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5E The "Powergamers (Min/maxer)" vs "Alpha Gamers" vs "Role Play Gamers" vs "GM" balance mismatch "problem(s)"

ClaytonCross

Explorer
Saw this video and this post where a conversation about Xanthar's Race feats turned into a conversation about balance which turned into trying to blame "Min/Max Players" for why we shouldn't have nice things... basically, I am paraphrasing but try to bear with me I will give plenty to debate here without going to deep there.

--- Disclaimer ---
This is an opinion thread. People will argue, disagree, and misinterpret partially because sometimes its hard to pick up the inflections for sarcasm and honest debate in an attempt to understand each other. So if you think someone is being a jerk try reading happy once just in case its you inferring they are a jerk and not as the intended... I know i am guilty of this so I figured it is worth mentioning.
--- End Disclaimer ---

Sooo... Here goes.

Power gamers: Min/Max vs Alpha Games
It seems to me there is a bit of confusion about Power gaming "min/max" players and what the video I linked at the top calls Power gaming "Alpha players". The video really hits it on the head and separating "Alpha Players" really helps. The problem I see is that people don't recognize the separation between a bad players fight for dominance in order to feel better about themselves and a good player trying to make sure they are not a lame duck and that they contribute to the group somehow instead of dragging the group down. To me "min/maxing" is the act of building a character efficiently in order to get the most out of a build. As suck it is just a method of building a character in an RPG and it is nether good nor bad and by itself is not game breaking in D&D. Sure it can get out of hand, but in a game where the GM is basically god of the imaginary world it can be worked around. Its not a matter of if a GM can work that out but of how much work it will require to do it, but we will get back to that. The real problem that people have with power gaming is "Alpha Gamers" mostly when it comes to doing "Damage per round" (DPR), the power escalation that causes, and the player conflict that creates. To be clear, I don't think ONE "alpha player" is usually a big deal because as long as they are doing the most damage, it becomes their job and their is no drive for escalation. While the power difference can make the power scale harder for the GM it will likely stay reasonable, though I am sure their are players looking for unlimited power. If you have a player or players min/maxing to be the best and only healer/scout/crowd control caster/tank/face/skill junky ....this does not seem to be much of an issue. Its usually the DPR war between players that bring out the "Alpha Players" and if it is a friendly rivalry the GM is prepared to deal with that can still be okay as long as the players and GM are on board, because even if the "Alpha Players" can be civil the conflict generally creates more work for the GM and if its balance work the GM doesn't want to deal with it can end up feeling like the players vs the GM in a negative way.

Power Gamers vs Role Play Gamers
The next thing I see is complaints that power gamers through difficult of encounters off making it impossible for Non-Min/max players to be successful at anything. First that that makes the assumption that min/maxing to some degree is not done by almost all players and/or that a player deliberately "wasted" states for Role player purposes. If you build a character, the book stats up tells you need to focus on one or two stats. So choosing to build a character using point buy that runs against the stats your character needs to be good or deliberately taking odd numbers in stats you have no intention of improving with a feat/ASI with any other reason than getting a 13 to possibly allow you to multi-class does not make it another players fault they are better then you for building a character that did not waste point and actually has put stats that are key to there class at 14 or 16 or even 15 with a plan to grab a feat or use an ASI to make it an even number. The only exception to that is strength which lets you increase your carrying capacity. Secondly, Every player has some dump stats because even the non-variant human can only get 14 in 5 of the stats so they will have to pick one 11 to start and they will not have saves or skills for everything. At a point that you are a half-elf, bard 4, rogue 1, cleric 1 (knowledge), ranger 1 with skilled feat and proficiency every skill you become a minimizer of combat stats and a maximiser of role play skills so that you can be useful at things others are not. The design of game is suck that the cost will force players to lose something to get something and not have enough to get everything. This means every player should be good at something and bad at others. Actually making your character design make since from a design prospective is not an evil dead. Where I see conflict here, is when a player plays a builds character a certain way for flavor knowing it is against the class they chose or roleplays a character that hates their own strength an role plays against their own chooses. THEN gets upset at the player who built with their class and is better at what they do. Example, I had a group with a low dexterity strength based rogue that used a crossbow a lot for range... fine players choose, but if your going to build a strength based rogue don't complain other players are min/max because you character has an AC12 and you can't hit anything with your dex based weapon, pick up the the medium armored feat and get a breast plate, pick athletics as a skill, and fight in close combat with a shortsword once in a while. Another example, Had a mage in a group that refused to do investigations checks because "he had a mind for books not traps and paths" ... ok so why did you make a wizard with investigation as a skill knowing your the only intelligence base player because we planned party around each other ensuring that would be your role... Another example: Had a strength based fighter who considered physical labor beneath his character... he was our only strength based character in the group and for the first few sessions we had to get the cleric with a strength of 13 and no athletics skill to do athletics checks for some manual labor tasks because his character considered menial labor beneath him, the player eventually came around when he realized the GM had added some strength checks so his character could show off and instead he refused to do them and it became painful agitating to the group.

