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    Default The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    I've been reading some older threads and I'm wondering what people actually define optimization as. For me it used to be defined as min/maxing. I've seen people use it for just planning a build to qualify for a prestige class to squeezing every ounce out of a character and quite a few things between. I just was trying to get a general idea of where people fall in defining this, since that might help reduce some of the more heated arguments that occur over different interpretations of the word.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Optimization is making a build work for a particular concept at a particular power level. That's it. High optimization is for higher power levels, and low optimization is for lower power levels.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by sadi View Post
    I've been reading some older threads and I'm wondering what people actually define optimization as. For me it used to be defined as min/maxing. I've seen people use it for just planning a build to qualify for a prestige class to squeezing every ounce out of a character and quite a few things between. I just was trying to get a general idea of where people fall in defining this, since that might help reduce some of the more heated arguments that occur over different interpretations of the word.
    Anything that isn't straight wizard 20, and everything that is straight wizard 20.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Optimizing:
    1. To make as perfect or effective as possible.
    2. Computer Science To increase the computing speed and efficiency of (a program), as by rewriting instructions.
    3. To make the most of.

    Basically "I am a fighter I will be the best fighter possible" or even "I want a good character, so fighter is right out"

    Of course, your definition of "Best" may vary. It could be "I am a powergamer, so my best fighter is the one who can deal the most damage in the fewest seconds" or it could be "I am playing in a low-power group, so I'm going to take as many hilarious flaws as possible while retaining utility!"
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    I'd define it as "making build choices in an effort to be a powerful character". At its most basic level, almost everyone optimizes a little, but what people 'dread' is:

    1.Optimizing without caring about roleplaying(Example: Joe from AGC or Mimmax from Goblins)

    2.Optimizing too far beyond the character's ECL(Example: Varies based on DM's baseline)

    3.Optimizing beyond RAI altogether(Example: Pun-pun)
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by shadow_archmagi View Post
    Optimizing:
    1. To make as perfect or effective as possible.
    2. Computer Science To increase the computing speed and efficiency of (a program), as by rewriting instructions.
    3. To make the most of.

    Basically "I am a fighter I will be the best fighter possible" or even "I want a good character, so fighter is right out"

    Of course, your definition of "Best" may vary. It could be "I am a powergamer, so my best fighter is the one who can deal the most damage in the fewest seconds" or it could be "I am playing in a low-power group, so I'm going to take as many hilarious flaws as possible while retaining utility!"
    That is powergaming. The dictionary is of no use in this case.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Optimization, at it's simplest, is trying to make the most effective character you can with the resources you have available.

    Obviously the actual end goal of the optimization process changes based on:
    1. The source material you can draw on.
    2. The permissiveness of the DM.
    3. The overall game situation.

    For instance, you may have access to all the books in the world, but none of that will help you if the DM vetoes your idea right off the bat.

    Alternatively, even if your DM doesn't veto it outright, the other players in your group may look negatively on you for being gauche enough to bring something that is extremely broken to the game table.

    Finally, it is possible that even if you get your concept into play in the game, that the game world and pacing itself may make the concept counter-productive.

    This means that while yes, a properly prepared and built level 20 arcane caster is the most powerful thing in the game at level 20, that's not bloody well going to help you very much if you are starting from level 1, the resat of your players hate you, the DM decides it doesn't work that way, or the sourcebooks you need just simply aren't allowed.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Generally, optimizing is making the most effective build possible for a specific concept. Divine Bard, for example, is a more optimized build of a musician with ties to the gods than Bard/Cleric, and Unarmed Swordsage is a more optimized version of the Monk. Optimizing weak options to make them viable can actually enrich the roleplaying experience, as a bevy of character concepts stop including "and then I die 4 times a day".
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by Paulus View Post
    Anything that isn't straight wizard 20, and everything that is straight wizard 20.
    Straight wizard 20? How bad at this do you think we are? Spells are good. Wizard is not. Use prestige classes.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by Pie Guy View Post
    Straight wizard 20? How bad at this do you think we are? Spells are good. Wizard is not. Use prestige classes.
    non-core vs. core.

