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Realms of Chaos
2010-03-05, 04:30 AM
DnD is a wonderful game in that it can be approached from multiple approaches and can be bent to the will of almost any DM or Player. One thing that I here a lot about, and that causes several discussions on these boards, are the differing views on the importance of power and role-play.
Some power gamers point to the stormwind fallacy, which states that making an inferior character doesnít improve role-playing. Some role-players point accusingly at power gamers and point out that this is a game that you canít really ďWinĒ. What we end up with is a large, nearly irresolvable argument.
I wanted to ask different questions, one that hasnít been asked (or at least hasnít been asked much) to hopefully give one or two people a fresh perspective on this issue. I apologize if I just come across as a giant idiot:

There is one thing that all DnD gamers can agree on, whether you treat the game as a cooperative role-playing exercise or a hack-and-slash videogame simulation:

DnD is (at least technically) a game. Though it is a way of life for some, it is still a game.

The purpose of most games (or a secondary purpose if you are a power gamer) is to have fun. Even the most diehard power gamer among us is unlikely to join a campaign s/he despises with a character that s/he couldnít care less about among a group of players or DMs that s/he hates purely because his/her character can press the win button. S/he might join the group if thereís nobody else around or to torment the poorly optimized other characters but almost never will s/he join that campaign for the sole purpose of pressing that victory button built into the character.

On the twin topics of power levels and fun, most of us have more fun playing DnD in a certain way (such as power gaming or playing unique but sub-optimal builds). In a perfect world, everyone could play on whatever power level that they want in any group that they wanted and still have tons of fun. Unfortunately, pen-and-paper DnD is (generally) not a one person game and is only rarely a two-person game.

To a greater or lesser extent, our happiness relies on those around us. When we manage to annoy the DM or our fellow players enough, they can take it out of us either IC or OOC. Even the most stalwart among us can only take so much before something needs to be said.

The questions I pose here are not in regards to how you personally like to play but are rather about what you are willing to tolerate in other characters before you get fed up, as far as power levels go:

The Following assumptions apply for the following questions:

Your favored level of optimization is favored by the rest of the party with the exception of player X.
Other people playing the game seem unlikely to act upon the tendencies of player X. No matter how much they are suffering, they will grin and bear it.


Question 1a. When a character builds a mechanically inferior character, he or she may have fun role-playing but not doing much in combat. Even so, magic items are being split up with this character and the CRs of your enemies take this character into account. How weak would player X have to be before you give them a nudge? Before you allow their character to die? Before you take some other action? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?
Question 1b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making appropriately challenging encounters or letting Player X shine. How weak would a player have to be before you take action? Would the action be positive (giving a boost) or negative (killing off)? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

Question 2a. When a character builds a mechanically superior character, the difficulty for encounters may increase to combat this, increasing lethality of combat for others. Even worse, other characters may become irrelevant. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?
Question 2b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making challenges that challenge Player X without killing the rest of the party. Furthermore, Player X may be stealing the roles of other characters and making them feel unneeded. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

Question 3: To shake things up a bit, you are now Player X. Going against assumption 1, the game is at a power level that the DM and other players are happy with but that is not your ideal. They resist your attempts to change the power level and are pressuring you to bend as much as possible. How far could you be coaxed from your ideal level while still having fun? How much further could you be pressed before you stop playing altogether? Would you find it easier to adapt to higher power levels or to lower ones (or are both equally easy for you).

Many of you out there will thankfully never be in one of these hypothetical situations. Some of you out there are flexible enough that you could endure any degree of discrepancy in power levels. Even so, these questions may be worth contemplating for a few people out there.

Gnaritas
2010-03-05, 05:34 AM
Question 1a. When a character builds a mechanically inferior character, he or she may have fun role-playing but not doing much in combat. Even so, magic items are being split up with this character and the CRs of your enemies take this character into account. How weak would player X have to be before you give them a nudge? Before you allow their character to die? Before you take some other action? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

If this player is having fun, i see no reason at all to intervene. Moreso if he is roleplaying his character very well.
A decent DM will adjust challenges accordingly if he feels the party performs worse than a party of their level should.
As a DM i would probably give him some advice on character optimization as long as it's still flavorfull, but that is assuming they do mind being the weakest character by far. What the player does with the advice is his choice.



Question 1b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making appropriately challenging encounters or letting Player X shine. How weak would a player have to be before you take action? Would the action be positive (giving a boost) or negative (killing off)? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?


