Gming Campaign Building
The World Campaign Era
Campaign Feel
Designing Worlds of Adventure
Populating the World Power Level & Character Points
Creating PC Templates
Selecting Options

The sections thus far have touched on what power level and character point totals are appropriate for different styles of gameplay. This section will delve further into it to allow you as the GM to decide what PL to start your game at, and how you would like it to progress.

What Power Level MeansEdit

Probably one of the most important steps to picking a game's power level is understanding what power level means. Fundamentally, power level is a measure of how effective a character is at changing the game world. The higher power level your characters are, the greater impact they'll have on the world. Below is a chart of examples of what characters at different power levels will be like.

PL Description Example
0 Helpless Change Nothing Child, Infirm Individual, Handicapped Individual
1-3 Bystander Change a Family Average Pedestrian, Poorly-Trained Professional
4-6 Trained Professional Change a Block Average Police, Doctor, Experienced Thug
7-8 Influential Expert Change a Neighborhood Well-Trained Soldier, Politician, Experienced Criminal
9-10 Street-Level Change a City Young Superhuman, Expert-Trained Professional
11-12 Low Super-Level Change a Country Average Superhuman, Master-Trained Professional
13-15 High Super-Level Change a World Powerful Superhuman, Legendary-Trained Professional
16-18 Cosmic-Level Change a Galaxy Cosmic Superhuman, Forces of Nature, Greek/Norse Gods
19-20 Divine-Level Change Reality Itself Abstract Beings, Fundamental Forces of the Universe, True Gods

What Character Points MeanEdit

Unlike power level, character points are not directly tied to a character's overall power, but rather the character's versatility. Character points more closely represent a character's experience or level of training. More experienced characters tend to be more versatile. Since all of a character's abilities are limited by a power level cap, it really doesn't matter how many abilities a character has, especially when they are all limited to the same level of effectiveness. All the PCs in the group have the same power level cap anyway, and they all have the same access to the same level versatility if they choose to build their characters that way (since versatility is generally quite cheap).

But is there a level where versatility becomes problematic? Yes. To be specific, there are two points at which versatility becomes problematic. If a PC becomes so versatile that he starts to encroach on the niche/role of another character, that is problematic. It is also problematic if a PC becomes so versatile that the PC essentially removes all of his or her weaknesses, so that the character is equally capable in any given encounter. At these levels, a character is likely becoming too versatile.

Below is a chart that shows what different levels of character points mean in-game.

>45 below PLIneptBumbling Newbie
31-45 below PLUnpreparedComplete Newbie
16-30 below PLInexperiencedRookie
1-15 below PLDevelopingYoung Character with Some Experience
@ PLExperiencedCharacter with Fair Experience
1-15 above PLSeasonedCharacter with Good Experience
16-30 above PLVeteranCharacter with Lots of Experience
30-45 above PLChampionCharacter with Tons of Experience
>45 above PLLegendCharacter with Unequaled Experience

Choosing a Starting PointEdit

Once you have an idea for how the different power levels and character point totals are represented in your world, you're ready to decide where your PCs are going to start their adventuring careers.

Low Power LevelEdit

Starting at lower power levels means that the PCs are going to start out seeming more like normal humans. They have lots of room to grow, but players might have a great deal of difficulty realizing their character's abilities until much later on in the game.

Medium Power LevelEdit

At more medium power levels, your players should have an easier time creating their characters early in the game. And at medium power levels, you don't need to allow for growth (either in power level or character point totals) as greatly as you would at a lower power level.

High Power LevelEdit

At higher power levels, there's very little room for growth of characters, as they're already likely near the top of their range, limiting how far you might be willing (or capable) of taking the PCs. Further, high power level PCs are expensive, and they might be more difficult for players to put together.

High Power Level, Low Character PointsEdit

Since character points and power level can be independent of one another, you also have the option of starting characters out at high power levels but low character points. This is appropriate for games where ordinary people wake up one day with strange abilities far beyond anything they could imagine. Their powers might be great, but they're still only human, and it will really have lots of time to "grow" to reach their full potential.

Note that if you wish to represent great potential, it's not necessary to use this option. You can simply use GM-fiat to show FX that have vast potential exploding out beyond the characters' control from time to time.

Plotting Out GrowthEdit

The final question to consider is how much you're comfortable with letting the characters grow. Is there a certain power level beyond which you'd rather not take the PCs, since it will tend to change the feel of the game too much? Are PCs at a certain character point total just too versatile to design encounters for? You don't need to know this when you start designing your game, but as you get close to the limits of your comfort level, be aware of ways in which you can influence character growth.

Rate of AdvancementEdit

How often do you want to hand out awards? Do you want to give the players character points after every session? At the end of each adventure or story arc? Once on the first Saturday of every month? After each encounter? You need to decide how often to hand out these awards. Understand that character points are such a great reward to hand out at the end of the session, because improving a character is something the players can do and enjoy away from the table, to "bring the fun home with them", so to speak. Players might get frustrated if they go too long without such an award, feeling restricted. Be sure to find a balance that gives them a chance to enjoy growing their characters' abilities but to also keep it manageable for you.

Increasing Power LevelEdit

While increasing power level will tend to change the influence the PCs can have on the world, increasing power level will also generally encourage players to increase their combat abilities first and bring those up to the new power level cap, rather than increasing the versatility of their characters. They might wind up eventually crossing over to fight more and more dangerous enemies, and go on more high-powered adventures, but if you're okay with the style of the game changing a little, then this is a perfectly fine option.

Increasing Character PointsEdit

On the other hand, if you choose to increase the characters' character points, you can keep them filling a similar role in the world for a longer time, as their power levels remain more or less static. They'll become more experienced and versatile, but so long as they don't intrude on one another's niches or roles within the party, and so long as you're comfortable making encounters for their remaining strengths and weaknesses, this is still a fine option. You might eventually still want to raise power level anyway.