Author Topic: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization  (Read 12712 times)

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Endarire

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The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« on: June 09, 2010, 07:24:05 AM »
The Seven (7) Facets of Character Optimization

Optimization can make you stand out.
Will you solo a fight that's meant to kill you,
Or will you help your allies so much that foes can't touch you?

Intro
This info should come as no great surprise.  Many have inspired this work, yet none I've seen have put it in such a condensed form.

I'm not here to tell you how 'optimized' your concept is.  If you want to make a sneaky character whose body weight is 37.5% hair and who looks and roars like a lion and smells like an onion, so be it.

I am here to tell you what main aspects ('facets') can be optimized on a character.  In general, the more facets you optimize, the more optimal your character will be.  How powerful your group will let you be before saying, "You're stuck as a Commoner next campaign!" is up to them.

You may be able to redeem an otherwise icky character.  Speaking of which, a Commoner can take Leadership to get a far more optimal character or max his class skills of Spot and Listen to be an effective scout, or max Handle Animal to train creatures to fight for him, or be decked out with so many magic items he's effectively a caster.

Below, when I say "Every character gets feats/skills," I assume every character is mindful.  If you play a mindless creature, most likely other wacky things are happening in your game.

These facets are listed in no particular order.

Please don't use this thread to debate whether one facet is more important than another!

Noteworthy Contributors
[spoiler]God - He has been ever-vigilant, ever-faithful, and ever-good to me.  Sometimes, I realize it and thank Him for it.  Here You go!

TreeHugger.com - They provided that spiffy ranbow zebra image near the top.  They just don't know that they did.[/spoiler]End Credits

Feats
Every character gets feats.  Which feats are worth feat slots is a debatable.  Which feats you want and need for your character concept may also be.

In many games (ones that cap at level 6-8), the standard character gets 3 general feats at most   This great demand and generally low supply makes feats precious resources.  +1 AC some of the time probably isn't worth a feat.  Making my superpowers last all day probably is.

Feats are considered valid currency for prerequisites.  Often, PrCs (especially non-casting PrCs) require a bunch of icky feats with the promise of power later.

Skills
Every character gets skills.  Skills are seen as generally less valuable than feats, but still have their uses.  In general, the most important skills involve perception (Spot, Listen, Search), stealth (Hide, Move Silently), and Knowledge.  Most characters should expect to use these skills throughout a campaign, if not every session.

Skills are considered common currency for prerequisites.  Just about every PrC requires some skill point investment.  I didn't know Profession: Teacher was a skill until I shook my head at it as a prereq.

Even in a high magic game, skills have their use.  "I can see you!" says the Wizard with see invisibility.  "You're dead!" says the Rogue with so much Hide that foes need a natural 20 to hope to see him.

Items
As a famous Rogue said, "There's always room for treasure!"  Gaining or destroying magical dinguses of ultimate power is a major motivator for D&D characters.  If people in reality work largely for money, adventurers work for More Loot Than You Can Shake A Treant Atâ„¢.

Items can do many things.  Magic items are somewhat expected to do a plethora of things, such as mimic very powerful spells.  Wealth By Level exists for good reason - to ensure no one has more than his fair share of "I can do anything!"  Magic item crafters have at least twice as much of anything, due to crafting discounts.

Many if not most characters would rather lose experience or levels than gear.  Gear is pretty, shiny, and you can often trade it with other, more gullible party members!

Races & Templates
Every character has at least 1 race.  Face it:  Most races aren't worth the effort.  If human, dwarf, elf, stongheart halfling, raptoran, whisper gnome, LA0 aasimar, or Dragonborn "something" doesn't cut it, you're probably stuck with a level adjustment.  And why do level adjustments exist?  WotC wants you to play a stereotype.  Really.

In a game where polymorph is easily accessible, racial bonuses mean little once you can turn into a pyrohydra or your favorite creature.

