>What I mean by "Powergaming"


“Powergaming,” in our hobby, has something of a negative connotation. Basically, what it’s usually used to mean is “playing the numbers.” Doing ones best to build the most efficient, awesome character possible – sometimes this includes what people derisively call “roll-playing” rather than “role-playing.”

I’m thinking it’s time to take that word back. “Powergaming,” in this context, means simply this: getting the most you can out of your experience in the game. Having the most fun, building the most compelling character you have in you, and yes, knowing and understanding how the numbers work. This isn’t a blog about how to optimize your numbers to get the most pluses, it isn’t about munchkinism, and it certainly isn’t about how to reverse engineer character from the random set of traits you’ve got on paper.

(Though there might be a bit of that, too).

This is a blog about taking a cool idea in your head and turning it from just an idea to a character with thoughts, feelings, complications, motivations, and yes, numbers on paper. Of figuring out who they are, AND what they’re capable of. And while we might engage in a little min-maxing now and then if there’s a simpler, more elegant way of doing something, it isn’t my primary goal.

I have a group of absolutely fantastic friends who were involved in the Greyhawk RPGA in 3.5 Edition D&D. These guys – my best friend among them – can break almost any rpg in the first 20 minutes of reading. These are the guys who had to point out to me how easily broken the druid was (with the right items, a single feat, and just a little thought, you could have a super-tough spellcaster in the form of a bear or something who not only cast powerful spells, but would also rip you apart if you stood too close. Oh, and also Dragonhide full plate. Not that this is news to a lot of you). These are the guys who would show me the single most broken way of approaching ANYTHING (some of which even they didn’t want to do, for the simple reason that it was beneath them). These guys had some of the most complex multi-classing trees I’ve ever heard of. They switched to Pathfinder in the aftermath of the edition wars, though my good friend will pretty much play anything that uses dice.

And you know what? They also had some of the most memorable CHARACTERS I’ve ever seen. They were more than just the numbers. They were funny, they were compelling, and they were unique and memorable and just plain cool. And yeah, they had the most pluses. It’s a game, too, after all – why not try and be good at it?

Now, there’s something worth aiming for. Right? Unlike my friend, however, I’m not going to talk about things like certain paragon paths being ‘sub-optimal’ because they don’t give you the most awesome stuff in combat. If you ask me what to take, I’d tell you to go with what fits how you see your character first, and worry about the numbers afterward. Because that’s how I roll. And if I’m DMing, that’s how the table works. That’s part of the reason I went for M&M – it’s harder to play the numbers because of how Power Level works. Not impossible, mind you, but it’s harder. Things tend to work out a little more balanced often enough that I’m happy.

I want your concept to shine through. And that’s what I’m aiming for, here; taking a concept, and bringing it to life.

And, well, yes. Also, the numbers.


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