The art, much beloved of munchkins, of optimizing a character's abilities during creation by maximizing the most important skills and attributes, while minimizing the cost. This is done by strategic decrease of stats believed to be less important in game (called "Dump Stats"), exploiting hideously overpowered but legal combinations of the Game System, obtaining the best toys and magic weapons accessible to a character, or by stacking flaws and handicaps until your character's Backstory looks like a Joss Whedon character's resume.
Seen from a purely mathematical and gamist perspective, it's an elegant process of minimum expenditure for maximum result.
Seen from a more narrativist perspective, the process may end up creating a character with absolutely no unifying reason to have the abilities that it does.
Of note is the "Stormwind Fallacy," which states that a min-maxed character and a well-roleplayed character are not mutually exclusive: an effective character is not necessarily something that gets in the way of narrative. Similarly, purposefully weakened characters may not always be better for the narrative. It's also important to note that a min-maxed character still requires quite a bit of ingenuity from the player to accomplish what the player wants to during the actual game.
Not to be confused with the decision theory strategy of Minimax or Maximin where one tries to maximize their minimum gain or minimize their maximum loss. Employing one of these strategies is more likely to bankrupt your company than make it stronger.
Related to Disability Superpower, Crippling Overspecialization, Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training. Often the reason for wearing Rainbow Pimp Gear. See Whoring for the Video Game equivalent trope. Compare Necessary Drawback and Fantastic Fragility.
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Wonderweiss from Bleach was engineered by Aizen for a single purpose: negating Captain Yamamoto's sword. As a trade off, he is mute and mentally retarded.
Nodoka of Mahou Sensei Negima! starts doing this after joining an adventuring party, gathering a collection of seemingly useless magic items which synergise extremely well with her artefact. To be specific, her artefact is a large book which displays someone's thoughts if Nodoka calls their name. One of the items tells her the name of anything she points at and another is an earpiece which reads the book for her while it's in her backpack (allowing her to make use of it in combat). This combination gives her de facto telepathy.
To give an example: if we sum up her speech during chapter 280's fight : "What is your name? Ahaa, Dynamis. How do you use this artefact? So this is what I can do. How would you escape from this situation? OK, teleporting away." — without the opponent saying anything meanwhile. Real quote: "Thank you very much, mister Mage."
Personal Optimization aka Munchkinery 101, a popular class in Harry Potter And The Munchkins, is all about min-maxing students' lives and ensuring they have the skills to reach their optimum stat growth.
A common happening in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA); while every fighter is supposed to have at least some proficiency in each of the three basic phases of the fight — striking when standing, the clinch (grappling while standing), and on the mat — usually fighters tend to have specialized in, or at least developed reputations for specializing in a particular area or method. Besides training and natural aptitude, having a clear way to "finish" the opponent tends to be more exciting (read: more pay) and is usually less risky than letting a fight "go to the judges," especially if it's hard-fought by both fighters. Due to the nature of the fight sport, however, it's possible for minmaxing attempts to result in a Crippling Overspecialization.
Krav Maga is basically a Martial Art that trims away all of the non-combat aspects of other Martial Arts in order to focus on fighting.
Conversely, Parkour is a martial art that trims out all the combat aspects of other Martial Arts to focus on ways to win without fighting
The exact purpose and definition of Parkour (and Parkour vs Free Running) is probably debatable, but it is not combat-related in the least, and the other Wiki describes it as "non-competetive". It would be better to say that parkour is Min-maxing based on one individuals's movement through any environment, without any consideration given to transporting cargo, other people, or even it's practicallity in everyday settings.
Baseball teams may go one of two ways in this vein: be "built for the homerun", which sacrifices contact and speed for power, or be a "slap hitting" team that sacrifices power for getting on-base more often and better running. Arguably both styles can work if done correctly, but when they fail they do so spectacularly.
It should be noted, first and foremost, that most Tabletop Games have a built-in check against unbalanced minmaxing (unless the Game-Master likes the minmaxing) in the form of the Game-Master (Story-Teller, Dungeon Master, etc.). While many players enjoy the theoretical debate over what "could be done" using a certain interpretation of the rules, many will find their plans cut short if they actually tried to implement any of them in play.
On the other hand, this does heavily come down to the experience and personal tastes of the group and the Game Master in particular and is thus never guaranteed to actually work. GMs new to a given game themselves may not recognize potential "abuses" in the first place before they've already been put into practice; others may disagree with individual players on what does or does not actually constitute abuse, or be simply unwilling to put their foot down on something the rulebook itself presents as perfectly legitimate.
Steve Jackson Games published The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming, a humorous look at how to fold, spindle, and mutilate the rules (and if that didn't work, cheat).
In Paranoia, it is recommended that the GM treat any player that displays knowledge of the rules beyond what has already come up in the game as treasonous and have their character summarily executed, wiping the line. Because of that, the only way for a player to really use the system is to get their own copy of the rules before character creation and gear their character creation towards a better character. The game also recommends that players do this, both because it means they have to buy their own copy of the rules (and that's more money in the writer's pockets!), and because having a hard rule against reading the rules and then encouraging the players to break it and desperately pretend they haven't is so in spirit with the game it hurts.
