Things should be done by the book! It's just that the book hasn't been written for every situation, so there are times when it can be ignored.
Rules should be interpreted in such a manner that the excellences embodied in achieving the lusory goal of the game are not undermined but are maintained and fostered.
Things I Need To Remember:
Flutter's Guide for Newbies. (PFS)
3.5 Revised Monk.
Martial Adept Fighter.
ToB Core Classes writeup.
GitP 3.5 Houserules thread.
Aviona Wiki. D&D class list.
Vow of Poverty.
Order of the Stick: The Manga.
Snakes on a Plane.
Guide to Free D&D.
D&D Philosophy One-liners.
General Starlight's FRPG Page.
The Mountain Witch Trick.
Lessons for Paladins by Peregrine (Rules discussion disguised as prose):
Welcome, initiates, to the beginning of the rest of your life. Today you begin your new life as a paladin, the strong right arm of God. I see that you have been issued with your swords and armour; leave them at the sides and sit down. You will not need them yet. Here, in this class, you will learn about the life of a paladin. You will learn about honour, justice, mercy, duty; above all, though, you will learn about the code to which you will dedicate your life. You may call me Teacher, or Master; I pray for your swift elevation to full rank, when you may call me Brother.
Of humility befitting a paladin (Paladin's Rule 0: Don't be a jerk.)
You know of course that you are here because you have been chosen. But lest any of you fall into pride because of this, remember that you have been chosen by God to serve in a specific capacity to use certain gifts given to you. The governor, the scholar, or even the farmer, who seeks to honour God in his labour, is chosen and gifted as surely as you. You may find yourself lifted higher than they because of your calling, but you will also ever be in peril of falling lower. Remember this, and be humble.
Of the paladin's code and the truth it stands for (Don't let the code choke you or your game.)
It is because we are chosen, and called, that we must live by our code. The essence of the code is simple: do no evil; respect authority; act with honour; help the needy; punish the wicked. But you are not here just because you are capable of following rules. The code is more than rules. It is the expression in words and deeds of a deeper truth. It is the violation of that truth, not of the mere rules that express it, that will distance you from God should you transgress against the code.
The truth of righteous living is universal, but it is essentially unutterable. The more we try to describe and define it, the farther we stray from its universal nature. Yet because we are only mortal beings, we must try to define it in order to conceive of it and follow it at all. Thus, what the code means for me may differ from what it means for you. But this must not be the shifting, relative morality of whim and passion that you may have heard preached, for we must seek our path from God, not our worldly wants and desires. Particularly to those who have come from afar to learn with us for a time, I say: Discuss earnestly the particulars of your own code with a mentor before you begin your duties as a paladin. In this way, you may avoid the troubles of vagueness and doubt on the one hand, and the poison of lawless self-will on the other.
Notwithstanding all that I have said, I shall try to clarify what it is to conduct yourself righteously, as befits a paladin, and God willing it shall light your path somewhat.
You have no doubt heard in tales and such that it is a noble thing to die by the code. Put that out of your minds. I shall endeavour to teach you to live by the code; if you do, you will be ready to die when your time has come, but you shall not be tempted to court death for your own glory. More importantly, you must know how to live by the code with every breath you take, every deed you do, even when death is not an immediate danger. Those who only know to die by the code will stand firm in battle and hard deeds, but swiftly fall to the subtler seductions of evil.
Of honourable combat (Stop shouting challenges before every fight. War is not a duel is not an arrest.)
But let us first look at battle, for we are the soldiers of God in a world of danger and war. You have heard that you should give the enemy a fair fight, yes? Open challenge, equal readiness, and God will decide? Utter rubbish. Put it out of your minds at once. The only time you are obliged to give this sort of 'fair fight' is when you are honour-bound to do so: that is, in a duel. The principle you must instead observe might be called the 'rules of engagement'. This is the term used in open warfare, but it will serve for all forms of combat and confrontation. The rules of engagement for a duel call for a 'fair fight'. No other rules do.