I have no need to make player X shine. If he is a good roleplayer that's a lot of shining right there. That said, as a DM i will give lots of leeway to a flavorfull design, "i have this incredibly fun and flavorfull idea, but i need this and that feat to make it work." If i feel the character is weak compared to others i could give away a free feat. But in my game they can play whatever they want, they can homebrew if they like, i just want it to be flavorfull and not broken.



Question 2a. When a character builds a mechanically superior character, the difficulty for encounters may increase to combat this, increasing lethality of combat for others. Even worse, other characters may become irrelevant. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?
Question 2b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making challenges that challenge Player X without killing the rest of the party. Furthermore, Player X may be stealing the roles of other characters and making them feel unneeded. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?


If someone plays a character that will completely outshine other characters i will disallow some of the stuff. If someone wants to play an incantatrix or use DMM that is fine, if he wants to abuse it, it's not.
Batman is not really troublesome, he can do a lot, but i do not think he neccesarily outshines the rest of the party.
An excellent roleplayer does not get extra leeway in these cases.



Question 3: To shake things up a bit, you are now Player X. Going against assumption 1, the game is at a power level that the DM and other players are happy with but that is not your ideal. They resist your attempts to change the power level and are pressuring you to bend as much as possible. How far could you be coaxed from your ideal level while still having fun? How much further could you be pressed before you stop playing altogether? Would you find it easier to adapt to higher power levels or to lower ones (or are both equally easy for you).

I dont see a reason to change the power level the rest of the players and DM prefer.
I like to optimize my characters as much as i can. I would not enjoy doing it otherwise (flavor trumps optimization though).
If the powerlevel is high i will take a character that worked out well.
If the powerlevel is low i wil take a character that didn't really work out, but i liked the concept or flavor.
Both will be optimised, but the base idea behind the last character was bad to start with (think monk).

Curmudgeon
2010-03-05, 06:00 AM
Question 1a. I'd have no problem making social challenges that would suit the "odd" player. It wouldn't hurt the other players to see that their characters don't have all the answers.

Question 1b. If the player doesn't pull their own weight in combat, they get to be the designated hostage. And of course they'll have the crucial piece of information that the others need, so there's a reason to rescue the hostage rather than letting them die. This is a standard DM technique, that works for weak PCs and NPCs both.

Question 2a. This isn't an interesting question, because it's too simplistic. D&D isn't reducible to a linear power scale. The powerful characters will still have weaknesses. Your job as DM is to find situations that are challenging for the "strong" characters but reasonable for the "odd" character.

Question 2b. Same answer.

Question 3: If everybody wants to play in a way I didn't like, I'd look for areas of overlap. If I didn't find enough, I'd consider this just isn't a good fit and seek elsewhere for a more compatible gaming group.

Grumman
2010-03-05, 08:28 AM
Question 1a.
I don't mind if they aren't that effective in combat, but they have to do something to justify giving the hanger-on a share of the loot, otherwise they are forcing me to metagame to find reasons for my character to not tell them to get lost. There's no such thing as an intriguing character design that does not meet that requirement.

If I see anything they could change to disproportionately improve their capability, I'd be glad to suggest it.

Question 1b.
Outside of character concepts I'd ban outright (disabled swordsmen, awakened animals, children, etc), it's up to the players. As long as they don't mind him sticking around, I'd work around it.

Question 2a.
They can have as much defensive capability as they like, as long as they aren't "cheating" to get it. If the DM is increasing the difficulty of encounters that's his fault, not the player's. They can have too much offensive power, but they'd practically have to be doing it on purpose to worry me.

Question 2b.
Again, I'd encourage players to make characters with superior defensive capability - it means I don't have to worry as much about killing someone by accident. If they're too powerful offensively, I'd tell them to tone it down.

Question 3:
If they want my character to be more powerful, I'd be glad to listen to their suggestions, as long as it doesn't involve throwing out the things I like about the character. And within reasonable limits, I could always swap the character for another more suited to the power level of the game. Outside of those limits, I'd rather quit.

Stubbed Tongue
2010-03-05, 12:03 PM
Q 1a. Huge amounts of leeway yet make it full known that our group is more hack and slash. If they didn't at least attempt to optimize they may have difficulty surviving encounters(in our gaming group at least). But 'fun' is still the over-riding reason any of my group play the game...so, if everyone is having fun then great.

