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    Default How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    (Question is at the bottom.)

    I’ll be starting a new campaign soon; 4e, though edition isn’t really relevant to my problem. My problem is this: most players in my group min/max within what I call the ‘expected min/max zone.’ They assign their highest ability as their attack stat, they use the equipment that makes sense for their class/build, etc. But two of our players play under the ‘expected zone,’ which I think is a problem because combat tends to drag out in my experience, even with ‘normal’ PCs at the wheel.

    So I want to encourage these two players to min/max more:

    The Friend: Out of the group, this one is the only player I call a true friend. She’s a great role player, but I wish she had just a bit more respect for min/maxing. A few weeks ago I told her that I would offer everyone in my next campaign the option to switch around their racial stat boosts, because I think they only encourage the same old, same old race/class combos. Her reply was “I wouldn’t do that, ‘cause I’m a role player.” (I can already hear the screams of “Stormwind!”) Since this conversations, I’ve decided to rationalize stat switches as ‘individualistic talent’ and ‘subraces.’

    The Biologist: This guy is a simulationist like me, but unlike me he actually expects D&D to be realistic. While my Friend simply can’t be bothered to min/max, this guy actively gimps his characters. He plays melee characters with 12 Str, he plays fighters without armor; all his choices seem to depend on how his character would “realistically” grow, and most of those choices seem to go against the most basic optimization standards. He realizes that he’s gimping his characters for combat, and that we play a healthy number of combat encounters, he just doesn’t seem to care. And I don’t think he gimps his characters because he wants to play putzes, that’s just the way it works out.

    Which is strange because both of these players agree with me that 4e combat takes too long. Even with me shaving HP off of monsters, an encounter with four players and four monsters can take an hour. I’d think that with combat taking so long, they’d at least pick up Expertise (in non-TS campaigns, where feat taxes aren’t house ruled). So anyway:

    How do I gently but effectively encourage a simulationist and a “role player” to min/max their D&D characters just a bit more? How do I concisely and convincingly explain that role playing is not antithetical to min/maxing, and that playing a heroic realistic character is more fun than playing a putz realistic character?

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Kill them all. If you ramp up the difficulty they will be forced to min-max more.
    Or that might just anoy them

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Now I'm not a min/maxer, optomiser, or any of those other terms for people who like to make the "perfect build". But what you want them to do is play effective characters, which I can agree with totally.

    Now in the case of "Friend", find out what she wants to play, and help her build it in a way that she can roleplay what she want to, but is still effective in combat. This will most likely mean sitting down well before the game starts, or on a different night. Have her think her options through, and what those options mean for her character. If she can't be bothered to min/max, see if she is opposed to you helping her.

    As for "Biologist", I've got nothing. I really don't see why you whould intentionally gimp a character in combat in a game which is primarily based on combat. It would be like hanging a sign on your fore head that says "Easy Mark, Please Eat Me."
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Remind them that they are playing a game where they are suppose to be heroes...

    Heroes that face danger at every turn and stare death in the eye...

    @Friend: Ask what is your character's motivation to kill other sentient life-forms and take their stuff... if she gives a response then point out the next logical conclusion would to be the best that you could be at it.

    @Biologist: If he wants to to be a simulationist, ask him why he can be stabbed repeatedly and once every 5 minutes heal himself... in short, D&D 4.0 is not a game that makes for a very good simulation for anything other than fantasy heros fighting... Remember it is just a game...
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    They have characters they like. Don't mess with that. Weaken your encounters a bit (dropping AC might be better than dropping HP) or give them "free" benefits (whether a free feat, a free plus stat, a free magic item, whatever) til they can keep up.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Explain your style to your players. Let them know that while you encourage roleplaying make sure they understand that their characters need to be able to deal with the rigors of adventuring.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Hour long combats? I'd say you're slightly on the long side of average for 4e, at least for a 4 v. 4 encounter of appropriate CR and no weirdness that makes characters split between attacking and using skills (not that such things can't be done well, it just means that fights end either really quickly or really slowly).

    For your friend, find out the kind of character she's in the mood to play, and suggest some strong builds that support it. Suggest several. Even if she doesn't follow them perfectly, it'll get her RP thinking down a vein that is strong. I skew heavily toward interest in RP over optimizing, and that's what I do when I know I need a strong character.

    For the biologist, well, its realistic for adventurers who are terrible at their profession to die, right? A weakling in no armor is toast against a dragon, right? Say that if his character is ill-suited to adventure he will die, probably quickly, so he needs to make sure the guy can hold his own. Not sure what else might work...

