Has anyone got any flak for buildung a character that wasnt optimized?

I think in most conventional RPGs there's a moderate to strong tendency for people to not appreciate characters they have the sense will not hold up their function in the character group. This is, after all, a hobby where your character is unlikely to be a self-contained entity who can get by no matter what the rest are doing; even outside of class-and-level systems, there are usually some practical limits to have effective a generalist you can be. This has two effects: you're somewhat dependent on other people doing their jobs, and (usually) you're expected to assist and aid others. So a character that is incompetent is both not bringing their part to the group, and simultaneously requiring extra effort from you to keep them intact.

Where it gets sticky is that some people have a very high set of expectations for what translates into not-incompetent. So any deviation from that is viewed with contempt and/or hostility. But I think that's just a pathological expression of a very common set of expectations.
 

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That was my first experience of D&D, and actually it was one of the games with the MORE pressure to be competent. It had a very high death rate, and if you rolled up a bad character you were sort of expected to let them die and be replaced. I later found out that most groups would look at a sheet and if it was sufficiently bad, they'd say "Oh, he'd never make it. You might as well save time and roll up a new character"

Well, it didn't hurt that in some early incarnations of D&D, the difference between a moderately low and moderately high set of attributes could be almost invisible. It wasn't until after the publication of Greyhawk that the physical attributes made much difference other than experience awards, and the mental ones made almost no difference for non-spellcasters even then.
 

Yes, although I also think that there's a degree of competence one should build into a character due to the fact that the game (thinking of DND and Pathfinder here, some games obviously work very differently) is frequently centered around problem solving. We have a 'good enough is good enough' approach to character optimization, but its nice playing pf2e and having the system keep a relatively small power difference between optimized and decent character builds, and making most of them at least decent. You aren't competing with the other players, just the amount of exp your presence adds to an encounter. These days I tend to run more into RP people who build weak characters and complain about other PCs being stronger, refuse to fight in the middle of combat with some roleplaying excuse, and who seem interested in policing other people's character optimization online... but seem to RP a lot less in practice.
 



Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Uh....yeah, but that misses the point. Saying that variable A has a greater impact than variable B is not negated by the observation that variable A and variable B, together, have the most impact.

A college degree will impact your net worth more than, say, obsessively searching your pocket change for rare and valuable pennies. "But doing both will have more impact than either by itself!" Well, yeah, I guess.



I was just trying to say that what @Dannyalcatraz was describing makes perfect sense to me. No more nor less.

In 5e in particular, my observation is that the delta between a highly optimized character and a poorly optimized character is less than the delta between skilled play and unskilled play. And I don't mean some kind of theoretical delta: I mean the difference between the skill of the actual players I play with on Monday nights. The best player with an unoptimized character is going to be more effective than the worst player with a highly optimized character.

IN OTHER WORDS....

If you're a good player, showing up with an unoptimized character doesn't have to limit your ability to fully contribute.

Sheesh.
I find that last statement to be questionable, as it's leaning hard into what "unoptimized" means. Does that mean that I haven't made sure I get the maximum + in one thing at the expense of others but rather gone for a slightly lower + to get a small + in some other things? Sure, that's not a hinderance to play at all. But if you mean that I can show up with a character that intentionally has little utility and as few plusses as possible and is playing directly against type while doing so that "good play" will make this have negligible impact. That doesn't follow at all. But, the formulation of your statements seems to be trying to include both!

If it's just that a decent character build well played can contribute well at the table -- ie, a 14 STR fighter is still decent and can be played well vice having to have an 18 STR fighter -- then sure, no issues. If you mean that good play can make an 8 STR fighter perform as well as even the 14 STR fighter? Nope, we're in strong disagreement mode.

Smart play, or good play, or skill play, or whatever you want to call the concept, includes character build. It's not independent of it. At least in a game like 5e, which is pretty rules dense on those features.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
If it's just that a decent character build well played can contribute well at the table -- ie, a 14 STR fighter is still decent and can be played well vice having to have an 18 STR fighter -- then sure, no issues. If you mean that good play can make an 8 STR fighter perform as well as even the 14 STR fighter? Nope, we're in strong disagreement mode.

