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Is it wrong to power game?


Zarthose
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Is it ethically wrong to work your character in a way that takes the most advantage of the system? I'm not talking about spending 1 point to mega scale kill a planet, I mean Like spiderman having a IIF for his multipower webs with tons of charges? Is it wrong to use the system to avoid endurance costs and getting a discount on his MP with something that only rarely comes up ? 

 

In my case my DM asked me if getting screeching ( reach weapon) while being invisible was gaming the system or not. I felt it was not, but as I'm the guy planning on it, maybe I'm biased. This character would by no means be unbalanced for the table. Other players would for example have area attacks, or extra senses that would allow them to ignore my invisibility...So I assume our opponents would also have equal access. What do you guys think?

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I'm sorry if I did not make that clear, its ALWAYS the GM's call. Thats not in question. That question is not that, but weather or not a design philosophy is bad. 
A short while ago I met a guy ( not this DM) who felt that ANY discount on your powers was like cheating, further more buying your stats at good break points was "gaming the system". While I disagreed with him, the next guy makes me question it. I felt the first guy was a hypocrite, because my use of that was criticized, while HE was the the only person at the table who did not use it...meaning I would have been the only player chastised for doing what everyone else was doing. The current DM is is a nice reasonable guy. But it still makes me think. 

Is it gaming the system to chose a DEX18 instead of 17...because the break point works out better? Clearly you might be more likely to face someone who has a DEX 19...just to beat all the min maxers, but thats also fair to me. 
Its not a particular power or combo I am asking about, but weather or not its "wrong, cheating, min/maxing" ect to always aim for the beat results for your points?

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This is an _excellent_ question!

 

No; I mean it: this is a question that doesn't usually get addressed quite in this way.  Usually it comes up with a built-in bias: "I have this one power gamer at my table" or "I know power gaming is wrong, but" and that sort of thing.

 

As Greywind notes: it _is_ a GM's call.

 

The two biggest problems with power gaming:

 

It can really unbalance the game when one player insists on doing it, regardless of what the rest of the group is doing: he can take the same assigned points and the same earned experience and create a character capable of flat-out murdering the rest of the team, all at once.  Eventually, you end up with the Justice League: 

 

"Quickly, League!  We are needed!  Everyone quickly, charge to Location X!  Meanwhile, Superman is needed at Location Y, because he makes the rest of us completely useless when we are all together...."

 

 

For my own opinion, Power Gaming is perfectly acceptable if three conditions can be met:

 

1) Everyone at the table is into it.   Seriously: even if they aren't doing it themselves, if there are no complaints about it from the group-- no; scratch that:  if everyone explicitly agrees that they are totally cool with it happening.

 

2) The GM can handle it.  If the GM really can't devise a means to keep characters of radically different power levels happy with the game, then no: it should not be allowed to happen.  If the one or two amped-up characters are becoming a Deus Ex Machina for the group, then it probably shouldn't be allowed to happen.

 

 

That other big problem, though: that one can sneak up on a group, _especially_ if _everyone_ is doing the power gaming thing.  Just like "clean design" or "sticking with a concept" or "rationalizing via special effects," you will find that some players are far, far better at the min/maxing power gaming thing.  For what it's worth, it's usually the guys who are just really, really attentive to math and tiny details and the guys who are really good at making tight, specific concepts and fitting pretty much anything into a clean special effect.

 

It doesn't _sound_ like a problem, but there will be hard feelings eventually, particularly if [see #2]

 

3) If everyone is into what's going on, and no one is going to be torqued if they don't end up being the Biggest Abuser, and the GM can handle the fallout, then realistically?  No.  There's actually nothing wrong with it.

 

 

 

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Well I haven't answered because I literally do not understand what you are asking.

 

I don't know what the term "screeching" means in the context you are using it so any attempt on my part to evaluate it is meaningless.

 

But in general power-gaming (min-maxing, etc) is an approach to gaming rather than being good or bad.

But I have noticed that proponents of the two approaches don't mix well.

 

To me, and this is just my personal opinion, min/maxing (powergaming) is just a carry over from computer games.  The ones that claim to be RPG's which they are not.  Since there are no real RPG options the games are really just trying to maximize your PC's capabilities so it can kill/destroy everything it encounters.

 

The other approach, and again this is just my personal opinion, is actual role-playing.  In a role-playing game you build a character concept rather than squeeze the points for maximum effect.  Min/Maxing is actually bad for this type of game, and the encounters are built with this is mind. In a heroic game PC will have drawbacks as well as strengths and a lot of the fun is is working around those disadvantages. 