    Also, how is saying "No, I don't want to ignore RAW specifically to make a more powerful character" making the Stormwind fallacy? Sounds like she was saying "I'm a roleplayer, I'll play the setting as written" or even "I'm a roleplayer, I'm uncomfortable arbitrarily changing narrative-justified things for any reason".

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    I don't think encouraging min/maxing is necessarily a good idea. My biggest beef with the Stormwind Fallacy is that just because optimization and role-playing aren't mutually exclusive doesn't mean they always go hand in hand.

    If you want to play a character raised as a Soldier from a long line of Soldiers, who happened to be stricken with a childhood illness that left him with a con of 8, that's a perfectly OK character. He justs play to what strengths he does have. Don't have the HP take a full attack? Spring Attack. Throw in Combat Expertise, and you have the makings of a workable build. It's not optimized, but in the hands of a skilled player he can hold his own.

    I can even take this further, if I want to play a 8 Str fighter who's too damned stubborn to stop charging and power attacking, I'll be much lees effective in combat, but if I'm still having fun is it really good DMing to tell me: "You should have less fun playing your character so it will better conform to my optimization standards."?

    Now, if your player isn't having fun playing a gimped character, I would think she'd be much more open to some "suggestions." I can even see it as an RP thing. Your character is using tactics that go against her instincts so as to be a better combatant.


    The only real problem I see if you have heavily optimized characters and not so optimized characters there con be a power rift. My favorite way to remedy this is to limit available material. In my experience, power rifts tend to be less severe if your power gamers aren't utilizing several more splat books than everyone else. Alternatively, you can throw in encounters to deliberately undermine your power gamers' powers. You should throw in some encounters where they can shine, but don't let them always steal the scene. This kind of balancing act can be difficult, but also effective.

    Heck, you can also throw in more non-combat encounters to play to whatever strengths these characters do have. Not every character should have to be combat-centric to contribute.

    Maybe it's because I just can't imaging be so intent on optimized table top miniature combat that I can't have fun if not everyone wants to play the same way I do, but I can't see why there can't be a game for all kinds of charatcers.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Pull no punches. Simulate reality. Eventually, only chars that can survive will be around.

    I think it's kinda stupid that Average Joe (or worse, weaker than average) can kill a dragon/monsters. No reason your other average commoners can't go kill monsters too, making you obsolete.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Q-Steve, I think you need to check for entanglement with an unknown particle, because there's information I'm missing ;)

    Here's the gist of it:
    They like their game.
    They like their characters.
    They're firmly attached to their comfort levels.

    Have you heard the phrase:
    "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?"
    Well it's a lie. You can totally give that equine a frigging saline IV.

    System, to put it lightly, matters.
    Neither of these players is suited to 4e, where weak opti-fu isn't as bad as 3e, but it's certainly not a good thing. In some ways, this particular player type takes it the hardest, because in 4e a lot of the more "interesting" feats are less useful, where things like expertise are practically essential.

    Your game is broken, not your players.
    They're having a ton of fun, one of them is a really close friend, etc. You need a system that transparently provides them with a generally equally-optimal experience, and in a sense, lacks the deep variance between okay and great characters that D&D promotes.

    Problem:
    There are almost no systems like this.
    Problem:
    You probably like 4e.
    Problem:
    There's nothing wrong with that.
    Problem:
    This leaves us painted into a corner.

    If you want, we can talk about this more directly, and maybe I can offer some more direct advice re: helping you out without disrupting things. In fact, I recommend it.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    'The Friend' sounds quite a lot like me (Though I don't think I'd turn down the racial stat switches ), forever torn between taking useless but flavourful feats, and being combat effective. I've found that talking things through with the group optimizer is very helpful with regards to keeping the flavour I want for characters, without completely gimping them. So like others suggested, talk things through with her, give her some options, and see if she's willing to compromise a little for the sake of keeping the game fast and fun for the other players.

    As for the other guy? Fighters with no armour? No ideas.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    I wish my rules-fu for 4e were stronger, so my advice could be more cogent to your current situation. Encouraging more CO in 3.X is sometimes as simple as paring down the list of available PrCs to only those that actually work well (I think sonofzeal has them compiled around here somewhere). Eliminating obvious traps and bad choices from the table can help give everyone a bit of a boost.

    Perhaps the Paragon paths and similar in 4e can be similarly guided?

