Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Min-Maxing ... Is it _Really_ a Bad Thing?

I would like to introduce you to a legend out of time and out of mind. Though born in the fires of min-maxing affliction this god-like being went on to figure more prominently than any other in the halls of player memory in our campaigns. He was the source of endless hours of discussion in my youth; and the tales of his origin and deeds read like ancient myth and are still shrouded in mystery and wonder.

Parlifin the Unconquerable

A good friend of my youth at some point before we met, set out to create a character. I'm not sure of the original concept, but he told me he was looking for a name and saw a Harlequin romance commerical and so, playing with the name he came up with the name of Parlifin. Little did he guess what a famous figure Parlifin was to become; and even less did he imagine what a figure of controversy.

When we first heard of Parlifin we were, I think, talking about the highest level our characters had ever attained. Now, we all knew that some might exaggerate their level prowess to be seen as better in the eyes of their peers. But when we came to my good friend he shocked us all by announcing that his highest level character was a 52nd level fighter!

To say he was ridiculed is to be too kind. There was simply no way a PC could get that high. How much adventuring would it take?! So after the shouts and jeers died down he began in earnest to tell us a bit about Parlifin and his many tales.

Parlifin was a level 52 fighter. He had adventured long and hard to rise into the 30's before he was commisioned by the Gods to retrieve a sword. Not just any sword, nor even any magical blade, but an artifact of great power. This amazing blade would bond with it's rightful owner and bestow powers beyond belief to its companion. So Parlifin set out across the multiverse in search of this great blade of power. And though I remember not the obstacles he had to overcome on the way, he did so. Upon retrieving the blade a dire thing happened. Dire but wondrous. The blade, sensing Parlifin's soul, bound itself to him. His abilities were already great, all of them above twenty by this time, the blade elevated his stats to all 25s. The blade would spring to his hand simply by thought from anywhere in existence. No amount of damage might kill him before he magically regenerated the wounds; and no longer would he need food, water, air or sustenance of any kind. All needs being provided by the new extension of his soul. The blade warned him of danger and protected him from all forms of magical attack. Myriad other powers Parlifin attained in this bonding. And with no fear now of what the Gods might do he returned to their realms on high to explain the situation to them.

The Gods were not pleased. They set about to kill him or at the least shrive the blade from his bonded soul. But the artifact was too powerful for even the Gods to overcome. And vowing eternal war with him, they hurled him across the mutliverse. His spinning form cartwheeled through multi-dimensional space, and moving at faster than the speed of light itself he passed through the positive and negative material planes almost simulatneously. The blade strained to protect him from this menace, and though he lived, he would remain forever changed. The positive and negative polarities of his body split into two halves. When he came to rest Parlifin discovered that half his form was as white as the driven snow and the other half as black as pitch.

This new form bestowed even more powers upon him and he found he had control over energy; around him circled a magic dampening field that did not affect the magic on his person, but only that of those who drew near him. His life was extended indefinitely now, and age would not touch him. For certain he was the match of any divinity in the heavens or the hells, but none would have him in their midsts. So Parlifin became a celestial wanderer. Continuing his adventures back and forth through time and across numerous worlds.

Our jaws were slack, our eyes wide. The Audacity! The Gall! The Cajones!!!! Did he expect us to believe this tale? It was so obvious to us that he had set about to create an undefeatable character and has simply made him up. ... Hadn't he? My friend always maintained that his rise to power was fairly DMed and fairly won. But to us it simply couldn't be.

As true adventurers we couldn't leave a challenge alone. We would devise sinister plots to wrest Parlifin from power, but my friend would calmly answer each of our plots with how Parlifin would easily defeat them.

"We'll appeal to the Gods! They can do what they wish and will take your sword from you and thus your power."

He would explain "They already tried that. Part of the bonding prohibits such from occuring."

Drat!! "Then we'll travel back in time before his rise to power and kill him!"

"Parlfin," he simply explained, "would be warned of this danger by his blade and stop you. And even if you could succeed in going back in time, Parlifin has the bracers of a Time Lord and nothing can warp his timeline without him arighting it."

"Bracers of a Time Lord?!" Firk ding blast!!! "Then, if we simply hurl him back through the positive and negative material planes in reverse he would explode!" We shouted, not really understanding physics too well at the time.

"The blade would again protect me and my polarities would just reverse. ... But," he paused, scratching his chin in thought. "That might be interesting because my powers might be work in reverse."

And so it went for endless hours. Some in our group even got him to agree to adventure under them. They would claim it was to kill him. I have always maintained that it was instead to have the thrill of DMing such a godlike PC. One DM even had him travel to our time where Parlifin comandeered an SR71 Blackbird. ... *urp* ... He never let me DM him. I think he knew my opinons all too well.

Yes, the legends and exploits of Parlifin were legion and the stuff of pure wonder. To this day I don't think any PC has been quite so talked about as the Black and White Wanderer of the Stars. We cursed him, we damned him, we hated him. But we _loved_ hating him. He added so much to our gaming world that we could never repay him, my friend or the many DMs willing to hurtle him along to greatness for the imaginative joy he gave us.

I've always been against min-maxing. But occasionally I think about Parlifin ... and I wonder what might be if we simply ebmraced the wonder fully and let our imaginations go, without limit, across the multiverse.

Thank you my friend, and thank you Parlfiin.

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