What is optimizing?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Grand Lodge

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Get your 'to hit' and 'damage' numbers higher than any other numerical value on your sheet.

If you don't do this then your character is a pile of garbage and you deserve to lose.

---meanwhile elsewhere---

I picked up skill focus: knitting because I think my character would be good at it. Also I made their charisma really high eschewing most of the other stuff because I want people to like them

lfg barbarian


If your to hit is higher than your hit points you've got a problem.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
If your to hit is higher than your hit points you've got a problem.

now I want to see if I could figure out a way to do that...

Wizard, 7 Con, Dex 18, Weapon Focus Dagger

HP 4, To hit 5 :)


And you've got a problem.


Yup...Should have chosen Weapon Focus Rays...Actually Pretty Sure I saw this guy at a game a while back...


I have limited character resources - stat points, feats, levels, money, everything.

I have objectives in terms of abilities I want my character to have. It could be damage in combat. It could be specific skills. It could be combat manoeuvres. It could be spells. Whatever the objectives are, there are multiple ways to achieve them in a system this complicated. And because I am greedy, there will be more of them than I can get. Optimisation is the process of getting the most I can of what I want, given my limited resources.


Optimising your character is an inherently flawed concept. A better word would be specialising. A specialised character is much better at dealing with some types of encounter or challenge than others and correspondingly weaker at others. A party of specialised characters can often easily overcome many types of level appropriate or higher level encounters only to come to an untimely end by a low level encounter that targets their weaknesses.

An optimised party consists of a group of characters who between them have no significant weaknesses and can overcome all level appropriate encounters.


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Hugo Rune wrote:

Optimising your character is an inherently flawed concept. A better word would be specialising. A specialised character is much better at dealing with some types of encounter or challenge than others and correspondingly weaker at others. A party of specialised characters can often easily overcome many types of level appropriate or higher level encounters only to come to an untimely end by a low level encounter that targets their weaknesses.

An optimised party consists of a group of characters who between them have no significant weaknesses and can overcome all level appropriate encounters.

Oh my sweet summer child.

Welcome to Pathfinder! Where you can make a yourcharacter+ by just picking better options!


Rhedyn wrote:
Hugo Rune wrote:

Optimising your character is an inherently flawed concept. A better word would be specialising. A specialised character is much better at dealing with some types of encounter or challenge than others and correspondingly weaker at others. A party of specialised characters can often easily overcome many types of level appropriate or higher level encounters only to come to an untimely end by a low level encounter that targets their weaknesses.

An optimised party consists of a group of characters who between them have no significant weaknesses and can overcome all level appropriate encounters.

Oh my sweet summer child.

Welcome to Pathfinder! Where you can make a yourcharacter+ by just picking better options!

Erm, I think you missed the point. It doesn't matter how well you design your character and how optimally focused you think the character is. There will always be something level appropriate or easier that can easily defeat it. Several highly specialised characters separately designed will usually create a party that has glaring capability holes. If, however, the characters' skills and abilities are chosen to compliment each other then the party as a team has a much greater chance of success.


Hugo Rune wrote:
Erm, I think you missed the point. It doesn't matter how well you design your character and how optimally focused you think the character is. There will always be something level appropriate or easier that can easily defeat it.

That's not the point of optimisation, though. If I optimise my character as scissors, that's not because I expect to beat rock. But within the context of "being scissors" there are more and less effective ways to do it.


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Hugo Rune wrote:
Rhedyn wrote:
Hugo Rune wrote:

Optimising your character is an inherently flawed concept. A better word would be specialising. A specialised character is much better at dealing with some types of encounter or challenge than others and correspondingly weaker at others. A party of specialised characters can often easily overcome many types of level appropriate or higher level encounters only to come to an untimely end by a low level encounter that targets their weaknesses.

An optimised party consists of a group of characters who between them have no significant weaknesses and can overcome all level appropriate encounters.

Oh my sweet summer child.

Welcome to Pathfinder! Where you can make a yourcharacter+ by just picking better options!

Erm, I think you missed the point. It doesn't matter how well you design your character and how optimally focused you think the character is. There will always be something level appropriate or easier that can easily defeat it. Several highly specialised characters separately designed will usually create a party that has glaring capability holes. If, however, the characters' skills and abilities are chosen to compliment each other then the party as a team has a much greater chance of success.