More iterations in Warhammer 40,000 than you can count, and that the designers have spent literally decades trying to balance, such as:
Lasplas: a Lascannon and a Plasma Gun in every squad (patched by making it so you need a 10-man squad to have a Lascannon and a Plasma Gun, as well as making both prohibitively expensive compared to other guns)
Stealer Shock: using Genestealers with a previously only moderately helpful upgrade called Scuttling to move your entire army onto the table from the board sides, effectively jumping a castled enemy and assaulting without even being shot.
Assault Cannons: using tons of units in as minimal quantities as possible to ensure that there are as many Assault Cannon upgraded models as possible (patched with recent fixes to limit the spam of Assault Cannons to every Marine faction except Black Templars.)
The first splat book of Second Edition, featuring the Space Wolves, allowed for a single unit of up to 20 veteran Terminators (who, back then, saved on 3+ on two dice), and each of them could be equipped with an Assault Canon or Cyclone missile launcher. The cheese factor was pretty high, even if such a unit was ridiculously expensive pointwise.
Wraithlords: it was a common practice amongst Eldar players to spam Wraithlords because in a previous edition they were completely imbalanced for how powerful they were (patched by a new army book coming out making the Wraithlords significantly less powerful than they were; the current unit-to-spam is the "Holofalcon")
Nidzilla: a Tyranid list that fields little to no Gaunts, while taking as many Carnifexes as possible, capable through a rule in the army book that allows Carnifexes under certain points costs to be taken as Elites instead of Heavy Support choices, effectively doubling the amount of available Heavy Support slots there are.
The Tyranid Codex spawned a number of "broken" units due to an apparent lack of playtesting. The most infamous of which was the Doom of Malai'tai. The beast can be dropped in the middle of the enemy and deploy a death aura that automatically hits all enemy units within range before any shooting is done, even on your opponent's turn, and THEN it shoots.
This was counteracted by an update of the official FAQ; it was basically one gigantic stompfest on the Nid's rules. The final nail on the coffin was the Dark Eldar Codex, where the horrendous amount of poison weapons seems to be tailor-made to kill what's left of the wimpering Nidzilla lists.
Chaos Space Marines, circa 2011. As a whole, many units and unit builds are simply so powerful (the "Lashprince" being the most common, also Obliterators and Plague Marines) that they are used in exclusion of other units that are otherwise perfectly decent (Chaos Space Marines themselves, Chaos Raptors, Lesser Daemons), and others that are so terrible that no one dares use them (Dreadnoughts, Possessed, and Spawn). As such, the most commonly-sighted Chaos Space Marine army features two "Lashprinces", nine Obliterators, and the remaining points are spent entirely on Plague Marines, when other armies would kill to have even some of the less-popular units in the army book.
Orks get a big cheese with their new codex. A unit called Nobz (essential Ork "nobles") are able to be put on bikes. You take 9 of those, add a painboy (doctor), also on a bike. He allows the Nobz to ignore wounds, and gives them Cybork armor (which gives them an invulnerability save of 5 or higher). The Nobz on bikes are able to move really fast, very easily, give the nobs extra toughness and a 4+ Armor save (compared to the normal 6+), and a 4+ cover save, so you always have a chance to negate a hit. Combine this with their 2 wound and the painboys making them Feel No Pain, they are very, very good, and the winner of the grand tournament field these. Their only downside is their ludicrous points cost. Also, due to rules regarding wound allocation, an Ork player can usually distribute numerous wounds among individual Nobz with different equipment, drastically reducing the chances of outright killing a Nob in a round of shooting or combat. Eventually answered with the Imperial Guard codex, which readjusts the Guardsmen in such a way that they are the worst enemy of the Nobz. When you're facing forty-plus hits, even the most judicious wound allocation is still going to cost you the entire unit. The Nobz Mobz have essentially evaporated.
Dark Eldar's "Dark Light Storm" the whole army exists to spam as many Dark-Light Weapons (It sort of makes sense in context, Dark Light being the closest we can describe it) in the army as possible, taking 6 units of Kabal Warriors, each unit is 5 Warriors with one carrying a Blaster, all mounted in Raiders armed with Dark Lances, take 3 Ravagers for heavy support, each carrying 3 Dark Lances, In the Elites section 3 units of 6 Trueborn, 4 carrying Blasters, 2 carrying Dark Lances, again mounted in Raiders armed with more Dark Lances. As for the mandatory HQ take whatever you feel like, you've already got 24 Dark Lances and 18 Blasters. The whole point of this is that Dark Light weapons are Lance weapons, which means they ignore any armour value above a certain point, with very few exceptions (3) they will glance all vehicles on 4s and penetrate on 5+.