The most basic rule of engagement is that you must have due cause before doing violence to a foe, and you must do your diligence to make this cause known to the foe. In warfare, this is often twisted to demand a duel-like challenge, no ambushes, and other such absurdities. It is the declaration of war itself that serves to make your cause known. After that, anyone who is a soldier or partisan in the war may be considered to be legitimately informed, and you may attack in any manner that is suitable, observing only the mercies of your conscience and a rigorous effort to ensure that you only attack soldiers and partisans.
It is likely that you will spend more time in commonplace enforcement of the law than in open warfare -- and here too the 'rules of engagement' have been twisted to make you believe you must duel every lawbreaker and murderer that crosses your path. Your duty in upholding the law is to uphold the law. In the process of apprehending a culprit, you must make them aware of the crimes with which they are charged -- but you may, indeed should, use sufficiently overwhelming force to ensure that they are apprehended. Letting them escape from a 'fair fight' is a travesty of justice, not a deed of honour.
Of duels, and of the related trial by combat, the less said the better. If you should find yourself in one, let it be because a trusted and neutral authority called for it. If you declare that God will see you victorious, when you declared the duel to satisfy some slight to your own honour, your judgement is clouded and you are almost certainly not acting in submission to God's will.
Of justice tempered with mercy (Lawful AND Good, people.)
Enough said of combat and violence, even if it is just. Justice alone is not enough. A paladin is a champion of righteousness, which is justice tempered with mercy, law balanced with love. Meditate often on this. Those who revere justice without compassion will tell you that your law is made imperfect by your mercy and restraint. Those who celebrate loving-kindness above all will say that your good deeds are fettered by your strictures and principles.
The truth that the first error will deny is that the law is imperfect, an imperfect expression of the truth of righteousness. Law without love serves no purpose but itself, and is futile. Law and love together serve to better the giver and the receiver of justice.
The second error denies the truth that love without stricture is defenceless. Quite apart from defending against all the evils of the world -- and as paladins we must maintain our vigilance always, and be bound to order and principle to do so -- we ourselves are not perfect. To defend the goodness of love in our own hearts, we must be mindful of lawfulness, not so that love becomes diminished, but so that it may be perfected, and not sicken or stray into a cruel parody of love that, all unawares and unresisting, harms others in the pursuit of the beloved, even harms the beloved thing itself.
Always strive for the way that upholds law and good. But the perfect way is narrow and hard to find. If you are ever caught between them, remember that the second error is the less. Imperfect good is preferable to imperfect law. Remember the first rule of every paladin: do no evil.
Of resisting evil (Why we do not detect-and-smite.)
More than this, of course, we are called to actively resist evil. You will learn to sense the presence of evil; indeed, part of your training here will be in recognising the aura that evil presents to your supernatural senses. This, however, should be your first clue to the limitations of this gift: It is quite hard to actually get evil people to willingly come inside our walls and be test subjects. Therefore, we use magic to present differing auras to you, for your training. Learn from this that the semblance of evil is not itself sufficient grounds for violence. (Learn also that the absence of the semblance of evil is no cause for complacency.)
Moreover, the taint of evil on a being's soul is not itself a crime. We punish deeds, not souls; souls, we strive to redeem. Evil can be mundane; it can even -- but never be complacent -- even be beneath our immediate concern. A malicious misanthrope who spitefully abuses and spreads lies about his neighbours is a wicked person, and you will sense the evil in him, but misanthropy is not -- not in our region, at any rate -- sufficient cause by itself to do more than verbally chastise a person. And that will itself likely do little to help. Unless you can find evidence of evil deeds that have gone unpunished, you will do well to leave the matter alone.
Take from that, this lesson: Your awareness of the presence of evil is a warning, not damning evidence. Treat it as you do your other senses and support it with sound reason.
Of obedience and the law of the land (No, you don't breach the code by wearing a hat of an illegal colour while passing through the Duchy of Frivolia.)
Our fight is not against evil alone, however, and you will go astray if you fail to also uphold the law. Does this mean that you must obey every jot and scruple of the law of the land wherein you find yourself? No -- but you should strive to do so regardless.
