View Full Version : So.. who has RUN a Tier 1, high optimization game? Played in one? How did it go?

2010-09-13, 02:19 PM
So, we all know that 3.5e isn't 'balanced' in lots of the classes have lots of "I win" buttons and lots of classes can't do much of anything, and that lots of classes have absolutely crazy things that let them do really whatever they want with a little bit of foresight.

So who here has either run or played in a game that really reveled in that fact? The PC's are all Tier 1 characters, optimized highly, and large amounts of the world are their oyster, BUT the point of the game was for the Players to challenge the DM and vice versa -- where that whole preparation, tactical thinking, crazy superpowers were NEEDED on the player side to overcome things, and quick thinking, backup plans, and massive flexibility in the sorts of challenges were NEEDED on the DM side to challenge the players and their characters? If so, how did it go? I'm not thinking exactly of "Players vs. DM" sort of thing, I'm more thinking of "We all acknowledge that this is a very high power game, but we are staying fairly close to D&D 3.5e RAW, and it's not." Since I'm sure this will come up, the idea is generally that the players stay away from infinite loops, because that removes challenge from practical optimization. For example, an artificer would probably want to use schema and eternal wands and written up wondrous items from various books for "repeatable spellcasting", but not crazy customized weird wondrous items, or magical traps for repeatable spellcasting, because that removes challenge and the achievement in getting the item. Does that make sense? The idea is to play AROUND with the rules, the setting, and the obstacles of the game for the sake of challenge and achievement, on both sides of the screen.

2010-09-13, 02:30 PM
I've played a few relatively high optimization games on lower levels (one in the first 6 levels, two in the first 10) and run one in pre-epic (17-20).

Note that I didn't use strict RAW (nor was it used in any of the games; most infinite loops had one of the pieces nuked due to making the playing field rather monotonous. It works fine. As long as you don't shy away from magic-using (classed or natural) monsters and classed NPCs, the game itself works just fine. The campaigns though, have to be written in such a way as to be interesting to characters of such power. This applies especially on high levels due to the sheer amount of divination (probably the single biggest campaign-changer alongside teleportation-type effects) the characters need challenges that act on that level; the challenges should to require said divination- and teleportation-abilities to be solvable, but not be trivial with those.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I feel Bastion of the Broken Souls is quite possibly the best published adventure for high levels and definitely encompasses the kind of framework a high-level high optimization adventure wants. Of course, since it's an official adventure, the creatures themselves aren't all that impressive out of the box but with a little work and expansion upon their magical capabilities, they can become rather interesting.

And on low levels, of course, they can simply take on an unusually large number of encounters. That and creatures with weak saves tend to fall quickly; an important part of higher tier classes is that they aren't limited to attacking HP and AC, but they can also attack saves (even early on when they lack true no-save-kill spells) which makes many of the published monsters hilarious(ly vulnerable). A funny example is Purple Worm which casters are quite able to take on by level 5 in spite of its CR tag due to its Will-save. The defenses obviously hinge on not getting hit by the thing but it's generally doable, and attacking its Will-save (or Int with Ray of Stupidity but that spell is Stupid as the name suggests) functions well enough.

EDIT: What's worth noting is that on high levels, it's rare for fights to end in death; due to the amount of contingencies, and protective magic in existence, actual, detrimental death is rare and requires lots of work. And generally something like sucking the soul to a Thinaun weapon or Imprisonment or Mind Rape or some other way to rid of the opponent a bit more permanently is the least measure necessary to actually accomplish anything other than breaking his place.

2010-09-13, 02:34 PM
I've run them before. They're interesting. Yes, infinite loops must go away. If you do something cute like that, it works exactly once, for only one iteration. After all, such tricks are clever and amusing the first time you see them. Repeating them isn't terribly fun at all.

It's not that different from normal D&D, but you do need to challenge your assumptions, and a LOT of premade material is all but useless. For instance, any challenge based on the theory that the PCs will actually WALK on the GROUND is right out.

Not everyone chose to run tier 1, either. The invisible flying blinking factotum with reach weaponry, a wild variety of accessible spells thanks to items, and int boosted to the mid-40s isn't TECHNICALLY tier 1. He is amazingly powerful, though.

Encounter designs require a little bit of care, and NPC builds are much more complex. Pure combat encounters are either brutally short, or a quick flurry of spells and counters usually ending with one side panicking and fleeing. Very intelligent people tend to know when they can't win a fight, and escape options are common. PvP, when it happens, is generally crazy.

All in all, it's a blast to play, and even when DMing E6(as I am currently), I tend to allow nearly everything.

Edit: Oh yeah...CRs are a guideline at best. Expect players to take on a LOT of very high CR encounters per day. For instance, in my last gameplay session, the level 6 party took on CR 8, CR 10, CR 9, CR 11 fights. Back to back, with no time for buffing, and against intelligent enemies with appropriate advancement and items, who used them plenty.

