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  1. - Top - End - #91
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by SirBellias View Post
    Mechanics wise it gets a lot harder.
    That depends on the game system and the game concept that system supports.
    For example, L5R is based on "samurai drama", so naturally building a non-teflon-billy character already includes the "drama hooks" a gm should include in the actual game later on.

    My last group included the following:
    - Happy married with children, jealous rival
    - Lost love, unhappy marriage, high society position
    - Dark Secret, Compulsion

    That's stuff that you can always build drama moments around.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    That depends on the game system and the game concept that system supports.
    For example, L5R is based on "samurai drama", so naturally building a non-teflon-billy character already includes the "drama hooks" a gm should include in the actual game later on.

    My last group included the following:
    - Happy married with children, jealous rival
    - Lost love, unhappy marriage, high society position
    - Dark Secret, Compulsion

    That's stuff that you can always build drama moments around.
    Fair enough. I feel I should look into Legend of the Five Rings more. The closest I have found to mechanically enabled drama were the some of the moves in Monsterhearts and Apocalypse World. I was basing most of my reasoning off of D&D.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Back to the original idea of the thread, I optimize around, for want of a better way to put it, "having a clear idea of what this character (as opposed to me personally, the character I played in some other campaign, or a generic character of some kind) would be doing in the situations they're in".

    This means that I try to play a character who is pretty clearly distinct from anything else I've been playing recently. I'll also try to build in "something for them to do" in terms of backstory, personality, abilities, or whatever that gives them a different approach to the party dynamics or common situations than last time. (Playing someone who takes a different role within the party, or who has a different reason for going on an adventure, or a more pessimistic/optimistic reaction to most situations, or whatever.)

    In turn, this tends to lead to less "generically optimized for combat" characters, since in many systems that would lead to characters that look pretty similar. Since I also optimize who I game with around people who aren't focused on "winning" at RPGs but rather around people who like a crunchy-heavy version of long-form improv acting while sitting down, this works out just fine. (System-wise, I like to play GURPS, which supports that playstyle just fine. If I were starting out now, I'd probably pick something else as a default, but I started gaming in the mid-90s when that made more sense.) Of course, given a group of strangers and an hour to two to kill, I'd also rather play improv theater games than board games, so I'm probably not typical among tabletop rpg folks.
    Last edited by Algeh; 2018-01-01 at 05:15 PM.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    It is my understanding that the term "optimization" entered the RPG lexicon some years back in an attempt to justify the sort of behavior that had previous been dubbed being a "power-gamer" "munchkin" "min-maxxer" "twink" or the like. It was a deliberate attempt to rebrand what was often considered to be a negative trait with a term that had more positive terms. For example "I am not a munchkin! I am merely an optimizer who enjoys making the best character possible!"

    This thread seems like an attempt to tear the term away from these roots and change it into a more neutral term for "good play," but I have a feeling that it is just going to get bogged down in semantic arguments as it is, at its core, merely a discussion of terminology.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    It is my understanding that the term "optimization" entered the RPG lexicon some years back in an attempt to justify the sort of behavior that had previous been dubbed being a "power-gamer" "munchkin" "min-maxxer" "twink" or the like. It was a deliberate attempt to rebrand what was often considered to be a negative trait with a term that had more positive terms. For example "I am not a munchkin! I am merely an optimizer who enjoys making the best character possible!"

    This thread seems like an attempt to tear the term away from these roots and change it into a more neutral term for "good play," but I have a feeling that it is just going to get bogged down in semantic arguments as it is, at its core, merely a discussion of terminology.
    If that history is true, it would lend some more weight to the narrower usage, and the negative reaction.

    I've always approached the issue from the neutral meaning.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    I have seen the word optimizer used in a negative light a lot (which is not to say that I think it should). It seems to be almost a "lawful muchkin", who plays very competitively and maybe at the expense of other players but does so strictly by the book.

