log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Should difficulty increase to match optimization

Should difficulty rise to match player optimization.


  • Total voters
    68

TheSword

Legend
A spin off from the optimization poll. The question is simple, when players optimize should difficulty be dialed up to match?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

TheSword

Legend
I recently played in an interesting campaign premise. We were all experienced players with a decent (not silly) level of optimization. (No coffee-locks, or pun pun) Our DM started a Bloodborne like campaign with bosses fairly matched to CR at the start. As we defeated bosses he increased the CR ahead of the PCs by one.

So first boss matched level to CR. Second boss was level +1 third boss was level +2 etc. we got up to about seven or eight bosses as I recall. It was difficult but not impossible forwards the end.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
The (main) reason I like optimization is because it lets players feel more epic. They get to face off powerful enemies at lower levels if they're optimized. They can survive more difficult encounters, traps, and overcome tougher challenges earlier on. And when they finally reach Tier 4, they feel like gods and can face off against actual gods and have a fighting chance (Tiamat or Vecna, for example).

Just because a party is optimized doesn't mean that they should steamroll over every "challenge" they come across. Sure, let them and their strength shine often enough that they feel that their hard-earned optimization was worth it, but also let them feel challenged when it counts. Otherwise, in my experience, combat becomes a boring slog of "when are we finally going to defeat this enemy?" instead of a true battle to the death.

So, I would choose a 4th option "Turn the power-dial when it matters, and leave it at base when it doesn't." If you want to make an impression to your optimized players, turn up the dial. If not, let them breeze through it. (My optimized Icewind Dale party that was only level 6 survived a near-deadly encounter with an Ancient White Dragon that they accidentally pissed off. No, they didn't kill it, because that would be ridiculous, but they did manage to not die through a mixture of ingenuity and optimized mechanics. They felt awesome and worn out after that, which was my goal.)
 
Last edited:

TheSword

Legend
The reason I like optimization is because it lets players feel more epic. They get to face off powerful enemies at lower levels if they're optimized. They can survive more difficult encounters, traps, and overcome tougher challenges earlier on. And when they finally reach Tier 4, they feel like gods and can face off against actual gods and have a fighting chance (Tiamat or Vecna, for example).

Just because a party is optimized doesn't mean that they should steamroll over every "challenge" they come across. Sure, let them and their strength shine often enough that they feel that their hard-earned optimization was worth it, but also let them feel challenged when it counts. Otherwise, in my experience, combat becomes a boring slog of "when are we finally going to defeat this enemy?" instead of a true battle to the death.

So, I would choose a 4th option "Turn the power-dial when it matters, and leave it at base when it doesn't." If you want to make an impression to your optimized players, turn up the dial. If not, let them breeze through it. (My optimized Icewind Dale party that was only level 6 survived a near-deadly encounter with an Ancient White Dragon that they accidentally pissed off. No, they didn't kill it, because that would be ridiculous, but they did manage to not die through a mixture of ingenuity and optimized mechanics. They felt awesome and worn out after that, which was my goal.)
To be fair by difficulty, I’m talking about overall campaign difficulty. I would expect there to be a mix of easy, average and challenging encounters in every campaign. It’s just a question of where to balance these. For our group a CR appropriate challenge would be easy and we would steam roller those.
 


AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
To be fair by difficulty, I’m talking about overall campaign difficulty. I would expect there to be a mix of easy, average and challenging encounters in every campaign. It’s just a question of where. For our group a CR appropriate challenge would be easy and we would steam roller those.
Okay. In that case, then, yes, I would say that it's fair to make the overall campaign more difficult. When you can handle more, you take on harder tasks. Maybe tone it back for some of the non-optimized characters (though they may have more fun at a different table) if necessary, but in my experience, if a character is optimized in the right way, they can keep the weaker characters alive.
 

I used to try to make every encounter match the party's power level and give them a challenge each time. I eventually realized that it's tiring as a player to always scrape by every fight by the skin of your teeth. Now that I've got some grey, I try to mix up my encounters - give them some that they dominate so that they feel epic and give them some that they barely survive.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
In my experience an increase in campaign difficulty is what happens when a significant number of the party members are optimized. That's fine. The problem is that it can turn into an arms race where the PCs are optimizing more and more and the DM keeps jacking up the difficulty. Eventually the campaign breaks under the strain. That is why I optimize -- but only to a point. Over the decades I have developed a pretty good sense of when it is time to stop optimizing.
 

As a DM I try to play by the book, no matter the difficulty, so I voted no.
I don't want DnD to be an arms race.
I rather try to mix up hard and easy encounters and let players decide how to approach an encounter or if they want to approach it at all.

I can however appreciate what you described in the OP. Having a dynamic difficulty is a way to play and have fun.