GMs balancing RP players and Power gamers
I keep hearing that having Max/min players in groups is a problem because it makes it hard for the GM to balance games. I think this is this is very misleading. First, everything I have heard indicates a fear of easy fights or total party kills. So right out the gate we know this does not apply to min/max player that are targeting non-combat parts of the game (such as face/skill junky/scouts). Also, I very much doubt healers, HP tanks, and crowd control casters are breaking the game. Those type of combatants are usually good at slowing down combat encounters but if they are deliberly focused away from Damage Per Round to the job there names emply the make the groups harder to kill but don't walk over enemies. This is because "Role Play GMs" may not enjoy longer encounters but they have more time to manipulate the battles for balance and to keep it interesting if needed and all the players damage is important so they still work together to win eath combat encounter. So really when we talk about Power gamers min/maxing and breaking balance... we are talking about "DPR power Gamers" doing insane damge killing mass enemies by them self. Second, the balance is hard because of the differnce of the power between your DPR powergamers and your non-DPR gamers/Role player gamers. The funning thing about this is that having a player low is just as impactful as having some one high. So if you have a poorly invisoned character that is buit against his class an "avarge player" and a DPR power gamer, all 3 players are creating disparity equally but mostly only the DPR power gamer gets told he is wronge because everyone feels bad that the player playing against his own class is doing so bad and doesn't want to fix it or change charaters. The trueth is as long as all the players are in the same catagory there is no additional problem caused character disparity. That means this is not a problem with any indevidal build but wit party cordination. Here is my real issue with this. Let Player "A" min/max DPR charater, Player "B" makes an avarage character, and Player "C" makes a character that play against his class to his weaknesses. The GM bulds a deadly combat encounter for the group, Player A rolls 6 or below the whole fight missing everything, Player "B" rolls okay and does some damage but nothing extrodiary, and Players "C" doesn't roll below 15 hits every time and roles desent damage. This happens every game. Now if the group TPKs players blame the min/max player for bad rolls and not holding up and throughing off balance. The thing is all players roled about same last session and the group didn't wipe, the GM kept the difficult of the fight the same,
so why is it player A's fault? I would argue that it is not. It could be that the group used better tatics last fight. It could be the roles wer a little better. It could be the tatics of the GM using even the same encounter group with a different name and description was better. Its hard to say, there are alot more factors than player charcter builds that deturmine who wins and encounter. What I can say is that the GM controls the world having the abilty to change it on the fly for a better game and can .... listen close to this ... chose not to kill players when they roll bad. I know that second part there really blows the minds of some GMs but check the players hand book its actually a rule PHB p198 (PDF p182) Knocking a Creature Out. So a little perspective here, a group of all a single type of characters (RPG, Max/Min, Built against there class, Average) or a group of mixed types does not change how likely they are to Total party Kill. The GM does that. He builds the encounters, the traps, he roles the dice, and he desides if to leave it all to chance every battle. The thing is that the NPCs he is rolling for only have to win once to end a campaign so if the GM is leaving all to luck and putting the party in deadly encounters every week a TPK is not a maybe its just a mater of time. If the GM decides your not goting to die and builds a plan each session to kill there character they litterly can't die. (A humorous lessons learned video by someone who tried). Now some GMs will say "well I leave it up to the rolls so they know it is own them and the danger is real so that there is suspense and its more fun." To them I say sure for the first player character death maybe even the second player character death but players did not build the encounter and if they got in over their head remember that they did so going off the information the GM passes them from the world that only exists in the GMs head. So if they made bad desicions it is very possible that they did so because the GM did not give them enought of a vision of that world to make informed desicions. That is the equivlant of the GM making a button that kills everyone who in the room its in and not describing the sign above that explains the button. Also, the GM could discribe the button and the sign and one player could say, wait I think thats a trick and push the button. The GM could then say TPK!! your all dead... ...or... he could realize the button was a dumb idea that could easily end the campain and decide it is out of order and does nothing... or... the room starts filling with poison gas, but then the door opens and a dwarf in a gass mask yells what morron pushed the button!! get out before you all die!! ... if they decide to keep standing there let them take 1d12 poison damge each turn until they die, or if they leave they take 1d12 poision damage and the dwarf locks the door and tells them not to touch anything and maybe gives them some points to they don't die the times ahead. Also, not that a button that releases gas doesn't care what your DPR is so don't think a charater with hight DPR is going to run a campaign. If the power difference becomes a problem there are multiple ways to make the DPR power gamer have to fight his own enemies so that the power of NPCs in an encounter don't exced the group. Seperate them with trap door, have an NPC champion challenge the player "champion" due to the players reputation and if the NPC wins have him walk away uninterested with the rest of the part... I challange you to think up more... but please stop blaming character builds TPK no matter the build.