Let me try it this way, then I'll give up because it's just not important and I don't think I'm saying anything very controversial.

I'll agree that Str 8 makes it pretty tough to be a good fighter. But if you can quantify just how bad Str 8 is for a fighter...let's say it's 3 standard deviations out (bottom 0.3%)...then my argument is that a really good player with that character can still be more effective than a player with a solid character who is in the bottom 0.3% of skill.

In other words, making bad decisions can easily be a bigger negative factor than getting a -1 penalty to your primary rolls.

The only data I have on that is that we have a player in our group like this, and they frequently make decisions (especially during combat) that basically wastes their turn, and doing nothing useful is worse than getting -1 to a primary roll. It's really worse than that, because sometimes they make decisions that actively make things worse for the rest of us. I mean, I guess they're at least there to absorb some incoming damage...so there's that.

I would rather, in terms of effectiveness, have a fighter with 8 Str, played well, than this particular player. (Except they're a friend...or at least a partner of a friend...so I wouldn't really want to kick them out.)

But I don't really want to keep arguing this. It's unprovable, and not even important. If you disagree...c'est la vie.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Let me try it this way, then I'll give up because it's just not important and I don't think I'm saying anything very controversial.

I'll agree that Str 8 makes it pretty tough to be a good fighter. But if you can quantify just how bad Str 8 is for a fighter...let's say it's 3 standard deviations out (bottom 0.3%)...then my argument is that a really good player with that character can still be more effective than a player with a solid character who is in the bottom 0.3% of skill.

In other words, making bad decisions can easily be a bigger negative factor than getting a -1 penalty to your primary rolls.

The only data I have on that is that we have a player in our group like this, and they frequently make decisions (especially during combat) that basically wastes their turn, and doing nothing useful is worse than getting -1 to a primary roll. It's really worse than that, because sometimes they make decisions that actively make things worse for the rest of us. I mean, I guess they're at least there to absorb some incoming damage...so there's that.

I would rather, in terms of effectiveness, have a fighter with 8 Str, played well, than this particular player. (Except they're a friend...or at least a partner of a friend...so I wouldn't really want to kick them out.)

But I don't really want to keep arguing this. It's unprovable, and not even important. If you disagree...c'est la vie.
Right. I thought I covered this. It's trivial to note that bad play leads to bad outcomes. That, given the same character sheet, good play leads to better outcomes than bad play does. This is obvious. I'm not arguing this. Your statement, though, wasn't that good play is better than bad play (which is this argument) but that good play can trump the character sheet, and particularly in 5e. This is what I'm pushing back against -- not the idea that good play is obviously better than bad play, but rather that good play is independent of character sheets and that good play will result in good outcomes even with a poorly built character. That doesn't follow, and the observation of ceteris paribus good play being better than bad play doesn't at all support this claim.

Simply put, good play in 5e requires attention to the character sheet, both in creation and in play. This isn't an argument for optimization, or at least not for excessive optimization, but rather one that says that way 5e is structured in play the character sheet absolutely matters and is the basis for good play. You can't just say "good play > character sheet" and have that be a meaningful statement because it's not -- these are not independent ideas. You can't say that "house > foundation" either. The foundation is part of the house, and the house falters and fails without one (or with a poor one). Same with good play and character sheets in 5e.

Some games, though, this observation is very true. I'd argue that AD&D was much more here, in that even a poor character sheet didn't matter as much to the outcomes because so many of the various systems didn't even reference the character sheet so you could play towards those systems without having to worry about your sheet having a large impact. 5e, though, is very integrated between character sheets and systems in play.

