by Hernán Ruiz Camauër
Editor's Note: This article created some controversy among our staff. Opinions ranged from "Great idea!" to "For munchkins only!" In the end, it might have been worth printing just because of the discussions it would start: just what ARE character points, anyway? But the techniques here may be exactly what some campaigns need to get off to an interesting start. Use them or not, as you please; it's your game.
"Please, can I have a few more character points?" I doubt if there is a single Game Master out there who hasn't heard that question at least ten times. It's inevitable. No matter how many points you let your players build their characters on, somebody will want just a few more. And most of us hate saying no, because we want our players to have a good time . . . and if they aren't happy with their characters to begin with, what's the point in even playing?
Here's one solution to the dilemma. Since the characters can't legally acquire more points before play begins, let the players earn them, in a way that will enhance everyone's enjoyment of the game.
How? It's simple. Tell the players that if they will put a little more work into their character, you will give them a few more points to start with. Most of them will jump at the chance. Anything for a few more points. Below are the guidelines that I use. You will want to modify them to fit the needs of your own campaign. You're rewarding the players for doing things that will make your job easier or more interesting.
For a detailed description of the character: 5 points. Two or three paragraphs of physical appearance, plus another couple of paragraphs of miscellaneous details: mannerisms, bathing habits, exact clothing and equipment and its condition, and so on.
For a detailed character history: up to 10 points. At least two pages covering the character's life to the present day, with all major events. The story should explain the character's basic attributes, skills, advantages and disadvantages. (But note that no story can be considered totally complete . . . the player may still be inventing and "remembering" background details five years from now. This history doesn't preclude later additions. It's just a starting point.)
For complete calculations for physical feats: 5 points. The player must work out in advance all the formulas for running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and perception. This can be a big time-saver for the GM!
Extra quirks: 1 point each. I don't limit my characters to 5, as long as all the additional quirks will come into play in almost every game. No "Dislikes cabbage" sort of things!
Ongoing character log: 15 points. This should be up-dated after every game session. If a player fails to update the log (at least 250 words after every session of play), the GM should penalize him just as he would for bad roleplaying. No one should agree to keep a log unless they really enjoy it! But, months or years down the line, the character logs are fun to look back on. And the GM can review them whenever he needs ideas about where the story will turn next. "Aha! That merchant they met on the road to Megalos last year – the one who gave them such a good deal on the potions. Suppose he turns up again with a request . . . "
Remember: Though the players' immediate objective is to get a few more points, your objective is to encourage them to flesh out their characters' personalities right away . . . leading to more fun for everyone. The more detailed a character is, the easier he is to roleplay. The more you roleplay, the more fun you have. And that's what GURPS is all about.
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