Only GMs ever TPK groups. If your having problems wiith "Alpha Gamers" talk to the player don't change the build, same goes for players playing against there class, also if you party is complaining about one player doing all the damge... maybe the issue is not damage or even combat ... maybe you just need to make the job the do more heroic so they can shine.. Party healer feeling useless add some NPCs on deaths door that he can heal and bring as support to a battle and/or maybe a mission to reserect an NPC general, got a scout that the party want tide to the front of the group and that never actually gets to scout? Have an NPC encourage him to go and actually let him scout maybe even fight an assasin one on one and let scouting a head save them from and ambush once in a while instead of all the enemies poping out of the woods in a perfect circle having successfully serounded them. Make the group feel it when a player is gone by having their abities be useful but not there when they are gone.
 
While I find studies on players, such as Bartel's 'Taxonomy of player types' and the like fascinating, the reality, for our tables at least, is that the only special quality a player needs to have is the ability to get along with the other players at the table. If they can't, then they can go elsewhere. There's enough tables in the world for them to find somewhere that suits their character. And if there's not or they don't have the option of multiple tables?

...even more reason to try and get along with the players at the tables they have.

Of course, reading through your post I do think its worth reminding folks that we are not our behaviours. Our intents are typically aok - but our behaviours can suck. I find this useful when dealing with 'problem players. ''Geoff, you're not a jerk, I know this. And when you do jerk-like things, like that, it makes you look like a jerk.''.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I think this is a pointless "debate."

As [MENTION=6846794]Gardens & Goblins[/MENTION] pointed out, the only thing that really matters is that you don't have jerks.

D&D is a dynamic game, and the DM can adjust the difficulty. In that way, it's pointless to optimize, because the difficulty will just be adjusted upward to give a challenge. If the party is perfectly optimized, then instead of facing "5th level challenges" at 5th level, maybe you face "9th level challenges." But the difficulty is the same.

If the DM wants a TPK, it will be done. A DM can run a meatgrinder campaign against optimized characters, or not.

If you need to write that much to justify your choices, then something is very wrong. You don't need to convince us, anonymous internet commenters, that you're playing it the right way. All that really matters is that you have buy-in with your table.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
It was hard to follow the OP's train of thought, but the gist I got from it was an attempt to justify powergaming.

But it doesn't need to be justified, as long as...like the responses above say...the players aren't jerks. (The roleplayers shouldn't be jerks, either. And yet they are sometimes.)
 

OB1

Registered User
Only GMs ever TPK groups.
This really stuck out to me, as it is absolutely not the case in my group. Only players can TPK themselves at our table, and here is why.