Which, to link to the OP, bringing in a character that isn't a reasonable build adds challenge to play -- you will be less successful in play. This becomes a problem at the table because of how much a game like 5e is built on the idea of team play where everyone is expected to pitch in to overcome challenges that are largely based on the challenging the team. Bringing in a character that doesn't contribute well, even if they have niche specialties, means you're actively harming the teams ability to succeed. That can be perfectly fine, if the group at your table is okay with it, but it's an odd position to be in to assume that your choices should be universally acclaimed by all if they're made without this in mind, or even specifically to cut against this idea in play. I absolutely don't require or expect hard optimization at the table, but is someone brought in an 8 STR 8 DEX fighter that was using a maul and wearing leather armor I'd absolutely be keenly interested in hearing how that player expects that character to fill the role they're staking in the game. And any claims of "Don't worry, I'm a good player" would be immediately discounted by the choices already made.
 

Let me try it this way, then I'll give up because it's just not important and I don't think I'm saying anything very controversial.

I'll agree that Str 8 makes it pretty tough to be a good fighter. But if you can quantify just how bad Str 8 is for a fighter...let's say it's 3 standard deviations out (bottom 0.3%)...then my argument is that a really good player with that character can still be more effective than a player with a solid character who is in the bottom 0.3% of skill.

In other words, making bad decisions can easily be a bigger negative factor than getting a -1 penalty to your primary rolls.

But people aren't going to assume someone who goes out of their way to play a poorly constructed character is going to be any more thoughtful in play. Quite the contrary, in fact.

The only data I have on that is that we have a player in our group like this, and they frequently make decisions (especially during combat) that basically wastes their turn, and doing nothing useful is worse than getting -1 to a primary roll. It's really worse than that, because sometimes they make decisions that actively make things worse for the rest of us. I mean, I guess they're at least there to absorb some incoming damage...so there's that.

I would rather, in terms of effectiveness, have a fighter with 8 Str, played well, than this particular player. (Except they're a friend...or at least a partner of a friend...so I wouldn't really want to kick them out.)

But I don't really want to keep arguing this. It's unprovable, and not even important. If you disagree...c'est la vie.

Well, as you will, but I think the assumption the substandard build and substandard play are completely independent variables is not self-evident. IME, often they're produced by similar internal processes in the player, either a lack of engagement, or a deliberate choice to be colorful and the expense of functionality.

(And again, to make it clear, the definition of functionality I'm working with is not the "build the character so tight the corners bulge" of some people.)
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
But people aren't going to assume someone who goes out of their way to play a poorly constructed character is going to be any more thoughtful in play. Quite the contrary, in fact.

That's a weird argument. And not only because of the data-less assertion of what other people are going to assume. Or because in my experience it's the good players who sometimes like to experiment with poorly constructed characters.*

Rather, it's a weird argument because this is a debate about the relative impact of char construction vs. skill at play, not other people's assumptions.

*Which I was thinking of as, say, the 13 Str fighter with high Cha and Int, or the Str-based rogue, etc. Not sure how we got into 8 Str fighters.
 

That's a weird argument. And not only because of the data-less assertion of what other people are going to assume. Or because in my experience it's the good players who sometimes like to experiment with poorly constructed characters.*

Rather, it's a weird argument because this is a debate about the relative impact of char construction vs. skill at play, not other people's assumptions.

*Which I was thinking of as, say, the 13 Str fighter with high Cha and Int, or the Str-based rogue, etc. Not sure how we got into 8 Str fighters.

Maybe that's your argument, but I was making my own point: I don't think most people critical of "poorly constructed characters" are going to assume that player is going to make it up in play.

As for "data less"; well, yeah, I'm presenting my evaluation of the kind of people who do that. If you disagree, that's fine.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Maybe that's your argument, but I was making my own point: I don't think most people critical of "poorly constructed characters" are going to assume that player is going to make it up in play.

