A spin off from the optimization poll. The question is simple, when players optimize should difficulty be dialed up to match?
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.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.)
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.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.
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.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."
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.Discuss with the group the type of game they want including difficulty level during session 0. Adjust accordingly based on the group.
Same could be said of leveling.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.