    A more actuate reading of the word is neutral because it is silent on what you are optimizing for, the assumption is that it will be character power but it could easily be something like table fun. However, outside of a thought experiment, I don't see the technical definition being that useful, because then almost all design in an role-playing game is optimization of some set of resources towards some goal. And yes, technically they are, that is not to say it is useful to describe all of them that way all the time.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    It is my understanding that the term "optimization" entered the RPG lexicon some years back in an attempt to justify the sort of behavior that had previous been dubbed being a "power-gamer" "munchkin" "min-maxxer" "twink" or the like. It was a deliberate attempt to rebrand what was often considered to be a negative trait with a term that had more positive terms. For example "I am not a munchkin! I am merely an optimizer who enjoys making the best character possible!"

    This thread seems like an attempt to tear the term away from these roots and change it into a more neutral term for "good play," but I have a feeling that it is just going to get bogged down in semantic arguments as it is, at its core, merely a discussion of terminology.
    I agree here. Almost gamers I've played with optimize to a degree, even within their character concept or because of it. Nobody makes a fuss about it because this kind of optimization is just normal character making. I mean if you are making a Conan like barbarian it doesn't help to put a low score in strength, else you'll end up with Ronal the barbarian




    I kind of feel Optimizer is newspeak for Munchkin, Powerplayer or the Min-Maxer
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Is there a meaningful distinction between who does small-O optimization, and a capital-O Optimizer?
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    I believe that there is value in using the term more generally, in that one can easily describe a character / concept as suboptimal to any number of applications, including party balance and table fun.

    As I've said before, I usually need to "take a 20" on character creation, throwing away lots of characters to produce one that I'll enjoy. I prefer to optimize my gaming time, not wasting it on a character who is suboptimal to my enjoyment of the game.

    If all I cared about was optimizing my character's capabilities / power, well, that would be easy! But optimizing my ability to push the envelope and explore the human psyche, while still creating a character who is easy and fun to run, and mechanically true to their concept? Now that's an optimization challenge!

    As to role-playing an optimized or suboptimal stat block... IMO, most good roleplayers are at least decent optimizers, and vice versa, as both are, fundamentally, the ability to think. So I have found a reasonable correlation between the two skills. Thus, I expect that the world's "best" roleplayers would have no problem role-playing a character well, regardless of the optimization of the stat block, so long as they both get the character in question, and understand the mechanics well enough to map the character's stats to their actions / attitudes / etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    Power disparity and optimization doesn't become a problem until somebody makes it a problem.
    Strongly agree. Of course, optimizing the group's fun once power disparity has become an issue is a challenge many groups lack the player skills to resolve.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    I kind of feel Optimizer is newspeak for Munchkin, Powerplayer or the Min-Maxer
    From the 1970s the early 2000s or so there's been this notion in RPGing, currently championed by our own Darth Ultron, that wanting to play a competent character is a shameful failure of Real Roleplaying(tm), and that the best character is one who can, if they struggle, just barely triumph over their own failings briefly before being dogpiled by the entire rest of the setting. (Aka "White Wolf Gaming".) I'm not sure if it was Exalted or D&D3.0 that finally got people to admit that sometimes, playing powerful characters can be FUN, but I'm grateful to them both.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    From the 1970s the early 2000s or so there's been this notion in RPGing, currently championed by our own Darth Ultron, that wanting to play a competent character is a shameful failure of Real Roleplaying(tm), and that the best character is one who can, if they struggle, just barely triumph over their own failings briefly before being dogpiled by the entire rest of the setting. (Aka "White Wolf Gaming".) I'm not sure if it was Exalted or D&D3.0 that finally got people to admit that sometimes, playing powerful characters can be FUN, but I'm grateful to them both.
    What I'm saying is that almost everybody makes "optimal" choices during character creation, sure I have handful of exceptions like this method acting roleplayer I played with a lot who would often show up with weird characters.

    But from since I started to play as a kid we'd put a high score in strength if we were playing a fighter and taking master weapon proficiency with the weapon we were actually using. Or if we rolled stats straight then our highest number would guide us in what class we would play, roll high intelligence pay a wizard etc.

    The same applies to point buy, if you are playing a good swordsman then you put points in your sword skill and the stat that the sword skill is based on. Almost all roleplayers optimize in that regard.

    The superhero genre was out since wayyyy before Exalted and D&D 3rd edition and I had played powerful characters in Gurps, Vilains and Vigilantes, RuneQuest and Bubblegum Crisis to name a few. The issue has never been playing a powerful character...a high level character in early editions of D&D was just as god smacking awesome as in later editions.

