Fallacious Follies: Oberoni, Stormwind, and Fallacies OH MY!

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
My main issue with "optimization" is that most of the time those complaining about folks not optimizing are only talking about combat. Optimization is just making the optimal choice to achieve your goal, which can be to speak better, be famous, etc. Taking a non-combat feat to accomplish your goal is optimizing your character, even if you aren't as good at combat as you can be.
 

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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Its fine to do so. My only argument ever was that the more random elements there are in character generation and/or advancement, the less room for optimization there is, because you just can't control the result you'll end up with. And the choices you have with Trav characters are very limited.

Remember, this was in response to Pemerton using it as an example because it was less combat oriented (which I think is actually not as clear as he does, given the two commonest campaign styles with it back in the day were either merchants or mercenaries), and my noting that it wouldn't have mattered how combat centric it was because you had such limited control.

It was essentially an argument that to optimize things you have to control things.

(I also thought it showed how much people assume that only combat is going to have enough mechanical teeth that you can't optimize within them, but that's kind of a side issue).
I'm with Pemerton, not many merchant campaigns were filled with combat and im looking at my falling apart Secrets of the Ancients campaign on the shelf right now. I'd argue that equipment is more important than stats and skills in Traveller (assuming you have the base skill level to use the equipment, which can always be trained in downtime) which is in control of the group. The optimization happens after the chargen which is unusual when compared to most editions of D&D. Which I think is more of a disconnect here than the amount of combat or combat being the only part one can optimize.
 

pemerton

Legend
If a game offers character creation choices one can optimize character creation.
You could certainly make choices designed to improve your chances of having a starship by being a scout or merchant and staying in as long as you could. You could improve your chances of being combat capable by joining the army or marines. None of these were as foolproof as having full control over your character development choices, true, so it was a "softer" but still present form of optimization.
If you joined the army back in classic Traveller (which was also VERY easy to enlist in), you got the automatic service skill Rifle-1. So any and all army vets had at least that skill as a combat skill (and yeah, marines got Cutlass-1 if they never got commissioned). And if you wanted to be a pilot, you joined the scouts because they all got Pilot-1.
You definitely had things you could angle for even if you didn't have full control.
returning to Traveller, its still doesn't change the fact its exceedingly difficult to optimize toward, well, anything in it because there's so much randomness in it. If you go in trying to build a technician, you could end up with a medic instead--might even be a pretty good medic, but that wasn't that much help in trying to optimize toward an electronics-baseds repair and security specialist.
These posts seem to count it as optimising when a person builds a PC that is the sort of PC they want - a pilot, a soldier, a technician, a starship owner, etc.

That seems a very non-standard notion of optimisation, given that it is all about choosing the character's field of endeavour, whereas optimisation normally is understood to take a field of endeavour as given, and to be about the means to that.

By the definition in use in these posts, the best RPG for optimising is Cthulhu Dark, because the most important step in PC building is writing down your character's occupation - so if I want to play (say) a telegraph operator, I write down as my occupation telegraph operator. Bam! Optimisation done.

Or, in other words, this:
By that standard, being able to choose a class in OD&D was optimization, which I think sets the bar so low as to destroy any useful meaning to the term.

Returning to the standard meaning of optimisation, it relies upon there being competing and (typically) not-fully-transparent-to-superficial-inspection means of achieving the same goal, which for a PC in a RPG is a given field of endeavour in the game. In D&D the obvious site of optimisation is combat, because combat effectiveness is an intricate mathematical output of complexly interacting inputs - number of attacks per round, timing of attacks in a round, chances to hit, damage dice, etc; which are themselves shaped by various interacting factors like class, stats, proficiencies, etc. It is these interactions that create optimisation pathways like (in AD&D 2e) a specialised dart thrower, or (in Skills and Powers) building a cleric with fighter specs, or (in 3E) getting the right balance of feats and deploying them (eg Power Attack spreadsheets).

Champions/HERO and GURPS have (by reputation at least) a lot of complexity in this optimisation space.

The reason there is no optimisation in this sense in Traveller or Prince Valiant is because the way to be good at (say) shooting is simply to have a high shooting skill (be that Rifle in Traveller, or Archer in Prince Valiant). The way you get that in Prince Valiant is via build choice; the way you get that in Classic Traveller is via sensible choice of table plus lucky rolling.

A residual question is what non-contingent relationships not obtaining looks like? A broad class of examples might be freeform character capabilities, such as HeroQuest abilities or Torchbearer wises and instincts. Being freeform, one might predict that, that which was great for RP will be necessarily optimal (if optimal is taken to mean something like - relevance and strength of leverage over the narrative.) One could argue (and I have seen in actual play) that for a given genre, setting, mode or premise some choices tend to offer stronger or more relevant leverage over the narrative than others. But then isn't that be the same as saying they are less effective for RP!?
HeroQuest revised has a whole section devoted to advice to the GM on how to balance (say) a Strong descriptor against a Breaks Rocks With Her Bare Hands descriptor, the precise point of which is to ensure there is no optimisation.

