This is a concept discussed a lot. Some DM’s see as a bad characteristic of players while others I’ve met see as part of the natural game. While there is some truth to both sides one of the big questions is how to deal with it. Power gaming tends to be an issue as it could break the balance of your game or completely outshine the other players.
First off a definition, what is power gaming? In all of the cases I have seen and done as a player, power gaming is basically min/maxing. This means that a player maximizes a character’s strengths and minimizes the characters weaknesses.
So how do we fix this and should we fix this? Well to determine the answer to both these questions we need to look at a few more things.
The Game Makes The Gamer
Power gaming as stated before is like min/maxing. This occurs in MMORPGs as the rule of thumb on how to build a character. I have had many new players come to tabletop RPG’s from MMORPGs and believes that their character needs to be built the same way. You can talk to these kind of players and show them that weaknesses can be fun.
The game itself also gives way to the power of power gaming. Pathfinder 1 from Paizo is notorious for this. There are game is so easy to break it can become overpowered that power gamers have a field day making it very difficult for DM’s. A good rule of thumb is that the bigger the die number in the system the easier it would be to power game. For example Dungeons & Dragons is quite easy to power game while Monster of the Week, which is a D6 system, is not.
How To De-power The Gamer
The biggest thing I always advocate as a DM is to talk to the player. Workout changes so the player still gets to keep their idea while making it balanced. You can also restrict players access to certain abilities to make it harder for them to power game. However I would recommend against this personally as I do not like restricting player’s choices but the choice is yours.
You can also change a system in the game to make power gaming harder. For example many DM’s I’ve encountered modifying spell casting rules and ways to go about casting. This way it’s harder for casters to a game into an unstoppable force. This is a practice of preventing power gaming before even occur since the tools for power gaming are being taken away.
Lastly know the game. If there is an aspect of the game system that you believe to be taken advantage of by players especially ones who tended to power game, modify it. As stated above it easier for everyone if you can get ahead of the issue as opposed to running a players fun.
But What If Power Gaming’s Already Happening
If you find out too late that players power gaming and it is going to be a problem, here is a way to fix in game. The player may get out of control in and one or two aspects of the game. This is fine just make sure they shine those aspects in that the other players shine in their respective strengths. If it’s combat related, try to increase the difficulty in combat specifically in the area revolving around that players strengths. Spell Resistance, high AC, are some ways I go about checking the power of a character. For skills, if their character would have no background knowledge of a check they’re rolling I increased the DC. For example in orc rogue who spent all this time around his kind might learn that elves create their locks and is slightly different way making them harder to pick.
Power Gamers Be Free
The other question that was asked earlier in this article was should we fix power gaming? This comes down to two aspects. The first one is can you handle power gaming. The second one is does the game supports power gaming.
I personally do not care about power gaming as a DM since I’m experienced. If you are comfortable with your skill you can do what I mentioned in the section above about handling power gaming in game. That way your players still there fun of creating the character they want without you having to talk to them about making your character weaker.
Not many game systems easily support power gaming. As stated before tabletop systems that use D6’s , and D8’s tend to not be easily power gamed. This is because the rules are more RP focused and less mechanics focused. As you get into the D10 systems and D 20 systems where there are many more mechanics you run into this issue. If you’re just starting up again make sure to check the rules thoroughly to see if this could be an issue and plan accordingly.