Comments on: Character Design: Optimized or Game Breaking? http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking A D&D 4e Blog Dedicated to Dungeonmasters & Players Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:51:25 -0400 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 hourly 1 By: benensky http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-265 benensky Tue, 22 Jun 2010 22:13:43 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-265 I am not too worried about character optimization. Since, I can tailor the monsters fighting the characters in the party. In addition, I can determine what creatures attack what part members. For example, the “Optimized Strikers would deal the most damage possible” will be fighting with the Eight Eyed West Gola Monster with amazing amounts of regeneration. The “Optimized Leaders could heal through any combat no matter what damage was incoming” will have fun with the flying centipedes that come in and land on him intermittingly administering their sleep bite (save ends). The “Optimized Defenders could lock down multiple foes and take the brunt of their attacks” will have fun with multiple foes but still others come to challenge the rest of the party. The “Optimized Controllers could hinder all enemies on the field by blasting them to bloodied status before they even reach the party” will find monsters are crawling out of the wall or ground behind him. Else, the ground below that controller gives way and he falls into a pit causing him to disappear until combat is over. I am a DM and I can make all kind of stuff up behind that DM screen. Some call me a cheating DM, a badge I wear with honor. I play my party for max fun and excitement and I do not kill them. That is what the game is all about. Giving your players and exciting fun experience they can talk about the next time they get together. I am not running a tactical strategy game. I use the rules as tools to help the players experience the story. I do not think sticking to the rules at the expense of the player’s fun makes for accurate but dull games. That is why, when that optimized striker is in the next encounter, he finds that the double hooked Groton beetle flies between his legs, hooks (grabs) his ankles, lifts him upside down, and shakes him until all his weapons fall on the ground while I say, “Gee whiz, did not make that strength check break free again.” In the mean time, the remainder of the party has a great time beating up the monsters. The next time the optimized striker is in battle, I play it straight, he mows everything down, and feels satisfied he built such a great-optimized character. Then, the next day when he and his friends are walking down the street and a beetle buzzes them they say, “Remember when that double hooked Groton beetle . . . “ I am not too worried about character optimization. Since, I can tailor the monsters fighting the characters in the party. In addition, I can determine what creatures attack what part members.

For example, the “Optimized Strikers would deal the most damage possible” will be fighting with the Eight Eyed West Gola Monster with amazing amounts of regeneration. The “Optimized Leaders could heal through any combat no matter what damage was incoming” will have fun with the flying centipedes that come in and land on him intermittingly administering their sleep bite (save ends). The “Optimized Defenders could lock down multiple foes and take the brunt of their attacks” will have fun with multiple foes but still others come to challenge the rest of the party. The “Optimized Controllers could hinder all enemies on the field by blasting them to bloodied status before they even reach the party” will find monsters are crawling out of the wall or ground behind him. Else, the ground below that controller gives way and he falls into a pit causing him to disappear until combat is over.

I am a DM and I can make all kind of stuff up behind that DM screen. Some call me a cheating DM, a badge I wear with honor. I play my party for max fun and excitement and I do not kill them. That is what the game is all about. Giving your players and exciting fun experience they can talk about the next time they get together. I am not running a tactical strategy game. I use the rules as tools to help the players experience the story. I do not think sticking to the rules at the expense of the player’s fun makes for accurate but dull games.

That is why, when that optimized striker is in the next encounter, he finds that the double hooked Groton beetle flies between his legs, hooks (grabs) his ankles, lifts him upside down, and shakes him until all his weapons fall on the ground while I say, “Gee whiz, did not make that strength check break free again.” In the mean time, the remainder of the party has a great time beating up the monsters. The next time the optimized striker is in battle, I play it straight, he mows everything down, and feels satisfied he built such a great-optimized character. Then, the next day when he and his friends are walking down the street and a beetle buzzes them they say, “Remember when that double hooked Groton beetle . . . “

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By: Swordgleam http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-253 Swordgleam Sat, 19 Jun 2010 04:54:43 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-253 My Iron Heroes character was built for roleplaying, but that happened to end up involving him out-damaging our berserker and out-facing our hunter. But since we need two high damage characters and two face characters, it works out. I don't try to steal the spotlight. My Iron Heroes character was built for roleplaying, but that happened to end up involving him out-damaging our berserker and out-facing our hunter. But since we need two high damage characters and two face characters, it works out. I don’t try to steal the spotlight.

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By: greywulf http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-251 greywulf Fri, 18 Jun 2010 10:46:34 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-251 Amen to all that, brother. I simply told my players this: "If you optimize your characters, I optimize my monsters. Do you really want to take that risk?" I would much, <i>much</i> rather see a well-crafted an role-playingly (is that a word?) interesting character than one which has wrung all of the soul out of the game. Every time. Amen to all that, brother.