1bI've been DMing a long time so don't really have difficulty challenging any race/class/skilled/feated/geared/alignmented PC. But I would start by looking over their character and see where their strengths are. Basically what I'm saying is; those skill points and stat adders and feats are going somewhere and doing something. Find out 'what'..and plan around that.

Q 2aI've never experienced a PC not being effective in game so can't really say. But I guess if that were to happen in our group the DM would ask us(the power gamer) to power it down a bit or remind us that there are other skills in the game. A 'one trick pony' is no fun to DM for or play with. At least in our group.

2bI would create encounters that cater to the role-players strengths. Not every encounter mind you, but some. Every player regardless of what he is playing should be allowed to shine. It is the DMs job/duty to make that happen.

Q3I just love D&D. I could play a chihuahua and still have fun. As for the power levels I could go up or down easily I think YET I don't want to play in a game where there are cheesy builds and one trick ponies. So I guess I would prefer lower power levels.

valadil
2010-03-05, 12:22 PM
1a. I'd offer build advice if the player was struggling. I'd stop if the player wasn't interested. I'd be more likely to complain in game if someone wasn't doing their job. Whether I let another character die is a roleplaying question, not a tactical one (althoug some of my characters may choose to answer that question tactically). I wouldn't save someone on the virtue of being an awesomely played character if they were my mortal enemy (although if I was manipulative making my enemy indebted to me could be worthwhile). Their relation to my character matters just as much as whether or not that character amuses me.

Also, CR should take into account more than the level of each PC. I find that group competence can affect CR by anywhere from -2 to +4 when it comes to finding appropriate encounters.

1b. By nature I'm sympathetic toward gimpy characters. But I've had PCs take advantage of that. One thought that his HP determined how much damage my monsters should do. So he played a front line fighter with 10 con. I killed him with a full attack that included a crit. Despite the crit it still did less damage than his full attacks did without crits. And he whined like a baby for it.

If the character has a reason to be that gimpy I'd try not to exploit the weakness. I give leeway for things that add to the game. I'm sympathetic towards people who don't understand optimization yet. I have no sympathy for players who have low con for metagame reasons. All three of those cases could use the same build, but how I handle them would be different.

2a. I give leeway until it detracts from another player's enjoyment of the game. If everyone marvels at batman the superwizard and the rest of the group enjoys winning without being challenged, fine. If the same wizard makes the group feel irrelevant I'd ask the wizard PC to tone it down.

2b. Again, there's no measure of power that I can use to answer this. It's all about how the group reacts to it. When one player makes things unfun for the rest is when things have gone too far.

3. I don't have an ideal power level. I'm happy to roleplay or optimize. What I need from a game is to know what I'm getting into when I start playing. I'll gladly write 14 pages of backstory if it's going to get used. I'm still bitter at a GM who demanded backstory, but didn't bother to read it because he was too busy making tough combats. I actually enjoy guaging the power level of the group and coming up with a character that works at that level.

I suppose the situation that would frustrate me is a game that's entirely mechanical, but at a low power level. I wouldn't want to play a monk/healer on 22 point buy in a kick in the door campaign without roleplaying.

Thajocoth
2010-03-05, 01:02 PM
Question 1a. When a character builds a mechanically inferior character, he or she may have fun role-playing but not doing much in combat. Even so, magic items are being split up with this character and the CRs of your enemies take this character into account. How weak would player X have to be before you give them a nudge? Before you allow their character to die? Before you take some other action? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

I've found that characters that handicap themselves for RP don't tend to have fun. Really, why would somebody with leprosy join the army? It doesn't really make sense. Adventurers are above-average people, even at level 1. I've seen someone make a Cleric and an Avenger before quitting the game and deciding they hated the system because they spread themselves too thin for both characters at creation. Then, outside combat, they're still generally ineffective, and their grand RP that they've made never seems to come up.


Question 1b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making appropriately challenging encounters or letting Player X shine. How weak would a player have to be before you take action? Would the action be positive (giving a boost) or negative (killing off)? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

This is why I let players fix their characters within the first few sessions of making them. I'd also likely warn them about what they're getting into when I first see their character sheet, and remind them "Ok, well, if you find that you're unhappy with it, I let people fix up their characters within the first few sessions."


Question 2a. When a character builds a mechanically superior character, the difficulty for encounters may increase to combat this, increasing lethality of combat for others. Even worse, other characters may become irrelevant. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

If one player is sidelining others, the DM is not doing his job. (Then again, I'm speaking from 4e, where the classes are more balanced.)


