05 August 2008

The opposite of power gaming?

I recently dropped in on a D&D 3.5 session. I had to create a 17th level character. (I’ve never played a 17th level character in any edition of D&D.) I created a halfling sorcerer, Emanon.

Yeah, I created a single-classed PC. Yeah, I just picked three skills and assumed he put one skill point in each each level. Just because you can agonize over a character build in 3e doesn’t mean you have to.

Although I knew the campaign was winding down, I’d probably only play this PC this one time, and that it was mostly going to be a big battle; I didn’t choose a lot of direct damage “blasting” spells. Sure, I took Magic Missile, Fireball, and Lightning Bolt; but that was about it. It was pointed out to me that that might have not been the wisest course. But I don’t want to play a blaster.

I ended up using Fly, Invisibility, Teleport, and Baleful Polymorph. It was a...um...blast.

Of the magic items I was granted, I only actively used the bag of tricks.

Anyway, that and a blog post by Trollsmyth got me to thinking about how I enjoy...the opposite of power gaming. Rather than create a blaster sorcerer for the upcoming battle, I enjoyed creating a sorcerer not designed for the battle and then doing my best with that. How am I going to take these spells—chosen, not strategically, but simply on what caught my attention and a vague character concept—and apply them in this situation?

Likewise, I’m happy to try a party without a cleric—although conventional wisdom says you must have one—figuring we’ll figure out how to manage and have fun doing so.


Matthew James Stanham said...

Hmmn. A "Blaster" is generally considered the weakest method of "optimisation" in D20. The general consensus is to employ a lot of "Save or Dies".

Of course, I agree with the sentiment, but I thought I had better point this out...

Philotomy said...

I'm having fun playing a "sub-par" magic user right now, too. My eldest son is running a Labyrinth Lord game, and my PC is a 1st level MU with truly abysmal stats (I don't recall them all, offhand, but I remember he has a 4 Dex, and nothing above average).

For his only spell, I chose charm person, to the dismay of my fellow players (who wanted me to go with sleep). But Ferdinous the Fortuitous keeps his own counsel!

Anyway, my poor stats were ridiculed until I pointed out that I had four charmed men-at-arms under my influence. Ferdinous ended up being a big benefit to the party, even though he didn't do much except contribute ideas, command his men-at-arms (and richly reward them, of course), and hold a lantern (I re-named him Ferdinous the Luminous, after a while).

I think my the example I set while playing Ferdinous made an impression on some of the other (much younger) players; I hope so, because I tried to play my "hopeless" PC in a manner that was positive and fun, making his weaknesses interesting, looking for creative ways to contribute, et cetera.

Robert Fisher said...

@Matthew: So I power-gamed without meaning to! ^_^

@Phil: Great story!

I should maybe note that I used “power gaming” to mean “optimizing” (or “min/max-ing”), and that I don’t really consider it a bad thing. Just observing how sometimes I find myself intentionally not trying to do it.