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D&D min-maxing: who cares about the story

Written by Expy - Published on October 28, 2007

Focus on combat encounters

The guys over at Critical Hits wrote a brilliant article on min-maxing that got me thinking. Why would a player to tweak their character stats and skills so much? It really doesn’t make sense.

The best characters have flaws

Yes, even flaws that overshadow their strengths! In stories and novels the protagonists all have glaring flaws. Only proper villains have no obvious weaknesses.

For flawed PCs wits and smarts become the great equalizers. I know for sure the most interesting non-plot issue in my game is the party rogue painstaykingly staying out of the way because of low CON and STR scores. The low CON score really keeps the player conscious of the ever-lurking potential violent death.

D&D evolved from a tactical game into a roleplaying game

If you’re going to focus on tactical and combat prowess only, why don’t you play a strategy game? The DM will tweak the encounters to make them interesting – no matter what your character is! The encounters suggested in the supplements won’t be a challenge for a carefully min-maxed party. Since the DM will make the encounters tougher by working hard (er, fudging hit points and dice rolls) min-maxing is useless.

D&D evolved from tactical to roleplaying-and-tactical. Flesh out your character!

Would you like your DM to work on an engaging plot and original storyline? Or do you want your DM to work on interesting combat encounters?

You can get both but if you min-max too much you might as well play a strategy game, because your DM will either work only on challenging encounters or avoid combat altogether.

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Written by Expy

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Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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10 Responses to “D&D min-maxing: who cares about the story”
  1. Reverend Mike says:

    I concur…my favorite characters are always the ones that are immensely flawed in some way…especially when that flaw can come out in roleplaying…

    My first character had an intelligence of 5…a gnome rogue under 3.0 rules…he was quite skilled in combat for some reason, but during less physically demanding situations he was the party clown…

    More recently, I played a half-giant barbarian with the mind of a child who is completely unaware of what goes on when he enters rage (using the Berserker Rage from PH2 where they automatically rage when below a certain hp)…CG to CE with no consciousness of it…’twas an interesting experience for me and my fellow players…

  2. ChattyDM says:

    There are actually 2 types of players that will go for MinMaxing and that’s Power Accumulators (Power Gamers) and Brilliant Planners (Wargamers).

    To them, the fun of the game is having an efficient, mean, lean piece of optimized statistics. The 1st types derives his fun from the optimization, the second thrives on planning his character like he plans his battles.

    I know you and your players have a more casual streak Yax, but I have such players in my group. The challenge I have with them is to have them create interesting, deep characters in spite of having made them like Hanzo Swords…

  3. rekres says:

    Everyone min-maxes!

    Everyone likes to get the most bang for his buck. Why take feat X if I can get more by taking feat Y. That is just good sense.

    We generally only stick the label ‘min-maxer’ on those who do it to extreme, but everyone does it in some form or other.

  4. rekres says:

    “Since the DM will make the encounters tougher by working hard (er, fudging hit points and dice rolls) min-maxing is useless.”

    Define min-maxing: Minimizing weaknesses, Maximizing strengths.

    Everybody does it to some degree or other.

    For example, I was playing one D&D game. I wanted to play a diplomat-spellcaster. I chose human because humans get an extra feat and extra skill points. I chose sorcerer because their spellcasting is based on Charisma and all the social skills are also based on Charisma. Because we were starting at pretty high level and had a lot of cash to buy equipment I invested in a Cloak of Charisma, which further strengthened by social skills and my spellcasting.

    Am I a min-maxer? Dunno… I did some min-maxing in the process…

  5. Dave T. Game says:

    Actually, min-maxed characters usually do have flaws (the min part). It’s only a problem when players don’t play their characters like they have flaws. If you’re a killing machine but took charisma as your dump stat, I expect you to not function well in social situations and argue (IC) with your party.

  6. Yax says:

    Yep. It is the player’s responsibility to act out a poor charisma score. I know as a DM I’m thinking about so much stuff I never think about players not acting out their weaknesses.

    Between games I might mention it to players though.

  7. Dirk says:

    Players don’t min-max to compete with the DM, they min-max to compete with each other. They are competing to have the most powerful and decisive character in the party. The reason they do that is that no one wants to be useless, and if one player min-maxes, then the DM has to beef up the encounters, which makes any player that didn’t min-max useless. There’s nothing worse than plunking at titans with 1d6+1 while the character next to you hits for 2xd8+12/d6+12.

  8. Peter says:

    I mostly let players do whatever they want as long as it fits in the rules that I adhere with. Everyone make is own fun with different thing (storyline, stats, gold, etc…). As a player, I like to be bulletproof against any DM plot and encounters. I don’t care how much damage I do as long as I can save the party when times come. As a DM, I am often generous in XP award when a character save the day with what Minmaxers considers a useless skill or feats or spell. I often give story XP award penalty for players that don’t roleplay well their stats or alignment or religion. I take notes during the game and decide later wheter character X get is Alignment/Honor/Roleplay XP bonuses. I also clearly state to the player why he did get or didn’t get a bonus. This is also negotiable.

  9. John says:

    The only reason I am min/maxing on my latest character is to annoy my DM. If a character dies in his campaign, we are forced to start at level 1 with a new character. Pretty much useless around level 10’s. He does bump the XP gain so you can catch up (but always 1-2 levels behind) but you are useless addition for several gaming sessions.

    So time to min max and put a thorn in his side.


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