    I didn't even know about White Wolfs roleplaying snobbery until I arrived on these forums even though I've played a lot of their systems.

    So what is an optimizer? Is it someone who makes rational choices during character creation or someone who tries to squeeze as much power out of his character?
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Is there a meaningful distinction between who does small-O optimization, and a capital-O Optimizer?
    Optimization is a neutral word but it's just like everything else and usually becomes bad when you take it to extreme. But it sometimes feels like Optimizer is the new word Munchkins use for themselves because almost all roleplayers I know make rational decisions during character creation and developement. So either 90+% of roleplayers are optimizers or the word has a different meaning
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    So what is an optimizer? Is it someone who makes rational choices during character creation or someone who tries to squeeze as much power out of his character?
    Both. But only the latter is likely to get called on it.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Both. But only the latter is likely to get called on it.
    The latter is also more likely to throw the game out of whack as well.
    Recapping or summarizing helps my own understanding, to ensure I'm learning what people are saying. I apologize if I misrepresent you or your position while working through the topic

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    So what is an optimizer? Is it someone who makes rational choices during character creation or someone who tries to squeeze as much power out of his character?
    Both, in different contexts, and that's why these discussions get confusing. Some people use the word to refer to a player who makes optimal decisions, without statement as to what they're optimizing for. Could be the optimal choices to represent a particular character concept, could be the optimal choices to make a weird and subpar build work, could be anything. Others use the word to refer to a player who optimizes purely for power, often at the expense of the other parts of the game that the speaker finds more fun.

    The first group usually refers to the second behavior as Theoretical Optimization or munchkinry. The second group usually doesn't make a distinction because they think it's understood what they're saying (or sometimes because they fail to see the distinction themselves).
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jama7301 View Post
    The latter is also more likely to throw the game out of whack as well.
    Technically true, but there are cases, such as at Tippy's table, or when ones player skills are lacking, where this would be the optimal answer to try to get the table back into whack.

    For example, in Warhammer, I could run a literal incarnation of Tzeentch, and likely still be out preformed by the players who actually get that universe. Whereas, in 2e D&D, I built Armus, to be as statistically ineffective as possible, so that I could flex my player skills without overshadowing the rest of the party (too much).

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    When making a character, assuming it's a crunch-heavy system like Pathfinder or GURPS or DnD (I don't really play other types of games, so this is all but two or three of my characters, excluding my old freeform ones) I tend to build towards both a broad concept and specific things, sometimes at the same time, other times one after the other. Sometimes a very clear idea comes to me, and I build directly towards that. Other times, I have a general idea which I solidify as I build the character mechanically.

    So a lot of the choices I make are fairly typical 'optimization towards a concept' - or, to use a more neutral wording, I build the character so they can do in the game what I see them doing in my head. But there's another layer to it, too. I also want them to be enjoyable to play, which to a certain degree means picking things that will come up or otherwise leave their mark on the game. There's significant overlap between these options and the more optimal ones available in a lot of cases; though I wouldn't say this is always the case, or that what I end up picking is strictly better than many other options available. It's mostly that, when there are two options available and one seems like it would come up once in a blue moon, I'm more likely to pick the other one.

    To me, it's nice to have the options I pick to represent things the character does come up in a meaningful way, and since I play pretty mechanical games this often means having some kind of mechanical manifestation. An example would be a character I made for Pathfinder who is a fairly heavy drinker; I took the 'Iron Liver' Trait which makes her significantly more difficult to affect with alcohol and gives her a general boost to saves against drugs or poison - in part simply because it fit quite well, but also because it makes me think of some scene down the line where she'll be poisoned, drugged or similar, and be able to shrug it off with some offhand remark about said toxin being 'weaker than what I drink after a good hunt'.

    Additionally, I play a lot of PbP and it can get me down if I'm not able to do anything meaningful for a while, so I prefer to avoid characters who can do one thing in a combat encounter and then have to wait a long time to do anything useful.