    Besides it was a joke.
    Last edited by Paulus; 2009-10-18 at 07:58 PM.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by ravenkith View Post
    This means that while yes, a properly prepared and built level 20 arcane caster is the most powerful thing in the game at level 20, that's not bloody well going to help you very much if you are starting from level 1, the resat of your players hate you, the DM decides it doesn't work that way, or the sourcebooks you need just simply aren't allowed.
    Core have enough 1st level save or die spells for most wizards.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Optimizing is trying to mechanically perfect something to be as optimal as possible for a certain goal, often with a list of constraints.

    It may or may not involve min/maxing at all. For example, some optimization tricks have no min part involved. I mean, as a wizard, I only care about will for saves and a few mostly irrelevant skills. If I dump wisdom, and take the pathetic flaw(wisdom), I get stats in more important areas, and I can use that feat to swap my will save to work off a better stat. Boom, I don't really lose anything, yet I gain quite a bit.

    It also includes learning about which things seem much better than they actually are, and a great many other skills. It's certainly not just powergaming, as the target of optimization is certainly not always "how can I get the most power ever", but more frequently "How do I make this idea/theme work?".

    In general, I find the more unusual, highly restricted uses of optimization a lot more impressive and interesting to read about. Sure, pun-pun is fun to read up about once, and interesting as a mental exercise, but he isn't useful from a playable perspective, and plenty of the obscure ones are.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Unfortunately for your goals "optimization" is a general word that covers both the usable and broken kinds of optimization. And the position of the line between the two varies from group to group. Though some things are so far one way or the other that most accept them as being a certain type of optimization.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Optimization is the act of taking more mechanically effective choices rather than less mechanically effective choices, in order to be more mechanically effective.

    Anything more specific and you start to get into degrees of optimization, which as you can see from the thread has no consensus.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    That's probably because the term has become pejorative to some extent, and everyone has a degree of optimization they are comfortable with.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    To everyone saying that optimization is 'making the most powerful character possible'...

    You're doing it wrong.

    That's powergaming.

    I can optimize to a theme. I can optimize to a concept. I can optimize to a high power level. I can optimize to a lower power level.

    All optimizing means is taking an aspect of my character and making it workable and effective to a certain degree. Otherwise, all attempts at optimization would end up with a Pun-Pun, since Pun-Pun is THE most powerful character possible on all areas of the board (although not everyone knows about Pun-Pun, so they would have lower levels of power in mind). That's why we have theoretical optimization and practical optimization, as well as thematic optimization and power optimization. It's making a character effective within certain constraints, and some of those constraints are maximum and minimum power level.

    Now, powergaming is making the most effective character possible, and even that is somewhat constrained (even if it's only bounded by what a GM will allow). It is a form of optimization that centers around power and effectiveness, with concerns about "power" (whatever that may entail for the individual involved), and often overrides other forms of thematic optimization (though not always).

    Min-maxing is a form of powergaming that centers around the acquisition of power AND the minimization of weaknesses. It's closely-related, but not exactly the same.

    Munchkinizing, however, is attempting to min-max, powergame, and optimize without regards to game rules, the boundaries the DM has set forth, or the other players, or even to common sense. It frequently involves bending and breaking RAW (ie, cheating) and ignoring what should be obvious RAI, in order to pull the spotlight off of other players to hog attention. It's like using cheat codes to play video games, and then bragging about how you're OMGWTFBBQ!!one!eleventy-one!-awesome!.

