Munchkin

… is an awesome game. They’re also great from Dunkin Donuts, though I am quite disappointed that they no longer use the old box art. But neither of those is what this post is about. Rather this post is about something I hear quite a bit from some RPG players. As usual, I will dredge up some examples from the PA forums:

[In reference to DCC RPG’s alignment influencing the bonuses you get to certain skills] This does not sound like a good idea, since it quite easily leads to picking alignment based on what bonuses you want rather than what fits your character.

You’d only see single alignment groups because if someone has the choice between getting more healing or having an interesting clash of morals within the group they’re going to pick the former.

[In reference to DCC RPG’s Level 0 Funnel] A game system where I have zero choices in what character I get to play? Great. Awesome Sign me up that, it sounds like good times.

If stats are randomly rolled, as you say, based their array the character they make is going to favor one class. In my experience, this doesn’t actually leave much room for making any meaningful choices. If you roll a high Int and a low-to-middling Str, well you’re playing a wizard. Got a decent Cha and a high Dex? Rogue. You’re still left with little to no choice in this sort of system, unless you want to play a subpar cleric with the bare minimum Wis. Playing a fighter with 13 Str and being completely incapable of doing your one job because of bad stats is always a good time. Moving on…

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a pronouncement to make. Admittedly, no one has made me Lord Grand Inquisitor of All Things RPG, but I’m fairly confident that this is an important message that just needs to be said every once in a while: It is OK to play an unoptimized character. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that playing an unoptimized character can be fun as well.

Look around you, not everyone who has a particular job, or a particular hobby is “optimized” for that job or hobby. Sometimes, people do things that they aren’t the greatest at. And there’s no problem with this. In fact, if playing an RPG is about sitting around a table and acting out a story, sub-optimal characters have a great potential for giving you more interesting stories. After all, no one is surprised if you 18 STR fighter, with two handed +3 great maul and full plate mail slays a great beast. But your 10 STR fighter, with a rapier and leather armor? Now that’s a story worth telling.

Now admittedly, in OSR games, the difference between an 18 STR fighter and a 12 STR fighter is only a couple pluses to hit, rather than in some later games and other RPGs where you stats really matter for a lot of different things, but even still, a couple pluses to hit can mean a world of difference. But if you want to tell a story, then go ahead and play a sub optimal character. Not every adventurer chooses to be, so why not play one that got his choice made for him. I’ve skipped on better damaging weapons because they’re not in my character’s style. I’ve chosen races that were antithetical to my chosen class, and taken the penalties for that, because I wanted to see what happened. I’ve built characters that had bonuses from trainings in a particular skill, and then taken disadvantages to knock all those bonuses away, because it made an interesting character. And I’ve rolled up characters completely at random and stuck them into the game to see what they do. And I’ve never had any lesser amount of fun playing these characters than I have playing an optimized character.

Which reminds me, I need to write my post on heirloom weapons…

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