An evolution of the Dark Eldar Dark Light Storm is the Venom Spam build, the key difference is fielding much smaller Venom instead of the Raider for transport, but equipping it with 2 Splinter cannons, this gives every unit 12 poison shots, in addition to their normal shooting instead of a single dark lance shot. The Trueborn are fielded at 1 less, being 5 with 4 blasters and 1 dark lance, but overall the army retains its fearsome anti-tank presence whilst boosting its ability to make infantry hordes evaporate. A secondary bonus is that the venom is much smaller allowing for more hijinks with terrain and LOS. At this point it becomes less min-maxing as the only thing the army can't deal with is hand-to-hand combat, which it avoids by shooting at a distance.
As of Sixth Edition, many builds focus on spamming flyers; Chaos Heldrakes, Necron Flying Circus, and Imperial Guard Vendettas are amongst the most popular.
In the rather less popular game Necromunda, a Spyrer gang with fewer members became considerably more deadly than a larger one, due to the cost of their upgrades. A 3-man team would challenge even experienced gangs of more conventional origin, and 1- or 2-man Spyre hunts would be nigh invulnerable.
Spiked Chains were once though nearly mandatory for optimized Fighter builds. This is not because they are a BadassImprobable Weapon User. It's because it is mechanically superior to almost any other melee weapon, with special properties that make it well-suited to a range of effective melee strategies... of which there are few to begin with. It has since been realized that charging or pouncing (charging but with a jump included) are far superior (and spike chains aren't useful for this sort of strategy).
In the fourth edition, things have been toned down; however, the Swordmage class almost seems like it was meant to be like this: sink all your points into intelligence, and choose a race with a racial INT bonus as well, leaving you with INT 20. Then take the Intelligent Swordmaster feat, select an origin in the Forgotten Realms locale of Thay, and wear cloth armor; your AC (which gets a class bonus anyway), HP and attacks then all draw from the one bloated stat.
To give an idea of how toned down 4e is on this front; the current big thing in minmaxing is a feat that gives you +1 to attack rolls with one weapon or implement. A similar feat in 3e, Weapon Focus, was widely considered by optimizers to be garbage.
Highlights of (ab)using all 3e sourcebooks include infinite stats, ascending to divinity at level 1, running faster than the speed of light to throw an enemy to the moon, doing thousands of points of damage per round, and leveling cities with a 4th-level spell.
A nearly complete list of Pun-Pun's abilities can be found here.
The creator of Pun-Pun specifically says that it was never meant to be played because it was way too powerful and that any Dungeon Master foolish enough to allow such a character deserves what he gets.
Of course, even if the DM was inclined to allow it, that build only works in Forgotten Realms and only if you can somehow justify having encountered the creature who's abilities you're trying to copy (its a single unique creature who only exists in that world). Also, this creature was introduced in an obscure supplement such that if this one player hadn't found the exploit, the book would be mostly forgotten.
The most ridiculous of the above mentioned builds generally rely on exploiting an unintended alternate meaning of a word or phrase within a written rule. Min-maxers are now in the habit of distinguishing between RAI (Rules As Intended) and RAW (Rules As Written).
In earlier editions, darts. Yes, darts. A warrior character could throw three per attack and there was no rule preventing them from getting their full strength bonus from each one. Additionally, weapons had a "weapon speed" which worsened the initiative of the use for clumsy weapons, and darts were fast. This meant that if a fighter at mid-high level had +7 damage from Strength (magic, etc), he could trade a single attack with a two-handed sword (avg damage 12.5) for three attacks (avg damage 9). They were also more likely to beat the enemy to the punch and blow out a wizard's defensive spells. Darts were more than twice as damaging and left you with a shield to boot. The Player's Option series tried to warn the DM about this kind of minmaxing, but given just how lethal 1st and 2nd Edition were...
Mutants & Masterminds, being a point-based tabletop RPG, is very easy to min-max. However, the creators seem to realize this and go out of their way to point out potential abuses and give advice for GMs to deal with problem players ("don't let PCs take this" is one such piece of advice). This is, after all, a game where one of the official variants is unlimited points to buy abilities — as in the only limit is what the player thinks is reasonable.
The points costs is also ludicrously unbalanced; for instance, having a character speak three languages costs more than having them speak every language.
HERO System/Champions has pretty much the same situation. A Game Master who's willing to veto really game-breaking characters is essential in such cases. It's notable that the game manual itself anticipates min-maxing and provides a few examples of character builds that illustrate the point — for example, N-man, who sits at the centre of the universe and does nothing but gibber. He sees what he wants with his n-ray vision from lightyears away and blasts it.
Champions, especially 4th edition, is legendary among min-maxers for what could be done. Among other things, a flaw in the way Aid (the generic term for any power that augments or repairs another) was implemented allowed one min-maxer to use 175 points to give everything he had, including a Variable Power Pool, ten times that. Just as a way of explanation, an area of effect Ranged Killing Attack at that level could destroy something on the order of 2 times 10^20 UNIVERSES or so, and horribly damage ones far beyond that.
