Keeping “Power Gamers / Game Breakers” in check


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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McDaygo wrote:
So what’s your advice when the optimizer bullies his way to the best loot?

Bullies in character or in real life? Around our table we're all friends, so bullying doesn't happen. If someone physically or verbally bullied me, I would get up and leave (or ask them to leave if it was my house). That behavior isn't tolerated. Bullying in character also isn't acceptable, but requires an in-character response. Our group distributes magic items by group consensus with the party's best interests at heart. Bullying isn't necessary.


The last really gross example of bullying I saw at a table the Barbarian called dibs on a Balor Demon's sword. The GM said the moment he took hold of it, the sword took possession of him and he began attacking the party with it. It wasn't my preference that he survive the encounter or be brought back, but he did. He was still a bully afterwards.


Bullying in character

Why do you guys not abandon that character?

Bullying out of character is an out of character problem.


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McDaygo wrote:
Val'bryn2 wrote:
Question: you say you want realism, but what is realistic about trained soldiers, because that's what pcs are, freezing up in terror at known quantities of their world?

Some Soldiers absolutely freeze in the heat of the moment especially in high stress moments. Hell I feel I know a fair amount about animals and don’t fear them from a distance; However if I am swimming and a big shark happens to be near me that is a complete different scenario. That is 100 percent realistic.

Yes Pathfinder is heroic Fantasy but there is nothing wrong with not wanting an easy game. A dispute I had with a player (as a player not the GM) is they said we as players are supposed to win; I said I disagree, we are supposed to attempt to overcome but with no real chance at failure then it isn’t fun.

Rookies freeze, veterans do not.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Bullying out of character is an out of character problem.

Bullying in character is also an out of character problem.

If you're playing with people you want to play again with, there's no scenario in which a player can appropriately make his/her character behave inappropriately. If someone argues there is, I would either vote them off the island or quit.

It's fine to make a strong in game case for your character getting an item. Everyone makes their in character case to the GM, who assigns modifiers based on the strength of their case, and a d20 roll settles it. Or settle it PFS-style and nobody gets permanent items - you turn it all in for gold equivalent at the next town and divide evenly.

People who argue in game until others are uncomfortable out of game are (most charitably) immature or (most likely) jerks.


Pan, definitely not a Kitsune wrote:
McDaygo wrote:
[T]he orginal orgin of the topic is if I gm and I get a similar type of player how to reel them in.

The bad news: In the absolute worst case scenario, there might simply not be a game possible that everyone can enjoy, because everyone wants so different things from it.

The good news is that that's just the absolute worst case. It's more likely that - assuming no actual disruptive intend on either side - there's still enough common ground for everyone to have fun, but you'll have to find it, and the best way for that is to talk it out and figure out what everyone wants and expects from the game.

EldonGuyre wrote:

Absolutely.

I have a similar situation. That's all well and good- my only real problem cropped up when he asked me to make encounters challenge his character.

I'm not sure, but I think he finally got it when I explained that when his character gets challenged, others simply die.

Yeah, actually mixing optimization levels can be horrible, unless everyone is fine with all the aspects of it - the other players need to be fine with being overshadowed (at least in the optimizer's area of competence), and the optimizer has to accept that there isn't going to be much of a reward for optimizing.

He's literally the best at *most* things. He makes it hard to allow others to really shine.


Watery Soup wrote:
Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
Bullying out of character is an out of character problem.

Bullying in character is also an out of character problem.

If you're playing with people you want to play again with, there's no scenario in which a player can appropriately make his/her character behave inappropriately. If someone argues there is, I would either vote them off the island or quit.

It's fine to make a strong in game case for your character getting an item. Everyone makes their in character case to the GM, who assigns modifiers based on the strength of their case, and a d20 roll settles it. Or settle it PFS-style and nobody gets permanent items - you turn it all in for gold equivalent at the next town and divide evenly.

People who argue in game until others are uncomfortable out of game are (most charitably) immature or (most likely) jerks.

