Every DM knows one. Some know many. What am I talking about? Players who spend their lives working out the best options to make themselves the most powerful (or “optimised”) characters in the game. But is there anything wrong with that?
Here’s some pros and cons you might want to think about, followed by some ways to make it all work in your games.
• An OP character can reveal shortfalls in the ruleset that might be addressed by the group via homebrew changes.
• OP characters are exciting – who doesn’t love a character that does over 150 HP damage in a round?
• OP characters make the DM work harder to create more challenging encounters – flex that brain, DM!
• OP characters are intuitively creative and represent the many hours of investment those players have made learning the ins and outs of the game.
• OP characters bring imbalance to the party – the players just wanting to ‘play’ are overshadowed by the power of the OP character/s. Some may feel that OP players are always hogging the ‘spotlight’ in combat.
• OP players may provide OP optimisation advice constantly to other players, even when it’s not sought.
• DMs literally have to work harder to create challenges for OP characters, and this can mean that the ‘normalised’ characters are more at risk as a result.
• OP players often fall back on repetitious play styles as a result of their particular OP ability, solving encounters the same way, leading to monotony.
• New players may absorb a culture that is less about playing for fun and more about ‘beating the game’, which is not always ideal, depending on the groups they play with.
In the early days of D&D, people were still getting used to the game and there wasn’t so much optimisation. Nowadays, it’s much more common. And that’s not such a bad thing. There will always be optimisers and there will always be people who just want to role play and enjoy the game ‘as is’. e.g. they might want to play a basic class without feats or multiclassing. So how do you run the game for both?
Here’s a few suggestions:
• Make encounters suited to all sorts of players e.g emphasise role playing rather than combat encounters; use more traps and puzzles; try to focus on particular character skills, etc.
• Make sure every player gets a chance to shine. Provide plenty of opportunities for your regular players so the optimisers aren’t always hogging the glory.
• Make sure your Optimisers don’t become overbearing at the game table. If you have to, take them aside and politely discuss how they need to let the other players play the way they want to play.
Everybody’s there to have fun during a role playing game session – optimised character or not. If everybody works together and gets along, being mindful of what the other players want from the game, everybody benefits.
PS My new book Shotglass Adventures: Mined Games is on Kickstarter right now!
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