Building Optimizing and Breaking
This article addresses building a character and the various ways to do so. More specifically it addresses building (simple construction of a character), optimizing (getting the most out of what you want your character to do), and breaking a character (making the DM and other players hate you because you do something too well, making the game less fun for everyone else).
Building a Character:
Building a character is just as it sounds. The thing to remember is that you are building a character… NOT A CHARACTER SHEET! A living breathing person who has their own personality which somehow compliments their abilities and fighting style. Building a character to a flavor is always more interesting than building a character sheet. Always. Period. You can build a good character to flavor. Trust me. Some flavors are harder than others, so ask a DM for advice when creating a good flavorful character. Some flavors work remarkably well and allow you to…
Optimizing a Character:
Be careful with this term. There’s optimizing and there’s “optimizing”. There is optimizing a character, and there is optimizing a character sheet. DON’T OPTIMIZE A CHARACTER SHEET! Build a mother freaking character for the love of Jove. Optimizing a character is when you take feats and learn skills and buy equipment to play to your characters strengths, as well as accommodating for their weaknesses. For example, if your character has poor saves, perhaps you take a feat or buy some equipment to help increase their bonuses to their saves, or gain a class ability that makes them immune to things that would otherwise screw them over. DO NOT MISTAKE OPTIMIZING FOR MIN/MAXING! Min/Maxing is when you weaken your character in one aspect in order to gain strength in another. Notice I say weaken. This doesn’t refer to a neutral balance. Min/Maxing is making something about your character sub-par in exchange for strength in another area. Good examples are playing races that take penalties in exchange for a bonus to a stat or ability. Min/maxing will make you either susceptible to a debilitating thing, or make it such that when the DM sends an encounter that isn’t to your strength you will either be screwed over or unable to do anything useful in the encounter. Optimizing is when you only play to their strengths. Making a fighter really good at using a sword, for example. If you’re looking at optimization forums, beware that a good majority are min/maxing and not truly optimizing. Yes, if you are a fighter wielding a melee weapon, it is a good idea to keep a bow on hand and actually being decent when using it. Not saying you should necessarily take feats to improve your ranged attacks, just that if you make yourself worse at archery than you would be normally you are min/maxing, not optimizing. Stay away from optimization forums in general… they will corrupt you horribly. In short, when “optimizing” work on your strengths, don’t min/max.
Breaking a Character:
“Oh, you dare, do you? Oh you dared. Okay. Roll up a new character, I’m not dealing with it.”
Breaking a character is bad for you, and bad for the campaign. Breaking a character refers to when you “optimize” (and I mean the min/max overpowered you went on a forum you childish punk) and become so powerful in your strength that it becomes a problem. For example, if you build a melee character that can, in one round, singlehandedly kill a hit point/melee type beat stick of a monster that is two challenge ratings higher than your character level, you are broken. If your Armor Class is so high that no creature could ever possibly hit you except on a natural 20, you’re broken. If you are impossible to kill, damage, or otherwise do anything harmful towards, you are broken. If your abilities have absolutely no chance of being avoided except on a natural 20 even by powerful enemies, you are broken. Here is why this is a problem: Firstly, if you cannot be hit except by monsters with rediculous attack bonuses this will happen. The monster cannot miss your allies except on a natural 1. This means that if they get attacked they will probably get their butts handed to them and probably get killed in spite of your “optimization”. Secondly, If your damage output is so high that you nuke every monster ever in 1 round then the DM either has to let all the other players never get a word in edgewise when it comes to combat, or create encounters that either screw you over entirely or have multiple enemies that are incredibly strong which again increases the likelihood that your party members will die. Thirdly, if you are nigh impossible to kill the encounters that would actually pose a challenge to you will probably kill your group. Monsters will see that you are a force to be reckoned with and not even bother to attack you, which will likely result in dead party members. Fourthly, if your abilities are so strong that they are almost impossible to resist, and they completely overcome every encounter you face, the DM has to make more challenging enemies for you to fight that can resist your ability, so either you’ll be screwed and your ability useless, or they will be so resistant that the other players won’t be able to use any of their abilities either. You may think to yourself “So? Just send encounters like you always do. What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that a game where you have the equivalent of god mode isn’t fun for the DM or the other players. Period. If you disagree with this and enjoy being “the most powerful character” then have fun being the most powerful character… by yourself… cause people won’t want to play with you.
Do not break your character. If you do and you are in my campaigns I will either kill of your character, screw your character over royally, or simply tell you to play something else or gtfo my campaign. I want my game to be fun for players (ALL PLAYERS) as well as myself. Don’t power-build your character beyond its breaking point, please. Don’t min/max as the same problem will result. Optimize the character, not the character sheet. Play to their strengths, and minimize their weaknesses. Ask yourself “how can I overcome the one thing that I currently cannot deal with at all?” and find a way to overcome that problem.
More in construction…