    There's some wriggle-room in the definitions because they're slang-terms, but those seem to be the agreed-upon definitions from the community at large.
    Last edited by Lycanthromancer; 2009-10-19 at 11:36 AM.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by Lycanthromancer View Post
    Min-maxing is a form of powergaming that centers around the acquisition of power AND the minimization of weaknesses. It's closely-related, but not exactly the same.
    The board definitions say that optimization and min-maxing are the same thing... it's just a nicer name.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Oh, concept definition! Funny! :D

    Optimizing holds many different meanings for me. The most instinctive one amounts to "the consequent choice of superior mechanics over inferior ones with regards to a given purpose", which basically amounts to planning out your character to reach the desired level of efficiency.

    I believe that optimization in itself is a neutral act, but that one must consider the consequences of said act. Does the mechanically most optimum choice mesh with my character concept? What level of power is appropriate for the game we are about to play? How are the others doing with their characters?

    I personally can't help but let my choice of mechanics influence my character's concept, and it's therefore useful to optimize towards not just a single mechanical goal, but towards a mix of mechanic competence and flavour. By choosing the optimal mix of traits that support the character concept, both goals can be satisfied and we get a well rounded character.

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by Lycanthromancer View Post
    To everyone saying that optimization is 'making the most powerful character possible'...

    You're doing it wrong.

    That's powergaming.

    I can optimize to a theme. I can optimize to a concept. I can optimize to a high power level. I can optimize to a lower power level.

    All optimizing means is taking an aspect of my character and making it workable and effective to a certain degree. Otherwise, all attempts at optimization would end up with a Pun-Pun, since Pun-Pun is THE most powerful character possible on all areas of the board (although not everyone knows about Pun-Pun, so they would have lower levels of power in mind). That's why we have theoretical optimization and practical optimization, as well as thematic optimization and power optimization. It's making a character effective within certain constraints, and some of those constraints are maximum and minimum power level.

    Now, powergaming is making the most effective character possible, and even that is somewhat constrained (even if it's only bounded by what a GM will allow). It is a form of optimization that centers around power and effectiveness, with concerns about "power" (whatever that may entail for the individual involved), and often overrides other forms of thematic optimization (though not always).

    Min-maxing is a form of powergaming that centers around the acquisition of power AND the minimization of weaknesses. It's closely-related, but not exactly the same.

    Munchkinizing, however, is attempting to min-max, powergame, and optimize without regards to game rules, the boundaries the DM has set forth, or the other players, or even to common sense. It frequently involves bending and breaking RAW (ie, cheating) and ignoring what should be obvious RAI, in order to pull the spotlight off of other players to hog attention. It's like using cheat codes to play video games, and then bragging about how you're OMGWTFBBQ!!one!eleventy-one!-awesome!.

    There's some wriggle-room in the definitions because they're slang-terms, but those seem to be the agreed-upon definitions from the community at large.
    I personally make no material difference between the words "optimizing" and "min-maxing", although the latter have a nastier tone to it and implies a greater disregard for fluff in favour of mechanics. It's degrees of the same phenomenon.

    "Powergaming" has little meaning to me; I've never really found a satisfactory definition of it.

    As for "munchkins", I tend not to use that word. It's a silly word. Seriously, listen to it. "Munchkins". It's like "Come here little munchkin, whose a cute munchkin? YOU ARE! YES YOU ARE!"

    Munchkin as described above can be summed up as "cheater", which is a much more effective terminology in any case, since it discourages the behaviour more. It's like "ninja" in MMORPGs, they say you are a "ninja" when you steal loot. Why don't they call it "thief"? It would be much more effective, really, and it wouldn't mix up the terminology as much.
    Last edited by Weimann; 2009-10-19 at 12:06 PM.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    My optimization is just making a concept work mechanically. The basis of optimization is to think ahead a level or two, because OOC you have an idea that this character will become X for some in-game reason. But I usually start at level 1. A person who starts at level 10 is going to have a different optimization for the same concept.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by ericgrau View Post
    Unfortunately for your goals "optimization" is a general word that covers both the usable and broken kinds of optimization. And the position of the line between the two varies from group to group. Though some things are so far one way or the other that most accept them as being a certain type of optimization.
    It is a certain type of optimization. Hell, we even used to have a disclaimer at Gleemax proclaiming that certain builds or ideas were not meant to be used (before a certain person mereged the CO and TO boards, that is).