    Using an "extended" definition, I would say one thing I optimize for is maximum interweaving of mechanics and fluff. It's partially because I find mechanics such as Pathfinder's Traits, GURPS' (Dis)Advantages and similar to be good sources of inspiration for details or jumping-off points for questions about backstory details, but I also want everything the character can do to have its own little story. A lot of this comes from my own musings on how, personally, I can remember the source of many minor quirks or skills I have, and it feels good to make a character who, similarly, has a specific source for many of their own abilities. Especially if it's unusual for their archetype, like a mage who is especially good at lying (because she has a compulsive desire to turn everything she enjoys and is good at into some kind of advantage, and she loves to make up stories - so she does that by lying to people when it's advantageous); that feels like it deserves an explanation and also serves as a way to help show what her life has been like before the game begins.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    lets do some basic character optimization: the swordsman. the point here is a guy who is effective at killing things with swords. lets do one for pathfinder, shadowrun 5th, and BESM 2nd. his primary role is stabbing things with swords, lets give him a secondary role of being a sneak. now here is how i would do this for pathfinder first level: slayer, half-orc, have power attack as his first feat, go great sword.
    in shadowrun I would have prioritize attributes in str>dex>con>int>wis>cha, keep stealth and perception maxed out. it would be that simple. shadowrun 5th I would go A: attributes B: skills C: magic D: elf E: resources. max out agility(7). Charisma would be a 2 and everything else a 4. of my 5 group skill points I put 1 in each of the 2 social skill sets, and the remaining 3 into the stealth group. I then max out the Blades skill, put a point in specialization swords. then 3 points in perception. drop the rest where I feel like. gives me 15 dice in one skill that I care about and 10 in sneak and 7 in disguise and perception.
    BESM is a point buy game with point ranges going from 15 to n+1, so lets go with a common start point (in my personal experiance) of 20 points. I put 12 points total into body(5), mind(3) and soul(4), 4 points in highly skilled, 3 points in personal gear and 1 in **** healthy. now with 4 points in highly skilled I now have 60 skill points, I spend 20 on melee attack and another 20 on melee defense (approximately, depending on setting, this gives me 3 to 4 levels in those skills) I then spend between 6 and 12 of those skill points on stealth. for the remainder I may give him a few skills of side interest.

    now then, given the same basic concept: swordsman with a side of sneak, in your favorite game system, how do you put it together?
    Last edited by vasilidor; 2018-01-02 at 09:19 PM.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    It is my understanding that the term "optimization" entered the RPG lexicon some years back in an attempt to justify the sort of behavior that had previous been dubbed being a "power-gamer" "munchkin" "min-maxxer" "twink" or the like. It was a deliberate attempt to rebrand what was often considered to be a negative trait with a term that had more positive terms. For example "I am not a munchkin! I am merely an optimizer who enjoys making the best character possible!"

    This thread seems like an attempt to tear the term away from these roots and change it into a more neutral term for "good play," but I have a feeling that it is just going to get bogged down in semantic arguments as it is, at its core, merely a discussion of terminology.
    Contrast the fundamental difference between "classic" RPG system design (like AD&D) and "modern" RPG system design (like D&D 3E).

    Thing is, a ,say, old-school Fighter used "closed" mechanics that were more or less all determined in one step at character creation, while a new-school Fighter is an ongoing "open" series of mechanical choices that will have to be made, at least once with each new level.

    So I think a lot of the negative connotation comes from the transition period when the editions changed. Previously, you took a look at a Fighter character sheet and knew what the character is capable of, after that, a character changed and grew in capability with each new level and feat, meaning more work for the gm and always rechecking the sheet to stay up to the development.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    Contrast the fundamental difference between "classic" RPG system design (like AD&D) and "modern" RPG system design (like D&D 3E).

    Thing is, a ,say, old-school Fighter used "closed" mechanics that were more or less all determined in one step at character creation, while a new-school Fighter is an ongoing "open" series of mechanical choices that will have to be made, at least once with each new level.

    So I think a lot of the negative connotation comes from the transition period when the editions changed. Previously, you took a look at a Fighter character sheet and knew what the character is capable of, after that, a character changed and grew in capability with each new level and feat, meaning more work for the gm and always rechecking the sheet to stay up to the development.
    Isn't there a contrast though with games that always had open character creation?
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Isn't there a contrast though with games that always had open character creation?
    Has there been a truly open system that could be considered to be mainstream at the time?

