Min-max THIS! A Powergamer’s M.O.


So I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I am a Storyteller/Thinker-type, while my boyfriend is a Power Gamer/Slayer (which may or may not be more of a gap than between my paganism and his Jewishness). During what has come to be our weekly debate on the de/merits of each style, he scolded me for “not caring enough about my character” because, quite frankly, I was content to spend a mere half an hour leveling her up from 2 to 11, picking powers based on flavor more than on badassery.

“What do you mean, I don’t care about Ealasaid?! I just care more about the story than the combat.”

“So you don’t want to power through combats and get back to the story faster?”

“Well, then I’ll just make combats faster [in Marrakesh].”

“No, keep them the same difficulty, so that when we plow through them based on our own strategy we’re overcoming a real challenge.”

“B-but, I like being good at Diploming and Bluffing and Stealthing…”

“You only get so many skills to work with, no matter your class. You just have so much more to work with in terms of combat.”

I guess that’s true–I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons after all, not Courtiers & Cutthroats. Much as that would be fucking awesome.

But he’s right, the system is based around combat and dungeon-crawls, not politics and intrigue. I’m the one “doing it wrong.”

Or do you still believe that good soldiers make good kings?

So when I switch to Legend of the Five Rings once Marrakesh is over–or maybe even the Song of Ice and Fire Role-playing Game–we’ll see if my powergamer finds himself more interested in social combats, now that there are more mechanics for it, and he’ll have to figure out how to optimize himself for those as well.

Is it just being the best at what you do, be that fighting, magic, or socializing? Or is it to crush your enemy, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women?

Somehow I think the story is still just the vehicle for ass-kicking, for some. And that’s great for them. I’m just not one of those people.

5 Responses to “Min-max THIS! A Powergamer’s M.O.”

  1. Buzz says:

    You need to play Burning Wheel, like big time. It’ll be like a veil has lifted.

  2. Tim Jensen says:

    Right on, Buzz.

    I have to say, though, that a lighter game like Lady Blackbird might be an easier introduction to story games. It’s just 16 pages long, and free as a pdf: http://www.onesevendesign.com/ladyblackbird/ I would play that, then take a look at games like Fiasco, A Penny For My Thoughts, and Dogs In The Vineyard, gradually working up to the crunchy greatness of Burning Wheel.

  3. Chase says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if you (and the rest of the group) are having fun, nobody’s “doing it wrong.” D&D is built around combat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get good story and RP in there.

    It also doesn’t mean you have to play a combat monster. One of my favorite D&D characters was patterned after Dr. Who, and only once actually attacked in combat. Help your friends, distract your enemies, or go straight toward the party’s real goal, and shortcut the fight altogether! If you do it in a fun way, nobody will mind, at least in my group.

  4. lindevi says:

    @Tim Jensen
    I’ve been eyeing Lady Blackbird for some time–it’s just a matter of running over to the UPS Store to get it printed up. Oh, and the time.

    I’ve only heard of Dogs in the Vineyard in that list, but the rest definitely look like they’re worth checking out. Burning Wheel Gold will probably be my ticket in to that system.

    Anyway, thanks for the recommendations! I’ll be sure to investigate.

  5. Ravyn says:

    You are most definitely not doing it wrong (your style sounds like you’d fit right into my game). Even D&D doesn’t have to be primarily about the hack and slash; I was once in a play by post game that lasted several months and spent the entire time developing the characters, themselves an all-paladin (by DM stipulation) party, and their cultures. This may sound like an odd question, but what are combats for in the games you play in?

    It’s interesting that he talked about wanting to “overcome a real challenge”; isn’t it more of a real challenge when your resources are somewhat more limited? When what matters is actually the strategy, rather than just the build? (Then again, feeling like I’m not the one overcoming the challenge is one of the reasons why I avoid combat and its mechanics-heaviness; I much prefer a completely unstructured social encounter where what I depend on is almost entirely my own wits and understanding of the situation, and I avoid things with combat-level social mechanics like the plague.)

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