Shadowrun offers some opportunities for min-maxing. For example, melee weapon damage is based on the STR score. A Troll character gets +4 STR beyond the normal human maximum of 6. Assume your Troll is a Physical Adept with 6 points in Armed Combat skill. You buy a Spell Lock focus and have your Mage friend cast Increase Strength +4 on you - which remains on you as long as you have the Spell Lock item. You spend 1 karma to bond the lock (a pittance compared to the 12 karma it costs to raise your skill from 6 to 7). You do the same for all five other stats, and Reflexes +3d6. Your melee weapon is a Combat Axe. Out of your 6 Magic points you spend 1.5 points to get +6 to Armed Combat rolls. The axe has a damage code of (STR)S. Your Strength is 14, so your damage code is 14S, equivalent to a sniper rifle or a really nice shotgun. With your natural reach and the reach on the axe (total 3), you just need to roll 2 or better on a die for a success unless you're fighting someone who has a long weapon or is a troll with a sword. This means against most people and critters you roll 12 dice and succeed on 10 of them. Even if the target wears the best possible armor he will still die automatically unless he is also a beefed-up Troll with cyber or magic. It's quite possible to destroy cars completely with this Troll.
A more terrible version comes in when you pick up a Weapon Focus (6) combat axe and suddenly roll 18 dice, with 15 of them usual successes. If you toss in Combat Pool you're rolling 24 dice, 20 successes. Slap on a Spell Lock for Armor from a min-maxed Shamanic Sorcerous Adept and you could see a Body score of 25+, like a Great Dragon.
GURPS is very easy to Min-Max in unless the GM sets firm limits on what options are available to the players. Characters are also theoretically balanced by their point total, but this is only really true in fairly narrow circumstances.
One of the specific ways to min-max in GURPS is by balancing the points spent on IQ with the points spent on IQ-based skills. (The same principles apply to DX-based skills.) A +1 to IQ typically costs 10 to 20 points (depending on edition and the exact number involved), and will also raise your IQ-based skills by +1. Paying to raise all those skills individually by +1 could cost lots more. Optimizing this way was so standard that an "optimize" button was built into the official character-building computer program.
7th Sea looks to have been designed with min-maxing in mind. The game provides players only one chance to gain extra Hero Points for the game's Point Buy System, called a Hubris. Hubrises are all open-ended and allow the GM to force the character either reroll or deliberately make a bad decision. In addition, taking a Hubris forbids taking a Virtue, a surprisingly powerful ability that a character can only have one of. In addition, the game has characters generate "Drama Dice," which can be added to rolls, used for specific abilities (Virtues, Glamour magic, etc.), and become XP if unspent at the end of a story arc. Drama Dice are assigned based on the character's lowest primary stat, meaning that a well-rounded character has a pretty decent chance of gaining XP faster than one with an obvious Dump Stat. Lastly, all five basic stats are relevant more or less constantly—Brawn affects melee damage and ability to tank damage, Finesse governs all attack rolls, Wits is used for defense and almost everything out of combat, Resolve resist fear and determines how badly wounds slow you down, and Panache sets how many times you act per combat round. Since everything is bought on a Point Buy System, this motivates all but the most specific builds (for example, a character specializing in pistols has limited use for Brawn) to avoid having a Dump Stat.
While Werewolf: The Apocalypse was mostly good about preventing such abuses due to the point build system it used, it did have one major flaw: starting Gnosis, Rage and Willpower were each controlled (respectively) by the character's chosen Breed (3 options), Auspice (5 options) and Tribe (13 options), which awarded variable numbers of points in each of these three primary stats. There were a total of 193 (one tribe allowed only 1 of the breeds) possible combinations The particular combination of Lupus (Breed) Ahroun (Auspice) Stargazer (Tribe) gave the highest starting points in all three stats.
The various Dungeons & Dragons video games suffer much the same issues as their PnP progenitors, but with added twists.
Dungeons & Dragons Online provides the usual diminishing returns point assignment variant on character creation. However, as with most MMOs, most players come close to minimaxing their preferred stat anyway in both creation and leveling. This ends with the usual game treadmill where the raid bosses get the normal MMO insane stats assigned to them to offset the unlikely, by PnP standards, primary stats and ACs in the 40-70+ range by the level 20 endgame.
Single-player games typically have optional "roll the dice" choices on character creation. The true mini-maxer can click dozens to hundreds or more times, looking for the elusive roll with multiple 18s in the primary stats. Especially insidious was the elusive 18/100 "percentile" roll for the earlier editions' STR stat for melee.
MapleStory does this with certain builds. While normally it is very much still a min maxer's game (A mage for example can not put one point into dex or strength, and no one ever puts points into MP or HP) There are dexless and luckless builds involve using stat increasing items for stat deficiency.
The Tempest update removed all secondary stat requirements on equipment, so now everyone can put all their points into their main damage stat with no consequence. But eventually, you'll hit the maximum base stat of 999—at which point you'd probably put the remaining points into HP/MP due to how little of an impact the secondary stat has on your damage.
Diablo 2 is pretty much an exercise in minmaxing. Every build has optimal stat and skill placement and item choices. Deviating from the build in any way, or heaven forbid trying to make something unique or using whatever equipment you pick up off the ground, ensures that you will have to use effort to get through hell difficulty. Furthermore, minmaxing extends to the items as well as characters. Getting items with stats that are perfect or near perfect cost many times more than the going rate, even if the difference is only a 1%.