II think this might be something to talk about in session zero.
 


pming

Legend
Hiya!

I couldn't answer because "optimization" is relative to, er, "options used".

The base 5e game assumes PHB, MM, DMG...no Feats, No MC, no "Variant Human", etc. So, if this is the base, and the Players "optimize" their PC's...then my answer would be "No"; because the game assumes they have nothing unexpected. A group of Players creating characters that all help each other out so that THE GROUP is optimized for success (re: a F, MU, C, T in the group; group-shared equipment for specific tasks; spells chosen to offset/enhance other PC's special abilities; maximum number of Skills in the group with Prof bonuses; etc). This, imnsho, isn't actually "optimization" so much as it is "smart play and thinking".

Now...if you mean "optimization" in the full sense of the word regarding access to Feats, MC, other books, other 'sage advice' beta tests, etc?

Then a solid and vociferous YES! Not just "Yes", but "Yes...and if the DM doesn't do this they are failing miserably at their 'job' as DM". It'd be like playing poker where the dealer declares that all number cards are wild...except for the dealers cards where only 2's are wild. It's not going to work.

If the DM allows Feats and MC, for example, but that's it...then the "adjustments" to the campaign will need to be tweaked a bit here and there. A Goblin Forest that would normally have "Goblins Encountered: 1d6", might need to be re-written to "Goblins Encountered: 1d8 + 1d2 wolves". If the DM is also allowing one or two of the optional books (Tasha's, Mordenkainen's), then it might need to be "Goblins Encountered: 2d4 + 1d4 wolves/trained war eagles".

BUT...that "adjustment" needs to be across the board and campaign-oriented.... NOT specifically PC CAPABILITY oriented!

I have a saying I used to describe this sort of optimization crawl: "The Final Fantasy Effect". Back in FF (the first one), you started off doing 10 damage to things with 100 HP. You gained a level. Now you do 15 damage to things with 150 HP. You gained a level. Now you do 25 damage to things with 250 HP. Eventually you are doing 1500 damage to things with 15000 HP. The result.... 0. Nada. Nothing. Just bigger numbers with no sense of accomplishment.

It's a slippery slope though...Optimization-oriented (or "option oriented") Players expect their choices to be impressive because it is...on paper. But the books lie. They are lying to you, making you THINK you're "super elite mega whamdiddly", when in fact, so are all your opponents now. You swing, roll 1d20, add your +9 to hit, get a total of 26, and... miss. Because the creature doesn't have an AC 19 now...it has an AC 28. You gained nothing other than disappointment.

(Ok..should be obvious now that I am NOT a fan of "options optimization"...sue me! ;) ).

Bottom Line: If the DM wants to allow more options/choices, he must build a world around those options/choices in order to maintain balance. Once the balance is obtained, and it all makes logical sense in his world...well then, the PC's can go nuts! Chances are there will be a lot of "glass canons" or "one-trick ponies", but hey...they made the choices. If a Fighter is absolutely AMAZING when fighting a Large creature alone, but suddenly find himself fighting a bunch of Small creatures...tough noogies. (True Story: Highest level PC in any of our games, level 7 barbarian, MOWED through almost anything...I let him play a Goliath and use a Giant Sized weapon to test the system; but, he had a 6 Int; he eventually encountered a creature that drained INT points...and died in one round after loosing initiative and 8 points of Int; and no, the player wasn't mad...he knew this day might come and he knew his number would be up).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

It really is the question what the optimizers want from the game.

Do they want extra challenges, do they want to tell the story how they killed the CR 10 Dragon at level 4, do they want to have a good fight they barely survived, or do they want to go in, kill and back off, denying most enemies the chance to really defend.

I could put to terms here, that describe those approaches well, but I don't want to start an argument here.

So again. Session zero can help, as can observing the reaction of players.
If an equal challenge makes your players annoyed, that they are still not strong enough and need to optimize more, go down with CR, if they are bored because every encounter is a cakewalk, go up.

One scene I remember from my game, where I started "princes of the apocalypse" at level 5 or so, I used a sidetrack balanced for level 1. That sidetrack had one of the most tense encounters in the end, although they actually were not really endangered at all... but my players did not know that.
Instead I faked death, had creeping claws disrupting concentration and so on. So the presentation and setting of encounters and uncertainity is something optimizers fear.
 


Short answer? Yes absolutely.. long answer? It depends because it's not that simple as just "optimization"...

Take the different roles within a party... tank, healer, damage, buff/debuff/control. There tends to be a good bit of overlap between some of those things, but optimizing for some of them doesn't change much.

