A lot of the critique surrounding the new Pathfinder iconic previews seems to be that they’re not fully optimized and therefore not viable characters. Some people feel that only optimized builds will see play, and that classes can only be valuable if compared in their most optimized form.
This post by rgalex sums up my thinking, which is that making an interesting character is more important than the optimization. But let’s see what people out there think.
I feel like the minority’s obsession with optimization is one of the things that has caused the major class and magic redesign in 4e. Without real spells or the flexibility of 3e, it’s nigh impossible to devise “uber” builds and you get enforced balance.
I personally like not having to optimize. But I’ll admit, I feel pressured into it in some campaigns. If an adventure or campaign is tuned for high power, then – I don’t like dying any more than the next guy. So I’ll step it up. Similarly, if all the other characters are high power and you’re not, or even worse if one guy is Pun-Pun and no one else is, that degrades the fun.
But all it requires to work out and be fun is to not be obsessed with optimization. All the classes and other choices are equally viable at normal levels of tuning. But it does require a social contract between players and DM – and some groups appear to not be able to moderate anything that’s not rules as written.
Is it this syndrome that’s “forced the hand” of the D&D devs to go to the new “next class, same as the last class” model?