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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I've recently taken on a liking to writing characters who are not optimized for NPCs. The reasoning? Because I think don't think a character needs to be optimized to be effective, and certainly from a fluff stand point, not all people are going to be thinking about their career in terms of optimization. some people will take the less than optimal path for whatever reason they may have.

    Thus, insert the "expert/wizard NPC who took a couple years off of studying magic to make some extra money on the side so he can pay for his tuition" sort of thing.

    But at the same time, it's hard to not acknowledge the fact that certain people ARE going to optimize the hell out of themselves to be the best at what they do. But to me, this strikes me as something of a rare occurance, as that kind of drive also requires a grave amount of sacrifice on other portion of the person's life.

    The thing is, this mentality also creates another problem in terms of design philosophy: builds. A lot of PCs will plan out their build prior to playing. That's all well and good, but then the growth is pre-determined in many ways somewhat defeats the purpose of the roleplaying. This is not to say that roleplaying cannot happen in conjunction to this planned growth, but rather I feel that roleplaying should, when appropriate, have statistical effects on your character that is meaningful to the game.

    This is why I favor organic growth. The problem is, D&D is not very suitable for this sort of thing. In fact, the D&D class system almost REQUIRES that you plan out your growth. (i.e. PrCs)

    Is this a delimma that is common among you guys?

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    BlueWizardGirl

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Well, if you're really talking about NPC's...yeah, most of mine aren't optimized. They're there for support, to provide a certain kind of interaction, and fine-tuning their abilities is rarely required.

    Besides, for opponent NPC's, I can always throw in some levels, extra hit dice, or templates that don't really add to the challenge of an opponent, and simply even it all out in my head when it comes to XP. Heck, sometimes I'll do that on the fly to make an encounter with a certain archetype or creature race more memorable. "Ah yes, you've defeated many ogres before - but never this swirly-mass-of-tentacles-that-stomps-on-your-head Pseudonatural ogre!"
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I actually do the contrary. I try to optimize every important NPC as if it was a player (using a few "templates" designed for optimization), and change a few aspects of mooks, like swapping Alertness for something useful, like Improved Initative.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Most of my NPCs aren't statted, unless they have a reason to be. Enemies get the full package, merchants and other 'i'm going to see this NPC' characters usually get just their skill modifiers. The actual stated out NPCs are usually fairly optimized.

    As my players are finding out. :P
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    Kurald Galain's Avatar

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I find there isn't a real need to optimize NPCs - if you need an NPC to be stronger for whatever reason, you can always make him a few levels higher, no sweat.
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lochar View Post
    Most of my NPCs aren't statted, unless they have a reason to be. Enemies get the full package, merchants and other 'i'm going to see this NPC' characters usually get just their skill modifiers. The actual stated out NPCs are usually fairly optimized.

    As my players are finding out. :P


    My NPCs are usually just made up off the top of my head, but for important people, I definitely optimize them.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    PirateGuy

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Whenever I optimize NPCs, players tend to die.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I usually optimize my NPCs, especially the major ones. The BBEG in my campaign is very detailed with a complex background. I usually run campaigns for very experienced gamers, so I know they can handle it. However, my campaigns are largely role-play based, with less of an emphasis on combat (we don't even use a battle mat) so if I need something more or less powerful, I just wing it on the fly.
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Important villains are definitely optimized (some even have max HP, depending on the situation). Merchant-type NPCs have class levels listed, but they don't really have anything but skill modifiers and probably ability scores.


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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I optimize the enemy NPCs so they're a challenge. The ally NPCs I purposely underoptimize so the players will do most of the work. And because my players hate NPCs helping them out.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Quote Originally Posted by elliott20 View Post
    But at the same time, it's hard to not acknowledge the fact that certain people ARE going to optimize the hell out of themselves to be the best at what they do. But to me, this strikes me as something of a rare occurance, as that kind of drive also requires a grave amount of sacrifice on other portion of the person's life.
    Yeah. Combat monkeys aren't the best friends to keep. Social campaigns truly are the great equalizer... except for diplomacy tweaked bards.

