D&D 5E Do you feel 5e pressures you to build strong over fun?

Corwin

Explorer
A conversation in another thread spurred me to want to start this one so as not to derail that one further.

First, I get that there are plenty of perfectly legit playstyles out there. I'm no OneTrueWay believer or BadWrongFun caller-outer. This isn't about "I can't believe you guys play that way! How dumb!" or anything like that. If anything, it may be about expectations and preconceived notions of what 5e expect of its players. And yes, I'm an unabashed power gamer and experienced optimizer. Going back decades. So there's that caveat.

But it feels like there are people out there who believe they are required by 5e to build purely for maximum possible strength/power just to survive. The example given in the other thread: If you were a fighter 4, and your wizard friend started encouraging your interest in magic, would you take a level of wizard before getting that "precious" extra attack from fighter 5? That's the key issue here. Do you feel like you *need* that extra attack before you would consider broadening your horizons resulting from story development?

To me, the obvious underlying impetus seems to be one of make it through each adventuring day. This is where I think I have a certain small degree of disconnect with some people. 5e seems generally pretty forgiving of the minor power level discrepancies between characters (and, yes, in the grand scheme of things I think power level discrepancies between PCs aren't all that extreme). It can handle a non-optimized PC just fine, IMX. A character that isn't optimization-focused still generally manages to get through the adventuring day to enjoy the next. Is that not true? And isn't that the point? To win the day? I just see non-optimized PCs manage it all the time.

That isn't to say weak characters are immune from death. But neither are solidly built ones. I'm saying 5e's assumed power levels of play has a margin of probability, of either kind of PC dying, smaller than some might think. At least that's my experience playing it so much these last few years.

Anyway, I've been imbibing a bit this evening, so forgive me if I'm rambling or incoherent. But I thought this might be an interesting thing to explore.
 

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AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I've seen a 12 Strength, 14 Wisdom melee-focused life cleric excel at overcoming challenges and not leave the player feeling like they aren't an equal member of the team while playing next to a 20 Strength barbarian.

So no, I don't think the benchmark that 5th edition sets is one that creates incentive to "build strong", because it's easy as pie to hit the benchmark.

People will, though, find their own incentives to build one way or another, and some people will mistakenly think those incentives they've inserted are created by the game (and some folks will assume that everyone else, or at least 'all the normal folks', share the same incentives.
 

mellored

Explorer
You have a DM. He can always add, or remove, monsters.
Thus, no matter what your character, you can have an appropriate challenge.

It does get a bit tricky if one guy is well above the others.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think optimization is more important in lower number of players games. In a party with 2-3 PC's optimization sure makes a difference in getting through the adventuring day.

I tend to play games with a lower number of PC's
 


Valmarius

First Post
Do you feel 5e pressures you to build strong over fun?

I find quite the opposite. In my experience I haven't had to choose between the two.
In 5E, regardless of what kind of character I have in mind, I find that I can make a viable build for it.
So I can approach my character with a desire to make something fun and still fulfill my system-mastery urges.

With regards to your wizard/fighter example. I would consider my wizard friend's encouragement and think about whether my PC would buy into it.
But, the party already has one wizard. So in the pursuit of contributing my best to the party I would probably take Magic Initiate over multiclass.
I would totally put off a strength bump in favour of a little story-based arcane tutelage. (Greenflame Blade FTW)
 

5e seems generally pretty forgiving of the minor power level discrepancies between characters (and, yes, in the grand scheme of things I think power level discrepancies between PCs aren't all that extreme). It can handle a non-optimized PC just fine, IMX. A character that isn't optimization-focused still generally manages to get through the adventuring day to enjoy the next. Is that not true? And isn't that the point? To win the day? I just see non-optimized PCs manage it all the time.

Pretty much my experience. While 3e and its variants seem to me very unforgiving with those who exert their right to play bad characters, 5e makes it very hard, if not almost impossible, to go below a certain level of effectiveness - I'd say just enough to survive the challenges of your typical adventure day.
 

Corwin

Explorer
Yeah. In the other thread I touched on my rogue/monk/warlock. He didn't get Extra Attack from monk 5 until I think 7th level (might have been 8th, actually, but certainly no sooner than 7th). Our paladin got his second swing at 5th. Yet I never felt inadequate or incapable of keeping up throughout the adventuring day. Not at all. In fact, I brought invaluable abilities to the group. At least as much as the others. Stuff neither the paladin not sorcerer could ever dream of being able to do. So why should I feel like I left anything on the table? I eventually got another attack. But before that I got all kinds of other cool things I could do.
 


Greg K

Hero
No, I don't feel a need to optimize toward max strength/combat to survive.