The code is the heart of your law. But if the code itself is an imperfect expression of universal righteousness, how much more will the law of the land be imperfect, when it may be written by fools or tyrants? Seek for the heart of justice that underlies the law, and remember that where the written word departs irreconcileably from just governance, it is no longer truly a law.
Nonetheless, we are called to respect the authorities, so unless their injustice makes it impossible to do so in good conscience, endeavour to obey their laws. If you were to flout the law in the sight of others, even if you knew you were justified before God in doing so, others who do not know or hold your principles will be led astray by your actions. For their sake, obey law and uphold tradition.
I shall stress this theme on a particular point: the use of poison. The ethics of poison are oft-debated, and it must be conceded that there are times when it would be permissible for us to use it for good and just purposes. However, because of the stigma attached to poison's use, it remains proscribed in the codes of most paladins, lest those lacking our scruples should feel free to use it at whim, thinking they follow our example.
And likewise, concealing the truth -- if not, on occasion, outright lying -- is often all but necessary to prevent harm coming to others. But something of upholding the truth is said by most paladins' codes, because failing to uphold the truth will often lead to deeper and more subtle harms. But this is such an occasion as I described, where you may struggle and fail to see the righteous path between practicing deception, and giving power to your foes. Do no evil.
That is enough of a lesson for this morning. Go, attend to your midday meal, and discuss among yourselves what you have heard here. I pray you shall find some small kernel of wisdom in these words.
A Player's Guide To Healing by OneWinged4ngel:
(And, why you will be Just Fine without a Cleric to heal)
Healin'. Patchin' up the wounds. Sewing the Fighter's larynx back in after he took an arrow through the neck and lived and wanted to tell about it. Every player knows the drill. But oddly, a lot of players just use really... silly methods of going about healing themselves, and have some wild misconceptions about how to do it effectively and even how much of a priority it should be.
Some players think they *have* to have a cleric or druid to cover the healing role, and place healing as an extremely high priority, even in combat, and even if they don't, many even spend inordinate amounts of money on extremely inefficient healing items that may hurt them more than help them.
To summarize a few common issues:
Players overprioritize healing in combat when there are more effective options available to them.
Players spend too much money on healing, often spending wads of cash on things like potions of Cure Moderate Wounds.
Players believe they can't heal efficiently without a Cleric or Druid or similar class in the party, and view such as an essential role, to the point where some even *force* others to play a Cleric or Druid just so that they can have a dedicated healer, and then downplay the extraordinary talents of those classes and belittle them to a mere healing role, making for an unenjoyable experience for the victim of this treatment.
Many players just don't know how to get the best healing for their buck.
Some Information and Comparisons
First, an effort at dispelling some of the myths. First off, you should probably never be buying healing potions, perhaps with the exception of Cure Light Wounds or a similar level 1 spell. The reason for this is simple. The cost is exorbitant, and it's really not worth it. A Cure Serious Wounds potion will heal, on average, 18.5 hp, and it will cost you 750gp, and it will take either a standard or a full round action to use, and it will provoke AoOs unless you did some further investment to prevent that, and on top of that it probably smells bad and tastes bitter. Yuck. For the same price, you could have gotten a Wand of Cure Light Wounds (275hp total instead of 18.5hp), a Wand of Lesser Vigor (550hp total instead of 18.5gp), or a Healing Belt (Either 6d8 hp (average 27 hp) a day, or 18 hp (same as the potion!) per day if you burst heal, usable as a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity.)) Would you rather get 18 hp, or 18 hp per day? Now would you rather use a standard or full action that provokes AoOs, *and* need to draw the item, or would you rather use a standard action that doesn't provoke AoOs? And hey, wouldn't you like the option to heal even more for efficiency, outside of battle? There's even another option, this one for artificers, that costs a mere 50 gp a pop: Infuse an ally with Greater Healing armor. This will give them 6d8+30 total healing (3d8+15 as a swift action, usable twice). As an added bonus, it will even automatically heal you if you get knocked unconscious. The point is... potions are bad. Potions are inefficient. So are scrolls of Cure Moderate Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, and so forth.
Second, a dedicated healer is not a necessary combat role. Seriously.
