Friday, May 8, 2015

Things I Learned From Champions: A 500 pt. Character is different from a 250 pt. + 250 XP character

I think that most point-build veterans know what I'm talking about here; they've had first hand experience.

But first, a little background.

The Hero System Context

In many systems, experience points allow you to improve your character -- but not all systems use experience the same.

D&D, of course, keeps track of your total experience points. Making it to certain tiers of experience qualifies you to a new batch of capabilities.

In other games, you can use experience points (XP) as a currency. You spend XP (usually with some kind of exchange rate) to buy things that you were able to buy with initial character build points. The exchange rate varies -- but it's usually more expensive to buy up Stats or Skills or Abilities with XP than with initial character build points.

The Hero System is different there: 1 Experience Point = 1 Character Build Point.

This means that if you started off as a 400 pt. character, and you got 100 XP (that you spend to improve your character), you are now effectively a 500 pt. character.

Or are you?

Lump Sum vs. Downpayment + Small Installments

I liken what happens to the difference in behavior of most people when they get a huge sum of money all at once, vs. getting a downpayment, followed by small installments:

  • in the case of the former, you tend to spend on several big things all at once;
  • in the case of the latter, you tend to spend on good quality essentials and then either (a) make refinements with subsequent installments; or (b) save up for that big item you've decided you really need.

Experienced Hero System folks can usually tell by looking at a build which of the two your character falls into (without looking at the Experience Points box first, of course), because they're familiar with these spending patterns in the game.

While it is possible to have a lean, efficiently-built character with little nuances and splashes of characterization right off the bat, most of the time there is a sort of roughness to an initial build of a character, and it's not just evidence of ruthless point-shaving evident in some of the power builds -- there are some powers or abilities that don't gel with the others, or there are some actual redundancies, or some things that don't quite go with the character concept after all.

The experienced character builds are a bit more refined, with tighter character concepts, and more seemingly redundant or extravagant purchases that actually round out the character or solidify the concept.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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