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 Post subject: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:49 pm 
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A discussion going on over at a different forum I frequent (that for Shadowrun fans) has involved some links to websites that contain definitions of min/max, and it has sparked a curiosity in me as to whether my thoughts on the definition, or those found on tv tropes and wikipedia fit more with the "popular opinion" on the matter.

So how do you define min/maxing? Below are the two definitions that have come to my attention, and a Pathfinder point buy based array of ability scores (intended to show a human fighter type character) representative of each.

My definition: attempting to maximize your character's over-all ability while minimizing character weakness.
Ability scores: Strength 15, Dexterity 12, Constitution 14, Intelligence 10, Wisdom 14, Charisma 10 (every save gets a bonus, enough strength for damage dealing based feats, enough dexterity to get the most AC out of full plate - and nothing intentionally weakened).

Wikipedia's definition: maximizing your ability in your desired area by sacrificing all other fields.
Ability scores: Strength 20, Dexterity 10, Constitution 16, Intelligence 7, Wisdom 7, Charisma 7 (everything that could be dumped has been except dex because the extra points gained aren't enough to afford more con - and the character is glaringly terrible at a wide variety of things other than "melee combat").

What wikipedia defines as min/maxing, I tend to call "sucking at character building."

...of course, thank every god out there that I don't have to worry about this crap at my table anymore thanks to DCC - which has even had the magical power of making my players even less prone to this depressing behavior when we play games other than DCC.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:31 am 
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I think min-maxing transcends just ability scores. It is only one component of a true min-maxer. In fact if someone tweaks their ability scores like you've shown in your example I wouldn't even bat an eye at.

Min-maxing to me is when someone starts to take spells, feats, class abilities with an eye towards "broken" combinations or purely for statistical reasons. You know, the rules gurus that take advantage of some of the gray areas of certain abilities that can be taken advantage of, but not *quite* broken.

This isn't really an issue in my group even when we play Pathfinder. And DCC RPG has so far sort of kept any sort of powergaming out of the way, definitely in the way of ability scores.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 9:57 am 
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I define min/max as follows: the insecurities of a Player who thinks they have to *win* at roleplaying by ensuring their character is less likely to *lose*, typically by playing the numbers to ensure they have no weaknesses at all or pumping the character up in a key area to the serious detriment of others.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:38 am 
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I remember arguing the point with a min-maxing player a few years ago. it went something like this:

Me: Min-Maxing is the insecure need to *win* (or avoid losing, which is nearly the same thing), blah.
Player: No, I min-max to ensure my character is very effective at their specific role and works well in a balanced party.
Me: Why do they need to be "very effective" and why is "an effective and balanced party" needed?
Player: So we can better meet challenges in-game.
Me: By "better meet" you mean, "succeed at or have less chance of failing at" yes?
Player: I suppose.
Me: How is that any different from "win at or have less chance of losing at"?
Player: Oh.

It was a light-bulb moment for them, that despite their rhetoric it really did come down to the desire to win/avoid losing.
It's a natural enough urge, but I think more folks need to recognize it for what it is instead of trying to hide it behind other terms.

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:01 am 
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To me, min-maxing is a logical outgrowth of the tension between the players' desires for "smart play" and the GM's desire to throw the characters into dangerous/uncertain situations. "Smart play" includes taking steps to ensure your survival, and if you can do that during the character creation process, then it is "smart play" to do so. Of course, doing so interferes with the GM's role of throwing you into difficulties, and creates the kind of "knife's edge" encounter balance where encounters are likely to be too easy or too difficult, but seldom in that sweet spot where the fun really is.

"Character generation" systems ask the player to play smart all of the time. You have no control over what your particular strengths or weaknesses may be, so use what you have!

"Character creation" systems ask the player to avoid smart play when making a character, or result in min-maxing.

I prefer systems where players never have to "play dumb" in order to have fun at the table. Hence, I prefer character generation systems (such as DCC's) over character creation systems (such as D&D 3e's or 4e's). It is a sad fact that my own system, when I was working on it, was a character creation system, and it took Joseph Goodman's design to open my eyes to the cause of the obvious flaws that resulted in.