    D&D, Rifts, DSA and such were class-based, d100/Basic RPG and its siblings had no real character advancement, Shadowrun and WoD were also somewhat limited and well, there's Gurps.
    Last edited by Florian; 2018-01-03 at 10:01 AM.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Rolemaster, RuneQuest, the Hero System... GURPS is far from the first of its kind.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    What I'm saying is that almost everybody makes "optimal" choices during character creation, sure I have handful of exceptions like this method acting roleplayer I played with a lot who would often show up with weird characters.

    But from since I started to play as a kid we'd put a high score in strength if we were playing a fighter and taking master weapon proficiency with the weapon we were actually using. Or if we rolled stats straight then our highest number would guide us in what class we would play, roll high intelligence pay a wizard etc.

    The same applies to point buy, if you are playing a good swordsman then you put points in your sword skill and the stat that the sword skill is based on. Almost all roleplayers optimize in that regard.

    The superhero genre was out since wayyyy before Exalted and D&D 3rd edition and I had played powerful characters in Gurps, Vilains and Vigilantes, RuneQuest and Bubblegum Crisis to name a few. The issue has never been playing a powerful character...a high level character in early editions of D&D was just as god smacking awesome as in later editions.

    I didn't even know about White Wolfs roleplaying snobbery until I arrived on these forums even though I've played a lot of their systems.

    So what is an optimizer? Is it someone who makes rational choices during character creation or someone who tries to squeeze as much power out of his character?
    Giving a fighter high strength is an example of where the rational choice and the choice which respects the spirit of what the system is trying to say about the setting are in alignment. One thing that often happens with optimization is that it can reveal that the system actually isn't supporting the setting at all if you take it to a particular extreme, and then calls attention to that. The classic example of this is the whole wizards vs fighters thing in D&D.

    If I want to make a character who is a good wrestler in D&D 3.5, the setting-compliant way is to start with martial classes like Monk, Fighter, and Barbarian, pump Strength, take feats that improve my grappling abilities, wear gear that improves Strength or grappling, and then stop there.

    However, you can do better (note: not my work, this is the 'Grapplemancer' build) by making a Wizard with an octopus familiar (even better for an elf: a racial substitution level for an elven Wizard at 3rd level doubles this bonus). Then make use of Enlarge Person, Fearsome Grapple, Polymorph, and if I really want to get fancy change careers and go into Wu Jen for eventual access to Giant Size (or use various other shenanigans to import that spell specifically to my spell list), or possibly dip Cleric and try to use Nightsticks and Persistent Spell to make those buffs stay on 24 hours a day. You don't even need stats that are angled at being a Wizard or Cleric to do most of this - 12 Int at character creation will actually cut it for the basics and carry you up to Polymorph as long as you put your first two extra stat points into Int. On top of that, you can take somewhat peculiar backstory feats such as 'Aberration Blood' to get even more bonuses.

    This frankenstein character doesn't really make immediate sense in the setting the way 'I'm a fighter, I do strength training' does. Of course it's possible to come up with backstory to try to justify this kind of thing, but it generally puts strain on how people see the setting when, objectively, the best way for anyone to become good at wrestling is to put down those barbells and hit the library. You're going to start asking 'why doesn't the city guard go this route rather than training people to be fighters?' and so you have to make up something like 'well, not everyone has the talent or inclination to be a wizard, its not just a matter of your chosen training program'. And that, plus some of the more inherent aspects of builds, can raise the spectre of 'who exactly is making these decisions about build - the character themselves, or the player?' which can make the optimization process questionable from a metagaming point of view. The most optimal decision if you want to be a luchador is, be born of an unfortunate romance between an elf and someone with an aboleth grandfather - clearly something that must be arranged by hand-of-player, not something a character can themselves pursue through their own knowledge.

