This is the story of how someone on the Magic: The Gathering team told me I built my character wrong.
It was around 2001 or 2002. I was a designer on the Forgotten Realms team at Wizards of the Coast. Chris Perkins was one of the senior staff at Dungeon Adventures Magazine. Chris ran a weekly 3E D&D game at the office using one of the awesome meeting rooms with the two-sided markerboard (the kind where you’d press a button and the hidden reverse side would scroll into view, and Chris would always pre-draw an awesome map so he could reveal it mid-session). Other players in this group included editor Jeff Quick, editor of Dragon Magazine Dave Gross, periodicals circulation manager Pierce Watters, periodicals editor-in-chief Johnny Wilson, designer Monte Cook (for a little while), periodicals editor Matt Sernett, and editor David Noonan (as a special guest star).
In short, the campaign was a blast, with fun players and a great GM. (Chris is a great GM, and if you ever get a chance to sit in on one of his games, you should do so.)
My character was Droo Darkforge, a grumpus dwarf fighter-rogue. Built like a tank, he wasn’t fast (this is back in 3.0 when dwarves didn’t yet have their “always move at speed 20” racial ability, so he clomped along at speed 15 in full plate), but he was durable as all hell (due to a high Con and lucky rolls, Droo had 75 hp points at 6th level). This came in handy when Jeff’s elf barbarian and Dave’s human monk ran ahead to start a fight, Droo wouldn’t arrive until round 4 when those two were close to dying because of their low AC, and Droo would clean up with some Cleave and sneak attack.
Because the game was at the Wizards of the Coast office, and because many people there tended to work late hours, that meant we sometimes had people stop in the doorway and watch our game for a while. In one case, a member of the Magic: The Gathering team stopped by, watched a bit, then stepped into the room. Because I was closest to the door, and because I had an illustration of my character, he started looking over at my character sheet.
And out of nowhere…
Him: Your character is wrong.
Me: What? [I had been paying attention to the game, not him, so I had no context for his comment.]
Him: Your character is wrong.
Me: What are you talking about?
Him: You didn’t build it right. You should put your best score into Strength. Strength is best because it lets you do the most damage.
[For reference, Droo’s stats at level 12 were; Str 16, Dex 12, Con 20, Int 11, Wis 15, Cha 7.]
Me: But this is how I want him to be. I wanted him to have a really high Con.
Him: But Strength is better.
Me: But this is how I wanted him to be.
Him: But Strength is better!
At that point, I turned around to focus on what was going on in the game, at a loss for words. On one hand, I was thinking, “This character is exactly how I wanted him to be.” On the other hand, I was thinking, “Who the hell are you to tell me my character is wrong because I’m not trying to maximize damage?”
That conversation has influenced a lot of my thinking over the past decade.
Just remember: Just because your character isn’t optimized doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong.” The objective of an RPG is to get together with other people and have a good time. If that means you’re the damage-dealing barbarian, the healer, the enchanter, or the pacifist, if you’re having fun and you’re not ruining anyone else’s fun, you’re doing it right.