And I think you miss the point.

You don't optimally focus. You optimize. An optimized character can be better than an unoptimized character in every aspect. They didn't specialize, they are just better than the other character for all mechanical intents and purposes.


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Lucy_Valentine wrote:
Hugo Rune wrote:
Erm, I think you missed the point. It doesn't matter how well you design your character and how optimally focused you think the character is. There will always be something level appropriate or easier that can easily defeat it.
That's not the point of optimisation, though. If I optimise my character as scissors, that's not because I expect to beat rock. But within the context of "being scissors" there are more and less effective ways to do it.

To follow your analogy. If everybody in the party optimised themselves as scissors or scissor-like things then they will get smashed by weak rocks. A party with a rock, a paper and scissors is more likely to survive. There are lots of posts about optimising characters and virtually none consider how the character will fit within a party.

To answer Rhedyn's point, a party of well designed generalists will generally be weaker than a party of complimentary specialists because the feats, class features and other items build upon each other to provide game-mechanical advantages.


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Optimizing: The art and science of making your character better. It involves several techniques.

it is not... and this is important. Munchkining.

Optimizing is PICKING the best choices. Munchkining is effectively making the best choices through aggressive rules lawyering of gray areas. One uses the game. The other hacks the DM.


Hugo Rune wrote:
To answer Rhedyn's point, a party of well designed generalists will generally be weaker than a party of complimentary specialists because the feats, class features and other items build upon each other to provide game-mechanical advantages.

Party 1: Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard

Standard party right? Should compliment each other right?

Party 2: Paladin, Investigator, Cleric, Wizard

This party is just better because the first two characters eclipse who they replaced. You can't call optimizing just specializing because that isn't what it is. You can make decisions that just make you better.

This is just an example via initial class selection. That isn't even getting into options where you can select "+1" or literally "+2". And on top of all that is optimizing gear/wealth, whose mechanism vary from campaign to campaign.


My 'problem subset of the optimizer world' is the person who correlates 'effective' with 'must be the Michael Phelps/Michael Jordan/LeNron James/Tom Brady/whatever of the "x" world.' There is indeed a difference between effective and 'the absolute maximum possible number on the sheet'


Hugo Rune wrote:
To follow your analogy. If everybody in the party optimised themselves as scissors or scissor-like things then they will get smashed by weak rocks.

I know. This is not news to me.

Obviously I should plan for my character to fit into the party that exists, if I have that luxury. I might not, in PFS or something. I might just be designing characters for fun, in a vacuum.

But if I don't have that luxury, I should still try not to be bad at being scissors. And maybe if I do my optimising well I can fit in a strong scissors with a backup in moderate paper.

But somebody who doesn't know what they're doing might start with the same resources, and build a character who is moderate scissors with no paper. Pathfinder is a complicated system and it is totally possible to make characters that are just bad.


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I tend to see the term Optimization as part of a scale of aggrivation to deal with when character building. The scale being:

*Optimizing is the base, trying to make an effective character. Not a problem at all.
* Next up is Power Gaming, where the choices always default to the powerful choices. Slightly problematic, due to making the numbers more important than the role.*
* Next is Min-Maxing, where every choice is made purely on the basis of power, with no concern as to why a character would have such disparate and ill-fitting choices.
* At the top of the annoyance tower is Munchkining, which is where power comes from annoying rules lawyering, questionable legality, and perhaps even cheating.

Obviously, personal interpretation.

*Yes, this sounds like the Stormwind Fallacy. That, however, is the assumption that optimizing and role-playing are mutually exclusive. But to deny that some people make a powerful character to the exclusion of roleplaying is also a bit of a fallacy.

Dark Archive

I have false focus on nearly everyone one of my wizard character. Each one has a different reason he has it. One went mystic theurge and it was a natural extension of being a cleric of a gow of magic. Another figured out he could use it to make his favorite spell stronger. He was an arcane trickster who got in with rogoe 1 accomplished sneak attacker and spammed ray of frost all day. The last was a massively tattoed battle wizard who got holy symbol tatoos and swung a great sword.