In Fallout 3, each level the player gains grants a number of "skill-up" points. The number of points you gain is dependent on the character's Intelligence stat, so maxing out Intelligence from the game's start leads to a far more capable character than one who doesn't. Putting your intelligence at 9 leads to the most capable character.
Oddly enough, one of the few instances where minmaxing is the result of poor research. There is very little incentive to have mass amounts of Intelligence early. Most skills are nearly useless. Every skill, at a minimum, can be raised to 87 without investing a single skill point or taking a feat or tagging a skill. Two can be raised to 100 and Speech can be raised to 97. It is literally impossible to lower Intelligence enough to make it absolutely impossible not to end up with 10's in all SPECIAL and 100's in all skills (most of which are still useless, but it's done for the sake of completion).
The original two Fallout games had the Gifted trait, sacrificing skill points (which with a good intelligence score you should have plenty of already), to instead gain a bonus to all the SPECIAL stats, that play a much greater role than in the third game.
Part of the reason Gifted was so powerful was because Tagging skills doubled the rate they leveled in those two games. In addition, any particularly useful skill in Fallout 1 had a skill book that could be purchased from a merchant that restocked her inventory. Even with the time limit, you could max every really useful skill and then Tag any one that couldn't be easily raised with skill books.
Fallout: New Vegas takes steps to avert this. Armour and weapon choice play a much bigger role in your combat success, and it's a lot harder to minmax your stats, forcing you to either focus on a few choice ones or get a decentish spread over a half a dozen or so skills.
The Good-Natured trait is still an example. Trading in combat for non-combat skills is a good way to reallocate points from weapons you never intended to use for an edge in skills that will always be useful. Every good build specializes in a chosen weapon anyway, and the loss there can be recovered in one level.
With all four DLC's installed, the level cap is raised to 50 (5 levels per DLC), barring one trait that allows a person to stop gaining skill points at level 30. This allows any player with a decent amount of INT to maximize all thirteen skills to 100 with a modicum of effort.
A huge boon to min-maxers is the "Skilled" trait, which raises all skills by 5 points. The cost is a 10% penalty to experience earned, but it's not nearly enough of a hit to keep players from hitting the level 50 cap. (Even for players concerned about the exp hit, there are not one, but two perks that cancel it out.)
Even with 100 in a skill you're not going to be anywhere near as effect as a character that has all of the perks relating to that skill, and perks are severely limited in this game.
Charisma can still be used as dumpstats for combat-orientated characters though. It does about three things: Increase a speech and barter a little bit, add some dialog options and increase 'Nerve', which is a semi-hidden stat that increases the damage your companions do in combat. All but the third one are absolutely useless, since a character can easily reach speech and barter 100 even with a CHA of 1. The 'Nerve'-stat can be nice, but why would you want to make your companions a little stronger if you can dump all those points into strength and simply smash your foes into pieces?
Dofus. Ever since the patch that gave characters 5 HP at each level-up, putting points in more than one attribute is almost always a waste. A very few builds support two attributes. Furthermore, one of the first things a character is expected to do once he gets enough money (or resources, etc.) is to "scroll" himself, which allows him to get 101 free points in an attribute. This is extremely expensive, especially for the most common builds (Wisdom, Intelligence, and Strength cost around 3 times as much as Chance or Agility). Some builds REQUIRE being scrolled from the start, otherwise they are completely worthless.
Competitive Pokémon is probably the most blatant form of Min-Maxing in video games. 'Effort Values' are more or less the Pokémon equivalent to attribute points. Each Pokémon also has 'Individual Values' that make its stats different from other Pokémon within its species. Moreover, starting with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, each Pokémon has a 'Nature' that either positively affects one of the Pokémon's stats while negatively affecting another, or does nothing at all. Competitive trainers will Min-Max all of their Pokémon that they'll use in serious battle. Only Pokeéon with the highest Individual Values in relevant stats and a Nature that increases the Pokémon's desirable stats while decreasing the useless ones (Natures that do nothing are universally considered to be crap) are accepted. Furthermore, all of the Pokémon's 510 Effort Values are poured into the Pokémon's best stats (with some variation, depending on the Pokemon's purpose). On top of that, the player can opt to equip the Pokémon to hold an item that further increases their stats, such as a Choice Band to increase the Pokemon's Attack stat.
For example, Scizor is a Pokémon with an amazing Attack stat, but terrible Special Attack. A competitive trainer would choose a Scyther with an Individual Value of 31 (highest possible) in Attack and an Adamant Nature (+Attack, -Special Attack) to evolve into a Scizor. They would also give it a Choice Band or Life Orb to make it hit even harder.