Templates work the same way.  If it has a level adjustment, you can usually ignore it.  Either it's too weak and not worth taking or so uber your DM probably won't allow it.

Classes
Not all classes are made equal.  Not even close.  Unless you're playing a nonstandard game, every character has at least 1 class level.

If everyone gets feats and skills, what makes a character unique?  Class features.  WotC assumes that a character's class combination is its most important aspect.  This may be so because of the very existence of classes that define their party's fun.  Usually, these classes are called casters.

In short, casters alter reality.  Non-casters hit stuff.  Sure, everyone can make a Spot check, or try to seduce the baron's daughter with Bluff, but when it comes to numbers, casters have the edge.  (Guidance of the avatar, ahem.)  A non-caster uses his own rolls to determine his success - accuracy, damage, and so on.  Casters say, "Deal with this!" and force the enemy to save vs. something awful, if there even is a save!

By himself, a Commoner is pathetic.  He has no class features of note and his life seems doomed to failure.  (Some would say that a Fighter is just a Commoner's big brother, but I digress.)  Have a friendly Wizard (preferably his cohort he got from Leadership) pump him full of spells, and suddenly "Bob the Farm Boy" isn't so weak anymore, or so Bob anymore.  No, he's a Seven Headed Cryohydra who took Assume Supernatural Ability and one-shots the enemy army with 21d6 cold breath damage.  Every d4 rounds.

Initiative
Unless you're playing a non-combat game, every character rolls initiative.  At high enough power levels, initiative is the factor which states whether you live (you go first) or die (oops!).

Initiative is so important, it has its own handbook.

You may think a typical level 5 party has no business against a pair of CR9 frost giants.  The giants are so strong (+18/+13 melee, 3d6+13) and healthy (133 average HP) that they'll demolish the party several times over.

Then the Wizard goes first (he has Improved Initiative, nerveskitter, a DEX bonus...) and hits them all with glitterdust, Will DC 19.  Now they're blind, covered in sticky hot pink confetti, and need to be killed in 5 rounds before the dust wears off and the group's dead.

At high levels, life is still a matter of going first.  If your Wizard uses his invincibility combo an instant before your foe, you win.

Tactics
This facet has the least pre-game optimization.  Regardless, if you play your build to its strengths, you'll be much better off.  A Wizard who casts spells is more potent than one who doesn't.  (A Wizard who dies too soon to cast spells also counts.)

Before the campaign starts, you can collaborate with your party members so the Transmuter takes War Weaver at 4 and Incantatrix at 9.  The Druid plans to take a fleshraker companion and has memorized venomfire - that is, he's memorized the exact spell text.  The Artificer is nicknamed "Vend-o-matic" for his ability to insert your coins and get what you need at a deep discount.  With enough time and money, the Artificer can make some device to shoot flaming rockets, launch himself 50' in the air, and make spit taste like cold, refreshing beer.

In a standard campaign, this group works.  Need to stop an overwhelming force?  Need to sneak into X and recover Y?  Need to change your underwear while keeping your pants on?  There's a trap for that.

However, if the group encounters wild magic zone after wild magic zone where all their magical toys have a 50% chance of turning them into tie dye ninja squirrels with each spell cast or magic item activated, they're in trouble.

Similarly, if the character personalities clash- the Artificer is a greedy, selfish snob, the Transmuter has the attention span of a hyperactive 5-year-old, and the Druid eats kobold babies- the group is probably less effective then their abilities would say.  No amount of merit will make up for personal preference.

Other Facets
I don't try to quantify how much damage or HP you should have or how high your saves should be.  I assume your stats are as high as you need to fill your niches, if only with items.

Why?

If you emphasize the 7 main facets, these other aspects will fall into place.  Someone who wants Power Attack will probably have far more than the minimum 13 STR.  A primary caster makes his main casting stat his highest, usually 18 base with a point buy.

Also, your character concept may demand you put misc. points into lesser abilities; skill points into Craft, stat points into CHA, and so on.