    Things absolutely don't have to always end up breaking this way, but this is an example of how things can break that are probably secondary to the considerations of the actual character optimization problem. Optimization, as a methodology, requires recognizing that sometimes the fluff is lying to you about how the world is - and that can mean that actually choosing to go full-bore optimization means that you're actively disregarding the fluff. I think thats the thing that creates the impression of optimization and roleplay as being opposing directives - disregarding the fluff in favor of what the system actually says can mean sacrificing the consistency and coherency of how a character is presented in favor of effectiveness - no system is perfectly aligned with the claims of the setting writers, after all, so there will be times when a player is forced to choose between what the system implies and what the setting says. Someone who tends to fall on the side of 'what the system implies' is, in those cases, choosing to sacrifice the quality of their roleplay for an increase in whatever the target of their optimization is.

    That's why its an important skill for someone who wants to go heavily in the direction of optimization to recognize if e.g. seeing someone play a franken-character is going to harm other players' suspension of disbelief, and to actually care about that rather than just say 'their problem for being so stuck in their ways'. If you recognize what stuff will and won't strain people, you can include that as a constraint in the optimization process and find 'the most effective character who won't damage the table's suspension of disbelief' or somesuch. But if you go past those bounds, you're choosing to sacrifice something from other people's enjoyment for that extra margin of effectiveness. And that's the point at which things can take on a very negative connotation.
    Last edited by NichG; 2018-01-04 at 12:49 AM.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Giving a fighter high strength is an example of where the rational choice and the choice which respects the spirit of what the system is trying to say about the setting are in alignment. One thing that often happens with optimization is that it can reveal that the system actually isn't supporting the setting at all if you take it to a particular extreme, and then calls attention to that. The classic example of this is the whole wizards vs fighters thing in D&D.

    If I want to make a character who is a good wrestler in D&D 3.5, the setting-compliant way is to start with martial classes like Monk, Fighter, and Barbarian, pump Strength, take feats that improve my grappling abilities, wear gear that improves Strength or grappling, and then stop there.

    However, you can do better (note: not my work, this is the 'Grapplemancer' build) by making a Wizard with an octopus familiar (even better for an elf: a racial substitution level for an elven Wizard at 3rd level doubles this bonus). Then make use of Enlarge Person, Fearsome Grapple, Polymorph, and if I really want to get fancy change careers and go into Wu Jen for eventual access to Giant Size (or use various other shenanigans to import that spell specifically to my spell list), or possibly dip Cleric and try to use Nightsticks and Persistent Spell to make those buffs stay on 24 hours a day. You don't even need stats that are angled at being a Wizard or Cleric to do most of this - 12 Int at character creation will actually cut it for the basics and carry you up to Polymorph as long as you put your first two extra stat points into Int. On top of that, you can take somewhat peculiar backstory feats such as 'Aberration Blood' to get even more bonuses.

    This frankenstein character doesn't really make immediate sense in the setting the way 'I'm a fighter, I do strength training' does. Of course it's possible to come up with backstory to try to justify this kind of thing, but it generally puts strain on how people see the setting when, objectively, the best way for anyone to become good at wrestling is to put down those barbells and hit the library. You're going to start asking 'why doesn't the city guard go this route rather than training people to be fighters?' and so you have to make up something like 'well, not everyone has the talent or inclination to be a wizard, its not just a matter of your chosen training program'. And that, plus some of the more inherent aspects of builds, can raise the spectre of 'who exactly is making these decisions about build - the character themselves, or the player?' which can make the optimization process questionable from a metagaming point of view. The most optimal decision if you want to be a luchador is, be born of an unfortunate romance between an elf and someone with an aboleth grandfather - clearly something that must be arranged by hand-of-player, not something a character can themselves pursue through their own knowledge.

    Things absolutely don't have to always end up breaking this way, but this is an example of how things can break that are probably secondary to the considerations of the actual character optimization problem. Optimization, as a methodology, requires recognizing that sometimes the fluff is lying to you about how the world is - and that can mean that actually choosing to go full-bore optimization means that you're actively disregarding the fluff. I think thats the thing that creates the impression of optimization and roleplay as being opposing directives - disregarding the fluff in favor of what the system actually says can mean sacrificing the consistency and coherency of how a character is presented in favor of effectiveness - no system is perfectly aligned with the claims of the setting writers, after all, so there will be times when a player is forced to choose between what the system implies and what the setting says. Someone who tends to fall on the side of 'what the system implies' is, in those cases, choosing to sacrifice the quality of their roleplay for an increase in whatever the target of their optimization is.