 

But adding powergaming style PC's into an actual RPG will throw off game balance if it was built for non-powergaming PC's. 

 

Once again, neither approach is wrong or right, but they are different and in many ways incompatible.

I can min/max if I have to, but I don't find those games fun as a player and will not run one as a GM. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spence, 1st let me apologies for my mistake, I thought I was posting stretching, but my spellcheck decided to intervene. I respect your opinion, but disagree. Meaning I do not believe a good design idea is not incompatible with a good story. Clearly some people can min max, and role play, while others excel at one OR the other, but they are not incompatible. As others have said, degree matters, as does the power level of the table. I personally prefer to leave lots of holes in my character ...hopefully not fatal ones. This means there are many areas where I fail and other teammates shine, as well as roleplaying restrictions that also leave me vulnerable. I never mind flaws, I feel they are critical to a fun character, as is learning to overcome them in good gameplay. But my real question remains, is it "bad" to build with the mechanics of the game in mind? BTW, the current power gamer at the table does excellent roleplay. and I have been DMing the group for the past 6 months. I ALSO fall in that category, and will now be able to play, so I'm excited, but leery.

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I think as a general statement that yes it is bad. By that I mean people should be building to their concept, not to the point breaks or such. In your exact example of buying DEX at 18 instead of 17 because the breakpoint is at 18 is a perfect example of this. A character "shouldn't" be buying DEX or any other stat at the break points, or at higher point levels, if it isn't part of their concept/build. If the (starting) character should only have a 12 DEX then the player should buy it at 12, not 16, 17, or especially 18 because of the break point. 

 

The chart in the main book pretty much shows what the stats are equal to IRL, with 20 being pretty much MAX human. Someone with a STR above 15 is about the same as an Olympic weight-lifter. At STR 20 they are one of the strongest humans on the planet. A DEX of 18 would make them one of the quickest, most "reactiony" people on the planet. Maybe only a few thousand people on the planet would have DEX that high. 

 

Yet how many characters are built with DEX and STR (especially STR) or INT or any other stat way higher then their concept really should have it? Almost all, because STATS are cheap to buy and the break points are good because they effect skill rolls. It is cheaper to throw a few extra points on to PRE or INT or DEX to reach the break point and get a bunch of skills at +1 then it would be to buy skill levels for all those skills. 

 

So as a general principal, then yes, gaming the system that way is "bad" because it is not building to the character concept. 

 

But of course, character concept can change, "yes my guy is a super-smart scientist, but he also works out 2 times a day so he has a 18 STR, and is just natural charismatic, so he has a 18 PRE, and he is strong-willed so he has a 20 EGO, and always had great reflexes from playing video games as a kid, so he also (justifiably) has a DEX of 18 and is a long distance runner so he has an 18 CON as well." So , see, his concept is perfectly consistent with having high STATS. 

 

Or the concept is that the character was one of those "golden boys/girls" who got straight A's in school, was captain of the football team, class president and... and... and...

 

So since "concept" can be anything the player wants it to be then they can always "justify" having their stats at whatever they want, so in that case "gaming" the system isn't bad, because they are building to concept. And that goes for every character, including the ones in he official books, or at a table anywhere in the world. 

 

So I guess, "philosophically" it is bad, but in practice it isn't because your character can be any concept you like. 

 

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3 hours ago, mallet said:

Yet how many characters are built with DEX and STR (especially STR) or INT or any other stat way higher then their concept really should have it? Almost all, because STATS are cheap to buy and the break points are good because they effect skill rolls. It is cheaper to throw a few extra points on to PRE or INT or DEX to reach the break point and get a bunch of skills at +1 then it would be to buy skill levels for all those skills.

 

This is an issue I struggle with.  The player bought a game that promised he could build "any character he can imagine".  He imagines a genius skilled at nearly every intellectual pursuit, or a charmer who can bluff, persuade or charm his way past almost anything.

 

Then he looks at the build options.  For 5 points, he gets +1 to all skills in his chosen arena (+5 INT or +5 PRE), but he also becomes more perceptive, or more impressive.  So he looks for other options.  But they cost almost the same and accomplish markedly less - only one skill at a time, blowing the ability to use complementary skills or just make base INT or PRE rolls.

 

Is the player wrong for wanting an efficient build for his character, or is the game wrong for not pricing that concept in a manner consistent with its benefits?

 

IMO, either skill levels are overpriced or (more likely) INT, DEX and PRE are underpriced. 