    Otherwise, I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned 'Stormwind.' It sounds like you have a couple of players who think that intelligent choices that allow a professional violent hobo to be better at his/her job are anathema to how the game should be played. One counter argument to this (that doesn't throw valid internet-generated fallacies at your friends) is that adventuring is your character's major, or career. Those that go into college with a clear idea of their major, and who work to get through their prerequisites faster, generally excel more than the party animals who wander aimlessly from class to class. Similarly, those who work to progress career skills that are most valuable to their actual field will tend to get promoted over those who do not advance those skills.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Heres a trick I've been thinking of implementing, that may or may not help. Take out all the useless "Interesting" feats. Tell players that they can just do them. See what happens.

    Haven't tried it yet, but it may very well work.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fallbot View Post
    As for the other guy? Fighters with no armour? No ideas.
    Fighter with no armor and low strength? Avenger.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gralamin View Post
    Heres a trick I've been thinking of implementing, that may or may not help. Take out all the useless "Interesting" feats. Tell players that they can just do them. See what happens.

    Haven't tried it yet, but it may very well work.
    Do you mean like the 3e Ranger gets the Track feat, but how in Oathfinder anyone with Survival worth a crap can track? Or do you mean the more feeble '+2 diplomacy whel interacting with an elf whose uncle your shacked up with' as oposed to Skill Focus 'intresting'? I'd say go for it, but that's a lot of stuff to keep track of depending on what rules you're using. My technique that I plan to use soon is to actually use the flaw system - but make it intresting, and make it so the flaws come with those intresting feats - as in, say a character had a homebrewed Gynephobia flaw (DC 15 Will save or avoid women), he could pick up the Investigator feat from Eberron.

    [A weird thought just entered my mind of a DnD rendered Adrian Monk]

    Edit: Oh, right, 4e. Haven't played that in a while. No real feats come to mind for the system I suggested, sorry. I'd say just play Pathfinder if you can get the book cheap, but I respect the fact that 4e has a pretty balanced combat system.
    Last edited by TheMinxTail; 2010-04-12 at 06:23 AM.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2xMachina View Post
    Pull no punches. Simulate reality. Eventually, only chars that can survive will be around.
    This. Their disparate powerlevel is a problem because you're having difficulty designing encounters, right? Then just tailor the encounters to the majority of the group. You don't have to tamper with their characters, which they like. At least, not directly.
    The roleplayer will either live on (no problem) or get chance to express more varieties of character concepts (most roleplayers I've met are fairly abundant in that aspect). The "simulationist" will either live on (through luck or creativity) or have to re-calibrate his understanding of what is "realistic" for an adventuring party.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2xMachina View Post
    Pull no punches. Simulate reality. Eventually, only chars that can survive will be around.

    I think it's kinda stupid that Average Joe (or worse, weaker than average) can kill a dragon/monsters. No reason your other average commoners can't go kill monsters too, making you obsolete.
    Except that's not at all how 4E works.

    Average Joe could go kill dragons - the only thing preventing him from doing so is that he is not a Player Character. 4E does not have versimilitude in that respect, at all.

    I'm inclined to agree to leave the characters alone - just tune down the encounters appropriately.

    I've been part of a group that went the other way, we optimized too much, and found it easy to defeat standard challenges. Rather than trying to get us to weaken our characters in the metagame, our DM just started throwing higher-level challenges at us until we were appropriately challenged again.
    Last edited by Indon; 2010-04-12 at 09:22 AM.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    For all the people who suggest to let them play their ineffective characters and dumb down the challenges to meet them...aren't we missing a key part of this equation, namely the feelings of the other half of the group? Do the two players who are meeting the bare minimum standards of effectiveness mind having these characters with them, or do they also dislike having semi-dead weight in their party? How will they feel when you bring monster encounters down to the lowest common denominator so that Joe Q. Biologist can beat anemic wyrmlings with his low-Str, low-Wis unarmored Fighter?
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    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    The problem with the "Leave them alone, they're enjoying it" mentality is(Note: OP is vague on how many PCs in his group), as far as I can tell, that these two players are a minority, not the majority. Ignoring anti-optimization when most the group optimizes is just asking the rest of the group to put up with an Elan(from OotS) who has no intention of becoming more powerful. Its down-right disruptive, and kinda offensive to players who actually optimize at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by QuantumSteve View Post
    I don't think encouraging min/maxing is necessarily a good idea. My biggest beef with the Stormwind Fallacy is that just because optimization and role-playing aren't mutually exclusive doesn't mean they always go hand in hand.
    Then your biggest beef with the Stormwind Fallacy isn't with the Stormwind Fallacy.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    Except that's not at all how 4E works.

    Average Joe could go kill dragons - the only thing preventing him from doing so is that he is not a Player Character. 4E does not have versimilitude in that respect, at all.

    I'm inclined to agree to leave the characters alone - just tune down the encounters appropriately.