    That's why its an important skill for someone who wants to go heavily in the direction of optimization to recognize if e.g. seeing someone play a franken-character is going to harm other players' suspension of disbelief, and to actually care about that rather than just say 'their problem for being so stuck in their ways'. If you recognize what stuff will and won't strain people, you can include that as a constraint in the optimization process and find 'the most effective character who won't damage the table's suspension of disbelief' or somesuch. But if you go past those bounds, you're choosing to sacrifice something from other people's enjoyment for that extra margin of effectiveness. And that's the point at which things can take on a very negative connotation.
    Very well laid out.

    "Don't break the fluff" is such an ingrained part of my thinking that I didn't think of that being the border where optimization can pick up negative connotations.

    (As an aside, I look forward to seeing your posts on these sorts of topics and I'm rarely disappointed. Even if I don't agree with everything, you make good points and present them in a very even-handed manner.)
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-01-04 at 08:33 AM.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    *snip for shortness*
    That's why its an important skill for someone who wants to go heavily in the direction of optimization to recognize if e.g. seeing someone play a franken-character is going to harm other players' suspension of disbelief, and to actually care about that rather than just say 'their problem for being so stuck in their ways'. If you recognize what stuff will and won't strain people, you can include that as a constraint in the optimization process and find 'the most effective character who won't damage the table's suspension of disbelief' or somesuch. But if you go past those bounds, you're choosing to sacrifice something from other people's enjoyment for that extra margin of effectiveness. And that's the point at which things can take on a very negative connotation.
    Exactly why I can never optimize. In my opinion, fluff IS how the world works and if the mechanics disagree, its the mechanics that are wrong, because the mechanics are not portraying it right. the world's fluff is whats actually important to roleplaying, and mechanics honestly are a completely separate thing thats just there to make sure things are fair for the players, whatever that form of fairness is.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    Exactly why I can never optimize. In my opinion, fluff IS how the world works and if the mechanics disagree, its the mechanics that are wrong, because the mechanics are not portraying it right. the world's fluff is whats actually important to roleplaying, and mechanics honestly are a completely separate thing thats just there to make sure things are fair for the players, whatever that form of fairness is.
    While I agree that "fluff" trumps "rules" when it comes to modeling in-game reality, mechanics are also something that is intimately tied to how the "game" aspects of it all work.

    Me personally, I don't have problems with keeping both layers completely separated. Mechanics may provide inspiration for certain aspects of the game world, like what and how things could be different from our regular mundane reality, but that's about all the "power" (or rather: influence) they have.

    In contrast, we´re playing a game set in this fictional world, with characters being playing pieces as part of that and as such, nowhere near "simulations" of real people in that game world.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    It is my understanding that the term "optimization" entered the RPG lexicon some years back in an attempt to justify the sort of behavior that had previous been dubbed being a "power-gamer" "munchkin" "min-maxxer" "twink" or the like. It was a deliberate attempt to rebrand what was often considered to be a negative trait with a term that had more positive terms. For example "I am not a munchkin! I am merely an optimizer who enjoys making the best character possible!"

    This thread seems like an attempt to tear the term away from these roots and change it into a more neutral term for "good play," but I have a feeling that it is just going to get bogged down in semantic arguments as it is, at its core, merely a discussion of terminology.
    Yup, I agree with this. Optimization is just a rebranding of a group of bad players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Is there a meaningful distinction between who does small-O optimization, and a capital-O Optimizer?
    Yes, very much so.

    The small ''O'' is simply someone who optimizes to have a good character: The fighter character uses a sword, they take weapon focus sword.

    The big "O" is the dreaded Optimizer: the jerk that is roll playing the numbers game and wants to show off and ruin the game for everyone else.

    And sure, the big O ones will say they are just then normal small O ones...as they have to lie to join groups and even play the game.


    Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
    From the 1970s the early 2000s or so there's been this notion in RPGing, currently championed by our own Darth Ultron, that wanting to play a competent character is a shameful failure of Real Roleplaying(tm), and that the best character is one who can, if they struggle, just barely triumph over their own failings briefly before being dogpiled by the entire rest of the setting. (Aka "White Wolf Gaming".) I'm not sure if it was Exalted or D&D3.0 that finally got people to admit that sometimes, playing powerful characters can be FUN, but I'm grateful to them both.
    Wait....I'm not that champion.