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    Enzario's Avatar

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I always optimize my NPCs, in battle or out (but, as said by others, merchants and those not so likely to be fighting generally just get munchkin-like skill modifiers). If you don't come out of combat bleeding, in general looking like Sylvester Stalone, and scared $&!%less, your DM isn't doing his job. Optimization is a two-way street.
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Oh, and on topic, I don't optimize my NPCs, but when my players do gain a name for themselves, evil people DO tend to send people BUILT to defeat them, optimized or not. If you're known as using gunpowder as your prime tactic, the opponent would be smart to choose a damp environment.
    Last edited by Dairun Cates; 2007-10-23 at 09:14 PM.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I've only optimized one of my NPCs; usually I just throw them together at the last minute, and end up having the death of Caesar reenacted on them in two rounds.

    ...and then there was Zora. I created her because I was sick of the above Death-of-Caesaring in my Exalted games, and ended up with the opposite problem--for all but one of the PCs, she was just too good. If they attacked, odds are she'd defend; if they hit, they'd generally only ping--and no matter what, she'd counterattack. She'd nearly fought them to a standstill before I was even quite done putting her scenelongs up. (The rematch went slightly better; I wasn't sure whether or not to be happy about that. At least they quit complaining.)
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I don't really optimize my NPCs, but I will use the same character creation rules for the important NPCs as my players use, so they at least have a chance at victory. I also only bother fully statting out the important NPC; merchants and the like may get skills, but sometimes only get names.
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Most of the time, for a given value of 'optimize'. I don't generally stat out lesser NPCs, but I do make the more important ones as powerful as I can without making them something I don't want them to be.
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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I optimize my BBEGs to the point that they will be a challenge to my PCs. Which means that if I have a blast-it wizard, a monk, a 2WF ranger, and a healbot cleric, my BBEG might waste feats on Skill Focus or Improved Toughness.

    If I have a batman wizard, a PA frenzied berserker barbarian, and CoDzilla cleric or druid, and a (I can't think of a way to make rogue sound broken in a few words), The PCs can expect to face a very heavily optimized, intelligently run villain, with very high base stats and possibly gestalt 3-4 levels above them. For the BBEG. Which for me is the final boss of the campaign, when te PCs are all level 19-21, and they aren't necessarily supposed to win. They generally do though, with fatalaties.
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  19. - Top - End - #19
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I have to either optimise them or make them stupidly high-level. Why? Because it's the only way I can keep my players from killing them on a whim

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    Mad Mask's Avatar

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Most of the time I don't optimize my NPCs. Hell, some of them aren't even statted ! Like the NPC seudo-adventurers of a campaign, they often don't deserve much screen time, so I usally develop something on the fly.
    As for BBEGs and important minions (not just mooks), they are usually homebrew monsters or custom characters who have the abilities that are needed for them.

    And yes, I'm a very rule-lite DM.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Yes. It's fun. I also don't think it's really meaningful to give them stuff like Expert/Aristocrat levels or Skill Focus (underwater basket weaving). Your players will never find out about all of the fluffy feats you gave them anyway, so I like to just let such things come up through actual interactions with the NPCs.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I rarely optimize them in the sense of making them really good in combat, if only because generally in D&D optimization is best served by a really good offense, and that just kills characters without making the fight necessarily more interesting.

    However, I do take steps to make sure that their defensive capabilities are decent enough to keep them alive, they have plenty of minions to make the PCs think tactically, and their powers or spells are flashy.
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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I usually optimize when I have an NPC not meant to die. Like Thunderbolt, a kobold barkeep. I figured in a group of mostly CE PC's, he might as well be wearing a shirt that said 'FODDER'. So what I did was make him a 10th level rogue/10th level swashbuckler, gave him the normal cash amount for a PC of his level, and dumped that all into a vest of Cha +6 and a really good rapier.I figured his story was he's a retired adventurer who got so much gold and adventure he'd finally had enough and went to a little town to open a tavern(The Dragon's Thumb). I also optimized him like crazy. If he was attacked, I wanted the PC's to pay for it.

    Sadly, he was not.
    Last edited by Krimm_Blackleaf; 2007-10-24 at 06:01 AM.
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  24. - Top - End - #24
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I do it completely the other way around. Since I know the party's stats, I can engineer the NPCs and monsters accordingly, thinking about how often I want them to hit, how often I want them to be hit, what powers they'll need. Then I build them to fit that spec. Sometimes it's difficult to reach the desired combination of abilities (enough AC without too much BAB or whatever) while still using reasonable-sounding classes and templates and things (no, the king is not a Monk, nor does the barmaid have a prestige class... ), but I usually seem to manage it.

