Low-Points GURPS

I’ve been having a lot of fun with 50-point GURPS characters and thinking a great deal about what a game played at that level would look like. With the grounded feel of GURPS, largely mundane advantages and disadvantages, and leaving special powers to one side, I reckon it’d be a pretty fun challenge.

For those who don’t know, GURPS uses a points-buy character creation system to allow players to build any character they can imagine… within the boundaries set by the GM. As with all things in the toolkit, GURPS needs the GM to set up the parameters. Loads of guidance on this is provided in both the Basic Set Campaigns book and the aptly titled, “How To Be a GURPS GM”.

Typically, at least on my reading of the Basic Set, campaigns for heroic-types are dialled in with players having 150 points and a 40-50 points disadvantage limit (making it nearer 200 points total, because you gain points for taking disadvantages). The average human being in the real world would total about 50 points, give or take.

I like games with capable but still basically normal characters. It’s the big appeal of older systems where the power level is dialled much more modestly than with more modern games. The idea of a 50-points character with 20 points of disadvantages and 5 quirks (total 75 points) feels like a nice starting point. You have a character who has some flaws – encouraging roleplay and a bit of deeper characterisation – who is at the competent end of society.

My plan is to create sandbox worlds where those characters can both allow players to choose their own goals and have plenty of space to grow into much more powerful heroes (or anti-heroes). I’m also keen that these characters enter the world with no ties, allegiances, or social obligations except those which the player chooses to engage through play.

My experiments in solo play and past experiences at or around this level of power in GURPS has been highly positive. Characters have a couple of things they might be good at but cooperation with a varied group is optimal. Players have to think more carefully about how they handle situations because fighting is just a wee bit too risky most of the time.

Not sure how this will pan out over time but it’s interesting to notice how energising it feels to start talking about my preferred level of power more openly and play around with it. In truth, the regular assumptions about roleplaying games, and common player expectations, have had me somewhat feeling like this would never fly.

Now I am playing around with ideas and starting to find the world building bubbling up alongside it, I can scope it out and see what people think. I wonder what kind of characters folk will build with a much tighter budget.

Game on!


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