I simply told my players this: “If you optimize your characters, I optimize my monsters. Do you really want to take that risk?”

I would much, much rather see a well-crafted an role-playingly (is that a word?) interesting character than one which has wrung all of the soul out of the game.

Every time.

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By: UHF http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-244 UHF Thu, 17 Jun 2010 17:00:08 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-244 There is nothing wrong with lettting your player's strategy work to an extent. I mean, didn't you notice that in AD&D that going into a room in standard 2X2 formation with the fighters up front worked? Would you demand that the wizard go up front because you found it too hard to kill the fighters? (And face it, it was hard to kill fighters in AD&D.) So... I have a well balanced set of adventurers who are having fun. But frankly, they are younger kids and they just want to kill things. So I created another smaller party of highly optimized Strikers. (They dished out 220 HP damage in 2 turns at second level.) The Shock and Awe striker team are clearly what little kids need and are a definite hit. I was looking at adding a combat optimized cleric to the group. (Not healing, not damage... increasing attacks, and taking down defences.) That player you're describing is affecting your Meta Game... (the other annoying words.) If the healer is making it hard to kill your players, it will affect two aspects of the game, use of resources (healing surges), and the outright difficulty of hurting the players in a meaningful way in a fight. Overall party stamina is a good thing at least they don't spend all their time looking for a place to hide in a dungeon. (My Striker force has no stamina.) In a fight, crank it up, baby. I'd recommend increasing the EL of combats by 1 (I do this for the Strikers). Be careful not to do that by adding grindy critters, and only do nasty stuff to limit the healer in boss fights. Near as I can tell, your other players get to still have all the fun on the front lines. There is nothing wrong with lettting your player’s strategy work to an extent. I mean, didn’t you notice that in AD&D that going into a room in standard 2X2 formation with the fighters up front worked? Would you demand that the wizard go up front because you found it too hard to kill the fighters? (And face it, it was hard to kill fighters in AD&D.)

So… I have a well balanced set of adventurers who are having fun. But frankly, they are younger kids and they just want to kill things. So I created another smaller party of highly optimized Strikers. (They dished out 220 HP damage in 2 turns at second level.) The Shock and Awe striker team are clearly what little kids need and are a definite hit. I was looking at adding a combat optimized cleric to the group. (Not healing, not damage… increasing attacks, and taking down defences.)

That player you’re describing is affecting your Meta Game… (the other annoying words.) If the healer is making it hard to kill your players, it will affect two aspects of the game, use of resources (healing surges), and the outright difficulty of hurting the players in a meaningful way in a fight. Overall party stamina is a good thing at least they don’t spend all their time looking for a place to hide in a dungeon. (My Striker force has no stamina.) In a fight, crank it up, baby. I’d recommend increasing the EL of combats by 1 (I do this for the Strikers). Be careful not to do that by adding grindy critters, and only do nasty stuff to limit the healer in boss fights.

Near as I can tell, your other players get to still have all the fun on the front lines.

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By: Anarkeith http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-242 Anarkeith Thu, 17 Jun 2010 16:18:00 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-242 My gut reaction to the optimization discrepancy as a DM is to start throwing more skill challenges at players to de-emphasize combat a bit. I'd also consider limiting the array, or points available, for initial character building. The latter is, of course, a kludge fix. It doesn't address the entire problem. But is there a way to encourage players to build more balanced characters? Diversifying challenges (encouraging Skill use, and out-of-the-box thinking in encounters seems key), providing incentives and rewards for non-combat solutions, and adding skill-targeted objectives to combat encounters. What if the uber-healer mentioned had to heal targets outside the party as part of an encounter? .-= Anarkeith´s last blog ..<a href="http://www.f1337command.com/content/no-dice" rel="nofollow">No Dice</a> =-. My gut reaction to the optimization discrepancy as a DM is to start throwing more skill challenges at players to de-emphasize combat a bit. I’d also consider limiting the array, or points available, for initial character building. The latter is, of course, a kludge fix. It doesn’t address the entire problem.

But is there a way to encourage players to build more balanced characters? Diversifying challenges (encouraging Skill use, and out-of-the-box thinking in encounters seems key), providing incentives and rewards for non-combat solutions, and adding skill-targeted objectives to combat encounters. What if the uber-healer mentioned had to heal targets outside the party as part of an encounter?
.-= Anarkeith´s last blog ..No Dice =-.