2010-09-13, 03:04 PM
Tier 1 games aren't hard to run at low level. At high level, in addition to Tyndmyr's comments on infinite loops, you really need to think through how your society is stable if there are high-level tier-1 groups running around. Either it's Tippyverse, or rulers and important non-mages make extensive use of anti-magic fields and the like to keep themselves un-Mindraped.

I always add the following: there's a certain type of stone that acts as an AMF and blocks all scrying, but only in thicknesses of many feet (and it's quite expensive to mine and build with, because you can't use magic for hauling it!). This lets powerful/wealthy established NPC figures stay in power without having to be mages themselves (at which point: Tippyverse). That and royal/imperial troops decked out in spell eating/spell reflecting gear.

Basically, you just need to provide some way in which a king can be a high-level fighter, as long as he has the wealth and resources of a kingdom to work with. This lets you have powerful non-Tier-1 NPCs, and therefore a more normal non-adventurer society, without changing your other adventuring settings to the point of nerfing Tier 1.

2010-09-13, 03:43 PM
Well, technically, being ruled by mages isn't necessarily Tippyverse.

Dark Sun is ruled by casters, and isn't a Tippyverse. A Tippyverse is defined by the use of resetting magical traps to accomplish tasks. This is a concept I've used repeatedly in my games, and honestly, I've determined how people react to it by exactly how my players reacted to it.

Either with hostility and destruction, if it in any way threatened them, or by attempting to take it over themselves, and use it to corner the market on (whatever it does). In short, using magical traps to displace an existing market leads to conflict, and lots of it. Tippyverse only happens if the trap people utterly win.

2010-09-13, 03:49 PM
Or it could be that the PC's are just so utterly exceptional that they really DO mess with a preexisting society in a great and major way, and their challenges come from things that have transcended normal society previously?

2010-09-13, 04:09 PM
I played in one. We called it the 'merc game', where min/maxing isn't cheese, it's the job description.

Now, there were limits. No infinite loops, no NI numbers, no Pun-Pun, nothing super ridiculous.

We had a Batman Wizard who went Incantatrix/IotSV (precocious apprentice early entry method for Incantatrix)

We had a Centaur Hulking Hurler (no cancer mage, due to no infinite loop clause)

We had a Druid/Planar Shepherd. Enough said.

We had a variation on the Flaming Homer who used the Bag O Puppies trick (technically not banned because it wasn't infinite)

And we had my character. A Spontaneous Divine Cloistered Cleric. I didn't bother with DMM Persist Clericzilla. No, I did something much worse.

You see, I wasn't going for personal power, I was going for party power. So instead, there's this cute little PrC in Faiths of Ebberon. It gives a free domain every level. Not too strong, since you only have one domain slot Unless you are playing Spontaneous variant, which automatically puts all of your domain spells on your 'spells known' list. Now, I didn't take all 10 levels in it, because I really didn't need *that* many domains. I did go RSoP5 and ended the build with Heirophant for Divine Reach.

And I buffed the hell out of my party. With DMM Chain Spell and DMM Persist on the spells which had a duration less than hours/level. And enough Cracksticks to pull it off. So yes, the whole party had GMW/MV/Freedom of Movement/Death Ward/Mind Blank/Barkskin/Shield of Faith/Greater Resistance and had such lovely effects as DMM Chain Heal or Restoration on tap, just in case.

Oh, and if I really got ticked at someone? Well, with a Caster Level in the 50's, Holy Word did rather well. Or DMM Chain Slay Living. DMM Chain Destruction.

I must have saved my party millions in equipment costs which didn't need to be purchased, and freed up slots which were used on other things. Who needs a Ring of Freedom of Movement when I Divine Reach/DMM Chain/DMM Persist it on the party every morning? Who needs +5 equipment when you can get +1 equipment of x/y/z and I come back with a DMM Chain Greater Magic Weapon and Divine Reach DMM Chain Magic Vestments?

Just the sheer 'no' factor I brought to the table was enough to make the GM give up.

2010-09-13, 04:12 PM
I'd say the DM giving up is not a desirable goal in this sort of game...

2010-09-13, 04:15 PM
Your DM has to be familiar with optimization. Perhaps not the best at the table, but he'll at least need to be pretty decent.

One of the reasons that "low magic" is such a popular variant is because it's easy. Toss some traps in a hallway, throw some mooks in there with generic weapons, call it a day. If you need to invent characters off the cuff, all you really need is AC, hps, and attack modifier. Not hard. Lots of DMs are lazy, and some never progress beyond this level. Obviously, this is not compatible with players who like to optimize.