First off, healing often does not outpace damage. Moreover, removing an enemy a threat can often be much more effective at saving your allies' necks than going up and poking them with Cure X Wounds. If an enemy were to deal 50 damage to an ally, and you can take that enemy out by either disabling or killing them, then you've "healed" that ally of the 50 damage he would have taken. Additionally, as healing often does not keep up the pace with damage, even if you can't disable the enemy, healing the ally might not be good enough to save them. Instead, you might want to use an ability to help the ally escape, or block the enemy from attacking them (this can be something as simple as Benign Transposition, really). In fact, healing in combat is only situationally a good choice, and is often a subpar tactical option.
Secondly, you can get very efficient out-of-combat healing quite easily without a Cleric or Druid, and indeed a Rogue, Artificer, Paladin, Ranger, Factotum, Warlock, or Bard could fill the healing role with a wand of Cure Light Wounds or Lesser Vigor. In fact, you can even get good, cheap burst healing comparable to the Cleric or Druid's ability at low levels with items like the Healing Belt.
Actually, the Artificer can prove to be a fantastic healer, cheaply (we're talking 37.5% market price here) turning out healing belts, wands of lesser vigor, and providing Greater Healing armor infusions (a mere second level infusion) at an early level. The Paladin and Ranger can use wands of Cure Light Wounds without penalty, and the others can use UMD to master the efficient wands. On top of that, members of *any* class can easily chip in with the very efficient Healing Belt.
These things considered, you really can get by without a Cleric or Druid. In fact, if you do have a Cleric or Druid, they're probably going to be more useful in most combats if they are doing something OTHER than healing, since they have considerable talents in many regards.
How to Heal Effectively
Blessed Bandages (10gp, MiC page 152): 10gp to automatically succeed to stabilize an ally. Can definitely save a friend at very low levels.
Wands of Cure Light Wounds (750gp, Core): The hallmark of efficiency. These wands will dish out an average of 5.5hp a pop, and with 50 charges that will add up to 275 total healing. This wand gains an advantage over Lesser Vigor in two respects: Speed of use, and the fact that Lesser Vigor is a Cleric and Druid only spell, and thus is only available to those classes and UMD users, while Paladins and Rangers and the like will stick to Cure Light Wounds.
Wands of Lesser Vigor (750gp, Spell Compendium Page 229): These are the most efficient healing wands around! You get 11 hp per pop (though it takes a full minute to gain that 11 hp), and you get a total of 550hp of healing for your 750gp.
Healing Belts (750gp, MiC page 110): For 750gp, *anyone* can heal 6d8 hp a day, and even burst heal for 4d8hp as a Standard action with a Touch range, and does not provoke attacks of opportunity like spells and scrolls. Also, with the MiC rules for adding common effects, you don't even need to worry about "keeping the slot free" anymore. You can actually just say, give one of these to everyone in a party of 5 for 30d8 healing per day, and just subsidize your healing costs. This is a great way to keep everyone alive at low levels. As if this weren't good enough, you get feel-good +2 bonus to Heal checks as a bonus.
Artificers can heal very effectively with Greater Healing Armor (MiC page 12), dishing out 3d8+15 healing *twice* usable as a swift action, and even automatically healing a character should they fall unconscious. Best of all, this only costs you 50gp for a total of 6d8+30hp healing, and is available at a very low level.
Wand of Faith Healing (Spell Compendium): It's kinda cheesy, but it's worth mentioning if your DM allows it. It's exactly the same as Cure Light Wounds, except maximized and only usable on people who share your faith (which can easily just be everyone in your party). I personally don't allow this spell as a DM.
Touch of Healing (Reserve Feat, Complete Champion pg 62): This one is for the actual "healers." As long as you have a healing spell of second level or higher ready to cast, you can heal anyone up to half their total hp (but no higher, meaning you have to use more abilities to fully heal them) for free. Basically, for the cost of a feat, you get a lot of free healing.
Summon Nature's Ally IV (Core): Summoning a Unicorn nets you a free set of 3 CLWs, 1 CMW, and a Neutralize Poison. It has a caster level of 5th, so that'll total 5d8+20 points of healing (and a neutralize poison). It's even something a druid can cast spontaneously. Not bad.