 

We saw a similar issue a lot in pre-6e when we had that "highly trained normal human" who could either be constructed with high DEX or be built much less efficiently with combat skill levels.  Change your concept or use an inefficient build and suck compared to other PCs.  Not the recipe for a fun game.  We still see it to some extent - try running a Batman or Daredevil with 4 SPD in a typical Champions game.

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10 hours ago, Zarthose said:

Is it ethically wrong to work your character in a way that takes the most advantage of the system? I'm not talking about spending 1 point to mega scale kill a planet, I mean Like spiderman having a IIF for his multipower webs with tons of charges? Is it wrong to use the system to avoid endurance costs and getting a discount on his MP with something that only rarely comes up ? 

 

In my case my DM asked me if getting screeching ( reach weapon) while being invisible was gaming the system or not. I felt it was not, but as I'm the guy planning on it, maybe I'm biased. This character would by no means be unbalanced for the table. Other players would for example have area attacks, or extra senses that would allow them to ignore my invisibility...So I assume our opponents would also have equal access. What do you guys think?

 

In my opinion, players optimizing their character points (using characteristic break-points, rare Limitations, etc.) isn't necessarily breaking the system, and it doesn't stop them from also being good roleplayers.  I say "necessarily" because there are obviously instances where things can get abusive, and it's up to the GM to disallow them.  But buying your DEX at 18 instead of 17 or Spidey's webshooters as an IIF?  Pffft.  No big deal there, at least to me.

 

I'll also say that, as GM, I practice the "good for the goose, good for the gander" method of character generation.  If you as a player want to have a potentially abusive construction and I as GM decide to allow it, you shouldn't be surprised if the bad guys end up doing the same, or at least similarly.  And vice versa -- if as GM I take advantage of a quirk in the rules, I can't stop the players from doing the same.  This has kept me from doing many things that could be seen as powergaming, and IMO has also helped keep my players in check because I've explained that philosophy to them.

 

As to rare Limitations, well, it's the GM's job that those come into play an appropriate amount of the time, even if that means tweaking things to make that happen.  In my recently-ended campaign, the team mentalist (male player, female character) had about 90% of her powers bought as two different "Unified Powers" - one for psionics (Telepathy, Mental Illusion, etc.) and one for telekinetics (defenses, flight, etc.).  During play, that Limitation came into play only once that I recall, and the player started to object when all of the character's psionic powers began to go away just because someone was draining Telepathy.  When I pointed out that in three years of play, this was the first time that had come into play and he knew what Unified Power did when he chose to use it, he sat back and took his lumps.

 

Using Spidey's webshooters as an example, I recall at least one time where some brick-type grabbed his wrists and squeezed, breaking his webshooters.  Well, that's the price you pay for having them as an IIF.  Similarly, even if you have a ton of Charges, well, guess what, you put those on Clips, and sometimes cross-town webswinging followed by happening upon a crime in progress is going to result in you running out of web fluid in your current Clip at an inopportune time.  Seen that happen many times in Spider-Man comics.

 

As to your specific example, I'd say that if you're trying to avoid the invisibility's "fringe" by using Stretching... well, as soon as your arm (or reach weapon, or whatever) comes within 2m of them, they know where you are (with a normal PER roll) and can attack you.  Period.  You can say, "They know where my *weapon* is, not me" all you want, but it doesn't take a tactical genius to figure out where you're standing based upon your weapon's position and orientation.  Sorry, bucko, them's the breaks.  (And my apologies in advance if all of that has nothing to do with your example and I was jumping to conclusions.  This is just my opinion as a frequent GM.) 

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Most of what I would've said is covered by Duke Bushido above. As long as the PC's aren't jealous of disparities and the GM feels the Characters aren't out of line for the campaign, it's all good.

 

In addition there is one good reason to powergame.  There is no better way to learn the system. Powergaming will let you discover all the exploits. That's very important because it shows what not to do to avoid breaking the game with an overly effective power design or combo. This is especially true for a GM so you can spot an issue at the beginning of character creation rather than being surprised in play.  

 

For a player and especially for a GM, knowing the ins and outs of a system will let you play without constantly concentrating on the mechanics of the system. From my experience as a beginning GM( Starting with a group of composed entirely of engineers and programmers who broke the system in every way imaginable), once they were comfortable with the system, they learned to roleplay to make their characters unique instead of just collections of numbers.

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It is called the Hero system for a reason.  I don’t know about other people, but most of the time when I come up with a concept for a character I want to play the concept is usually significantly more powerful than a normal person.  Occasionally I might decide to play a character that starts out fairly normal but grows into a powerful hero as the campaign progresses.  I want to play Hercules or Aragorn or at least Frodo, not Bob the butcher.  