Players have goals, and the DM's job is to put up obstacles to achieving those goals.

Occasionally, players will have to decide whether to risk a TPK by fighting or continuing a fight with an opponent that could kill them in order to accomplish a goal (though more often the choice is between which goal to accomplish).

If the players decide to take the risk and pursue the goal, and the dice lead to a TPK, that's on them, not the DM.

Doesn't matter if the players are Powergamers, Alpha Players, Role Players or whatever (and we have some of each at our table), by telegraphing risk factors, providing interesting choices between goals and leaving the decision to the players, everyone faces challenging situations.
 

Warmaster Horus

Registered User
As long as players follow the rules and are fun to play with, it's all good for me. Players who continually halt smooth game play over this or that minor technicality to explain how their character's carefully-crafted advantage applies in the current situation, are annoying.

If a player is debating with the DM over the placement or meaning of a single word in a spell or ability more than once in a good long time, they need to relax and just play the game. Or they have a really bad DM for whom reading is NOT fundamental. Either is not conducive to enjoyable game play.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
This really stuck out to me, as it is absolutely not the case in my group. Only players can TPK themselves at our table, and here is why.
I'm kind of in the middle ground. Either the DM or the players can cause a TPK.

Either through being a bad DM and throwing monsters that clearly outclass the characters and not allowing a way to escape, or players can cause a TPK through not taking DM hints that this is not a combat you will win, or just by doing dumb things that put everyone at risk.

It's not the DM's job to save players from their own hubris or stupidity. :)

But at the same time it is the DM's job to offer the PC's an appropriate challenge, and it is possible to overdo it and the PC's may pay the price. That's the DM's fault, not the players.

No one is perfect.
 

OB1

Registered User
But at the same time it is the DM's job to offer the PC's an appropriate challenge, and it is possible to overdo it and the PC's may pay the price. That's the DM's fault, not the players.

No one is perfect.
Oh agreed. I once was running a combat where a round in I realized I had accidentally created a likely TPK for the characters without telegraphing it and with no way to escape. Covered it up by having a dozen or so of the minions that were causing the problem commit ritual suicide to "empower" their lord, but in reality did nothing but remove the potential problem. PCs thought it was always part of the set piece.

If I had telegraphed the battle correctly or left them a way to escape, I wouldn't have changed anything.
 

nswanson27

Villager
I'm kind of in the middle ground. Either the DM or the players can cause a TPK.

Either through being a bad DM and throwing monsters that clearly outclass the characters and not allowing a way to escape, or players can cause a TPK through not taking DM hints that this is not a combat you will win, or just by doing dumb things that put everyone at risk.

It's not the DM's job to save players from their own hubris or stupidity. :)
And I find it's these kinds of players - not powergamers - that are the most disruptive and are most guilty of ruining the fun for the group.


But at the same time it is the DM's job to offer the PC's an appropriate challenge, and it is possible to overdo it and the PC's may pay the price. That's the DM's fault, not the players.

No one is perfect.
Agreed. But I think the more egregious sin from the DM is to make rulings and challenges that try to micromanage playstyle and "punish" players for stepping outside of DM personal preferences. Hard challenges, even ones that can lead to a TPK, can still be very enjoyable to all if the group is fully engaged and allowed to "shine" in the ways they desire.
 

Arilyn

Explorer
It was hard to follow the OP's train of thought, but the gist I got from it was an attempt to justify powergaming.

But it doesn't need to be justified, as long as...like the responses above say...the players aren't jerks. (The roleplayers shouldn't be jerks, either. And yet they are sometimes.)
Yes, there are game snobs on both ends of the spectrum.

I think it's GM's job to balance encounters to give all players chance to be engaged in favourite activity. If the min/maxer wants to show off perfect build let him be instrumental in turning tide sometimes. Let the angsty character face tough moral questions, and let the tactical player's plans come off without a hitch once in a while. There are different play styles, and usually one table won't have big variety, but I guess it could happen. As people have said, if no one is being a jerk, everyone should have chance to shine, and enjoy game.
 