Revivify (Cleric 5, Spell Compendium page 176): Revive your dead buddy for 1000gp as a standard action instead of for 5000gp as a much longer action, and best of all *no level loss.* A no brainer really. You just need to be quick about it, acting within 1 round of the victim's death!
Revenance (Cleric 4, Paladin 4, Bard 6): This spell can target any character that died within 1 round / caster level of casting. The subject comes back to life (as if by Raise Dead except with no penalties) and is able to fight (with a +1 morale bonus on attack, damage, and saves against the person who killer her) for 1 minute per level, at the end of which the character dies again. The real seller here is that it has a wider window to cast than Revivify (1 round / level), and moreover the ally will die at the end of the spell (or after being killed again), often allowing you to use Revivify when it would otherwise be impossible (window passed) or too dangerous (in the middle of combat).
Delay Death (Cleric 4, Spell Compendium page 63): As an *Immediate Action*, the ally becomes unable to die from hit point damage (they'll still fall unconscious, they just won't die.) This means that you can instantaneously cast this spell when a buddy takes their final hit, and they won't die for 1 round/level (during which time you can finish the encounter, then heal them up.) Can definitely be a lifesaver.
Tomb Tainted Soul (Feat, Libris Mortis): This handy feat allows you to be healed by negative energy. This means that a living Dread Necromancer can heal you to full as much as she likes with Charnel Touch, and that you can heal yourself with things like Uttercold metamagiced spells and the like.
Amulet of Retributive Healing (2000gp, MiC Page 69): This handy little doodad lets you double up on your healing 3 times per day. When activated (as a swift action) this amulet allows you to cure yourself of an amount of damage equal to however much you cured your buddy of. So, if you cast Heal on your ally, you can activate this item to use a free quickened Heal on yourself. Works with scrolls and everything, too.
Collar of Healing (5000gp, MiC page 90): As an *Immediate action* once per day, heal your animal companion of 50hp and cures the Fatigued or Exhausted conditions. Keep your little buddy going. As an added bonus, it works at any range (as long as you're on the same plane), and lets you know your companion's exact hit point total at all times.
Heal (Core): Heal is a great spell. It really is. It's the healing spell you actually might want to use in fights fairly often. It heals a ton of damage, and it takes away ability damage, blinded, confused, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, exhausted, fatigued, feebleminded, insanity, nauseated, sickened, stunned, and poisoned. A laundry list of status effects, some of which are quite deadly in their own right! However, Heal is not a necessary party role in and of itself! Again, you don't actually need *any* in-combat healing to have a highly effective party. Still, when you *do* have a Cleric or Druid around, there's no reason they shouldn't have this ready. If you don't have a Cleric or Druid around, you may want to consider a scroll or two of this for those few situations where you really do want a Heal (i.e., your buddy just got blasted for 100 damage and got stunned to boot).
Divine Ward (Feat, PHB II): This feat will help out the "true healers," allowing them to use Close Range instead of Touch Range for their healing spells on one ally by spending your Turning attempts. You can get a similar results with Divine Metamagic (Reach Spell) (Which happens to be doubly useful for, say, a ranged Slay Living).
Augment Healing (Feat, Complete Divine): Add +2 healing per level of the healing spell cast. Simple and effective for a dedicated healer, should you choose to get one.
False Life (Sor/Wiz 2, Core):
Empathic Transfer (Egoist 2, Psychic Warrior 2, XPH): This useful power is the standy of healing as a Psionic character. The method is a little unique as opposed to standard methods of healing, but it works just as well. You eliminate anywhere from 2d10 to 10d10 (depending on augment) hp of damage from an ally, and transfer half of that damage onto yourself. Combined with Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH), and Share Pain (Psion 2, XPH) both shared to your psicrystal through Share Powers, the temporary hit points will absorb all of the damage.
Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH): This power giives you 5 temporary hit points per power point spent, lasting for a minute per level. It's like healing *before* you ever take damage, and lets you buff beforehand in order to avoid the need to heal in combat.