Oh, I see. Yeah, this all started because @Dannyalcatraz says he likes to play weird (i.e., non-optimal) characters, but that he is highly effective anyway. And my response was that skill has more impact that build. Which I still assert. Excellent play with a sub-optimal character will be superior to sub-optimal play with an excellent character.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Well, there's more than one way to measure "effective" in combat, right? Sure, a high Strength score will give you a bonus to hit. But that bonus won't come into play if you can't get into range, or see your target, or etc. etc. That's where skills, feats, movement rate, etc., all come into play...and this is why versatility will always win out over optimization in my opinion.
 

ART!

Legend
I've never caught any flak myself for it, but a good friend moved to a new city and the first gaming group he tried to join gave him flak about this. He's not a min-max kinda guy, and they thought that was dumb and treated him dismissively for not optimizing. Put that in your "Looking For Players" ad, guys: "Min-Maxers Only" or somesuch.
 

payn

Legend
I've never caught any flak myself for it, but a good friend moved to a new city and the first gaming group he tried to join gave him flak about this. He's not a min-max kinda guy, and they thought that was dumb and treated him dismissively for not optimizing. Put that in your "Looking For Players" ad, guys: "Min-Maxers Only" or somesuch.
That is a great call out. Lots of folks think players just know the way they roll. It helps to be very specific in ads looking for newbs.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That's a weird argument. And not only because of the data-less assertion of what other people are going to assume. Or because in my experience it's the good players who sometimes like to experiment with poorly constructed characters.*
What assumption? That D&D is built around a team concept of play? Is this something that people have a different opinion on? I mean, sure, you can play a different way although I haven't seen any D&D play that actually does so and focuses on independent characters outside of maybe solo or pair play, and even there henchmen/retainers/followers are a big deal. No, D&D is clearly built on the team concept of challenge. Class design, niche enrichment, encounter design, the resources game, all of this is pointed directly at team play. Every published modules I've ever seen is designed based on team play. I'm not sure this is either data-less or even really an assumption. It's pretty clear.
Rather, it's a weird argument because this is a debate about the relative impact of char construction vs. skill at play, not other people's assumptions.
Again, the fact that D&D is a team sport is neither an assumption (as presented) nor is it irrelevant to the discussion. Yes, we're having a sidebar on the distinction between player skill and character build, but I distinctly noted at the start of the paragraph I introduced team play as going back to the OP and that question -- ie, it's addressing a wider topic than the narrow subtopic we'd been focusing on.
*Which I was thinking of as, say, the 13 Str fighter with high Cha and Int, or the Str-based rogue, etc. Not sure how we got into 8 Str fighters.
If the role in the party that you're taking is that of the primary melee combatant, then this is still a build that will be much less successful at that role regardless of smart play. You can't beat the numbers, here. High CHA and INT are not things a fighter can really leverage very well. Sure, if you go EK, higher INT works, but limited spell slots compared to other casters means the higher DCs or attack bonuses are much less useful overall and will show this. Or you can pick the BM abilities that use INT for DCs (I don't recall if any use CHA, perhaps). So, as a fighter, focus in these two stats is of limited return, while not having a good STR is very limited (assuming this isn't a stealth DEX build, of course, so low DEX as well). The fighter has limited proficiencies to even take advantage of these stats, relying entirely on background to gain up to 2 skills that pair well. So, yes, there's some utility here that can be achieved by trying to go off class.

But, a wizard doing the same for INT does as well in those few areas the fighter can claw out AND is far more competent in their intended shtick as well. As is a Bard or Sorcerer for CHA. They at a minimum tie the fighter in the narrow places the fighter can leverage those stats AND retain full capability in their primary roles because those stats are prime stats for them.

The STR rogue is interesting, but ultimately you're either discarding a primary class ability (sneak attack) to do this for compensatory benefit (any benefits are to small things like STR(athletics) checks or raw strength test, certainly not on par with sneak attack) or it's kinda a gimmick where you're still using a finesse weapon, just with strength, and that doesn't look any different on attack rolls. If you really go for it, it pull a powerful ability for no compensation, which will absolutely be felt (the strong rouge is less capable in combat?), or it's just moving numbers around and not actually a hinderance mechanically.