Once your character's made, assuming you aren't Wild Shaped or graced with continual polymorph, then items, classes, and magic can rectify your problems and optimize you even further!

A wise man asked me, "When do you stop optimizing?"  I said nothing and kept working.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 03:38:45 AM by Endarire »
Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"

carnivore

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2010, 12:12:41 PM »
nice job  :clap

 :D

Bastian

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2010, 11:01:53 PM »

Races & Templates
Every character has at least 1 race.  Face it:  Most races aren't worth the effort.  If human, dwarf, elf, stongheart halfling, raptoran, whisper gnome, LA0 aasimar, or Dragonborn "something" doesn't cut it, you're probably stuck with a level adjustment.  And why do level adjustments exist?  WotC wants you to play a stereotype.  Really.
Considering your topic is optimization, you forgot warforged (especially Dragonborn warforged) and kobolds. :D

ninjarabbit

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2010, 01:53:57 AM »
I have 4 categories for skills.


#1: Skills you want to max out: diplomacy, UMD, intimidate, concentration, certain knowledge skills, etc

#2: Skills you want 5 ranks in for synergy bonuses: handle animal, bluff, certain knowledge skills, balance, etc

#3: Skills you want 1 rank in: obscure knowledge skills, anything that requires you to be trained in.

#4: Skills needed to qualify for PrCs and feats

anrke

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 02:36:09 PM »
That's a refreshing look on optimisation.   Thanks!

fuinjutsu

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2010, 04:27:43 AM »
I have 4 categories for skills.


#1: Skills you want to max out: diplomacy, UMD, intimidate, concentration, certain knowledge skills, etc

#2: Skills you want 5 ranks in for synergy bonuses: handle animal, bluff, certain knowledge skills, balance, etc

#3: Skills you want 1 rank in: obscure knowledge skills, anything that requires you to be trained in.

#4: Skills needed to qualify for PrCs and feats

Ahem.

handle animal and bluff are worth maxing in many games.  Especially if the DM lets you collect pets or lie your way past encounters.
Eh, the wizard have more money than them combined, he could in theory just use all his money on a fleet of trained attack mules, but then we aren't playing 3.5 but zergling rushing in Starcraft instead.

Sinfire Titan

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2010, 05:29:22 AM »
Are these in order of priority? If so, I'd put Tactics above Init, possibly even Classes. A good tactician will be able to cope with a lower init count except in high-level PVP arenas (where Rocket Tag will be in full effect).

The Class part of this post is debatable, but it's just my opinion (and I've been known to have poor opinions from time to time).


[spoiler][/spoiler]

ninjarabbit

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2010, 11:26:33 PM »

Ahem.

handle animal and bluff are worth maxing in many games.  Especially if the DM lets you collect pets or lie your way past encounters.

Obviously bluff is good for many builds but I put it in category #2 because bluff gives you a synergy bonus to 4 different skills, plus certain characters like hexblades won't have enough skill points to max out bluff.

And a few builds will want to max out handle animal but for most builds you really only need the ranks for the synergy bonus to ride, especially for low skill point builds like paladins or once you start getting intellegent mounts.

Endarire

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 03:36:08 AM »
These facets are in no particular order.
Hood - My first answer to all your build questions; past, present, and future.

Speaking of which:
Don't even need TO for this.  Any decent Hood build, especially one with Celerity, one-rounds [Azathoth, the most powerful greater deity from d20 Cthulu].
Does it bug anyone else that we've reached the point where characters who can obliterate a greater deity in one round are considered "decent?"

PlzBreakMyCampaign

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Re: The Seven Facets of Character Optimization
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2010, 07:40:38 AM »
This is well done. It saddens me that initiative is that important. Its definitely true. But still  :(

It reminds me of the anticaster homebrew class I posted in an outdated version on these boards - its code paraphrased is 'you may never go first'. I haven't gotten to playtest it, but I'm happy with the current version.
[Spoiler]
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An interesting read, nice to see a civil discussion
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