Sometimes, battlers will try to breed a Pokémon with bad Individual Values. Usually it's Speed, and the reason for this is Trick Room and Gyro Ball. The former is a field effect where slower Pokémon move first, and the latter gains strength the slower the user is than what it's used against. If they're going to get the most out of it, they need to be as slow as possible. Speed-lowering natures are also typically used. If there's another stat that needs to be bad, it's Attack; doing so lessens the damage from confusion and Foul Play (which is a strong attack that uses the Attack stat of what it's used on to calculate damage, not the user), and is typically applied to Pokémon like Blissey and Wobbuffet (which have abysmal Attack stats but massive HP).
In the single-player game: while you're advised to make a "balanced team", it's far easier to simply train one single 'mon to be fifteen levels higher than it really should be, and able to one-hit virtually anything you come across. Of course, if you're playing it for multiplayer, this won't get you very far.
Competitive battlers, in order to give their team moves in types that Pokémon usually won't have, will try to manipulate the move Hidden Power. Its power * At least until Generation VI, when Hidden Power's damage was set and type are dependent on the Pokémon's IV stats - in order for the optimal moves, they have to be dead on, which can take a very long time and require a lot of luck with breeding. The sheer time it takes to do this makes battle simulators highly popular.
Pokémon Black and White tries to avert the balanced party issue with a new experience system. Over-leveled Pokémon now gain less experience per encounter, while under-leveled ones gain more. If you have one Pokémon even five levels above the current Mons in the area, training slows to a painful crawl. But evenly spread out the experience, and you'll save time and work.
Dungeon Crawl partially counters this with stat death: if any of many temporary stat draining effects lowers your stat to 0 or lower, you die instantly. This forces troll berserkers to get a modicum of Int, mages to get some Str, heavy armour fighters to get some Dex. You need at least 8 in all stats to avoid being drained in one hit so you can somehow cure the loss.
In Armored Core, going for "Best Rating" can hurt you in the long run.
Depends, it just paints an impression of a numbers game, you also got to calculate what type of firing radius the gun can pull off (Missiles are good example) and the cost/benefit ratio it has to that build.
"Danger Mario" mode in Paper Mario is a specialized build based around making Mario have as little HP as possible in order to pump up both his FP and his ability to equip lots of Badges. Then you throw on lots of badges which boost attack and raise evasion when Mario's HP is low, making Mario the ultimate Glass Cannon who can dole out tons of damage each turn AND is nigh untouchable. You'd better keep your Partner up front against the rare enemy that can ignore evasion, though. The "Peril Mario" build takes it a step further, offering even greater destructive power, but only if Mario can stay at 1 HP.
In early Monster Rancher games, this was required. Trying to train a balanced monster took time, too much time and the monster becomes useless with old age or dies. Most of the enemies were also min-maxed to be more fair. Although the higher class monsters are good one every stats with one or two relatively lower(but on high numbers) stats.
In general the simplest way to finish the game is to make a Mighty Glacier (train everything in Lif, Def, Ski, and preferred offensive stats) mon. This is to minimize the luck factor while building a usable monster to end the game. Alternatively you can made a complete Fragile Speedster (use Speed instead of Defense) or a Glass Cannon (only train offensive stats and Ski) monster, but it takes more luck to do so.
The stats cap system in the DS games also means you need to ditch some stats. Most players go into Max Lif, Max Acuraccy, Max prefered offense, put the rest in Def and make Speed and the other offense as low as possible.
Notably, it's very easy to create a close-combat nightmare of a character right out of the gate by choosing to play as a half-ogre with the "Raised in the Pits" background. Your character won't be much of a conversationalist, but he will be able to kick a wolf in half with a single blow.
However, the absolute king of minmaxing backgrounds is "Beat With An Ugly Stick." The reason is that Beauty is an absolute dump stat; it only affects reactions, and if you start out at a low reaction from someone and you chat them up properly, you'll be instantly raised to neutral with them. In exchange for a low Beauty, you get a major boost to combat-useful stats.
"Raised By Monks" increases your perception by 1 in exchange for half your starting gold. You start with 600 gold by default, so you're essentially buying a permanent (and inherent) +1 boost to perception for a measly price of 300 gold. Perception raises sight range (how far you can scroll the screen) and is an important stat for both Technologists and Roguish characters, as it's tied to Firearms and Prowling (Sneaking). Perception is also hard to raise by magical means. A no-brainer for most character builds, 'though close combat specialists who don't worry about backstabbing may find "Beat With An Ugly Stick" to be more useful.
In Final Fantasy Tactics, a character can step on a delevel trap using a class with low stat gains (such as, say, the Squire), losing the stats they would have gained from that level. They can then regain that level with a class with high stat gain, gaining a net increase in stats in the process. Do this enough, and you can max your stats. It's one of the more esoteric and obsessive ways in which FFT can be completely broken.
System Shock 2's Impossible difficulty more than living up to its name? Forget useless stats like Research and Exotic Weapons and focus on Standard Weapons and the Hacking Skill.
This is practically mandatory in Dungeon Defenders due to the limited number of level-up points. If you try to build a purely balanced Hero (of any class) your result will be sub-par at best when you reach the higher levels. It's better to choose between a battle-based build or a tower-based build right away, and configure your characters' numbers accordingly.