My attempts to refine the creation system to remove the problems of min-maxing simply didn't go far enough - character generation is actually a refinement of character creation, IMHO, and I am sorry that I didn't realize it sooner.

On a related note, I have now begun to view the idea of "special characters" (i.e., modern human in fantasy world, shapeshifting animals, etc.) as a potential reward for playing through a specific adventure (0-level funnel), which allows the character generation system to allow for any type of character without (1) the judge losing control over how unusual "rare" options are in the game milieu, and (2) the players being able to take such characters for granted.

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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:36 am 
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I have lately begun wondering how much of min/maxing comes from someone's desire to play more often than they actually do play...

I'm coming increasingly under the impression that, short of a game in session, some players take to reading rulebooks again and again, and finding little tidbits that are innocent enough on their own, but taken in the right combinations are interesting in their way, but also very game-bending. The min/maxing may not start as a desire to 'be the best' but start as a simple desire to do more with the game. Then the results of that get rewarded in "the beholder-dragon didn't kill me!" and it gets reinforced.

Of course, the saddest part of min/maxing (to me, anyway) is when you throw a variety of encounters on the table, some of which the min/maxed character cannot meaningfully contribute to at all, and the player is frustrated by that. It is a 'you made your bed, now lie in it" situation, but as ever, the whole point is to have fun, and make as much fun for each other as can be done...

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Playing RPGs since 1977 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters - Holds the power to play gnomes at will!

Here Be DCC Monsters...

General Yoros, Warrior, Str 13, Agl 8 (10), Stm 17, Per 13, Int 11, Lck 8; Law, HP 39, AC 17, R+2, F+4, W+2, band/shld, warhammer, longsword, longbow, pitchfork

Han Dee, (Weaver) Neutral Thief, Str 10, Agi 13, Stm 11, Per 11, Int 15, Lck 14, AC 13 (Leather), HP 25, Luck Die d6, Backstab 3, Sneak Silently 10, Hide In Shadows 9, Pick Pocket 10, Climb Sheer 10, Pick Lock 9, Find Trap 9, Disable Trap 9, Forge Doc 10, Disguise 3, Read Lang 5, Handle Poison 3, Cast Scroll d14+2, birth augur (Born under the loom) +1 to all skill checks (including thief skills), Banepicks (auto pick lock/disable trap, but lose 1d3 random ability loss, if a 3 then 1 pt is perm)


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:25 pm 
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GnomeBoy wrote:
Of course, the saddest part of min/maxing (to me, anyway) is when you throw a variety of encounters on the table, some of which the min/maxed character cannot meaningfully contribute to at all, and the player is frustrated by that. It is a 'you made your bed, now lie in it" situation, but as ever, the whole point is to have fun, and make as much fun for each other as can be done...


Yeah, that's sort of what I mean about "encounters are likely to be too easy or too difficult, but seldom in that sweet spot where the fun really is" - either the character is hyper-competent to the point where contribution is minimal (because the encounter is so brief) or is hyper-incompetent to the point where contribution is minimal (because the character cannot meaningfully affect the outcome). To me, the sweet spot is where the characters are competent, but not so competent that they do not have to think about what they are doing in order to succeed.

Of course, it is fun to encounter situations once in a while where you get to display character growth by whipping the butt of something you once fled from/feared. And it is fun to have to flee once in a while as well. But the highlights of games - the moments I remember strongly after time has passed, either as GM or player - are the times when the chips were down, and the odds were changed because someone went outside the scope of just rolling dice to find out what happened. I.e., a player decided to have his character tear down a tapestry to entangle a foe, or (in DCC) a warrior used a Mighty Deed to good effect, or a wizard cast a spell to use the Mercurial effect, or even when a magic-user broke his own staff in a retributive strike, hoping to find a way to get back to the material plane thereafter.

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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:14 pm 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
..."encounters are likely to be too easy or too difficult, but seldom in that sweet spot where the fun really is"...

Oh, I absolutely hear you on that -- but also I have seen up to half a table's worth of players totally happy that they are knocking down monsters without breaking a sweat. But then when the reverse happens and they can't make a dent no matter how much they sweat, they are either sad, or feel indignant that they've been "excluded" [giant air-quotes].