 

Even in real life people optimize themselves its called training.  Look at any professional athlete and tell me that person has not pushed their body and often mind to extreme.  You can bet that any professional athlete is going to have some very good stats, probably similar to what is seen in a lot of characters.  Other endeavors will have similar results, but focused differently.  The kid who want to become a doctor or scientist and spends all of his time studying is going to have appropriate stats.  In the real world maintaining this level of stats requires constant dedication and most athletes who slack off quickly lose their edge (The stats drop).

 

One thing to keep in mind is that a limitation that does not limit the character is not a limitation.  If you put the limitation IIF and charges on a power it should come into play.  As a side note charges can be either a limitation or an advantage.   If Spiderman is never running out of charges I suspect it is because he bought enough charges that it became an advantage.  
 

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9 hours ago, mallet said:

The chart in the main book pretty much shows what the stats are equal to IRL, with 20 being pretty much MAX human. Someone with a STR above 15 is about the same as an Olympic weight-lifter. At STR 20 they are one of the strongest humans on the planet. A DEX of 18 would make them one of the quickest, most "reactiony" people on the planet. Maybe only a few thousand people on the planet would have DEX that high. 

Yeah, I got caught up with the chart once upon the time. However by keeping strictly to the charts, the characters aren’t as fun and Heroic! It’s a balancing act though. For example most people should have only a CON 12 but that is no fun. Characters (in most games) CON 20 is a minimum to avoid an average roll to avoid being stunned. 

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15 hours ago, Zarthose said:

A short while ago I met a guy ( not this DM) who felt that ANY discount on your powers was like cheating, further more buying your stats at good break points was "gaming the system". While I disagreed with him, the next guy makes me question it. I felt the first guy was a hypocrite, because my use of that was criticized, while HE was the the only person at the table who did not use it...meaning I would have been the only player chastised for doing what everyone else was doing. 

I think perhaps the player “I never use discounts” is having an Ego trip. It seems (by the post) that he was saying “ I’m a better player cause I don’t use discount.” As long as you accept the possible penalty of losing a a power bought through a focus then there is no problem with it.

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I'm going to assume we are talking about superheroes here. Similar points apply to heroic level characters though. The following is also my opinion, and obviously other people can have different ones.

Limitations need to be played. Power gaming becomes a lot less attractive once you pay attention to that.

 

"Character concept" is arbitrary, and usually a bogus argument. NO character is obliged to be underpowered or sub-optimal.

 

Batman, Daredevil (and Hawkeye) don't have 4 Speed. In fact, they should probably have a higher Speed/Strength/Constitution etc at the higher end of what superheroes have. Only those characters who are superhuman in those areas should be higher.

 

Superheroes are "legendary" characters, and not restricted to what the book says applies to normals, regardless of their nominal character concepts. This does not need to be specifically justified, unless you really want to add lots of unimportant nonsense to your character sheet.

 

Strange power combinations are interesting, but rarely truly game breaking. They also tend to turn characters into one trick ponies. It's perfectly reasonable for their regular opponents to be able to neutralize them. In fact, I would pretty much require that to be the case.

 

Pretty much all my characters are a product of decades of careful analysis and number crunching. I keep them simple, but there aren't any or many wasted points or sub-optimal values. They have weaknesses - points where I refrain from spending points, but these are calculated and intentional.

 

There's also no substitute in combat for regularly applying lots of damage to your opponents. Getting fancy can distract from this. Worse, it can distract you from applying sound tactics in play - and that is something that tends to be neglected in discussions of this type.

 

Of course, there are pearl-clutching "roleplayers" who regard "sound tactics" as a Bad Thing. Too bad.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, assault said:

"Character concept" is arbitrary, and usually a bogus argument. NO character is obliged to be underpowered or sub-optimal.

I’m not disagreeing per se but what do you mean by bogus argument? And again with regards to Character concept and builds, I’ve mentioned before on the boards how I built speed 4 humans and 13 CON because they had “normal” characteristics but same guy had DEX 26 and he was “normal” in that regard in a Superhero game. I feel that there is a balance between concept AND playability too. So what works for you is best.

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My point about it being a "bogus argument" needs to be read in light of what I subsequently wrote.

 

In the past "character concept" has been used to argue what I call the "Batman fallacy" - the notion that since Batman is "only human", he should be inferior, in terms of characteristics, to "real superheroes".

 

It's a fallacy simply because in the source material, the majority of superbeings aren't superhuman in that area, except where that is specifically part of their powers, and in fact Batman is plausibly superior to most of them in those areas. So he is actually squarely in the middle, or even slightly superior, in those respects where people argue that he should be inferior.

