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 Post subject: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 5:07 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:36 am
Posts: 1554
In a discussion, I pointed out to someone they had put their character together a bit slapdash, with a focus on acquiring things because they sounded cool. They didn't deny it, they didn't even care, because "in Arcanis min maxing isn't heavily rewarded"

I figure I should put my response out there, allow other people to comment on it, see what kind of mature group response we can generate.

So yeah, you can play your character as a loose set of rules, and let them be defined by the names of the backgrounds and paths they have taken. I personally don't care for this style of play. I played a "faceless" character for a majority of the first arc of the campaign, she was largely unmemorable, the only thing about her that I remember is that she was kinda Hainese, and that she was a Sorcerer Priest.

At some point I "developed" Delbert, he might be the easiest character for me to play, he is based on a caricature of my grandpa's personality (who's middle name is Delbert), the vocal affectation Delbert has is pretty similar to my grandpa's only turned up to 11, and when faced with a moral choice that's not clear cut, I ask my self what would grandpa say. ay some point this character became much more alive than most of my previous Arcanis characters. and consequentially I have much more fun because of that.

But Delbert isn't defined by the mechanics that comprise him, people would probably consider him optimized ( for combat maybe? ) I tend to think that there effective builds and ineffective builds and while some concepts are more difficult to create (or even impossible ) most concepts are easy to create if you pick a few things that work together to create something that synthesizes an effective build.


please remember to play nice on this subject since we as a group are wont to get up in arms about topics like this, I do however encourage people to discuss how they feel about the matter

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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:05 pm 
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It seems to me that you're describing two different issues.

The first issue is one of mechanics. Some players design characters that are 'optimized', and others design characters that are not. As an example, one of my wife's characters has the Apothecary talent, despite the fact that she doesn't use it and it doesn't really have any in-game benefit for her at the moment. She has the talent because it fits her character's background, and she likes it. I prefer to design characters that don't have extraneous baggage. If a talent/skill point/etc isn't going to directly advance my character in some tangible way, I generally avoid it.

The second issue is one of personality. Some characters almost have a life of their own. Many people have characters that they keep coming back to, and re-making under different systems and rulesets. My Nol Dappan priest, for instance, started his life in Living City (3.0 D&D) as a priest of Kossuth (actually became certed as the High Priest of Kossuth in Ravensbluff, before the campaign ended). I've been playing him, or a variation on him, for a long time. He does not react to situations the way I would, or the way my other characters do. In a curious way, he has his own personality. With that said, I have other characters that I haven't been playing for as long, who haven't developed their own personality or style. Some people will even go so far as to write out long backgrounds for their character.

In short, I think that you can have characters that either are or are not optimized from a mechanics standpoint, and they can either be well developed or not, from a roleplaying standpoint. I don't think the two are necessarily related to each other.

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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:52 pm 
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
They may be two different issues, but they are fundamentally linked. Also we have to take into account the difference between min-maxed and jack-of-all-trades characters. The former are great at one thing only (see other discussion about Pocket Caster), the latter tend not to be good at anything but can do a little of everything alright. With that in mind, I absolutely know people who will take a min-maxed character or a jack-of-all-trades and make them interesting personalities, just as much as I know people who will take a well-rounded character and never develop them at all as people.

The way I've always seen it, the mechanics provide you the framework of what is possible. You can contort them only so far because functionally the rules are what they are. However, the RP side is what ties everything together and makes the game fun. It's what puts flesh on the bones that are the mechanics, what breathes life into them. Any mechanics build can be fun to play with the right personality, even a jack-of-all-trades.

I'm not sure this really addresses the original point raised though: Things like "grabbing things because they sounded cool," and "slapdash characters" make me wonder what people are really getting out of it. For me, the roleplay is what makes the game. Clearly for others it's the loot. Which makes no sense to me, because the 'loot' is an intangible thing in a made up game. At best, it's a piece of paper, in the same way that loot in an online game is just bits of data. Whether min maxing is rewarded or not, why do people play Arcanis? That, I think is the core question. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.

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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:38 am 
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Location: Portland OR
This a great question, though I doubt that we will arrive at a consensus answer. Different players have different takes on the core element of the game.

