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    Default What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I think optimization is a term that generates a lot of confusion (at least it confuses me :) ). Some people seem to use it to mean making intelligent choices so that the mechanics back up your concept, while some people seem to view it as akin to munchkinism where every possible loophole in every possible splatbook is exploited to make a character as overpowered as possible. Obviously both are valid within context, but it still gets a bit confusing when context does not make the author's intentions clear.

    I don't think there is a "right" or a "wrong" usage, I'm just curious to see how different people interpret the term. For myself I tend to view it as more of the former than the latter: probably because that's how I do it myself. I generally make choices only from core books, but I try to make mechanical choices that will make the character more effective at whatever his given role is.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    You've pretty much covered the difference between "Practical Optimization" and "Theoretical Optimization". For better definitions of those terms, I suggest looking up the Char-Op boards on WOTC.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I cannot picture anyone going out of their way to gimp their PC, so saying someone makes optimum choices to fit their concept is, to me, redundant. It's just part of building a PC.

    When I think of optimization, I think of it as going out of their way to build as powerful a PC as they can. I differentiate this from being a munchkin by thinking munchkin=cheesy.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    I cannot picture anyone going out of their way to gimp their PC, so saying someone makes optimum choices to fit their concept is, to me, redundant. It's just part of building a PC.
    Not for everyone.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    When I think of optimization, I think of it as going out of their way to build as powerful a PC as they can. I differentiate this from being a munchkin by thinking munchkin=cheesy.
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    I define [optimization] as "the process by which one attains a build meeting all mechanical and characterization goals set out by the creator prior to its creation."
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jolly View Post
    I think optimization is a term that generates a lot of confusion (at least it confuses me :) ). Some people seem to use it to mean making intelligent choices so that the mechanics back up your concept, while some people seem to view it as akin to munchkinism where every possible loophole in every possible splatbook is exploited to make a character as overpowered as possible. Obviously both are valid within context, but it still gets a bit confusing when context does not make the author's intentions clear.

    I don't think there is a "right" or a "wrong" usage, I'm just curious to see how different people interpret the term. For myself I tend to view it as more of the former than the latter: probably because that's how I do it myself. I generally make choices only from core books, but I try to make mechanical choices that will make the character more effective at whatever his given role is.
    I think there's 3 major strata of optimization:

    1) Character-based optimization: Given a character concept, how do I build it in such a way that it can be effective?

    2) Pure optimization: How do I build a really powerful character?

    3) Theoretical optimization: Thought exercises on how to break rules. See: Pun-Pun.

    The real difference between the first two is which is the driver - character, or power? If you're starting with a character (as in, personality) in mind, and optimizing within the natural bounds of that character, you're in the first category. If you're building an optimal stat-block, and then coming up with RP justifications for it, you're in the second category.

    BTW, please note that I'm not making any value judgements here. How people have fun is up to them, and there's no way I can claim that my fun is better than theirs. I'm just delineating the differences as I perceive them.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2010-08-24 at 03:17 PM.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    "Doing what you want to do, well" is about as simple as I can make it. And that's a sliding scale, going from "Beneath Useless/Actually Working Against What You Want To Do" to "There's No Point In Doing Anything, Because It's All Too Easy" and a thousand notches in between. Finding an optimal point of optimization - the point where effort is superseded by results to the greatest degree while the character in question remains engaging/relevant - is important to keep in mind. After all, who cares how good your Charge-a-Barb is at sundering armor when you're supposed to be having tea at the governess's house and not embarassing her in front of her guests? Different threshholds apply to different situations.

    The other thing I keep in mind when in an "optimization" discussion is tools. Not as in calling someone else a tool for disagreeing with me , as in: when you sit down to optimize a character, what tools do you have at your disposal? Background and Concepts? Inspiration? Loaded Dice? What about the other characters/players at the table? Can they help you do something better? Are they working against you? Same goes for your GM; he/she's a great resource/starting point for knowing what will be optimized for the situations you find yourself in.

    After a certain point, optimization can become a thought exercise of pushing limits. The further "optimized" a thought experiment is, the further away from true optimization that experiment becomes, since rarely do they take into account anything like extenuating circumstances.

    So, TL;DR - Find a level of power vs. effort vs. engagement you feel comfortable with, collect your tools you will use for optimizing, and realize there are limits to everything. That's how I handle optimizing.

    Regarding this:

    I cannot picture anyone going out of their way to gimp their PC, so saying someone makes optimum choices to fit their concept is, to me, redundant. It's just part of building a PC.