    I've been part of a group that went the other way, we optimized too much, and found it easy to defeat standard challenges. Rather than trying to get us to weaken our characters in the metagame, our DM just started throwing higher-level challenges at us until we were appropriately challenged again.
    ... more reason for me not to try 4e.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    The Friend:
    Very much a case of Stormwind. If you increase the difficulty, this lovely quote springs to mind "You can't role-play when you're dead". Optimized characters are just as easy to role-play, cheesed are where it gets hard. A soldier who is strong and smart - obviously from a military academy doing officer courses, or whatever the equivalent is.

    The Biologist:
    A simulation... Well the weak adventures tend to die quite early in their endeavours, where'd you think all the monsters loot comes from? If he enjoys the challenge of playing sub-par characters against the odds, nothing wrong with that, just don't pull the punches at all. A game where you can simulate a weak guy and never actually be in danger is rather boring compared to a god fighting other gods. One wrong move and you could die, gives extra thrill.


    All in all, my two shiny coins say don't force them to by telling them too, strongly suggest they do with how you play, no pulling of punches, no easy missions. Adapt or die.
    Though that might be a bit heavy handed...
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    OP isn't too vague, it says 4 players, so I'm assuming this is representative of half the group.

    That said, I'd say the roleplayer isn't too bad off, in a vacuum anyway, even choosing suboptimal class-race combos in 4e, as long as you still put your highest stat into your attack stat, you'll probably be doing decently enough. If you're a striker, you'll still have decent damage output even, provided one of your secondaries is buffed by one of your racial boosts. I was going to cite my 4e game as an example, we have a dwarf chaos sorcerer, but then I remembered that we got an array that's slightly stronger than the usual pb system, but I guess I'll point out anyway that the dwarf sorcerer is still earning his keep in a group with half-elf paladin, elven ranger, elven druid.

    Your "realist" is going to generally just need a talking to I think. Just explain that you have different expectations for the game, and for this particular game, would he please focus a bit more on character effectiveness, rather than organic growth.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kylarra View Post
    OP isn't too vague, it says 4 players, so I'm assuming this is representative of half the group.
    OP says this:

    My problem is this: most players in my group min/max within what I call the ‘expected min/max zone.’
    He then also gives a sample encounter, but doesn't say that he typically has fights with 4 monsters vs. 4 pcs, so we can't assume that either is a 'standard'.

    I prefer to say 'vague' rather than 'contradictory', hence my word choice.
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    The problem with the "Leave them alone, they're enjoying it" mentality is(Note: OP is vague on how many PCs in his group), as far as I can tell, that these two players are a minority, not the majority. Ignoring anti-optimization when most the group optimizes is just asking the rest of the group to put up with an Elan(from OotS) who has no intention of becoming more powerful. Its down-right disruptive, and kinda offensive to players who actually optimize at all.
    If they were that small a portion of the group, then they would not be making combats significantly longer, and the DM could compensate by only dropping encounter difficulty slightly.

    The gap between the nonoptimizers of the group and the optimizers of the group is unlikely to be that big in any case - 4E may be built with some optimization in mind, but it's simply not built with the synergistic options that make it as important as it is in 3rd edition.

    And no, it's really neither disruptive or offensive. Whyever would you think it to be either of those? I mean, how is not playing a character as powerful as another guy's actually offensive to that person?

    Seriously.

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    Then your biggest beef with the Stormwind Fallacy isn't with the Stormwind Fallacy.
    It's with the fact that people think the concept behind the Stormwind Fallacy means anything.

    Yes, it's theoretically possible to both roleplay and optimize. But people still have priorities and benefit accordingly from setting and following them.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    If they were that small a portion of the group, then they would not be making combats significantly longer, and the DM could compensate by only dropping encounter difficulty slightly.

    The gap between the nonoptimizers of the group and the optimizers of the group is unlikely to be that big in any case - 4E may be built with some optimization in mind, but it's simply not built with the synergistic options that make it as important as it is in 3rd edition.

    And no, it's really neither disruptive or offensive. Whyever would you think it to be either of those? I mean, how is not playing a character as powerful as another guy's actually offensive to that person?

    Seriously.
    I think you are talking a very different level of disparity that the rest of this thread is. If they are simply suboptimal, this wouldn't be much of a problem. The difference is obviously enough to cause friction.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Szar_Lakol View Post
    I think you are talking a very different level of disparity that the rest of this thread is. If they are simply suboptimal, this wouldn't be much of a problem. The difference is obviously enough to cause friction.
    Nah, combat's just slow and the DM's wondering how to speed it up, and he sees the power discrepancy as an obvious target.