This doesn't mean that I do not engage in some optimization. Optimization is a tool that can be used for many different goals or concepts- not all having to do with maximum combat/strength/power. Unless I am creating a character with purely random rolls, I am engaging in some optimization as soon as i make conscious decisions to allocate resources to make my character in order to best meet certain goals. I can optimize to be the best underwater basket weaver. There is also multi-objective optimizing in which multiple goals require trading off maximum efficiency in one or more areas to meet goals in other areas. So allocating ability scores and other resources to best meet my vision of a farmboy figher with decent strength above average dexterity, con and intelligence who is the best horseman in his village is a form of optimization and trading off other areas that require less or no efficiency (such as Charisma, because he is a whiny), I am optimizing.
 
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Corwin

Explorer
No, I don't feel a need to optimize toward max strength/combat to survive.

This doesn't mean that I do not engage in some optimization. Optimization is a tool that can be used for many different goals or concepts- not all having to do with maximum combat/strength/power. Unless I am creating a character with purely random rolls, I am engaging in some optimization as soon as i make conscious decisions to allocate resources to make my character in order to best meet certain goals. I can optimize to be the best underwater basket weaver. There is also multi-objective optimizing in which multiple goals require trading off maximum efficiency in one or more areas to meet goals in other areas. So allocating ability scores and other resources to best meet my vision of a farmboy figher with decent strength above average dexterity, con and intelligence who is the best horseman in his village is a form of optimization and trading off other areas that require less or no efficiency (such as Charisma, because he is a whiny), I am optimizing.
First, thanks for your input, but I'd like to try and stay on topic. At least for the first page if at all possible.

Also, I'm not really a fan of redefining terms until they become less than useful. If you water down "optimization" until it means, "made a good choice", it sort of defeats the purpose of the label, IMO. But, again, thanks for your thoughts. I get where you are coming from. Like I said, I've been an optimizer for a long time too. So I understand what you are trying to say. It's just not all that germane to the larger point I am addressing in the OP.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
Nope. I am playing with some players new to D&D/RPGing or who have not played since 1e and I think 5e is fairly forgiving but in terms of designing and playing a fun build. We have some pretty suboptimal builds in our party and they all do fine.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
No. I've been doing both for years.

But to me this question depends more on the table than the edition. Gritty, high-combat, "dark" and "horror" tables are not good places to build interesting but less-functional characters and IMO, in-world you would be hard pressed to make a good argument for a jack-of-nothing. If your life is a constant battle for survival, you will build for survival and power and explore interesting character options later.

In a lighter-fare game of world-exploring, tomb robbing or otherwise low-combat, low-grit, fun-fantasy I think players are more likely to consider non-optimized options as viable because they know that missing out on a powerful class feature is not going to break their ability to partake in the game. In-world too, characters could make a better argument for taking such options, as their mere existence is far less brutal.

A fighter could BTW, stay a fighter and use his bonus feats to take Magic Initiate multiple times and gain several interesting, if not very powerful, spells that could aid in the development of his character without having to multiclass. Honestly I've often taken it just to get a familiar on several characters. I once played a Fighter/Rogue w/Magic Initiate for no other reason than to be a pirate with a parrot familiar.
 

Though there's some random lethality at low level, 5e is tuned for multiple, fast combats that shouldnt be hard to survive, beyond that. If you do optimize much the biggest danger would be finding challenges feeling too easy - not an unheard of complaint, either.

It's up to the DM to challenge the party, and give each PC a turn in the spotlight, and 5e provides plenty of tools and opportunities to do those things. So balancing PC build choices and optimizing PCs just isn't the issue it was in 4e and 3e respectively.
 
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R P Davis

Explorer
If you were a fighter 4, and your wizard friend started encouraging your interest in magic, would you take a level of wizard before getting that "precious" extra attack from fighter 5?

Sure, if that's what felt best for the story I was trying to create with that character.

Do you feel like you *need* that extra attack before you would consider broadening your horizons resulting from story development?

Certainly not. Letting mechanics get in the way of a good story is, in my experience, the fastest way to a bored table.

To me, the obvious underlying impetus seems to be one of make it through each adventuring day.

I very much agree. If Bob the Fighter can start casting light, the whole adventure changes. He no longer has to carry torches, freeing up room in his basic load. If he can start casting fire bolt, he has a ranged attack that is arguably better than the crossbow he was using, and guess what? Less gear to carry!

Even being able to use a weak cantrip to summon a flame to light his smokes makes his daily life easier. And since most soldiers, across the multiverse, are very much interested in things which make their lives in the boonies less stressful, it makes perfect sense to think that he'd go for the Zippo before spending more time on the rifle range, even if it meant he'd miss out on learning how to be an expert sniper until the next course started in six months. :D

But to me this question depends more on the table than the edition. Gritty, high-combat, "dark" and "horror" tables are not good places to build interesting but less-functional characters and IMO, in-world you would be hard pressed to make a good argument for a jack-of-nothing. If your life is a constant battle for survival, you will build for survival and power and explore interesting character options later.

In a lighter-fare game of world-exploring, tomb robbing or otherwise low-combat, low-grit, fun-fantasy I think players are more likely to consider non-optimized options as viable because they know that missing out on a powerful class feature is not going to break their ability to partake in the game. In-world too, characters could make a better argument for taking such options, as their mere existence is far less brutal.