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By: Editor-in-Chief http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-236 Editor-in-Chief Thu, 17 Jun 2010 09:31:36 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-236 @Rob McDougall - if you checked out my review of PSG, I pretty much had to give them a good review, becauseit was a solid book with good content. But it's rather sad that WotC has to publish a book just to balance optimizers vs. non-optimizers. It's what I was kinda getting at - optimization feels like a path to game-breaking. @Wyatt - yea the Character is legal, per the most recent DDI Character Builder, and I'm planning on continuing our dialogue and hopefully we can meet someplace in the middle. @Jeff - yep, we're in agreement. I think some of the best Characters tend to be non-optimized, but with interesting back stories and odd personality quirks, and less about how much damage they can throw around the battlefield. Sadly, we tend to see this kind of optimized thinking in MMOs, and 4E bears some resemblance to WoW and Warhammer and other successful online games - including the apparent need to have "best spec" and "best in slot items". @wickedmurph - actually the first half of the book, pages 1 - 86 covers optimization options! No lie, I counted pages! LOL. But I think that the reason you were left with an icky feeling about helping the less character-design-savvy members of your campaign is because you were helping them in the wrong direction. I'm feeling more and more that despite my "hands off" feelings about player-characters in my campaign, and letting them have the freedom to build whatever they want, I'm beginning to think that's a slippery slope straight to a busted campaign. If a character is too min-maxxed, too optimized, and simply over the top in game balance, I think there is little recourse but to declare that character "broken" despite it being legal, and will have to request modifications until it is "reasonable". No one ever said it was easy being a DM huh? @Rob McDougall – if you checked out my review of PSG, I pretty much had to give them a good review, becauseit was a solid book with good content. But it’s rather sad that WotC has to publish a book just to balance optimizers vs. non-optimizers. It’s what I was kinda getting at – optimization feels like a path to game-breaking.

@Wyatt – yea the Character is legal, per the most recent DDI Character Builder, and I’m planning on continuing our dialogue and hopefully we can meet someplace in the middle.

@Jeff – yep, we’re in agreement. I think some of the best Characters tend to be non-optimized, but with interesting back stories and odd personality quirks, and less about how much damage they can throw around the battlefield. Sadly, we tend to see this kind of optimized thinking in MMOs, and 4E bears some resemblance to WoW and Warhammer and other successful online games – including the apparent need to have “best spec” and “best in slot items”.

@wickedmurph – actually the first half of the book, pages 1 – 86 covers optimization options! No lie, I counted pages! LOL. But I think that the reason you were left with an icky feeling about helping the less character-design-savvy members of your campaign is because you were helping them in the wrong direction.

I’m feeling more and more that despite my “hands off” feelings about player-characters in my campaign, and letting them have the freedom to build whatever they want, I’m beginning to think that’s a slippery slope straight to a busted campaign. If a character is too min-maxxed, too optimized, and simply over the top in game balance, I think there is little recourse but to declare that character “broken” despite it being legal, and will have to request modifications until it is “reasonable”. No one ever said it was easy being a DM huh?

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By: wickedmurph http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-234 wickedmurph Wed, 16 Jun 2010 22:29:55 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-234 This is a pretty tough question. I have to say, though - I have the Player's Strategy Guide, and only the first chapter really deals w/character optimization. There is a lot of other good stuff in there. I started DMing on Online 4e game last year, and found that most players just naturally optimize to a certain extent. Some a bit more than others. There were one or two players, the ones with the least RPG experience, who didn't optimize much at all, and their characters were considerably \weaker\ than the rest of the party. Which presented to me a bit of a conundrum. Do tell the player \Too wussy. Try again.\ I ended up working with them to make characters that were a bit more optimized, but still something the player wanted to play, but the experience left me a bit cold... When it came to actual sessions, though - I didn't have much trouble with optimized characters. I tend to make very large, multi-phase encounters (sandbox encounters, if you will), and give the players a lot of leeway on how they approach them. Frontal-assaults tend to be brutal, but the nice thing about 4e is that good teamwork takes away from individual weaknesses. This is a pretty tough question. I have to say, though – I have the Player’s Strategy Guide, and only the first chapter really deals w/character optimization. There is a lot of other good stuff in there.

I started DMing on Online 4e game last year, and found that most players just naturally optimize to a certain extent. Some a bit more than others. There were one or two players, the ones with the least RPG experience, who didn’t optimize much at all, and their characters were considerably \weaker\ than the rest of the party.

Which presented to me a bit of a conundrum. Do tell the player \Too wussy. Try again.\ I ended up working with them to make characters that were a bit more optimized, but still something the player wanted to play, but the experience left me a bit cold…

When it came to actual sessions, though – I didn’t have much trouble with optimized characters. I tend to make very large, multi-phase encounters (sandbox encounters, if you will), and give the players a lot of leeway on how they approach them. Frontal-assaults tend to be brutal, but the nice thing about 4e is that good teamwork takes away from individual weaknesses.