Bob can be an amazing tank, but without the ability to create a sticky zone of control like the old AoOs allowed or mmo style taunts allow it doesn't make any real difference as soon as something targets any other party member. For the optimization of a tank 5e is lacking a pillar and it doesn't matter how many hp bob has or how high his ac is because yoyo wack a mole healing allows anything not subject to death by massive damage or execution of a downed player to basically be just as functional

Healer? An optimized healer certainly can heal better, but the key here is all of the extra stuff said healer & sometimes their alliescan do with the additional breathing room. Again though 5e is a three legged stool here because the most optimal healing is yoyo wack a mole and there really isn't a niche thst players can optimize for that allows some other method to compare so the most ultra optimized healer is not really any different from any healer shy of a "craptimized' one as someone described in the other thread.

Damage? Again things are screwed because:"fighter with gwm fighter with ss or warlock with agonizing blast & hex" is on one side with at will & nova>rest>repeat on the other. Nobody is really a glass cannon and its not really possible to optimize as one at the levels that make up most of the campaign before the system begins breaking down. Importantly there is a difference between hitting a lot of things for ok damage vrs hitting one thing with the blazing fury of a vengeful god & both of those create room for different types of adaptations of difficulty scaling

Buff/debuff/control. This is where the magic happens. Unlike the other optimization types this one doesn't need to do anything, it can be a wet tissue armed with all the fury of an overcooked wet noodle and have anti healing for the party because it makes everyone in the party amazing at what they do. It might not do that for everyone all the time & sometimes it might not be doing much of anything meaningful. All of this is why buff/debuff/control spells replicate across spell lists so often till they combine in a build like the 3.5 "god wizard"this makes it the easiest thing to scale for the gm because it can crank the multipliers up/down as needed while even a less optimized character with only one or two abilities in this vein is probably not the only one in the group with one or two & probably doesn't have the same ones. Overuse of concentration, generally lackluster buff/debuff/control spells with excessive saves and all of the already mentioned missing bits basically take this off the table as a relevant type of optimization to consider in 5e though.
 
Last edited:

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The DM always needs to tune challenges on the party and on the players. Including from published adventures. It's a basic part of what they do. (And as a side note, that tuning also extends to other types of challenges besides combat.)

As a side note, this includes just as much making something easier. This question isn't about just optimized parties, it's about all parties. Even an "average" party may need encounters tuned if they are strong/weak in a particular aspect (such as as a mostly-melee party against archers defending a defensive wall), and weaker parties also need to be adjusted.

Tuning challenges It's one of the reasons I feel that the issue is not about "optimization" or lack of it, it's about one/a minority of character being very different in power level - stronger or weaker - than then others. Because then it's hard to consistently tune every challenge to be satisfying for both the majority of the party and the outlier. Outside that, who cares if the party is strong or weak - the DM has all the monsters (or other challenges) and can tune to make it as challenging as will bring the players enjoyment.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I didn't respond to the poll, btw, because my answer wasn't an option. I'd say "sometimes you should raise the challenges to meet optimization and other times you should let them dominate encounters."
I agree with this, may take it a bit further than you do (or may not). Every party - strong, weak or in-between - should be allowed to dominate once ina while to reemidn them that they are the heroes of the campaign. And show how much they have grown over the levels. Just like every party should at times be reminded that there are bigger things than them out there and not every encounter is meant for them to initiate combat.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Discuss with the group the type of game they want including difficulty level during session 0. Adjust accordingly based on the group.
You have a brilliant point. This isn't just about what the party is capable of, but what will bring the most enjoyment to the players needs to be considered.

I have one group with old school players who want to know they can die, and get great satisfaction from feeling the taste of death and overcoming anyway. We can play different systems where they have lots or little system mastery, but they still want things turned up to "if we're not smart, we're dead".

I run for a group of teen players who are very attached to their characters. They want satisfying challenges but actual character death except in the most meaningful of combats should be off the table. I take their power level and then tune from there to achieve that.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
It becomes a ridiculous arms race. Which is why optimization is dumb to do in the first place.
Same could be said of leveling.

As a matter of fact, it's even more true. Going from 1st to 5th is way more variation in character power then the the "average" character and an "optimized" one - and that happens most campaigns.
 

Same could be said of leveling.

As a matter of fact, it's even more true. Going from 1st to 5th is way more variation in character power then the the "average" character and an "optimized" one - and that happens most campaigns.

Agreed. I'd add that a perfectly fine adventuring party can consist of characters at varied levels. Yes, even including one that has a 5th level character and a 1st level character.

Which further emphasizes my belief that, in 5e, optimization can exist with virtually no discernable advantage over non-optimization in the same party. Maybe a 5% greater chance to hit here or there at earlier levels, but that isn't necessarily even noticeable over the course of a 3 hour session.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top