Dwarf Fortress Adventurer Mode recently added the ability to adjust physical/mental attributes during character creation; since most of the attributes have no effect whatsoever in Adventurer mode, it is common to drop them all to minimum to permit boosting important attributes even higher.
Nippon Ichi games are built around minmaxing. In most games, you can min-max your character's base stats through Reincarnation (returning to level 1 with all of the stat bonuses accumulated through your original class' lifespan and, if you're not a named character, go into a class with better stat growths). You can min-max your weapons, armor, and accessories. In Phantom Brave, you can even min-max dungeons and titles (that give out extra statistical benefits).
In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, you can gain extra Jedi levels by refusing to level up your non-Jedi class in the first fifth of the game. Taken to the extreme, you could delay taking all but level 2 (forced on you by the introductory tutorial mission) until becoming a Jedi, thus gaining 18 Jedi levels by the end of the game instead of the normal 10/10 split.
This was difficult with more than one or two levels shifted, though, because, as you approached the "expected to be level 10-ish" areas, you had to rely more on the support friends, who were not really up to the task, especially on hard. Having the actually inadequate Bastila-as-lead dragging around a level 2 piece of tissue paper is quite the experience.
Choose a MMORPG at random, regardless of the available options for class/race you are expected to choose the best combination for either DPS, tanking or healing, you are also expected to get the best possible build, the best possible skill set and the best equipment, god forbid you use a weapon because you like how it looks (even if it's the second best).
Final Fantasy XI is particularly horrible at this, because you get a massive amount of options for weapons and subjobs, yet you are going to be picking the same weapons and handful of subjobs as everyone else. The reason is that any weapon below A skill level (very, very few classes get more than one, several don't even get one at all) basically is going to never reliably hit an enemy no matter how you are equipped. Furthermore, every job has a "best choice" subjob and picking a subjob that's not that particular choice is frowned upon. Note, however, that the game is Nintendo Hard.
InDungeon Fighter Online, This is not so much a problem in PVE, because you aren't expected to use the claws of evisceration +10 with the blood metal set, also upgraded, with only points in skills that allow infinite juggle. The PVE is fair enough that nobody cares what build you use as long as you can do decent damage to the enemy. PVP, on the other hand, you need to because everybody else is going to as well, because any seasoned opponent is going to be optimized for PVP, meaning you need your best skills if you want to get more than 2 hits in.
In Dynasty Warriors Online this is a bit of a problem. Issue: Everybody plays confront (direct PVP). Answer: Damage (That stat that governs damage to structures) becomes a dump stat that nobody considers useful. Now, PVP is good a mode or everybody wouldn't be playing it, that's for sure, but every single weapon that will be used commonly needs to have perfect PVP stats. If attack isn't tier 6 or 5 (each stat has a slot it gets upgraded at and the more it takes to upgrade the higher the upgrade will be) then that weapon better be tanking or it's useless. While the fanbase isn't strung up like other games where you get a 16 minute lecture from random people about why you need optimal attack so you can kill them quickly and how anything else is just worthless, but unless you're playing with friends you don't have any freedom to experiment or people won't join you.
Runescape has an unorthodox leveling system - Your player's overall Combat level is determined by a combination of your Attack, Strength, Defence, Hitpoints, Ranged, Magic, Prayer and Summoning. This combat level dictates who you can fight in the PVP Zone called the Wilderness (You need to be in a certain range of another's combat level before you can fight them). Some players, designated as "Pures", Min-Max by utterly neglecting certain stats, keeping their total combat level low while massively training specific others. For example, someone could be incredibly strong and accurate, but very bad at defending against things. This can sometimes give people an edge over more rounded people at the same Combat level. These pures are almost universally loathed by other people in the community, though this is utterly justified because GIFT is in full effect with them.
As of the Evolution of Combat update in 2012 this is no longer the case; the update makes it so that neglecting the Defence skill severely hinders pures as Defence is tied to Lifepoint total. This amounts to very little though, as PvP has become very unpopular due to the lack of will most pre-update Pv Pers had to learn the new mechanics.
Dragon Age: Origins has this, but only for two-handed warriors and the strength stat (sword/shield and dual-weapon warriors need a good amount of dexterity for the abilities), while mages need only magic/willpower, and rogues dexterity/cunning. On higher difficulties, mages need some constitution in order to survive Area of Effect attacks, though, and any Player Character should have some cunning for persuasion skills.
This becomes more viable in the Dragon Age: Origins – AwakeningExpansion Pack, first, because you can now pick skills that increase hit-points and mana/stamina, and secondly, the abundance of equipment that gives a flat mana/stamina increase, regenerates it, or reduces fatigue, meaning that mages can put all ability points into magic, and rogue archers can put them all into dexterity.
Champions of Norrath's sequel, Return to Arms, has set of items called figurines which provide bonuses to your stats depending on the type of figurine so long as they're being carried in your inventory. The way to make the absolute strongest character possible, regardless of class, isn't to spend points in areas your class would normally use, but rather to simply pump every single one of your stat points you get at level-up into strength. With all of your stat points going into strength, not only do you hit harder physically but you're also able to carry more, meaning you can then collect tons of perfect-type figurines and get a higher number of overall stat points than you would have if you'd spread out your stat growth. Yes, the best way to get make an Erudite Wizard with a huge intelligence score is to boost his melee damage and carrying capacity just so he can lug around tons of perfect owl figurines.
