I know powergaming gets a bad rap, but in general it doesn’t bug me too much. I have found many experienced players powergame to some extent. It is certainly is possible for it to go too far and end up with Pun-Pun Jr. in your campaign, but I have found that most of the players in my RPG groups tend to self-regulate. Instead, I find the bigger problem is what I call “pushy powergaming”.
The traditional powergamer confines himself to min-maxing his own character. The pushy powergamer wants to min-max the other player characters as well. While this may seem almost altruistic on the surface, it can be incredibly detrimental to the morale of the group in the long run.
If present while other people are creating characters, the pushy powergamer will often try to veto choices he thinks are non-optimal. The pushy powergamer will disregard any thoughts the hapless player has about character concept in favor of what he believes will make the most effective character.
During combats he will often tell the other players what powers they should use and where they should move. This goes beyond simple advice. The pushy powergamer will argue his point vociferously if the player in question dares ignore the advice.
Pushy powergamers tend to target new players and casual gamers. This is probably because these types of gamers are most likely to give into the pushy powergamers demands. Unfortunately, these players are also the most likely to quit gaming altogether once they get frustrated at not being able to play their own characters.
Pushy powergamers don’t intend to drive players away from the game. In fact, they usually think they are helping. They figure if they can bring the newbies and casual gamers “up to their level” that everyone will have more fun. Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that most people don’t enjoy being told what they can and cannot do.
An example of pushy powergaming happens in the Dead Gentlemen’s fan-made film The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. When Joanna first brings her new character Daphne into the game, pushy powergamer Cass immediately tries to get Joanna to rewrite her character. He even attempts to appeal to the Dungeon Master, explaining that having an ineffectual fighter in the group is just as bad as not having one at all.
Of course, this being a movie Joanna’s character Daphne is eventually revealed to be comically effective in combat. Her combination of abilities and feats take advantage of the kind of cheese that would make the most battle-hardened powergamer drool.
While Daphne being an unexpected badass is an exaggration, it contains a kernel of truth. Non-optimized characters can be very fun to play. While they may miss out on some plusses, the fact that they are off the beaten path often makes them memorable. Thek the half-orc wizard is more likely to be remembered than elven ranger #1278.
So what do all of you think? Are pushy powergamers a problem in your games? If you are a DM, how do you deal with it when you see it happening? Or am I just blowing things out of proportion?