Amulet of Tears (2300gp, MiC page 70): Another source of temporary hit points, this handy item stores 3 charges per day and grants temporary hit points lasting for 10 minutes based on the number of charges spent. For 1 charge, you gain 12 tmporary hit points, and for 3 charges grants 24 temporary hit points.
Share Pain (Psion 2, XPH): This power transfers half of the damage dealt to you to a willing subject, and thus helps a good deal with damage mitigation. It lasts for an hour per level, so can last for a full day's worth of encounters, and a popular use is to combine it with a Vigor (Psion 1, Psychic Warrior 1, XPH) power shared with your psicrystal and make your psicrystal the subject, effectively doubling the effect of vigor and transferring a good deal of hp damage onto a target that is often a noncombatant.
Shield Other (Cleric 2, Paladin 2, Core): This is much like Share Pain, except it deals half of an ally's damage to you, helping you to protect them. It also adds a +1 resistance bonus to saves and a +1 deflection bonus to AC for the target, as an added plus.
Vampiric Touch (Sor/Wiz 3, Duskblade 3, Core): 1d6 damage per two levels, and gain temporary hp equal to the damage dealt. This spell is notable for combining offensive abilities and effective in-combat "healing" into the same attack. This spell is useful in spell storing weapons, or channeled through a Duskblade's "Arcane Channelling" ability. It is generally *not* a good idea for the average mage to run up into melee and try to touch an enemy with it, because the damage will be low and the temporary hp probably won't save you from a world of pain (unless you have other protective spells and such up). Also note that if you're an Unseen Seer or Arcane Trickster, you can increase the amount healed with sneak attacks!
Bloodstone weapon enhancement (+1, page 29 MiC): Stores and casts Vampiric Touch just like a spell storing weapon, except that it's automatically empowered. Basically, this will deal extra damage on attacks equal to (1d6 per two caster levels)*1.5, *and* give the wielder of the weapon temporary hp equal to the damage dealt. Thus, you're adding to damage and to healing at the same time! See also: Vampiric Touch.
Bodyfeeder weapon enhancement (+3 bonus, XPH): This handy enhancement will grant its wielder temporary hit points equal to the damage dealt by any critical hit he dishes out. With an expanded critical hit range, you can expect this to give a steady stream of temporary hp. This enhancement can be granted by an artificer spending a 3rd level infusion and a small amount of gp. (Note: Though "Wrathful Healing" is almost certainly more effective, it's much less likely to be allowed)
The Stormwind Fallacy by Tempest Stormwind:
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy
Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa.
Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game.
Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse roleplayer if he optimizes, and vice versa.
(I admit that there are some diehards on both sides -- the RP fanatics who refuse to optimize as if strong characters were the mark of the Devil and the min/max munchkins who couldn't RP their way out of a paper bag without setting it on fire -- though I see these as extreme examples. The vast majority of people are in between, and thus the generalizations hold. The key word is 'automatically')
Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's gameplay. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Roleplaying deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else.
Claiming that an optimizer cannot roleplay (or is participating in a playstyle that isn't supportive of roleplaying) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
How does this impact "builds"? Simple.
In one extreme (say, Pun-Pun), they are thought experiments. Optimization tests that are not intended to see actual gameplay. Because they do not see gameplay, they do not commit the fallacy.
In the other extreme, you get the drama queens. They could care less about the rules, and are, essentially, playing free-form RP. Because the game is not necessary to this particular character, it doesn't fall into the fallacy.
By playing D&D, you opt in to an agreement of sorts -- the rules describe the world you live in, including yourself. To get the most out of those rules, in the same way you would get the most out of yourself, you must optimize in some respect (and don't look at me funny; you do it already, you just don't like to admit it. You don't need multiclassing or splatbooks to optimize). However, because it is a role-playing game, you also agree to play a role. This is dependent completely on you, and is independent of the rules.
And no, this isn't dependent on edition, or even what roleplaying game you're doing. If you are playing a roleplaying game with any form of rules or regulation, this fallacy can apply. The only difference is the nature of the optimization (based on the rules of that game; Tri-Stat optimizes differently than d20) or the flavor of the roleplay (based on the setting; Exalted feels different from Cthulu).