All of them dominated the campaigns they were in. You can have reasons for characters to take any feat. You just need to not suck at backstory and writing in general.


Halek wrote:

I have false focus on nearly everyone one of my wizard character. Each one has a different reason he has it. One went mystic theurge and it was a natural extension of being a cleric of a gow of magic. Another figured out he could use it to make his favorite spell stronger. He was an arcane trickster who got in with rogoe 1 accomplished sneak attacker and spammed ray of frost all day. The last was a massively tattoed battle wizard who got holy symbol tatoos and swung a great sword.

All of them dominated the campaigns they were in. You can have reasons for characters to take any feat. You just need to not suck at backstory and writing in general.

OK, I am going to assume you are not playing on Golarian, so False Focus doesn't have a Razmiran taint to it. I am concerned that you felt the need to point out that all the different characters using this feat dominated the campaigns they were in. Do your fellow players appreciate you and your characters always dominating the game? Perhaps you should consider dialing back your optimizing to a point where you aren't dominating play.


Or perhaps that the important partmof the equation is wizard. Not flase focus


If you're playing the scissors in the rock paper scissors group, and an enemy casts rock on you, it doesn't matter that you have a rock or paper in your party. It's all on you at that point.

Optimization allows you to be good at scissors, while minimizing the impact of rock, so you can survive to continue to support your team.

Over-optimization means you are the world's most badass at scissors, but are really, really hurt by rock. And maybe paper.

Munchkin means you've found some RAW exploit or have coerced your GM to the point that you are scissors made out of rock paper.

Dark Archive

Mostly wizard false focus just gave the arcane trickster build some extra damage. Also false focus doesnt require you worship razmir. All those characters were competent. Any full caster played well is just able to beat any encounter.

We have one player that is always making fighters or equivalents and he gets upset once everyone gets past third level. He is the odd man out though. I normally chill during combat or go with a more supportive spell selection.

For sword bro combat wise he played like our resident figther. I tended to just get into flanking range and call it a day. Got teamwork feats and maanaged to get our fighter to listen for once and it wprked out. He sucked less than normal.

For arcane trickster we would normally figure out what we where facing and ambush it through illusions and having summons and poppets as chaff. Poppets werent from me.

Mystic theurge i just tossed buffs most of the time with the occasional spout of having any utility spell we needed on hand to invalidate an encounter. Those invisible stalkers suck when you glitterdust them. Out of combat divination makes every encounter easier.

When i say dominating i mean by the characters mere existence he opens up new strategies and shuts down enemy options. Not that i was making it any less fun for anyone.


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Say you make a Wizard VMC battle Oracle with the prestigious spellcaster feat so that you can prestige class into EK without losing any caster levels. You now get up to 15 BAB with full wizard spellcasting and some feats left over for both combat and craft wondrous.

You now bind an outsider and cast geas on them forcing them to take no actions and fail all saving throws for a year. You magic jar into that body and keep your real body in a bag of holding that you carry.

Now with boosted stats and higher BAB your "rock" can easily fill the "scissor" role and lost none of her "rock" abilities.

If you are evil or persuasive, you can bind "paper" outsiders to fill those needs for free.

Wizard is the strongest class. If it isn't dominating your table you either are houseruling or the player is being nice/doesn't know how to break it.


I like how you think :)


I like to tear any intended illusion of normality apart. In the case of wizards, this involves not being the best because being the best is normal.

You can break a game without being OP.


Most people seem to consider optimized as optimal for one (or more) elements of the game, such as damage.

I disagree, I think optimal and optimized are very different. Optimizing means getting the most out of something. You can optimize a weak option, even if that option is not optimal for any singular purpose.

Scarab Sages

My PCs are designed As optimized builds... so yeah, I min-max....

Maximize the table fun with a minimum of non-fun stuff.

;)

I'm always interested in things that do this.


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Optimizing requires that you know the thing you're optimizing for. Optimizing a character for a DPR race is different than optimizing one for a home game where you fulfill a specific niche which is different than optimizing for a PFS game where you adventure with whatever bag of mixed nuts the venture captain sends out with you


optimizing means you do research and make your character not suck dog turds


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Optimizing is me using the rules as best I can to mechanically represent the character I'm envisioning.


ccs wrote:
Optimizing is me using the rules as best I can to mechanically represent the character I'm envisioning.