Question 2b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making challenges that challenge Player X without killing the rest of the party. Furthermore, Player X may be stealing the roles of other characters and making them feel unneeded. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

That's simple. Add a powerful enemy to fights to challenge player X. Have them go right after player X, or try to lock him down or whatever, but basically "This guy's for you. The rest of these guys are for you guys." Taking over roles? Again, simple. Let's say it's lockpicking... Add scenarios that require X successes in Y rounds on multiple locks. Everyone good at lockpicking can join in.


Question 3: To shake things up a bit, you are now Player X. Going against assumption 1, the game is at a power level that the DM and other players are happy with but that is not your ideal. They resist your attempts to change the power level and are pressuring you to bend as much as possible. How far could you be coaxed from your ideal level while still having fun? How much further could you be pressed before you stop playing altogether? Would you find it easier to adapt to higher power levels or to lower ones (or are both equally easy for you).

This would really have to be 3.5 to happen, since no character can really be overpowered in 4e... I'd ask to take some templates or something like that to balance it. I like having weird characters, and you can be a lot weirder in 3.5 than 4e.

-----

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Your character's personality and history are not your character's stats. If you want a sophisticated Barbarian, you don't need a high Int. Make your Barbarian effective, and simply roleplay what you want to roleplay. There's no reason for one side of this to limit the other.

Ormagoden
2010-03-05, 01:06 PM
Answer, rule 0.

faceroll
2010-03-05, 06:42 PM
Question 1a.
I don't mind if they aren't that effective in combat, but they have to do something to justify giving the hanger-on a share of the loot, otherwise they are forcing me to metagame to find reasons for my character to not tell them to get lost. There's no such thing as an intriguing character design that does not meet that requirement.

I often see this come up as a way to justify being a jerk to someone in character, but doesn't it depend on the character? I can see a CN loner wanting to get rid of the baggage, but what about a NG cleric of a wus god and the weak character is said cleric's best friend?

Also, see the Decide to React Differently part of this:
http://www.giantitp.com/articles/tll307KmEm4H9k6efFP.html

"That's how my character would react" is largely your choice- you are deciding to play a douchebag. It's not like anything's out of your hands or you are somehow absolved from being a bad teamplayer with role playing justification.

With that said, I can't stand characters that do nothing but consume resources. I am very proactive in making sure my fellow players squeeze every last optimization drop from their builds.

Pluto
2010-03-05, 09:04 PM
1a. If they're in the party, there's a narrative reason for them to be in the party. If anything, struggling characters get more of the loot and get more of the party's daily resources in order to keep up. I'm not sure I've ever seen a character banished from the group for being mechanically subpar. If a player tried to kick a character out of the group for weakness, I would hesitate to invite the player to subsequent games.

1b. If the player is upset that his character is weak, I would let him rebuild (heaven knows 3.5 has enough redundant classes and builds). If the player is not upset, I don't really care.

2a. I would only complain if I were somehow barred from interacting with the other players. I've played plenty of Green Lanterns and plenty of Buckys. Unlike 1a, I can empathize with people who might complain about this.

2b. Tier systems bother me. Anyway, I would intervene if it got to the point where the other players weren't involved in the game, either with me or with each other. Or if another player complained. When conversation turns to baseball or baboons, there's a problem.

3. I'm easy. I bend at first sign of dissatisfaction. Any power level is fine with me, so long as low-powered doesn't mean "nothing to do." (I played a couple times in groups with hack-and-slash focuses where actions not spelled out in the rules were dissallowed. I would not play a Samurai at those tables.)

ScionoftheVoid
2010-03-05, 10:10 PM
Question 1a. When a character builds a mechanically inferior character, he or she may have fun role-playing but not doing much in combat. Even so, magic items are being split up with this character and the CRs of your enemies take this character into account. How weak would player X have to be before you give them a nudge? Before you allow their character to die? Before you take some other action? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

I would have little patience for someone who was not keeping up. I write the sheets of most people joining a campaign after it has started anyway and I give help to people at the start of a campaign, so there is not much of an excuse for being what I would consider underpowered. If I cannot find an easy justification for my character wanting someone in the group, if that person is not contributing, then I would encourage that character to leave (all in character, of course). I would mention OOC that they were not really effective and offer help, but if they turn down that help they can expect to keep underperforming until the characters don't want them around. That said I will accept some flimsy reasons for keeping them around (my character shares their alignment/is Good, for example). I will not change this for any level of roleplaying genius, I may suggest they save the concept for another campaign where it would be more effective, but that is probably as far as it goes.