    I've seen this many, many times. Part of the fun of the character for some people is being less than heroic. I don't strictly speaking subscribe to this mindset, but it is fun to watch
    Last edited by Ignition; 2010-08-24 at 03:18 PM.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    It means making a character who's good at what they do. In-character it makes a lot of sense, people don't like doing things that they're bad at after all. Exploiting loopholes is not optimization, making a character whose abilities have good synergy is. Some (prestige) classes offer spectacular abilities for a brief dip, which in-character most characters would be foolish not to take advantage of:
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    In-character, an individual has no concept of classes or levels or feats, they just know what they're capable of and may have an idea of what someone else is capable of. It doesn't matter if someone's classes, prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items all came from different books, it doesn't matter if they're using two optional rules from two different books to accomplish their main shtick. In-character there's no such thing as abilities coming from different books, or optional rules, that's just what they can do. Out of character you may have had to look in a dozen books to get every feat and class level that combine to make your character powerful, but in-character he may have just had to talk to three different guys and try out a few techniques and figured the rest out on his own.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Optimisers seek to create the characters that fit their needs as efficiently and as well as possible.

    Powergamers seek to play characters who are as powerful as possible (not all powergamers are optimisers, and vice versa).
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    My personal definitions, and what I mean if I use these terms:

    Optimisers try to make their character, whatever concept they may have, as effective as possible within what is reasonable. What their character does may well not be the most powerful thing that their character's class does, but they will try to do it as well as possible.

    Powergamers make as powerful as possible a character, and then work their concept to suit it. They won't bother with anything but the most powerful class combinations and choices within those classes, and if a particular prestige class or feat doesn't seem to work with their character, they'll rework the character instead of choosing a different and less powerful one.

    Munchkins exploit loopholes, take lots of random prestige class dips, templates, and generally do anything to get more power. All they care about is how much raw power/theoretical 'I win' abilities they can get, and they aren't concerned with roleplaying except possibly as a secondary thing.

    Everyone I've ever actually played with has fallen into the first or second category, if any of them. Mostly what would end up in the third category is theoretical builds and exploits being applied to an actual game.

    Come to think of it, I do know one person who tried to be like the third category, but since his characters always ended up actually being the least powerful in the group I don't think that really counts.

    Those are all perfectly valid ways to play the game, of course, although I don't think they usually really mix too well together. I tend to fall into the first category.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit
    I cannot picture anyone going out of their way to gimp their PC, so saying someone makes optimum choices to fit their concept is, to me, redundant. It's just part of building a PC.
    I have certainly seen this, and even done it. Not to the point of making the character useless - but to the point of making them simply an effective member of the party instead of miles ahead of the party.

    Some things that are optimum choices also aren't fun to some people, so those people avoid them. I haven't seen anyone deliberately make their character completely useless, though. That I've only seen happen by accident.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Taking things people call worthless or low-tier, and making them more powerful than I can imagine. Especially rules, call a rule or table useless and I will make a character that will destroy you with them.

    Let's just say when I described the history of that city, the PC's should've paid attention. I had it setup so that a nat 1 would still have the legal system rule in favor of the 'right' party.

    If there is a book that you see as useless, I will gladly crush you with it.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    If there is a book that you see as useless, I will gladly crush you with it.
    That depends on how big the book is
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Relvinar View Post
    I have certainly seen this, and even done it. Not to the point of making the character useless - but to the point of making them simply an effective member of the party instead of miles ahead of the party.
    Since I have gotten several comments, I want to address this...

    Note I said "that fits their concept." If a person's concept is, by definition, weak (say, a VoP Monk), but the player works within that concept to make the character useful, that does not fall within my initial comment.

    By "going out of their way to gimp their character," I mean things that make the PC pretty much unplayable. A SORC with a CHA of 6, for example.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignition View Post
    That depends on how big the book is
    Puns aside. I have created builds few others would even consider. lol

    The troll-blooded warforged that my friend could only find one way to kill outside of epic magic, or abusing the wish spell?

    The merchant prince with more income in a month than an epic character starts with?

    The rumor starter and propagandist that could literally make anyone believe anything, and literally change the plot at will?

    The first one is just a tank yes, but the later two are things I'm sure few people on this forum have even considered.

    Give me a book, and I'll make you something. ;)

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morithias View Post
    Give me a book, and I'll make you something. ;)
    Nah, I'm good, but thanks for the offer I'll keep it in mind when I need thought exercise crunch done, haha.

    Also, the CHA 6 Sorc, yeah I've seen that. I've seen people take disadvantages that essentially make their powers useless, with the intention of unlocking them later in-character. Naturally there's no rule for that beyond Rule 0, but hey, as long as it doesn't frustrate the user, it's all good.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignition View Post
    Also, the CHA 6 Sorc, yeah I've seen that. I've seen people take disadvantages that essentially make their powers useless, with the intention of unlocking them later in-character. Naturally there's no rule for that beyond Rule 0, but hey, as long as it doesn't frustrate the user, it's all good.
    It's one thing to be weak at the start and get stronger. It's another to never get those powers - ever.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    It's one thing to be weak at the start and get stronger. It's another to never get those powers - ever.
    You do get the familar, and a lot of feats for those guys don't need you to have a high stat (they assume you have it).

