Sunday, April 18, 2010
One of the quirks to Dungeons and Dragons is that the player's choices - many of which are very hard to fix through in-game means - actually make a big difference in their characters' effectiveness. Many numbers, like HP, damage, armor class, etc aren't actually all that large, so a small discrepancy can make a comparatively larger difference. The interesting philosophical question is where to draw the line and declare your character "good enough".
Case in point, the very first decision I had to make in creating my new bard was what stats to start with. It is very common for two-weapon fighters to start with 16 Dexterity, even though the two-weapon fighting styles will require a base score (not counting gear and other relatively easy-to-obtain in-game boosts) of 17 Dex. The way to get away with this tactic is to obtain a "tome" that permanently enhances the character's Dex by one or more points before the character reaches the level where not having the missing point delays their development. This way, the character never needs to take an increase that could be directed to their strength (which determines both hit and damage rates) and apply it instead to their comparatively less valuable dexterity.
The catch is that the tomes in question - in particular the Dex tome because of precisely this tactic - are relatively expensive (especially by the standards of what a newbie like myself can afford). After pondering it for a bit, I opted to take a few points out of my Charisma stat (which determines Bard spell points) to start with the 17 Dex so I would not need to worry about it. Of course, the serious builders would tell me that I shouldn't be putting that many points in Charisma to begin with, since higher level content is balanced around hit point totals that are possible if the player min-maxes properly.
In the end, my judgment was that I'd rather build for low stress and settle for running content that's a bit below my level if that's the content that I'm able to beat. I've also spent spell slots on learning feather fall and expeditious retreat (a runspeed buff), even though both effects can be obtained by other means, because having those abilities innately seems appropriate on a character who might secretly be a Fae refugee from Norrath. I might come to regret this approach, but that, I suppose, is what alts are for.