Question 1b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making appropriately challenging encounters or letting Player X shine. How weak would a player have to be before you take action? Would the action be positive (giving a boost) or negative (killing off)? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

I tend to run a sandbox, if they can't find appropriate challenges they haven't tried to. I would, again, attempt to help them in the same way as above. If they find an encounter/quest that they know they will struggle with and don't flee when things get tough they will take things as the dice fall. This goes for the whole party. If I have made an erroneous judgement that has ended in a party member death then they will be at least partially compensated in their return to life. If they did not know that they needed to flee, noting that I will drop OOC hints if they need them, and it ends in a TPK starting from a close previous point will probably be allowed. No one character will be coddled because they did not accept help or tell me of the concept so I could try to give help. I would not take any action myself but if the character dies on a standard run that a normal party should have managed that character is not getting DM help. Wiping the floor with lower level quests is fun for a while but I expect the players will take action for me in the same way as I would were I not running sandbox, kill them off with supposedly appropriate encounters (though I would not resort to True Dragons, powerful Outsiders or anything like That Damn Crab or an Adamantine Horror to get an "appropriate encounter").


Question 2a. When a character builds a mechanically superior character, the difficulty for encounters may increase to combat this, increasing lethality of combat for others. Even worse, other characters may become irrelevant. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

I would start holding back less if this was the case. I hope this event comes soon in fact. There is not a higher cutoff for the power level I am comfortable with. If I were unhappy I would ask to check the build for rules errors, but if it turned out to be clean I would just let loose with whatever skill I had been holding in reserve and carry on. Roleplaying won't save someone from any bad feelings I have towards them, nor will it ever.



Question 2b. You are now the DM and have difficulties making challenges that challenge Player X without killing the rest of the party. Furthermore, Player X may be stealing the roles of other characters and making them feel unneeded. How much raw strength (tier 2 power) would Player X need to have before you take some sort of action? How much batman capability (tier 1 power) would Player X need? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?

Again, sandbox, if they want to trash encounters they don't even have to optimise well, they can just find some gobbos or pick on sheep or something. If other players complain I will make this known to player X. If possible I will provide more challenges simultaneously so that everyone is involved, but ultimately it is the player's responsibility to not be a douchebag. If they are one anyway they shouldn't expect to be welcome next week. They should know that I leave anything I consider overpowered unless a player uses it (unless they were very sneaky and hid the secret and even then someone is bound to have thought of it before. Hiding the secret to your trick perfectly will be rewarded, but it may still be used).


Question 3: To shake things up a bit, you are now Player X. Going against assumption 1, the game is at a power level that the DM and other players are happy with but that is not your ideal. They resist your attempts to change the power level and are pressuring you to bend as much as possible. How far could you be coaxed from your ideal level while still having fun? How much further could you be pressed before you stop playing altogether? Would you find it easier to adapt to higher power levels or to lower ones (or are both equally easy for you).

I am, in my group left to my own devices with character power. If I get something past the DM, without it being crippled by houserules, I am entitled to it. The power level of the rest of the group never comes into what power I play at (though I will at least match the rest of the group). If I want to play at one power level I probably will, though I may save it for later. I would rather adapt to be more powerful than less. If we are in a supposedly gritty campaign you can be sure my character is more powerful than usual, just in case. I would not pressure a group to adapt to my level, because my power level varies depending on how much effort I put in. I will try not to outshine others at their roles and any really powerful characters will be helping the party more than taking out encounters solo (even if they could solo encounters).

TL;DR: I don't care how well you RP, I care how much you contribute. If you don't contribute expect me to help you do so or leave you behind if you refuse.

onthetown
2010-03-05, 10:28 PM
Question 1a. When a character builds a mechanically inferior character, he or she may have fun role-playing but not doing much in combat. Even so, magic items are being split up with this character and the CRs of your enemies take this character into account. How weak would player X have to be before you give them a nudge? Before you allow their character to die? Before you take some other action? To what degree would you give leeway to an excellent role-player or intriguing character design?


I can add on this one, at least... I don't mind making weaker characters as long as I really like them, and I have stronger characters who are a bit blander to even it out. My straight-up Bard with little optimization was more fun to play and I spent more time on her than my drow priestess of Lolth. I don't worry too much about power as long as I've got a good character... or, as is the case now, many good characters.