    Although, that would raise the question of how you created the thing in the first place....

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I guess the broader point is: you can make a CHA 6 Sorc without any hope of houseruled "Unlocking Your True Potential" kinds of sidequests, but why would you want to? And none of us can really answer that. I'm just saying it's possible hypothetically speaking, and I see people do it on occasion just to prove they can, for whatever twisted reasons they prefer.

    But no, I don't think people always do what helps them out in the long run. I think the people who do are rewarded for it, but that's as should be, don't you think? A system that encourages people to be bad at stuff seems kind of counter-intuitive. There are, however, systems that place less weight on your characters abilities, and more on their players' abilities to justify their actions. There are systems that put little to no tools forth for players to optimize, as it were, since every choice to strengthen one area is a detriment to another to as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kesnit View Post
    Since I have gotten several comments, I want to address this...

    Note I said "that fits their concept." If a person's concept is, by definition, weak (say, a VoP Monk), but the player works within that concept to make the character useful, that does not fall within my initial comment.

    By "going out of their way to gimp their character," I mean things that make the PC pretty much unplayable. A SORC with a CHA of 6, for example.
    Ah, yeah, I've never seen anyone intentionally making their PC unplayable. That's pretty hard to imagine doing. I'm not rulling it out, though. Somebody, somewhere, has probably done just about everything.

    I was talking about things like having the concept be something more like 'powerful and ancient wizard' but you tone it down deliberately so they won't outshine the rest of the party (or just because you want to, theoretically). Less extreme, certainly, but I had thought that was the sort of thing you meant.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Relvinar View Post
    Ah, yeah, I've never seen anyone intentionally making their PC unplayable. That's pretty hard to imagine doing. I'm not rulling it out, though. Somebody, somewhere, has probably done just about everything.
    It's the rule 34 of RPG's, if you can think of it, some nutjob has done it.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I define it as "the process by which one attains a build meeting all mechanical and characterization goals set out by the creator prior to its creation."

    It isn't always about making the strongest character. If I wanted to make a swordy type that uses a shield and challenges people to single combat, and wins his duels rather than being a complete rube, I'll still be a fairly weak character, even if I pull out most of the tricks I know. Making it a charming noble, a dashing leader and a good strategist would make this even harder and the end result even weaker in combat, but I can in fact do it. Inversely, if I just want to make a powerful character I take druid and natural spell and I'm pretty much done so long as I don't make any obviously stupid choices.
    Me: I'd get the paladin to help, but we might end up with a kid that believes in fairy tales.
    DM: aye, and it's not like she's been saved by a mysterious little girl and a band of real live puppets from a bad man and worse step-sister to go live with the faries in the happy land.
    Me: Yeah, a knight in shining armour might just bring her over the edge.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignition View Post
    I guess the broader point is: you can make a CHA 6 Sorc without any hope of houseruled "Unlocking Your True Potential" kinds of sidequests, but why would you want to?
    Making a CHA 6 Sorc is attention-whoring, not roleplaying. It's about making the rest of the group carry their useless butts around until they magically become uber-powerful. This way, they get to be the star of the show both before and after the big reveal.
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2010-08-24 at 05:15 PM.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Optimization is a playstyle that emphasizes the mechanics of character creation over actal, at-the-table gameplay, as well as more generally emphasizing mechanics over fiction.

    And relax, I didn't say anything about "role playing".

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I had to laugh. I was talking to my DM after this weekend's game. I have a Bard/LyricThamturge who recently used his LT secret to pick up Cloud of Knives, because it synergizes with his Dragonfire Inspiration. I also took Lyric Spell, because I want to make the character more of a caster and less of a bard. I talked about my plans of PrCing into Sublime Chord (which the DM is ok with, but he's worried about how strong Song of Arcane Power is...not the 9th level spells I'll get!).

    The funniest thing is, he created a book restriction list. Then ACCUSED me of cherry picking the best features from those books. Excuse me...what do you want me to do, take Toughness 7 times? I took feats and abilities that make me better at what I want to do, namedly buffing my party member's damage, and being a batmanish controller wizard. He said "well, the developers never intended you to use Cloud of Knives with Dragonfire Inspiration". Um...no? Its a spell, it creates a weapon. Dragonfire works on weapons. Its not my fault they have a crappy editing staff. I can't wait till I share it with the Spellthief and he starts spellstealing with it. That'll be amuzing.