    Yes, they are both optimization, but they use different approaches when dealing with optimization:

    Character Optimization: This method works within constraints presented by the OP (and sometimes suggests that the OP convience the DM to be a bit more lenient in certain cases) to make their character concept viable. This optimization is fully within the restrictions and interpretations the OP agrees with, and avoids advocating theoretical exercises.

    Theoretical Optimization: These builds serve no purpose for game play, they are merely a challenge to meet a goal using any means desired. These options often ignore some of the common interpretations, and bend or stretch the rules slightly (or not so slightly) to make ends meet. Anyone told to use these builds is either asking for broken abilities or the poster recommending it is making a bad joke (much like the Lightning Warrior). If it is not within one of those two, then ignore the information (hell, if it is within those two ignore it!).



    The Min-Maxing community does not actively advocate campaign breakers, or at least the ones who know what "practical optimization" means do not. Those who do either have their tongue in cheek or do not care about the term "practical optimization" for some reason or another. We optimizers have a bad reputation as is (as the title of the thread displays), we do not need more because people don't understand the right terminology.

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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by Weimann View Post
    It's like "ninja" in MMORPGs, they say you are a "ninja" when you steal loot. Why don't they call it "thief"?
    I'm pretty sure the origin of the term Ninja (as inL: ninjaloot) comes from MMO's where loot wasn't locked to the group that killed it, especially when the mobs weren't in instances. So your group could kill Mob x, and some random guy could swoop in and loot it quickly and vanish (like a ninja).

    Quote Originally Posted by Weimann View Post
    I personally can't help but let my choice of mechanics influence my character's concept, and it's therefore useful to optimize towards not just a single mechanical goal, but towards a mix of mechanic competence and flavour. By choosing the optimal mix of traits that support the character concept, both goals can be satisfied and we get a well rounded character.
    There are a fair amount of people who seem to be afraid to admit to this (that is: the fact that they allow their concept to be influenced by the mechanics).
    Last edited by Jayabalard; 2009-10-19 at 12:22 PM.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    I'm pretty sure the origin of the term Ninja (as inL: ninjaloot) comes from MMO's where loot wasn't locked to the group that killed it, especially when the mobs weren't in instances. So your group could kill Mob x, and some random guy could swoop in and loot it quickly and vanish (like a ninja).
    Thanks for the info there, I didn't know. My opinion stands, though :P

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    There are a fair amount of people who seem to be afraid to admit to this (that is: the fact that they allow their concept to be influenced by the mechanics).
    Heh ^^ that's rather silly.

    I don't think that's anything to either aspire to or condemn. Some people can probably split the fluff and crunch up into waterproof containers, but I just can't do that. It's a matter of how you like to do stuff, and when your character feels like a good one.
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    Default Re: The dreaded O word [Optimization]

    I would reinforce that optimization differs from powergaming, and that it is possible to optimize to something other than monster killiness. A player in my current group has built and plays a ranger optimized for extreme range archery. He can accurately hit a target from so far away that he has to use scrying magic to see it. However, he isn't especially more effective in combat that your garden-variety ranger, because the ability to shoot from half a mile doesn't mean much indoors. Another player I know views the rules as an encumbrance, so he optimizes his character for simplicity, so he has to reference as few sourcebooks as possible (and as infrequently as possible).


    On the other hand, you can optimize towards powergaming ends: I am currently building a sorcerer who will specializing in using certain potent metamagic feats with as little cost as possible. I am optimizing one aspect of my character (cheap/easy access to metamagic), but the end result will be a character dramatically more powerful than your garden-variety sorcerer.

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