Very well said and fits my thinking exactly.


Tangent: does anyone really optimize for non-combat reasons? I mean, let's say your build is centered around impressive Knowledge checks. Did you select that build and push the boundaries of optimization b/c you just want to be insanely knowledgeable, or did you do it b/c your PC is a Bard 1/Wizard 5 with a feat that replaces Intimidate with Knowledge checks to Demoralize opponents?


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I optimised for perform dance once.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
Tangent: does anyone really optimize for non-combat reasons? I mean, let's say your build is centered around impressive Knowledge checks. Did you select that build and push the boundaries of optimization b/c you just want to be insanely knowledgeable, or did you do it b/c your PC is a Bard 1/Wizard 5 with a feat that replaces Intimidate with Knowledge checks to Demoralize opponents?

I optimize for all performance in all areas, not just combat. Versatility and adaptability is the name of the game for characters I create. Being good at most/all things is better to me than being the best at one or two things.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
Tangent: does anyone really optimize for non-combat reasons? I mean, let's say your build is centered around impressive Knowledge checks. Did you select that build and push the boundaries of optimization b/c you just want to be insanely knowledgeable, or did you do it b/c your PC is a Bard 1/Wizard 5 with a feat that replaces Intimidate with Knowledge checks to Demoralize opponents?

yes i had a rogue who sucked in combat but was amazing at all things skill check related expect for like 3-4 skills just cuz i didn't have enough skill points per level


Optimization, as I view it, typically means that your character ends up being "better" by some objective definition, whereas that is not necessarily the case with min/maxing. Min/maxers just do the most damage.

An "optimized" character can easily still look "normal", whereas a min/maxer seldom does.

The Exchange

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I optimised for perform dance once.

I'm up to +24 for Perform Comedy... but it took one scenario played to get there. (+24 skill check with 1 XP....)

just felt the need to brag


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What is optimizing?
DM don't hurt me...
Don't hurt me...
No more...


Cashie wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I optimised for perform dance once.

I'm up to +24 for Perform Comedy... but it took one scenario played to get there. (+24 skill check with 1 XP....)

just felt the need to brag

Well, you could have put that to use and bragged in a more entertaining matter. :P


I have a character optimized for slight of hand now.

In past other skills, so guess most optimization would be around combat or skills.


Bladelock wrote:

I have a character optimized for slight of hand now.

In past other skills, so guess most optimization would be around combat or skills.

we had a character that was optimized around just not dying, it was terrible in combat and at most skills but it was pretty much nie unkillable


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In a gaming context I've only ever come across "optimization" on the Paizo message boards, probably because I haven't met many new players in the last 15 years.

I've seen it most often in threads started by players requesting help with a character build. Usually they seem to mean building a character who does something useful and does it well, sort of like power-gaming or min-maxing, but without the negative associations.

However the advice given on these threads often strikes me as power-gaming, if not outright min-maxing.

Dump stats lower than 8; multi-classing to gain a mechanical advantage at the expense of the character concept; and rules options from obscure splat books. Things that generally make me feel uncomfortable.

I guess, to use Big Norse Wolf's analogy, I'm a slower driver.

Fortunately my group drives at about the same speed. Four of us drive at near-identical speeds, and we happen to be the group's GMs; one drives a little faster but we don't always care for his go-faster stripes; another tends to drive experimental models that don't go as fast as he'd like; and the last is a newbie who's still learning.


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Moonclanger wrote:
In a gaming context I've only ever come across "optimization" on the Paizo message boards, probably because I haven't met many new players in the last 15 years.

The Paizo forums are the most obvious place on the Internet for new players to seek advice. My first posting here, March 14, 2011, asked for advice about my gnome ranger/monk.

My own definition of optimization is to specialize a character for a particular role and carefully assembling class abilities, feats, skills, and gear that complement each other. I view excessive optimization as limiting the roles the character can take, which reduces the fun. A character ought to have multiple roles in a party.