I’m trying to pose a question

If one player is playing a jerk, why are the other players characters hanging out with said jerk.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
EldonGuyre wrote:

He's literally the best at *most* things. He makes it hard to allow others to really shine.

How is this remotely possible? You can build to a jack of all trades, but they aren't the best at anything, unless the other players are building for failure, like an asthmatic barbarian, or a wizard who can't even spell his own class, much less the ones that affect the world. What did you do for stats, because a monk/wizard is perhaps the most MAD combo you can make. You need Str, maybe Dex, Con, Int and Wis. They don't have much in the way of skills, either.


Maybe they rolled for stats and this guy rolled 1000 times


Val'bryn2 wrote:
EldonGuyre wrote:

He's literally the best at *most* things. He makes it hard to allow others to really shine.

How is this remotely possible? You can build to a jack of all trades, but they aren't the best at anything, unless the other players are building for failure, like an asthmatic barbarian, or a wizard who can't even spell his own class, much less the ones that affect the world. What did you do for stats, because a monk/wizard is perhaps the most MAD combo you can make. You need Str, maybe Dex, Con, Int and Wis. They don't have much in the way of skills, either.

Stats are rolled - I use what's known as the grid system...but seriously,there are so many ways to game the system, and he does. Character optimization is very real - I've seen point-buy characters with hugely varying power levels.

Monk/wizard? I'm not talking about that at all. That's pretty inherently unoptimized. The character I'm referring to is an inquisitor...and now, a paladin.


EldonGuyre wrote:
He's literally the best at *most* things. He makes it hard to allow others to really shine.

What the heck is his character?

What the heck are their characters?

What are their builds?

What things are other characters focused on where he's outclassing them at their own game? How are their characters specialized in these things? How is he able to overshadow them?


I think his full level was Wizard/Force missile Mage (3.5)/Monk/Technomancer. Last two were dips in a tech heavy game. He also optimized via cybernetic implants (legal amount).

Basically by time he was done and due to his feat set up he was casting Mythic Magic Missile as a non mythic character doing insane damage that punches through things that normally stop magic missile. Only spells he prepared were force spells (flavor which I admit he was true to his character) but due to doing the math to convert and properly build magic/tech items he overshadowed every one except in then diplomacy social department. He was doing the most damage and his passive knowledge checks were at a 40 if I remember correctly (the GM at the time gave everyone the gift of Noticula so everyone was higher stats and gave huge gold payouts. None of the other players built that way, they all did unique ideas but no one optimized to try to overshadow everyone else. While I was not the Primary GM for this character I did GM for him once at high level. Dude was mowing through things that should have been an epic encounter CR wise.

The Rest of the party to give you an idea:
-Said character above
-Witch (also a vampire, acquired in game by energy drain)
-Vigilante (stalker build)
-Kineticist healer
-2 Feral Gnashers; one a true Goblin/ the other a human adopted with level dips in tech slinger.

All players had same gold access between coin loot splitting amd same profession but even with upgraded gear the next highest DPS was the Vigilante and the FG Tech Slinger. Even then at Max damage they cod not keep up.

Then with encounters if the CR was above +3 average people complained.

That group no longer plays together but was frustrating non the less.


Val'bryn2 wrote:
Rookies freeze, veterans do not.

As a Vet with a few deployments with a few deployments under my belt I’ve seen experienced service members freeze for a moment before adrenaline kicks in during an emergency. Stress is stress.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

And in Pathfinder, freezing in combat is a low initiative roll. It isn't, and shouldn't be, lose agency of your character while the giant eats you, just because.

Just realized, you said this group broke up? Then why are you complaining about it? These examples of powergaming are coming from a GM's choice, he gave bonuses that made the pc powerful, just don't offer the Monty Haul he seems to have offered. Here's a hint, Mythic is hideously overpowered compared to regular. That's why it's, you know, mythic.

The problem really boils down to: you wanted to play one way, they wanted to play another. This is why Session 0 is a thing, a place to meet and discuss the plans before someone brings a character that doesn't fit in.