As if, somehow, a game of just "a monster pops up" -- "we kill it immediately and move on" -- lather/rinse/repeat, is all they want... :?

I'm happy to entertain a table of folks for a few hours or more that way, to a point, if they (think they) are genuinely having fun. But it's much more fun for me when the outcome of things is mostly in doubt, and the finding out is in the playing.

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Gnome Boy (a.k.a. "Jon") • DCC play-tester @ DDC 35, Feb 2011. • Beta DL 2111, 7:00 AM PT, 8 June 11.
Playing RPGs since 1977 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters - Holds the power to play gnomes at will!

Here Be DCC Monsters...

General Yoros, Warrior, Str 13, Agl 8 (10), Stm 17, Per 13, Int 11, Lck 8; Law, HP 39, AC 17, R+2, F+4, W+2, band/shld, warhammer, longsword, longbow, pitchfork

Han Dee, (Weaver) Neutral Thief, Str 10, Agi 13, Stm 11, Per 11, Int 15, Lck 14, AC 13 (Leather), HP 25, Luck Die d6, Backstab 3, Sneak Silently 10, Hide In Shadows 9, Pick Pocket 10, Climb Sheer 10, Pick Lock 9, Find Trap 9, Disable Trap 9, Forge Doc 10, Disguise 3, Read Lang 5, Handle Poison 3, Cast Scroll d14+2, birth augur (Born under the loom) +1 to all skill checks (including thief skills), Banepicks (auto pick lock/disable trap, but lose 1d3 random ability loss, if a 3 then 1 pt is perm)


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 3:25 pm 
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Thanks for the responses everyone, please keep 'em coming - it's great to see all the different ways a phrase I thought was basically well defined gets interpreted.

I also have to say that I agree that character creation systems, rather than generation systems, can allow a player to become distracted - I've actually switched my Pathfinder table-rules so that only the elite array will ever be used again. My players and I agree that ability scores in that system are massively important to the character, so rolling and getting too many low (or even high) scores drastically alters the character's potential, and that letting them use point buy will just always mean they get the "perfect scores" for their concept.

DCC has made them feel like getting exactly what you wanted is the worst thing to get.

Anecdote about last night: I've started my Temple of Elemental Evil + Scourge of the Slavelords + Queen of Spiders redeux campaign (set in the Wilderlands) - modifying Village of Homlett into the village being tired of all the bandit raids and monsters, and how the only support sent by the local government were carpenters and stonemasons to build a castle (and protect what's left of the village once it is built) so they sent a couple dozen able-bodied men to hunt down the bandits and put a stop to the raids.

Jump forward to the players just after getting into the basement dungeon level of the ruined keep, and having their numbers reduced from the 13 that lived that far to 7 by a sudden ambush of a dozen walking corpses. The players are sitting around the table talking about how the 0-level they wanted to live is now dead, but getting excited about their remaining character as they start choosing class and rolling up their hit dice and freshly learned cleric spells.

One player was all grumpy (for like 5 seconds tops) that his character with a 17 strength & stamina had just been killed, but then he remembered/realized that his remaining character had ability scores all between 9 and 12 - a set-up my group has come to call a "perfect character" because you can play any class with it without worrying about what you would have been "better" at.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:38 am 
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With all respect, Colin, I don't think that the desire to win at all costs is min/max-ing at all. Winning is being competitive (sometimes obsessively so) and can happen in any game system.

IronWolf wrote:
Min-maxing to me is when someone starts to take spells, feats, class abilities with an eye towards "broken" combinations or purely for statistical reasons. You know, the rules gurus that take advantage of some of the gray areas of certain abilities that can be taken advantage of, but not *quite* broken.
This is a lot closer to what I would define as the min/max. Manipulating the system to take advantage of the numbers.

An example could be in a game where you can roll stats then re-arrange the order so that all of the high ones went into combat stats.

Another one might be where a player can use a "point buy" system to buy stats and could buy the lowest stat in each bonus range. (E.g. if a +1 was for a 13-15, all the stats might be 13's.)

A more extreme example of this was in 2E, where in one of the options you could split each attribute into two sub-attributes (such as Dexterity maybe becoming accuracy and quickness; I forget the exact breakdown) where the total had to add up to the rolled number. By tweaking the +/- a player could get some really cool benefits with minimal loss since sometimes one of the two sub-attributes was important and the other less so.