Conclusion: D&D, like it or not, has elements of both optimization AND roleplay in it. Any game that involves rules has optimization, and any role-playing game has roleplay. These are inherent to the game.
They go hand-in-hand in this sort of game. Deal with it. And in the name of all that is good and holy, stop committing the Stormwind Fallacy in the meantime.
Ten Commandments of Optimization:
I. Thou shalt not give up caster levels.
II. Wieldest thou thy two-handed weapon with alacrity; but two weapons shalt thou not wield, excepting that thou hast a source of bonus damage such as Sneak Attack.
III. Doubt not the power of the Druid, for he is mighty.
IV. Avoid ye the temptation of Gauntlets of True Strike, for they shall lead thee astray down the Path of Non-Rule Cheese.
V. Thou shalt not give up caster levels. Verily, this Commandment is like unto the first; but of such magnitude that it bore mentioning twice.
VI. Makest thou no build with an odd number of fighter levels, for such things are not pleasing to the Spirits of Optimization.
VII. The Rules of 3.5 are paramount; invoke not the rules of 3.0 if a newer version be available.
VIII. When beseeching the Bretheren of Optimization, come thou not empty handed, lest they smite thee; rather, bringest thou thine own build, that they may offer suggestions and guidance.
IX. Invoke not "common sense," for it is not common.
X. Thou shalt call no build "The Ultimate X" unless his name be Pun-Pun, or thou shalt see thine "Ultimate" build topped by the Bretheren within five minutes of posting.
The Ten Commandments of Practical Optimization by Caelic:
1. Not everything needs to be stated explicitly in the rules; some things just are.
A human doesn't have a hundred and fifty-seven arms, even though the rules don't explicitly say that he doesn't. A character doesn't continue running around after he dies, even though the rules don't explicitly list any negative effects for death. If the designers spelled out every single thing explicitly...even the glaringly obvious...the core rulebooks would be larger than the Encyclopedia Brittannica, and would likely cost as much as a Ferrari.
2. "The rules don't say I can't!" is not practical optimization.
This is because the rules are structured in such a way as to tell you what you can do--not what you can't. An underlying assumption is that, apart from common-sense actions which anyone can perform, the system will tell you if a given character has a given ability.
3. RAW is a myth.
This game cannot be played without interpretation and the judicious application of common sense. Try to play the game strictly and exclusively by the rules as written, and you have an unplayable game.
Using "RAW" as a defense is similarly meaningless--particularly when your defense rests on interpretation. If you're going to claim that your build is RAW, you'd better be able to make sure that the rules specifically uphold your claim...not simply that they're sort of vague and COULD be interpreted in such a way as to not FORBID your claim.
This becomes particularly important when your claim is especially controversial.
Yes, builds should adhere to the rules as written. Yes, any exceptions to that should be noted. But the RAW as some sort of entity unto itself, capable of rendering a build immune to criticism, is not a useful construction, and causes more problems than it solves.
4. Common sense is not a bad thing.
If we have one interpretation of the rules where two levels of a prestige class give you infinite caster level, and another interpretation where two levels of that same prestige class give you two caster levels, then common sense tells us that the latter interpretation is the correct one. If a character reaches negative ten hit points and dies, common sense tells us that he doesn't spring back to his feet and continue fighting unimpeded.
5. Intent matters.
Except that, in some cases, we can. In some cases, the intent is glaringly, painfully obvious. In other cases, the intent has been clarified by various WotC sources, such as CustServ.
It makes sense to take these sources at their word, people. They work with the folks who design the game, they have access to them. If a conflict comes up, then it can be resolved, but I can't help but notice that for all the talk about how CustServ never gives the same answer twice, they've been remarkably consistent of late.
It's one thing to say "This rule is vaguely worded, and we don't know the intent." It's another thing to say, "The rule is vaguely worded, and therefore I can ignore the intent."
The first is sensible caution; the second is rules lawyering. When an ambiguity has been clarified, that should be the end of it.
6. Mistakes happen.
That shouldn't be seen as an opportunity to break the game.