I also don't think there are any native ways for non-mythic characters to access mythic spell casting. That sounds like a 3rd party option. Always be careful when allowing 3rd party, because there is some good stuff out there, but there is also a lot of really overpowered stuff.


Coidzor wrote:
EldonGuyre wrote:
He's literally the best at *most* things. He makes it hard to allow others to really shine.

What the heck is his character?

What the heck are their characters?

What are their builds?

What things are other characters focused on where he's outclassing them at their own game? How are their characters specialized in these things? How is he able to overshadow them?

As stated, he has the paladin now (previously inquisitor). His stats are pretty insane, though I don't have them memorized, his Str, Wis,and Cha are his best. His AC is very high, and his usual form of combat is mounted (the party has griffon mounts). The campaign's big enemies are evil dragons, giants, and demons. Smite turns him into a combat monster. Perception is always the most common skill, and his is the best, and diplomacy is extremely important in this campaign - again, the best. He's also a healer, and a decent spellcaster. As backup, he's a good archer, too (it's his family name, in fact).

Of course,he has leadership,and his cohort is very good at those things he's not expert in.

There are six players in the game, and all of them do have something that exceed his capabilities - but only barely in many cases. There are certainly skills he doesn't have, or is lesser skilled in, but they aren't as big a focus. People do get a chance to shine, but I have to work at making sure it happens.


Leadership is one of if not the most broken feat in the entire game, banned by most groups on these boards from what I’ve seen.

A paladin who is good at mounted combat, with decent archery and nice AC is nothing irregular.

I am wondering how he is a paladin who is good at magic.

There should be lost of things he can’t do to do with higher level divine casting and basic arcane stuff.

And any not smitable opponent he shouldn’t be particular groundbreaking at fighting.


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I don't normally chime in like this without reading everything previous, but time is short and this is an important issue.

First, I'd like to dispel a common misconception that doesn't seem to have been addressed yet. Role playing is not acting. It is not talking in a silly voice or using a lot of adjectives to describe an action.
Role playing is, well, playing a role. A rogue is often sneaky. A wizard is sagely. A fighter fights. rolling a D20 can a vs often is proper role play.
However, with all of that said, I understand your main point.

I have zero tolerance for players who try to abuse the system, who have this strange idea that their goal is to somehow "beat" the DM, and just generally have their fun at the expense of the other people at my table.
I've had the most success eliminating this behavior by talking to everyone before character creation. At "session 0", as someone said earlier. I'll talk about the theme and tone of the game, as well as what I expect from my players. If I get any smug, snarky, I-know-this-game-better-than-anyone-and-I'm-totally-going-to-own-all-of-you vibes, I nip it in the bud right there. Leave that attitude at the door or you're not welcome at my table.

 Source materials are another pretty significant way I've limited this sort of nonsense. When you don't let people tap into every single supplement and third-party text, you can limit their options, and thus limit the chances for any kind of unforeseen synergy.
 in my games, we use the core books and my house rules. If they want to do something outside of that, be it a custom spell, feat, piece of or equipment, or totally re-work a whole class,
 I am absolutely willing to work with a player to get them where they want to be. And at that point, I'll look elsewhere for ideas. But I always have a very strong presence during character creation. This helps me see any potential rule abuse coming before it hits the table and lets me get familiar with characters before the story begins, so the story is tailored for them, specifically.

As a DM, you have every right to hold your game hostage. If you're not having fun, you will not be running a good game. If you have a player that is taking away from the experience for you or your players, it needs to stop. If it does not, the game ends. It's really as simple as that.
With that said however, there's an argument to be made for keeping an open mind and stepping up your game. If there's a player at your table that has no interest in the wonderful, enchanting narrative that you are making and instead just wants to focus on his numbers, so be it. If that's fun for them and it doesn't come at the cost of someone else's, let them have it.
Finally, I would just like to point out that what people often think of as "power gaming" or "optimization" is situational at best. I think a DM truly worth their salt can keep the pressure on and make the players sweat a little, regardless of their "builds" or what have you.
An adventurer would not be someone who dedicates their whole life to being the absolute best at swinging this certain magic sword in this certain way. They'd be someone who knows how to survive. Adapt. They'd be ready for anything. Like Indiana Jones, Batman, Aragorn and Odysseus.
If you throw a large enough quantity in a wide enough at your players, they'll be forced to spread their resources around more, just to survive. And those characters will be more well-rounded and feel vibrant, believable and compelling.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Leadership is one of if not the most broken feat in the entire game, banned by most groups on these boards from what I’ve seen.