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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:34 pm 
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finarvyn wrote:
A more extreme example of this was in 2E, where in one of the options you could split each attribute into two sub-attributes (such as Dexterity maybe becoming accuracy and quickness; I forget the exact breakdown) where the total had to add up to the rolled number. By tweaking the +/- a player could get some really cool benefits with minimal loss since sometimes one of the two sub-attributes was important and the other less so.

Ah yes, sub-abilities... With Dexterity that is Aim and Balance they get split into, and every character I have ever seen that was not meant to use archery as their primary combat ability would drop Aim by the max (2 points less than the rolled dexterity) to raise Balance by the max (those same 2 points).

Of course, you still had to roll a 12 or 13 in most ability scores to get your sub-abilities to be able to "stretch" to the bonuses.

In defense of using the sub-ability system - 2nd edition style point buy was worse. 78 points to put however you want in your ability scores at a 1 for 1 ratio - I almost never saw anyone use that for their character and not pick 3 scores to put at 18 and have the others hover around 8. The downside being that the point value was set that high to be able to meet the requirements for the classes that had them... but I knew no one that was really that interested in playing a Paladin with barely more than the bare minimum requirements when a "perfect physical specimen not actually hindered in any area" fighter was on an option.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:41 pm 
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finarvyn wrote:
With all respect, Colin, I don't think that the desire to win at all costs is min/max-ing at all. Winning is being competitive (sometimes obsessively so) and can happen in any game system.


I think perhaps I wasn't clear. In summation, my point is:

1) Some folks have an desire to win at all costs/avoid losing in combo with insecurity (hence "insecure desire" as opposed to just "desire").
2) That results in said folks
Colin wrote:
"playing the numbers to ensure they have no weaknesses at all or pumping the character up in a key area to the serious detriment of others."


And my point 2 sounds just like your statement that...

finarvyn wrote:
I would define as the min/max. Manipulating the system to take advantage of the numbers.


So, you clearly don't disagree with me on what it *is* (playing numbers/manipulating the system), but do you disagree that the desire to maximise win/avoid losing is what is behind 99% of min-maxing cases? If so, what do you think is behind that drive to min-max in the vast bulk of cases?

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:57 pm 
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It seems like min/maxing should be included on a list of cardinal sins for the RPG'er. With words, like sad, insecure, manipulative and so forth being used to describe rolling a character I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling about "min/maxing", it almost feels overly pedantic and judgmental. So for that reason I'm a little compelled to play the devil's advocate in the spirit of fun and see if there might be some light in all this darkness. Enjoy.

Is it min maxing when the rules for the game call for an automatic subtraction or addition to a player's character based on their race? As is the case with dnd3.0 rules. Or is it a clever way to show distinction among the races from the get-go?

Another case is the character generation rolls that are called for in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Edition 1 & 2. Where you find that choosing one race over another will affect which scores are likely to be stronger than other scores in a category in which the race does not excel per it's individual related lore. (Dwarves are tough, Elves are quick, Halflings are hungry j/k) The human however is always shown to be equal in every measure of his stat block however:
WeaponSkill 2d10+20 Ballistic Skill 2d10+20 Strength 2d10+20 Toughness 2d10+20... and so on.
Reads the same as:
STR 3d6 CON 3d6 DEX 3d6... etc

Now I enjoy DCC's 3d6 to all, and to all a good night dealy but I'm beginning to wonder if it's flagellant style popularity isn't related to the "funnel" concept? After all, given the types of danger this game features it's players it isn't likely that characters who have scores that don't the 'bell curve for survivability' aren't going to stick around to carve their name into the demon's head at the end are they?

I'm all for smart play, I really favor tactics and strategy, I really do, and players should use them to increase survival rates but dungeons really aren't the place for safe bets, drawing room heroes and knights of the ink well are they? In fact the players who prefer to rpg using tongue and quill tactics aren't really all that fond of a crawl anyway. I've seen people quit the game (WFRP) because they enjoy playing roles with high Fellowship (Fel) * (read CHA), and feel utterly useless in the dungeon setting.