Torchbearer or Burning Wheel takes a different technical approach - as an illustration, when one of the PCs in my Torchbearer game took Explosives-wise, together with the Belief that An explosive solution is a good solution, that was my cue as GM to include explosives and opportunities to blow things up. But the upshot is similar.

But in any event, as per the preceding parts of this post, I don't think building towards what I want to play, given the anticipated parameters of this campaign is the same thing as optimisation. The former is predominantly about ends. Whereas the latter - optimisation - is predominantly about means, and the availability of complex interacting means (which underlie the non-contingent relationships that I mentioned upthread) is a feature of only some RPGs.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
My main issue with "optimization" is that most of the time those complaining about folks not optimizing are only talking about combat. Optimization is just making the optimal choice to achieve your goal, which can be to speak better, be famous, etc. Taking a non-combat feat to accomplish your goal is optimizing your character, even if you aren't as good at combat as you can be.
I think the crux of the issue is that folks are often forced to decide to be good at one pillar of the game at expense of the others. Being good at one part and deadweight at another can be detrimental when a significant portion of the game is geared towards a particular pillar. Sure, the GM can tailor a campaign to suit that pillar style, but from a general standpoint its combat < Exploration < Social. Now I think that was a major issue in 3E where there was no ceiling on abilities and the gulf between good, bad, and dead was enormous. 5E fattened the feats, added backgrounds, and more importantly capped stats with bounded accuracy. Its no longer a detriment to start with a 16 instead of an 18 in a primary stat. Chargen is a little more flexible because it isnt a race against ineffectiveness any longer.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm with Pemerton, not many merchant campaigns were filled with combat

Uhm, I did mention "mercenaries" as the other commonest one. If one third of all Trav campaigns were focused on those, I think its hard to say that, overall, combat wasn't common in Traveller. You can pull out all the merchant campaigns (though I'm not sure how combat-light some of those were given the way the merchant-oriented published adventures were on the whole), and that's still a lot of combat. Its just not fantasy-adventurer levels of combat.

and im looking at my falling apart Secrets of the Ancients campaign on the shelf right now. I'd argue that equipment is more important than stats and skills in Traveller

I'd at least accept its as important (as is true with most modern-to-future games). I'm not sure how much that radically changes things since its dependent on money and other issues.

(assuming you have the base skill level to use the equipment, which can always be trained in downtime) which is in control of the group. The optimization happens after the chargen which is unusual when compared to most editions of D&D. Which I think is more of a disconnect here than the amount of combat or combat being the only part one can optimize.

I just think there's more limiting factors with gear than with basic character abilities; its like cooking the books with magic items in early D&D; you could do it, but only if you could get access to them, and that was largely in control of the GM. Most of the heavier duty Trav gear was military and wasn't automatically available even if you had the money for it; I didn't know too many GMs who assumed you could just stroll down to the corner gunshop and buy battledress and a plasma gun.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Uhm, I did mention "mercenaries" as the other commonest one. If one third of all Trav campaigns were focused on those, I think its hard to say that, overall, combat wasn't common in Traveller. You can pull out all the merchant campaigns (though I'm not sure how combat-light some of those were given the way the merchant-oriented published adventures were on the whole), and that's still a lot of combat. Its just not fantasy-adventurer levels of combat.



I'd at least accept its as important (as is true with most modern-to-future games). I'm not sure how much that radically changes things since its dependent on money and other issues.



I just think there's more limiting factors with gear than with basic character abilities; its like cooking the books with magic items in early D&D; you could do it, but only if you could get access to them, and that was largely in control of the GM. Most of the heavier duty Trav gear was military and wasn't automatically available even if you had the money for it; I didn't know too many GMs who assumed you could just stroll down to the corner gunshop and buy battledress and a plasma gun.
I dont feel comfortable enough to say my experiences are common let alone commnest. I learned that in many of the AD&D discussions here. I guess im just an outlier.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
These posts seem to count it as optimising when a person builds a PC that is the sort of PC they want - a pilot, a soldier, a technician, a starship owner, etc.

That seems a very non-standard notion of optimisation, given that it is all about choosing the character's field of endeavour, whereas optimisation normally is understood to take a field of endeavour as given, and to be about the means to that.

I was simply noting if you can't even reliably do that, you were unlikely to be able to go further in optimizing toward the result. Being able to aim yourself at a particular field of competence seems the minimum needed.

The reason there is no optimisation in this sense in Traveller or Prince Valiant is because the way to be good at (say) shooting is simply to have a high shooting skill (be that Rifle in Traveller, or Archer in Prince Valiant). The way you get that in Prince Valiant is via build choice; the way you get that in Classic Traveller is via sensible choice of table plus lucky rolling.