One of the GREAT things about the 3rd Editions DMG 2 was to talk about the different types of people who play RPGs and the different things they primarily want to "take away" from the gaming table. Beyond a simple divide between "Roll Players" and "Role Players" it went on to discuss differences between a "power gamer" (constant improvement of mechanical abilities to excel in combat), a "thinker" (wants to outsmart the opposition and score an easy win) and a "slayer" (wants to look badass while destroying the opposition). Or an "explorer" (want to peel the layers of the onion of the campaign world) and a "thespians" (wants to help guide a great story-line) and a "goof-ball" (who enjoys getting his or her character into narrative trouble ... and out again). Of course by turns almost everyone dips into each of the player archtypes. Still one is probably dominant. Personally I run towards an explorer most often and I am grateful that there is such a rich sandbox to poke around in.

A player who is an Explorer at heart probably finds it irritating when continuity discrepancies crop up...that undermines the process of exploration and discovery to have facts change. I know I personally grumbled to myself when Sarishian Steel was described as red in a couple of places in the crusade arc (last arc it was green). Guaranteed to have essentially no impact on campaign play. If the discrepancies are not not critical to the story-line a thespian type player might not care. By not care I also mean, may not even notice.

So in a long winded & round about way, what I'm getting at is that different styles of play and players each have different ideas about what "Effectiveness" means. Or optimization. Though really in the end I think it boils down to how much you enjoy the time you spend at the table. Effective characters are fun to play. Effective tables have enough overlapping interests that everyone agrees ... or everyone enjoys the working out of the disagreements and still has a good time.

One last thing I'll note is that not all styles and people mix perfectly. I personally do not especially enjoy gaming with people who are heavily into the "slayer" mind set (which I personally find 1 dimensional) or with some "goof-balls" whose antics reduce or eliminating the choices of other party members. Some people don't especially like power-gamers. Or thespians. Or Thinkers. Maybe some people get bored when explorer types sift for tidbits of information that have nothing to do with the plot at hand.... So find people you like to play with, or embrace not knowing what you're going to encounter when you sit down.

Did I say that was the last thing? <sigh> Sometimes I'm such a liar. :P I think its implied that by optimization your are referring to the part of the game that involves rolling dice. In this game there are basically skills and talents (perhaps you can include attributes). There is obviously synergy between your mental concept and your ability to "bring it" with well constructed mechanics. Bringing it means having the right number of ranks to make a skill useful and perhaps the right talents to add extra options (bloodlines, spell casting) or more "boom" (Weapon Mastery, Smite Infidel). If you want to be "combat effective" at something you need 2-4 ranks at start and be able to raise it by an average of 3 skill ranks per tier and maybe some talent support. I would call that optimized. I call something "invested" if its being raised by 2 ranks per tier. Probably not optimized, but good enough to regularly beat a DC 15 skill check (eventually good enough to beat a DC 20 check). If you are only putting 1 rank per tier I call it "dabbling." A DC: 15 skill check is something you still fail at with some frequency.

How you choose what your character does, is entirely up to you! Putting a package that makes sense thematically as opposed to "this sounds cool" to me makes little difference if you enjoy playing that character. As Josh has noted in another threat its easy to be good at two things. Or okay at several. Its hard to suck at everything :D And its impossible to do a lot of things at an optimized level.

OKAY. Finally. A little secret. More often than not, I design my characters around a mini I have or have seen. That's usually where my ideas come from.

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. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:50 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:36 am
Posts: 1554
Wow I'm going to have to dig up my DMG2 and look another look at that information, but your surmise is correct some of those player types don't mix very well.

Furthermore, I would go out on a limb and postulate that the nature and execution of the shared world arcanis campaign plays up some of those roles (explorers and thinkers) and downplays other roles (goofballs). I'm not sure if that comes from a majority of the population or from the rules themselves leaning in one way.

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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:43 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 6:45 pm
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I would like to add to Eric's commentary on the types of players. Not every player fits well into a single "Type". I'd argue that none do. Rather they are blending's of several different "types" which tend to surface at different times.

Take myself for example. I'm sure that I could be classified into the Goof-Ball category at times, particularly when playing one of my Heretical PC's. But I also consider myself to be an Explorer and Thinker. I do not fit well with thespians because I just can't seem to play at their level of acting. Acting has never been a strong suit for me. But I enjoy watching them a lot. I simply can't stand to play with slayers. I don't mind GMing a table of slayers as much, but if all you are doing in combat is soaking up damage, and dishing it out. Well, I can get that kind of entertainment at a computer game.

