I’ve noticed something since I started serving my time on the dark side of the DM screen. Over the years I’ve seen my fair share of monsters splattered across the battlefield. On rare occasions I’ll bear witness to that perfect strike, when the desperate PCs deal exactly enough damage to fell the monster before it can get another attack. More often than not, however, the killing blow will deal way, way more damage than necessary. Critical hits are exciting and all, but when your Profession (crit-fisherman) character deals 90 damage to a 30 hp ogre, it strikes me as overkill. Combine this with the common complaint of “fighters are boring” and I begin to suspect that the damage-dealing characters of the world have been prioritizing the wrong abilities.

When it comes to martial character optimization, the conversation often begins and ends with “how do we deal the most damage possible?” That is indeed a fighting man’s primary job in combat. But at some point, we’ve got to recognize that a greatsword and power attack are enough to make any barbarian relevant (at least in 3.X terms. Your system may vary in the specifics). My point is that, when there are hit points afoot, very few parties are going to have real trouble with damage output. There is always a way to kill the monster. But maybe, just maybe, those boring fighters would be less boring if we devoted feats and powers to utility rather than “deal more damage.”

What do you think? Do we as a community overemphasize damage output at the expense of a well-rounded character? Sound off in the comments!