A paladin who is good at mounted combat, with decent archery and nice AC is nothing irregular.

I am wondering how he is a paladin who is good at magic.

There should be lost of things he can’t do to do with higher level divine casting and basic arcane stuff.

And any not smitable opponent he shouldn’t be particular groundbreaking at fighting.

Yes, leadership is likely the most powerful feat in the game, and several party members have it. I keep it pretty downplayed, but he undoubtedly gets the most out of it.

Right, a paladin should be good at mounted combat, and decent archery skill is hardly a bad thing. Nice AC is a good thing. He very rarely gets hit at all, while others in the party take hit after hit. Smite raises that to the only a 20 category, often enough.

Paladins get amazing spells for the spell level - with good bonuses, that can definitely make a paladin a good caster. Make note that he's not overshadowing the casters at casting, and that claim wasn't made.

As to the unsmitable opponents - and there are a few - that tends to take his damage to sub 100/round, if he's dismounted, while the others rack up 40-60, typically. That's happened very recently, but 90% of the campaign was designed to enable one, the other, or both.

Mind you, from the beginning, my inclusion to the thread wasn't complaining, but commiseration. I understand how difficult it is to run a campaign where one character far outpowers the rest of the party, and what has to be done to allow others to shine.

This game has a history of over a year, and this group has gamed together for over four. He's actually been the most difficult to contend with, but he (and his wife) are the hosts, and great friends of mine. People have definitely enjoyed the game, despite the difficulties, and it keeps going strong while other games fizzle out.

Our next campaign is being planned already, and there's almost too much excitement for it.


Okay a lot of that is making me wonder what your other players are doing? Remind me what level are you guys?

Because if the paladin is accessing its powerful spells that tells me we’re pretty high levels.

If we are pretty high level and the rest of the party is hitting 40-60 dpr, that’s very low.

Then you tell me he takes significantly less hits than everyone else in the party? Outside of smiting Paladins don’t have anything special built in that makes them exceptionally good at having high AC.

Then you tell me he’s getting the most out of leadership.

It’s starting to make me ask, more about what it is that the rest of the party is not doing, than what he he is?

Sure he could have optimised the s%%$ out of his AC and there’s could be fine.

But given what I already know about their lacklustre DPR and his not particularly crazy numbers, it does make me think, that probably isn’t the case.

I’m starting to think that this disparity could be just as much about one player optimising as all the other players missing some pretty basic things they could be doing.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Okay a lot of that is making me wonder what your other players are doing? Remind me what level are you guys?

Because if the paladin is accessing its powerful spells that tells me we’re pretty high levels.

If we are pretty high level and the rest of the party is hitting 40-60 dpr, that’s very low.

Then you tell me he takes significantly less hits than everyone else in the party? Outside of smiting Paladins don’t have anything special built in that makes them exceptionally good at having high AC.

Then you tell me he’s getting the most out of leadership.

It’s starting to make me ask, more about what it is that the rest of the party is not doing, than what he he is?

Sure he could have optimised the s#%$ out of his AC and there’s could be fine.

But given what I already know about their lacklustre DPR and his not particularly crazy numbers, it does make me think, that probably isn’t the case.

I’m starting to think that this disparity could be just as much about one player optimising as all the other players missing some pretty basic things they could be doing.

Yes, they are, but I didn't post here for that. When I want a critique, I ask for it.


You’re on a public forum in someone else’s thread. I don’t need your permission to provide a constructive comment.