Coroc

Explorer
[MENTION=6880599]ClaytonCross[/MENTION] reply w/o a quote for obvious reasons :)

Nah joking aside, you made a lot of good points and analysis but on some things I disagree:

Those players who do not min max, in a campaign which is not purely hack and slash (and even then sometimes) have other advantages you just forgot.

A minmaxer has 1 or more very weak stats that is the min side of the medal which is all to often forgotten.

The roleplayer with odd stat or not, might have some points in wisdom or charisma and is much more likely to resist a charm.
Just imagine your minmaxer in a campaign with lots of vampires. Those mobs are hard enough on there own, but if your minmaxer is dishing out the tpk alone,
just because he gets charmed every other time and the dm plays it closely by the book, guess who has the fun at the table: right, the dm if he has some slight sadistic ambition.

There should be some kind of social contract on these things. Most people are capable of doing both, balanced builds and minmax builds.
The campaign gets much better and is easier to design for the DM if all players build their character to the same guidelines:

Either everyone gets a decent chance to resist the charm because of good social skill stats or the one able to dispel the charm on the killer is very good at resisting said charm.

You got mundane combats a lot: DM just scale the whole thing down or up, depending whether the group is minmax or average. That is much easier than doing the split the challenge tactic all the time.
 

Warmaster Horus

Registered User
A lesson I learned long ago is that you can't be afraid to kill the PCs. If they make a mistake, it's on them. When I ran games when I was younger there were two or three players who would, as I thought of it, dare me to kill them. They'd engage in outrageous risk taking without much planning to mitigate the danger and just wait and see what would happen. Now I like a good bit of daring do from my players but it really did seem like they were testing my resolve as a DM. And those games weren't all that fun when it became apparent that I didn't have the nerve to snap the trap shut on them.

Then one day I decided enough was enough and didn't flinch. Guess what? The world didn't end and the players still had a good time even when their PCs were bitten in two, in fact a better time because now the threats were more than just shadow monsters to them.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
[MENTION=6915070]DeathEatsCurry[/MENTION]

Since this seems to come up fairly often ...

Naming something a fallacy doesn't make it so.

Please stop trying to make fetch happen.
 
I didn't name it this. Also how is the notion that minmaxers can't enjoy roleplay not a fallacy? Please explain this.
The acid test is:

Would the player take a sub-optimal option/make a sub-optimal build choice in favour of adding fluff/flavour to their character.

To my mind, if a player can do this then they're a role-player first and foremost. If the can't make that choice then I'd term them a power-gamer.

Not that I give a monkeys if folks are having fun and getting along, mind.
 

iserith

Explorer
I think it takes a pretty twisted definition of "roleplaying" to say that those who optimize their character builds or tactics aren't roleplaying when they play.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I didn't name it this. Also how is the notion that minmaxers can't enjoy roleplay not a fallacy? Please explain this.
Because you presented something as true (with the link) which you also believe is true, which is not.

First, this isn't some "Stormwind Fallacy." This is just someone trying to argue that this is a false dichotomy (sometimes referred to as a false dilemma, but in this case, it's really a false dichotomy).

Let's try and make this simple-

Argument-

You have to be either a roleplayer, or an optimizer.
(You must be A, or B.)

The premise is false, because you it presents two opposite, when there are other avenues possible.

But that's never what these discussions are about. Assume a continuum from the following-

A. Person who only cares about their own character's optimization, DPR, combat.
B. Person who doesn't care about the rules at all, and just picks things that are cool and in keeping with the story.

Most people fall somewhere in between A and B. People don't say that the two are always mutually exclusive; that you cannot engage in any roleplaying if you optimize, or that you cannot care about the rules at all if roleplay; instead, it's a question of what emphasis you put on the game. Because an emphasis on optimization and rules will eventually come at the expense of roleplaying, and vice versa.

By creating that post, and the fallacious fallacy, the poster was engaged in some rhetorical slight of hand. Which is deeply annoying.

There isn't a right answer to how to play, but there are preferences.