    So I asked him if he wanted me to change it. I offered to drop Dragonfire Inspiration (which, I'll note, is only +3 at level 8, I didn't even really optimize it!). He said he didn't want to ret-con it, so he just continues to bemoan how over powered my character is saying that he's more "story centric" and changing a character would break continuity. He also threatened to take away all of my book access for the next game. I said "fine, I'll play a wizard then, I don't care. The most broken stuff in the game is in the PHB, if you want to ban a book, ban that one". I don't want to be antagonistic, but an attitude like that really irks me.

    I mean, I don't understand it. I'm not breaking any rules, I just picked some strong features for my bard. Apparently this makes me a "cherry picker", whatever that means. Sure, all the feats I picked are strong, but I'm no where near where I could be in terms of power, and most of the stuff in the game for bards is CRAP. Tired of this, I even gave the DM my character sheet to audit (he thinks I'm cheating because of my abilities), and even included book and page numbers for everything that isn't in the PHB, just to prove its all legit and from approved sources.

    Grrrrr, its frustrating some times. It also sucks that I'll never get to use ToB with this group, I'll never get to play a Dragonfire Adept, or a Factotum, or anything from Incarnum, or a Binder, or anything Psionic, or any of the other really cool and relatively balanced T3 things, just because my group has developed severe book-o-phobia because I took a few things outside of the PHB (which are all legal given the DM's "approved book list"). Why allow anything outside of the PHB if you are gonna complain about it? That sounds really passive-aggressive to me.
    Last edited by Keld Denar; 2010-08-24 at 06:19 PM.
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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keld Denar View Post
    Grrrrr, its frustrating some times. It also sucks that I'll never get to use ToB with this group, I'll never get to play a Dragonfire Adept, or a Factotum, or anything from Incarnum, or a Binder, or anything Psionic, or any of the other really cool and relatively balanced T3 things, just because my group has developed severe book-o-phobia because I took a few things outside of the PHB (which are all legal given the DM's "approved book list").
    Why don't you go to the tier threads, including the various "why is this class in this tier" thing, and the descriptions and stuff, and create a well edited word document describing all of that, and then email it to everyone in your entire game, and also take a summarized and highlighted printout version of it with you, and talk to them about it, so folk can have a better understanding of what balance in 3.5e IS and IS NOT?
    Last edited by Gavinfoxx; 2010-08-24 at 06:24 PM.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    A lot of really dogmatic "I believe in story, and story means you play dirt farmers while I talk about the important people" tend to ignore that, the rules, and anything else that gets in the way of them writing a book while you sit there. May not be as bad as all that, but that's what I am going to guess at from Keld's rant.
    Last edited by Yukitsu; 2010-08-24 at 06:23 PM.
    Me: I'd get the paladin to help, but we might end up with a kid that believes in fairy tales.
    DM: aye, and it's not like she's been saved by a mysterious little girl and a band of real live puppets from a bad man and worse step-sister to go live with the faries in the happy land.
    Me: Yeah, a knight in shining armour might just bring her over the edge.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    I will refer to the guide to practical optimization in my sig. It starts with a definition.
    Last edited by Gnaeus; 2010-08-24 at 06:26 PM.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keld Denar View Post
    stuff
    On the one hand, I agree with what Yukitsu said, the DM sounds like he wants to tell a story, not run a game.

    On the other hand, it seems like you're trying to optimize in a group who don't like optimization. Things generally don't work well when one person is going against the wishes of the group.

    As to actually answering the topic, this is what optimization means to me. In the context of D&D, that means taking character idea X, and using all available sources to make a character who best fills party role Y (usually with back-up plans for party roles Z, V, and W).
    Rules that supersede Rule 0:

    Rule -1: You're all there to have fun. The GM and the players should never do anything that would limit people's fun, for any in-game or real-life reason.

    Rule -0.5 (corollary): That means that if someone's fun is getting in the way of other people's fun, that person needs to change how they're playing.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yukitsu View Post
    A lot of really dogmatic "I believe in story, and story means you play dirt farmers while I talk about the important people" tend to ignore that, the rules, and anything else that gets in the way of them writing a book while you sit there. May not be as bad as all that, but that's what I am going to guess at from Keld's rant.
    To which to them, I say "write a book don't play a tabletop rpg". I mean why bother playing an interactive game if you're not allowed to interact. lol

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    One of the reasons I don't like optimization is that once one person does it, everyone else has to as well, just to keep up. Which includes me as the DM, which makes it much harder to improvise and let the story go wherever the players want to take it.

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    Default Re: What does "optimization" mean to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yukitsu View Post
    A lot of really dogmatic "I believe in story, and story means you play dirt farmers while I talk about the important people" tend to ignore that, the rules, and anything else that gets in the way of them writing a book while you sit there. May not be as bad as all that, but that's what I am going to guess at from Keld's rant.
    Believing in story is great.

    DMs just need to remember that it's the players' story, not theirs.

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