Thursday, April 3, 2014

What starting point value do you use?

One thing I like about GURPS is that starting point values are extremely flexible. You can start from a very low base or all the way up to an extremely powerful base character with organic support for starting at any of those levels of power.

Want to run 25-point characters who struggle with everyman tasks? Great! 100-point would-be heroes just off the farm? No problem. 1600 point superheroes? Done.

But what starting levels do you use, and have you used? What ones do you like to play at? (If you can, write it as points+disad limit+quirks, it's just easier to parse that way)

Currently I'm running a 250+50+5 Dungeon Fantasy game. My previous game was a 150+40+5 3rd edition game that turned into 4th edition, mostly, when it came out mid-game and I needed to playtest my rules for GURPS Martial Arts. I've had a lot of experience making characters in 4th edition, but this DF game is really the first I've GMed totally from scratch as 4th edition.

I tend to like powerful starting characters - I'd rather start people at the Grey Mouser or Conan or Ogami Itto or Wong Fei Hung and then have adventures there. But I like the old "even a rat is scary!" level of play with lower-point and more fragile guys, too, for a change of pace.

I always cap disads, too, after my first big fantasy game that ended up with people with around 120 points worth of Enemies and so on just to get some extra points. We never ended up with those legendary wheelchair-bound blind greedy deaf psionic half-bunny guys hunted by Interpol or whatever, because I'm not sure how you let that happen outside of a GURPS IOU game, and I never got into that style at all. I've only seen them in discussing of how GURPS sucks, not in actual games.

In the past, mostly in older editions of GURPS. I've run games with everything from 50, 75 and 100 point guys (my infamous pirate game - at least infamous to my players), to 100 point basic starting guys (the old default), to 150 point guys, to 300 point special ops troops (my post-apoc Mutants & Mayhem game.)

1st-3rd edition GURPS basically gave you a lot more bang for the buck. With a curved stat cost, higher point costs for physical skills and lower for mental, and some very odd prices on very powerful abilities (Eidetic Memory I for 20 points in 1st ed, I'm a-callin' you out.) So point values were a bit lower for the same effective value of the character in 4th edition. If I re-ran my pirates game, we wouldn't do 50, 75, and 100 point guys because they wouldn't hold up, but I might do 75, 100, 125 and get the same feel. And so on.

But yeah, what point values do you guys play at?


  1. Use to give players 125-50-5 for fantasy games, but once there was a supers mission with 50-25-5 normal joes who get 500 points in powers without a clue of wich powers they had. They talk about it even today.

    1. I can see how "here is 500 points worth of powers" must have made for an interesting game. My friend did a vampire game like that - everyone had normals who got turned into vampires and tossed into a battle as disposable thralls, but lived. They loved that game, too. Must be akin to the thrill of "by the way, you have super powers now" for a game.

  2. I did a Supers game in 3E that was 250 or 300 points (I forget) plus up to 100 disads and 5 quirks, but mostly we went with 100+40+5. The only 4E game I ever played was also 100+40+5, I think, but I'm not certain. We always capped disads.

    My solo game is built around a method of randomly generating GURPS characters, so point values are variable. If I decide to take my solo game public, then it will almost certainly be 150+50+5, and that will also probably be the starting point level of the Fantasy Western game should I ever actually run it. I never got a lot of enjoyment from games that are high-powered from the get-go, and little enough from games that evolve to higher power levels, with the exceptions of "domain" style games and the occasional Supers type of game. I played Synnibarr once (the author was playtesting it at my FLGS; as an aside, he's a great guy), and that was enough of high-powered gaming for me.

    1. I never played Supers in 3e - was 250 or 300 sufficient to make comic book powered characters?

      As for Synnibarr, I've heard of it but not read it so I'm not sure what the power level is like. It mostly gets held up as a bad example of game design, but I honestly no nothing really about it. Was it too over the top?

    2. 250/300 was good enough for more "street level" supers, but not the typical comic book hero, no.

      Synnibarr is a class/level game, but it's been over a decade since I've even seen a copy, and longer since I've read it. I never got the impression that it was any more badly designed than, say, the Palladium system. To me, it was indeed too over the top. Starting characters would only be slightly inconvenienced by fighting grizzly bears barehanded, for example, and things just went up from there. That's fair enough if you like that sort of thing.

    3. Randomly generated characters? That sounds pretty interesting. Do you have Mulligan rules if you get something that doesn't make sense together? (e.g. high ST, low IQ magic-user)

    4. Because of the nature of the game (it involves royal families rather than focusing so much on individual characters), it more or less works as generating stats and advantages, and then adding skills from a template depending on what the character would want to do. I do reserve veto power for advantage/disadvantage combos that I don't like, though, yes. The main stumbling block is that I still have to fine-tune the system to get the results I want.