I suppose I have to remember some important concepts; the game is abstract not real, the game is a game, and have fun... So in the spirit of that it doesn't have to make sense that for some reason all humanoids, and humans are born equal lumps of d6, but their monstrous counterparts (read NPC's) well, they are born of bizarre algorithms of dice even the great mage Zocchi wouldn't conjure.... I guess that means the greatest manipulators aren't the players but we the screen hiding* judges ourselves! :shock:

*I know that isn't recommended, but letting the dice fall where they may, that's for the PC! :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:20 am 
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We're not talking about "rolling a character" per se, we're talking about min-maxing in the general sense (not specifically as it relates to DCC), and random determination (by rolling) is something that tends to alleviate the problem to a notable degree.

Also, something like a system-provided stat modifier for race is typically an attempt at verisimilitude, not min-maxing itself. It's the combination of *how* and *why* a Player approaches these things that ends up being min-maxing or not.

To answer your other point, the strong objection to min-maxing (and rolling 3d6 in order) existed long, long before DCC came out, and so is unrelated to the "funnel".

Min-maxing may not always be objectionable depending on the Players, Game, and Genre, but I think the reasons most of us disagree with min-maxing are manifold:

1) It can cause real problems in terms of running encounters. If the min-maxing Player makes a character that is, in effect, broken, challenges can easily become too easy (even boring) for them. That can lead to a GM having to beef encounters up to provide a challenge again. While that might not sound like a problem, it's essentially an arms race, and if not every player min-maxes, it can result in challenges being far too hard or easy for other members of the party. The classic example is the encounter that has been beefed up to challenge a heavily min-maxed combat machine that inadvertently destroys the other party members by virtue of being a challenge for a character designed to punch abnormally above their weight.

I even saw a thread on RPG.net recently where a couple Players were actively trying to argue that it was every Player's duty to min-max so they could "carry their weight" and not be outclassed, concept be damned. Fortunately, most folks disagreed with them.

Even in cases where every Player is onboard in terms of min-maxing you can still get problems because not every Player is as skilled at min-maxing anyway. It's something that especially penalizes the folks who don't want to "master" the game, but simply want to roll some bones and have fun.

2) It's frequently divorced from anything like concept and can produce lamentable caricatures, where every fighter is immensely strong, but crude, uncouth and stupid (dump stats in action). Where's the individuality when people min-max their characters in such common and predictable ways again and again?

3) It is frequently indicative of other problems and can contribute to them. The Player who won't play a character that doesn't have at least one 18 score, for example (and who might have come to the conclusion that that's what is needed to have fun because of heavy exposure to min-maxing). The Player who won't play a character that has any negative scores. Ad nauseum. Min-maxing creates habits and expectations that can spill over even into games where it's really not necessary, and can also indicate that different Players and GMs want very different things out of the game, things that might not be mutually compatible.

4) Because min-maxed characters often outshine the others, it can lead to less optimal characters (and their Players) essentially becoming support or sidekicks in effect. I don't know many Players who're happy in such situations. The min-maxer essentially becomes a system-based attention hog.

cheers!
Colin


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:12 am 
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I play with a notorious min-maxer.

He even admits to it as well. Basically his mindset is that numbers need to be as high as possible and failures as minimal as possible. For example, I'm running a 15 point buy pathfinder game, he wants 25 points because he's convinced that in order to "not suck" he need at least three sixteen or highers in his ability scores. That's just one example, another is that he also says 2 skill ranks per level is too little for fighters and that it's impossible for them to do any skills at all. His mindset here is that in order to "not suck" he needs to be able to put a skill rank every level into a skill he uses where most fighters only put a rank into a skill they use every other levels. His point is valid here, I've house ruled that fighters get 3 skill points per level. But he wants six ranks per level because he dumps INT for fighters where i would never have an INT lower than 13 for my fighters. Most people I play with think 3 skill ranks per level is sufficient for fighters.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:28 am 
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I actually happened to notice a passage in my AD&D 2nd (revised) DMG today regarding min/maxing - mentioned in the weapon proficiency section and discussing the selection of weapon proficiencies.

