pull off. For the example above, I could easily spin off 4 house rulings that no one would think twice about to defuse the whole thing.

  1. Polymorph prohibits spellcasting (plus the nerfs of your choice)

  2. More than one spell cannot add to a single ability score

  3. No roll or stat can benefit from the same ability score more than once.

  4. Feats and other features of a class or HD (by and large) do not work with abilities granted by magic items

Suddenly, the problem has been torn apart into much smaller combos that, while still leaving the option to combo intact, greatly lower the numbers you're dealing with. This is the kind of micro-managing you have to work with to keep 3.5 in any kind of a working shape amongst a band of optimizers.

If you play in the realm of optimizers fantasies, then your gentleman's agreement will be "Lrn2ply n00b". On the other hand, your gentleman's agreement might entail that one or more house rules need to be instituted to ensure that the game flows well and that Gandalf isn't soloing the Balrog at 6th level while the rest of the party struggle with mere orcs.


Those are some nice suggestions. I think we allready assumed #1 to be the case, given that a Druid needs to invest a feat to gain spellcasting in Wildshape and there is nothing similar for Polymorph it would be odd if a Wizard would polymorph into an Animal he would be able to cast spells while a Druid would need a feat.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

make Pierce Magical Protection a common feat with no reqs for monsters.

"What is your AC without any benefits from magical spells? Because the fiend ignored them and just destroyed them all..."

==Aelryinth  
Fighter vs Warblade analysis http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19573526/Analyzing_the_Fighter_vs_The_Warblade The Lockdown F/20 iconic build http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19856162/A_little_Lock_build_for_you
make Pierce Magical Protection a common feat with no reqs for monsters.

"What is your AC without any benefits from magical spells? Because the fiend ignored them and just destroyed them all..."

==Aelryinth  


Hmmm, that would lower his AC to 41 I think, there are definitely monsters that can hit that. I don't think making the feat have no prereqs would be a good idea, our druid already has Mageslayer and is working towards this feat at level 18 I think.

Also I'm not DM right now, but I might casually bring it up...

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

I have to ask, why would a druid go for this line of feats? The caster level hit is,....extreme.


I've a feeling it might drop his AC to well below 41. remember he loses his polymorph spell (it provides an AC benefit) and all his stat boosting spells (as they all affect his AC). He'd be back down to base stats and worn items. That could be harsh.

==Aelryinth   
Fighter vs Warblade analysis http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19573526/Analyzing_the_Fighter_vs_The_Warblade The Lockdown F/20 iconic build http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19856162/A_little_Lock_build_for_you
I have to ask, why would a druid go for this line of feats? The caster level hit is,....extreme.


I asked him at our last session yesterday, and he only has Mageslayer and compensates with Practiced Spellcaster. he indeed isn't planning on the other feat because of the caster level hit.

I've a feeling it might drop his AC to well below 41. remember he loses his polymorph spell (it provides an AC benefit) and all his stat boosting spells (as they all affect his AC). He'd be back down to base stats and worn items. That could be harsh.

==Aelryinth   

The stat boosting spells would be unaffected I would think. The feat mentions "spells and spell effects that grant a bonus to Armor Class", I would not consider stat boosting spells affected by that.

That the stat bonus applies to AC isn't due spells but to other mechanics. I would assume that a spell that does "STR bonus to AC" to be affected by the feat, but "DEX bonus to AC" to be unaffected as it's not a spell but an inherent mechanic of the game. If you got your DEX bonus from items, base stats or spells shouldn't make a difference in my oppinion.

I would assume a monster with a Polymorph SLA to be affected, but not the Su ability Wildshape.

He could probably add the AC from a wildshape to the 41, as he can wildshape as a level 10 druid.

But this would definitely make him hittable. And a lot of the buffs that give him AC also do a lot of other things so it would tone him down quite a bit.

But I did suggest it to the DM...Wink

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

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