Star Ruler allows you to juggle points to choose various traits for your faction at game-start. The Galactic Armory mod takes this to a new level with added Traits that allow you to improve or worsen certain weapon types, further encouraging you to specialise your research than in vanilla.
Kid Icarus: Uprising allows you to minmax weapons by using the weapon fusion system, which allows you to combine two weapons into a different one, with some attributes from the two weapons to be fused being transferred to the new weapon in the process. As weapon value affects your team's life bar in Light vs Dark and gives your opponents more points for defeating you in free-for-all, a popular strategy is to fuse a weapon with a negative effect such as heart bonus -4 or status resistance -4 in order to allow for either a lower overall value or to put more useful stat bonuses on the weapon than you could otherwise. Since the effects that get passed on weapon during fusion are chosen semi-randomly, there are naturally guides out there which explain how the fusion engine chooses which bonuses get passed on when fusing two weapons, maximizing the player's chances of getting a perfectly minmaxed weapon that they are after.
Fallen London encourages this. Most equipment gives a bonus to one attribute and a penalty to another. However, since storylets only test one attribute at a time, you can just equip whatever gives the most bonuses, and ignore the drawbacks.
Darths & Droids. In keeping with its concept of presenting the Star Wars movies as an RPG campaign, it imagines the player of R2-D2 (Pete) as a minmaxer. Think about it; high levels in all mechanical skills... at the cost of being a non-humanoid robot with no limbs, only able to talk in beeps. Later on in the series, he minmaxes his character even further by giving himself a few more flaws... that are completely unremarkable to a robotic character in a science-fiction setting. Like lactose intolerance.
8-Bit Theater has Red Mage, who can minmax almost any situation, even in mid-panel.
Goblins features Minmax the Unstoppable Warrior, who amongst other things has traded in his ability to read for an extra attack bonus. He also traded his ability to wink to a higher weapon proficiency. Which proficiency? Furniture.
The comic brings us the valuable lesson that even a min-maxer won't go far without a clue. It's worth noting that an easily-missed sentence in the rules means that the half-ogre's trick shouldn't be as effective as it's portrayed: Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn't count as more than one opportunity for that opponent. Roy did get a C- in his Attacks of Opportunity class, so he is forgiven for missing it. And combat in the universe is shown to be affected by how good the being fighting is at remembering the rules and bonuses covering his fight.
Most major characters in OotS are baseline or hilariously badly constructed, though: The main group features a cleric that is a healbot, a wizard that specializes in what is considered the worst school in the game while banning two of the most powerful, a fighter with a lot of points in intelligence who is only useful with two-handed swords, and a halfling (which comes with strength penalties) Ranger who specializes in Dual Wielding, usually considered a sucky fighting style, due to all the accuracy penalties, and with insufficient wisdom to cast spells or track worth a damn. Oddly the The DitzSpoony Bard Elan is the one with the most optimization, taking a Prestige Class to base nearly everything he does on a single very high attribute.
And let's not forget the rogue that specializes in archery. While this is not impossible to do, it does not involve anything Haley does. To give some perspective, the only way you can Sneak Attack an enemy when they are not surprised is by flanking them (you cannot flank with a ranged weapon). Furthermore, you also cannot Sneak Attack a target that is more than 30 feet away. Bonus points for confirming in a strip that she took the Manyshot feat, not only arguably one of the weakest feats ever printed in any book, but also all but completely useless to a rogue (you only get Sneak Attack once, instead of just attacking regularly and getting it with each arrow fired).
Thog goes so far as to claim that he is smarter than Roy because he has the right build for a Barbarian.
While it's not immediately apparent, Malack is also terribly optimized as a result of his vampirism. What it means (assuming that a snakefolk is similar to a lizardfolk) is that he has a constitution bonus that is negated because vampires don't have constitution. He has a bonus to his climb and swim skils; the first is useless because vampires get Spider Climb for free, the second unusable because immersion in water kills vampires. He has an immense strength bonus and prefers to avoid physical combat. He's a primary spellcaster with a level adjustment of eight, and the benefits of vampirism are vastly less than the power gained by another eight levels of cleric. On the other hand, when he goes all out he's an enormous pale snake who can crush you with his coils, drain your life energy, and drink your blood all at once.
Josh from Chainmail Bikinishows how this is done. Note especially his Charisma score of 4 which comes back to bite him in the text-only final battle of the campaign — Casey, being a sadistic GM, targets that Charisma save to eject Josh's character from the fight.
Knights Of Buena Vista is a comic for Disney films as roleplaying games. Currently it's on Frozen, and Elsa's player did this to get her the strongest ice powers she could, with almost no control to compensate.
A suggested way to answer the commonly-asked job interview question "What are your greatest weaknesses?" is to list weaknesses that have little or no relation the job you're applying for.