Quote:
Min/maxing occurs when a player calculates all the odds and numerical advantages and disadvantages of a particular weapon. The player's decision isn't based on his imagination, the campaign, role-playing or character development. It is based on game mechanics - what will give the biggest modifier and cause the most damage in any situation.

A certain amount of min/maxing is unavoidable, and even good (it shows that the player is interested in the game), but an excessive min/maxer is missing the point. Reducing a character to a list of combat modifiers and dice rolls is not role-playing.


I might do a little research into my older books (both the original run of 2nd edition and original AD&D) to see if there are mentions of min/maxing there as well - interesting to see an "official" definition.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:23 am 
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Good thoughts everyone. I'll chime in. I'm not up on every game term but min/maxing to me is choosing ability scores/ weapons/feats/classes... to get the biggest numerical bonuses and numbers out.

To judge myself... Yes I do it. To a point.

I'll admit to choosing ability scores in 3ed like several other posters said, all even scores to get the bonuses as good as I can. And I never purposely do things to make my saves bad. Saves are key in 3ed. But in 3ed you can go a lot further in power-gaming. I know several players who always want multiple dips/prestige classes, the "Monkey Grip" feat for a warrior, feats cherry picked across multiple splat books... all things to be the most powerful character that they can be.

But for some folks that's what is fun for them.

Having complained about power gamers, I hate that fighters suck in 3ed compared to the caster classes. Yeah, the balance thing. I do think fighters should have more skill points. I also hate that there is a standard Christmas tree of magic items that every character wants/needs to be the best.

But I've grown tired of all the 3.5ed crap. The fun is gone for me. There's no magic left. It was a good run.


To contrast this, I see in DCCRPG that the ability scores are not all that important. It's viable for a Warrior to have a 9 strength because of the way the class is built with the deeds die. This is awesome smothered with awesome sauce! In 3ed I wouldn't even THINK of trying to play a fighter with less than a 16 strength. And I also see that the Warrior as equally as cool as a caster at higher levels!

God bless Goodman.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:29 am 
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I also hate the creeping in of MMORPG things like all party players having to fill a specific role, be it "tank", "dps","healer", etc.

I am the only person in my group who doesn't play online games but everyone is always trying to shove the characters into one of these roles in our games.

I rage against these roles. Talk about limiting.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:34 am 
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Zargon wrote:
It seems like min/maxing should be included on a list of cardinal sins for the RPG'er. With words, like sad, insecure, manipulative and so forth being used to describe rolling a character I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling about "min/maxing", it almost feels overly pedantic and judgmental.


Please note that I am not saying that, personally. I think that the tendency to "min/max" is a logical extension of the idea of "smart play", and is really not so different (from the player's perspective) than the "Woo hoo!" feeling of rolling an 18 on 3d6. The problems associated with "min/max"ing relate to larger game issues, IMHO, such as how encounters play out, and the fact that the optimal potential characters for any given game tend to be a far narrower range of possibilities than random generation methods create.

A simple example of what I mean here is in occupations for DCC. If each player was allowed to pick an occupation, there are some which obviously reinforce certain character classes (wizard's apprentice) and some few would pick (gong farmer). Yet the idiosyncratic characters created when a cleric began as a gong farmer, or a warrior as a wizard's apprentice, are some of the most fun to play.

I have come to think that asking a player to "play dumb" when devising characters is a problem in game design. I don't think that "smart play" can be considered a fault of the player! Hence my preference (right now, at least) for character generation systems over character creation systems.

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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 7:50 am 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
Zargon wrote:
It seems like min/maxing should be included on a list of cardinal sins for the RPG'er. With words, like sad, insecure, manipulative and so forth being used to describe rolling a character I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be feeling about "min/maxing", it almost feels overly pedantic and judgmental.


Please note that I am not saying that, personally. I think that the tendency to "min/max" is a logical extension of the idea of "smart play", and is really not so different (from the player's perspective) than the "Woo hoo!" feeling of rolling an 18 on 3d6. The problems associated with "min/max"ing relate to larger game issues, IMHO, such as how encounters play out, and the fact that the optimal potential characters for any given game tend to be a far narrower range of possibilities than random generation methods create.

