Psilax On: Min-Maxing

by Psilax

I used a couple of guides from other notable RP servers to write the following. Particularly one written by ‘Tempus’ – thanks.

Psilax on: Min-maxing

What is Min-maxing?

Min-maxing is basically the art of manipulating character creation options (ability scores, feats, skills) with the ultimate intent of creating the most effective/powerful character possible.

The purpose of this, usually, is to maximize combat effectiveness. In the most extreme cases, it is accomplished by sacrificing any attempt to make the abilities of the character mesh into a coherent whole.

In short, a player who is more concerned with having the most plusses than role-playing.

Are there any penalties to min-maxed characters?

As of now, the only real penalty is that the character will gain very little roleplaying experience from the DM team, if any. Min-maxed characters basically can’t make it past level 6 (or in the most extreme PG’er cases, 7) on this server.

What do ability scores mean?

Well, let’s take the basic book descriptions first, without involving game mechanics.

STR (Strength): How much you can carry, how hard you can hit.
DEX (Dexterity): How agile and precise you are.
CON (Constitution): How tough you are.
INT (Intelligence): How smart you are.
WIS (Wisdom): Intuition, how well you understand the world.
CHA (Charisma): More abstract than the others, this combines looks, communication, and sheer force of personality.

Basically, characters in NWN can have abilities ranging from 6-20, with 10-13 considered to be the average person.

Ability scores define your character and your role playing situations. Most people who are active in the role-playing world are aware that Charisma is the most oft abused ability. I’m not going to bother discussing it here, as there has already been a lengthy discussion of it on the server boards which you can find here:

So what’s the point of this if it’s already been discussed?

The reason I decided to write this was to address the min-maxing of the other abilities. Charisma is obvious enough, but what about WIS, INT and even CON?

I’ve been seeing an increasing number of 8’s in WIS, and to a lesser degree, INT and CON. I don’t think most people are grasping the degree to which an 8 is a [i]serious handicap[/i] and needs to be played as such. Especially in WIS, the single most important ability in determining your characters personality and the way they interact with the world. An 8 in WIS basically makes a character incredibly naeive, and gullible. He has no perspective on how his actions will affect those around him or even himself. He lacks common sense, and has a hard time learning from his mistakes. Unfortunately, this is not the way I see 8’s in WIS being played. If I had a cupcake for every character with 8 WIS who was a smooth-talking, level-headed pragmatist, I would be morbidly obese.

The same goes for INT. Basically, an 8 INT makes your character an idiot. The one theme that repeats itself with this score is the idea of the barbarian or ‘wild’ character with an 8 INT. Being a barbarian or ‘wild’ doesn’t make you an idiot by default. Anyone from any background can be an idiot. Barbarians and wild characters are uneducated, true, but that doesn’t mean they lack intelligence. Usually, a score like 10 is more appropriate for the uneducated character. An 8 in this score means your character is just plain stupid, and a 6 in this score is so extreme that it’s akin to being mentally challenged or having suffered serious brain damage at one point.

Finally there is CON. This one doesn’t seem like it would be min-maxed due to the importance of hit points on an HCR server, but it happens more often than you’d think. The reality is, there are quite a few classes that basically already get decent hit points and can stand to lose one or two without being handicapped from a power standpoint. 8’s in CON are the last refuge of the quasi powergamer. Such players assume that even if a DM comments on that 8 in CON, it’s pretty easily explainable with some jargon about the character being slightly frail and it won’t have to be played much even. This is a problematic assumption. An 8 CON is just as much a [i]serious handicap[/i] as an 8 in any other score. A character with an 8 in this score would be weakly in a general sense. He would find himself out of breath when running only a short distance, and would have a low tolerance for the elements in general. Remember that CON represents your health and general physical well-being. A 10 in this score represents the average person, someone who doesn’t work out but isn’t sickly either. 13 or over is when you are dealing with a muscular, fit person who is healthy and robust. I see this score abused most often by elves or halfling characters. People assume that because elves get that -2 modifier to their CON it means that they [i]should[/i] have a low score in it, and that they’re justified in taking that 8. This isn’t true unless you intend for your elf to be sickly and weak of body. A graceful elf warrior or woodsman would need an average to high CON just as much as a warrior of any other race. Keep this in mind when choosing your CON score people. Unless you’re prepared to actively play the fallout of an 8 or 6 in CON, you’re better off going with 10 or higher. And I’d say this is probably one of the hardest ones to play too, so think extra hard about it if you’re expecting to get roleplaying experience.

So how do you expect someone to play an 8 score?

One example of a well played 8 score would be a character with 8 DEX who, during their teenage years was roughhousing with some friends in the barracks, and as they wrestled, they knocked over a rack of armor, which fell on top of his leg, crushing it. The leg never quite healed properly, and as a result he walks ponderously slow and with a pronounced limp. In game terms, this would be represented with occasional emotes about the characters limp, and also the character would not be able to run, ever. As you can see, this type of thing could be challenging to play. The point is that below average scores are by their very nature harder to play than above average ones.

Aren’t you being a bit too hard-assed about this stuff? The range of scores in D&D does start at 3, so is a 6 or 8 really that bad?

To answer this question I’m going to pose another one: What are the ability scores of a goblin? Or a carrion crawler?

Checking the Monster Manual, we find that a goblin has an INT of 10, and WIS of 9. That’s gotta make you think. If my character is less intelligent and/or less wise than a goblin, he/she is probably not equipped mentally to survive for very long in the harsh world of adventuring, are they?

Moving on, let’s take a look at the carrion crawler. Now, we’re talking about a giant, slimy green worm that eats rotting dead things. A carrion crawler has a charisma of 6. Wow, suddenly I really don’t want to be talking to that dwarf with 6 CHA.

Alright, alright, you’ve made your point. I guess this means I’m screwed because of that 8 on my characters sheet right?

No, you aren’t. You can simply ask for a rebuild of your character and alter that score to something more appropriate. Not only will that rectify the situation and allow you to feel content about your character and not like you’re min-maxing, but it will show the DM team that you take these things to heart and are willing to improve and learn from past mistakes. But bear in mind that if you already powergamed your way up to level 6 or more with your min-maxed character, even changing that score will not necessarily make everything peachy with the DM’s. You can keep the score and start playing it, but be warned, 8’s and especially 6’s are extremely difficult to play properly in most cases. As demonstrated above, a character with a 6 CHA would almost literally be unable to interact within a society.

My ultimate point is this: don’t take an 8 in any score unless you’re prepared to play it rigourously. It might be tempting to try and slip one 8 past us for that extra bit of power in another area, but in the long run, it will render your character unable to pass GO and collect 200 RP XP, and there’s only so far that power can take you in the Vast.

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