I'd argue that there's a bit more to combat optimization in Trav than just shooting skill; it also matters skill with what (if its a heavy combat game, Assault Rifle-2 probably matters more than Pistol-4) and also how good you are with certain attributes (a character with an End of 4 and an Dex or 5 is not in a sense a good combatant even if his skill is high).

But in any event, as per the preceding parts of this post, I don't think building towards what I want to play, given the anticipated parameters of this campaign is the same thing as optimisation. The former is predominantly about ends. Whereas the latter - optimisation - is predominantly about means, and the availability of complex interacting means (which underlie the non-contingent relationships that I mentioned upthread) is a feature of only some RPGs.

I really don't think you can generally separate them out to the degree that you (appear) to be doing here.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I dont feel comfortable enough to say my experiences are common let alone commnest. I learned that in many of the AD&D discussions here. I guess im just an outlier.

Well, its not like I can reliably say, either. I just know back in the day I saw a lot of discussion of shooty Trav campaigns, and both the setup of a lot of adventures and the the amount of stuff published about guns and other military and paramilitary topics doesn't suggest it could have been too low.

I mean, if you think about it, if one in three Trav games had no combat at all, and another one in three only modest amounts, that last one in three would still be a lot of combat in Traveller. That still leaves those first two-thirds to represent your and Pemerton's experiences without my point being irrelevant.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I just think there's more limiting factors with gear than with basic character abilities; its like cooking the books with magic items in early D&D; you could do it, but only if you could get access to them, and that was largely in control of the GM.
We had an interesting discussion awhile back where it @pemerton showed that 1977 Streetwise put getting hold of gear significantly into the hands of players
Streetwise expertise allows contact for the purposes of obtaining information, hiring persons, purchasing contraband or stolen goods, etc.
The referee should set the throw required to obtain any item specified by the players (for example, the name of an official willing to issue licenses without hassle = 5+, the location of high quality guns at a low price = 9+). DMs based on streetwise should be allowed at +1 per level. No expertise DM = −5.

There are a few caveats. In theory, a DM could set the target above 12. And the DM is empowered in the text to alter or ignore skills
Skills and the Referee: It is impossible for any table of information to cover all aspects of every potential situation, and the above listing is by no means complete in its coverage of the effects of skills. This is where the referee becomes an important part of the game process. The above listing of skills and game effects must necessarily be taken as a guide, and followed, altered, or ignored as the actual situation dictates.

Even so, played in good faith, players ought to be able to use Streetwise to get access to gear. Presupposing they have the credits. Speaking of credits, playing High Guard characters in our Trillion Credit Squadron campaign did have us focusing deeply on optimisation! Of fleets, that is.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Returning to the standard meaning of optimisation, it relies upon there being competing and (typically) not-fully-transparent-to-superficial-inspection means of achieving the same goal, which for a PC in a RPG is a given field of endeavour in the game. In D&D the obvious site of optimisation is combat, because combat effectiveness is an intricate mathematical output of complexly interacting inputs - number of attacks per round, timing of attacks in a round, chances to hit, damage dice, etc; which are themselves shaped by various interacting factors like class, stats, proficiencies, etc. It is these interactions that create optimisation pathways like (in AD&D 2e) a specialised dart thrower, or (in Skills and Powers) building a cleric with fighter specs, or (in 3E) getting the right balance of feats and deploying them (eg Power Attack spreadsheets).

Champions/HERO and GURPS have (by reputation at least) a lot of complexity in this optimisation space.

The reason there is no optimisation in this sense in Traveller or Prince Valiant is because the way to be good at (say) shooting is simply to have a high shooting skill (be that Rifle in Traveller, or Archer in Prince Valiant). The way you get that in Prince Valiant is via build choice; the way you get that in Classic Traveller is via sensible choice of table plus lucky rolling.

HeroQuest revised has a whole section devoted to advice to the GM on how to balance (say) a Strong descriptor against a Breaks Rocks With Her Bare Hands descriptor, the precise point of which is to ensure there is no optimisation.

Torchbearer or Burning Wheel takes a different technical approach - as an illustration, when one of the PCs in my Torchbearer game took Explosives-wise, together with the Belief that An explosive solution is a good solution, that was my cue as GM to include explosives and opportunities to blow things up. But the upshot is similar.

But in any event, as per the preceding parts of this post, I don't think building towards what I want to play, given the anticipated parameters of this campaign is the same thing as optimisation. The former is predominantly about ends. Whereas the latter - optimisation - is predominantly about means, and the availability of complex interacting means (which underlie the non-contingent relationships that I mentioned upthread) is a feature of only some RPGs.
That's reasonably argued. I need to ponder it a bit. Cases I'm thinking of include instincts, where some feel like they fit your "standard meaning" if we zoom out on goals. There might be an argument to be made that brings HQ and TB choices into the scope of optimisation, depending on which goals we're looking at.
 

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