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By: Jeff http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-232 Jeff Wed, 16 Jun 2010 19:12:12 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-232 Speaking from personal experience, I've always been a big fervent of character optimization until I realized that doing so was actually limiting my fun to only during encounters and as you say, run counter to role-playing. So during the past few months, I decided to try a little experience; a half-elf bard with the 14-13-13-13-13-13 stat array and it’s been, by far, the most enjoyable character I’ve ever played since I started back in third edition. It made me realize that character concept and background are way more worth it, not only in the long run but also from the get go, than optimizing everything I could on my character. Also, I dm’d a game of paragon level campaign with a fighter, a cleric and an artificer with the Battle Artificer paragon path from the Eberron Player’s Guide and I was finding myself throwing encounters that were at least 3-4 levels above character level just to give them a hint of a run for their money. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would have to have done if that artificer was actually optimized. Although that was a case of overpowered abilities rather than optimization, the end result was probably the same; a loss of interest in the campaign for me (as a DM) and possibly the same for the players seeing that they don’t even have to struggle to pass everything I threw at them. Bottom line is that optimize characters seem to take all the fun away from playing D&D in my point of view but I don’t go out of my way as a DM to prohibit them in my games but instead suggest my players to create interesting characters who will benefit the story instead of just being the one who did 5000 damage on the level 35 solo that served as the end-boss of the campaign. Regards, Jeff Speaking from personal experience, I’ve always been a big fervent of character optimization until I realized that doing so was actually limiting my fun to only during encounters and as you say, run counter to role-playing. So during the past few months, I decided to try a little experience; a half-elf bard with the 14-13-13-13-13-13 stat array and it’s been, by far, the most enjoyable character I’ve ever played since I started back in third edition. It made me realize that character concept and background are way more worth it, not only in the long run but also from the get go, than optimizing everything I could on my character.

Also, I dm’d a game of paragon level campaign with a fighter, a cleric and an artificer with the Battle Artificer paragon path from the Eberron Player’s Guide and I was finding myself throwing encounters that were at least 3-4 levels above character level just to give them a hint of a run for their money. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would have to have done if that artificer was actually optimized. Although that was a case of overpowered abilities rather than optimization, the end result was probably the same; a loss of interest in the campaign for me (as a DM) and possibly the same for the players seeing that they don’t even have to struggle to pass everything I threw at them.

Bottom line is that optimize characters seem to take all the fun away from playing D&D in my point of view but I don’t go out of my way as a DM to prohibit them in my games but instead suggest my players to create interesting characters who will benefit the story instead of just being the one who did 5000 damage on the level 35 solo that served as the end-boss of the campaign.

Regards,
Jeff

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By: Wyatt http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-229 Wyatt Wed, 16 Jun 2010 17:35:20 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-229 Have you checked the errata? Your player sounds like he has the type of build that WOTC would look into cutting the power of. If that's not it, then I would suggest you continue talking to him like an adult and telling him about it, and if he is your friend he will under that although you're the DM you should also have fun too. .-= Wyatt´s last blog ..<a href="http://spiritsofeden.com/2010/06/15/naa-d6-stuff-for-the-next-edition/" rel="nofollow">NAA D6: Stuff For The Next Edition</a> =-. Have you checked the errata? Your player sounds like he has the type of build that WOTC would look into cutting the power of. If that’s not it, then I would suggest you continue talking to him like an adult and telling him about it, and if he is your friend he will under that although you’re the DM you should also have fun too.
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..NAA D6: Stuff For The Next Edition =-.

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By: Rob McDougall http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/character-design-optimized-or-game-breaking/comment-page-1#comment-228 Rob McDougall Wed, 16 Jun 2010 15:53:13 +0000 http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=2403#comment-228 We've all heard the expressions "Speed kills" but an alternative point of view I've heard is that it's not speed that kills but rather "Difference in speed" that kills. I think this situation is similar. It's not character optimization that throws off game balance, but having some players more optimized than others. It's this "optimization discrepancy" that leads to a difficult time for DMs. If anything, I commend WotC for publishing the Player's Strategy Guide in order to guide those players less interested in optimization on how to do it. I think this will help offset the hard-core optimizers that troll the forums looking for broken rules and ways to maximize their characters. Regards, Rob We’ve all heard the expressions “Speed kills” but an alternative point of view I’ve heard is that it’s not speed that kills but rather “Difference in speed” that kills.

I think this situation is similar. It’s not character optimization that throws off game balance, but having some players more optimized than others. It’s this “optimization discrepancy” that leads to a difficult time for DMs.

If anything, I commend WotC for publishing the Player’s Strategy Guide in order to guide those players less interested in optimization on how to do it. I think this will help offset the hard-core optimizers that troll the forums looking for broken rules and ways to maximize their characters.

Regards,
Rob

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