Look, I don't think we're actually disagreeing that it would be preferable to still have a great character that can be well played by going off type in build, but, sadly, 5e isn't the game that supports this. Some minimal need to at least address well your core shtick is built into the game, and built into the expectation of the play of the game. Showing up with a gimped character is quite often not going to be edgy and cool, it's just going to be selfish because you're not going to be able to fill the role the group expects. A GM could work around this, yes, but, again, that's not about you're skill but the GM making allowances. Skill is not sufficient to shore up bad character builds, and quite often trick builds are not really that great, either. I'm not saying everyone has to optimize -- heavens that would be a drag -- but you also can't assume that the game supports your no STR no DEX fighter who's trying to get by with a keen mind and a silver tongue. Honestly, if you want to play that character, you absolutely can -- play a rogue or a bard. Lack of a primary attack stat will still hurt, but the class allows for more abilities you can leverage.
 

Oh, I see. Yeah, this all started because @Dannyalcatraz says he likes to play weird (i.e., non-optimal) characters, but that he is highly effective anyway. And my response was that skill has more impact that build. Which I still assert. Excellent play with a sub-optimal character will be superior to sub-optimal play with an excellent character.

I think while that's generally true, there are some degerate cases where it isn't. As an example, it was possible with an ongoing set of terrible choice in D&D 3e to end up with a mid level character that was, in practice, more of a problem than a help. This usually required something more than just an idiosyncratic character build though (but you could have someone with an idea that didn't engage with the reality on the ground; I once saw someone build a Fighter as a dedicated dagger user without any sort of unusual PrC, who would not use anything but his original daggers, nor get them enchanted in any way, short term or permanent. There are game systems you can make that work in; D&D 3e using the normal range of mid-level monsters wasn't one of them), and requires a lot more work in something like D&D4e or PF2e.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh, I see. Yeah, this all started because @Dannyalcatraz says he likes to play weird (i.e., non-optimal) characters, but that he is highly effective anyway. And my response was that skill has more impact that build. Which I still assert. Excellent play with a sub-optimal character will be superior to sub-optimal play with an excellent character.
Where did he say he was highly effective anyway? I read his report, and he said he built a character that made odd choices for combat, and didn't provide anything on how he was still good at combat. Instead, he said he built a poor-combat character to focus on skills, and then provided examples of doing well at skills! I mean, if the example is meant to show good play trumps weak build areas in PCs, then this isn't the example to use - that character was still bad at the weak build areas and was good in the strong build areas.

I think you're confusing making an effective character off-type as a bad build. That's not it at all.
 

I've never caught any flak myself for it, but a good friend moved to a new city and the first gaming group he tried to join gave him flak about this. He's not a min-max kinda guy, and they thought that was dumb and treated him dismissively for not optimizing. Put that in your "Looking For Players" ad, guys: "Min-Maxers Only" or somesuch.

An example of the pathological form of this I mentioned earlier.
 

He sounds like an angry grognard that never got over the fact that D&D continued without him after Original D&D. 🙃

My wife was repeatedly verbally attacked by one player because she refused to optimize her rogue character and refused to always play the optimal tactical combat action when her turn came up. She wanted to role play. He believed as soon as combat started D&D was a wargame and all roleplay should stop. Needless to say, the guy was booted out of the group.
Ahem... My reply to the bolden sentence.
Old grognards do not optimize as character attrition is very high in their games. And I mean very high. A players is expected to make about 2 to 3 characters (on average) before one survive past level 5. So optimization and careful building of a character is not something to link to grognards but to people that started to play around 3.xed.

As for your experience a "guy". If he did not adapt to your group, good riddance. If you never told him what was your group and group philosophy then you did not do your part. Optimizers are a real thing and they are not all jerks. I have encountered quite few that were decent and understanding of what a gaming group wanted. It is the rare one that will not go with the feeling of the group they are playing with.
 

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