 

These days, people tend to use Hawkeye as an example instead. However, even there, he needs to be compared with, say, Hank Pym, the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In most respects, he can easily be rated as superior to them. He's "only human" - but he is "more super" (in terms of characteristics) than a whole bunch of indisputable supers. (Pym is smarter, Quicksilver is faster and more agile, but neither are tougher or stronger... EDIT: except, of course, when Pym is in Giant-Man/Goliath form. But Hawkeye himself was Goliath for a while.)

 

In fact, this was built into the original design of Champions - there was no nonsense about different character concepts imposing different constraints. If anything, it was a given that characters that were "only human" would routinely have better characteristics than "truly superpowered" ones. It was only the merger of Champions with entirely different games that introduced any confusion.

 

But what truly makes it "bogus" is this: character concept is arbitrary. If a GM quibbles about whether or not a character build can be justified by concept - the concept can be changed.

 

The issue is a diversion.

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Well, I mean its not immoral to powergame and its fine if the GM and players are okay with that.  What isn't fun or good is trying to get an unfair or unwanted advantage over everyone else, and "win" by overwhelming the GM's scenario.  Building to efficiency and using the system well is good -- I personally welcome that kind of thing as an interesting challenge, and a way to build scenarios.  But if you're just in it to pwn everyone and everything, well maybe you should go play some other game.

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For a minimal price, I can buy a small base then expand the grounds so that it covers the whole planet.

 

So everyone in the game world is technically a squatter on my property and either owes me rent or is subject to eviction and confiscation of any structures they've built on my property.

 

For a minimal additional number of points, I can make myself an official head of state rather than a de facto one.

 

That's powergaming.

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24 minutes ago, archer said:

For a minimal price, I can buy a small base then expand the grounds so that it covers the whole planet.

 

So everyone in the game world is technically a squatter on my property and either owes me rent or is subject to eviction and confiscation of any structures they've built on my property.

 

For a minimal additional number of points, I can make myself an official head of state rather than a de facto one.

 

That's powergaming.

True, but buying the military and police to make your claims stick is expensive.

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So this thread has brought up a lot of feelings for me, and more than a few thoughts that could be projections.

 

I have been around this system for a very long time.  I have made hundreds of characters, some originals, a lot of homages, and a a number of adaptations.  I have debated rules particulars about a variety of issues.

 

I am personally attracted to the system because of the rules of F/X or more specifically how f/x is not tied to the mechanic of an ability, so a blast could be fire or electricity or ice, etc...  I say these things to explain my Bias.

 

One argument that has been repeated is in regard to NCM, What Assualt called the Batman Fallacy.  This has always been one of the bigger ones, and it is founded on a couple misconceptions.  

 

1) NCM is the maximum a human (non augmented) character can have.  4th edition books (and later editions) made it VERY clear that legendary characters can go above it.  If Batman does not qualify as a legendary character...

 

2) The characteristic is what it says on the tin.  This ties into what I said about f/x not being tied into a game mechanic.  This misconception makes it so that people try to force a worst build based on a concept.  In essence punish a player for playing Batman instead of Mutant batman...

 

3) Points matter.  Two characters who spend similar points on similar abilities should be able to do similar stuff

 

Just as an example, I decide to run a campaign where everyone is based on a version of Superboy. 

Superboy 1 is based on the original Clark Kent Superboy.  He buys his strength as a characteristic 

Superboy 2 is based on the Reign of the Supermen Superboy.  Because of this mentality he NEEDS to buy Telekinesis with no range.  This of course costs him more endurance and 10 less strength for the same points, making him objectively worse character.  However for all practical purposes it is the same super strength.  This also fails point 3.  

 

So back to Batman, Batman is a character with many skills way above the norm.  He is tougher, smarter, scarier, etc...than a normal human (based on what he DOES).  Even though we are told OFTEN that he is a normal man who has trained hard, he is also often called "The Bat God" and for good reason.  

Now if we restrict the Batman player to making him under NCM, he will need to spend more points to meet the goals of the character concept.  This is unfair to the player.  You are at this point PUNISHING him for his concept.  IMO skill levels are really more for heroic characters, especially the more expensive ones...Some will say that it's fine because that is the "cost" of the concept, I say that is unfair.  So how do we make Batman so that he is as capable as a paranormal with powers based on being a "better human", simple, allow him to buy higher characteristics. 

 

Now, what does this all illustrate.  The fact is that what we really need is to be "fair".  Characters should be a similar level, built with the same basic theory on design...

 

 

 

 

 

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