This is a thread about a perceived problem with powergaming and optimisation.

Now that a conversation has been had and some ideas have been drawn out, my opinion is that in terms of optimisation the problem is more to do with a gap, than it is to do with one player operating far outside the typical norms.

It sounds to me, like some of your players are playing at the low end of the expected values and another player is at the high end.

Now in or out of character bullying is an entirely different issue to being an optimiser. And different issues from one another and mostly not something to solved in character.


Back to who actually asked for advice - not every power gamer is a game breaker, and what breaks your game may be fine in mine.

Some people are just not roleplayers, but love to powergame. If it breaks your game, talk to them. They may be willing to adapt.

If not, find a replacement. It's an out-of-game issue, and those need to be solved outside of the game.


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EldonGuyre wrote:

Well, isn't that lovely. My comment was deleted.

Your opinion is still of no particular value.

You’re being needlessly rude.

On-topic: regarding the Paladin behaviour, is the bullying in or out of character and does he have a firm idea of character?

If it’s in characters it’s potentially a more easy fix.

Optimising does not exclude one from roleplaying by default.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
EldonGuyre wrote:

Well, isn't that lovely. My comment was deleted.

Your opinion is still of no particular value.

You’re being needlessly rude.

On-topic: regarding the Paladin behaviour, is the bullying in or out of character and does he have a firm idea of character?

If it’s in characters it’s potentially a more easy fix.

Optimising does not exclude one from roleplaying by default.

YOU are being needlessly rude.

I have repeatedly informed you that I didn't come looking for advice, and don't want it. When you've had that explained more than once, but continue to shove your opinion where it isn't wanted, to the point where you have to justify it by commenting that you can post your opinion because it's a public forum, that's some pretty passive-aggressive nonsense.

MY game is NOT the topic.


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EldonGuyre wrote:
Yes, they are, but I didn't post here for that. When I want a critique, I ask for it.

Not really your choice. Once you post something other people get to decide how they respond (within the framework of the thread, of course). And if your post differs enough from other's expectations (say, Monk/Wizard multiclass breaking the game) then I would expect people to question it.

In your case your complaints all seem to boil down to "this character is the best at the most common stuff in the campaign". While it might be powergaming (depending on degree) it's definitely not game breaking. And while we can't really measure the degree (as you won't provide details) we can absolutely guess that the other players are wildly behind (as 40 DPR is what, a 6th level Fighter with a bow?). Other players being really bad is a problem (all game imbalance is) but it's not powergaming. One Fighter and three Commoners is a bad party but it's not the Fighter's fault.

If you think it's off-topic by all means flag and move on. But since people seem to be arguing it, I'm absolutely going to chime in with "A Paladin in a demon-heavy campaign isn't a powergamer". Because they're not. It's what their class is designed to do. It's the perfect time to play one.


Bob Bob Bob wrote:
EldonGuyre wrote:
Yes, they are, but I didn't post here for that. When I want a critique, I ask for it.

Not really your choice. Once you post something other people get to decide how they respond (within the framework of the thread, of course). And if your post differs enough from other's expectations (say, Monk/Wizard multiclass breaking the game) then I would expect people to question it.

In your case your complaints all seem to boil down to "this character is the best at the most common stuff in the campaign". While it might be powergaming (depending on degree) it's definitely not game breaking. And while we can't really measure the degree (as you won't provide details) we can absolutely guess that the other players are wildly behind (as 40 DPR is what, a 6th level Fighter with a bow?). Other players being really bad is a problem (all game imbalance is) but it's not powergaming. One Fighter and three Commoners is a bad party but it's not the Fighter's fault.

If you think it's off-topic by all means flag and move on. But since people seem to be arguing it, I'm absolutely going to chime in with "A Paladin in a demon-heavy campaign isn't a powergamer". Because they're not. It's what their class is designed to do. It's the perfect time to play one.

Cant you read?

I didn't post that.

And I definitely never said that him being a paladin in a demon heavy campaign made him a powergamer - but you don't know enough to say he isn't.