  3. It really depends on the genre and campaign focus. Right now I am running typical DF (150+50+5). If I am running something like a modern horror game I tend toward the lower side of things. If it is a "starting heroes" fantasy game, I tend to go 150-ish. Sci-fi can be all over the place, but tends toward 200 as there tends to be high cost for bio-enhancement/cyber-tech/alien races/etc.

    I feel that 150 is a good starting point for many games where you need room to "grow". 200 might be a bit more heroic but still has a bit to strive for. At 250, I sometimes see players start to run into issues where they don't know or need to spend a lot of points; they have the character they want.

    I'd say add 50 points to the above for High TL, or mid-cinematic games, and 75+ for very High TL, high cinematic games... but that is a gross generalization of all the "knobs and dials" for settings.

    1. That's interesting, because we have one PC at over 400 points in my DF game and a giant list of the stuff he still needs to buy, and a couple very close to the same value and even longer lists of "must buy" advantages and stats. It might be a question of the continually ramping up of the challenge as the delvers go further, so there is always more to "need" than you can "afford."

  4. I like the 250 to 300 point (+50 disadvantage and 5 quirks) level of games. Combat skills are good enough that you can use options like Rapid Strike or Dual Weapon Attack; techniques are viables; you can buy some interesting Perks to further differentiate your character.

    Less than about 150, and I feel characters tend to be a bit bland or narrowly specialized.

    More than 400 and it starts being an accounting nightmare. Monster Hunters was a mixed bag in that regard.

    1. I do like having everyone skilled enough that crazy options can become routine options.

      You're right about the bookkeeping on higher point values - it can be annoying, especially if people like the "I have every skill you'll let me buy" type of character.

  5. Hugely variable by genre. For my current GURPS Torg, 300+100. For Age of Aquarius, where the initial PCs were students in London in 1967, 100+25 (and if you don't have Reluctant Killer you probably have a reason for it). For This Dim Spot ("not an Aliens ripoff"), 200+50, somewhere between your typical 150-point "competent normal" and the 250-point DF hero.

    I frequently use an idea I got from John Dallman, a simpler version of Buckets of Points from the latest Pyramid: you have one lot of points for general character building, and another lot that can only be used for the campaign-specific weird stuff. So those Age of Aquarius characters also got 100 points of psi powers; the WWII secret agents in Irresponsible and Right got 150+75, but also 75 of magical oddities. Points can be transferred from the main pool into the weird pool, but not back out. This helps make sure that characters have the right flavour for the campaign, rather than putting all their points into high stats, Wealth, Contacts and other stuff that's handy but not necessarily suited to the sort of game one wants to fun.

  6. I only had two GURPS characters so far.

    First one was a 150 points (75disadv.) character in a post-apocalyptic wasteland game. All players made their character in secret, only the GM knew. Mine was a seemingly normal survivor with high ST and HT. Ohh, and claws at her hands. So yes, it was a mutant who just didn't look that mutated. It was everyones first GURPS games and character optimization wasn't much of an issue. 70 of my points where sunk into Rapid Recovery for both Health and Radiation (figured it might be helpful) which didn't leave much room for skills. Unfortunately our GM didn't have enough time about 6-7 sessions in, so I didn't get to see how well that combination might have worked.

    Second (and last) character (so far) is a 100 point (+50disadv.) hunter with a crossbow in a medieval fantasy setting who dabbled a little bit in dark magic. Campaign is still running and I just recently joined so I have yet to see how it works.

    1. I hope the second gets run more than the first!

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  8. Well, you've caused me to compile statistics for most of the campaigns I've played. The (A+B) notation is the same scheme as RogerBW explains above.

    3rd edition
    Played: Witch World, 100+40+5, reached 136+70+5.
    Played: Timeliners (worldhopping), 200+40+5.
    Ran: Steam! (Steampunk aviation & Martians) (150+50)+40+5.
    Played: Gloriana (Elizabethan occult) 400+40+5. This had a conversion to 4e, at about 650 base points, given we'd gained quite a bit of experience.
    4th edition
    For all of these, the disadvantage limits usually weren't exploited to the limit, but include quirks.
    Played: Crimson Skies 250+100.
    Played: Standard of the Man (THS) 220+75.
    Played: Irresponsible and Right (Occult WWII) (150+75)+75, still going at about 430+75.
    Played: Europe on Mars (THS) 250+30.
    Played: Debugging (Reigs of Steel/Action) 250+100.
    Ran: Laundry 150+75.
    Ran: Infinite Cabal 300+100, still going at about 480+100.
    Played: Age of Aquarius (sixties psi) 100+25.
    Played: Torg 300+100, still going in its early stages.