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    The Mormegil's Avatar

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I do. A lot. But not in the way people generally do.

    I actually have every enemy with maxed out hp, multiplied by two. That is for keeping them alive.

    The biggest problem, anyway is that my characters are never equally powerful: I can balance out melee vs ca<sters using immunities and weaknesses to make my wizard think about what of his numerous spells will be good, and by letting it be GOOD but not lethal (i.e.: no, shivering touch doesn't work. He has full ranks in Balance. He's got mettle. He's mind-immune. What should you do? Oh, right, Otto's Irresistible dance, plus letting the others fight. But wait, he's got right-that-ability that makes him have a standard action if subject to Irresistible Dance). But having a TWF ranger with three attacks at +9/+4/-1 and a spellsword whose damage output exceeded 300 (actually happened!!) in the same group was a headache. I generally resolve it splitting the group with Wall of X and the like, and have them kill different threats. Or I place a shortsword of DOOM in the hands of the ranger and making the BBEG with DR 200/shortswords of DOOM. Quite done it, really...

    Anyway, greatest example for NPC optimization in my games? An ECL 20 with unlimited feats (who'll ever know?) gestalt Swordsage/Warblade with a major artifact against an ECL 16-17 group w/o Batmans... I didn't exaggerated thought, since his best attack (1500 average damage) was useless against a PC, difficult to land against another and lethal against the two casters (why shouldn't they fly? He can't, although he can jump quite well...). Add in that he was planned to kill the whole party if needed, and you have a good example of optimized homebrewed NPC.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    I rarely optmize NPCs, unless I need them tougher for strong parties, like making mooks more competitive, like Azerian Kelimon said.
    Sometimes I do throw in a more complex NPC here and there, but most of them go by flavor (not every fighter/barbarian is a shock trooper leap attacking great axe wielding monster, not every wizard has contingency and levels in 5 different prestige classes, not all clerics/druids fight better than fighters...)
    Only real important NPCs are optmized. I plan in using that glaive-wielding tripping self-healing crusader as a BBeG in my campaign.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Roleplaying notes come first, basic mechanics come second, optimized builds come third, if at all.

    As some other commentators in this thread, I usually only optimize the important NPCs, and "wing it" with the rest.
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  28. - Top - End - #28
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roderick_BR View Post
    I plan in using that glaive-wielding tripping self-healing crusader as a BBeG in my campaign.


    Sorry, just had to post it. okay I'm done.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Mormegil View Post
    Anyway, greatest example for NPC optimization in my games? An ECL 20 with unlimited feats (who'll ever know?) gestalt Swordsage/Warblade with a major artifact against an ECL 16-17 group w/o Batmans... I didn't exaggerated thought, since his best attack (1500 average damage) was useless against a PC, difficult to land against another and lethal against the two casters (why shouldn't they fly? He can't, although he can jump quite well...). Add in that he was planned to kill the whole party if needed, and you have a good example of optimized homebrewed NPC.
    That's not optimization at all. That's the antithesis of optimization. Optimization is creating a character that is strong for his ECL/CR, not apply rule zero times a billion to make something incredibly weak for the system used to create it.

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    Default Re: How often do you optimize your NPCs?

    My NPCs usually are winged out (whatever that means...it came into my head and sounded perfect though!), stat wise, if they have levels in a player class, stat them normally (4d6-lowestd6, arrange accordingly), for those with NPC levels (3d6, arrange acordingly) I do them slightly less tough, and for commoners, they're awfully statted (3d6, in order). I was a tad annoyed, the latest BBEG for a low level party, long story short...he was a challenge, for the entire party, fully healed, full spells, etc. So what do they do? Injured, and almost out of spells (cleric all out, sorcerer had one or two left and a wand of cure light wounds with 2 charges left)...they split up. And the pally and the sorcerer ended up against the BBEG. Heh, I awaited the carnage. The pally was downed, the sorcerer zapped him the the wand, BBEG screws up an arrow shot, pally charges and crits, sorcerer zaps BBEG with a magic missle, BBEG swings sword at pally, misses, pally crits again...and takes the BBEG to about -8hp. That was slightly disapointing. Needless to say, the pair of them fared better than the other three who ended up against the goblin cook and his pet. They were nearly killed. That side of the party ended up with two party members only just managing to stabalise before death, and the party cleric was out of spells at the begining. So from hereonin, the BBEGs might be tougher...
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