For example, in 2015 I played a barbarian optimized for wilderness survival. She had many features that do not fit the standard combat barbarians, such as being a gnome and learning Raging Swim and Raging Climb. But her roles were to scout and to begin battle. Her mobility (including Mobility feat) let her tease enemies into wasting their attack of opportunity before the rest of the party closed in. The character concept worked effectively, since it filled two reasonable roles.

Moonclanger wrote:

I've seen it most often in threads started by players requesting help with a character build. Usually they seem to mean building a character who does something useful and does it well, sort of like power-gaming or min-maxing, but without the negative associations.

However the advice given on these threads often strikes me as power-gaming, if not outright min-maxing.

Dump stats lower than 8; multi-classing to gain a mechanical advantage at the expense of the character concept; and rules options from obscure splat books. Things that generally make me feel uncomfortable.

An underperforming character has either mismatched abilities, which is easy to fix without changing the character concept, or the wrong roles. That latter requires changing the character concept and tossing out bad roles. Sometime a role that would work in one campaign fails in another campaign. But most often, the inexperienced player tried to do too much with one character and has to painfully decide which roles to give up. A new player must struggle to define a character concept and we advisors would struggle more to adjust that concept to fit the system well. In the midst of cruelly chipping down the roles of that vaguely-defined concept, we advisors often take the easy path of reducing it to a well-known character build. Then our advice looks exactly like powergaming.

Add to that that a few classes are weak and need to give up more than other classes. For example, a core monk needs a lot of unexpected choices, such as high Strength, in order to function as well as a ranger or fighter. That ruins many character concepts of dexterous monks or wise monks.

As for low stats, multiclassing, and obscure splatbooks being a sign of excessive optimization, in my experience they are tools for character concepts.

A stat of 7 is only a -2 penalty. Its opposite is a stat of 14, and PCs always have one or more stats at 14 or better. The penalty does not mean the character is crippled; instead, it means the character is poor at one common adventuring role: lifting a fully-loaded hiking pack or dodging a sword thrust or enduring a flesh wound or mastering a school of skills or resisting mind control or calming down town guards. Once again it comes down to the roles the player chose for the character. Lots of people have fun roleplaying a gnome sorcerer who asks the human fighter to carry her bedroll or a wall-of-steel fighter unable to step aside in reflex or a squishy wizard or a single-minded cleric who studied only religion or a bewildered barbarian or a grouchy dwarf.

I read www.d20pfsrd.com to find new feats for my leveling characters. That site lists feats from obscure splatbooks as easily as it lists feats from the Core Rulebook, so yes, my builds often use feats from the splatbooks. By the way, the second Pathfinder hardcover rulebook, Advanced Player's Guide, fits the definition of splatbook in having a series title. At least it is not obscure.

My 15th-level bloodrager NPC took Technologist and Craft Technological Items from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide because she plays in the high-tech Iron Gods AP, took Airy Step and Wings of Air from the Advanced Race Guide to match her Air Elemental bloodline, and took Improved Spell Sharing from the Advanced Class Guide to better protect her clockwork familiar. Her other 8 feats, with 4 from her bloodline, are straight from the Core Rulebook: Dodge, Great Fortitude, Improved Familiar, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Point-Blank Shot, Power Attack, and Precise Shot. The splatbooks gave flavorful feats, rather than optimized feats, for her character concept.

Sure, this forum teases that a lot of paladins were raised by fey, due to the way the Fey Foundling feat from Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea World Guide enhances Lay on Hands ability. The flavorful feats from the splatbooks can sour character flavor if chosen for optimization instead. Or maybe Fey Foundling should have had a more generic name.

I used to multiclass for character concept. My D&D 3rd Edition elf cleric was also an archer, and eventually he took a level in wizard to qualify for the Arcane Archer prestige class. But Pathfinder's archetypes provide better ways to mix concepts from two classes to build a character concept. My wife's Iron Gods gunslinger/rogue is a gadgeteer who specializes in non-magical battlefield control. She had to take an obscure archetype and multiclass to achieve that unusual character concept.


Moonclanger wrote:
Dump stats lower than 8; multi-classing to gain a mechanical advantage at the expense of the character concept; and rules options from obscure splat books. Things that generally make me feel uncomfortable.