    1. Geez, now I wish I had notes for where people started and ended!

    2. I'm going to try to keep my list updated from now one, which won't be onerous, I just have to remember it.

      Of the high point campaigns: Gloriana (magic), Debugging (Action templates) and Crimson Skies (setting), Torg (setting) and both THS campaigns (setting) all constrained what you could spend loads of points on. Infinite Cabal and Timeliners were more open to kitchen-sink, but nobody wanted to make them into Rifts. Infinite Cabal and I&R have both grown those point totals at about 3 points per session, so characters have grown broader as well as taller.

  9. Current: DF 125-50-5. Kobolds are worthy foes.
    Past: Space marine A-team 300-100-5. Way too high.
    I tried Conspiracy X at the space marine level, but it lasted two sessions. Again, it was too much.

  10. ~150 points for more realistic games. DF starting at rough lvl 2 D&D equivalents, modern horror or conspiracy games, etc.

    ~250 points for anything with "pulpy" overtones. Stock DF, beginner monster hunters, 1920s globetrotting cliffhangers, etc.

    ~350 is getting into low level supers, neo-space opera pulp heroes with some implanted computer allies and biomods, etc.

    ~500-750 points for xmen level superheroes.

  11. So my "straight" fantasy game (i.e., it's not DF) is nominally set at 134 + (now) 8d6 points + up to 75 points in disads and 5 points in quirks. I liked a bit or randomness to starting characters, and I add a d6 whenever the average campaign total rises by 5.

    My upcoming MH game starts at 100 + 50 + 5, plus 1 point in Driving (Automobiles) and 1 point in Games (Tabletop RPGs). The plan is to gain some XP and possibly even supernatural abilities in the course of the first adventure, then add up to 200 points via a training montage/supernatural transformation/journey of self discovery, have a second adventure arc, then repeat with 100 points to get roughly 400 point MH characters that grew a bit more organically. The campaign has been started, but only because we had two no-shows of a player we really needed in order to move forward in our current cliffhangers game (in which I am playing).

    Because of that, and because I don't want to move too far forward with my MH game, I'm proposing a round-robin GM-ing DF game with the 250+50+5 structure you're using. I picked up some of the Lonely Coast stuff (after reading and liking the free supplement). Seems like a decent, smallish sandbox for a round-robin game.

    Meanwhile, the Cliffhangers game I'm playing in is 200+50+5. And another fantasy game I'm playing in started with 320+50+5 for me so that I wouldn't be woefully underpowered compared to the other PCs, who are all above 320.

    So it looks like my groups tend toward the higher end as well. Even my MH game, though nominally 100 points, is adding advantages -- one of the PCs just discovered he has Magery 1 at the beginning of the second session (revealed in game), plus fate points -- 100 point characters need a little extra help to stay alive vs. even slow-ish zombies.

  12. I've always like to start lower than the suggested starting point. In 3rd ed. we often played 50pt character. We had a fricking blast. And in 4th edition I ran a short campaign with 75pt characters.

    1. If you ever come to NJ, you can play in our DF game. We have a 62-point torchbearer all ready for yah! :D

  13. I use 150 points for pretty much everything (western horror, Star Wars, medieval fantasy, etc.), though I don't typically impose firm disadvantage limits, so the results may be closer to 200 point characters in a campaign that does. I drop to 100 points in more "realistic" games like zombie survival or East Front WWII German paratroopers.

  14. - First DF game started at 350+50+5 points (250 template+50Point template+racial template). Currently average 440, and still going strong.
    - Second DF game ("Bad Guys") started at 300+50+5 points (250 template+racial template). We are two session into this one, for average +6 points.
    - Third DF game (a one shot) was run at 275+50+5 points
    - Forth DF game started at 250+50+5 points. We are 4 sessions in at an average of +15 points.
    - Next DF game, I'm thinking about starting at 150+50+5 points (125point Henchment templates)
    - First THS game 500+75+5 points.
    - Second THS game 250+25+5 points.
    - SciFi Gun Fighter Space Opera Game 450+50+5 points
    - Have had several one-shot 150+75+5 point games in various genres and settings
    - A SciFi DF one shot game with 100+50+5 points
    - A Zombie one-shot game witn 50+25+5 points


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