February 18th, 2010


About that last post

I didn't mean to imply that all min/maxing is wrong. Making a character that achieves with stats what you want him to be able to do, in your imagination, is normal. To that end, some systems require a bit of min-maxing. If you play a fighter in 3.5 D&D, for instance, you need to read up on what fighters are boring to play (sword and shield, ranged) and which are more fun to play (two-weapon, reach fighters, or greatsword/axe). Some games have such arcane rules that you have to work hard to get a half-decent character, and casually creating a character without focusing somewhere usually results in a feeb who can't seem to tie his own shoes. Some example systems: Thousand Suns for the indie shoutout, Mind's Eye Theater for the LARP shoutout, and Call of Cthulhu to refer back to an amusing comment on the previous thread.

The word "optimization" (in the product description, see prev. post) in reference to contemporary D&D, however, means more than just making an effective character. At extremes it means creating one-thousand-attacks warshapers, infinite-action kobold psychics, gnome illusionists with infinite power, et cetera. More commonly it creates characters who are quite unbalanced. All things equal, the player with the unbalanced sheet will overshadow the others and be able to hog more spotlight. Plus it makes the DM's job harder. Encouraging players in this direction is dangerous, especially for a game with the history of power creep that every edition of D&D so far has had.

Now, if Player's Strategy Guide is something closer to D&D for Dummies, then that's fine. I mean, it's a $30 book that is a clear money ploy, but the social implications aren't as bad if that's the case. I actually bought the 3.5 "Dungeon Master for Dummies" when it was on sale, and it turned out to be pretty good, but probably more useful to a less experienced DM. If the Strategy book is like a "For Dummies" intro to new players, without going into serious optimization, then it's OK by me, and might be worth the money (remember that I'm a huge fan of the illustrator) ... Though, like some who replied to my previous post, I too see it as a shameless fluff piece to make a little extra moolah and fill an overly-ambitious/greedy production schedule.