He KNOWS and ADMITS to being a powergamer. He's also a decent roleplayer. My comment was ON TOPIC. Yours is NOT.


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This thread has gotten out of hand. I think everything that's been said in response to the OP is more than enough to conclude things.


Quixote wrote:
This thread has gotten out of hand. I think everything that's been said in response to the OP is more than enough to conclude things.

Probably. I hope he has a good idea of what to do.

There's actually nothing 'wrong' about being a powergamer - but it's not suitable to all games, and even if it is, it can make things more difficult, even if it doesn't break the game.

Aggression is not a good way to handle it.


Yeah I got it under control as now I solo run my own games and have 100% power to say no. That group we had a rotation GM seat of 3 GM’s co writing a story so any big choices needed a 2/3 vote.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, hate to break it to you, but that was always a problem with rotating GMs. Really nothing new, there was an amusing article in an old Dragon magazine about how some kids playing in a D&D club at school were coming back after weekends talking about how an older cousin GMd for them and gave their orc a rocket launcher. And this was either 1st or 2nd edition.

The GM rotation can work, but you need a framework like PFS to make it work, a firm commitment to the setting ideas.


McDaygo wrote:
Arachnofiend wrote:
If he's multiclassing Wizard and Monk he isn't a power gamer, he's someone who just has more fun with the combat aspects of Pathfinder and doesn't really care about roleplaying. There might be other issues going on here (frankly I don't trust you to be giving us an unbiased portrayal of this guy so no way for us to know for sure) but it sounds like he might just be a poor fit for more narrative heavy campaigns and it'd be better to do straightforward dungeon romps. YMMV on how the rest of your group will respond to that (I know my group wouldn't want to make that adjustment).

Outside the game I have zero issues. My problem (if I’m GMing or not) is the ridiculous damage output. From how I was brought up the game should play more like dark souls and less like a hack ‘n’ slash on easy mode. If you don’t feel stressed, scared for survival or have that feeling of gone through some stuff it is too easy.

I’m not talking GM vs. player either as that is wrong.

With the right amount of money motivation and time you can turn an NPC half the characters level into a nightmare to deal with using all the same rules available to them. When they finally get to face down with him they can probably drop him instantly but getting to him is the challenge for the team. If the characters are smashing the BBEG in 2 rounds of combat when they get a shot at him that doesnt mean they are too strong it means they are prepared. If the Characters can get a shot at him without first being burned, charmed, dipped in acid, chased by sharks, made to cry by goblins behind cover than he isnt very good at his job as a BBEG. You want more dark souls it should take the form of prepared opponents. If a character gets the drop on something and it is an epic battle instead of a one sided slaughter they were unprepared to deal with it. On the other hand by the end of a surprise round against them they should be wondering how long it is going to take to find everyones body parts and how much it will cost to get them reattached


A GM should always provide campaign expectations upfront. If you don't want people just hardcore power-gaming and droning on about how much DPS or some other nonsense they can do every round without an ounce of thought or effort put into roleplaying their character, then you should make this clear upfront. Let them know coming in that they will be expected to roleplay their character, not just pump out numbers.

Also, take the time to read over your player's PC builds, so you have a full understanding of what they are playing. Choose your allowed sources carefully. Use known reviewers like Endzeitgeist as a measuring stick on the quality and playability of any sourcebook.

There will be times in play when your players have an "aha" moment and will put some feats or abilities together that will break the game. You'll know this because it will not feel right. Make sure you take the time to read about it between sessions and if necessary, tell them "I'll let you know when I get tired of that" to give them a warning not to try to cheese up the game.


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There is absolutely nothing that requires a power gamer to not roleplay. This is a fallacy. Being good at making functional characters does not mean you can’t play the character.

I myself consider myself an optimiser, I pick a concept and I try to make it work as well as possible without picking choices that don’t fit that concept.

I have also acted in the theatre, in lady Windermere fan and the woman in black, I have studied acting and have taken improv classes. I take Roleplay just as seriously.

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