Stats under 8 are commonplace even when rolling for stats, unless you're using an unusual scheme. The thing is, ability scores affect life choices, and people with high INT and low CHA may tend to be "bookish" whether they're Wizards or not. A person who's weak, slow, and frail isn't going to be a warrior by choice; if forced into it he will try to get out at the first opportunity or else is likely to be killed by an opponent who is strong, fast, and tough. Some old-school RPGs had the "funnel", in which players quickly rolled everything about a character, including ability scores and class. The ruthlessly Darwinian nature of dungeon crawling meant those with poor ability scores and/or scores not synergistic with their class were killed off quickly. The usual process of creating a first-level Pathfinder character, in which the player chooses a class/race/etc. and assigns ability scores accordingly, can be said to simply skip the funneling process.

Almost any multiclass concept can be done without detracting from a concept, and characters can certainly evolve. Because the mechanics of a multiclass character are meant to synergize, it usually means their themes synergize or the character himself was already doing (or wanted to do) the thing the multiclass enables.

Pathfinder players tend to use a lot more material from obscure splatbooks than players from other systems, partly because there's just so much material, and partly because it's the first popular RPG that has really good online databases for all that material—most other publishers threaten to sue if you try. For some players, character creation is in itself a fun part of the game.


Rhedyn wrote:

Say you make a Wizard VMC battle Oracle with the prestigious spellcaster feat so that you can prestige class into EK without losing any caster levels. You now get up to 15 BAB with full wizard spellcasting and some feats left over for both combat and craft wondrous.

You now bind an outsider and cast geas on them forcing them to take no actions and fail all saving throws for a year. You magic jar into that body and keep your real body in a bag of holding that you carry.

Now with boosted stats and higher BAB your "rock" can easily fill the "scissor" role and lost none of her "rock" abilities.

If you are evil or persuasive, you can bind "paper" outsiders to fill those needs for free.

Wizard is the strongest class. If it isn't dominating your table you either are houseruling or the player is being nice/doesn't know how to break it.

I can't think of a worse example of how to play a wizard. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The point of the game is for everyone to have fun, but if you hog the limelight with a character like this, how is anyone else going to have fun?


Moonclanger wrote:
Dump stats lower than 8; multi-classing to gain a mechanical advantage at the expense of the character concept; and rules options from obscure splat books. Things that generally make me feel uncomfortable.

Mathmuse, Athaleon, thanks for your comments. I tend to agree with them, though such characters as you describe generally aren't for me.

I dislike dump stats lower than 8 because I dislike dump stats in my own characters. Most of the characters I create have no stat lower than 10. IMO the penalties for low stats can be quite severe, especially for physical stats. E.g. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would want to play a Wizard with 7 STR. When you don't have a decent AC you can't afford to compromise your movement rate.

My comment on multi-classing was directed at players who take a one or two level dip in a second class. It's nearly always done to acquire one specific ability, which fits the concept. And I don't have a problem with that. What bugs me though is that in doing so the character often acquires one or two other abilities that don't fit the concept so well. I like streamlined, elegant designs.

I guess I'm just wary of players who don't share my design aesthetics!

As for the obscure splat books I was thinking of hardbacks that have yet to receive errata and softbacks that never will. Paizo's quality assurance hasn't been great in recent years and players tend to home in on the broken options - the ones that get changed when the errata come out. So for the good of the game when creating my own characters I exercise restraint where such options are concerned, and as a GM carefully vet requests to use such options from my players.


marcryser wrote:
KestrelZ wrote:
We might as well try defining "what is art".
Art is the creative manipulation of the environment for a specific reason or function. That's actually much easier than defining 'optimization' in a RPG character sense.

One definition that I've always liked was that art is an intended designation of an experience as artful combined with a certain kind of attentiveness by its audience.

So, one could look at optimization as an intended manipulation of a system to focus on a set of specific functionalities and one that is experienced as such by other gamers.

I like this because I feel like optimization isn't a strictly individual experience, but rather one shared.


It's highly conditional.
For example, if someone were to create a character for The Cleaves, they would make the classes and races specific skills and abilities as high as possible to test the homebrew elements. If vampires are included as PCs, their powers are optimised.

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