I agree with Eric that you either have to be adaptable when playing with a random group of players. Or select co-players based on the type of game that you wish to play with. Keep in mind you can dislike a person's play style without disliking the person. But if you take the attitude that your going to push anybody out of the sandbox who's sand castle looks different that yours, you will find that the sandbox gets pretty lonely pretty fast.

One last thing I'd point out. Everyone at an RPG table may play by the same rules but unlike a board game they all play a different game. That is to say they play with different objectives, and have different reasons for those objectives. That diversity is part of the shared environment. Eliminate the diversity and all you have left is a miniatures game.

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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:17 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 6:45 pm
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Gamer psychology has been the subject of a number of professional explorations since the 1970's. for a brief survey of the research check out this gamssutra article.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6 ... les_a_.php

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There once was a gnome called Oozy,
Who kissed a Yaricite floozy.
But rather than wed,
She drowned him instead,
Now he is a Yaricite toosey!


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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:48 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:36 am
Posts: 1554
I am opinionated.

So from my point of view there are characters that are heretical in appropriate ways:

-Human's (and val/darkin/undir etc) that eschew the organized church to follow traditional but opposed views of the gods, or elemental paths, eg pengik/undir/naori that worship elementals. Hainese or Khitani that worship completely different aspects of existing gods.
-As much as i don't like them The Mourners in Silence, that aren't being controlled by the Silence (giving that org the benefit of the doubt)
-Elorii that eschew Belisarda in favor of the Elemental Lords
-Ssressn that follow Nier (instead of the fire dragon)

and their are examples of where I think its just wrong and/or done for the wrong reasons

-Elorii that follow human gods... unless you have some great backstory, this is just wrong, did you read the part where elorri feel the touch of belisarda all the time?
-People that play Mourners in Silence, Just to be part of the Silence, I don't want to have my trust in a player to be betrayed, and it seems like these people just want to do that.
-Cultists (like the cult of a thousand eyes)

these ones that I don't like, I feel the players are trying to set them selves up to be in contention with the party, I formed definite opinions about this in the last campaign when a mourner really screwed over a table I was at (and I probably wont play with that player again if I can help it), and much of my organized and general opinion has been influenced by this. I sit down to play to have fun and work to a common goal (even as a GM ). I hate the dynamic of US vs THEM that occurs when there are clear splits or fractions in loyalties. (as an aside, in the previous campaign our home tables were split loyalist / rebel but we still worked together because we were companions, and OOC we were friends)

I think that your working at goals that oppose the rest of the party, you have essentially split the party, and your playing at something else.

hrm this seems ranty I may edit this in the future

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Oswald val'Inares V, The Seeker of the Val'Inares
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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:51 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:36 am
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Eric:

Quote:
Killers: interfere with the functioning of the game world or the play experience of other players


I think that people that engender a negative play experience in other players should be encouraged to find a way "to play nice with others", so everyone can have a good play experience.

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Oswald val'Inares V, The Seeker of the Val'Inares
Harvester Lord of the Eastern Fields of Iowa


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 Post subject: Re: The difference between optimization and effectiveness
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:40 am 
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Though I know that optimized simply means "no waste" and effective means "perfectly functional", I have always viewed 'optimized characters' with some trepidation. When I hear that word, it brings up memories of the D&D days where characters eschewed 'unnecessary' traits to become what I call 'twinked' characters. These twinked characters (which I generally oppose) then specialize so far in one extreme as to be the literal one-trick-pony. As I discovered at the one 3.5-era Origins I went to, this was the rule of thumb for players of that era and system, and to be honest it bugged me quite a bit. I like characters who are CHARACTERS, and not simply a collection of synergistic mechanics.

However, I am very much in favour of characters who are effective in that they do certain things very well, but they can do more than a single thing to at least a passable extent. For example: My primary character is about as high on both melee combat and spells as I could get him (not quite, but close), but he also has some good social skills and can be the primary or back-up talker in almost any party. I could have sacrificed those social skills and even either spells or melee to boost the other skill, but then I wouldn't be the character I wanted.

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