Making the Most of Non-Optimal Characters

for Point-Based Systems

by Elizabeth McCoy

Optimizing, min-maxing, point-juggling, munchkining, power gaming . . . Some people hate it, claiming that too much focusing on the numbers makes the resulting character flat, lifeless, and -- usually -- some form of combat wombat. Some people swear by it, claiming that having an effective character means they are good at "useless" concept skills as well as central concept skills.

While many people are of the latter category, there are some concepts that don't work so well when optimized, for in-game or meta-game reasons -- and some players (or GMs) who hate the very idea of a character whose concept is "effectiveness." With a GM willing to observe as you work through the steps, however, you may be able to play those non-optimal concepts without sacrificing play effectiveness (i.e., spotlight time and fun).

Note that all of these are for point-based systems, focusing heavily on GURPS. The basic concepts behind each technique should still be applicable to most point-based system which can be tweaked to "optimize" characters. Further note that all but one are player-oriented; a GM can always suggest a technique to a player, but for the most part, if the player wants to optimize, the player will optimize. (A good player will have an interesting character with a workable concept anyway, and the GM may never know.)

Also note that most of the player-based ones take the premise that points are representing . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: June 4, 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to