I've been playing RPGs since the early eighties and have come to terms with the fact that not everyone enjoys this hobby for the same reasons as myself. I'm into it for the sake of the adventure, the story and the discovery. Other reasons, not so important to me, but important to others, include: Solving mysteries, playing tactical combats on a battlemap, re-enacting a theme/story, never-mind-I'm-just-hanging-out-with-friends, optimizing a character, etc.
It so happens that my regular gaming group consists of 70% munchkins, meaning all effort goes into optimizing their characters, very little effort into background and playability of the characters.
I have issues with this, because it tends to shift attention from the story to the technicalities. I also feel that the minmaxer-heavy playstyle results in very long combat encounters, which in turn reduces the time we have to play the rest of what the game has to offer. We get less laughs and memorable moments, and more marathon, fatigue-inducing combats. I strongly believe this tendency is slowly killing off our fun at the gaming table.
Right now I'm putting a lid on my Pathfinder campaign, and have begun prepping for a D&D 5e campaign. I want to discourage the maximizing of characters, and instead encourage a more easy going attitude around being optimized and "winning" encounters.
Has anyone else had this problem? How can I set about achieving this? I'm considering pregenerated characters and restrictions on how to advance these characters, but I'd prefer more subtle options, optimally as part of the campaign/story instead of the rules. What are the tools at my disposal?
(Please don't answer that I'm wrong in attempting to change my group. I might be, but either we change or there is no game at all. Also, please don't suggest I solve this by reconsidering who I play RPGs with. I may or may not be doing that in a parallel process.)
Regarding what brand of munchkins my players are, they're not kids wanting to cheat. Rather they see the rules given as a personal challenge to make a totally optimized character who is "best". Creating powerful characters makes them feel very clever.
The fact that the players spend so much time tweaking and focusing on bonuses and feat-combos is not in itself a bad thing. The problem is that the time we spend together at the gaming table is finite and thus priorities as to what we spend that time on, must be made. I feel that the minmaxing takes up an unnecessary amount of time in several ways:
An unholy amount of time is spent talking about how this and that spell or power can be used in conjunction with blah in order to deal even more damage.
All the spells, powers and options available gives a lot of options in combat. This can be good, but not when the average time it takes to play thru an encounter is 2.5 hours because every round must be considered carefully.
A lot of rules discussions in general. When your character build requires circumstances so and so, say sneak attack, it becomes very important how light, darkness, stealth and perception works. Demanding that this be played by the book and discussing what the book actually says swallows time too.
It is my conviction that toning down the munchkin factor will leave us with plenty more time to enjoy the game. How do I get them to do so?