    I want the whole package: A well made character that is both well made mechanically and story wise. A character that is good for both roll and role playing.

    I'm against the casual players that do no role playing at all and just barely give a character a name (''Um, my character is Bob...") and then just endlessly roll play...mostly endless mindless combat.

    And I'm opposed to the Wrong Optimizer idea that you MUST play a Demigod to have fun. I say any character can be fun. You do NOT have to play a competent character. If you want to, sure, fine go ahead and do so....but don't tell people they have to play the game only that one way, and don't hide behind it and say you ''have to'' or are ''forced to'' play the game only this one way. It is a choice and one way to play.

    I do support the idea that a ''non-competent'', ''non-demigod'' character can be fun to play.

    And I do like the ''Triumph over Struggle'' where a character (and player) have to ''do'' something more then just ''push a button and win''.


    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    Exactly why I can never optimize. In my opinion, fluff IS how the world works and if the mechanics disagree, its the mechanics that are wrong, because the mechanics are not portraying it right. the world's fluff is whats actually important to roleplaying, and mechanics honestly are a completely separate thing thats just there to make sure things are fair for the players, whatever that form of fairness is.
    And I'm a Story, or ''fluff''(but don't like that word) first. I don't like the Optimizer that just sees the numbers game and just wants that ability or one more plus. The person who is like ''oh, whatever, I'll take that feat or class just to get what I want and ignore all the story role playing stuff."

    I like it much more when a player starts with the role playing story concept, and then adds on mechanics to support it....but note, I don't do for the false optimization lie here where players first pick all the coolz things they want...and then work up a silly bit of fluff to try and trick the DM into getting them.

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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    Exactly why I can never optimize. In my opinion, fluff IS how the world works and if the mechanics disagree, its the mechanics that are wrong, because the mechanics are not portraying it right. the world's fluff is whats actually important to roleplaying, and mechanics honestly are a completely separate thing thats just there to make sure things are fair for the players, whatever that form of fairness is.
    Where I might differ is that I think the mechanics should be synchronous with the setting and tone, rather that treated as a detached layer.
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    Default Re: What are you optimizing in character design?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Things absolutely don't have to always end up breaking this way, but this is an example of how things can break that are probably secondary to the considerations of the actual character optimization problem. Optimization, as a methodology, requires recognizing that sometimes the fluff is lying to you about how the world is - and that can mean that actually choosing to go full-bore optimization means that you're actively disregarding the fluff. I think thats the thing that creates the impression of optimization and roleplay as being opposing directives - disregarding the fluff in favor of what the system actually says can mean sacrificing the consistency and coherency of how a character is presented in favor of effectiveness - no system is perfectly aligned with the claims of the setting writers, after all, so there will be times when a player is forced to choose between what the system implies and what the setting says. Someone who tends to fall on the side of 'what the system implies' is, in those cases, choosing to sacrifice the quality of their roleplay for an increase in whatever the target of their optimization is.

    That's why its an important skill for someone who wants to go heavily in the direction of optimization to recognize if e.g. seeing someone play a franken-character is going to harm other players' suspension of disbelief, and to actually care about that rather than just say 'their problem for being so stuck in their ways'. If you recognize what stuff will and won't strain people, you can include that as a constraint in the optimization process and find 'the most effective character who won't damage the table's suspension of disbelief' or somesuch. But if you go past those bounds, you're choosing to sacrifice something from other people's enjoyment for that extra margin of effectiveness. And that's the point at which things can take on a very negative connotation.
    +1, a very good post and kinda explains the people to me that I've considered to be trying to exploit the system. The problem isn't that they are exploiting the system it's that they are destroying the "fluff" or suspension of disbelief. This is also why I like systems where the mechanics are married to the setting so there is lesser chance of this happening. This might also explain why I favor point buy instead of class/level system. In point buy you present your character and the GM will veto any wonkiness and also the GM can more easily veto things during character progression. In class system with multiclassing and all that you can more easily be blindsided by player class choices as the character will grow multiplicative in power.
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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