2010-09-13, 04:17 PM
Well, what about a "one or two players" game? Would lowering the NUMBER of optimized characters generally make it easier on the DM? And of course, a good amount out of character chatter about what the characters can do, and letting the DM look at the character sheets, and defining the major combos...

Do these games work better online, in a forum, or with openrpg or whatever?

2010-09-13, 04:19 PM
Possibly. Realistically, knowing the capabilities of your PCs is, as always, the important thing. As is knowing the interests and goals of your players.

Optimization all round just leads to more high level gameplay, and more options on the table. The basic job of DMing is still the same.

I prefer to DM in real life, personally. Im not sure if optimization level matters here, but it's much easier to get through, say, an encounter, when everyones actually at the table. No worries about someone with an immediate action they wanted to use three posts ago.

2010-09-13, 04:22 PM
Just the sheer 'no' factor I brought to the table was enough to make the GM give up.

You can actually pull the same off with just Metamagic Rod of Chain and Incantatrix Cooperative Metamagic; it's very efficient. Though Sovereign Speaker loses casting levels so it's kinda "Meh" for high-op; I'd just run an Archivist myself. But that's the level I'd expect from a Tier 1 party; if the party doesn't have such effects on all the time (or at least always when relevant), it's not really getting that much out of the spellcasting. First step to immortality is having two-A4 long buff list active on all characters at all times.

Douglas showcases the natural results of this level of optimization here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=81794).

2010-09-13, 04:25 PM
I have played in a high tier high optimization game (although not all of us were tier 1 classes).

The party consisted of an archivist (me), 2 wizards, a psion, and a warblade. All heavily optimized.

It was crazy what the DM had to throw against us in order to challenge us. We were fighting monsters from the epic level handbook, and easily trouncing them. We had so many contingencies and half the party could use celerity, so combat took ages (pretty much whenever we were hit, we either had a celerity or contingency trigger)

In the end, we finished off the BBEG (who was an epic anima mage) in a single round by having one of the wizards cast antimagic field on him (through a combination of master specialist + archmage abilities).

2010-09-13, 09:52 PM
My group plays high powered games all the time. Works great when all players know what's up and the DM is aware of the hurting his NPCs and monsters are heading toward.

2010-09-14, 12:01 AM
My Friend and I tried it but we ended up passing a story stick followed by writing of a book...

2010-09-14, 12:09 AM
I've considered it. But I always end up not doing it, because A) The people I would want to do it with are better at the game then I, B) I highly dislike 3.5 as a system for telling a story in (d20r might be changing this though), and C) It ultimately never is more then a semi-amusing motion for me.

2010-09-14, 12:25 AM
To those who haven't tried it, I recommend it. It's a very different look at the game, and at settings in general. Combat is now something that is planned for, and casual, reckless violence is EXTREMELY unwise. Chaotic stupid people do not survive long.

2010-09-14, 01:40 AM
Saph's "Seven Kingdoms" campaign journal is my favorite example of this (having never actually played in one myself). Note that the whole party certainly wasn't Tier 1. They had a Ranger (ostensibly Tier 4) and a Rogue/Assassin (probably Tier 3), and Saph was a Sorcerer (Tier 2). And then a Druid and Archivist. But all of them were pretty highly optimized, and the Sorcerer and Archivist in particular were not afraid to throw around very powerful spells, and use them intelligently at that.

2010-09-14, 08:06 AM
I just ran one a few days ago. Here's a summary (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=9353707&postcount=12).

2010-09-14, 08:30 AM
I wanted to, but the players don't want to spend the necessary time into building their characters - except one, and he optimized Undead Turning and Healing because he was concerned of overshadowing the other players.

2010-09-14, 11:33 AM
I DMed one once...it was...challenging to run. I had to optimize the enemies pretty hard too, and more importantly, make them smart about how they did things. But the PCs consisted of a utility wizard, a buff/metamagic based wizard, a druid, and a DMM cleric(all with prestige classes, of course). They were not 100% optimized though, but all were VERY strong characters.

I banned out the MOST broken spells too...that helped. But they were obscenely powerful, and meant to be. By the time we ended, they were lvl 23, and the system really was breaking down.

We ended up not finishing the game because it got to the point that each round was taking 30 minutes of rolling dice and calculating damage, which just got boring...I think all of us have prefered lower power games since then.

It was fun(for a while, at least), and definately made us all think about playing differently than we had(and learn the system a lot better). As someone else said, it was all about preping your chars for the individual battles. And for me, it certainly stretched me in making me come up with enemies that were not utterly trivial challenges, even if their CR was WAY above the party's level....and at the same time not being powerful enough to TPK if they went first. its an interesting balance to maintain, especially since you want to come up with DIFFERENT ways that they challenge the party each time.

Edit: to aharon...how do you 'optimize' healing? If you are planning on healing in battle, you have completely missed the point of optimization anyway, and out of battle healing doesnt need to be optimized.