A simple example of what I mean here is in occupations for DCC. If each player was allowed to pick an occupation, there are some which obviously reinforce certain character classes (wizard's apprentice) and some few would pick (gong farmer). Yet the idiosyncratic characters created when a cleric began as a gong farmer, or a warrior as a wizard's apprentice, are some of the most fun to play.

I have come to think that asking a player to "play dumb" when devising characters is a problem in game design. I don't think that "smart play" can be considered a fault of the player! Hence my preference (right now, at least) for character generation systems over character creation systems.



I like the DCCRPG concept that you don't get to pick your background. It's the beginning of min/maxing, as I know people who would only pick occupations that would help with adventuring. The Gods first get their plays, as it says in the rulebook.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:09 am 
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I agree that min/maxing and power gaming are basically expressions of competitiveness. I also admit to being somewhat guilty of it myself. It's normal, and expected, for players to do their best in an RPG, and one of the ways of doing well is to have an "effective" character. After all, most RPGs are still GAMES, and not just collaborative story-telling exercises, so some element of competitiveness is inherent.

Having powerful characters isn't really a problem, as most games make it pretty easy for the GM to crank up or tone down the challenge level. This makes min/maxing more a matter of preference than a problem. The real problem is when you mix min/maxers with non-min/maxers, and your game turns into "Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit". It's hard to make a game fun when challenges are either boring for some characters or fatal to others.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:20 am 
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Quote:
Min/maxing occurs when a player calculates all the odds and numerical advantages and disadvantages of a particular weapon. The player's decision isn't based on his imagination, the campaign, role-playing or character development. It is based on game mechanics - what will give the biggest modifier and cause the most damage in any situation.

A certain amount of min/maxing is unavoidable, and even good (it shows that the player is interested in the game), but an excessive min/maxer is missing the point. Reducing a character to a list of combat modifiers and dice rolls is not role-playing.


This pretty much describes min/ maxing for me. I used to play many years ago on a 3e/3.5e forum. When making characters they always used a point buy. I would try to think up a concept, particularly for games that started at higher levels, and then pick stats, classes, skills etc to fit it. From a role play point of view it seemed like a good way to go.

It was routinely pointed out that my characters " while there was nothing technically wrong with them" were gimped. Unlike the guy who made some sort of halfling knight riding a war dog that was stated out that he could charge with a lance and do like 60-80 points damage. He sucked at everything else, but he was considered an awesome pc.


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:19 am 
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cthulhudarren wrote:
I like the DCCRPG concept that you don't get to pick your background.


Not true.

DCC, pg. 21, 2nd paragraph wrote:
Note that a character’s occupation need not be determined randomly. If a player has a strong sense of the character’s background, he should feel free to use it. Starting trained weapon and trade goods can be determined thematically with the judge’s approval.


It's a common misconception that you have to roll your occupation.

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:21 am 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
If each player was allowed to pick an occupation, there are some which obviously reinforce certain character classes (wizard's apprentice) and some few would pick (gong farmer).


True, but in DCC, by the rules as written, Players *can* pick their character's Occupation.

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: How do you define min/max?
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:51 am 
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Some great points are being made here.

Personally, what I find most annoying about min/max behaviour is when a player flushes the roleplaying aspect of the game down the toilet and focuses on creating something very effective, but uncharacteristic. Some examples of things like this that I have had players try (and no, I did not allow these things) was a paladin who wanted to fight with a pike so he could fight from the second rank in melees, or a wizard who wanted to multi-class and take a level of Barbarian so he could get some great hit points and some combat effectiveness if he ever had to fight. Generally, I have no qualms about letting people try to min/max or arrange scores since I have found that most people who are doing that are generally still interested in role playing anyway. But I also do things that often draw upon a characters other skills so that the people who play with me have come to realize that there are no abilities that are unused. You gave your fighter a 7 Intelligence? That's fine but now you cannot make any suggestions about solving the puzzle the party just found. And you better hope the wizard with the 5 charisma isn't the person who the mercenary captain strikes up a conversation with in the tavern.

I will let people do most things (within reason) if they are wanting to do it because they want to create a memorable or unique character, but when I see someone who just wants the highest to hit and damage bonus, while minimizing risk to their characters, then I intervene and stop it.


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