All that said, these conversations are useless, because:

1. You can play any way you want.
2. IME, the only thing that matters is that you don't play with jerks.
3. I really dislike these conversations, because it always ends up with an individual, who is always a powergamer or min/maxer, explaining to me that the optimal way to play is their way. It's not that I don't see it coming; after all, they are playing (in their opinion) the optimal way. But I'm not the one that needs convincing, and it gets really old.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
Because you presented something as true (with the link) which you also believe is true, which is not.

First, this isn't some "Stormwind Fallacy." This is just someone trying to argue that this is a false dichotomy (sometimes referred to as a false dilemma, but in this case, it's really a false dichotomy).

Let's try and make this simple-

Argument-

You have to be either a roleplayer, or an optimizer.
(You must be A, or B.)

The premise is false, because you it presents two opposite, when there are other avenues possible.

But that's never what these discussions are about. Assume a continuum from the following-

A. Person who only cares about their own character's optimization, DPR, combat.
B. Person who doesn't care about the rules at all, and just picks things that are cool and in keeping with the story.

Most people fall somewhere in between A and B. People don't say that the two are always mutually exclusive; that you cannot engage in any roleplaying if you optimize, or that you cannot care about the rules at all if roleplay; instead, it's a question of what emphasis you put on the game. Because an emphasis on optimization and rules will eventually come at the expense of roleplaying, and vice versa.

By creating that post, and the fallacious fallacy, the poster was engaged in some rhetorical slight of hand. Which is deeply annoying.

There isn't a right answer to how to play, but there are preferences.

All that said, these conversations are useless, because:

1. You can play any way you want.
2. IME, the only thing that matters is that you don't play with jerks.
3. I really dislike these conversations, because it always ends up with an individual, who is always a powergamer or min/maxer, explaining to me that the optimal way to play is their way. It's not that I don't see it coming; after all, they are playing (in their opinion) the optimal way. But I'm not the one that needs convincing, and it gets really old.
Well, the Stormwind Fallacy is actually referencing an actual informal fallacy, the informal* fallacy of the false dilemma, it's just specifically applied to the false dilemma of rollplaying vs roleplaying. So, no, it's not a fallacious fallacy (heh), it just doesn't recognize that its form already had a name and it isn't a new thing. As such, it's somewhat useful to refer to because is such a narrow application of the general fallacy.

*for full pedantry, informal fallacies are named as such because they represent logic that is faulty, but that doesn't necessarily mean the argument is therefore wrong. A formal fallacy is an error in logic that does render the conclusion wrong.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Because you presented something as true (with the link) which you also believe is true, which is not.

First, this isn't some "Stormwind Fallacy." This is just someone trying to argue that this is a false dichotomy (sometimes referred to as a false dilemma, but in this case, it's really a false dichotomy).

Let's try and make this simple-

Argument-

You have to be either a roleplayer, or an optimizer.
(You must be A, or B.)

The premise is false, because you it presents two opposite, when there are other avenues possible.

But that's never what these discussions are about. Assume a continuum from the following-

A. Person who only cares about their own character's optimization, DPR, combat.
B. Person who doesn't care about the rules at all, and just picks things that are cool and in keeping with the story.

Most people fall somewhere in between A and B. People don't say that the two are always mutually exclusive; that you cannot engage in any roleplaying if you optimize, or that you cannot care about the rules at all if roleplay; instead, it's a question of what emphasis you put on the game. Because an emphasis on optimization and rules will eventually come at the expense of roleplaying, and vice versa.

By creating that post, and the fallacious fallacy, the poster was engaged in some rhetorical slight of hand. Which is deeply annoying.

There isn't a right answer to how to play, but there are preferences.

All that said, these conversations are useless, because:

1. You can play any way you want.
2. IME, the only thing that matters is that you don't play with jerks.
3. I really dislike these conversations, because it always ends up with an individual, who is always a powergamer or min/maxer, explaining to me that the optimal way to play is their way. It's not that I don't see it coming; after all, they are playing (in their opinion) the optimal way. But I'm not the one that needs convincing, and it gets really old.
How is this disagreeing with DeathEatsCurry? Or are you just disagreeing that anybody is saying the thing that he says isn't true? In other words, are you accusing him of a fallacy or a strawman? Or just a strange username?
 

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