I dunno.

One of the stories this discussion brings vividly to mind is the 1999 "The Mummy," starring Brendan Fraser. In that movie, Rick O'Connell is optimized to survive in the way we're discussing. Evie is also optimized, but more to the "sage" or "scholar" side of things; she grows somewhat used to the adventuring life over the course of the story, though she never becomes the adventurer Rick is.

And then there's Jonathan. If ever there was a cliché, non-optimized character in a party, it's Jonathan. He's utterly useless as an adventurer. Yet he manages to survive, and at least once he saves the day.

My point is, without Jonathan the story would suck. SUCK. If the party consisted of all rugged O'Connell types, all theoretically optimized to survive the adventuring environment, they'd never have made it 20 minutes into the film. They'd have been stymied by the first puzzle which required something more than combat aptitude.

Jonathan requires saving. He also brings a certain amusement and flair to the thing. He's the damsel in distress as well as the jester. All of which builds tension, builds drama, builds a better, more interesting story. And isn't that what we're supposed to be about when we're gathered around a table, eating horrible-for-us snack foods and rolling dice?

Further, there'd be precious little of the tension which characters with different foci and goals provide. You'd have "Predator," which is a bloody awful story: All the characters are carbon copies, combat-optimized in ever-so-slightly different ways. The only drama, the only tension is the question of who dies next, and in what grisly way. I think that's what shidaku's first paragraph describes, and I can think of nothing less interesting to play. Of course, that's just my opinion. :) If that's your preferred play style, go for it.

That's why I agree with shidaku's assessment that we're discussing a style-of-play thing more than an edition or game-dependent thing.

Cheers,

Bob

www.r-p-davis.com
 
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dropbear8mybaby

Banned
Banned
It's funny but I always find the people who complain the most about optimisation are the ones who are also tend to pigeon-hole themselves by system choices. For instance, saying that a choice like +2 Dex is boring, so they choose Linguist instead and then play a straight linguist character. It's like they can't think of anything else but what the system mechanics give them and complain that the system mechanics don't give them what they want.

You can give me the most "boring" character in existence, and yet I'll make it come alive at the table. That +2 to Dex is not only the better mechanical choice, but I can turn it into a myriad of flavourful RP reasons why the character is more or highly dexterous. I can play the exact same mechanical choices in dozens of different ways as well so that you'd never recognise the character based on their stats. Yet the people who say RP is their primary goal, always seem unable to do that and yet justify their nonoptimal choices as promoting RP.

Maybe it's just been my experience so it's only anecdotal, but the majority of RP over OP players I've encountered, haven't been very creative or imaginative when it comes to RP and tend towards making characters that are cardboard cutouts of their favourite characters from fiction, usually anime, and then force the concept into the system which results in nonoptimal choices, rather than making a competent character and bringing it to life through actual play experiences and interactions.
 

I feel that 5E is the first edition since 1E that didn't pressure you to optimize (early 2E was good too, but the later stuff ruined it). The difference between a fully optimized character and a normal character is fairly minimal, but still noticeable. It is still possible to make weak characters that are below the expectation, but they usually involve building against type without some trick to make up for it (such as a low Con, high Int Champion Fighter). That said, everyone has their own style of gaming, and players who've started in late 2E or later are probably used to optimizing. Many probably do it without even thinking about it, unless presented a sub-optimal choice like in the OP.

Optimizing isn't bad in 5E, since it doesn't create much in the way of character disparity, but it isn't necessary. If the DM uses the encounter building guidelines, they appear to be built for non-optimized characters. This allows normal players and powergamers to play in the same game without too much difficulty.
 


SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Mm ba ba de
Um bum ba de
Um bu bu bum da de
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that brings a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
 

Corwin

Explorer
I feel that 5E is the first edition since 1E that didn't pressure you to optimize (early 2E was good too, but the later stuff ruined it). The difference between a fully optimized character and a normal character is fairly minimal, but still noticeable. It is still possible to make weak characters that are below the expectation, but they usually involve building against type without some trick to make up for it (such as a low Con, high Int Champion Fighter). That said, everyone has their own style of gaming, and players who've started in late 2E or later are probably used to optimizing. Many probably do it without even thinking about it, unless presented a sub-optimal choice like in the OP.

Optimizing isn't bad in 5E, since it doesn't create much in the way of character disparity, but it isn't necessary. If the DM uses the encounter building guidelines, they appear to be built for non-optimized characters. This allows normal players and powergamers to play in the same game without too much difficulty.
Well said.

I should also reiterate that I don't think optimization is bad, either. Again, I do it too. If you use Greg's definition, everyone does it in some way or another. But I agree, and appreciate, that 5e not only doesn't expect/require it, but those who do or do not, to whatever degree, can all manage to get through the average adventuring day.
 

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