Monday, December 9, 2013

Power-Gaming: Reasonable Optimizing VS Gaming the System

A useful chart from Dice of Doom
I have always had a complicated relationship with character optimization and power-gaming.

On one hand, I understand why people optimize their characters. Roleplaying games are games, and players want their characters to be mechanically good. For example, a player building a warrior who specializes in two-handed weapons will most likely choose options that compliment that choice.

However, I think the problem with character optimization is when a player takes it to an extreme level and "games the system". I'll elaborate for those of you who might not understand what I'm talking about. Players "game the system" by manipulating or breaking the rules to achieve a desired outcome.

I believe their is a fine line between character optimization and "gaming the system", one that is so fine that many people can't see it. Many people have trouble separating the two and see anyone who chooses to optimize their character as a "dirty power-gamer." I actually used to be one of these people.

However, there is a different between the two camps. That different is based on how the optimization affects the game and the group's enjoyment of said game. If the optimization doesn't negatively affect the game or the other player's enjoyment, then you shouldn't worry about it too much. However, if the optimization is ruining the game and the other players are not having fun or getting annoyed by it, you might want to step in and put a stop to it.

Character optimization is perfectly fine when it remains reasonable. If the character chooses options that enhance a character's ability to perform certain actions, but remains logical and doesn't try to utilize loop holes or weird rules present in the system to achieve a rather powerful outcome, then its fine.

Question Time: What are your opinions on character optimization? Do you like it, or do you hate it? What do you believe is the line between reasonable character optimization and gaming the system? How do you handle situations where a character is ruining a game by gaming the system?