    Hell, you don't even need to not optimize to get slow combat - if, say, your group has fewer strikers/more controllers or leaders than normal, combat can take forever even if everyone's optimized (it's just that the monsters will be taking a whole lot of really ineffective turns, or the players will be taking convoluted superbuffed ones). My more-powerful-than-normal group spent a phase being controller-heavy (basically, everyone was sub-controller, and we had two controllers) and striker-light, very long combats as a result.

    But really, power doesn't actually increase combat speed very much. Players who play fast, and characters that play with fewer buffs and debuffs to track, that increases combat speed.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    The problem with the "Leave them alone, they're enjoying it" mentality is(Note: OP is vague on how many PCs in his group), as far as I can tell, that these two players are a minority, not the majority. Ignoring anti-optimization when most the group optimizes is just asking the rest of the group to put up with an Elan(from OotS) who has no intention of becoming more powerful. Its down-right disruptive, and kinda offensive to players who actually optimize at all.
    In his example there are 2 players who don´t optimize next he talks about having 4 players and 4 enemies against them so I assume it´s a group of 4 players - where is that majority ?

    There are enough reasons why 2 combat optimized characters have two characters in the party that are not very good at combat but have other qualities the group lags otherwise.
    If you need some hints how this works, there is more then enough fantasy literature in which this is the case. Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Riftwar Saga etc.

    The two players in question clearly have other priorities then combat when they create their characters which is perfectly fine. To tell them that they play the game the wrong way is disrespectful on the other hand

    Additionally I don´t see why it should bother the two optimizers they can have all the fun they want from combat and no one is likely to steal the glory of winning the encounter from them So they are happy, the other players are happy (op said so atleast) so why change things?
    Last edited by Emmerask; 2010-04-12 at 10:43 AM.

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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    And no, it's really neither disruptive or offensive. Whyever would you think it to be either of those? I mean, how is not playing a character as powerful as another guy's actually offensive to that person?
    That's not what I asserted.

    But if you must: Traveling with Elan is like say, adventuring with Syphilis. It can be done, for a while, but it's not easy, and it's not pretty.

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    It's with the fact that people think the concept behind the Stormwind Fallacy means anything.
    I'm confused as to what you're attempting to say here. Could you elaborate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    There are enough reasons why 2 combat optimized characters have two characters in the party that are not very good at combat but have other qualities the group lags otherwise.
    If you need some hints how this works, there is more then enough fantasy literature in which this is the case. Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Riftwar Saga etc.
    Fantasy Literature is riff with examples of things you shouldn't do at the gaming table. Referencing them isn't really helpful to the conversation. Yes, a player with valuable non-combat capabilities could find a place in a group that's else-wise fighter-types. But we have no reason given by the OP that such is the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    The two players in question clearly have other priorities then combat when they create their characters which is perfectly fine. To tell them that they play the game the wrong way is disrespectful on the other hand
    Kinda like telling someone that driving with their eyes closed is the wrong way to drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    Additionally I don´t see why it should bother the two optimizers they can have all the fun they want from combat and no one is likely to steal the glory of winning the encounter from them So they are happy, the other players are happy (op said so atleast) so why change things?
    Because the OP said that there's an apparent problem.
    Last edited by Godskook; 2010-04-12 at 10:55 AM.
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    I started my first campaign around a campfire, having pancakes. They were blueberry.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Um, how about just fewer encounters? If they're not super-interested in min/maxing then they are probably not achievement oriented players, at least not in terms of whooping mob butt.

    Changing people is hard and takes a lot of energy. Focusing on something else in your campaign is probably simpler.
    Black text is for sarcasm, also sincerity. You'll just have to read between the lines and infer from context like an animal

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    Eldritch Horror in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: How to Encourage Min/Maxing?

    Actually, what the OP said is that He percieves a problem. As the DM, his opinion is certainly valid...but as I mentioned once above, we don't know how the remaining 50% of the group feels, the ones that aren't actively gimping themselves for RP or 'realism'. If they feel like the OP does, then it's necessary for the two lowballers to stop weighing down their party - if they're not bothered by the situation, weakening monsters is a valid option.
    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel, on quest rewards View Post
    "Is a stack of ten pancakes too many pancakes to give to the party, even if most of them fell on the floor and one or two were stepped on? I wanted to give my party pancakes as a reward but I'm unsure if it's too much. The pancakes are also laced with blowfish poison so the party would have to get an antitoxin before they could eat the ones which weren't pulverized by shoes."

    I don't think anyone would want those pancakes even if you paid them to eat them.

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