Take the Vigilante from Complete Adventurer, for instance. Anyone out there seriously believe that his rather abrupt jump from 1 third level spell at level 6 to 20 at level 7 is NOT a mistake?
There are two ways to deal with a mistake like this: a sensible way, and a silly way.
The sensible way: "Hmm. There's a column for fourth level spells with no numbers in it, and a column for third level with numbers that can't be right in it. Clearly, this was a typesetting error, and the second digit in the third level spells column is supposed to be in the fourth level spells column."
The silly way: "Rules are rules! The rulebook says 20 third level spells at seventh level! If you do it any other way, you're houseruling! I'm gonna make some GREAT builds based on this rule!"
Basing a build on an obvious mistake isn't optimizing; it's silly.
7. Simple Is Good.
There are a LOT of WotC sourcebooks out there. I did a rough estimate on the value of my collection just of hardcover rulebooks; it cost more than my car.
Not everyone has that kind of cash to spend on this hobby. Not only that--a lot of people simply don't have the time to commit several thousand pages of rules, hundreds upon hundreds of prestige classes, and thousands of feats to memory.
So: builds which are simple are good. There's nothing WRONG with a build that incorporates eight different prestige classes from seven different sources, and then tosses in feats from five more...but that build is going to be useful only to the people who have those sources, whereas the Druid 20 build that doesn't go outside of Core is useful to everybody.
Sometimes, simplicity is worth more than raw power.
8. Tricking the DM is Bad.
Bad idea. Bad, BAD idea.
At all times, two things should be borne in mind about the DM. One: he's in charge. If you try to trick him, he's totally within his rights to toss your character or YOU out of the game. Two: he's your friend. Trying to deceive your friends is bad.
Be honest with your DM about what you want to do. If he says "No," deal with it. That's part of a DM's job. If you don't think he's going to say "Yes" to something, then trying to sneak it into the game on the sly is a sure way to make him mad.
9. Respect the parameters of the request.
The point is: people aren't offering him suggestions on how to make his character of choice better. They're telling him that he's "wrong" for playing that character, and that he should be playing a different character.
The same goes for threads in which the poster explains the DM's house rules and restrictions at the beginning of the thread. More often than not, if these restrictions amount to more than "No infinite power at first level," someone will respond with the oh-so-helpful suggestion "Your DM sucks. Quit his game and never talk to him again."
I only wish that were hyperbole. It's word-for-word from a thread a while back.
Optimization is about working within the rules to greatest effect. ANYONE can optimize in an environment with no restrictions. It takes skill to optimize where options are limited.
Threads like these should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate that skill...not belittle the poster or the DM.
10. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I couldn't imagine why nobody had thought of this before. Of course, as it turned out, LOTS of people had thought of this before. Within about five minutes, I was directed to a ruling that said, "You can't do it."
I was disappointed, sure...but I accepted it and moved on.
There are a LOT of folks here with a lot of knowledge of the rules. Some of 'em are a little scary. They love nothing better than to go over a new rulebook with a fine-toothed comb looking for hidden gems.
Sometimes, a genuinely overlooked concept will turn up. The recent builds using Sanctum Spell are a good example. The feat's been around for a while, but nobody really looked at what could be done with it.
More often, though, if a seeming "rules loophole" is being ignored by the boards, it's because it's been hashed out in the past and found not to work. Perhaps there's something elsewhere in the rules that nullifies it; perhaps there was a clarification. Very occasionally, there's simply a board-wide agreement that the rule is wrong...as with the recent FAQ claiming that Polymorph allowed the use of templated forms.
If it turns out that your discovery falls into this category, the best thing to do is accept it and move on. Maybe the next one won't.
So: there they are. Make of them what you will.
The Laws of D&D:
Rule -1: There isn't a game without players
Rule 0: The DM is always right.
Rule 1: The rules were written for a reason. Ignoring them wasn't it.
Track Is Not A Class Feature:
"A ranger is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when the DM wants him to." - making a tracking roll to speed up how quickly you chase down your target is ultimately useless in D&D, as you will always arrive whenever the DM means for you to arrive. Tracking is a railroading tool designed to look like a class feature. And all us rangers fell for it.